Another Esther: Lydia Lee

Meet Lydia Lee, the first “Another Esther” in my new series on people – men, women, children – who step out boldly in their faith for such a time as this.

picture from guest post by Lydia at Emily Wierenga's blog<br />http://www.emilywierenga.com/2013/03/a-dare-to-love-yourself-11-year-old.html

Lydia Lee

Eleven year old Iowa-farm-living-and-God-loving Lydia Lee blogs at “Out of the Ordinary”  and kindly agreed to answer my questions about her bold walk with Christ. So I pray you welcome her, as our first in the series, “Another Esther.”

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We Are The Esthers: Who has been your biggest influence to your faith journey? What is the best thing he or she has done to you?

Lydia: God is definitely my biggest influence to my faith journey, but aside from him, I would say my family is the biggest. They have always supported my ideas and dreams of things I could do to help others, and therefore help God. They never turn these ideas and dreams down. They brought our family to Haiti in January, and that was when God became REAL to me. My family has always encouraged me during my faith journey. If I ever have doubts or worries, they help me to overcome these things.

WATE:  Your blog is called “Out of the Ordinary.” Can you tell those who don’t know what living “out of the ordinary” means? And when did you first know you were living “out of the ordinary?”

Lydia: Living “out of the ordinary” means you are living a life that is.. well, out of the ordinary. You are living a “not-so-average-life”. It means you are living a life for God, following His will for you. He wants us to love the least of these, wherever that may be. I have always wanted to live an Out of the Ordinary life, but I think in early 2010, when an earthquake struck Haiti, I really wanted to do something. One night in Haiti, my mom and I were sitting on a step at the house, throwing stones into the ocean, and I said to her, “I don’t want to live an average life.” And that was when I decided that I wanted to live an Out of the Ordinary life.

WATE: What has been one of your biggest challenges in living a life for Christ? What have you most enjoyed?

Lydia: Sometimes living a life for Christ is hard because most of my friends haven’t seen what I’ve seen during my trip to Haiti. Some of them aren’t as close to God as I am. Don’t get me wrong; I love my friends, but sometimes they just don’t understand. I love living a life for Christ because I grow closer to him doing it. Because of Jesus, I get the chance to touch other people’s lives. And I believe that living a life for Christ is what we were put on this Earth to do.

WATE: Many adults and even children might say that you are mature beyond your years. Can you speak to that? I feel that has something to do with your own calling for “a time such as this.”

Lydia: Sometimes, my writing makes me sound mature. My mom’s friend Sandy calls me an “old soul.” But I’m still a kid. I shove too many Oreos into my mouth. I fight with my sister over the iPad. Stuff like that. But I know God can use anyone, even a child at “times such as this.” I think it’s amazing that God put me on this earth for a “time such as this” because he knows what I am going to do through him, and he has plans for me. And for you.

WATE: Finally, I know firsthand that many children, teenagers, and even adults, feel intimidated about being bold in their faith, like Esther was, like you are. Are there any words you could give those who yearn to step out in faith and “be an Esther” but are too afraid or intimidated to try?

Lydia: If you feel too intimidated to step out in faith, ask yourself this: What is the worst thing that could happen? I’ve stepped out in my faith by starting a blog that I wasn’t sure about at first. But now I’m really glad I did it. If you do step out in your faith, I guarantee that you won’t regret it!

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It is no coincidence that one of Miss Lydia Lee’s favorite books in the Bible is that of Esther.

Lydia is, as you can see, “Another Esther” boldly stepping out in faith.

We find ourselves called upon by God to shine Christ’s light in the darkest of places. As someone who has followed Lydia’s journey to and from Haiti and watched her heart blossom for Jesus, it is clear that this is no ordinary girl. She is rising up to the call to share the love of Christ.

And I can think of no better person to start out our “Another Esther” series than an 11 year old girl proving that you can never be too young (or too old) to love and serve God boldly and with all of your heart.

I pray you’ve been blessed by Lydia’s sharing and will visit her blog “Out of the Ordinary” (link in title as well as on my sidebar).

Blessings to you this day.

On knees, head low, arms high…

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If you walk boldly in your faith and would like to share your story in this series, please feel free to contact me via email at:

Esther_FourFourteen@yahoo.com

 

* picture of Lydia Lee taken from her guest post on Emily Wierenga’s blog: http://www.emilywierenga.com/2013/03/a-dare-to-love-yourself-11-year-old.html

Good Dog: Date Night

GlitterToes with hot dog

One of the best antidotes to a crabby day is to ask your kid out on a date.

