Saltiness: Limits of Love

Often, very often, I feel like I am not making a difference.  Despite doing or being what I believe I ought to be, results aren’t always obvious or existing.  Yet something recently has me wondering about “results”.

My husband and I use to live close my parents, and I’d make frequent visits. Yet after 5 years, it didn’t seem to make much difference one way or another. I didn’t see us as building a relationship. I noticed my dad couldn’t tell an observational difference between me and my siblings. My parents would confuse my husband’s saying or traits with the other men of the family. Despite our best efforts, and many not-so-best efforts, my parents didn’t seem to notice much in particular, and this became a wear on my husband and I. We’ve moved. Not the big move that I wanted, but a small couple hours drive time. It’s been near a half and year, and I’m starting to see the difference now. Although it’s not the difference I want to see.

My parents show signs of not having us an influence in their lives. I see things like fear becoming more normal for them. Slowly, but much too quickly. I see a shift from my influence of more natural approaches (which they barely considered before) to a more store bought, doctor induced philosophy.  It’s not that they didn’t have some signs before, but now it seems to have quickly built steam in my absence of pointing out how absurd it is.

Is that it? Is that all I do with my life? I block out some bad. Perhaps I don’t even particularly bring good into people’s lives, but maybe I just block out some of the bad. It seems so little. It seems so ineffectual.
I turn my thoughts from  my parents to my husband. His parents are negative people. I’ve always been displeased to see that displayed over and over again in our short history together. The effects their negativity has had on his life were infuriating. But as of lately I’ve seen my man becoming something greater. It’s taken a long time, a lot of work, and continuing to challenge him in healthy ways, but it becomes more and more obvious. He’s stronger in many ways. Still becoming strong in a few ways. We’re good together.

Is it because I’ve blocked some the poison in his life and challenged him towards good? Perhaps I’ve become the large influence in his life, the influence where his parents once had their vice grips. Is that all that I do? Block negative with my influence?  I suppose it’s a useful thing to be, however lacking in gloriousness. Then I wonder…
Is this (in part) what it’s like to be salt?

Jesus talks about being “the salt of the earth” and many pastors and theologians have puzzled over this simple parable. What does it mean? Indeed there is some flexibility to what all it could encompass, but perhaps simple is best in this case.
My man and I watch some of the Food Network “game shows”. If the judges detect too much salt it’s considered bad to have a salty flavor, or too little salt is considered unseasoned.  Salt is mostly to showcase whatever else is happening with the combined food. It’s not meant to be prominent but it necessary to the dish.

Salt is also considered to have trace minerals, things that your body needs but it doesn’t need a lot of it. These little “trace minerals” make a big difference when they’re out of sync with what your body needs, too much or too little. Subtleties set the standard.

In relationships (of all kinds) its hard to wait for the subtleties to draw forth into the standard. It’s hard to see it add up into something. When my husband and I were dating, I thought for sure that I was going to get my heart broken. I didn’t see him taking it as seriously as I did. I knew I was risking beyond what seemed reasonable or safe, but I felt compelled to keep going until I actually did break. It wasn’t until he confessed that he wanted to marry me (and therein we got engaged) that I felt sure that he was in this too, and not just for convenience sake.

Subtleties, small things, they add up. Probably never as fast and securely as I want them to, but they do add up.

If my greatest gift is merely blocking out some of the negative of other people’s live, that means its still their choice to choose the positives. I can’t choices or add that for them. I suppose I was hoping that I could also do that, but I do not think my life has given my evidence of that. I suppose there are many things which we are grateful that they mere neutralize a situation, such as our immune system.
However it’s up to each person whether to work that immune system hard or to give it help, and then what kind of help from there. This is complication of working together, yet our lives were made to touch one another and interlock.  I can only do and be that which I am.  I can only make my choices. Other people must make their own choices. I wish I could help, but this is as far as I can go in touching their lives.

I am just a little salt in gourmet dish.

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A Spirit Crying Out

I have this sense, that what we see around us isn’t the world going crazy, in so much as it’s every person with a spirit crying out for a very similar thing. A Messiah.

It’s clear enough to see that most people perceive something wrong with the world or culture that we live in. Many people believe that by the hand of force they can make a difference. Others believe with the correct ruler or god or president, that this world will become more of what they imagine Utopia would be like. Some still believe if we follow the correct system, that will eventually work everything out in the end.

