Easter Finery: Iconic or Idolatrous?

Discerning between icons and idols in everyday life...

When I was a young teenager my mother would not let me wear a black party dress.  She told me that it was “too mature” for me.  She said it sent the “wrong message” to the young men.  And yet a century earlier a young girl dressed in black sent the “right message” – the message that she was a conservative girl of good morals.  So was black a symbol of good or bad?

First, it is important to think about what black is. Black is a color. It is also an image – today it can convey sophistication (the little black dress), mourning (black funeral clothes), or even counter culture (Gothic black).

Images are all around us.  An image is a likeness or representation of something –a person, an action, a product, or an idea.  Many images are innocuous and are quite helpful. Think of Apple, Nike swish, heart, thumbs up, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.

But some images are idols – a false replacement for truth or a replacement for the true God. By contrast, an image can also be an icon – a window through which we see truth and/or God.  Contemplating the difference between idols and icons can be helpful as we strive to teach and display truth in our lives. So how do we do this?

Rewind to the Easter celebrations of my childhood.

My mother taught me how to celebrate the joy of Easter with a new beautiful dress.  In fact I wore all new clothing from new underclothes, to the new dress, to new shoes, and a hat and gloves.  She explained that because Jesus rose from the dead He made all things new.  I knew we were celebrating the new life that Jesus won for us when He conquered death. I knew that He had made all things new, and that I was representing that on Easter Morning.  This tradition continued with my children, and they are doing the same with their children.


Years later, in Of Penguins and Golden Calves, Madeleine L’Engle wrote that she would not dress her girls in new Easter clothes because she thought these clothes were idolatry.  She thought that the clothing usurped the preeminence that the resurrection of Christ was to have on that day.

I was stunned when I read this. I had never considered that Easter clothing could be idolatry; And this thought from an author who is known as a liberal and unorthodox Christian.  What could have caused her to make this extreme statement? In order to understand one must consider the context of Madeleine’s life.  She and her husband were raising their children in New York City in the late 40’s and the 50’s.  Their community was theater people and entertainers.  In her day, and in her localized culture, Easter clothing might have been an idol…. a distraction from the truth of the resurrection, a time to show off your fashion sensibility. Consider the film Easter Parade made in 1948.  It is Christ-less, but fashion-filled. By opting out of the fashion show, L’Engle stood out in her culture the way someone who does not celebrate Halloween does in my local culture.

Discerning Icon from Idol

How should we respond to this idea of eschewing Easter finery?  With quaint disdain for Ms. L’Engle?

We need to evaluate the Easter images in our life. Is this image an icon? Is it a window through which we see truth?  Or is it an idol – something that obscures truth or our love for God? This evaluation must take into consideration our time and our local culture. While it might not be wrong inherently, like new clothing, we must still consider if it obscures truth in our day, in our culture, with our family and community.

We also must evaluate what saints have done in the past; what was an icon for one generation can become an idol for the next generation. When the people of Israel grumbled against Moses, fiery serpents appeared and bit the grumblers so that many of them died. When the people repented, the Lord directed Moses to make a bronze serpent, set it on the pole, and walk through the assembly lifting the icon high. If anyone would look to the bronze serpent he would live. (Numbers 21:4-9) This was a beautiful icon foreshadowing what was to come. This was a window to the truth of Jesus’ coming.  The Father made Jesus to be sin who knew who sin (2Cor. 5:21) and this was represented in the Serpent (a sign of evil and sin) and it was made of bronze – a symbol of judgement.  And all who looks to the Son and believes will be saved. (John 6:40) During the time of Hezekiah the people of Israel had found the bronze serpent and rather than seeing it as an icon, they made offerings to it. They made this amazing icon an idol.  Hezekiah was commended by the Lord because he broke the idol into pieces. (2 Kings 18:4)

Finally, we should be ready to gently explain why a particular image is either an icon or an idol in our lives and in our time but not assume our conclusion applies to everyone else. All the while we must let the Lord deal with other people’s evaluations and decisions. Each generation needs to consider this for their generation, for their children, and for their own self. How do we celebrate and live life in such a way to provide windows to truth, and not obscure truth?

