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Liberty2

In admiration of this anonymous veteran I met one day and in respect for all veterans of war, living and passed, I re-blog this post in honor of our Memorial Day Weekend. Be safe and be grateful for these people and the blessings of our country.

I’m Great!

We were sitting in the waiting room of Tom’s Primary Care Physician waiting for a question to be answered when a sprightly  elderly woman came in accompanied by another woman.

“Frances! How are you?” the receptionist greeted her.

“I’m GREAT!” she replied. And you could hear the exclamation point in her voice.

“That’s wonderful, have a seat and we will be with you shortly.”

She went across the room from us, placed her walker beside her and sat down. The other woman, whom I came to guess was a caretaker, not family sat near her.

The woman continued in conversation with her. She talked loudly so the conversation was easily overheard. She started to talk about friends whom she wondered if they were still here or not. It soon became apparent she was talking about a “unit” of friends, so I am thinking she probably served as a Navy nurse.

I was correct. She was talking about the recent memorial they had in Washington for senior vets and about some who got to go there. She knew there was a plaque of her nurse’s unit, aside in a special place with all of their names on it.

“I would have liked to have seen that,” she said.

Two more people greeted her while we were there, asking her how she was. And each time she replied enthusiastically and confidently, “I’m GREAT.”

She said she tried to keep tabs on her old friends but that now most of them were gone. “I’m 97 and so there are not many left, but I’d like to know,” she said.

Her youngest nephew is 76 so he was not “doing so well that he could keep looking after me” she revealed.

She had called one friend who had been still living independently, but was receiving no answer and she feared her friend was either now in a nursing home or passed on.

This woman brought a noticeable high energy into what feels most often to me a rather complacent, resigned waiting space…..one where we hope the doctor has answers for us and we can feel some measure of relief for what ails us. There did not appear to be too much ailing Frances and I’m pretty sure when she was taken back she also cheered up the professional staff waiting on her.

I thought about my age of seventy-one. I am pretty aware of living into a new decade of my life. I am grateful for each and every day and my present excellent status of health. However, I am also aware that “age is catching up with me”.  I am sometimes surprised of some limitations I did not even know had arrived or was not mindful enough of the fact that I am no “spring chicken” anymore.

But thinking of Frances, I walked out of that doctor’s office with a new mentor in mind. I think I am living the kind of life that, if I am granted the grace of a long life lived on this earth, I also will be able to continue to respond to the query of how I am with:

“I’m just GREAT, thank you.”

I'm Great - Memorial Day

 

Feeling Peace

Dolomites hills and valleys  7-10-13

 

I remember feeling very peaceful in these surroundings on day 9 of my 12 day tour of the Alps with my friend, Martha.

 

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“Peace is the simplicity of spirit, the serenity of conscience, the tranquility of the soul and the bond of love. Peace is order, it is the harmony in each one of us,, it is a continual joy that is born in witnessing a clear conscience, it is the holy joy of a heart wherein God reigns. Peace is the way to perfection, or even better, in peace dwells perfection.” St. Pius of Pietrelcina, an Italian Capuchin. Source: Magnificat, May 2015, Vol 17, No. 3

 

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The year was 2013. The month was July. We arrived via business class luxury air to Munich, Germany and began travel through “the Ultimate Alps”, touching Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Leichenstein, and Italy.  The fortunate touch of long-lasting friendship made this possible for me when Martha asked me to accompany her, all financials taken care of.   I felt the simplicity of spirit in that and the holy bond of love.

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Peace is the way to perfection……we each knew this peace of shared past times as neighbors and the witnessing of friendship shared across the years through each one’s numerous life changes and geographical space.

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We still picked up the old-fashioned phone and said, “Hi, how are you? What’s going on?”

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We still started new conversations where long ones had left off many moons prior.  A continual joy, a holy joy of the heart.

I was struck by the concise wording in the first paragraph of today’s meditation, knowing that peace truly is what is written there on all those levels. And that I recognize it as something I am able to experience, not just long for.

