Good enough.

On Sunday morning as I sat on the back porch of my UPS driver’s home, soaking in the quiet sunrise and enjoying my coffee, I was reminded of how brutally I fought against this life. When I look at where I came from two years ago, I am astonished that I could love the serenity of this Kingdom life.

Yes, I said my UPS driver’s home. I’d been house sitting for her all week. The magnitude of that statement isn’t lost on me.

When I look at the ins and outs of our life, I realize how completely out of control I am…how completely in control He is.

As I reflect on where I’ve come from, where our family has come from to where we are now, I am brought to my knees by the sheer gratefulness that overwhelms my heart.

My birthday is tomorrow. I’ve a simple night planned with J and the babies. Cheeseburgers, chips and dip and homemade peanut butter pie…a few hours of training our horses and watching my handsome husband ride through the desert on OUR Diesel-boy…that’s what it’ll look like-and it will be enough.

I didn’t know what enough meant until recently. Oh, I thought I knew…I thought enough looked like being comfortable in my own skin, not feeling the pressure to please others when I should be pleasing God, walking a life that didn’t include busy-ness but looked a lot simpler. Enough meant saying no before I was at full capacity and walking in the strength I’m given because I’m a child of the one true King.

Enough is all of those things…enough is also the simplicity of a sunrise over the mesas, it’s the fall breeze in the morning and late at night that’s welcomed in after a scorching high desert, summer day. Enough is hearing my littles play a board game together while praise music plays softly in the background and the television never coming on, not once, all day. Enough is resting in the beauty of this life. It’s breathing in and out, comfortably, seeing life as it is and fully believing in the promises God’s put in my heart.

I used to pray John 10:10 over my marriage and family. I always knew the Bible said I could have that life but I don’t know if I believed it. Then we moved 2200 miles across the country. I walked into a place where I knew no one, I was completely out of my comfort zone and had minimal support in doing the biggest job I’d ever been given. And there, among the red dirt and tumbleweeds, amidst the cotton candy clouds and dry heat, between the brown hands of the Navajo and my own pale hands, He poured out a life greater than I could imagine. Not materially, no. But emotionally, spiritually, my life is abundant. He is greater than I could ask or imagine and because of that, my life is so much more full than I ever thought possible.

You see, the Navajo understand something that I never did. Maybe you haven’t either? They understand that at the end of the day God is ALL they have. They understand that a simple life, one with minimal distraction is often better than the busy-ness that comes with technology and growth. The longer we’re here, the more I believe that my Navajo family understands His intention for our lives in a way I’ve never been able to comprehend. I’m so honored to be a part of a culture that despite years of oppression and heartache, despite the odds being stacked against them, have taken the high road and learned a grace greater and deeper than most.

On July 31st, we hit the two year mark of living on the Rez. While I recognize the grief that came with our move here, I also realize and acknowledge how loving my Heavenly Father is to me. He has blessed me with treasures here I never knew I desired. Oh, maybe long ago, in some childhood dream…once upon a time…things that get tossed aside as we grow older. And then, out of nowhere those long forgotten dreams resurface and they are enough.

So, I’m going to sit in my version of enough. I’m going to bask in the love of my Jesus and sit in awe of this John 10:10 life.

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God made a horse…part 3

About four weeks into working with Diesel, I realized he’d never been taught to back up on command.  My trainer showed me on several occasions how to teach D and then actually used him to teach his 4-H kids at the highschool. I still couldn’t get the desired response from Diesel and I could feel the doubt creeping in…can I really do this?  Am I capable of teaching him the things he needs to be successful?  Do I have the guts to stick this out and help him have an abundantly joyful life?

One afternoon I was out working in the round pen. J and the kids were down with me, watching, waiting…one of the high school students, L, came up and started asking about Diesel.  J answered her questions and she made a comment that I was struggling to get Diesel to listen to me when I attempted to stop him and back him up.  She noticed that I was flustered and asked if she could try.  Well, heck, who am I to say no?  She began talking to me as she walked D around the pen, telling me about field days she’d attended, how her grandfather taught her how to jump on a horse and hold on, how he’d taught her that sometimes what we see and what we want take time and patience. Then, she stopped. She stopped moving, stopped talking…and Diesel stopped. He didn’t push past her and then stop, he didn’t nudge with that big shoulder of his…he just stopped.

