The Faceless Ones

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God’s Thought’s to Me

“For he has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy, he has not turned his back on them, but has listened to their cries for help.” (Ps. 22;24, NLT)

“I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.” (Mat.25:43(b), NLT)

Introduction

imageToday I am so honored to introduce my friend, Joy Lenton. She is a very special lady who suffers from ME/CFS and arthritis.

Joy is a mother and wife to her husband, Phil. She used to work as a nurse before becoming chronically ill.

Joy and her husband live in Norfolk, United Kingdom. To visit her blog, just click on her picture. Thank you, dear friend, for blessing me by being a guest at my place. Over to you.

The Girl with Light in Her Eyes

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Sadly those who are too sick to work have to contend with issues of shame. In a society where we are “framed, boxed, categorised, sifted, found wanting in society’s eyes” as I wrote about in the poem here, we experience deep frustration at being pigeon-holed and stigmatized.

It all impacts our lives adversely, affecting our relationships and connections with others.

On the rare occasions when I am alone downstairs in the house and have to answer the door during a late morning/afternoon/evening period in my night-clothes, wearing  bed-head hair, a dazed, sleepy expression and a veneer of embarrassment, …

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…I either say nothing (for such a state is normal to those who know me) or mumble something like, “Please excuse me, I’m unwell today” to those I don’t.

Then I hasten to close the door as fast as possible to avoid curious stares from neighbours or passers-by who may wonder what they are seeing.

I just want them to understand I am sick rather than lazy. Does it always take a stick or wheelchair to convince people we are ill?

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As someone who used to be thought of as attractive, took a fair amount of time and trouble over her appearance, sought out clothes to enhance and suit my figure, it is a far cry from those days to be where I am now .

I am almost permanently pyjama-clad due to the time I spend resting in bed or too exhausted to make the effort required to get up and dressed,  and I’m far too weary to let it worry me as it would have done before.

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I have a body that doesn’t walk like it should, lists and comes to a halt after a very short distance, is riddled with and swollen-jointed by arthritis, sinks wearily under M.E fatigue.

I have a face marked by the effects of over 20 years of chronic illness, exhaustion, pain, medication-taking, as well as the natural ageing process. I feel ashamed of my appearance at times. It doesn’t reflect how I feel on the inside.

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Though I’m far busier these days trying to work on the inner beauty that endures and cannot be taken away. To feel ashamed just for being ill is an additional burden we don’t need. And, yes, there are other areas of shame that have a great impact on relationships.

One of those is having experienced childhood sexual abuse. To have precious innocence taken and adult things pressed on a mind and body too young to understand them is a horrible thing indeed.

Those of us who have experienced it feel that we not only carry a huge scarlet letter ‘S’ for shame hanging around our necks, but have it imprinted on our very souls.

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Many who carry this shame stigma also carry a burden of emotional trauma, often leading to mental and physical illness, whereby the acid accumulation seems to leach into our very frame causing deep emotional/physical pain and disorder.

It can take a great deal of time, wrestling, prayer, struggle, pain, counseling, and much Holy Spirit input and help to work through the devastating legacy it leaves us with.

Full emotional healing cannot be rushed. So why share these things? Aren’t they meant to be private? Well, yes, and no.

The minutiae of how people deal with these issues is something for them to work out individually and together as a couple. But the sadness and frustration they cause is something to make known if it will help even one other person to feel less isolated and alone.

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Actually, it’s the hiding, shaming and embarrassment that keeps us from feeling understood or getting the support we need.

When your daily life experience lacks most of the defining vestiges of normality, it tends to reduce life to a drive to appear normal in the midst of personal chaos. And to a drive to see lives changed, with health and wholeness restored….one day.

In our image-obsessed society and culture, all of us who fail to manifest the perceived ‘norm’ ideal can be left feeling totally inadequate and shamed. Much depends on where we place our worth and value and where others do too.

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“We are “normal” in God’s eyes when we demonstrate endurance and long-suffering, when we keep looking to the unseen things. This is the normal Christian life” ~ Joni Eareckson Tada ‘Daily Devotionals’.

Let me reassure you, my friend, we are ‘normal’ right now, even when our lives and bodies may feel anything but, no matter how well or badly we function, no matter our level of disability. Man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart.