For this, I am grateful.

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Celebrate Living

I am combining two efforts of late in this writing: to continue writing 50 stories of our 50 years of wedded life and love together and: to share some of the images I’ve been busy with for the 50 days of Resurrection Prayer/Creative Art project through Christine and John Valters Paintner’s Abbey of the Arts and Dancing Monks community. I am having so much fun with the various art images and techniques and word reflections they are offering, that my writing activity has lessened and I’ve just fallen into the fun of color and creation.  So here is the word for today!

LIFE…...”I just want to celebrate another day of living!”

My life is total gift, given by God and a mother who died shortly after my birth. Completely unknown by me for many years, I was raised by a second loving mother, whose God qualities were order, discipline and cleanliness. I loved her too but I yearned for the “hugginess” I knew my birth mother would have given me. All is gift and as I searched and discovered the realness of my birth mother, outside my family, I was given a great gift….from her best friend….who erased doubt and guiltiness from my soul over my birth, her death. She told me my mother rushed to her when she discovered she was pregnant with me and in great excitement told her, “NOW I KNOW the purpose of my LIFE.” Such a great unknown and mystery, erased from my life forever. Mom wanted to give me birth. I celebrate the LIFE and LOVE I have in my family life of husband, children and grandchildren. My mother’s life and love and purpose carries on through them.

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Even though this story begins before our marriage, indeed at my very birth, the story carried on well into our marriage and Tom supported me deeply as I put the pieces of my known and unknown heritage together.  Nothing much was said during my growing up years of my birth and my birth mother’s death immediately following.

Aunt Resh2Diane Tanberg, cousin (far right)…..My birth TANBERG side

After the birth of our first daughter, Laura, my mother’s presence to me was unmistakeable, and I set about finding out the details of my birth history, mostly through my cousin Diane on my mother’s side. Also through my mother’s nursing student companion and best friend and maid of honor at her wedding.  The pieces came together over time and through deep seated pain.  It was important to me to add name and photo of Doris into my daughters’ and grandchildren’s baby books.

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And this has been done. She is in our family through three more generations. Mom LIVES.

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As a writer, I’ve been told by my much admired mentor that the FIRST story you must write is your mother story. Mine comes in so many layers that it seems it is a kalaidascope of reoccuring glimpses, each one emitting, celebrating or grieving one glimpse of the total.
As for the creative word of the day from Valters Paintner…..LIFE…..I am deeply grateful for mine. I am also aware of the “thin thread” upon which I came into this world and in surviving a difficult birth, that grace was given to me to continue the lineage of Tanberg-Heffron through the very fine, abundant and happy lives of the Hajecs, Warriners, and Mitchells.

Labyrinth of Love and Life - 2

Photo and Book by artist and author Catherine Anderson
http://www.catherineandersonstudio.com/

“Dear Susan,

May the path of the labyrinth support and hold you in love. Blessings and Joy, Catherine 2014.”

Catherine opens her beautifully written and illustrated book with the following observation: “We are not all fortunate enough to have a labyrinth in our backyard to walk whenever we feel the call to connect with the winding path of the labyrinth. This journal can be a place to turn when you yearn for the calming path of the labyrinth.”

Actually, Catherine and I are fortunate ones to actually have a labyrinth in our own backyards. She, just outside her home art studio, where I have been blessed to both walk her labyrinth in peace and gratitude for what both prayer and artistic creativity add to my life…and I, in the backyard of the home I feel graced to have found with my loving husband Tom, to live and enjoy our golden years and our golden Michigan sunsets off our deck just above our labyrinth.

IMG_4284Receding winter of ’15 and the labyrinth reappears

IMG_1837SoulCollage Facilitator Training Weekend with Catherine, 2014

As happy as I am to have the labyrinth in our yard, I still find it challenging to explain its essence to others without going “too deep into the weeds” in way of explanation. I, myself, first found it through Canon Rev. Lauren Artress of Grace Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco.

