But…Three Ways Little Words Affect our Relationships

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There’s a tiny three-letter word used in many conversations that’s been an instigator of doubt, helper of defensive attitudes, and distinguisher of joy in relationships. A casual little conjunction, called BUT

BUT in itself is not a bad word. It’s the context in which we use it and the statements we choose to combine it with that’s the issue. In homes, workplaces, and in churches, I hear BUT being used in three different ways. Three ways that cause discord between people and promotes negative thinking. With some thought before we speak and a simple replacement word, I believe we can bring about change.

When we replace BUT with AND, we shift our phrases to the positive. We create encouraging and constructive conversations that open dialogue and build up relationships. AND takes nothing away, it only adds.

BUT and Doubt…

Combine BUT with an “I’m sorry” or an “I love you,” and we’ve completely taken away the sincerity of the apology and have established conditions around love. When we say “I’m sorry, but you’re not perfect either” or “I love you, but next time_____,” we are instilling doubt and confusion into our relationships, often leaving the other person to question where they stand, where we stand, and over time, where the relationship stands. It is better to keep the “I’m sorry” and “I love you!” as self-contained, assured statements.

BUT shows up in other ways too. We give, receive and process words through a wide spectrum of emotions and levels of confidence. What we may think is a casual observation or a small statement of opinion can be so much more to the receiver. The BUT can inject doubt into their work, their passions, and their callings.

Some examples… “I like it, BUT it would be better if _____.” “You did a nice job, BUT next time_______.” Instead try saying: “I like it, AND I can see you worked hard on this.” “You did a nice job, AND I would love to hear more about your process.”

BUT and Defensiveness…

We give (and give) so much of our time and talents to people, to our work and the church. Sometimes, we find ourselves in a state of exhaustion. We start getting protective of our time and energies, sometimes thinking we already did our part, gave enough and have nothing more to give. OR God has reluctantly moved us to a new place or a new season and we are processing through those all the thoughts and emotions of letting go and moving forward. When someone approaches us for help or our opinions on something, there’s a threat to answer out of our exhaustion and emotions rather from of a place peace and the inner strength that comes with knowing God has a purpose and a plan.

Instead of saying…”I would love to help BUT I’m already working too much.” Try saying, “I would love to help, AND even though my schedule does not allow it right now, I can help you by thinking of people who might be able to ask.”

Instead of saying…”We did it that way for ages, BUT now_______.” Try, “We did that for ages, AND now we get to do ____________. ”

“Another change! BUT why? ” Try, “Another change! AND maybe there’s good reason for it. I’m going to find out…”

BUT and Distinguishing Joy…

Every day BUTS can distinguish innocent joy. They can overshadow the simplest praise. BUT feeds discontent and rapidly multiplies in conversations. It shows up in our attitudes and the way relate to each other.

Instead of saying… “That’s good, BUT this person/this program/this church does it better like this __________.” Try, “That’s good, AND praise the Lord for what he has done it here.”

Instead of saying…”Only five people showed up, BUT more people should have come.” Try, “Five people showed up AND they were the rights ones. Our small group enjoyed a lot of good conversations.”

There is absolutely a time and place to state opinions, evaluate and reevaluate. It must be done in an edifying, safe and trusting environment, if not the “buts” will continue to destroy relationships, breed distrust and all sincerity will be lost.

I sadly admit I have been both a speaker and receiver of many BUT phrases. I don’t beat myself up about what I might have said, instead I look toward changing what I will say. I think it’s important to remember that in our humanity we are not going to have perfect conversations all the time. It’s an awareness of our choice of words, and working toward using those words in a positive way. This awareness and practice will be beneficial not only to our family, our workplaces and our church bodies but also to us. Let’s start catching ourselves in mid-thought and in conversations, and challenging ourselves to be the change and positivity-promoter that our relationships need.


Gratitude Letter Challenge- Daily Letter Prompts

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I’m proposing a time time to slow down. A time to reevaluate our priorities, reevaluate our time spent, and the words we are giving and receiving. I’m proposing taking at least ten minutes each day in November to be intentionally grateful for the people and situations in our lives and then encouraging others with our words.  I’m proposing a new challenge. An every day letter writing challenge with some new prompts and new suggestions that might possibly stretch us out of our comfort zones. See more here.