If, in naming and discussing these issues I can bring a greater degree of clarity, understanding, empathy or practical solution-finding to the mix then it will have been worthwhile.

We need to speak out. To air our concerns. To make invisible illness visible. To open up a forum for discussion so that others who suffer like-wise (and those who may follow after) will be assisted to live as fully and freely as God intended.

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For God the Father is not ashamed to call us His children who are restored, whole, beloved, precious and beautiful in His sight as He looks at us through the lens of Christ our Lord and Saviour.

Much love and sweet blessings xx

Mia

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64 thoughts on “The Faceless Ones

  1. Yes! Yes! Yes! There is no condemnation in Christ! There is a lie among some Christians that all of us should be perfectly rich or healthy or looking on the outside like we have it all together. If we had no infirmities, no troubles, no trials….we wouldn’t need Christ! May Christians learn to UNITE is love and grace for one another. May we see each other with Jesus-eyes. Bless you for your honesty and for sharing your reality. It has touched so many! ~ Jen

    • I love your positivity, Jen! All you say here is so true. But, oh, how we need a personal revelation of this truth! Seeing ourselves as we really are in Christ, and seeing one another likewise, is a huge benefit to living fully and freely in spite of our circumstances. Thank you so much for this lovely encouragement! Blessings 🙂 x

  2. And I feel tired to the point of exhaustion some days?! I can keep going on. I will pray for you, Joy that you will have the strength or at least the grace to go on. What a beautiful name to express the beauty you have on the inside. Blessings.

    • Thank you so much! I really value your prayers, especially with energy low, pain and fatigue high right now. The joy of the Lord truly is my strength. My name can be hard to live up to sometimes, but If i can reveal a glimmer of His grace and goodness to me then that is wonderful! Blessings.

  3. I remain amazed at how we judge others without knowing anything about their story. Ill is ill. It doesn’t require a stick or a chair or a glowing neon sign and I’m sorry that you feel ashamed and that you are judged by those who don’t know or understand you or your illness.

    • Arnebya, it remains a sad fact of life for many. But we are stronger together and take heart from all the warm, kind, understanding and supportive responses from people like you. Bless you for this sweet comment. 🙂 x

  4. Just to sit beside a sunny window. Just to hear children’s laughter from outside. Just to choose to remember some better moment when God came delightfully close, reminds one of life and tomorrow’s possible sliver of opportunity. Notice that I said sliver, not thunderclap. I believe that you are having tremendous difficulty. This is neither God’s fault nor yours. Although I do not know a fraction of the facts, I will still say “Do not cave in, cash in or cower”. You belong to a fatherly King and He is tenderly thinking of you at this very moment. Visit Him.

    • Doug, please let me reassure you that though I may be finding life pretty challenging at times, I choose not to “cave in, cash in or cower” in the face of it. The strength and courage to go on are all God-given. As the One who holds authority over every storm also holds His child fast throughout them all, it means there is always a glimmer of grace to be found in the darkest of days and circumstances. Being in our heavenly Father’s Presence is my greatest desire and intention, as well as a daily necessity. Thank you for your encouragement and concern.

  5. This: –> “For God the Father is not ashamed to call us His children who are restored, whole, beloved, precious and beautiful in His sight as He looks at us through the lens of Christ our Lord and Saviour.”

    So grateful that you shared your story, Joy. We take for granted so much. It’s when we hear perspectives such as yours that we are forced to reevaluate the things upon which we place such value and weigh them in light of what God considers to be true treasure.

    Hugs to you, too, Mia!

    • Thank you, Alison, for the reassuring words above. Yes, God sees us as already healed and whole in His sight. And we need to see ourselves and one another more and more from that perspective. Sadly, my story is far from uncommon but I am grateful for its ability to reach others and reveal God’s hand at work in a life ‘less than ordinary’ made extraordinary by His grace. Blessings 🙂 x

  6. Thank you for sharing your story here with us at “Tell Me a Story.” At our home, we understand. There was a time my husband could not walk across the room, but praise God, he is better and can do fair in the mornings, then rest in his lazy boy chair. People wonder why he does not attend church? He allows me to go, and I allow him to stay home. He writes a blog and is writing continued stories, that keep him sane.

