January is for Stretching

Women who walk in their truth with shaky legs, write with a pen that isn’t very steady, and embrace vulnerability with a racing heart are my kind of women. Brave. Bold. Honest. Storytellers and community makers.

William Wordsworth says, “fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” Over the last several years, I’ve worked hard to learn how to be vulnerable and honest, but not in a way that makes me seem whiny or like I’m complaining. Just living a transparent life. I’ve taken cues from authors I find to be revealing and honest and faithful; Brene Brown, Lysa TerKeurst, Deidra Riggs, Ann Voskamp, Chrystal Evans Hurst, Priscilla Shirer, Lisa Harper, Kim Hyland, Holley Gerth, Michelle DeRusha, and so many other bloggers, social media heroines, and truth-telling mommas!

Women who walk in their truth with shaky legs, write with a pen that isn’t very steady, and embrace vulnerability with a racing heart are my kind of women. Brave. Bold. Honest. Storytellers and community makers. How many times have we been able to read a blog post, part of a book, or a Facebook post and find a piece of commonality, a sense of togetherness, and a reminder that we don’t have to do any of this alone?! We find strength and encouragement from one another – it’s exactly what we need to be able to survive our own day sometimes.
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Recently I was asked to not share from that place of vulnerability that God has been helping to craft within me over the years as a way to minister to the women in my world. I was asked, essentially to choose; kingdom or not – ministry or not – vulnerability or not – honesty or not – community or not – brave or not – bold or not. I had to decide – shaky legs, unsteady pen, racing heart, or not. Suddenly I was confronted with a choice to either embrace who I’ve been created to be or to push my girl back into the closet where most of her life she had to hide her true self for fear of not being loved, or accepted, or cherished, or worthy enough, or good enough, or any other thing we can throw in there.

My word for the year is Purpose, but my word for January is Stretching. I’ve taken a break from writing, from social media, from all the things that I thought I was supposed to be doing and poured that into seeking God and what He’s asking me to do. I’ve stretched into the Word, into His voice, stretched to hear Him with confidence and clarity. We’re told that when we earnestly seek Him, we will find Him. Y’all, I was on a hunt! From a recent book I read written by Michelle DeRusha called True You, I learned to sit in His presence a little better. She started with 5 minutes a day, and so I did too. Just doing not one thing. Just sitting. Not laying down trying to fall asleep, not reading a book, not praying even. Just soaking in Yahweh. The very name Yahweh is breath – it can’t even be spoken. Sitting in the breath of the Creator was necessary. I’m up to about 15 minutes now since I started this about 6 weeks ago. It’s hard and sometimes I’m really easily distracted, but other times I’m rewarded richly with a clarity unlike anything I’ve ever felt.

From that clarity, the confidence to walk in the Purpose for which I’ve been created is so overwhelmingly clear, I couldn’t deny it if I wanted to deny it. So while I may have to modify some things in order to make all of my world coexist together, I will not back down from the mission He’s given me!

Friends, sometimes we have to make hard choices. I’ve learned that making them in the moment, with all the emotions of it, usually leads me down a path from which I may not be able to recover. However, when we take the time to seek Him and His will, counsel from people whom we trust deeply, and time to sit in His presence – the answers will come. His will for us will be clear. We may not understand it all, but understanding isn’t what we need. We walk in faith and obedience, He makes the way. 

Whatever is in front of you right now, I pray that you step into it with shaky legs and unsteady hands. That you fully embrace who God created you to be and that you remain Kingdom focused when the world around you wants to defeat your God given mission. Walk in the godly confidence which can only come from the Creator of the whole entire everything! Be bold and brave!

 

What in the world…

We are His beloved. 
He is our Defender. 
We have a purpose. 
He will position us for our purpose. 

Who knew that when I posted my last post, on July 3rd, at 5 pm, that just a few short hours later, everything in my world would change. It’s funny reading it now.. like talking about how I struggle to focus on things because I’m often focusing on so many things. Well. That shut me up.

And made me focus.