Whether we imagine we’re seeking justice, love, equality, truth, authentic, holistic, prosperity, or perfect …we’re looking for a way to make that happen. Usually with a leader of some sort to get us there. Someone who can see the problems and have a quick decisive way to bring order. Maybe even something that lifts up our own values.

The simplicity of this, doesn’t really sound like a world gone crazy to me. As matter of fact, the Bible might even explain this as birth pangs. A longing for something new to be birth, and to bring things into correction or fullness or redemption.

We call it “the restoration of all things”.
I see it everywhere.
Black Lives Matter, anti-Trump, pro-Trump, Isis, Jihadist, ect.

I find it really isn’t so different than these that took place while Jesus was on the Earth. Different names, yes. Different faces, I suppose. But the pushing, the waiting, the anxiousness and urgency -very much the same.

Sometimes (maybe often) we feel like God doesn’t work fast enough. Maybe that God doesn’t understand what it’ll like to have this trapped feeling of want something greater but not being able to affect change. Maybe God doesn’t understand time and history, because maybe he gets to live outside of time. Maybe God doesn’t care as much as we’d previously assumed, because nothing is worse than feeling stuck and watching glory & hope fade all around you.

Then again…

Maybe God does understand this. Maybe the only reason we even feel this way is because God felt it first. Maybe the push and the urgency within us isn’t just about a sinking ship, but it’s our spirits feeling a deep wind of change. A kingdom that has come and is coming into fullness. A world that’s beyond even the concept of Utopia or “heaven” and is more real the the turmoil we wake up and face everyday.

Maybe our spirits are intuiting birth, newness, life, …and yet it feels like its just beyond us. But how could it be beyond us, if our spirits already feel it? Already thirst for it? And already pushing to come forth into this life?

I get this sense of we are creating our own hell, because we don’t understand how to make heaven. We are actively involved the destruction of something beautiful, because we want it to unfold in our timing. Our curiosity needs fed, and it won’t wait in line. If there’s something great to be found from the hand of God, let us have it now! …Or so we often feel this way. Many people feel similar. Many are willing to takeover and show God how it’s done.

But Jesus faced the same thing in his day. This isn’t new.

The words he spoke aren’t irrelevant or old or un-relatable. They may even be the sharpest light into our own times.

The more the media kindles the fire and promotes fear, the more absurd things become. The more extreme “good people” start to think. The more we create our own hell within the distractions that pull us way from what are spirits are saying. “This isn’t truth. This isn’t right. There has to be something better.” And that would be the most correct thing that could be said.

There something better. There is a culture that brings us into fullness. There is a Promised One who brings justice, who rewards the hard-worker, who empowers the forgotten & oppressed people, who sets the world in way that allows fullness, purpose, order, fulfillment can easily flow.

There is that Promised One, a Messiah who brings the restoration of all things. One who doesn’t have a particular bent of a particular cause, but has in mind the way to bring all things into the beauty of what they were created to be from the beginning.

We are not too far gone. We not even as far as we imagine. God isn’t unaware or inactive. Instead, I purpose that there is a fighting, a pressure, a contending because there is something new, beautiful, and fulfilling taking place, even at this time. Our spirits feel it. How we respond is up to us. But there’s only one Messiah who can bring us into the restoration of all things. There’s only one “peace on Earth” that is truly peace for all mankind. There’s only one Promised One who truly knows and understands justice. We must be careful, not to pick an idol.

The world, our spirits, and heaven itself awaits those who will hear the call and respond to a gracious, humble Messiah. Not that we may have riches and wealth for ourselves, but that we may be servants who bring the restoration of all things. Who bring children to the maturity of becoming heirs of the Father. Who brings servants up into being wise & faithful stewards. Who can see hurt and know it’s birth pangs of something beautiful coming forth, and who can midwife that birth in its proper time. Therein bringing mother, child, and even the father into joy and fullness.

We are the people of God, through Christ Jesus, and we believe the Holy Spirit testifies to Yeshua HaMashiach bring us into the restoration of all things.
(Yeshua HaMashiach is the Hebrew name of Christ Jesus. The one and the same.)