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Download Gratitude Letter Challenge Prompts here.


Letters of Gratitude- A Challenge for the Month of November

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Last November, I completed a Twenty-One Day Gratitude Letter Challenge  Twenty-one letters. Twenty-one different people. Twenty-one different sentiments of appreciation and thanksgiving. Some people I knew very closely, others were strangers. But to each person, I sent my gratitude. I thanked them for being uniquely them, for making a difference in my life, for doing their best for our community, and making the world a better place.

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Words are powerful little things and we often forget how much potential they hold. We get so busy running around, conquering the next thing, shouting short commands over our shoulders. We opt for the fastest modes of communication in the forms of emails and texts. We use shorthand, acronyms, and pictures to express our thoughts and emotions. All the while we are left weary, sometimes lonely, and desiring connection and relationships. I get it. I’ve been there. I’m often there. I’m preaching to me.

For some of us, it’s a season. For others, it’s a lifestyle. For all of us, it’s a choice.

I’m proposing a time time to slow down. A time to reevaluate our priorities, reevaluate our time, and the words we are giving and receiving. I’m proposing taking at least ten minutes each day in November to be intentionally grateful for the people and situations in our lives and then encouraging others with our words.  I’m proposing a new challenge. An every day letter writing challenge with some new prompts and new suggestions that might possibly stretch us out of our comfort zones.

“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” – John F. Kennedy

I’m going “old school,” “snail mail,” and if you have a horse and rider to deliver letters that’s even better (Just kidding….maybe I’ve been watching too much Poldark?) You will need paper, something to write with, envelopes, and stamps. Each day, try to find ten minutes to write. It does not have to be an uninterrupted time period. It could be a minute here and a minute there. You can write at a desk, the kitchen table, in the carpool lane, or in the bathroom. It does not have to be a letter filled with long, elaborate, flowing words and rhymed prose (although. so totally awesome if it did) but it does need to be genuine and sincere and point out one or two things you appreciate, admire, and like in the person. Seal up the letter, write the address, and drop it in the mail. And smile! You just made a difference in someone’s life.

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You can find the writing prompts here. They are just a suggestion. Please write to whoever is on your heart. Be creative. Use your church directory, address books, MOPS group directory, pull names out of a hat.

And pray! Pray for the people you are writing to and pray over the envelopes before you drop them in the mailbox. I believe these letters have the power to strengthen and change relationships. Just imagine if 100 people take this challenge for thirty days, that’s 3,000 people who could have their day brightened and possible make a difference in how they look at their purpose and potential! My three kids are doing it with me. So together, that’s 120 people just from our household!!!

So, will you consider joining me in spreading some kindness and gratitude? I would love to hear from you if you do. And if you want to really take the challenge up a notch, hand deliver your letter and spend some time with that person. Oh, just think about that!!

 


Circles of People, Circles of Prayer

 

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It was Thursday night. It had been a long, good week but I was tired. On top of our usual routine busyness, there had been a MOPS meeting to prepare for and a Sisterhood message to finish. I had just finished making dinner and I was craving some moments to myself. To my kids delight, I let them eat their dinner on trays in front of the TV. The sound of Miles from Tomorrowland and quiet kids gave me some peaceful moments to take a deep breath and strategize my next steps. I could only manage to think one step ahead and doing the dishes seemed like the next logical thing to do.

I stood at the kitchen sink and sighed over the mountain of dishes. The dishes were not going to get done by staring and sighing so I began to scrub and circle the dishes clean. The warm, soapy water became a salve to my weariness. And as I scrubbed, I became overwhelmed. So overwhelmed, I began to weep. This was a different “overwhelmed” than I have become accustomed to. Not the overwhelmed by busyness or by my to-do list or by expectations, but overwhelmed with deep gratitude for my life and the people in it.

Right there in my kitchen, in the quietness of my heart, memories came back to me so clearly I felt as if they were present time. One by one they came. I could smell things, feel things, and see details of things I had forgotten. I was with people who have long gone to be with Jesus.

I was a little girl standing in the church kitchen, looking up into the faces of a circle of kind, older women. The women were smiling, chatting over their work of cleaning up the communion cups. They welcomed me in their space and allowed me to eat the leftover communion crackers. I felt accepted and safe.

