"Holy Spirit, think through me till your ideas are my ideas." ~Amy Carmichael

" Holy Spirit, think through me till your ideas are my ideas.”

~ Amy Carmichael

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Going Deeper from Study to Experience


As you know, if you have been following my blog recently, I have joined the online community of His Kingdom Come. So far, the first two weeks featured verses and themes I have been already exploring. When I read the third week's verse, 2 Corinthians 3:18 I thought, "That sounds good, although hard to grasp, and not quite what I am focusing on right now." The past week, I've been focusing on two verses and themes. One theme that keeps coming up is Freedom, with the verse that says, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." What does that mean? I have a hard time remembering the reference of verses, so I looked up the phrase. You know what I found? It is the verse directly above the verse for week 3 in His Kingdom Come "Going Deeper." Really! Verse 18 starts with "And" so it is important to look above and see what the "And" is adding.

"Now the Lord is Spirit,
and where the Spirit of the Lord is,
there is freedom.
And we all who with unveiled faces 
contemplate the Lord's glory, 
are being transformed into his image
with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord,
who is the Spirit."

2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV

It is also good to look at the context of the verse, so I have decided to go deeper into the whole chapter of 2 Corinthians 3, focusing on verses 17-18. I looked up the verses in various translations of the Bible using Bible Gateway. One resource I am using is a book, Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, which defines the original Greek or Hebrew word used in the text. I've also used various online dictionaries. Freedom means freedom, liberty (Strong's Concordance). Veil means covering. I also look for repeated words. The word "Spirit", referring to the Spirit of the Lord, is found three times and is the source of freedom, transformation, and glory.



 In the Strong's Concordance of the Bible (4151), the word Spirit is Pneuma, from a current of air, breath, blast, or breeze. The term is used to refer to a human spirit, a superhuman such as angel or demon, or as in this case, the divine who is God, Christ's Spirit and the Holy Spirit-ghost, life, spirit, mind.

I like doing word studies where the word, designed or illuminated is at the top of the page and then the definitions and sources are listed below. It gives me a good reference and the doodling/lettering part allows for pondering and meditation of the meaning of the word.

One of the word/s was different in the various translations, so it caught my attention in verse 18: contemplate, beholding, and reflect are all used as our interaction with the Spirit of the Lord.



I have been taught that the word contemplate means to study and meditate on. That is true, but that is too narrow a definition. It is so much more, extending to the mind, and reaching beyond to the heart of the spirit, and into life itself! Contemplate, behold, reflect are verbs, actions to participate in. Dictionaries help clarify and broaden my understanding of the word/s. The Strong's Concordance defines the term in 2 Corinthians 3:18 "beholding," in the King James version, as to mirror oneself; to see reflected.

Contemplate: to look thoughtfully for a long time at, to think profoundly, deeply, at length, meditate on, to view or consider with continued attention, to ponder

Behold: to gaze upon, observe, perceive through sight, to hold, to mirror oneself, to see reflected. Behold has the idea of gazing at someone or something extraordinarily good, such as a marvel, inspiration, miracle...

Reflect: to give back or show an image of; mirror, to reproduce; show, to throw or cast back; to give back or exhibit as an image, likeness such as the pulse reflects the condition of the heart, or the masterpiece reflects the artist's vision. To reflect means to give evidence of the character or quality of something. Reflecting can mean seeing something original in another form or image. It means to be bright by reflecting or casting light.

Clearly, contemplating, beholding, and reflecting mean more than studying. We study to know, and we know to experience. Studying is like reading the guidebook for an anticipated destination. It is very helpful to inform and help direct where to go and what to look for. But it is not the trip or adventure itself. That is found in the experience. In this case, in beholding the glory of the Lord. How do I behold the glory of the Lord?


The New Living Translation of 2 Corinthians 3:18 is easier for me to understand when talking about God's glory. It says,

"So all of us who have had that veil removed
can see and reflect the glory of the Lord.
And the Lord—who is the Spirit—
makes us more and more like him
as we are changed into his glorious image."