    • Hazel, it can be a mystery to some why we are unable to get to church yet can write a blog, poetry or stories. These things are gifts in dark places which can be dipped into as and when inspiration, concentration and energy are there to write. If I didn’t have my poetry and blog writing, plus friends on social media, my life would be very limited and bleak indeed. I’m so pleased your husband can achieve having a therapueutic creative outlet too. It can only help him to feel less isolated, able to contribute his voice and be heard without (hopefully) being judged.
      My husband has social phobia and various fears which keep him away from church. We watch Christian TV, hear sermons and play worship music, as well as maintaining our own individual walk with God. Going to church is great if you can manage it, but we are thankful for the means to stay connected when we cannot attend a local congregation. I do hope and pray your husband will continue to flourish where he is and experience greater levels of healing to come.

  7. Hi Joy and Mia! I am so grateful to hear about your story, Joy. I think anyone can relate to feeling horrid for a few days with the flu, pajamas and fog. But years? That is a lot to bear.

    I do think we need to be more accepting of those with any kind of disability. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ, and wouldn’t we love our family to pieces, and not judge? I pray that will be more of your experience, instead of feeling ‘less than’. My heart goes out to you, as you struggle with your feelings and reactions. Please know that many of those people at the door do not judge, but silently bless you. I know I would.

    Thank you for your courageous post. And thank you Mia, for offering this guest to post on your blog, so I could meet her.
    Ceil

    • Hi Ceil! It’s been lovely meeting Mia’s wonderful friends and followers here. I’ve never replied to so many comments before in my small corner of the blogosphere!
      The suffering we may endure with chronic invisible illness is rendered all the more bearable by the kindness, compassion, sympathy and empathy we do see in so many. It really makes up for the unthinking reactions and responses of the minority.
      Thank you for your thoughtful insights. I appreciate having the opportunity to meet with you here. Mia is a gracious host and lovely supportive friend. I am deeply honoured to occupy her space for a little while. Blessings. 🙂

  8. This is a such good reminder to not judge. We have not walked in each others shoes so we have no right to judge why someone might be in night clothes during the day! It’s also a good reminder that disability does not always show on the outward appearance. My husband is disabled from severe depression / bipolar disorder. Often he looks perfectly healthy but cannot function.

    • Thank you for your understanding, Jerralea. You touch on a very important point here about invisible illness affecting us emotionally and mentally too. I can fully sympathise with your husband’s situation as my brother had bipolar disorder, a brother-in-law has schizophrenia, and my husband still suffers many symptoms following a severe mental health breakdown 9 years ago. It’s the appearing ‘healthy’ while being and feeling anything but that makes it so hard for others to understand why we cannot function ‘normally’. My heart goes out to you both. Blessings and prayers.

  9. Joy, I come over to visit Mia, and here you are again. Apparently, God wants us two to fellowship today as you have filled my morning.

    I am in awe of both you and Mia. There is beauty to be found in the midst of the valley, and you two are resplendent with His glory.

    May God strengthen you today, my sisters. May your homes and hearts be filled with His peace.

    Today, you have challenged me to see things differently and to realize what a gift it is to be able to get up and go to work. For this, I thank you.

    • Lyli, it’s a pleasure to see you again! I hope I’ve filled your morning in a good way. Valley living can be resplendent with God’s grace and glory as He seems to be especially close to the weak, wounded and broken-hearted ones who are struggling on a daily basis. I’m sure Mia would echo my thoughts in seeing our heavenly Father’s grace glimmers shining bright in dark places and being eternally grateful for His tender loving Presence in the midst of pain and problems.

      Thank you so much for your lovely prayerful thoughts! Praise God for your strength and abilities. The Kingdom life will look different for each one of us and our role in it will vary enormously. We all have much to offer and learn from one another. Blessings 🙂 xx

  10. Hi Mia and Joy,

    Thanks so much for sharing your story with us, Joy. I can relate to a lot of what you have been through. PJ’s are what I tend to live in most of the time, accept for the rare occasions I manage to get out. I know my bedroom walls far more than my sitting room, but I also know God more through this, and for that I will be eternally grateful. Blessings to you dear Joy, I think you are beautiful, and I’m so thankful that God enabled us to be friends.