And as we meet people who are abstaining from an idol in their lives, we should not judge them, or patronize them by condescendingly calling them “weaker” brothers.  They may be weak, or they may be more sensitive, or they may be more perceptive.  We do not ridicule or deride them.  We consider their analysis, and we look to ourselves and our family. We turn from the idols that are drawing us away from the Lord. We keep the icons that draw us close to truth, and to the maker of Truth.

Why play is so powerful: Easter edition

Reading and playtime.  They are two powerful forces that shape our minds and tug at our hearts. Read great books to your kids and you ignite the imagination. Encourage play and you take that imagination to a whole new level that cements learning into long-term memory.
When it comes to the Easter season, I love encouraging both.  It is a season when we pause and reflect.  It is a season when we pull out those magical picture books that will invoke powerful emotions and memories for the rest of their lives.  It is a season when we slow life down and carve out time and opportunity to play.
This year, we’ve added new inspiration.  I discovered this lego-like set depicting the Last Supper about this time last year. But we were in the throes of packing up a home and moving across the country.  So I dropped it into my Amazon wishlist and waited patiently until this year.  We surprised the kids a few weeks ago and it’s been a huge hit.
After lunch dishes were washed, we gathered at the couch to read one of my childhood favorites on the Last Supper, The Bread and the Wine, and then embarked on the building…  It gave us a chance to talk about some of the details of this account.  It prompted the boys to try and figure out which minifig represented each disciple.  I’ve caught them quizzing each other as they play.  Learning to name each of the 12 disciples of Jesus was not on my radar for things they would learn from this toy…  Once again, I’m amazed by the power of play and the bunny trails it leads us down.
Play and learning about Easter week...
In the quiet moments when boys are playing outside, I’ve caught Greta studying the scene too and shared it over on Instagram.  Her pace is a little slower as this is new information for her.  And this is why this little scene will grace our side table for the next couple of weeks.
Seeing… imagining… embracing…
The power of play on full display.
And yes, we give this new toy, two thumbs up!  It will be cherished each year when we pull it out, play, and remember…
More Easter related posts:
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Reading… Good for the Mind and our Mood + a coupon code for you!

 Filippo's Dome"Busy hands make for focused minds" <- An important key to growing read-aloud time!

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Anyone else out there ever have crazy, chaotic seasons in life? I’m in the midst of one right now. There is so much going on, in so many different fronts. It’s been keeping me on my knees in prayer as I work to prioritize…

One part of our daily routine that has been so wonderful has been our read-aloud time. The time we invest in this tends to wax and wane, but of late, I’ve found myself thinking again of the many benefits and looking for ways to get it into our lives more and more. Although my kids are still pretty young, I’m seeing the sweet rewards of the hours we’ve spent reading together.  It’s powerful!  And one of the benefits that I’ve noticed in recent weeks is how it helps bring a sense of calm to our home – both in me and the kids.  Yes, we need to be making this a priority!

This week, we are reading Filippo’s Dome. It was recommended in our KONOS book for this unit on Church Architecture and I’m so glad that I plunked down the money to buy a used copy of this out-of-print book. It is excellent – both engaging and incredibly educational.  It’s so good that when my mom offered to read from the book while I ran out for a doctor’s appt this morning, I told her that I didn’t want to miss out on any of it…

I’m a firm believer in the concept that “busy hands make for focused minds” and the medium that my boys chose for this week were our cuisenaire rods. With our focus on architecture, they couldn’t have made a more perfect choice.   I know they will pull them out again tomorrow when we finish the book.

A Sense of the Resurrection ebook - perfect devotional toolOh and before I sign off, I wanted to let you know that the Sense of the Resurrection ebook that I told you about a few weeks ago is 20% off this week only (thru Friday) if you use the coupon code “OhEaster”.  If you are still wanting to do something special with your kids to help prepare hearts and minds to focus on Christ’s death and resurrection, be sure to snag a copy!

How We Do School with the Flu

The Robe - A Vintage Classic and perfect to watch this Easter with its themes of forgiveness and the power of the Cross to change people!