Matthew 20:20-23

There’s something I love about “the Sons of Thunder”. In the Bible, around Matthew 20:20-23  these two men/disciples come before Jesus asking for one of the highest honors they could possibly fathom.
Now most of modern day Christianity would consider them selfish jerks for doing that, but what I love about it…they were totally sold on whatever Jesus was doing. They were in for the long haul -whatever that would look like- and they wanted to be two of the biggest supporters Jesus would ever have. Okay so maybe it sounds a little selfish. But it also sounds completely dedicated.

So Jesus asks these two brothers, do you really think you follow me down this path?
And they both wholeheartedly agree that this is exactly what they mean to do.
I imagine at this point Jesus might have let off a little chuckle. He could see their dedication, and he could understand how innocent they were to the things that were coming. Jesus was able to look into their hearts, past these words and outward brashness, and see that they really did mean to follow him committedly to the end.

While they might have had some trip-ups along they way these brothers became renown for their lives as disciples. As a matter of fact, out of the twelve apostles James was the first one to be martyred and John was the was one. I’ve often wondered if that’s just what Jesus meant when he answered them, “You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with

Although they may have not reached the highest honors in the way they conceptualized, I imagined they reached higher honors than they hadn’t previously imagined in their younger years.

I suppose this is one of the things that God does for us. Although our ideas of glory maybe over-simplified, God often sees and understands our hearts, and as long as our hearts remain willing, God helps leads in a way that does bring a true honor or a true glory. Better than we’d previously dreamed.

 

Incomplete

When my life is over I’m going to leave some things undone. It’s not because of my amazingly over-ambitious and lack-of-totally-follow-through that my personality tends towards. It’s because I’m part of a great legacy that includes that next generation of seekers.

The Saints. The ones spoken of in Hebrew chapter of 11 of the Bible, is one of the most challenging things for me to read, but then to top it off, they add these phrases:

All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, …
Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised,  since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.

For a long time it killed me this idea of that they did not receive that which they were promised.  I mean…that just doesn’t sound like how a good God works, right? Isn’t too much of modern Christianity about receiving some benefit or promise of some kind right? Heaven, ruling & reigning with Jesus, health & power, get of hell free card, direct line with God’s answering prayers service, or something…right?
So how would it possible for the great forefather of Faith to not receive and yet we should still believe God that he will give to us what’s promised? How does that even work?

Well, maybe our biggest problem is seeing ourselves so very independently.

There was an old preacher man how use to remind people, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age” but then he added “But it takes a ‘we’ who wrestle.”

In our faith, we are connected to much more than ourselves. Having faith is more than having something to believe in and then cliches, catch-words, and/or doctrinal stances to back it up. Being a part of a Faith is to live in an ancient city that is eternally young and to find our citizenship to be part of many millions and billions of people who live according to a God-honoring culture. A people who pass on what they’ve had, so that those who come next will do better, be stronger, receive the lessons and build on them, and at the same time continue with the original plan.

Being a part of Faith is like living in a coral reef. the complexity and beauty comes from the compiling of lives into one place, one time, one great benefit… a healthy ecosystem.

Our own personal imperfection or lack, only goes to give others a chance to hook-in and connect, like a puzzle piece, and begin to build in the areas where we can’t reach. And it’s beautiful. We shouldn’t be afraid of a deficiency  we have as an individual when we are willing to be one part of the whole. But that’s the trick part right? Since we individually have these deficiencies, then we are shy or embarrassed to connect with what might seem to us more perfect specimens. Or maybe we’re reserved about connecting with those who expose a particular flaw or weakness.

Or maybe we’ve had the crazy idea put into our head of how we (individually) are to become perfect, and therein did not see it as a “we” being the same “we” who wrestle. We don’t tend to see our faith as continuum of a Faith that has been going on and coming into the crux for some time now. Instead we find ourselves to be a modern rendition of something that once was, but has long since been made into moral stories.

We do not understand the value of what we’ve inherited.

But it’s not too late for us, by any means. We can begin to learn -even now- of what great treasures we have come into when we find our imperfect selves connecting to one another and to these old stories with new life still flowing out of them.