L would walk a little and then stop and each time, Diesel got quicker at his own stop.  She never had to say a word, never had to correct an undesired behavior, he just responded to her. I realized something at that very moment.

You see, I’d set expectations for Diesel and ultimately myself.  Expectations that neither of us were going to be able to meet because I was setting us up for failure.  What L could see, that I couldn’t see, is that D needed time and space.  He needed to be able to think about the desired behavior and he needed the space to get it correct.

After a few minutes, L had done what I’d been working on for days.  She turned, loved on him and then proceeded to work on backing up.  She jiggled the lead rope and he immediately took a step back.  She let him lick and chew for a minute and then jiggled again…two steps back.  Again..the next time three steps back.  L created a safe space for him to learn, to make a choice about his behavior and to achieve.

Isn’t that how God works?  He guides us, teaches us, gives us the tools we need and then gives us space to learn and to choose.  We set expectations for ourselves and others and then are frustrated or disappointed when our expectations aren’t met.  We often fail to give others the space to learn and choose…we even do that to ourselves.

As a culture, we forget that not everything is instant gratification.  We forget that our expectations of others and of ourselves are self-imposed.  Are the expectations we’re setting based on what God says or what society says?  Are we setting achievable expectations or are we consistently setting ourselves and others up to fail because we are prioritizing the wrong thing?

What L gave me and Diesel that afternoon in the round pen was a clearer understanding of what it would take to make this thing work…time and patience.  Walking into the round pen each day with no expectation other than loving and being loved.  Even while working, celebrating even the tiniest accomplishment, acknowledging when something isn’t right and then moving forward.

What would happen, friends, if we began to truly live our lives this way?  Loving people with no expectation of who they should be, what they should be, what place they will or won’t have in our world?  What if we chose to love unconditionally, the way the Father loves us? What would our culture, our world, our town, our FAMILIES look like if we did away with the expectations and simply chose to see others through His eyes and love like Jesus did?

I know I say this often and I’ll probably continue to say it until I’m older and gray-er. Ha.

The Navajo teach me more than I’ll ever teach them…

Love without expectation is my heart’s desire…all because of a tiny Navajo girl and because God made a horse…

God made a horse…part 2

So many times since we began our westward adventure, I’ve thought to myself, I never would’ve dreamed….fill in the blank. Most every aspect of what I dreamed our life together would look like has changed. Including our walk with the Lord. Our walks are deeper, more meaningful, fuller and so much more vibrant than I ever imagined they could be. Our life in general is that way. Fuller, deeper, purer than its ever been. And I love it.

A horse was never in my dream for our family. Then J started riding when we moved here and fell in love. I always thought we’d eventually get him a horse. Then came Diesel.

Oh, I knew I’d love him, I just didn’t realize how I’d connect with him. I knew I’d take care of him, I just didn’t realize how he’d force me to take care of my heart issues so he could take care of his.

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A horse who has had a traumatic experience will use the reactive side of their brain, as humans do, to initiate their fight or flight response. Horses have this innately as a defense mechanism because they are prey animals. There’s loads of neuroscience behind horsemanship and I obviously don’t know it all, although I’m enjoying learning. The basic gist though is that a horse reads your body language, he feeds off your tension or lack there of and he depends on his human to tell him if he’s safe or if he should be afraid. Diesel’s humans haven’t always been kind with him. They haven’t always handled his heart well, haven’t always taught him appropriate responses to external stimuli and certainly haven’t always loved him in a tangible way.

Here’s the thing, we’re a lot like horses. People aren’t always kind, we aren’t always loving, genuine or safe. People can be aggressive and mean, the exact opposite of what God designed us to be in the Garden. We live in a fallen world and because of that, we deal with sin and death and the enemy, not God, guides many folks. Because we live in this broken world, many of us, including myself, have experienced trauma. We’ve been harmed by the very hands of those who were supposed to love us. We’ve seen darkness in the eyes of men and women who were supposed to be light. We’ve had angry hands harm us rather than gentle hands show us love.

