The Great Domestication

seapark

 

I have debated over and over as to whether or not I would make this post. I was worried I might offend people; and that still may be the case, but I may also encourage a few people as well!

Some of you who know me in person have probably heard me share this little analogy. A good friend of mine told me that he really liked it and that I should write it on this blog. I think that was probably a month or two ago, better late than never.

I have been thinking a lot about church lately. More so now that I work on Sundays and am unable to attend a church service. It has gotten me thinking a lot about spiritual community and how we do it. Mostly I spend a lot of time wondering if we’ve complicated how we do church. Mostly I wonder if there is a simpler way to do it. I am not alone in these thoughts. I have some friends who are journeying on the same questions. Jesus has been gracious in blessing me with a desire to pursue something a little more holistic and simple and a large part of my journey over the last few months has sort of stemmed from the following analogy. It isn’t perfect, but I think it works.

Church can sometimes be like a sea park. You take a killer whale out of the ocean and you put it in the sea park and you teach it to do tricks. You take care of it, you feed it, you love it, and you bring the grandeur of nature to people. Only it’s domesticated. People know they aren’t getting the real thing. Nobody watches a Killer Whale do a flip and immediately assume they are seeing the unbridled, raw, beautiful, fury of marine life. People know they aren’t getting the real thing. There is a reason why boat tours are so popular. There is a reason why BBC can sink so much money into amazing documentaries like Blue Planet and Frozen Planet. People want to see nature raw, wild and untamed. Undomesticated. The real deal. The great calling of mankind isn’t one of domestication, it is one of restoration. The great purpose of a killer whale is not to be domesticated but to draw glory to God in all that it is, where it is, as it anticipates the complete restoration of all creation.

Such is the call and purpose of mankind. To draw glory to God in all that we are, where we are at, in anticipation of that complete, and beautiful return to perfect design. We aren’t called to the sea park to perform in a way that only works in the sea park. It isn’t natural and it isn’t fooling anyone. Congregating shouldn’t really be about improving how we congregate, but why we congregate. I’ve talked with a few friends. More people seem to be less interested in improving the manner in which we meet, but having our meeting speak into ever single realm of our life. I will speak only for myself here, but I am interested in seeing how the Gospel speaks into my relationships, my finances, my work, my leisure. etc. It doesn’t need to be hard. I want to meet with other people who are trying to figure out the same things and I want to share our experience and encouragement with one another. I want that encouragement to become other people’s encouragement. I don’t want to be domesticated. I want to be restored. I want to be all that I was made to be where I am, right now, with the people I am with.

I’ve been going through a book of the bible called Romans. In the past I have felt like this book was always to heavy to warrant my reading it. Lately, I have experienced an incredible amount of peace as I learn that true worship is in sacrificial living. That is to say, I truly honour God when my heart doesn’t just beat for myself, but for others. I want to love genuinely, deeply, and freely. I want to continue to learn how to do that better. I told a friend this earlier, “It’s pretty cool how Jesus can use a desire to want to grow and be with people to illustrate his grace and love.” I am pretty stoked about all the people I get to share my life with, and who have been awesome enough to share their life with me!

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Gravity

gravity

It’s 2015!

I’ve not updated in some time, and in part, I was unsure as to what I wanted to write about. There is a great deal that has gone on in my life since my last post. I ran into one of the people who encouraged me to write this blog, a wonderful woman named D. She told me it might be worth telling people about how things are going with my new job at a new cafe! So that is exactly what I aim to do.

I arrived just in time for our staff Christmas party, which for me is kind of important because I was able to meet all of my new co-workers in a pretty relaxed environment and get to know them better, and I must say, I am super stoked to get to be working with these guys.

I like to think I made pretty fast friends with a lot of the people that I am currently working with. The staff at Gravity Espresso and Wine Bar is very diverse, but everyone seems to be on same page with trying to develop a positive community space. I am really enjoying getting to learn about all of the people I have been getting work with, and am really happy to get to be a part of their lives, and have them be a part of mine. Out of the many new advantages I have gotten in beginning work at this particular shop, one of the things I am most excited about are the new people I am getting to work with. I am a pretty introverted person, but a cafe affords me the opportunity to have the kinds of conversation that help me best to learn about people and connect with them. I was thinking that I might post a little bit about each of the people I work with, but one of the staff has taken up the task of putting out Staff Profiles for people to see. When those are done, I am thinking I can link you all to that and you can see some of these wonderful people for yourselves!

