by Jen Hatmaker on May 4th, 2017

Once upon a time, a girl ate whatever she wanted and quit exercising and treated her body like a dumpster fire and then she couldn't fit into any of her pants. The chubby girl cried. Also all her joints cried.

The end. 

I can't possibly imagine what is wrong with a steady diet of goat cheese enhanced dishes, chips and salsa, pizza, and Almond Joy coffee creamer, but somehow it all turned me into an achy, squishy lady with fingers that wouldn't bend in the mornings. With a near constant rotation of friends, dinner parties, events, and celebrations, my world had too much joy in it for sensible ideas. Like my friend Shonna says, "Our lives are too fun to be skinny." You are correct, ma'am. 

But after a lovely round of GOUT (what am I, a 78-year-old man?) following chronic inflammation, fairly unattractive bloating (BRANDON IS A LUCKY GUY - eyes up here, bro), and basically my entire body turning to pudge, I figured it was time to act like an adult and get serious. It occurred to me that a 42-year-old body gets pretty sick to bloody death of being treated like a 16-year-old body, so it throws in the towel and stages a mutiny. My body was having none of this. It was so angry at the bad choices my mouth was making. 

So I asked the internet what to do, and it gave me Whole30

For the uninitiated: W30 means no gluten, grains, dairy, sugar, legumes, or alcohol. ALSO, no processed food, fake healthy food, soy anything, or basic joy. Essentially, look at everything in your pantry: it is all dead to you. Half your fridge: bye, Felicia. Restaurants: fix it, Jesus.

Me at restaurants this month: "Can you tell me what the chicken is cooked in? Is there sugar in the dressing? Can you leave off the cheese/bread/breading/peanuts/sauce? Can I get that on the side? Can you make that dry? Will you tell me all the ingredients in that soup? Can you just put a plain piece of fish on the plate and bring it to me?"

Waiter: "I hate this job."

Anyway, I did it, y'all. I did the thing. I did the W30 and didn't cheat except for one time I accidentally ate chorizo that had sugar in it but I didn't know that until my sis-in-law told me the next day, so it doesn't count as a cheat if I DIDN'T MEAN TO. Trust me, if I wanted to cheat this month, it sure as crap wouldn't have been on chorizo. I would have gone face down in a trough of chips and queso with a wine chaser. 

I promised you at the beginning of this I wouldn't over-exaggerate the effects of W30 ("I lost my left arm and Whole30 grew it back in eight days!"), because none of us have time for the online evangelists. I can't handle someone who has been a vegetarian for four days telling me how their hair is already growing back from its red-meat-related atrophy. Stop it. You ate a cheeseburger 92 hours ago. 

So in full truth, here were the benefits of W30 for this lazy, undisciplined girl: 

1. Halfway through, my inflammation was for real better. Before, I looked like the Snow White witch every morning with my gnarled fingers, but I could bend them like Beckham at about the 14 day mark. My knuckles were less swollen and I fit back into some rings. Basically, my fingers went on a diet and now they work. 

2. I slept better. I have no idea why, but I did. I also slept more simply because some nights I was so bored and couldn't have any snacks (don't come at me with your snap peas) and didn't want to drink ANOTHER SIP OF HOT TEA and I didn't know how else to pass the time so I just went to bed. 

3. I lost 12 pounds. I know, I know: "It's not a weight loss program." Well, I lost 12 pounds, jokers. It's like unloading a very oversized baby. Thus, back into a few pairs of jeans that I had simply asked too much of 12 pounds ago. They were like, HELP US HELP YOU. PUT DOWN THE HOAGIE. WE'VE DONE ALL WE CAN DO HERE. YOU NEED A NEW CONTAINMENT STRATEGY. 

4. My favorite benefit sounds pretty woowoo, but it was simply a lifting of brain fog. I know I sound like one of the online evangelists here, but I really did think better. I DID. Maybe it is that I could think longer - I normally kiss mental acuity goodbye around 1:00pm. I just lose steam and get mentally garbled; it's hard to hang onto ideas and wrangle them into submission. But I looked at my brain this month and said, "Hello, thoughts. How nice to see you again. Look at all these lovely thoughts you're thinking!" It was probably a function of digesting 8937 pounds of coconut oil, notorious brain food, but my head is operating better and longer.