I was a little girl sitting in an oversized metal folding chair among a circle of other folding chairs placed around the small living room of my childhood home. Each chair was filled by a Godly man or woman. Some held hymnals and others large, beautifully tabbed Bibles in their laps. Their songs of praise beautiful. Their prayers powerful. I felt accepted and safe. 

I was a preteen kneeling on the rug in my parent’s friends living room, not quite happy that all my other friends were out at the movies and I was at a Bible study. Regardless of my inside-ungrateful-attitudes-struggles, I was still still in the circle and I listened to God’s word be discussed and life struggles shared. I felt accepted and safe.  

I was reminded of the countless times my parents had us hold hands around the kitchen table. This happened with whoever was joining us for dinner, when we needed the Lords’s guidance, or when we were praying for someone who needed prayer. I felt accepted and safe.

Circles of people, circles of prayers. Accepted and safe. 

These were the people my parents chose to surround me with. Faithful, Jesus-loving, people who seeked God with all their heart. These were people who let me sit at their feet, invited me into their discussions, welcomed me to participate, let me ask my questions, and loved me through my attitudes and seasons of growing up.

They were not perfect people. They struggled with life. They went through trials. Some of them lost their way. But these are the people who God used to shape my life. These are the people whose stories and testimonies shaped how I saw God and Jesus. These are the people who have prayed circles in and around my life.  Prayers I am just starting to see answers to. These are the people who I wept to God in gratitude and thanksgiving over.

Somehow, the dishes seemed to get done quicker than I thought. I lingered in the memories as long as I could. I didn’t want to leave. But the call of “Mommmm!!!!” brought me to my next task. I wiped the tears from my eyes and heading into the living room to fulfill some random request. The feeling of overwhelming gratitude remained.

I want my children to have what I had. I want to leave a legacy like my parents have left for me. I want my children to grow up in circles of Godly men and women. To be able to sit at Jesus-loving people’s feet, invited into conversations about faith, feel safe enough to ask questions, sing songs of praises and embrace their part and purpose of the Kingdom of God. I want my children in circles of imperfect people who know they need Jesus, where powerful prayers are prayed, where life struggles are prayed through, where testimonies of God’s faithfulness are declared.

Circle of people, circles of prayers. Where they feel accepted and safe. 

As I write this, I am overwhelmed and weep again. This time for the people currently in our life. Our faithful parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters. Our Godly friends. Our intergenerational church family whom I love so much. People who have graciously given us room to grow in our faith and have come alongside us, encouraging us in our parenting and leadership, and loving us unconditionally. People who have welcomed our kids at their tables, fed them, watched over them, given them smiles and a hugs, invited them into prayer circles and to join them in singing songs of praise. Imperfect, Godly men and women, who know they need Jesus, who pray circles around them and encourage them with their words.

Circle of people, circles of prayers. Accepted and safe.   

 


Walking the Way of the Cross

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Good Friday was a good Friday indeed! For the last couple of years our family has joined with members of other churches in our community for a walk down Main Street. We take turns carrying a big wooden cross, singing hymns, stopping along the way to pray for businesses and places of importance in our community.

It’s a time when denominational lines are crossed. Methodists, Catholics, Baptists, Congregationalists, non-denominationalists come together to remember and thank Jesus for His great sacrifice. The focus is on Jesus and our community.

As I followed the cross, watched people take turns carrying it, listened to the happy chatting and the singing around me, and joined in prayer for our town and our neighbors, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed with love and peace. When Jesus walked the earth, He lived in community. He created community. He loves community.

Through His suffering and great sacrifice on the cross He became The Way for us to have community and relationship with Him and The Father. When He went to Heaven, He gave us the Holy Spirit as a guide, a helper, to have community with Him. And He left us with a whole community of other believers and followers of Jesus to work together in Kingdom work and provide encouragement for each other.

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This is the community I witnessed yesterday and one I have experienced in my own life. When my burdens have been too much to bear, my sisters and brothers have held me up in prayer and have come alongside me with truth and encouragement. When prayers have been answered, they have celebrated and thanked God with me. When others have crosses of pain, regret, loneliness, suffering and grief, the community of Christ should come alongside to help each bear their crosses. Galatians 6:2 says “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” And when prayers have been answered and hope and love reigns in a situation, we need to be celebrating and praising God together.