Today I was reading something on another blog about how to continue writing when life is blowing up around you, and I was reminded that writing is something that is important, of course, but that it’s also okay to take breaks when needed. Writing is often an escape, but it’s also a place for me to sort out emotions. Until there are too many emotions to sort out in any particular moment. And having some grace with myself to step back and process is important.

Over the last few days, I’ve been thinking about how I would come back to this space and at what level would I share what’s been happening..

Here we go…

On July 3rd, I was home alone, when some crazy, angry, delusional person opened fire into my apartment. Only by the grace of God I didn’t get up to open the door when I heard someone coming up the steps (like I normally would’ve done) and that the shooter didn’t understand the layout of my apartment and where his bullets were landing. Forty-five minutes later, the same shooter opened fire into another apartment in the next complex over. The alleged shooter was caught three days after the incident and is in custody awaiting trial. That’s all I can share, and that’s public knowledge. The rest is tied up in legal mumbo jumbo.

We are safe.

Trying to process through that with my kiddo and myself, while in the midst of a huge work project, and then into my busiest work season has been… challenging. And difficult. And life-altering, to say the least.

One of the things that made me angry at myself, though, was how I got angry with God. Not at first.. I was grateful for His protection, in the beginning. But then I was angry. I was angry that I have felt like the last year has ripped me open over and over again. I was angry that every time I thought we were swinging toward some lasting goodness, there would be another punch to the neck and something taken from me. I was angry that with every wave of grief over the last year I leaned into Him and dug deeper in my relationship with Him. And then this happened. It was the literal straw that broke the momma’s back. I was getting closer and closer to Him and this was my reward? This was what surrendering to Him looked like? NO thank you. I mean, I’ll love Him, but not like that.. it hurts too much.

But then… God.

I tried so hard to stay mad at Him. Have you ever tried to be mad at someone and you just couldn’t?

Maybe it was the softness in His spirit;
or the gentleness of His love;
or the patience He showed toward me;
or the tenderness of His relentless pursuit for my heart even when I was so done;
or the willingness He had to let me be angry and not be mad or hold it against me;
or the desire He had to love me even though I was not being lovable;
or the mercy He showed me when I screamed that His way was too hard;
or the grace He freely gave to cover me as I crawled back to Him.

This was between me and Him. There was no one to walk through this with me or to encourage me along the way… it was me and Him. On an island. Working through some messy stuff. Have you been there? On that lonely island?

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Here are some truths I’ve learned, some for the first time and some for the second or third time…
He didn’t put me on that isolated island. I did that to myself. I refused to allow anyone to walk through this with me because I was too busy being mad. And angry. And bitter.
He didn’t do this to me. We live in a fallen world with broken people. The enemy is real and he knows how to cause division. It’s his whole purpose on earth. Trying to separate us from Him.
He didn’t push me away from Him. I went headstrong in the other direction.
He didn’t force me to stay near to Him if I didn’t want to, I have a choice in the matter.
He didn’t hide Himself from me when I was ready to go to Him.
He didn’t try to offer me an explanation, He just wanted me to trust Him.

We’ve all heard the phrase that bad things happen to good people. And godly people. Being a good, godly person doesn’t mean we’re immune to the suffering of the world. But it does mean that we have a Place of retreat when the suffering is too great for us to handle alone. It does mean that we have a Provider who will find a way to keep us moving forward. It does mean that He will knock down walls to remind us that we’re important to Him. And that He loves us deeply.

We are His beloved.
He is our Defender.
We have a purpose.
He will position us for our purpose.

Oh, friends, sometimes it will be hard to let His love take hold of us and carry us. He wants to be near to us and has a steadfast love for us. His faithful pursuit for our hearts is steady. Even when our thoughts are all jumbled, His promises for us will come to pass when we remain in a place of surrender and obedience. Temporal existence is just a blimp on the radar when we have eternity in mind. I want to be a woman focused on eternity and the Kingdom. Even when it hurts. Even when I’m angry. Even when I’m scared.

 

 

Day 1…

Day 1 – List 10 things that make you really happy. 