Dan, Bruce and Myself

Dan, Bruce and Myself

Another thing that I really like about my job is my are my new bosses, Andy and his wife Zara. These are two immensely personable people, keen on creating a community space and connecting with people. Zara is often very quick to ask me how I am doing when she sees me and has always offered an encouraging word. Andy is always very vocal about this, and I believe this is what spurs on the rest of the staff with his vision. Not to mention that he can often be seen in the shop, either behind the counter, or visiting with his wife and their two amazing sons. His generosity, desire to connect with people, willingness to get his hands dirty and the transparency of his vision are all things that I love about him. I had received an e-mail from him outlining his vision and hope for the year 2015 and though it was pretty late when I got to reading the e-mail, I was ready to get on board and help to be a part of what makes that shop great! His ability to connect with each of his employees, see how they’re doing and make sure that everything is ok is nothing short of inspiring. I hope to be this kind of boss one day. Andy models, for me, what Inspirational Leadership is meant to be. I think one of the biggest moments for me was the morning after the staff Christmas party. Andy, being the owner, could easily have spent his morning at home, resting. Instead, he took the morning shift with some of us, giving other people the opportunity to enjoy that rest. I developed a lot of respect for him that morning. Maybe he knew what he did, maybe he didn’t, either way, he’s a rad dude.

Last, but certainly not least, the guests to the shop.

Just before the Christmas Party

Just before the Christmas Party

Slowly, but surely, I am beginning to learn the names of a few of our regulars. The difference between the morning and the evening shifts are pretty big. In the morning you deal with way more rushes, and in the evening, everything slows down. I will be working the evening shifts, which I think suits my desire to slow down, take a moment, and really get to know people. I am, however, very thankful for having had the chance to learn how to do this amidst the kind of busy rushes where you might think that is hard. The key is your team. You select a few people to get to know, and you can trust that the rest of the people on shift with you are doing likewise. You’ll never connect with every single person who comes through the door, but where you can’t someone else can. This has been really cool to get to see in action. There are a few people that I now know by name, but there is one in particular that I am getting to know very well. She is a wonderful woman, we’ll call her Y. One of our first conversations revolved around why I call myself Josh instead of Joshua. She told me that she thinks Joshua is a much stronger, biblical, sounding name than Josh. I told her that Joshua usually means I’ve done something to get myself in trouble. To this day, though, she insists on calling me Joshua, and that’s ok. She is always wonderful to get to serve, always ready to chat, always ready to offer an encouraging word, and comes in nearly every day. The other day she told me that she had a dream where she came to the shop and I served her a ball of Chicken Tikka on her latte. I told her that actually the days lunch special. Much laughter. It’s a silly moment maybe, but it’s those moments that make me love the specialty coffee industry.

Anyway, that’s probably more than enough for now. I hope that you enjoyed a brief look into my new life working at a new shop and making new connections! If you want to learn more, the easiest thing I can suggest is come and visit the shop! Don’t just come and visit me, either. Come and visit all of the amazing people, guests, staff, etc. that make Gravity the special place that it is!

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Moving to a New House

thehouse_2

 

I reused the same header from last time. Lazy, I know.

It’s a little awkward having to write this post shortly after writing one gushing over the shop I work in, but the timing sort of works. The two should pair rather nicely. Some of you reading this may already know the news I am about to tell you. Given the number of articles and the media attention we have been getting, I felt it was important to write my own thoughts out there so people know how I feel, as a member of staff and management.

So our doors are closing this Sunday, the 30th of November, my last day being tomorrow, Friday the 28th. The official press release is here, you can also voice your support on our thank you page, here. Yes I have been angry about this, yes I have been upset and sad and frustrated and annoyed about this. But I am done with those things. It’s time to celebrate and remember what this shop was. I want to talk about the legacy we are leaving behind, and the one that I hope multiple places in this great city of Calgary adopts and makes a part of their own practices moving forward.