5. Actually maybe this is the best benefit: the emotional victory of making a healthy decision based on self-discipline and seeing it through. At the onset, I looked at my calendar and thought: There is no way I can pull this off. Too many events, too many social things, too many guests coming over, Easter, Savor Food and Wine Festival, two weekends of out-of-town company, Supper Club, work travel. BUT I DID IT. Like a real life adult. It is possible. (My best hacks and tips are here.) After such a run of unchecked indulgence, showing restraint for 30 straight days felt like an enormous accomplishment. I'm not doomed! I'm not a lost cause! I'm not stuck in bad habits after all! The discipline spilled over into some other areas too, because while I was getting my crap together, I figured I might as well spread it around. 

Like I told you here and here, I for sure had some rough days, but here is some good news: Nobody can actually make you eat or drink anything you don't want to. No one asks you to leave their dinner party if you don't eat the French bread. No one quits talking to you if you are drinking club soda instead of a cocktail. I made my own choices everywhere I went and even as I was hosting, and exactly no one died. 

Furthermore, I didn't miss out on hardly anything, or the best parts of it all at any rate. Still got the great conversation, amazing company, beautiful gatherings, all the fun. Still had the people, the experiences, the celebrations, and the connections. Also, I still ate food. So yay! And the food was good, even if I ended up making whackadoo stuff like cashew creme over squash "pasta." The worst thing is that I was annoying and people had to endure my abuse of the word "compliant" which is W30 vernacular guaranteed to make us all outcasts. 

W30 Happy Hour. This is water. LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL. 

​​Maybe this will tell you the best truth: I feel so good and have conquered so much of the mental challenge of W30, I am mostly going to still do it. My goal is maybe 80%. Because listen, I can't worry too much about a smidge of sugar in my ketchup. LET ME LIVE, HUMAN BEINGS. I'm not saying I plan to Cookie Monster a pile of cupcakes, but if my chipotle aioli has some soybean oil in it, I don't even care because I'm a good person and Jesus loves me. 

Finally, I will tell you this: my greatest lament during W30 was coffee. I know: bulletproof coffee and the nutpods and the ghee and the blender and I KNOW, PURISTS. I did that shiz. And then everyone was like, you won't like your old creamer when you go back to it because it will taste like a highchair tray. 

So on W31, I put my Almond Joy creamer into my coffee and I will tell you exactly what it tasted like: 

Unabridged joy and fulfilled dreams. 

80%, suckers. I'LL SPEND MY OTHER 20% HOWEVER I WANT. 

by Jen Hatmaker on April 14th, 2017

I spent a bit of time yesterday reading pieces I’ve written on Good Friday for the last several years. They all have a different tone, a different perspective, a different sense of the day Jesus saved the world. 

This year is different yet again. If you’ll permit me grace to speak absolutely plainly, I'll tell you a bit of how loss and grief and rejection will pulverize your heart and deliver you to Good Friday in pretty bad shape, or in any case, in the throes of recovery. 

Good Friday is about death - even a necessary death - and that makes more sense to me now than maybe ever. It speaks of a dark day and broken hearts, unmet expectations, mob mentality turned brutal. When I consider that day now, in 2017, it all feels insane, blood-thirsty, the punitive result of being on the wrong side of religion. Of course, it was all planned, all intentional; Jesus was out to rescue us. We have the luxury of knowledge; we know about Sunday. We are living in the post-Sunday story, God’s grace to us.

But I get the death part this year, the Good Friday part. All the memes and quips and quotes floating around the internet are falling on a numb heart. This year, I deeply experienced being on the wrong side of religion, and it was soul-crushing. I suffered the rejection, the fury, the distancing, the punishment, and sometimes worst of all, the silence. I experienced betrayal from people I thought loved us. I felt the cold winds of disapproval and the devastating sting of gossip. I received mocking group texts about me, accidentally sent to me; “Oh, we were just laughing WITH you!” they said upon discovery, an empty, fake, cowardly response. It was a tsunami of terror. One hundred things died. Some of them are still dead. Some are struggling for life but I don’t know if they will make it. 

I told you I’d speak plainly.

This year I became painfully aware of the machine, the Christian Machine. I saw with clear eyes the systems and alliances and coded language and brand protection that poison the simple, beautiful body of Christ. I saw how it all works, not as an insider where I’ve enjoyed protection and favor for two decades, but from the outside where I was no longer welcome. The burn of mob mentality scorched my heart into ashes, and it is still struggling to function, no matter how darling and funny I ever appear; the internet makes that charade easy. 