I’ve been working too much. Even when I’m not working, I’m thinking about work. We’re in the middle of a big project, and it seems like it’s consuming too much of my brain space.

So. Writing Challenge accepted. I need to push myself and remind myself to think outside of what’s happening right in front of me sometimes.

Day 1 – List 10 things that make you really happy. 

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  1. Jesus. He legit makes me happy. I suppose it’s knowing who I am in Him that makes me happy. The freedom I have in Him and because of Him. The depth of love He’s put in my heart for His people. He gives me life.
  2. My kid. By kid, I mean my man child. His life gave me a purpose I never knew I’d have or want. He’s broken my heart, taught me tough lessons, and healed me all at the same time. He’s like a magic man or something.
  3. My grandgirls. They are the best thing to experience as a woman. I never knew that a love like that existed. I don’t even know how to explain it. People can talk about it, but until it happens… the brain just can’t compute that kind of love.
  4. Mia. She birthed my grandgirls and shared my home for almost 3 years off and on. We did life pretty well together. She made me laugh – a little too much sometimes. She will always have a special spot in my heart space.
  5. Music. There’s not a genre I won’t enjoy at least a little bit. Especially if it’s live. Maybe not screamo. Yeah, not that.
  6. The sky. I don’t care if it’s cloudy or sunny or sunsetting or sunrising. The sky will forever fascinate me. It’s God’s majesty in a way that my eyes can see.
  7. Friends and family. People who really, REALLY, get me. They’re my heroes. I’m not an easy person to get along with or to love or to understand, but they keep coming back.. over and over. And over again. They push me to be my best self.
  8. Cooking. If you want to know where I’m happiest, it’s in the kitchen. I’m a caretaker/nurturer by nature… but when I get to feed people, I feel like love is exploding outside of my body. It’s never felt like a chore or tedious. I’m always excited to do it.
  9. Writing. Probably right after cooking is writing. I like to do it because it scares the crap outta me. For instance, today I should really be writing about something else… I’ve been thinking about it all day, but I’m scared. It’s gonna hurt to write it because I have to admit some things I don’t want to admit; my shortcomings. But I’ll do it. Just not today. Today I’m making myself busy with a list of things that make me happy. #avoidancetechniques101
  10. Work. It’s true. I actually enjoy getting up and going into work. Don’t get me wrong.. work can kick my tail, but in the two years I’ve been there, I’ve never woken up in the morning and dreaded going into work. That’s a win if you ask me.
  11. Eleven, because I’m naughty. Homemade cookies and/or warm, buttery toast. Either of these make me happy. It’s wrong for food to do that to a person, but well.. whatever. I didn’t get to be this fabulous, voluptuous woman without them, so why stop now. 😉

This is a 30 day challenge, so I’ll be back at it tomorrow with another prompt that will get me sharing some useless stuff that might maybe occasionally be funny or it could be difficult. If we’re lucky, maybe even some helpful tips, tricks, and techniques about living life. If nothing else, in a month, you’ll all know me a little better than you do today. ❤

Mother’s Day weekend…

You are important. And special. And kind. And loving. And necessary. And wanted. And needed.

This weekend is either really great or really terrible for so many of us, and for a variety of reasons.

Some of us are mommas.
Some of us are longing to be mommas.
Some of us had to really fight to become mommas. 
Some of us are mommas whose babes have never gulped breath.
Some of us are mommas whose babes have gone on to heaven before us.
Some of us are Daddies who have to do a mommas job.
Some of us are children who’ve lost our mommas.
Some of us are children whose mommas have left or abandoned us.
Some of us are mommas because we’re raising a baby birthed from another momma.
Some of us are mommas but are letting other mommas raise our babies.
Some of us are single mommas who are struggling to keep up.
Some of us are temporary mommas.
Some of us are mommas to prodigals.
Some of us are mommas trying to get ourselves together so we can bring our babes home again.
Some of us are trying everything to become a momma and nothing is working.
Some of us are spiritual mommas.

Whether or not someone calls you momma, your value as a woman does not decrease and your worth does not change.