Together, in our town, the community and body of Christ are praying and celebrating. We are praying for the peace, love, and the hope that comes from Jesus to shine through us so brightly that others will want to join in community with Him. We are celebrating hope, the blessings, and answers of prayers that chains have been broken and the lost that have been found.

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I am eternally grateful to Jesus for what He has done for me. And I am incredibly thankful I live in a place where churches can come together and we can express our views openly.  I know that others around the world do not have this “luxury” and for them and other communities of believers I am praying for safety and strength. Happy Easter weekend! Peace and grace be with you!


The Joy Bombs

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History has proved New Englanders to be revolutionaries, passionate and determined people, overcomers of all types of difficulties, including wild weather. If there’s one prerequisite to being labeled a “New Englander,” it is the skill of talking about and complaining about the weather. You really can’t blame us. If you have spent any amount of time in New England, you know our weather is unpredictable and always changing. It could be sunny and fifty degrees one day, only to wake up to an outrageous, snowy nor’easter the next. Mark Twain accurately summed up our weather, “If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.”

Well, we’ve been waiting more than a few minutes and the weather seems to be stuck on the winter channel. Even though the calendar says it is spring, snow is in the forecast AGAIN. It appears the snow in unaware of proper seasonal boundaries.

My daughter tells me the recent snowstorms are a test of our patience and joy. That’s a great way to look at it. We will persevere and when spring weather FINALLY comes it will be even sweeter. BUT until then, it seems (from Facebook feeds and the word on the street) not everyone feels the same. Most people are pretty bummed about this winter weather and I get it. So, the kids and I thought we should do something about the low morale and cheer people up.  We came up with an idea to go out into our community to help people find some joy and give a few people something else to talk about instead of the weather.

We grabbed some balloons at the dollar store, purchased some cookies and hot chocolate at Walmart, and made bundles of joy (or as my youngest daughter called them, “joy bombs.”) We tied a poem to the package, prayed, and followed wherever the Holy Spirit led us. Our goal was to make people smile and brighten their day.  The following is our “adventure log.”

 

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JOY ADVENTURE LOG:

1.) Left one “joy bomb” by a car in a parking lot.

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2-3.) Brought two “Joy Bombs” to a local breakfast cafe. Asked the waitresses if they would pass them on to two customers. They seemed happy to do so.

4.) Stopped an older couple pumping gas at the gas station.  I am not quite sure if they heard or understood what we were doing (or if they thought that I was slightly off my rocker.) Regardless, they took the cookies, hot chocolate, and the balloon. As I was driving away, I saw a huge smile on the woman’s face as she pointed to the bag and explained something to her husband

5.) Pulled into the parking lot of my hair salon. Saw one woman getting into the car next to us. (Let her get in the car first so the snow did not wreck her freshly styled hair.) Asked her how she felt about the weather. She looked a little suspicious and a bit confused. We explained what we were doing. She said something like, “No, that’s not me. I am fine with the snow.” Well, that’s great! Save “joy bomb” for someone else.

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5.) Left one for Lala, my fabulous hair stylist. I figured Lala would be hearing all about the weather and people’s problems while styling clients’ hair. Asked the receptionist to tell Lala to pass the “joy bomb” on to someone who really needed it.  Will follow-up.

6.) Stopped a dad and his toddler who were walking through a parking lot.Told them the balloon and cookies were just for them. My daughters thought I knew them because of the way I spoke to them. It touched my heart that my daughters observed and commented on this. This project isn’t just about blessing community members but also about meeting the people we share our town with and modeling interactions for my children.

5.) Coffee house. (Seriously, how have I not been to this place before?) Very friendly service and the two young men working the counter happily took the “job bomb” and will be passing it on to someone.  Side note: How cute is this little journal area? I have lots of thoughts and dreams I could add to one of those journals. I will be back soon.

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7.) Brought one to a church family. My girls asked if they could bring it up to the door by themselves. And they did! 🙂

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8., 9., 10. ) Left three at neighbors’ doorsteps. The only other time we come to these doors are to receive something- candy at Halloween. It’s feels good to give and not just receive.