I went to the water as the tsunami crested, and my friend Trina drove out uninvited so I wouldn't be alone. She took this picture and said: "I want you to remember how you felt on this day." I cannot even look at it without sobbing. 

Simultaneously, other things died during the election season. Much ink has been spilled here and I won’t belabor the point, but I know I'm not the only one holding a pile of tattered threads in her hands, wondering what on earth just happened to our supposed holy common ground. The Christian Machine malfunctioned, and we are all still staring at each other, trying our damnedest to figure out how we understand the gospel so differently, unsure if we will ever find our way back to each other. The Christian community has been maligned, mocked, dragged, and dissected publicly, our civil war evident to a watching world. We are a meme. It is truly awful. 

My mind knows the difference between the Christian Machine and Jesus, but this year it feels hard to separate. The whole system seems poisoned, and I struggle to drink any of it. Even as I recognize my cynicism throwing a wet blanket over the credible, sincere declarations of others, I can’t quite stop it. It’s all falling on damaged ears. Every bit of it feels manufactured, brand-building, pretty words that failed me, didn’t show up, joined the chorus that broke my family’s heart. This is plainly unfair, but here I am. 

I think about Good Friday, and somehow I am comforted; typically this day is full of grief for me as a believer living in grace and privilege, unaccustomed to the sting of death and thus struggling to identify with Jesus on his darkest day. Usually, His pain pierces me because I live in such abundance, and the contrast shocks me silent. How could I have this much life when Jesus had to experience that much death? 

But this year, it all makes sense: the death, the anger, the man who never took his place in the machine. This day was lonely for Jesus. It was excruciating, physically and emotionally and spiritually. His people left him, even turned on him. God Himself hid his eyes. The sky went dark and life was extinguished. It was all so sad, so dead, so not yet resurrected. This was a day of tears and shock and loss and fear. It was a day of the cross, not the empty tomb. 

Today, everything falls away and there is only Jesus for me. In His presence, my numb, angry heart gives way and I sob without end. But only with Him. Elsewhere, I have to be careful because I can never be as vulnerable as I was ever again. Everyone else at arm’s length. I’ll be friendly with folks but never again tender. You'll get the strong, varnished version of me but I'll not make the mistake of handing you my true heart. I actually told another person: “I wish you didn’t know as much as you know about me. I wish I could take that knowledge out of your head. I have to trust you with it, and I don’t now.” This is all a clear lie, somewhere between stages two and four of grief, but I'm still in recovery, not through it; I ask your grace. 

I’ve obviously not said any of this to you, dear ones. I like you to see the strong, varnished version as well; it’s better for the brand, I’m told. But I’m tired of being a brand, because it is exhausting and, as it turns out, it tells people I am not a human being who bleeds out. Say anything! Make assumptions! Write a scathing narrative of her faith and faithfulness! After all, she is just a brand. I obviously don’t want you to know how much that stole from me; what I don’t want is more vulnerability right now. But Good Friday compels me to tell the truth about death. Just for a moment, the truth. 

Some of you are simply enduring Good Friday so you can celebrate the victory of Sunday, where your heart lives, and I am so glad for you. I am. That was me last year. Seasons of wholeness and optimism and gratitude are so dear. Cherish it, if that is where you are today. Cherish the abundance of life after the tomb. 

But for those of you hunkered down on Good Friday, identifying with the loss of this day in agonizing ways, ways that you did not want to understand the cross, I am your sister this year. When too many things still feel dead and resurrection feels as unlikely and impossible as it must have on this day all those years ago, I can’t help but believe Jesus has his eye on us specifically. Who can better understand the cross than the man who chose it? Who better to hold us close in our loneliness than the man who was left to suffer all alone? Nobody, not one human being on this earth understands a dark Friday more than Jesus, well before anyone thought to put a “Good” in front of it. 

I believe in the resurrection, so I know it will come. It always does. God wrangles victory out of actual, physical death. The cross taught us that. You can’t have anything more dead than a three-day old dead body, and yet we serve a risen Savior. New life is always possible evidently, well past the moment it makes sense to still hope for it. The empty tomb taught us that. I have enough faith to live a Friday and Saturday existence right now without fear that Sunday won’t come. It will come. I am nearly certain the way it will look will surprise me; I’m watching for the angel on the tombstone. 

by Jen Hatmaker on July 14th, 2016

"OKAY LADIES, NOW LET'S GET IN FORMATON, CAUSE I SLAY..."
 
"I dream it..."

 
"I work hard..."