You are important. And special. And kind. And loving. And necessary. And wanted. And needed.

It’s so easy to feel as if we’re failing as a mom or failing at becoming a mom or failing at being a good son or daughter or failing at reaching that lost babe. It’s so easy to get caught up in what others have that we don’t or to be angry that we’re being denied something good.

I can’t begin to understand why anything happens really. The only answer I have to help us not feel all those things is… Jesus.

If tomorrow is hard for you, spend the day doing something you love. Don’t feel obligated to do the church thing or the brunch thing or the anything… Do exactly what will make your day less sucky.

If tomorrow is not hard for you, I hope that you enjoy the sweet memory making with your babes and the celebrations for getting to do life with them!

Women, we need each other and I hope that we’re gentle with our sisters this weekend. I hope our words are healing and loving. If you aren’t sure what to say to someone tomorrow, just give her a hug.

You are wildly and deeply loved.

It’s not you, it’s…

Choosing to no longer invest in others or to no longer be vulnerable isn’t reasonable, or biblical.

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I feel like I’ve had too many opportunities to grieve for people who aren’t dead, but have chosen to walk away or abandon relationship with me. Often times, when my heart has been invested, and someone walks away – especially with no explanation – it causes me to really turn inward, to question who I am, my personality, my motives, my pride, my appearance, my goodness, my obedience…

It makes me wonder what it is about me that makes me such an easy person to leave.

In theory, I should be able to easily grasp that I’m not always the reason they’re leaving. Admittedly, sometimes I am, though. I should also understand that other people have their own stuff to work out and their own wrestling match with God happening. I should also acknowledge other people have a choice to walk in their own obedience or not. These things I know and understand, in theory.

If only we could live in the land of shoulds and theories.

God has been doing a solid work in me over the last couple of weeks as I came face to face with another round of rejection. I made a promise to write more about the things that hurt, otherwise I would normally steer clear of sharing such a raw, tender spot. However, I know God has called me into this space to share and that He will use it to encourage another broken soul.

Friends, the enemy will try to invade, attack, and worm his way in by any means necessary. Ephesians 6: 11 tells us to prepare ourselves with the full armor of God to protect us against the schemes of the devil. If the devil can use a diminished sense of confidence in order to gain a foothold in our heart, reminding us how we’re not worthy of relationship with others, or we’ll never have the family we crave, or whatever tactic he tries, then we’re giving him a power over us that he does.not.get.to.have. No.

We have the Holy Spirit of the living God living inside us! The Creator of the world and the devil cannot reside in the same space. It’s not possible. That means that every time the enemy tries to attack, we have to pull up the armor of God, we have to connect with our community and those God has given to us to be our helpers and unbinders, and we have to walk back into the confidence that God has poured into us as we’ve built relationship with Him.

Choosing to no longer invest in others or to no longer be vulnerable isn’t reasonable, or biblical.

We do get to choose to stay in the Word, remain prayerful about our relationships, to remain connected with community, though. While that won’t necessarily stop the pain or the grief from happening, God will be there to comfort us in that grief. He will give us the power to walk in a spirit of grace and forgiveness. It’s okay to sit back for a bit, learn some lessons, restore our broken parts, refresh our spirits… but then we have to surrender ourselves to Him again so that He can continue to teach, mold, and use us for His glory and purpose.

Walking through a broken moment or season is much more tolerable when we’re allowing God to walk alongside us. He loves us so deeply and with such fervor. And He will never, not once, not even for a nanosecond, decide to walk away from us or abandon us.

Ephesians 6:10-18 Amplified Bible (AMP)

10 In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [draw your strength from Him and be empowered through your union with Him] and in the power of His [boundless] might. 11 Put on the full armor of God [for His precepts are like the splendid armor of a heavily-armed soldier], so that you may be able to [successfully] stand up against all the schemes and the strategies and the deceits of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) places13 Therefore, put on the complete armor of God, so that you will be able to [successfully] resist and stand your ground in the evil day [of danger], and having done everything [that the crisis demands], to stand firm [in your place, fully prepared, immovable, victorious]. 14 So stand firm and hold your ground, having tightened the wide band of truth (personal integrity, moral courage) around your waist and having put on the breastplate of righteousness (an upright heart), 15 and having strapped on your feet the gospel of peace in preparation [to face the enemy with firm-footed stability and the readiness produced by the good news]. 16 Above all, lift up the [protective] shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. 18 With all prayer and petition pray [with specific requests] at all times [on every occasion and in every season] in the Spirit, and with this in view, stay alert with all perseverance and petition [interceding in prayer] for all God’s people.