The truth is that when we experience trauma, more often than not, we live out of the fight or flight portion of our brain. I am a fighter. Trauma doesn’t scare me, it makes me angry. It makes me seethe and I will fight like a dog with a bone. On the flip side, I know many who run. They hide. Neither of those mechanisms is safe in the long term…we don’t know that in the middle of a trauma though. We don’t know that when the trauma is over and we’ve removed ourself from the traumatic situation, that not every other person in our life won’t harm us.

Diesel didn’t know that either.

Gaining the trust of someone you love who has experienced trauma is a process. Teaching them, showing them you love them in word and deed takes time. I knew all this, I knew from experience that trusting your heart to someone after severe trauma is intensely scary.

Then I met Diesel.

I saw a beautiful creature who was petrified of all people…because of a few people. The trauma he experienced caused a generalization that ALL people were bad.

Y’all, we do the same thing…someone hurts us and we assume all people will hurt us. We build walls to keep others out when God clearly created us for relationship. For healthy, full, meaningful relationships that point us to Him.

Each time I step in the round pen with my big Diesel-boy, I’m reminded that just like I used to fight when I was afraid, Diesel runs. It’s my job to teach him when to be afraid and when he’s ok. Friends, we have to turn to Jesus. We have to ask Him to give us discernment, to show us the difference between truth in love and the lies of the world, the lies of fear. And then we have to listen…

I want to lean more deeply into the truth and less into my fears. I want to fight less and love more.

…all because God made a horse.

God made a horse…part 1

I’ve been MIA for about six weeks…not because I haven’t been writing or thinking or processing. I have.  Anyone who knows me well, knows I do all those things quite often.

It’s taken a few weeks to get all my thoughts from my scribble book into actual words…the Spirit  has been stirring something in my heart and soul and I’ve been trying to move it from the mess of jumbled words and images into something tangible that y’all could make sense of as readers.

Please bare with me, as some of it is still in the movement phase.  Some of it is yet to become fluid.  As you read the next few blogs, I think you’ll begin to understand why there has been such a busy-ness in my head.

In mid-April, we were given a horse.  His name was Ollie. He’s a big boy.  He was mistreated prior to my sweet college friend rescuing him.  There was a history of abuse and neglect and due to those two things, he developed arthritis early.  He’s only ten.

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I’m not sure what we expected when we got him.  Certainly not the big confident boy he appeared to be to innocent onlookers.  We didn’t expect the fire or strength he exuded.  In my mind, I expected a horse who was broken.

Broken.

Isn’t that a hard word to swallow.  When we have a broken dish, we throw it away.  When our children have a broken toy, we toss it. If there’s a broken pencil, we deem it unusable and get rid of it.  What if God threw us away because of how badly we’re broken?

Please hear me say that my sweet friend didn’t throw Ollie away.  She absolutely loved him and wanted him to be in a safe, healthy environment where he could just be a horse.  Where he could live his life in peace and as part of a family.

Are you starting to see the parallel between horses and owners and between God and people?

You see, my friend wanted what was best for Ollie.  She wanted him to have joy and peace and love.  God wants the same for his children.  He wants us to experience all the goodness He has for us.  However, many times, our brokenness prevents us from walking fully in His grace and peace.

I expected a broken horse.  I knew he wouldn’t be thrown away here.  I knew we could give him love, peace, joy and a family.  I knew he’d be happy, after the initial move, and that we’d spoil him.  I knew my children would learn responsibility for something bigger than themselves…they’d learn about hard work and dedication.  They’d learn that broken can still be beautiful.

You see, Ollie exuded confidence, he is after all, absolutely beautiful and walks with the air of royalty. We soon discovered that despite his appearance of confidence, he was really very frightened.  Ollie didn’t like to be caught, he didn’t like for anyone to touch his face or his ears….oh, eventually, if you pushed hard enough, he’d let you.  He was always the first to walk away though.  He was in control.

Sound familiar?

When I’m afraid, I immediately go into control mode. I insist that I can handle things all on my own and I don’t need anyone else to help me. I put up walls, my control protects me.  At least that’s the thought process.  In all honesty, when I’m afraid, my Comforter is often the last one I go to…

When I started training with Ollie, I started training my heart and mind to better understand God’s grace…His mercy and love. I began to better understand His patience with my stubbornness, His grace with my human-ness, His willingness to love me even when I am unlovable, His joy when I allow Him into my brokenness and begin to let him heal me from the inside.