 
"I grind till I own it..."

 
"Cause I slay."

 
SLAY ALL DAY. The Ethiopian women above all started their own businesses in Wolaita Sodo this year: a courtyard restaurant, a neighborhood market, a hair salon, a wholesale injera company. These are some things they told us about their lives last year:

"I was caring for my aging parents alone, and we were desperate." ~Estaganet

"My children ate either once a day or none." ~Chaltu

"I had no way to make a living after my husband died." ~Beletech

"I couldn't get work after my husband left me, so I was a daily laborer at constructions sites hauling rocks." ~Genet


There was more, plenty of tragedy and loss and violence. These women and their families have known sorrow, that is for sure. But the short version of their incredible rise is this:

They were all identified as candidates for the Help One Now Family Empowerment Program which they enrolled in around six months back, and every single one is not only financially independent but solidly thriving in the Ethiopian middle class after struggling to feed their children just half a year ago. They have employees, store fronts, vendors, clients, accounting books, equipment, and importantly, honor. Chaltu told us: "People who hated me are now my friends and customers." BOOM.

Let me tell you what the women already had in spades:

Intelligence.
Creativity.
Work ethic.
Experience.
Dedication.
Resourcefulness.

Here is what the Help One Now Family Empowerment Program added:

Business training.
Accounting instruction.
Skills and assets assessment.
In-kind funding.
Materials and equipment.
Marketing.

Together, magic! Magic, I tell you! Each business was tailored to their individual skill set, location, viability, and interests, and they developed a sustainable business plan. After receiving training, business mentoring, and start up funding, they launched.

And they are slaying, y'all.

I told the team while listening to them discuss their stories: "They don't wear any of their sorrow." I'm serious. Having endured what they've endured, I would expect a darkness about them, or at least a dimmed light. But NAH.
 

The program is one year long. It costs $1000 to send one woman all the way through. That includes all start-up money plus the training, professional development, equipment, and marketing. There is no other way to say this:

It is life changing.

This is not aid, not relief, not a handout. It is not a short-term gap stop. It does not create dependency nor rob women of their dignity. It is an entrepreneurial program that sends capable, smart women into enterprise without debt. It is for Ethiopians, by Ethiopians. We just get to provide the seed money. They graduate from the program financially solvent, never to return to poverty.

And of course, it is orphan prevention as these women can fully provide for their children and their families stay intact. I feel so incredibly tender here, because had this program existed sooner for my favorite Ethiopian Mama, my adopted son would have an entirely different story. It is not right that loving, committed moms have to relinquish their children because of poverty. It's not right. When all they lack is opportunity?? It's not right. (After finding her, we sent Ben's mom, Sentayu, through the program, and she now owns her own tea and coffee shop and has rebuilt her entire life. I am so proud of her but grieve her losses in a way that I can't express. Our reunion with her last week was impossibly sacred.)

All but one of the women we met were single moms except Chaltu whose husband is blind. So don't forget who else the Family Empowerment Program serves:
JD and Aschalew bought lollipops and Cokes from Chaltu's neighborhood market,
passed them out to every kid, raced them,
then sent them home hopped up on sugar and adrenaline.
WE ARE SORRY, MAMAS.

 
It's this simple: we want to send 300 new women through the program. If you specialize in math, that amounts to 300K. Think of any vulnerable community. Now imagine that THREE HUNDRED OF ITS COMMUNITY MEMBERS started successful small businesses, emerged from poverty, and began contributing to the local economy.

This doesn't just change individual families; it literally changes the entire community.

THIS IS AN INVESTMENT, not a handout. We have the chance to provide the capital for a slew of motivated, savvy entrepreneurs. They are required to set aside a percentage of their earnings each month, and once they've saved enough to repay their loan...they find out it is a grant and get to reinvest it back into their businesses. (This made me do a Happy Clap.)

Listen, if anyone EVER invested in you - parents, grandparents, aunts, teachers - if you got to go to college or trade school or learn a craft, if anyone ever loaned you start up money or gave you a big break, a second chance, if anyone ever helped you in any way get to where you are now, then you've been exactly where these women are. A small amount becomes a huge tipping point, and their lives will never be the same.

None of us can provide the full 300K, but WHO CAN'T CHIP IN $25? $50? More? Together, we can certainly raise that amount. CERTAINLY. Do not despise the small gift; a bunch of small gifts turns into 300K in a hot minute. (Of course, we don't despise big gifts either!) (*twirls mustache and laughs*) But because we believe in this program so intensely, we want to sweeten the pot for you: You get a bunch of cool, free stuff for joining in. Cause you are the best tribe that ever lived. You really are.