Being me…

When I think about how God created me to be in this world and how to interact within the gifts He’s given me, I’m always drawn to the opportunities I’ve had to share out my story and to be in a place of transparency and vulnerability. While I do believe those gifts to be true, what I also know to be true is that I’m the ultimate gatekeeper to the level of transparency/vulnerability I’m willing to share. In a recent post, I talked about this specifically.

As I was praying last night and then thinking about what my next post would be about, I really felt like God was asking me for a bit more. bd98228d14ddb7951dfdf1b4c7814a60

A few weeks ago, I felt myself slipping into a space where I was questioning my worth on a regular basis, I was comparing myself to other people, I was scared of being overlooked, again. I had an overwhelming fear of rejection creeping over me. I even signed up for a book study called, “Why Her?” (which was good, by the way!) These were all things I hadn’t felt in so long.

After all, I am Strong. Empowered. Brave. Confident. Wise. Smart. Unashamed. Guilt-free. Secure in who I am. Faithful Jesus follower.

And then BAM! suddenly I was back to a place where I was questioning all the things I thought to be true about myself.

My purpose as a woman who encourages others felt like a big, fat, fake lie when I knew that deep inside my own heart I was struggling to keep my heart intact and to keep my footing in God’s truth about me. I was easily able to speak God’s truth over anyone else, but speaking it over myself was becoming difficult. The affirmations I was writing to myself on my mirror left little room for me to actually use the mirror.

And then Jesus… He reminded me that:

1) I don’t belong in that space of doubt, shame, fear, rejection because He feels none of that about me. That isn’t His approach to us – to hold us in that space of questioning our worth. He died for us so that we don’t have to sit in those places… He is alive inside of us.

Galatians 2:20 (AMP) says, “I have been crucified with Christ [that is, in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body I live by faith [by adhering to, relying on, and completely trusting] in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

2) That I don’t have to stay there. By staying there, we allow the enemy a foothold and we give start to see things the way the enemy sees them rather than the way our Father God sees them. We need to allow the things and truths of God to bubble over so that our footing remains steady.

Psalm 40:1-2 (AMP) says, “I waited patiently and expectantly for the Lord; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of a horrible pit [of tumult and of destruction], out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock, steadying my footsteps and establishing my path.”

3) He gave me not only Himself to cry out to, but flesh and bone people to walk with me too. One of our most valuable lessons is to remember that God provides all kinds of resources for us to get out of whatever mess we find ourselves in. Many times, it’s our own friends and people He’s put in our lives who are willing to journey alongside us. ( J & S, <3)

1 John 5:14-15 (AMP) says, “This is the [remarkable degree of] confidence which we [as believers are entitled to] have before Him: that if we ask anything according to His will, [that is, consistent with His plan and purpose] He hears us. And if we know [for a fact, as indeed we do] that He hears and listens to us in whatever we ask, we [also] know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that we have [granted to us] the requests which we have asked from Him.”

So, this is the girl who sometimes hides. The one who is, every now and then, way more broken than it may seem. A lot less put together than I might project into my world. Much more undone than done. He’s helping me to reveal the truths, not only for those around me, but also His truth to myself. Today, I am confidently walking in His abundant and overwhelming love for me. He is faithful. And good.

 

 

Beautiful heart…?

God is in the heart-winning business and in order to win hearts and souls to Him, I need my heart to be healthy, whole, and beautiful.

I think we’re all afforded lots of opportunities to have crappy hearts. I mean we are humans and we live in the world with other humans; every one of us a sinner. The excuses for maintaining messy, broken, unhealed, and locked up hearts is almost understandable. It’s easier.