Moreover, we don’t have to worry about being a thousand percent correct in all thing just so that we can participate without injuring the beautiful name and legacy. We need to understand how our worth comes from connectivity. This something worth exploring. It’s worth learning together.

Fools On Display

“Sometimes I think God has put us apostles at the very end of the line, like prisoners soon to be killed, put on display at the end of a victor’s parade, to be stared at by men and angels alike.”
– St Paul

Strangely, I get the impression this isn’t one of the first five things anyone thinks of when they think of the Christian Life or walking by faith. …and I wonder what it’s like to be that person who walks along without this weight. I wonder what it’s like to think of Christianity in terms of things done in or pertaining to a “church” building.
I imagine it’s terrible and boring.

1st Corinthians chapter 4 is very powerful in a humbling way. It’s like reading a story of how my ancestors got to America and got established into our modest life. It’s a reminder that we aren’t just trusting God for our day to day life, but we’re part of something greater. It’s a reminder that it isn’t just about what’s happening now, but our “now” is part of greater chorus which has been sung out in faith. We join those who have believed before us. We join those who believe now, and we join those who struggle to believe but keeping living for one more day, searching for truth…if there be any left in this world.

This is a challenge. This is a weight.

Later on, in 2nd Corinthians, Paul uses the phrase “eternal weight of glory”. A small phrase that has baffled many. What could it mean?
I think it means, when we get connected into the roots of our faith, and into the forefathers of faith, and we start wanting to be a part of their faith, knowing their God, and living that faith…then we’ve connected to something that eternal. Something that’s glorious. And there’s a weight to it all. “the eternal weight of glory”

When we think of the long lineage of history that has processed our stories and brought message of a living God down throughout history, we look small. Yet…in our “now” state of being, we feel so worthless, so insignificant, and sometimes so forgotten by God.  We feel like God puts us on display in the worst way. We feel foolish. We like stoning up our hearts, instead of opening them up. We feel like we have no faith at all. We feel insane. …but we keep going.

There is no alternative.  There is no following the system into a happily-ever-after. There is no daydreaming and one day  it’ll come true. …not without an attempt. Not without skidding through some failure, bristling through some doubt, drowning in stares of people who “admire” your “cute faith” but they sure don’t want to be you or live their own faith in the same “admirable” way.

Yet not everyone can.
Someone has to be at the base. Someone has to discover that old path that now seems overgrown and hidden. If it ever was here, then it’s still here. But my God, it isn’t easy to find, and to keep, and follow. …Yet if that’s all we had to do, it’d be easier than this. Yet we know, behind us will come those who are looking for this same path, and we need to put signs out for them. We need to clear some of the brush. But we need to make sure, it is the right path at the same time.

To say it’s hard is an inadequate understatement.

We are on display, and this display makes us seem like fools. We know. Yet we must. It’s not just for our sake anymore. When we enter into an ancient and eternal faith, then we become part of legacy. One that must be preserved. One that must be given to the next generation. And I just don’t have the faith to believe that our “church” systems are going to be the ones to pass on a living faith with a Living God, where even the words of God are still alive to us today.

To be eternal means there is no “Old Testament” God vs “New Testament” happy-go-lucky Jesus. Just one triune God working throughout all of history. Including now.

There is an eternal weight of glory, and it’s exactly what Jesus was talking about when he said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light”. We preserve, because if we quit, we will never know what the saints of ol’ saw. We’ll never know why the cloud of witness is cheering us on. We preserve because there’s other children coming after us, and if we were kicked out of the church for seeking deeper truth in our perilous times, then what will happen to them?

This is why we are part of a faith that is on display before men and angels. Because God has a plan. …and that’s something that I want to be part of.  So here’s to one more try…

Faceless in a Selfie World

Sometimes when I scroll through my more recent pictures to see what I’ve essential recorded in history. Sometime while I’m looking I think to myself: where am I?  I’m just like everybody else in this modern age, I’ll take a photo of myself (now called selfies, used be called polaroids -just saying-), because I want be recorded, remember, or sometimes…just seen.

Pictures are amazing; photography (believe or not) is still an art. A beautiful, expressive art. I don’t just want my face or a place where I was recorded. I want some sort of beauty, isolation, joy, jest, contentment, some amount of invisibility recorded. I want someone to know what it’s like to be me. …but not so much for my own sake, anymore. But because I understand my life is so similar to so many.