You can donate and find out about your swag here.

When we were leaving Beletech's hair salon, she hollered out: "I AM MY OWN BOSS!!"

CAUSE SHE SLAYS.

Okay ladies, now let's get in formation. Let's show up for our sisters.
 

by Jen Hatmaker on February 1st, 2016

It's February, which means Valentine's Day is on its way to make some of us feel awesome, some of us feel disappointed, and some of us feel left out. Yay, Invented Holidays!
 
The internet gave me this, and it has made me laugh for two days.

Anyhow, I couldn't quit thinking about reclaiming V-Day so that everyone wins. I was having a little prayer time with God trying to figure out what I could do to love my people on a day meant for love, and honest to goodness, just like He asked Moses, I had a little soul nudge:

"What do you have in your hand?"

Hmmm. What do I already have? What is in front of me? What do we have together? What am I already holding that might be put to good love use?

Well, I have a book I wrote actually called For the Love, for crying out loud. It is for women, about women, because of women, to empower women, to encourage women, and even to entertain women. I wrote it for the love of God and women.

And we have a big, generous tribe that loves each other well.

So here is what we are going to do:

Hundreds of you have written to me saying how much you would love a copy of For the Love, but you just can't afford it right now. Let me tell you something: NO ONE understands a tight budget more than I do. I am so serious. There were years Brandon and I could barely pay our bills, much less spend money on something as luxurious as a book. (I remember one afternoon when I was holding a newborn and a toddler and had a preschooler hanging on my leg, and Brandon handed me a $20 and said, "This needs to feed us for a week." I sat on the kitchen floor and cried for an hour.)

Maybe that is you.

Or perhaps you know someone who would love a copy but can't afford it. Or won't spend the money on herself. Or doesn't have anyone who will spend it on her. Someone who is precious and deserves to be loved on Valentine's Day but won't have any flowers or beautiful love letters coming her way.

So, today we are opening up a Share the Love site where you can do one of two things:

1. Request a FREE COPY of For the Love. Because you are awesome and I want you to have it.

2. Nominate someone to receive a FREE COPY of For the Love. Because you are awesome and love people well.


 

We are going to take requests and nominations until this Friday, February 5th.

AT THAT POINT, we will open up a second site for donors and purchasers to send books to all these dear ones, because the one thing I know about our tribe is that we love well. I think we can do this. I think together we can fulfill all the book requests that come in. I believe that we can generously love each other, even with something as simple as a book meant to nurture souls. (Book Givers, it will be a $15 flat fee which includes shipping.) Maybe this is the year you need to request a book, and maybe next year you'll be a book giver. We all take turns needing each other and loving each other.

I have no idea how many requests and nominations we will get. Like, NO IDEA. But I believe in us! I think we can pull it off! Would you join this little V-Day Lovefest with me? Donors can jump in February 5-9, then all books will be shipped on the 10th to land in everyone's mailbox by Valentine's Day!! Isn't that so fun?? (Donors will have the option to include a personal note, so you can love another gal with your words too!)

ALL THE FEELS.

So. The site is now open! Request a book or nominate someone to receive a book HERE. (If you are nominating someone, you will need their address, so do a little recon to get their details!)

Then watch for my word Friday...I'll let you know how many requests we received which means it is time for the rest of us to get busy!

We are SHARING THE LOVE with each other this year!

(This Love Campaign is only valid for residents of the U.S. and Canada, because SHIPPING ISSUES. I'm so sorry, International Friends!)


by Jen Hatmaker on November 23rd, 2015

Speaking on the Women of Faith LOVED Tour this fall has been one of the great privileges and joys of my whole life. Everyone who knows me has listened to me blather ON AND ON about the team, the experience, the legacy, and the delight. It is so real. These women have changed me and loved me and shown me what it looks like to serve with the same team across the nation, over and over.

As a writer who speaks (not a speaker who writes), traveling and conferences and stages and teaching has always been a labor - a labor of love to be sure - but a labor. I am not intrinsically geared for it and have to work super, duper hard to be even remotely competent. (This is not a fish for a compliment so don't give one. It is a fact that speaking is hard for me and I am not naturally gifted at it and it requires ten times the work that writing does.)

But then...this:
Luci Swindoll is my spirit animal.
She is exactly twice my age and I am OBSESSED with her.