Well, flu might be an overstatement, but last week all was plugging along nicely…  I was even outside running around with the kids as they recreated Sparks-a-Rama in the backyard.  We stopped to run to the store for dinner ingredients.  When we returned, the customary hurry-and-clean-up-before-daddy-gets-home commenced.  Except that a certain 6 year old suddenly feigned feeling ill.  You know, that kind of wailing whine like he’s dying that just so happens to coincide with chore-time.   I wasn’t buying it.  After he kept sobbing and sticking to his story, I sent him to bed.  If he didn’t want to clean up, than he must be feeling ill enough to go to bed.  Lo and behold, I found him there a while later fast asleep.  An hour later, he came out to tell me that his tummy hurt and that he thought he might…  I cut him off and tried to frantically shoe him off in the direction of the bathroom.  He diverted, to my horror, into my bedroom where he promptly baptized the carpet.

Needless to say, I had to call my friend and cancel co-op that I was supposed to host the following morning.

I spent the weekend on the couch and started feeling better last night only to realize that we were starting our new unit on church architecture today and I hadn’t gotten around to lesson planning or requesting books.  As I lay on the couch flipping through my KONOS book, I saw that we were supposed to talk about the catacombs the next day and instantly, I remembered a childhood favorite movie of mine, The Robe.  Of course, being from a family of 3 girls, we loved watching the beautiful Jean Simmons.  But I also remember loving all of the themes that the movie uncovered.  So I dragged myself over to the computer and requested my books for the new unit as well as this movie.

The timing couldn’t have been more perfect.  After working through the basics this morning, we ran to the library and picked this baby up.  Once I put Greta down for a nap, I plopped the boys down where we did a recap of what we had already learned about and set the stage for what would come next.  Movies provide such a wonderful time to talk about historic truth and artistic licence.

Have any of you seen The Robe?  Any other old movie buff’s out there?  Or better yet, have you read the the book? {Of course, it is even better than the movie.  And that’s just my faint recollections from when my mom read it aloud to us one year.}  Well, the story is about a Roman Tribune who is assigned a tour of duty in Palestine.  This just so happens to coincide with timing of the ministry of Jesus.  Marcelus, the tribune, ends up being assigned to oversee the crucifixion of Jesus.  He ends up winning “The Robe” in the casting of lots and is haunted by the memory of what happened there.  I don’t want to give away too much, but the movie also talks about the beginnings of the Christian church.  It is by no means a true story, nor is everything portrayed in the movie historically accurate, but it prompted a lot of great discussion and was a jumping off point to talking about the early church.  Plus, it gave them some idea of the catacombs which was my round-about tie in to our lessons.  See, educational.  Right?

I couldn’t help but think that it was also a great movie to watch as we turn our focus to the events surrounding the death and resurrection of Jesus and the effect that has had on people.  Here are a few reasons why we loved the movie and think it’s a perfect one to watch this time of year!

The Robe – What We Liked About It

  • The glimpses of Biblical scenes – the triumphal entry, Pilot washing his hands, Jesus carrying the cross to Golgotha, the casting of lots, Judas after the betrayal.  I paused it and asked the boys if they could tell what was happening!  This is only an indirect reference to the resurrection, but it is in the context of the new believers and fledgling church.
  • Inspiring look at the lives of the first believers – wow.  I never cease to be amazed at how simple the Gospel is and how radically it changes people.
  • Master-slave, king-subject themes – we had a frank discussion of slavery, we discussed Demitrius’ conversion and his reference to his “new” Master.  There was also the exploration of the King/Kingdom differences between earthly realms and God’s heavenly realm.
  • The power of FORGIVENESS – This is the perfect time to explore with your kids the power of forgiveness as this movie portrays the fact that Jesus would even forgive those who had crucified him.
  • Miracles and what they look like – I love how it touched on the miraculous healing miracles that Jesus performed, but gave even more importance to the healing of the heart!
  • Themes of courage, conviction and bravery – The boys loved these aspects of it.
  • A beautiful love story – ok, my boys weren’t into this, but I’m female, so naturally, I was.   It depicted love and loyalty in the midst of trial.
  • Persecution – An opportunity to discuss how there was persecution in the early church and how that persecution of Christians continues to this day.  Would we be willing to lay down our lives to stand strong for Jesus?
  • Catacombs – The whole reason we watched it now was the scenes towards the end depicting Roman Christians hiding out in the catacombs.  From what I’ve read, there seems to be disagreement on whether or not this is simply legend or grounded in reality.  The Christian community in Rome wasn’t utilizing catacombs until a little bit later and there isn’t record (as far as I’ve read) of Emperor Caligula persecuting Christians.  I don’t think that started until the time of Emperor Nero.  But still was interesting and grabbed their interest so we can discuss these nuances in greater detail.
  • Classic Epic – From the grand music to the beautiful sets and costumes.  It is a feast for the eyes and ears!