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11. 12. 13.) Town Hall- I gave each kid a “joy bomb” and we walked into town hall. There were three beautiful, friendly, women to receive joy from each child. They were so touched, they gave us balloons leftover from someone’s retirement party. One balloon for each kid and then four more to pass on to others. We happily took them and promised to pass them on. One of the ladies asked if I was the one that did the kindness rocks. I love that connections are being made.

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14. 15. 16) Retirement Home- My girls decided they wanted to give their balloons away to the residents. At first my three-year old was adamant about keeping his balloon and that was completely fine with me. My oldest bent down next to him and quietly explained who and why they were giving their balloons away and before I knew it my son wanted to give his away too! Kindness was multiplying before my eyes and my daughter reminded me of the power and influence of using soft, gentle words. What a blessing this stop was! We walked in and residents’ faces lit up. We stayed for a few minutes and talked with some of them. Then they surprised us with a cookie and told us we were welcome anytime.

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17.) Brought a “joy bomb” to the pastor at the Episcopal Church. I drive and walk by this church often and I always think it would be nice to stop by and say “hi.”  Well, today seemed a good day to do it. 🙂 (Why did I wait so long?)

18.) We brought one to a church friend.

19.) My kids had it on their hearts to bring one to a fellow homeschooling family who lives down the street. We left the “joy bomb” on their step along with the rest of the balloons from town hall. My kids were thrilled that they had some say in this project and their voice mattered.

20.) The final balloon, we brought to a neighbor who we do not know well but know they could use some joy. We left the “joy bomb” at their door.

All twenty “joy bombs” prayed for and delivered. Throughout the morning, I kept thinking about what this adventure was teaching my children. We had inadvertently worked on project management skills, math skills, map skills, conversational skills, and teamwork. We had witnessed the power of prayer and kindness within our interactions with each other and with other people. As a bonus, we met new friends and found new places in our town to visit.

When we pulled into the driveway, one of my daughters said, “Mom, I feel like I have been hugged ten thousand times.”  That’s a pretty great and accurate description of how I felt too. The weather seemed so insignificant when we placed our sights higher and on other things. I don’t think winter weather is quite over yet and that’s okay. It’s a pain to deal with but we are New Englanders. We’ll get through it and how we wait “the few minutes” matters. Let’s try to be cheerful, spread some joy, and help where we can. If you are able, grab an extra shovel and help clean off cars and walkways, take cookies to a neighbor, smile to those you meet. You never know how the smallest interactions will influence someone’s whole day.  Stay warm and stay positive. Spring will be here “soon.” ❤

 

 

 


The Stranger Maiden- An Interview with B. Diaz, Author and Storyteller

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“It’s taking your time and really unfolding the beauty of the words as opposed to rushing through the action of the tale. Pausing for a moment and really creating a world for people to exist in for a little while.” – B. Diaz

It’s waiting for the right moment to tell a story and begin adventures in unexpected times and places. It’s taking the time to dream and imagine and embrace the characters who cross our paths. It’s the self-discovery through the pursuit of hopes and dreams and building character with courageous determination and quiet humility. These are the things reflected in author, B. Diaz (B, short for Brianna) and these are the things her storytelling inspires and points people towards.

Diaz’s first book, The Stranger Maiden, has been collecting rave reviews from readers of all ages. More than an exciting adventure story, the published book is one of Brianna’s dreams come true. A dream that began when she was thirteen years old, while wandering through the woods with her friend (and book’s illustrator, Kasey Walko,) the book’s heroine, Darcie, interrupted Brianna’s thoughts and asked her to tell her story.

For years, Darcie lived in Brianna’s imagination. In high school she would write pieces and short stories, “but I would always come back to this one. I didn’t feel like I was equipped to tell this story until I was eighteen—you know, going off to college and all. So I wrote it. And then I ignored it. I ignored it for two and half years until I graduated college in 2014. In early 2015, I decided to revise and publish the story. I was a more mature writer. I had read more books and developed my voice a little more. I was able to add meat and depth to the story whereas before it was just a framework.”