If I feel this way, then I am not alone.

Sometimes I do feel like a picture is a way to relate. It’s not just about me, where I’ve been, or something incredible. Selfies aren’t always about vanity, peer pressure, or feeding the social media machine, but sometimes they can still capture something more. Sometimes they capture a light, or a missing light, within someone’s eyes. Sometimes the person is saying “I’m strong and confident” but I can see the loneliness of wanting to be seen, or wanting to be treasured, or wanting to share this life with other loved ones, or missing the actual nearness.

Our whole lives we create memories. Only a few are captured by pictures. Social media has allowed us to project an image of ourselves. Photo editors have allowed us to remold that image of ourselves. Likes, hearts, comments, and shares have allowed us to assume some companionship in a single moment that we didn’t actually share with all who participate in the this post-moment posting & commentation.

It’s like we can still attempt communal. Even when communal is just as lonely as it has always been …on our own.

In my own collection of pictures, I see that I get lost. I see once in a while my husband likes to tease me with a photo he snaps where I’m glaring or being goofy. …Then he post it for the rest of the world. I can’t convince him that no one else in the world thinks that I’m cute or beautiful in the way that he sees me. It’s unfathomable to him. Yet the when my face receives significantly less “likes” then a sunset picture or a goofy joke, what is one to think, but that I must be right? That I am more faded in the world of our “friends”.

Yet even with this… my pictures make me wonder how much am I participating in life? Or how much am I just a side observer myself?

In our modern age, we can connect to people miles away, but we can’t always stay connected to those who are geographically close to us. Old friends who aren’t social media savvy can fade, and new friends who socially stalk in-friendly-terms can seem better antiquated than what’s truthfully there. Yet it’s not just social media.

I can spend multiple days a week at my parents house, and barely know more than seeing my brother a few times a month or my other brother a few times a year. I can live an hour away from friends, and not see them for years, but make a special effort to see friends who live multiple hours away from us.

Community doesn’t just happen. We choose it. Capturing moments in life isn’t just the luck of being there, it’s being aware of the moment your in already. Cherishing what’s already in front of us.
Memories are made all the time, but we don’t always put them to mind. I am always here, but I can still feel as if I don’t exist without some acknowledgement of my existence.

Can I deal with less selfies, so that I can take more pictures of sunsets, long drives, quirkiness of nature, and a moment I lived but yet it didn’t involve me?  Can I deal with people saying “wow” “That’s beautiful” “awesome”  to those moments, when those same people don’t say “I miss you” “you’re beautiful” “I love my friend”?

It’s not a modern problem. It’s only a more instant problem in our modern age.

I think I can do this. I think I can acknowledge that I am here, even if I am unseen. I think I stand, even if it’s awkwardly, in a room in a moment in the isolation of the crowd. I think I can make through this day whether or not anyone else cares that I am here. I think that okay for today.
I’m not going to think about if I’ll have strength for silence tomorrow. Just today.  And if I need cheap friendship, I can always repost a meme.

But I want to be strong even if the world is silent towards me. Maybe just today…I can. This will be a memory: I made it.

Are You Afraid of the Silent God?

Maybe the coolest thing about going headlong into the traditions of Christianity, based on the Biblical definitions of Christianity, is finding a God that’s actually daring enough that it’s scary.

It’s great to find a relateable God, and the warmth of the closeness of the Holy Spirit. It’s encouraging to have Jesus as the Good Shepherd. But sometimes… God’s silent. …and it’s weird.

It’s challenging to spend years (or even months) building a relationship with God, and then all of a sudden, just when you feel like you’ve taken a big step of faith, God is silent.

Questions come and go. Advice from well-meaning people comes flowing in like a raging flood, and yet your heart says no to all of it. Suddenly these friends become your enemies because you don’t take their counsel. Suddenly you realize your in the midst of the wilderness, where all the great saints of the past, have traveled, stayed, sought, ran, and generally spent some harsh days & nights therein. You’re in God’s country…. and God is silent. It’s heart-wrenching.

Just like the book of Job, when we go through hard times, people have too much advice and too little listen. Just like the book of Job when we petition a silent God, nothing but the voice of God himself will satisfy.