About Our Staff

First let me address the various businesses that have either already gotten House employees working for them, or soon will. You are blessed. These are the seeds of something great going out into the world, to take root, to be a blessing to wherever it is they land. I certainly hope this has been the case with past House employees, and I am certain it will be the case as the current House staff begin to look for new work. In this place was cultivated a strong love for connectivity, community, relationship and love. You’re getting individuals with a strong desire to see the lives of people changed, and people who will find every possible way to do that, no matter where they end up. These people are my friends, have touched my life in amazing and profound ways. Watching the way they interacted with people was inspiring. Seeing the love they had for everyone who walked through the door was inspiring. So I hope they continue to do so for you.

Our Story

A phrase I’ve heard a lot lately, and a phrase I’ve used a lot lately, is that ultimately, we are in control of the story that gets told, and the one we want to tell is a good one. The House has an amazing legacy in the Kensington area. We’ve been a sanctuary for so many different people. Love and respect is given to everyone who comes through the door. It isn’t just that we had a reputation of doing well with the homeless, or individuals with addiction issues, or people wrestling with mental illness, we developed meaningful, lasting, relationships with these great people. I’ve gotten to talk a lot with people about their thoughts about the news of our being shut down, and I’ve said the same thing to all of them. We want our legacy to be the thing people remember in all of this. I want the legacy of our shop to be what people remember. Not just remember either, but emulated as well. If people can look at who we were as a shop and say that they want to incorporate elements of that into their existing business model, I would be so stoked! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we are the only business that does this, I just hope it encourages more of these kinds of things.

It’s hard work. Patience can be a pain in the ass, but the benefits are well worth the effort. Dealing with anyone we feel to be difficult can be hard work, but it’s amazing how a little time and love can make you forget how hard earned those relationships were. My time at the House was transformative. I found myself becoming friends with people of all kinds. I love being able to walk down the streets of Kensington and stop to talk to some of the homeless men and women who live in the area and have a good conversation. See how they’re doing, tell them how I’m doing, maybe share a little food together. It’s been great to get to know the business owners and staff of the other shops here in the area as well. It has been as close to a holistic sense of community I’ve been able to see in some time. I have loved getting to know a lot of the younger people who come into my shop. I enjoy hearing about their day, I enjoy hearing about what they are getting up to. I am blessed by the relationships I have made. Getting invited to play boardgames or chess with people on a slow shift. I love that some of the locals come by the shop to visit me and stop for a chat. You don’t always get that kind of thing with work. It has been awesome to see how Kensington has grown in this way. Mr. Big Cheese, Flip ‘n’ Burger, Starbucks, The Plaza, YYC Cycle, all of these places have people I’ve spoken to who are committed to solid community. I am certain there are more.

Looking Ahead

You saw the part I wrote about the kind of staff other businesses in Calgary are about to get. I suppose this section will involve a little bit more of what is in store for myself.

I live in Kensington, I play in Kensington, and up until this weekend, I worked in Kensington. I am as local as you can get, well I am sure there are people much more local, but you know what I mean. It’s a tough pill to swallow that I will be spending a great deal of my time out of the area as I work in a new place. My girlfriend works in Kensington, and so I won’t get to see her at the drop of a hat anymore. I won’t get to see many of the familiar faces as much, save on my days off. These things are hard, but I am excited none the less.

I will be working full time at Cafe Gravity in Inglewood, owned by Andy Fennell, a man whose love for community and relationship building is great and I cannot wait to work with. Their shop really vibes with my own direction in terms of how a business runs and I am looking forward to learning more about what that looks like. I will also be meeting up with a group of artists here in the Kensington area, which I am very excited for, so stay tuned for that!

 

I hope this has been encouraging to read. I want to stress something in the wake of all this. Don’t go looking for villains, or people to blame. We here at the shop certainly aren’t and we don’t want you to either. Instead think on the great things The House was able to do. Think about what that looks like for you going forward.

I know I am.

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The House Coffee Sanctuary

thehouse

 

I have one of the best jobs. I work at a coffee shop.

You probably already know this since I posted about my experience at the Prairie Regional Barista Championship. If not, well, read about it. Before I begin, I should say, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully capture what The House Coffee Sanctuary means to me, but damn it, I’m gonna try!