The Strong's Concordance says this word glory has a wide application. It means dignity, honour, praise, and worship. In the dictionaries I referenced, glory means magnificence, great beauty, honor won by notable achievements, a state of high honor, brilliant, and radiant light. By all of these definitions, and in light of 2 Corinthians 3:18, I am to come into the presence of the Lord with wonder and in awe of God's magnificence, light, and beauty of the Spirit of the Lord. In His presence, face to face, is where He changes me, my mind, my heart, my being and behavior, to be more and more like Him. I can't, He can.

"Dear God,
remove from me any veil, 
any filter, any assumption 
that gets in my way of seeing You.
It is You, Spirit of the Lord, only You,
who can transform me
more and more
to be like You Christ Jesus,
and reflect your glory,
and radiant beauty in
who You made me to be."

-Valerie Sjodin

Well, that was the word study. Like "ever-increasing glory," it is a process. I don't have to make it happen. That is God's part. My part is to come open to God, ready to listen and respond to Him in gratitude and worship.



What does this look like for me in real life now? The text suggests to me that I am to be with God to the extent that I see myself reflected in His eyes. This also has to extend to other people. It has made me aware that I have a hard time loving some people. I ask God what I should do, knowing I can't muster up the love needed. The Holy Spirit has to give it to me and I have to experience God's great love for me. The thought came, look for Jesus in each person. The next time, in the situation I was frustrated with, I was quiet and looked for Jesus in the person I was having a hard time with. I saw Him there. Peace. The Spirit of the Lord giving me the freedom to love.

"...the riches of the glory of this mystery, 
which is Christ in you, the hope of glory"

- Colossians 1:27 ESV

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Two of my Favorites...


"The Bible is the greatest source of poetry 
the world has ever known and 
the world’s greatest work of art....
If every life inevitably moves towards its end, 
we must during our own, 
color it with the colors of love and hope…. 
For me, perfection in Art and in life 
flows from the biblical spring. 
Without that spirit, the mechanics of 
logic and construction alone, 
in Art as in life, will not bear fruit.” 

- Marc Chagall

This quote by Marc Chagall is one of my favorites. I remember how my heart sang when I first read it. I agree with him wholeheartedly!

Romans 12:1-2 has been a favorite Scripture for decades. It is also a key verse for week 1 at His Kingdom Come Community of Faith. I have personalized the verse in the journal page below:


"I urge you therefore, brothers and sisters, 
in view of Gods mercy,
 to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, 
holy and pleasing to God - 
this is your true and proper worship. 
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, 
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. 
Then you will be able to test what will of God's will is - 
his good, pleasing and perfect will."

Romans 12:1-2 NIV



Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Serendipity by Design

Do you have times when the same message, word, theme or idea come from various places? When they come my way from multiple sources, I take note and think of it as "serendipity by design." That has been the case with this journal and seeking the direction for 2015.

For quite awhile, I have struggled with something, wanting it to leave, to let go, to move onto something else, something I don't feel I have the capacity for. I asked God to take it away, and sensed Him saying, "No." The verse about God's grace being sufficient came to mind, but I resisted, tired of the struggle. At the same time, wanting to be open and be close to God, I prayed for ears to hear and eyes to see what God has for me.


Then at exercise class, the instructor said she felt she should share something with us, and wasn't sure why, but that someone needed to hear it. She read 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 from the NIV Bible:

"Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."


Clearly, I have not been at that place where I rejoice in such things. The thing I have been fighting and fearful of is rooted in vulnerability. I went home, wrote the verses down on a 3 x 5" card to meditate on and knew I would include them in my art journal. Then I looked up the definition of Grace. When the exercise instructor shared the verses, she made it a point to emphasize God's grace. It struck me in a new way, a way that focused on the positive of God's grace instead of the negative of my weaknesses. God's grace is given to me, and because of His great love, I can overcome, persevere, be more than I am, and more truly who I am.