Anyways, it’s good.  I highly recommend seeing if your library has it or watching it on Amazon or Netflix.  I’m thinking about maybe making this a Christmas gift for the kids this next year!

So, I found this old trailer for you all!

12 Simple Activities to Lead Your Kids to Jesus This #Easter! #SenseOfTheResurrection

And since we were on the subject of catacombs, I just have to add how frustrated I am with the internet…  So much conflicting information.  But I did find a few resources that I read over and will share with the boys in the morning, provided kids are feeling better. Because as I started writing this another son succumbed to this nasty bug.  Looks like I could be in for a long night… {edited to add: It was a LONG night.}  Two great articles here and here.  A YouTube video on what the catacombs teach us about early Christians and another brief look at the catacombs.

I also didn’t get things pulled together to start A Sense of the Resurrection yet.  So we’ll be starting that this week too!   I’m so very excited for this, as I mentioned before.  Do you all have any plans for turning your focus to Jesus and the events that led up to his death and resurrection that we’ll be celebrating next month?  If you are still looking for something, why don’t you join us in doing this devotional experience together?

Cultivating a Sense of the Resurrection

A wonderful resource for families to experience and talk about the death and resurrection of Jesus. #Easter

COUPON CODECultivate” can be used to get the book 20% off.  Good through April 4th!

Celebration of the Resurrection has been one of my favorite times of year since I was a child.  I’ve talked about it before in sharing how to make it a big deal for young children…  There is simply no way to completely unpack all of the amazing facets that played into God’s redemption plan.  Each year, I look to both incorporate some fun, long-held traditions as we ponder this central event in human history as well as add something new.

This year, we’ll be delving into OhAmanda’s freshly released ebook, A Sense of the Resurrection.  I mentioned it yesterday on Facebook, but wanted to read through it before I officially shared it here.  I have to say that I am delighted at this unique approach to drawing our children into thinking about the death of Christ and celebrating in the glory of his resurrection!

What age is A Sense of the Resurrection geared towards?

I think it would work best for kids between 4-10.  Younger or older siblings will still love it however.

Here are a few reasons why I’m so excited about this new resource!

  • Sensory Rich: Children learn through engaging their senses.  This book masterfully engages each of the 5 senses as it draws our family into a growing understanding of and relationship with Jesus!
  • Bible-centered.  The ebook is your resource.  The family text: the Bible!  She provides Scripture references to read for each of the 12 activities.
  • Provides context and talking points.  So often, parents don’t know where to start with having a conversation about what we read with the Bible and how to unpack these truths with our children.  This book provides that!
  • Only 12 Lessons.  Yes, this is a positive.  The truth surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection are deep and worthy of pondering.  This is not the time to jam pack schedules with lots of art projects.  I plan on starting next week and doing 2 a week so we have time to ponder and savor how God is speaking to us and what we are learning about His great sacrifice.
  • A Mix of Craft and Activity – Amanda refers to these as building memorials and making memories.  It is a wonderful blend of both which mixes things up.  Surprisingly, I’m not a big arts and craft kind of person.  I’ve blogged about many of our projects in the past, but that is not a daily norm around here.  We do love simple activities that draw us into meaningful conversation.  This beautiful ebook does just that!

She provides a sneak peek at one of the lessons here.  Each lesson consists of the following sections:

Read it together

Do it together/Make it together (depending on if it is an activity or a craft)

Talk about it together

Do more together (there is an option to make a printable flag banner with a symbol for each lesson)

If you are looking for something new to do with your kids this year, you can’t go wrong with A Sense of the Resurrection.

I pray you have a wonderful season of contemplating the death and resurrection of Jesus and draw your children into the wonder of it all too!

Easter Ideas for Young ChildrenTop 10 Easter Books

My Top 10 “Must Own” Easter Books!

10 "must-own" books for a Christ-Centered Easter

With Easter quickly approaching, I want to share my top 10 Easter books as well as a few recent flops...