Here’s the problem: When God is silent, you can’t just skip to the happy ending. When God is silent, my life sits in silence. I am not involved in a type of spirituality that comes with a fast forward button. I endure every last moment which I live. I have skipped none of them. I remember them; I feel them. I am not nothing.

Silence happens. …and it’s weird. But it’s not ugly.

Silence is painful. It can be agitating. We live in culture that everyone rolls their eyes at the phrase “silent treatment”. This is not a relaxing spa day, but a use of manipulation. Silence is known to us as bad in our culture. But it certainly doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Even a long silence doesn’t have to be a bad thing, cause by negative reactions.

Certainly if we’ve spent days and months, and maybe even years into building a relationship with God, then suddenly we discover a time of silence, hopefully we’ve built a solid foundation in our relationship with God.  Because it will be tested.
There has to be a faithful God with a plan for more than our lives, but for all things. Otherwise… it’s all vanity, and the silence will break you.

Silence is like being lite on fire…
You want it to stop as soon as possible.
It’s uncomfortable to say the least. It doesn’t feel right. It’s scary. It feels like death. But we are surviving. We are growing stronger. We are losing things that we never need to be growing on our souls in the first place. We are transforming, on a good day. On a bad day, we want to quit, to leave, to give up, and to tell God that he’s not listening. Ironic, right? Tell God he’s not listening? But this is the reality of the unrecorded moments.

There is an agony to be wrestled, and not merely vanquished. Silence is the arena for such  an agony. If we skip it to get to the happy ending, to sing our happy songs, to say only good things about a faithful God, then we lose possibilities of being effectual in our generation, as all the saint of ol’ were in their generations.

We’ve never had to deal with anything quite so profound as silence. It is a discipline. It’s an endurance. It’s worth it. It’s hard, but it’s worth it.

Silence has a lot to say.
There are lessons to be learned that are not easy. Lessons that are not in cute $20 book at the Christian book stores. Lessons that come from living a life, and trying it out for yourself …once in a while.

It’s interesting that as my husband & I considered our faith, and considered that saints of old, we thought: why not?
I am a big believer in learning from other people’s mistakes and life-lessons, but when it came to the saints, I found that what I learned is I need to do this too.

I found that believing in God had little do with what Christianity (as a modern day system) promotes, and actually had a lot more to do with things that are record in the Bible. Things that people say aren’t possible anymore. Things that were so 5,000 years ago. I found those things to be the most lively and livable things about Christianity, or any connection with God. Because God honors his people for what they do, what they live, and what that shapes them into.

We are not a people who are solely about doing or solely about being. We are a people who believe you must have faith and you must do works. A lack of one only shows both as dead.
It’s not a demand, it the fluency of life.

The crazy thing that happened then, was that we found ourselves in the middle of the stories that all the saints have lived through. And guess what? There’s is no fast forward. There’s a lot of time and life that happens between one sentence and the next. Between one paragraph and the next. If our lives were recorded as movies, there would be a lot that wouldn’t make the cut, because it’s just day in & day out life.
But when you’re living it, yourself, it makes a difference. Everyday is a choice. Everyday could be pivotal. Everyday may be an endurance. And you feel every last one of them. They are important to you, and therefore they are important. period.

This isn’t a story in a book. This is real life. Silence is not only heard, it’s felt, and we do not make light of that. We do not brush it aside for a glorious “someday” we live through it because there are lessons to be learned here. There is life to be lived, and felt, and challenged here.

When God is silent, I can’t break that. I can’t move. I refuse to exit that silence. I won’t pray my way out. If God is silent, then I sit with God in silence.

If I believe in God, then I must also know the Silent God. I must know if this is real, what’s it mean, and how do I endure. Because my life isn’t just about me, but so many people have come across this Silent God, and have been told to “pray it away”, to ignore everything that’s happening for a someday that’s worth paying attention too.
But these don’t sound like the word of Jesus. They only sound like well-meaning friends, who are actually giving bad advice.

I need to know the Silent God. I want to approach him. I want to be able to sit with a Silent God. I want to know what happens with a Silent God. And I want to know him without fear. The Christian life isn’t actually about comfort and happily ever afters, those are only tiny pieces and a great big story. A story I want to fully live.

Can it be done?