 Grace in the Bible refers to God's freely given kindness, not based on any good thing we have done. It is "a state of freedom from sin enjoyed through divine grace." (wordcentral.com) We are saved by grace because of Jesus. Grace is "the influence or Spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them." (dictionary.com)

In the second week of the Faith Journaling group, His Kingdom Come, the "Take Me Deeper" verses are 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, AND the theme is vulnerability. "Are you kidding?" is what I said out loud when I read it. Again: Grace. "Serendipity by design". I conclude, if the same message comes to me from four places, there is a good chance God is speaking to me. I am listening.

Serendipity, defined by Merriam Webster is "the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for."  Then I looked up the meaning of Phenomenon: "A phenomenon is an observable, significant, and sometimes rare fact or event that is often difficult to understand or explain fully."


Another of those places that resonated with me recently is in the devotional by Sarah Young, Jesus Calling (see sidebar under "My Favorite Books"). The book is written to encourage intimacy with the God of the Bible, written from the perspective of Jesus talking to the reader. I find it often reinforces what I am reading in the Bible and encountering in life. There are also verses listed at the bottom of each day's entry. For example, while reading recently in Jesus Calling from the January 5th entry it says,

"You can achieve the victorious life through living in deep dependence on Me. People usually associate victory with success: not falling or stumbling, not making mistakes. But those who are successful in their own strength tend to go their own way, forgetting about Me. It is through problems and failure, weakness and neediness that you learn to rely on Me... It is a faith-walk, taken one step at a time, leaning on Me as much as you need. This is not a path of continual success but of multiple failures. However, each failure is followed by a growth spurt, nourished by increased reliance on Me. Enjoy the blessedness of a victorious life, through deepening your dependence on Me." 




Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Exploring the Meaning of my Word for 2015


I've done quite a bit of research about my word and images. This builds my understanding, enthusiasm and is a catalyst for courage. I google key words, symbols, and quotes, such as "archery quotes". I also look on Bible Gateway, typing key words into the search box and looking through the list of verses that come up. I usually look at various translations. This is where I found Isaiah 49:1-12. I read through the chapter, asking God to highlight the message/s I was to take away. I spent about a week in the passage, asking if/how it applied to me. Then I wrote out a personalized version in my journal. This was all before I received my word, having just the image. After I received the word Aim, I went back to Bible Gateway and found a verse in The Message Bible that is my key verse.


"What are God-worshipers like?"
"Arrows aimed at God's bulls-eye."

from Psalm 25:12
The Message Bible

I am asking God, "What is Your bulls-eye?" I imagine insight to that question will unfold as the year 2015 unfolds. I feel excited and grateful. It is clear to me that Jesus is to be my focus, the bulls-eye, taking time to be aware of and acknowledge God's presence with me. Out of that, I am hoping specific "bulls-eye's" will be revealed to me, along with the timing to aim, and how to aim - when to pull back, and when to let go.


So here we go! Onward and Forward into 2015


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Processing My Word for 2015 with My Favorite Pens


After getting such a clear but complicated image for 2015, I asked God for a word, a simple word with layered meaning to fit the image I believe He has given me. This is where the waiting comes in. Waiting and watching. Then in the quiet it came, bold and simple: AIM. A noun and a verb, even holding the "i am" in the letters themselves. At that moment my attitude began to change. 

Aim as a verb means to point or direct at a target, to align, line up, have the intention of achieving, work toward, aspire to, set one's sights on, attempt to reach a goal, try. As a noun, Aim is a purpose, intention, objective, design, desire, aspiration, target.

In the space made for the text, I asked. God what He was saying to me through the Scripture that speaks of the archery imagery, Isaiah 49:1-12. I wrote the personalized text there so I can revisit it throughout the year. 

The first thing I do is plan out the basic layout of the page and lightly draw it with pencil, erasing until I happy with the design. Then I go over the lines with a permanent black pen. I erase the pencil lines and the next step is to thicken some of the lines. Here is an example of the word with the letters partially done this way.


Here is what I learned about pens on this project. I used two sets of pens. Each has their strong points and they are both great sets to write, draw, and doodle with. I've started using Copic Fine Nib Inking Pens in the Multiliner set. The widths come in a variety, and the thin lines are wonderful, as well as the flow. It is what I used to do these pages on the untreated paper surface.