I was at a weekend retreat at the Dominican Weber Center in Adrian Michigan on Centering Prayer. But her little black paperback book attracted me in the bookstore, “Walking a Sacred Path.” Eventually, my sacred path led Tom and me to Grace Cathedral, where we experienced another retreat and I completed training in Labyrinth facilitation. We also walked both Chartres designed labyrinths there; one on the Cathedral interior floor, the other just out the door, on the piazza, high on top the hills of San Francisco.  Within a couple more years, we pilgrimaged, once again, to spend a week in Chartres France and attend a retreat on the labyrinth and Sacred Geometry, upon which the cathedrals of medieval times were built. We resided in the Catholic seminary housing right next to the the Chartres Cathedral, originally built in the 1300s, I believe. We walked within it and around it many, many times, photographing  ad infinitum the architecture, sculpture and stained glass phenomenon that it was.

Chartres Cathedral

Chartres Cathedral is famed for its stained glass windows, the largest representations of Mary in all cathedrals and its labyrinth dating back to medieval times when pilgrims traveled to it for their annual pilgrimage when they could not travel to other holy sites due to wars and dangers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATom and I were here in May 2000.

So what does the labyrinth have to do with our life and our love?

One simple way of explaining the labyrinth is that it is a metaphor for life…..this certainly works for me!  The circular pattern, once begun, yearns ever for the center. And you begin toward that center in wide sweeping circular paths and motions. You are free to stop anywhere along the path, for what?  A breath? A silent message sounding in your heart? A casual gaze upon the blessings of nature and people around you?  A time-out?

Who, among us, doesn’t do this in real life and actually need to do this? Not I, for I need them all to feel the center in my self.  Or the lack of it.  I may know where I am going.  I may think I know where I am going. I may know that I DON’T know where I am going.  I need to feel the Presence of the ONE who does know.

The labyrinth can represent this ONE, by whatever name we call it….for it has many. God, Source, Universe, Yaweh, and so many others.

The path on the labyrinth is not a maze…. you are never blocked once you have begun the walk. no matter the difficulty, no matter the shortness or length of the path, it continues inward and to the center. You experience turns, expected, and sometime when lost interiorly as you walk, a sudden turn appears abruptly.

These are the same types of turns, expectations, interruptions I experience in my married life. Certainly, Tom’s and my union and love resulted in many, many more changes of location than I would have ever anticipated. But on we went, supporting each other, working out the difficulties, enjoying the overflowing joys, and managing many, many times of “letting go” as we journeyed.

And that is what the inward journey on the labyrinth is about…..letting go…..letting it  be……trusting……willingness…..mesmerized by watching your feet take……that one step at a time……seeing only a small part of the total bigness of the path, yet trusting that it is there for you.

Reaching the center, we feel open to receive gifts…what gifts? Any that come, receiving them in faith. For our marriage, I receive the fullness of nearly 50 years of the commitment spoken in our vows so many years ago.  And just like one step at a time,  I know it was not a “once only” commitment to  I do.  No, for us, the words once spoken to us by a priest during some of our Marriage Encounter years ring very true.  “In marriage, you do not speak the words  ‘I do’  only on your wedding day, you speak and live them every day of your married life.”

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When you leave the center on your walk on the labyrinth, you walk freely, retracing the path that brought you into the center; it will likewise lead you back out to the world, bringing with you the gifts received in the center and being fully ready to share those gifts with others.  If you have walked mindfully, you are returning from the labyrinth reminded of who you truly are —  which is gift itself– and you have been gently guided back  in balance from the calming path of the labyrinth.

In truth, over the course of fifty years of marriage, there are many opportunities for just the opposite of calm and balance to exist between the partners, and that has been true for us. I have appreciated and strongly relied upon the people and experiences in my life that have built up my faith and my optimism in myself and in my partner and in our life together.  Because even with all the “rock ‘n roll” we’ve met along the way, today I can truthfully say…..

I count it all as grace and my heart overflows in gratitude for the life and love I have in Tom and family.