B. has been a reader and writer for as long as she can remember. She can describe in detail her first journal, right down to the material and color of the binding stitches. Her senior year of high school, she won an award for the most books checked out of the school library for that year. And she proudly states she owns more books than any other possession. When she speaks about her favorite books and authors, enthusiasm fills her sparkling green eyes and you can feel the depth of admiration she holds for them and the influence they have had on her life through their words and works. A book to Brianna is more than a good story.  It’s an escape and “a world for people to exist in for a little while.”

Rooted in a strong, faith-filled family and being raised by independent, “no-nonsense, no-drama parents” has also influenced her writing. She has a strong sense of self, independence, and individuality. These attributes and these qualities are woven into the characters she creates. Introducing a strong female character was of particular importance to her, she wanted her main character, Darcie, to be someone her readers could look up to and identify with.

“(Darcie) does not apologize for who she is. She doesn’t mess around. That was important for me in stories with young women. A male character would get the job done so why wouldn’t a woman also make the same choice? Portraying female characters as brave—there is a way to be strong without being macho. And I think that gets muddled a lot—the relationship between strength and femininity.” 

As a woman and a mom of two girls, I love those words. It is so important that my girls experience positive female role models in their real life and in literary settings. I want them to meet women who are fearless and know they too can go after their hopes and dreams with confidence. God has created women to be both strong and brave, as well as feminine and graceful.  I am blessed that my girls have access to Brianna and now her book. I also want to note that Brianna wrote this book free of profanity and questionable content. Young girls can enjoy it without coming across comprising situations and questionable material.

I would be remiss not to mention one more important quality I see in Brianna – her humility. Her humility is both refreshing and beautiful especially in a platform-seeking world. Her talent is years above her age, yet she doesn’t desire a spotlight or fame. “I never told anyone that I wanted to be a writer. I never set out to be an author. That’s just not me. It was always a very quiet dream. I would spend hours writing, every spare moment. And nobody but those closest to me knew that. I believe the best tended dreams are ones that start quietly. You’re guarding it. It’s your secret place. And you go there and tend and maybe, eventually, if you tend it well and are confident in its beauty, you might want to share it with other people—because maybe what you created will help someone or make them smile.”

What does B. want for the readers of The Stranger Maiden? “I want them to smile. Enjoy the story and allow themselves to be taken outside of their everyday.” For those hoping and asking for a sequel, B. Diaz says that’s something she cannot promise. “This story has been told. I have done the story and the characters in it justice. And now I have to wait until another one needs to be told and if it happens to be in Terrlyn—and it just might be because recently I woke up and I said ‘I see it’—then I’ll go on that next adventure.”

We will just have to wait patiently until the right moment, when the next story needs to be told and the next adventure begins. One thing I think we can count on, B.’s next book will be just as adventurous, just as full of beautiful settings and imagery, and include just as courageous and complex characters as the first story. In the meantime, we can focus on our own hopes and dreams and work to bring imagination back into our lives by taking hold of a little bit of wonder. As Brianna says, “When we encourage imagination it benefits everyone.”  

The Stranger Maiden is available in hardcover, paperback and e-book. Purchase online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  Connect with author B. Diaz at  https://authorbdiaz.blog/ and on Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/authorbdiaz/

 Just for Fun…A Little Game of THIS or THAT with B.Diaz…

UNDERWATER or UP IN THE AIR- air

LOST or FOUND- lost

PRINCE or FROG –“Prince. I hate frogs.”

CHOCOLATE or VANILLA-  “Chocolate, obviously.”

SNEAKERS or FLIP FLOPS- “barefoot”

PLAID or POLKA DOT- “Polka….PLAID. I love polka dots but wear plaid more often. “

AQUARIUM or ZOO- “Bookstore? Museum?”

FERRIS WHEEL or ROLLER COASTER- roller coaster

GOLD or SILVER- gold

SWEET or SOUR- sweet

INVISIBLE or INVINCIBLE- invisible

BOOK GIVEAWAY on the Embrace Enthusiasm Facebook Page! I am giving away two books to one lucky winner! To win a copy of The Stranger Maiden AND a copy of Ella Enchanted, Brianna’s favorite childhood book, please like this post and comment with your favorite childhood book or most recent read. You can also enter in the comments on this interview page below. Happy Friday! ❤

(This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. )

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