    • Anita, I know so much of this will mirror your own life and experiences. Yet, as you say (and I wholeheartedly concur with), “I also know God more through this, and for that I will be eternally grateful”. Amen, my friend! I’m also truly grateful that God enabled us to be friends, supporters, sisters in suffering, and encouragers for one another. Blessings and love 🙂 xx

  11. Thank you so much for your honesty and courage to share ~ my mom has had MS for 28 years now so I get your words in such a personal way. wanting things to just be normal.. Yes and yes!!! As a kid I remember so rushing for that. Now I understand looking back, she wanted it more than anyone and fought everyday to just keep going and be “normal” for us kids.

    My heart breaks for those all around us suffering, and do we even know? I pray for eyes to see and sensitivity to reach out.

    YOU are an inspiration!

    • Amber, I have every sympathy for your mother’s situation. Although MS and neuro M.E are very different illnesses, they do have some overlapping symptoms and presentation. My elder son has recently been diagnosed with MS and he attempts to live as fully as possible within his level of capacities.There is so much suffering around us and we do well to be aware and sensitive to people’s physical, emotional and relational well-being without allowing it to discourage or overwhelm us. God does amazing things in lives surrendered to Him and He speciaises in bringing beauty from ashes. Bless you for your kindness and encouragement!

    • Thank you, Amber. I have every sympathy for your mother’s situation. Although MS and neuro M.E are very different illnesses, they do share some symptoms and effects. Wanting to be perceived as ‘normal’ is our daily goal even if we may have to live in a confined or constrained way. My elder son was diagnosed with MS last year and he tries hard to live as fully as possible within the parameters of his changing capabilities.
      There is so much suffering around, isn’t there? My heart aches and breaks for people too. We can pray as you suggested, come alongside and support physically, emotionally or relationally if possible and try to help as much as we can without getting to the point of becoming discouraged or overwhelmed. Prayer is one of our best avenues for caring for others’ needs in a really positive way. Bless you for your kind words and loving heart! 🙂 x

    • Thank you, David, for reading, commenting and being honest about how challenging understanding chronic illness can be. It is always easier to view life from the lens of our own perspective and experiences, so it is possible to have a heavily weighted or skewed view as a sufferer or as an observer. I’m so glad this post has helped move you closer in your understanding. Blessings.

  12. Joy, your beautiful heart spill over in your words here and it’s difficult for me to see you as anything but a child of God. Thank you for speaking up for the chronically ill and educating us all.

    • So sweet and generous of you, Laura! I hope to convey God’s transforming work in my life throughout the many years of pain and strruggle, because His goodness and grace sustain me every single day. It is an honour and privilege to share Mia’s page for a while and be able to give voice to those who often feel voiceless, faceless and invisible. Bless you 🙂 x

  13. I appreciate and respect that you’re willing to speak out in any manner you can in support of treating people the way our Father has commanded us to. We all have issues, some worse than others, but none of us perfect and all of us one day closer to perfection on the other side that we can’t have trapped in this soul cage. I’m praying for you, Joy.

    • Thank you, Floyd. You touch on a very important point in saying, “none of us perfect and all of us one day closer to perfection on the other side that we can’t have trapped in this soul cage”. Amen! Each of us is a ‘work in progress’ by God’s grace and slowly learning how to live uncaged and set free as He intends us to be. I am grateful for your prayers. Bless you 🙂

  14. Dear Kelly, you are similarly radiant with the light of Christ, my friend. It is something we rarely see for ourselves as our minds become preoccupied with our flaws, faults and failings. We see your sweet heart on your face and it’s lovely! As you so rightly say, “our inner beauty becomes more radiant as we lean on the Lord when we are weak and weary and isolated and sick and alone”. He truly does become our Strength and the Rock on which we lean in confident faith and trust.
    Thank you for blessing me with your lovely encouraging comment! Love and hugs Xx 🙂

  15. Joy – you are beautiful and Mia too! You know, I think the inner beauty outshines the outer beauty and our inner beauty becomes more radiant as we lean on the Lord when we are weak and weary and isolated and sick and alone. I know my sweetest time with the Lord was when my mind and body failed me completely after my brain surgery. Praise God he restored my physical strength and even my mental capacity more each day over the past ten years, but still, I will never be the same and I suffer from invisible limitations that are not seen by the untrained eye. It is most difficult and we just want so badly to be understood. I remember that being my heart cry for years “Please, God, just let them see my heart – like you do!” You are lovely. You are a joy and a blessing. And I thank you for being strong and courageous and opening up the eyes of our hearts! Love to you both!
    Hugs,
    Kelly

  16. Thank you for opening your soul and sharing such deeply personal hurts. I pray your sharing will help others to deal with their own shame and pain.