After a couple days, our neighbor, dear friend and horse trainer, agreed to help me train with Ollie. Honestly, I hadn’t the foggiest how I’d do all the things I’d seen him do but I agreed because I had such a peace when I was with Ollie.  It was during this time we began to call Ollie, “Diesel-boy”.  When he nickers, he sounds like a big diesel engine cranking.  Several of the Navajo students at the high school commented on that big sound and we agreed as a family that he needed a new name to go with his new life. So, Diesel he became.

Remember, God gave Abram and Sarai a new name because He had big plans for them. Abraham and Sarah would have more grand children than stars in the sky. A new name to go along with His promise to them.

We certainly aren’t God.  I just felt a new start, needed a new name.  I covenant between our family and Diesel that we’d love him and treat him with kindness, gentleness and love that he would learn he doesn’t have to be afraid anymore.

I began training with Diesel each afternoon.  Within a few days, he was becoming easier to catch and Diesel trusted me enough to let me lay on his back, rub all over him and he began following me every where I went. I noticed the gentleness he’d shown towards my children, from the beginning, was being given to me.  He was beginning to trust me and I was learning that I could relate to Diesel in lots of ways.

Fear prevents us from trusting anyone and anything…even if the next right thing is the best thing, fear sneaks in, like the dirty liar it is and convinces us that what God has for us on the other side of the hard thing isn’t really good enough.

And so, after one week of having our beautiful Diesel-boy, I made a choice.  I chose to work alongside our big boy and help get him past the hard thing so he could enjoy a fullness of life he’s never been able to experience…and thus our journey began…

Training with Diesel has been hard, it immediately began pushing buttons that I didn’t want pushed…God’s been using him to show me truths about myself that I thought I’d already worked through and realizing that I turn to my fear more than I turn to Him…I’m learning, working, processing, training…and being reminded that love is a choice.

All because God made a horse…

 

A decade.

Ten years. A decade.

One decade ago, a girl married a blue eyed, quick witted boy with a smile that lit up any room he walked into. If I’m being honest, he was also a little cocky and had a smart mouth. Ha.

Over the past ten years, we have grown. Our family has grown, our lives have changed and there have been adventures. We’ve grown spiritually, we’ve grown emotionally and we’ve put on a few pounds. The recovering people pleaser in me would tell you that the past decade has been full of sunshine and rainbows…that each day has been magnificent because I married Prince Charming. People Pleaser me would have told you that our life has been picturesque and as beautiful on the inside as it appeared on the outside. That would be a lie though.

The reality is that the past ten years have been hard. They have been a true test of what it means to step outside ourselves and truly love each other unconditionally. There have been times when I didn’t want to choose J and I’m certain there have been times where he’s felt the same way. Despite our temporary feelings, we’ve chosen to lean into the commitment we made to God that we’d love each other until He took us home to be with Him.

Truth is, even when I don’t want to choose to walk through the truly hard parts of loving another imperfect person, I’m reminded of how gently, how perfectly, how faithfully my Father loves me in all my dysfunction and it’s hard not to choose to love.

Please hear me when I say we absolutely have a beautiful life. It’s a life that I dreamed of as a little girl. A life where I married my best friend and we had beautiful babies (because our babies are totally gorgeous) and we walked beside each other through really hard things.

When I was a little girl, hard things looked like a pet dying or deciding where to eat dinner. Hehe. Grown up me has learned about really hard things and that they have little to do with a pet who dies or where to eat dinner at night. Hard things look like losing a job, moving a family across the country, fostering and then letting your fosters go, miscarriage and relationships with parents-fully leaving and cleaving, walking through finances and not always agreeing and parenting. Goodness, parenting is hard. Hard things are inevitable and choosing to love through the hard things is equally hard.

At the end of the day, though, I
choose to love J because despite all my faults, all my imperfectness (is that a word?), despite my moodiness and my extreme fight response when I’m backed into a corner-he chooses me. I still choose to love him because I get to be the person God created me to be which is definitely NOT the girl he married ten years ago. He chose to stay and walk beside me through two really hard years of intense therapy where I fell apart and had to learn to be a person very different from the people pleaser he married. I choose him every day because he is my person. He is my soft place to land and he is stronger now than I ever dreamed he’d be ten years ago. I choose him because I get a choice. The boy who stood in front of me ten years ago and vowed forever is gone and there’s now a man who chooses me even when things are hard.