In looking for Easter books (or any book for that matter), I look for ones that are well-written, beautifully illustrated, and give a clear message that supports what I want to communicate with my children.  Oftentimes, finding this combination can be a challenge.

I think it is especially powerful to read a variety of books from different angles in the weeks leading up to Easter.  It helps build anticipation and gets the kids thinking about it.

My Top Ten


On That Easter Morning1. On That Easter Morning ~ Stunning and uniquely illustrated, this book takes the reader through the events of Holy Week from Palm Sunday to the Resurrection. I just love how it ends:

“Jesus was alive again; not a king in this world, but the king of heaven. The dark power of death was defeated. God’s own love lit the world on that Easter morning.”

The Easter Story: According To The Gospels of Matthew, Luke and John from the King James Bible2. The Easter Story by Gennady Spirin ~ I love Gennady Spirin’s illustrations. His The Christmas Story is so lusciously illustrated, that I checked out ALL of his books from the library.

This one is beautiful in a symbolic way. Christ is always the focal point of each picture and depicted as the light coming to a world darkened by sin. The symbolism will probably be lost on the little one’s, but very enjoyable for you and also your kids when they are a bit older.  For any of you that have studied art, you’ll appreciate the detail and symbolism in this wonderful book.

3. The Easter Story by Brian Wildsmith ~ Brian Wildsmith is another favorite illustrator of mine.  While the last book I described used dark and light in the illustrations to contrast how Jesus came as the light of the world, Brian Wildsmith paints a more luscious portrait.  I love how they play out when read during the same season.  One is nitty-gritty realism {not violent, but rather showing the depravity of mankind by creating a dark, somber tone to the illustrations} and the other fills you with the beauty and wonder of the glorious rescue.

The Easter Cave4. The Easter Cave ~ This is a perfect book for the both the preschool crowd and everyone else for that matter.  It is told in the format of “The House That Jack Built.” We love the repetition and rhyming. Even the 5-year-old, who has difficulty memorizing things, starts reciting portions of books written in this engaging style.  Those that have immersed themselves in the details by reading other books will especially enjoy this.
5. Grandfather’s Story ~ This was a favorite in my home growing up and I’m thrilled to own a copy now.  We read this last night to the kids at our small group.  I cried once again.  The story sweeps you up in the emotions that must have been felt by those that loved Jesus when He died and then the elation when they discovered that He was alive!   I’m a huge advocate of never leaving Jesus dead on the cross when explaining Easter to young children.  This book beautifully captures the sorrow and pain, but then immediately transfers to the glorious news! For a while, I wasn’t finding used copies online, but I’m overjoyed to discover that I clearly wasn’t searching for it right on Amazon.  There are ELEVEN used copies available for a penny!  What a steal.
I just love how the book ends:

“He’s alive! He’s alive! He’s alive in the Spring!

All glory to Jesus, our Savior and King!”

6. The Wine and the Bread ~ This is a delightful fictional tale about a boy who lived in the home where the Last Supper was held.  We see the events of the Last Supper unfold from this young boys perspective.  It is a great introduction to why we take communion and the connection between the old and new covenant.  This is another out-of-print book, but I just checked Amazon and there are FIVE copies going for a penny right now!
The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale

7. The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale ~ This beautiful tale is perfect any time of year, but we especially enjoy reading it at Easter and Christmas. It ties both in beautifully!  The boys squeeled with excitement when I pulled it out last week.  I’m moved and inspired – not only for the connection to the birth and death of Christ, but also because it illustrates an important truth that while God gives us dreams, how they play out might look different than we expect.

Easter Eggs for Anya: A Ukrainian Celebration of New Life in Christ (Traditions of Faith from Around the World)8. Easter Eggs for Anya: A Ukrainian Celebration of New Life in Christ ~ I love how this beautiful story depicts this girls simple, honest faith in Jesus. I probably am most drawn to it personally because the girl in the story has a special “praying place” where she goes to talk to God. It brought back wonderful memories of a couple of my “praying places” that I had growing up. My favorite was up on our roof, leaning against the chimney. (Shhhhhhhhhhh. Don’t tell my mom or my kids for that matter – yikes…)  I love stories of ‘everyday faith’ because they inspire us to pursue that too.  When my niece read this book a few years ago, she quickly decided that she needed a ‘praying place’.  Isn’t it sweet to see young hearts pursuing God?  Isn’t it powerful to see how the books we choose can have a positive impact?