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Devereaux - Lift up My SoulImage by Angie Devereux (c)

The words below are not mine but I have copied them from the words of a reading I did during a quiet time meditation. They touched me deeply as I try to apply them to a time in our world where Christians are being persecuted, tortured and killed simply for the act of being Christian. It astounds me that as a young child, I tried to imagine the courage of the martyrs in the early Christian era, being sought after, persecuted and killed.

So many revolutions of the planet later with the passage of more than 2,000 years and the same exists today for millions of people, seeking some safe haven from their own homelands from those who would kill them for being Christian. My heart can hardly hold this.

So I ask myself too, “How is it that we are not living from the center of love?”

From a reflection in the April 2015 Magnificat
“….I believe that we all came from love. That the Love that is All begat us as individualized human love. That we are made in Love’s image and likeness. So I wonder as I look back across the eons of time and into our present times across our planet, “how did we get this so wrong”. How is it that we are not living from a center of love? How is it that it takes great effort and awareness to BE love in our world, in our lives, in our relationships to our loved ones, friends, and strangers?

I believe the most radical religion on earth today is Christianity. It tells us we must love. Its founder, the Christ Jesus lived a life that showed us just how radical this life of Christianity is and designated others to continue the message and the life of a Christian.

Love our enemies? Turn the other cheek? Be not afraid?”
“For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.” John 18:37

“Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid”. John 14:27

Witness of Peace – Pope Benedict XVI

“In every person the desire for peace is an essential aspiration which coincides in a certain way with the desire for a full, happy, and successful human life…Man is made for peace which is God’s gift…In effect, peace presupposes a humanism open to transcendence. It is the fruit of the reciprocal gift of mutual enrichment which has its source in God and enables us to live with others and for others…Peace is the building up of a co-existence in rational and moral terms, based on a foundation whose measure is not created by man, but by God.”

Note from Napkinwriter:

So still, in my life, I am seeking to be this radical person of love in my personal life, believing that somehow, along with my prayers, that my tiny contribution will somehow send a tiny ripple out to touch the larger world…..that I can plant a seed…..that this seed will not fall upon rock….that it will bear the fruit of love from an enriched soil and a plant that regularly bears “pruning back” and speaking and acting only from a radical love that serves its highest purpose.

Lofty? Perhaps. Attainable? On some days. Worthy goal? Absolutely. Covered with grace by the Benedictine precept of……Each Day, We Begin Again.

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What are the odds? No, not today in the 2015 running of the Kentucky Derby. But what are the odds that Tom and I are just a couple months away from celebrating a life and a love that was united in marriage fifty years ago on June 19, 1965?

Some might say it is a long shot. I might even say that, given some of the challenges we faced. But whatever odds we overcame, we are being rewarded with a magnificent family life. We are enjoying relatively good health and mobility. And if there is a secret to long-term marriage success, I might say for us it is just……that we never fell out of love.

In the Kentucky Derby of 1965, Lucky Debonair was the winner, followed by Dapper Dan in second and Tom Rolfe in third.

Tom’s first job out of college was with IBM in Lexington, Kentucky the heart of the Bluegrass.  We began our married life in a furnished apartment (with maid, which I would never tell my mother), moved to a rented duplex awaiting the arrival of our first born daughter, Laura the following June. Then a couple years later, we were settled into our first purchased and built home on Sandra Court and soon after that, we were given the gift of our second daughter, Kathleen.

Ours was the first home, around which grew the most fantastic neighborhood. Neighbors Bob and Carmel, Martha and Joe, and many other surrounding ones made for a vibrant, alive and friendly place for us and our children. We have never been in a neighborhood like that or shared time with others as we did in that one time of our life

Friends, Linda and Tom (our first) and Jude and Lucretia, Dave and Kay, Stan and Sheila were just a short jaunt away. We were rich in friendships, fun and play.