I apologize for the low quality of the two photos below showing the difference between the single line and the added width lines.


The next thing I did was to thicken some of the lines below. It really adds interest and emphasis.


After I was done with the basic drawing I brushed a coat of Matte Medium on the entire surface and let it dry. I painted using fluid acrylics. Then I added more pen. When I went to brush another coat of Matte Medium onto the surface, the ink from the Copic Marker smeared. I was surprised. I went back to using my old faithful Faber-Castell Pitt pens, the XS size, and it did not smear. So I've decided to continue to use both. The Copic for the paper surface with the very fine lines and for writing in my journals, and the Pitt pens for all the layers on top of the Matte Medium. I've also been trying the new DecoArt Media fluid acrylics. I don't have all the colors I normally use yet, so I am also using Golden brand which I have used for years. They are quality fine art paints and work together beautifully. I am pleased.

Here are the journal pages for 2015 so far. It's unfolding....




"Make new friends but keep the old.
One is silver and the other gold."





Friday, December 26, 2014

Good-bye 2014! The Journey Continues...


Art journaling the journey has become a fully integrated part of my life, so I decided to start a journal showing a glimpse into my inner journey - a spiritual quest-further into God, seeking and desiring to grow more into who God made me to be. It is a time for entering a new year and a new season in life, the second half of life, the youth of old age. The first pages of this journal begin with my theme verse from 2013, along with the encouragement to trust God and move forward.

"Forget the former things.
Do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up.
Do you perceive it?
I am making a way
in the desert and
streams in the wasteland...
from now on I will
tell you of new things,
hidden things
unknown to you."

Isaiah 43:18-19, & 48:6 NIV

2014 was filled with journey for me, new places and new perspectives. Each year, in late fall, I ask God to give me a word for the following year. In 2014 I got a picture of a key and a door before the word came. The Scripture Matthew 16:17-18 came next. Then the word OPEN. Keys open things. It would be a year of getting keys and encountering doors. And it has been.


So now we are saying good-bye to 2014, and crossing the threshold of 2015. For me 2014 was a year of adventure. I am not at all tired of it and feel just a wee bit sad about the changing of the year, and theme recorded on our kitchen door.


Like 2014, I received an image before a word for 2015. At first, I resisted the image and hoped I was just making it up. I prayed, asked, waited. It became clearer and more complicated. The picture I got was of an archer pulling back on a bow with an arrow aimed at a target. I didn't like the battle imagery, but I couldn't shake the image. So I decided to dig into the meaning. Here is a glimpse:


"A marksman hits the mark
partly by pulling and
partly by letting go."

Egyptian proverb


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Wonder of a Child...

This week I am reminded to approach Christmas like a child. My young grandson came to visit for the day. He is filled with contagious wonder. Everything is new as he takes such pleasure in learning how things works. With the house newly decorated for Christmas, he went on a self-guided tour, pointing out each new thing. When he came to the lego nativity, I wondered if he was too young to play with the small pieces. No. He approached it with his usual gentle wonder, picking up the pieces one by one, looking at me, smiling.


He brought me such joy, just watching him take pleasure. I said to him, "I really love you!." He turned, smiled big and hugged my neck. We laugh.


It makes me think of the Christmas story. This year I read it in Luke like it was the first time, with new eyes. An outrageous story when you stop to think about it. I am filled with wonder, the faith of a child. I felt my Father God say, "I really love you!" And I felt like a child hugging my Daddy's neck. Joy!

This year we haven't gone all out with gifts, no big plans, but being with family and friends and taking time to be thankful to the One who gave us the reason for the season.

"Joy to the World the Lord is Come!
Let Earth receive her King!
Let every heart,
Prepare Him room.
And heaven and nature sing!"

May you be blessed with the joy of knowing you are loved this Christmas!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Revisiting and Finishing a Journal Past

At the end of this journal, I wrote out much of Psalm 27, which I found very meaningful during the time the rest of the journal was made. Here is the Psalm illuminated:


Generally I finish my journals. This one was an exception. When I stopped a number of years ago, it was almost finished, but I left the last page and the back cover blank. I think I stopped because the journal had already served its purpose by the time I got to the last page and I didn't need it anymore. 