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But Jesus.

Every day we’re given a choice to get up and conquer the things the Lord puts in our path with a healthy, whole, beautiful heart or with a hardened, unhealthy, unable heart.

God is in the heart-winning business and in order to win hearts and souls to Him, I need my heart to be healthy, whole, and beautiful. It does take some work to keep a beautiful heart, one that will likely be damaged and broken. It reminds me of how Jesus must have felt so often – no, I’m not comparing myself to Jesus… 😉 I think about how brokenhearted He was on a regular basis, yet He kept on. He knew and understood His goal and purpose. Think about the work we can do for Him when we understand our goal and purpose. Think about how our hearts can attract some of the most damaged, broken, hurting hearts if we allow ours to be beautiful and seen.

Proverbs 4:23 tells us that above all else, we need to guard our hearts. I used to really struggle with that verse and in some ways, I still do. I believe some people use it as an excuse to keep their hearts so hidden they’re not able to be vulnerable. If we’re so busy hiding our hearts or keeping them locked away and safe; how can they become beautiful and able to be used for God’s purposes? I understand the point of the verse… to be cautious. Be aware. I also understand our human flesh nature to justify keeping our hearts in a safe, locked box with Scripture as the excuse. Let’s not do that, okay?

Most of us know the popular C.S. Lewis quote from his book, The Four Loves, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

This is quite possibly my favorite statement. In a world where it’s so easy to stay locked away, not engaged with others, locked up in spirit and in heart, I’m always drawn back to this quote… and remind myself to never be in the place where it’s easy for my heart to survive. Sometimes it’s gonna be really hard on our hearts, it’s going to be hard to keep them beautiful. It’s going to be hard to understand why God is allowing us to experience some of the things that will come with an open heart.

Let’s be in a place where we’re consistently desiring to maintain a beautiful heart. It means being in a position of vulnerability, being teachable, and it also means the Holy Spirit will have easy access to the gaps and spaces that need work in us.

Removing Fences

As I was driving home from the grocery store today, I passed through one of the more affluent areas on the way to my apartment – far on the other side of the tracks. =]

I do appreciate beautiful homes with landscaping perfected for magazine covers. Some of these communities had brilliant water features with small ponds and lakes. When I was younger, my mom and I would wander through model homes just to marvel at how lovely they were; the floor plans, the kitchens, the bathrooms, etc…

But today, I saw something a little different. I saw barriers and fences. I saw restrictions and cages. I saw separation and exclusiveness.

The communities I drove by today were all gated. Access code needed. In other words, I wasn’t welcome there. Of course, I didn’t try, but even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t be able to – unless, of course, I was given an invite from a specific person inside the community.

There was suddenly a separation. A me and them. A low people and a high people. A division in classes. It’s always been there, I know… but today I just saw it differently. It was eye-opening. Heart-opening.

I was suddenly aware about how we do this. How Christians do this. How we create a me and a them. A low people and a high people. The houses and the people who live in them didn’t make me sad, I was sad about us as people. As Christ lovers and followers. How many fences and barriers have we put up to keep out the riff raff? How many people feel like they can only approach us with a personal invite? How many people feel incapable to come to us because they fear judgement, harshness, and condemnation?

We are called to foster love, peace, kindness, forgiveness, on and on. And on and on. I wanna be a woman who envelopes the lost, who helps others find freedom, and who is always inclusive. I wanna be a woman who is approachable, unrestricted, and without fences of separation.

That’s what we’re called to do and be. It isn’t always easy. We find comfort in our safe places and in our comfort zones. Gosh, I feel like I know this so much more now after being recently uprooted from my own safe, comfort zone. It’s important to be and stay in community with one another. Yes! We are critical to each other’s growth and we nurture one another. But it can’t stop there.

Can we examine our fences? Can we double check our invites and make sure they aren’t exclusive, but rather inclusive. Let’s gather with people on both sides of the fences. The mes and the thems. Let’s have communities with less separation and more invitation.