Inside the shop

Inside the shop

The House Coffee Sanctuary is a non-profit coffee shop in the downtown Calgary neighbourhood of Kensington (the best neighbourhood in the city!). One of the first questions people ask when they find out about our being a non-profit, is what exactly does that mean? So I usually tell them that the staff in the shop are paid by the church, and that any money we make in the shop goes to maintaining it and our presence in our neighbourhood. We go to great lengths to get involved in the Kensington area and we are also involved with a number of groups through support. The goal of the House is to develop and maintain relationships with anyone who walks through the door. We take the Sanctuary part of our name seriously, and so we foster as safe a space as possible for the people we meet. We encourage people to become regulars in our shop and to make friends with other regulars. For our staff, this is how we go about getting to share our lives and share in the lives of others. This has been one of the greatest work experiences of my life. My life has been greatly impacted by this job, this place. I have met so many different people that have stretched me in so many different ways. I have experienced a great deal of growth as a person in this place, and I have gotten to share in beautiful memories with many people during my time here.

Magnificent Mike, one of our Regular Open Mic attendees!

Magnificent Mike, one of our Regular Open Mic attendees!

To be honest, it brightens up my day to see my regulars come into the shop. I love that I work at a place where I can take a moment to catch up with what is going on in their lives and be able to do likewise. Be it my friend Mike who just wants to know if he’s getting better on his guitar and wants to tell us how much he loves us; or my friend Joel who loves our staff and is more than willing to lend his coffee expertise to see that we continue to get better; or my friend Michael, who has been coming to the shop for nearly over ten years and will offer up the seat beside him so he can find out how your doing and then tell you about the scores of books he has read (he’s read over 3000 to date in case you’re wondering). One of our regulars started attending the church I go to, joined my City Group, and in one of the coolest moments of my life, I was able to baptize him as he made his public declaration of faith. It was a real honour and a blessing to get to be a part of such an important moment in his life. This is the other part of my job that I love, getting to see people grow and develop and change.

Michael! One of our longest running regulars. Love this guy!

Michael! One of our longest running regulars. Love this guy!

The shop has grown me as a person as well. Derrick was the manager when I started, and had been so for ten years. He poured into me and offered up so much of his wisdom in the short time we got to work together. He has such a love for people, it was inspiring and I am glad that I can count him among the many mentors that I have had in my life. The people who come into the shop have poured into me significantly as well. I get to meet people of all kinds of all backgrounds and our conversations, though uplifting and positive, have also challenged my faith and the way I seek to live like Jesus. I have learned a great deal about how Jesus is changing me as a person and how that change acts as a blessing to everyone else around me. I am learning what it means to disciple (mentor) others and how this isn’t just an academic exercise, but about how I share my life with people around me. My City Group meets in the shop, they meet in the space where I am exemplifying the grace of Jesus on a daily basis and can see the fruit of that. I get to hear their stories, I am privileged enough to let them share in mine.

An oldie, but a goodie

An oldie, but a goodie courtesy of one of our regulars, Joel.

I am happy that I have gotten to be a blessing to the people who come through the door. But allow me to be a little bit selfish here while I brag on how the people who come through the door have blessed me. I am so thankful for the friends that I have made in this place. I have met a lot of new people, gotten connected to a lot of different communities, all of whom are interested in seeing people get together and try to make our great city even greater. I have met artists who have encouraged me to continue to pursue my art. I have met people who have gotten me to stop and think about how I can be a better neighbour. I have met people who are just plain happy to see me when they come through the door, kinda makes my day. I got connected to some talented people inside the hip hop community here in Calgary. I also met my girlfriend in this shop (More to this story to be honest, but I’ll save that for another day).

I hope I was able to paint a cool enough portrait of this place. There is honestly so much more to tell, but then maybe you can just come and visit me while I work. Maybe you can become part of the story rather than just listen to me talk about it! (Also, I am told we serve amazing coffee, and I can verify that, haha!)

Probably one of my favourite House connections :)

Probably one of my favourite House connections 🙂

The two Josh's. Separated at birth, haha!

The two Josh’s. Separated at birth, haha!