This journal was the one I worked through my childhood in, processed forgiveness, acceptance, and experienced redemption. It was where I realized hearing God and responding in a visual language can help in healing. After I experienced the healing, I could close the journal and leave it all there. The freedom was amazing. God is so good!


Recently, all of a sudden, I wanted it done, visually. This time there was none of the emotion attached, just light-hearted doodling and writing. Fun. I soaked in the words of the text as the page came to life.


Then I realized I wanted an envelope to put notes etc. into. The first page had a pocket, but things were going every-which-way so I decided to put an envelope on the inside back cover. 


I glued painted tissue paper onto the back inside cover which I had previously painted with gesso. I used the DecoArt Matte Medium and it worked beautifully. While that was drying I cut the flap of the envelope. Then I glued painted paper strips onto the envelope. When that was dry, I doodled with paint and pen. The last step was gluing the envelope onto the page with "Yes" glue. The glue is heavy duty and just the right thing for gluing a larger envelope.


A fitting closure, filled with gratitude and a prayer...

Lord,
surprise me with 
Your Christmas Joy,
and fill me with
Gratitude,
seeing the
Wonder of You.



Monday, December 8, 2014

NEW! My Favorite Matte Medium and a Step-by-Step Experiment!

Matte medium is one of those products I use very often in art journaling, a staple really. I've tried a few various kinds and get a lot of questions about it. Well, I have had the opportunity to try a new one and am happy to announce I am thoroughly pleased with this matte medium, my FAVORITE!  It is DecoArt's Media Matte Medium:

It has a lovely smooth, clear finish and spreads easily and evenly. So far, I have used it to seal in my doodling before applying other layers. Using a soft, inexpensive filbert or flat brush, I've brushed the matte medium on the paper before using other techniques. I have glued tissue paper onto gessoed paper with great results (also using a brush), and glued paper onto my journal pages with good adhesion. 

It's hard to get the exact feel and look of it in a photo, but here are a few examples of pages where I've used DecoArt Media Matte Medium:


I also experimented with DecoArt's Antiquing Cream. Usually I can get an antique parchment look with just paint and water and sometimes with adding glazing liquid. Sometimes people have a hard time not getting hard edges and having it look naturally aged, so I thought I'd try this product which has an unlimited working time. Here are some step-by-step photos of the progress made in a recent art journal page as we are getting ready to close 2014.


Steps for above photo:
  1. First I drew the doorway and cut out the door, leaving the left side uncut.
  2. Then with a bone folder, I creased the left side of the door 
  3. Then I coated the entire page with matte medium and let it dry.
  4. Next I glued the music onto the journal page with matte medium, and brushed the medium on top of the music so that the entire two-page spread was now coated with the matte medium.
  5. When It was dry, I turned the page and on the back of the page where I could see the cut line for the door, I cut along the cut lines of the door with a craft knife. 
  6. I gently opened the "door", folding along the crease made at the left side of the door to make a hinge so the door would open at least part way. 
I wanted it to look aged parchment, so this was my chance to try out the antiquing cream.


I branched out with the product a bit and used a dirty brush technique with the black antiquing cream, quinacridone gold and burnt umber fluid acrylics. You can see I used very little of all three, one dot each. The dirty brush technique is when you dip part of the tip of the brush into one color and then another. And in this case, also with the antiquing cream (which is really more like the consistency of the fluid acrylics). 


I didn't know if the combination of the three would still allow the antiquing cream to be workable longer or if it would smear when I put matte medium on top of it when I was done. Happily, the antiquing cream allowed me to move the paint/cream mixture around, blot and rub it around with a cloth-like paper towel, and get just the look I wanted. After I let it dry, I brushed on a coat of matte medium. No smearing. Yay!

I moved onto the next step, making the door using DecoArt Burnt Umber and Carbon Black Fluid Acrylics.


You can get info on these products and more at: http://decoart.com/mixedmedia/

Now my favorite part, doodling and the text. I drew and wrote some of the basic parts in pencil and then went over it with pen, and then paint, using my usual techniques. 