  17. You’ve really pulled back the curtain with this post, Joy, and risked something very personal of yourself in order to be a help and a blessing to others. And I believe that you have done it; I know, at least, that you have helped me. God bless you!

    • Neil, thank you so much for taking the time and trouble to read and engage with this post. I really appreciate it and your lovely comment! And I also hope and pray you will receive all the deep inner healing you may need too. Blessings.

  18. Beautiful post Joy. This line really spoke to me.

    “Let me reassure you, my friend, we are ‘normal’ right now, even when our lives and bodies may feel anything but”

    As humans we tend to think we know what normal is and anything that falls outside of “our” guidelines we deem as strange, abnormal, or weird. Thank you for giving those of us on the outside looking in a new perspective. May God tenderly wrap you up in His comforting embrace.

    • Salina, I know exactly what you mean. Yet very few of us comes close to societal expectations of ‘normal’. In fact, ‘normal’ is most likely a myth propagated by those with vested interests to make us purchase products, wear certain clothes, or look a particular way. Oops…better get of my soapbox…think you’ve hit a nerve with a subject I feel strongly about!

      I’m so pleased and touched that God is using my story and words to bring a degree of recognition and, maybe, healing to other souls. May I send your prayer back to you with love as I feel it’s one we all need? God bless xx

  19. Praying for you both. Mia, thank you for welcoming Joy into your space. Joy, thank you for the depths of your sharing — for not allowing the lies of shame to pull you into the pit. Speaking out the fact of your abuse and its effects, speaking out where your true worth lies…you are a beacon light to others from your very place of weakness. Thank you so much for helping others see they are not alone. This is one of our greatest callings as writers. Bless you!

    • Ashley, I totally agree that the lies of the enemy can so easily pull us down into the pit and our job is to stand prayerfully against them and expose them for what they really are. My aim is to speak out as you suggest and hopefully be “a beacon of light” for others in dark places emotionally or physically. Mia has been such a supportive friend and I am both honoured and delighted to be on her page today. I really appreciate your lovely encouraging comment! Bless you 🙂 x

  20. Really beautiful, Joy. So touching because of your honest vulnerability. Yes, sometimes the physical travails of life can really dampen our spirits and take us to some very dark places. We would be lost if not for the Light of the World.

    I am grateful for His shining hope that reaches into every moment of suffering, and redeems it for HIS greater good.

    GOD BLESS!

    • Sharon, these days with walls tumbling down in my life as God does a deep excavation work emotionally, I am getting more used to feeling and being open and vulnerable. Though that can be an uncomfortable place at times, it is also liberating.
      I am also grateful for God’s “shining hope that reaches into every moment of suffering, and redeems it for His greater good” as you so beautifully put it. God bless! xx

  21. I resonate with so many of your statements. These are just a few that really stand out to me:

    “I just want them to understand I am sick rather than lazy. Does it always take a stick or wheelchair to convince people we are ill?”

    “To feel ashamed just for being ill is an additional burden we don’t need.”

    “Full emotional healing cannot be rushed.”

    Thank you (and Mia) for shining light on invisible illnesses. I suffer to a lesser degree with my own, and I have to fight against a feeling of shame. Reading from friends like you does help me.

    • Thank you, Lisa! I am so sorry you suffer likewise, yet I’m pleased that these words have resonated with you and shown how much we can benefit from sharing our stories. Love and prayers Xx

  22. Beautiful, poignant words, Joy from a beautiful heart of a BEAUTIFUL woman of God. You are beautiful and precious in His sight and ours, too. And the sharing of your story, no matter how unattractive, helps set other hearts free. So here’s a prayer for joy and hope and health and love and all things that will make your heart glad. Thank you so much for sharing your story. God bless you…

    • Sheila, your sweetly affirming words have reduced me to tears. My greatest desire is to share my story with the intention of revealing God’s grace throughout it all and helping “set other hearts free”. Your lovely comment and prayer are gratefully received. Blessings Xx