CarolineCaroline, friend of Laura and daughter of our Kentucky friends, Jude and Lucretia

We lived in the Bluegrass during the amazing years and feats of Secretariat, the last horse to win the Triple Crown. We walked the grasses of Calumet Farms and other white-fenced horse farms with our friends and visitors from Michigan. It was fun to be part of the Bluegrass pride and traditions.

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During our twelve years in Lexington, I taught school for a short while and then became an assistant in the Montessori classroom of Joanie Stickler. It was the start up of what is now an extremely successful Community Montessori School through high school level, one where friend Janet Ashby dedicated many years of loving service to the children and adults being blessed by the Montessori methods of discovery taught by Maria Montessori.

Our life changed “on a dime” in 1976, when we left Lexington in search of a different way of livelihood.  For some time to come, it could be best described in a song Neil Diamond would write titled, “It’s a Beautiful Noise!”

Fifty-Fifty is not about the odds on any horse today. In honor of approaching our 50th, I have decided to blog 50 stories over the 50 years of our life together. I have not written Napkinwriter as often this year as I did the first three years, so this will give me a theme to “hang my writer’s hat on”.  There are so many MORE than 50 stories (and they are not fairy-tales). It will amuse me anyway to see which I decide to throw some light upon.

I will complete these stories before Tom and I leave, once again, for a honeymoon in the Smoky Mountains in late June.

Tom and Sue

Creative with Prayer 3- Feature photo

My guest post today comes from Christine Sine, who I’ve met in my community of the Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks. This group is a loving part of Christine and John Vaultner Paintner’s Abbey of the Arts and we are currently on a 50 day pilgrimage of the Resurrection, expressing ourselves and our prayers  in writing, photography, drawing, poetry, painting, haiku, mandala creations, labyrinth walking, Rosemaling. WE are FEASTING on Creativity and Prayer.

Just in my brief acquaintance with Christine Sine, I see and understand that she truly lives her LIFE as CREATIVITY on a daily basis, fueled by a quiet sense of prayer and awe for the wonder of life and how we contribute good to it.

I have been on this path for some time, never intend to be off of it again in my lifetime. And I give thanks for the pilgrimage that brought this traveling “companion on the journey” to me. Grace be, Christine.

Two of my praying companions came out of the clay to meet me on my first attempt at Raku’ fired mask creation.

Woman of Peace  and Fire and Fury

United as Peace and Fury

I also pray each year with a Yearly Intention Mandala.  This year my intention is  I LIVE AS LOVE IN MY LIFE.

Change 7 Intention Mandala

and now, here is Christine!

Let’s Get Creative With Our Prayers
Christine Sine
http://godspace-msa.com/2015/04/30/lets-get-creative-with-our-prayers
Its time to stir our imaginations and creativity and learn to pray in new ways. Our imagination connects us to our inner selves, to God and to the world around us. Stirring our creativity helps us dream God’s dreams and bring them into reality. It helps us to focus our prayer energy, and frees us from the limits of prayer forms that have become rote and stale. It gives us permission to venture into the unknown realm of God’s imaginative, creative power.

During Lent and Easter I reminded us that the good news of the gospel is God’s desire to reconcile all things to God’s self. God’s plan embraces not just our inner transformation and reconciliation to God but also restoration of creation, reconciliation with neighbors and renewal wherever the image of God is distorted. Our creator has begun a process of redemption to restore all things to what they were meant to be.
I quoted from Kerry Dearborn’s inspiring book Drinking from the Wells of New Creation: The Holy Spirit and the Imagination in Reconciliation. She explains that it is the imagination that opens the heart’s floodgates to both receive the Spirit’s love and release it to others so that we can enter into the reconciling work of God. It breaks down old ways of seeing the world, offers us a new vision of life and hope, reshaping our desires and expectations around God’s vision of reconciliation and connects heart, mind and body to this new vision and catalyzes responses. (69)
Inspired by her writing and my desire to enter more fully into the reconciling work of God, I spent Lent and Easter looking for creative resources that would stir all our imaginations and assist us to create new prayer practices that further God’s reconciling work. I talked about this in my post Get Creative and Play Games in Lent, and have tried to share some examples of creative possibilities others are exploring in my new Saturday series Lets get creative.