I can't explain it exactly, but working with these amazing women who have served God and women so faithfully for so long and yet manage to do this without a sense of striving or competition or pressure, and in fact have the most fun I've ever actually seen on the road, well, I'm changed.

I've basically cried my eyes out the last two events because our tour is coming to an end.

But it is with the greatest, most sincere thrill I get to finally tell you about what's next:

For a whole year, we have been dreaming and building and praying and scheming on how to build on the very best of 20 years of Women of Faith and pay it forward into the next generation. How can we take all the love, all the transparency, all the laughter, all the power, all the story-telling, all the community and build something new, worthy of the legacy?

I am THRILLED to tell you about the Belong Tour coming Fall 2016! Same leadership team, same parent company, same beautiful desire to love God and women in our generation. I am joined by literally some of the best people I know:

Shauna Niequist
Sarah Jakes Roberts
Nichole Nordeman

And because GOD LOVES US, Patsy Clairmont has agreed to join the new tour with us, and for this, I could weep hot salty tears of gratitude. I love her so desperately and I am telling you: She is the very best kind of mentor. She loves our generation and has so much to invest, and we are basically the luckiest girls on earth.

YOU GUYS. This team is coming all over the United States next fall! We've been listening so intently to what you care about:
  • FAITH: how to deepen it, find it, hold on to it, nurture it, use it, express it, grow it. Amen and amen. Let it be said of our generation that we loved Jesus. We are deep diving into faith together, and no matter where you start on that spectrum, you are so welcome.

  • RELATIONSHIPS: how to care for them, heal them, invest in them, own them, expand them, honor God in them, strengthen them. Marriage, parenting, church, neighboring, loving this world - we care so much. Every bit of this will be covered in Belong.

  • PURPOSE AND PASSION: how to discover it, grow it, prioritize it, use it, thrive in it, offer it, develop it, share it. Oh man. You are singing our song. We believe so deeply in women and how God has gifted us and we are here to love and serve this world together.
And listen, there is a REASON we are calling the tour Belong. Because you do. Your friends do. Your neighbors do. Your colleagues do. Your churchy church friends do. Your totally not churchy church friends do. We are setting a big table, girls. Come to us. We love you. We love your people. You can trust us with the fragile hearts you love. You can trust us with your daughters and sisters. This is not a gathering of "insiders" where language and assumptions automatically exclude people outside of faith or church. NOPE.

You can come to us confused or mad, passionate or on fire, disassociated and ambivalent, scared or burned. We will hold your stories with tender hands. We are for you. (And wait until you hear OUR stories. Oh my word. Sarah once rammed a woman's car in her SUV, but I've already said too much.) All I'm saying is that we are regular women who've struggled and tried to love God in the midst of life, which we KNOW can be very, very hard.

NOW. Here is the deal. The Belong Tour gets blasted out to the world this Friday, but we only have 12 dates and when the seats are gone, they're gone. I want you to come. I so want you to come.

You can use my code here (JEN20) and get $20 off select tickets through this Thursday! Plus, every person who’s already bought a ticket or purchases tickets through 12/18/15 (including groups) will receive a FREE BELONG Tour T-shirt:

So basically, use THIS LINK (code: JEN20) by Thursday, get $20 off your ticket, get a free t-shirt, and YOU'RE IN! Yall, I am so serious: invite your friends, invite your neighbors, invite your church, invite your mom and sister and best friend and daughter. Ask for a ticket for Christmas! Give a ticket for Christmas!

This is big.
 
Bigger than any one of us. Because it’s not about one of us; it’s about all of us. When we gather, connect, and share, something happens. We change. We grow. We don’t just create an event, but a community.
 
We care deeply, right? For our people. For our communities. For our world. We want hearty exchanges with the people we love and safe places to fall. We want to unpeel the layers and offer the best of ourselves.  Our best is rarely perfect, but that’s BEYOND OK. We’ll take real over perfect any day. And real happens here.
 
Faith moves us. We’ve encountered it, wrestled with it, and embraced it. (Repeatedly.) We have learned what it means to experience God’s love in a real way and renewed our belief in each other (and ourselves).
 
When we look at you, we see untapped power that can change the world. There’s passion there, and fire, even if it’s just a spark. Let’s fan that flame and make things happen. We can do this. You are not alone.
 
We’ve readied a place for you to come in, to share and to heal and to dance . . .
 
To BELONG.
 







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