  23. Joy, So glad that Mia shared her wonderful space with you. There is a lot of shame attached to invisible illness and the need to feel and look “normal.” It is sad, we didn’t choose the illness. I know, I’ve gone through this. Still do sometimes. It is important to have a strong and positive support system around you.I have Primary Sjogren’s and Connective Tissue Disease. It’s hard not to A) live in the past and get angry at what you used to be able to do; and B) feel like you have to explain to everyone the WHY of what you have, why you can’t do things, etc. Sometimes the list goes on. I’ve learned we have to live in the present with what God has given us – He is an amazing God. And I really don’t think we need to explain anything to anyone. We all need to remember God has given us all trials to walk through, but those trials don’t define us, even though they may consume us for a while – maybe even a lifetime. He has chosen us for this. We are children of God and this is what we need to remember; to keep moving and get through the storm safely. Praying for you and for Mia. So good to meet you. Blessing to you both.

    • Kim, thank you for this great and thoughtful insight. My post was written on one of those dark nights of the soul times when symptoms are more intrusive, life seems bleak and the world crowds in hostile. Thankfully, God soon shines the Light of His glorious presence into our dark spaces. They are passing-places, not meant for habitation. Learning to live in the present is where we find God best. He is the eternal I AM. And the Rock to cling to and shelter by. The Anchor that holds us safe through every storm we may encounter.
      It is so true that we don’t have to answer to others or explain why we are incapacitated. Though we may crave understanding and validation. I love these words, “We are children of God and this is what we need to remember; to keep moving and get through the storm safely”.
      Our identity rests on who we are in Christ, not on how we or others may perceive us. Being covered by His mantle of grace is the loveliest thing ever and makes us beautiful in His sight.
      Blessings to you too! It’s lovely to meet Mia’s friends here and share her spot for a little while. 🙂 xx

  24. As a pastoral counselor, all I can say is a deep thank you for sharing your story. For some readers, it’ll be a bit of an education and a wake-up call. But for others, it will be a beautiful, sorely needed validation of life as they know it.

    Thanks for your willingness to speak with us today, Poetry Joy …

    And thanks, as always, dear Mia …

    • Thank you, Linda. You are in a good place to assess both sides of the equation. In sharing deeply personal things there is always the risk of shocking or causing misunderstanding.
      My great hope and prayer is to help others know that they are far from alone in their struggles and to provide a means whereby others can be made aware and informed. I really appreciate you sharing your insights here.

  25. Dear Joy (& Mia) –
    A most touching post for sure. May we all come to a place to realize that we truly cannot know the burdens of someone else. May we all come to the place where we offer grace & mercy instead of judgment or criticism. You are a most brave woman to share so transparently. Beautifully written.
    And Mia, thank you for giving your space to Joy for her story to be heard.
    Praying for you both today that our God would use the post greatly. AND may He bring healing to both of your bodies. Strength for today in abundance be to you both!
    Hugs,
    Joanne

    • Thank you, Joanne! Your plea echoes my own heart’s cry. Although it brings a quaking in boots feeling, one of the best things about sharing transparently is so that others can say, “You too?” and know they are not alone with their struggles. We all need one another. I am truly grateful for Mia’s friendship and support, and really thankful to have a small forum on her site to air these things.
      Bless you for commenting and praying. Hugs, Joy 🙂

  26. Dolly, all faith, strength and courage to endure are entirely God-given and He is the One to whom all praise must go. Without our Lord’s anointing and equipping we couldn’t persevere through our trials, never mind write and share in such a way as to bless others. And being weak means resting in daily dependence on His grace to sustain and strengthen us. A gift of sorts, perhaps, though hard to see it sometimes! Thank you for your kindness Xx

  27. Dear Joy,
    Thank you for sharing your story and how shame can play a part in an “invisible illness”…I am glad you and Mia can mutually support each other and bring light to so many…Praying today for you and Mia…hugs to you both 🙂

    • Dear Dolly, it is in the sharing and caring that we encourage, help and support one another through our “invisible illness”. Such things are invaluable. Thank you so much for your concern and prayers, both of which are gratefully received!

    • Thank you, Joy. It’s important to draw back the veil sometimes and allow people to see our lives as they really are, in the hope of raising greater understanding and awareness.

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