When we said I do, our pastor used Joshua 1:9 as the main verse for our wedding. I didn’t realize then how absolute that scripture would become in our marriage. Marriage takes strength and courage. It means falling down and getting back up, together. It means leaning into the gift God gave you in one another and still maintaining your own identity. Whew. That’s a hard one. It means not losing yourself and yet, submitting yourselves to one another.

So, here’s to ten years with a handsome blue-eyed boy who turned into an amazing blue-eyed man. Here’s to adventures both big and small, to never becoming complacent and to always seeking Him in all we do. Here’s to laughter, love and hard things. Because we can do hard things.

“Two are better than one…if either falls down, one can help him up.” -Ecclesiastes 4:9

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Howl like a coyote.

Three weeks ago, the littles and I set out on a cross country trip back East  to fundraise, meet with our board, meet with mission teams who will be coming this year and some who came last year, see friends and family and play a little along the way.  J and Grandma E flew in and met us and flew back out as quickly as they landed.  We had a great trip, ministry wise.  We met with a church we hope to partner with, I spoke at a church we already partner with (who has a team coming out this summer) and J met with several key players who are involved in our ministry.

Personally, it was a difficult trip.  The girls didn’t want to take the trip to begin with, Little Man doesn’t remember much about living back East other than that’s where Gan, Pop, Nana and Papa live and there’s a beach.  He remembers our house when we pull up…mostly because he knows its right next to Nana and Papa.  Mouse told me while we were packing she didn’t want to go back East because she didn’t want to be where everyone looked like her.  She sobbed as she told me she didn’t want to leave her sheep, her dog, her friends or her home.  Sissy didn’t want to leave either.  She was worried about leaving the sheep and horses, they were worried about not having the freedom to run and play and they didn’t want to miss any time at the churches we work with. When I got ready to pull out, I hugged J and started to cry.  His response, “I’ll be with you in a week.”  My response, “Its not you, I don’t want to go.”

“I don’t want to go.”

I never thought that would be in my vocabulary when we left the island.

I didn’t want to go for many reasons, mostly I didn’t want to go because I didn’t want to leave my people. My family here.  While I was excited to see people back East, I knew that seeing the mesas each morning, missing the transition from winter to spring, watching the birds come back to my living room window and missing three weeks with the ladies I’ve grown to love working with through co-op and Sunday School would be almost unbearable.

My gut was right.

While there were good things during our trip, the kids and I missed home miserably.  Little Man kept asking when he could go home and play in the dirt.  When could he go home and see his sheep…

The girls kept asking how many days until they got to see the dog, the sheep, Grandma E and Masani…

When we crossed the state line on Friday night, three minutes from home, my kids began howling like coyotes.  Yesterday, they played outside from 9 am to 5 pm and only came in for snacks, lunch and water breaks.  The were enjoying the freedom of our life here, the freedom they’d missed for three weeks, a freedom we didn’t realize they needed until God brought us to the Rez.

I learned a few things on our trip though…

My kids and I are made of tougher grit than I ever imagined.  Five days driving cross country, as the only adult with three young children, is not for the faint at heart.  I faced some tough news as we were preparing to leave and while my beautiful friends were by my side, all I wanted to was to be home…and home was five days away.  We did it though.

I realized that my kids are really pretty great human beings.  Notice I said, human beings, meaning they aren’t perfect…they are kind of amazing though. They were road warriors on the way to and from.  On the drive in, they were already missing home.  On  the drive back, they were past the point of missing home and had moved on to misery.  Nonetheless, they were troopers.  We had very real conversations about what our drives would look like each day, we worked together to make a plan for when and where we’d stop throughout each day and there may or may not have been multiple rewards along the way for excellent decision making. (There might have been Starbuck’s cake pops involved in one stop daily.)

My husband is my best friend and my most precious gift aside from my salvation. Life is hard.  Being a parent is hard.  I was reminded of how much joy it brings me to know that we’re in this together every. single. day.