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November 11, 2014 · 8:23 pm

Inspiring Stories

stories

 

The above photo is myself, and two of my friends/ co-workers, celebrating the birthday of our coffee shop’s longest running regular. He’s been coming to the shop for nearly ten years, and has a pretty amazing history with us. I won’t get into all of the details, but I wanted a photo that capture a little bit of our story with him. I feel it tells you a little bit about how much he means to us.

I was in my City Group last night and the conversation around story telling came up. We had been discussing how we as a smaller group of our church can get alongside the larger expression of our church and share some of our passions and invite others to share in them with us. We had been brainstorming some ideas when one person reminded us that it would be important to make sure we tell people about what we’ve been doing. Naturally this brought a smile to my face as telling the stories about who we’ve been meeting and what we’ve been doing is really important to me. Stories are inspiring and have a way of drawing people into things. As a leader in my church, it is even more important to see people share the stories of how they’ve been expressing the grace they receive through Jesus in the lives of everyone around them. I know how their church service went, I attend it. I know how their City Group is going, I’m a part of it. I am interested in who they are meeting, what they’ve been doing, how they are sharing their lives. Those are the things I don’t always get to see, and I am encouraged and inspired when I hear about them.

A friend of mine told me the story about a consultant who began working on a secondary project for a company, having seen issues with the primary project and offering an alternative, on his own time. He began to blog about his experiences and sent it to various people in the company. As they read about what he was doing, many became inspired and eventually joined him in the project, also on their own time. When everything was done, the primary project had done poorly, as he had predicted, but the secondary, thanks to the enthusiasm of the many people who came on board, managed to save this company a lot of money. It was neat to hear how this person, through telling his stories, was able to have two ideas grow side by side until one overwhelmed the other. People became passionate about what they were doing and they began to share their passion and their excitement and eventually you had a movement of people backing up something they were excited about. Story sharing gives something to participate in, and then encourages them to go out and obtain similar experiences. Stories excite and fuel movements.

Story telling is a regular part of what my City Group does. We work hard to encourage one another to share our stories and their is a great deal of encouragement as we see how Jesus is working in our lives and through our lives into the lives of others. Jesus often told stories that spoke right into the context of the people he was talking to. They gave people something to carry with them and wrestle with and contemplate in their day to day in a language that was familiar. I love hearing peoples stories because they often speak right into the heart of my own context, where I’m at. Stories are a community event, and foster good relationships with one another. Even the simple act of asking about how a person’s day has been, allows us to participate in their life either by being encouraged or encouraging in turn.

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Keeping it Real

tabletalk

 

I’m a man of many walls. A brick less for one person. A brick more for another. Left only sore, shifting bricks one place to another.

Vulnerability is not one of my strong points. You can ask anyone who knows me. I have a tiny rotor of answers to the question, “How are you?”

“Tired.”

“Good.”

“Fine.”

I can remember having to do one of those workplace personality profiles, those tools that help people learn to work with one another or your managers learn how best to manage you. Mine was pretty accurate in a lot of areas. My supervisor learned at the time to press me for more information. He learned that if asked, “How are things?” and I responded, “They’re fine”, there was probably a great deal more to my answer that I was hoping to get away with not sharing. I have this really healthy pattern of bottling everything up until I wanna snap. I am an internalizer, this is where a great deal of my anxiety comes from. I run through scenarios and thoughts in my head and I lose a great deal of sleep over it. It’s one of the many reasons why I journal or write stories. These things help me to get my thoughts out of my head and someplace where they are wrestled with and dealt with. Whenever I go through a period of not writing, I start to become a little more closed off, a little more depressed, a little more agitated.

I am pretty glad that there are some people who have really pushed my to keep writing my thoughts down. One of them a complete stranger, who I have only met once but continues to send encouragement through my girlfriend (who is another person who keeps me honest and open).

We’ve gone to Oolong Tea House twice since we’ve started dating, but I have loved every time we have gone. It’s only ever been for an hour each time, but in that hour we just get to chat. I like going for walks, or grabbing a bite with my girlfriend because I love our conversations. I told you a little bit about our last conversation before she went on vacation. At one point we got to talking about being people pleasers. I mentioned that I definitely fall into that category, unhealthily so. I mentioned I was so wrapped up in what people thought about me, that it revealed I didn’t think much of myself. I can be so caught up in trying to please people I believe they’ll stop wanting me around if I no longer have anything to offer them.