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Unfortunately creativity is not widely encouraged in the practice of our faith, unless we are kids. Kids are encouraged to explore their creativity by playing games, reading books, walking in nature, planting and watching things grow, listening to music and drawing together. Adults are encouraged to pray only with their minds and not with their imaginations or other God given senses.

According to Albert Einstein:“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” So why should kids have all the fun? It is my growing conviction that we all need to learn to be more creative and more experiential with our prayers. We need to allow the spirit of God to stir our imaginations to create new models of prayer and new expressions of spiritual practices. This doesn’t mean letting go of our prayer life, but rather using the creative tools of ancient spiritual practices to reshape and re-imagine how we pray.

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Over the next few months lets explore the realms of imagination and creativity together. Many of you have already tapped into this God given ability and have created prayer practices around painting, collage and photography. Others have discovered the creativity of running, walking, sharing food and gardening. Others I am sure have found creativity in places many of us have never imagined.
I love what Rebecca Joy Sumner is doing to help us reimagine scripture and prayer lived out in the neighbourhood – like her post I’m Having a Failure of Hope Kind of Morning. And appreciate the insights of Sybil MacBeth on Praying in Color that I shared a few days ago. We all need to explore this kind of creativity in order to connect more intimately with God.
Would you share what you have learned with the readers of Godspace? Consider contributing a post about your creative prayer process. Do you know of others who have developed inspiring creative practices that we can learn from? Lets have some fun together.

Creative with prayer  - christine Sine
A New Way to Grow!
MSA is excited to offer an online learning opportunity through our new school!

Interact with Christine Sine and reimagine how we pray, learn how to simplify your life with Mark Scandrette, and explore questions of God, Jesus and religion with Brian McLaren, Mark Scandrette, Lilian Daniel and others.

Join our learning community and enrich your faith as we journey together toward the in-breaking of God’s kingdom.
FIND OUT MORE

You may take as many or as few classes as you like and may take them at your own pace.
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This is WHO Christine is……

Greetings from Seattle, where I live with my husband, Tom, and my dog, Bonnie. I am a passionate organic gardener; in the spring my front porch sprouts an assortment of tomatoes, peppers, squash, and other vegetables awaiting the warmer weather.

Garden day at the Mustard Seed House
I am also passionate about helping Christians to connect their faith and spiritual disciplines to their everyday life. I believe that Christianity is is not meant to be a Sunday only faith. It is meant to impact everything we do and are.
I see myself as a contemplative activist and believe that our spiritual formation should interweave through all of life and should equip us to engage in the challenges and struggles of our broken and needy world.
My husband Tom and I work together to assist churches and Christian organizations around the world to look at the challenges facing them in the 21st century. We also founded Mustard Seed Associates, a network of followers of Jesus that seeks to unleash the creative potential of individuals who want to put God’s purposes first in their lives.
I spend much of my time writing, blogging and conducting seminars, workshops and other speaking events on spirituality, Celtic Christian spirituality and Gardening and Spirituality. I encourage participants to recognize the encounters with God and the gospel story that occur in every aspect of life

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Napkinwriter note:   I live as Souljourner-at-Large and Prayer and Care Companion assisting the home bound and I bring the arts and creativity into each day of my life. It noticeably livens up the encounters and interactions. I believe the foundation of creativity if Love, and it is Love which is the original creator, of which we are all a part. So it is very natural to bring it into our prayer life.

I have had a Prayer and Creativity Room of my own in all of my dwelling spaces since first attending International Women’s Writers Guild  (IWWG) in the late 1980s. And that includes MANY homes, bought or rented, and several apartments.  From the roots of IWWG, came Women Writer and Artist Matrix group, (WWAM) who radiate creative energy and encourage, no they actually “commission” us to be true to the creative and prayerful call within each of us.  I think I may have found the same in Christine and Tom and their Mustard Seed Associates.

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