God confirmed something I already knew but tend to take for granted on this long haul.  He has given me, literally, some of the most gracious, loving, gentle, kind, selfless, inspiring, non-judgmental people to surround myself both near and far.  I can’t imagine doing life without each of them doing life with me.  For that, even on really hard days, I am so thankful.  My heart fills up each time I think of the goodness in the people He’s given me.

Lastly, I learned that He unequivocally wants us to do life in relationship with others. We aren’t meant to walk this road alone, friends.  He has given each of us safe people, people we can share our hopes and dreams with, people with whom we can acknowledge our worst fears, people who will walk us through the really dark days and rejoice alongside us on the really sunny, bright ones.  Finding those safe people isn’t always easy, sometimes we have to wade through really deep, murky water to find them.  Sometimes, those people seem to fall out of the clear blue and others walk into your life without you understanding why or how they came.  All the time, though, He’s giving us the gift of relationship.

If you are struggling, find your people. If you are walking through life effervescently without a care in the world, find your people.  Wherever you are in your walk of life, find your people.

Howl like a coyote and find your people.  Either way, there’s joy abundant.

 

 

Coal

I’m going to get real, real fast today…

The Reservation is my home. I fully believe everything I’ve ever done, ever been was because God was ultimately preparing me for my life here. It’s strange to be in a place where I can go to a grand opening and be the only billigaana (white person) in attendance and still feel more at home than in a city filled with people who look like me. 

Today, we drove to town for groceries, hay and feed and some maintenance for the van. J wore his hair pulled up in a Navajo bun, I had on cowboy boots and Little Man runs around speaking Diné (Navajo)…what’s that got to do with anything? Well, this…

A Diné family saw us at lunch and the wife complimented my husband’s hair. In Target, Little Man asked me to hand him his new boots in Navajo and an elderly Navajo lady smiled so brightly, I thought I’d cry. You see, several decades ago, white men who wanted to conquer the West sent the grandmothers and grandfathers of many of my beautiful friends to places they called “reservations”. Yet, when they see my obviously white child speaking their language they smile and nod. When they see my husband’s hair bun, they compliment the tying job that my WHITE hands did. Historically, white people sent them to the hardest, most difficult places to live in the United States and they stuck it out. The Navajo became tough, they learned to work with what they were given, they stood firm on their roots as family and the persevered through decades of indifference, persecution and ridicule. And y’all, they SMILE as my child speaks. They love my children wholeheartedly. They don’t care that my girls have crystal blue eyes or that my boy has blonde hair. The Navajo have so much to teach this world. 

I was recently asked if I thought my kids were missing out by living here. My response was no. I don’t. They have learned so much about sacrifice, hard work, love, joy, laughter…the list is endless…and yet so often people look at our lives and see only the hardships. I, we, get to see the beautiful.

On our way home from town, we drive through a Rez town that is really the first on our way home. The last town with gas stations, a small grocery and a couple of fast food restaurants. Because of the winter storm this past week, many Natives haven’t been able to get out of their communities for things like wood and coal for their homes. As we drove through, we passed a gentleman selling bags of coal. The bed of his truck was half empty, he was using a mallet to bust up what was left and placing it into bags for the people in line. This isn’t uncommon to see on a Saturday during the winter. What was uncommon is that he was the only one selling this afternoon. Due to the lack of merchants, the line for coal was backed up through the abandoned parking lot and wrapped around to the entrance. When I saw the line, the amount of coal in his truck didn’t nearly equal enough and my heart sank. Here I was in my warm van, loaded with groceries and bottled water, as well as hay and feed for the sheep, and many of these people would go home to cold houses or hogans tonight because there wasn’t enough coal. 

Then I remembered the resilience of the Navajo. I remembered their magnificent, Heavenly Father and how he once fed 5,000 with a few fish and some bread and I began praying for those beautiful people I don’t even know…Jesus, give them a fishes and loaves miracle. Show them your works so they will come to know and love you.  I prayed because of my heavy heart and then I realized my heart was heavy because even though they have every reason not to trust my family, not to love my family, to be unkind-they continually show us grace and love. Even though many don’t know Jesus, they choose kindness. They choose to teach us their way of life and to do so in patience. 

I’m going to pray for a fishes and loaves miracle for those people not because of my heavy heart but out of gratitude for the things God has shown me through the incredible Navajo people. Will you join me?