The Legend of the Easter Egg

9. The Legend of the Easter Egg ~ We discovered this one at the local library a few years ago.  Our oldest was mesmerized with the story of this little boy. I think we read it at least a dozen times that first week.  My amazing mother-in-law sent us a copy for our permanent collection and we couldn’t be happier.

10. Petook is an AMAZING book.  Beautifully written, beautifully illustrated. Have you read any of Tomie dePaola’s booksClown of God, The Art Lesson and The Baby Sister are some of our favorites.   This whimsical fable’s rich words are masterfully woven to draw you into a beautiful tale.  I was just telling a friend tonight that I don’t generally like Easter or Christmas books that anthropomorphize animals.  But in the case of this book, I make an exception.  You’ll need to look carefully to find a good deal on this book since it is out of print and in high demand.  I had to laugh when I saw that you could purchase a brand new copy for only $899.95.  I guess that puts the $35/used price in perspective.  If you find this at a thrift store, snag it.  If you don’t like it, you know you can always make a killing selling it online.
A Sense of the Resurrection: Perfect #Easter experience for families!


One of the most frustrating thing about children’s books is the huge disparity in quality.  My mom ordered a few books recently and we were pretty disappointed with them.

The Donkey and the King ~ Although beautifully illustrated {yes, I’m a sucker for great illustrations}, this story rambles – horribly, the point is too obtuse and the resurrection is sort of thrown into the end of the story almost as if a little ‘Jesus’ makes everything better.  It was random and seemed a bit trite.  We were disappointed, especially knowing the author’s reputation.

The Parable of the Lily ~ Overly saccharine, no clear story about Easter/ the cross/resurrection, corny art work – a triple blow.

The Story of the Easter Robin ~ I liked the art work, but didn’t care for the graphic picture of Jesus’ crown of thorns and then only a very small mention of resurrection.

Do you have any favorite Easter books? 

In your opinion, what makes a ‘good book?’

For my thoughts on how to make the most of Easter with our children, check out my post on Easter Ideas for Little One’s.

You can also check out my Easter Pinterest board!

A Forest Walk

Through a cacti forest that is…

The desert lured us out.  It is in full bloom – greener, with tiny splashes of color.  We ran, poked the dirt, inspected scat, played in dry washes and admired God’s creation.  Greta managed to sleep through it all securely snuggled up to me.

This was a particularly windy day. It was fascinating to walk past soaring saguaro’s and see them sway as the wind whistled past.  It was the most beautiful sound.  I’ve noticed the wind in the tree’s when we escape up north to the pine country.  But I’ve failed to notice the sound of wind whipping past a statuesque saguaro.

It is so nice to slow down and use our senses to take in everything.

As little fingers gently touched these thorns thoughts turned towards the crown of thorns placed on Jesus’ head.  Oh what He went through for us…

Spring makes many antsy to get outside. For some it is because they have been home bound because of the cold. For us it is the knowledge of impending heat that limits our summer outdoor hours…

Have you had any outdoor adventures this week?

Living the Story

Yesterday we had a fabulous day with friends learning and experiencing the joys of the Easter account! Seeing little one’s comprehend great truths is so precious. I am delighted to also see that teaching these truths is getting easier as they get older! There is a huge difference between two year olds and four year olds…
We started out our morning with a book. The kids loved putting up felt symbols as the account progressed! Their excitement was contagious!
And it only escalated into joyful shouts when they were told that they could dress up and act out the Resurrection scene!
:Heart Melting:
Two angels, three weeping women, two soldiers and an earthquake maker told us the story again, again and again! It’s amazing what a few simple Bible costumes and a bunch of playsilks can do!

The kids concluded their portion of the morning with a ridiculously easy Easter craft. We simply put down making tape on watercolor paper in the form of a cross and let the kids water color all over.

Once dry, you gently pull the tape up and you have the crisp outline of the cross.

Lastly, as the children played – in costume, Noel brought Resurrection Eggs so that our families could continue to explain what Easter is really about.
I’m so glad that we are not left to parent by ourselves. Having community is so helpful and encouraging!