“You don’t feel that way around me, do you?”

I told her that at the start of our relationship I very much did. Not for the last few months, but at the start of our dating that was my worry. She was happy to hear that I didn’t feel that way around her anymore, and assured me that she was a two feet in kind of person. This brought a smile to my face.

I’m telling you all (all like nine of you) this for a reason. I like getting to be unedited. I am enjoying getting to be honest without any of the fear attached to it. These many conversations I have been having with my girlfriend have been helping me to be honest with not just other people, but with myself as well. I like getting to hear what is going on in her world, and get to offer some encouragement. I like that she wants to know what is going on in my world and that she enjoys offering up some encouragement my way as well. It can’t happen without honesty though. And honesty is scary. Honesty requires you to open yourself up to the potential for wounding. Not just in receiving wounds, but wounding others.

There is something immensely refreshing about this kind of thing though. I wish I could describe it. There is something so amazing about laying it all out on the table, not hiding. This isn’t just for romantic relationships, this goes for any relationship. This kind of honesty, vulnerability, I feel, helps us to really get the most out of our time with people. It creates a space where our relationships aren’t based on an edited version of ourselves we feel people will like more, but based on the idea that people are simply worth our time and our effort.

 

You gotta be vulnerable.

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Joyful Noise More Than an All Day Concert

worship

 

This last week we were meant to be discussing the sermon on worship in my City Group. Sometimes these kinds of groups (small groups, not just my own) can be grounds for martyrdom. We tend to only express what we are doing wrong, how we fall short, how we need to improve. I didn’t want that this week. I wanted to encourage one another with how we were doing it right. Things started slowly, and we moved through some of the more prevalent understandings of worship; time in prayer, singing songs, reading our bibles, talking about Jesus, going to church, going to City Group (acts of sacrifice). These are all fantastic things, and they will continue to pour into other areas of our lives. I wanted us all to understand just how far reaching the idea of worship went, though. So I asked:

“How many of you have roommates?”

I knew full well everyone there did. In fact, most of my City Group is made up of people who live with one another. So I asked another question when all the hands went up:

“What does worship look like in your house?”

I further clarified:

“How do you serve one another? What does living together look like?”

Now stories began to roll out. People began to share about life in their homes, and what they did together as roommates. Now this isn’t a dig at music as worship, I enjoy singing, even if others don’t enjoy me singing. But it’s about broadening the picture of worship as something that impacts our whole life. Sitting and listening to everyone laugh as they shared their stories and they saw how what Jesus was doing in their own lives transferred into the lives of people around them, it was like listening to running water. That was a joyful noise. It brought a smile to my face. So then I dropped a little theological nugget. Discussing theology is often looked at as missing the point of these kinds of gatherings, but sometimes I feel like these kinds of nuggets address and change the way we live, and are important to discuss.

“Did you know the earliest word for worship in the bible is the word ‘work’?”

I’m going to tell you a bit about my girlfriend, and one of the reasons I think she is so amazing. I told her this the other day over a quick tea date. Work as an expression of worship is something she doesn’t just get, she lives it out. I have had the great joy of sitting in the shop that she works at and watch her work and it always makes me smile. She understands that everyone who walks through the door is a person who has worth and who has value, not because they are a customer, or a co-worker, or because they put food on her table, but because Jesus says they have value; because Jesus says they are worth dying for. So she looks beyond her own life every day to serve others in her workplace as best she can. She isn’t perfect at it, but I am privy to seeing her struggle with not being perfect at it. It’s encouraging to see her notice when it’s not gone well and see her desire for that to change. She went on vacation, but the day before she left was full of her regular customers, and there are a lot of them, telling her how much they were going to miss her! It’s that kind of attitude that makes the difference between “Major chain” and “My favourite shop”, people come back for that and Jesus is honoured and glorified in it.

There is a bible verse that says that a city is blessed by the righteous. When we worship Jesus in every single part of our lives, our friends, our family, our workplaces, our communities, our cities, should be benefiting from that.

Anyway, that’s kinda what I wanted to write about tonight. Hope you find some encouragement in it!

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