The door of a new year and a new season of opportunities is beginning to open...



Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Check out these Art Journaling Inspirations!

WHY I ART JOURNAL

I am thankful for the lovely people I have met online, and want to share their loveliness with you! Kiala Givehand found me online and we met in person at one of my Art Journaling workshops. She is beautiful, motivated, and motivating! She asked me to write an article on "Why I Art Journal" to post on Art journaling blog. Just click on this link, posted December 1, 2014, to go to her blog and read the article:  http://www.howtoartjournal.com/blog/. She has some great interviews on her blog too! Her website is: http://www.kialagivehand.com 


Here is the video included in the article on Kiala's blog:



ONLINE CREATIVE COMMUNITY OF FAITH OPPORTUNITY

If you have been following my blog, you know I got to visit Bernice Hopper in the UK. We met online and have become real life friends. She, along with a group of lovely women have started an online creative community of faith, and am excited to have just joined! It is well worth checking out! It's called His Kingdom Come. Click on the link to take you to the home page. It is quite wonderful and very informative. The home page gives a great idea of what is going on with the community. There are many options of groups to join, with various media and themes to choose from within the large group. 



Thank you for visiting. 
Today may you be blessed with hope and abundant creativity!





Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Profound Simplicity of Center

I was overwhelmed. I didn't know what to do or how to pray. I got my visual prayer journal out and just sat there. A CD was on the table. I decided to draw around the outside hoping something might come to me. Then I drew around the inside circle:


As I looked at the little circle inside the big circle a thought hit me: I am like the little circle. God is like the big one. I am in God. God is in me. God encircling me, all around me. God knows me and I am loved by God. Complete. Enough. I am enough because I am in God.

I am revisiting this simplicity through centering prayer, taking intentional time to simply be with God, resting in his presence. This is the core I need to live from ~ with God ~ planted in his love for me. I inhale, "God you are in me." Exhale, "and I am in You." The symbol of a little circle held, loved, and protected by the big circle. 

"Thank you God,
that no matter where I go,
You are there,
encircling me,
with me,
in me."

~ Valerie Sjodin



"O LORD, you have examined my heart 
and know everything about me. 
You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I'm far away.
You see me when I travel and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do...
I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!"

~ Psalm 139:1-2,7 NLT





Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Quick London Adventure... Our European Finale

We took a train to London. It was a quick trip. What to do?  We stayed near the London Eye, across the river from Big Ben and Parliament buildings. You can feel the power of London. We felt small.



It helped to stay near a central location, close to the tube. We took it everywhere we went, or walked.


I especially wanted to see the Westminster Abbey. We got there just in time for the last tour. So much history. I especially wanted to see the memorial to Wilberforce. 


After we left, we walked around the city a bit. In the park along the Thames River there is the Buxton Memorial, commemorating the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833. It was donated by Charles Buxton MP in memory of his father Sir Thomas F. Buxton, Wilberforce, Clarkson, MaCauley, Brougham, Dr. Lushington, and others.



Our grand adventure coincided with the 100 year anniversary of the start of World War I. It was both moving and sobering to visit some of the war memorials in Scotland and England. The Tower, Castle in London, was especially moving. On one hand the ceramic poppies spilling out of windows of the castle walls onto the grassy moat was so beautiful. On the realization that each individual poppy represents a British military death during the first world war is astonishing. There are so many, and then it looked like blood.


These memorials, and others like it, remind me that some things must be fought for. The sacrifice is so great! It makes me so thankful for those who have fought for freedom, love and justice. What each person chooses and does is important. 


At the end of our adventure we leave for home, changed, blessed, wanting to make a difference, and looking forward to being at home, in our community with people we love and care about. 


My favorite place in London that we visited is the British Library, the permanent exhibit, The Art of the Book. I couldn't take photos, so what I took with me, I took inside, and it is already influencing my perspective and art. My experience there, along with the book-art exhibits at the Dublin Castle and Trinity Library have caused me to value personal journals more than I ever have. That encourages me to value my own journals more and see the value in chronicling the life journey. Each person's story is important.