GlitterToes and I try to have a date once every month or every couple of months. This past Friday night, we went to a hot dog place (with ice cream, of course) and then to WalMart to look for “the perfect” swimsuit for her.

Where I said no to the bikini and had to explain what “modesty” means.  As well as age-appropriate clothing.

We had the most fun not when spending money on dinner or figuring out which swim suit would look best. The best times came in the car, when she started doing this weird helium-like voice I’ve never heard her do. And we played the spontaneously-made-up Opposite Game where we said the opposite of what we meant. That was a fun, mind-bending game which left us with aches in our sides from so much laughing. And racing down the escalators – that was fun you could not plan or write on a to-do list.

Sometimes the best thing you can do for your kids is to spend time with them.

Though toys and clothes and fun food are all great to a child, whether they know it or not, they just yearn for YOU. 

Their tummy may tell them they are hungry for ice cream, but their hunger pangs are for you.

Their eyes might light up at seeing the newest Transformer, but their eyes will beam when you look at them and smile.

As my date and I talked about my buying her new running shoes, I realized that we had spent a lot of money that night. I pulled her aside and began to explain to her how I wanted her to know that date night didn’t have to be spent going to fun places and to restaurants…

and this was the one time I didn’t mind her interrupting me. She said:

“yeah, date night could be us sitting on my bed in my room and hanging out and stuff.”

Sometimes it’s best to be quiet and let your child teach you.

fry and crush

We had a great time that night. It stormed heavy and I drove with hands clenched around the steering wheel while she chattered on in the back. We got home and went to bed happy and tired.

The next day the whole family was crabby and the two siblings bickered like crazy. It was not a good day and not a Good Dog day.

But date night was a Good Dog kind of day.

So I learn, once again, that when we fall we must get right back up and open our hearts and ears to what God has to teach us.

As well as the children.

On knees, head low, arms high…

Good Dog: When Fun Scares the Pants Off You

This mama ain't scared of no fun!

Last weekend I tried something that was scary, dangerous, and risky.

I let my stepson…

make a mess

This might not be a big deal to you, but to this clenching, controlling, scared-of-anything-spontaneous mama stepping into the Orange Rhino’s example and attempting to yell less and…well, have a happier home…

this was a big deal.

While 3D Man had GlitterToes out hiking for some daddy-daughter time, I had Superboy home with me and I wondered how I was going to entertain the both of us while simultaneously not driving either of us crazy.

So I decided to plan fun. Yes, I’m so intimidated by fun that I need to plan. I have to start somewhere, right?

So I utilized an idea I found on Pinterest – putting duct tape up in a doorway criss-cross and then shooting dart gun bullets at it. Superboy loves dart guns and it’s a sport he and his dad play a lot.

Just the foam Nerf dart guns. No worries.

So I stood up on a chair and tried my best to make the duct tape sticky side face out which was a feat, in itself. My magic tape target area wasn’t as grand and magical as the Pinterest link, but fortunately, Suerpboy isn’t up on Pinterest enough to know the difference.

He was very excited, much to my delight.

Both of us aimed our Nerf dart guns and fired. We missed entirely, but it was a blast trying.

I was not afraid to have fun.

Then we moved on to my baking idea. Again, Pinterest saved me. A recipe for Oreo Goodness and we were off being dangerous again.

Crumbling cookies

I told Superboy to crunch up those Oreos into tiny pieces. I noticed that, in doing that, his fingers were getting caked with crumbs by the glue-like creme.

I chose not to panic.

lick it offI

Instead, I said the unthinkable:

Lick your fingers.”

He looked up at me as if I had said the whole newly-discovered cavern of gold and treasure could be his.

“Yes,” I said, “lick everything off your fingers off when you’re done crunching all the cookies.”

Meanwhile, I mixed together the creamy goodness part of the Oreo Goodness – a messy combination of cream cheese, butter, whip cream, and vanilla.

After I layered the two, I gave him the bowl of leftover gooey goodness. Again, he looked at me with that odd look.

Wow, I thought. Does he really not know what to do? Or is he in such shock that I want him to do it?

that bowl didn't just empty itself!

Well, Superboy went to town on that spoon. He scooped up every bit of that goodness and I believe I had to pry the spoon out of his hands when it was clear all he was swallowing was air.

The result of all that scary messiness?

A big hug before he went over to a friend’s house (and after he had washed up) and saying, his head buried in my waist,

“Thank you, that was so much fun!”

I nearly melted from the gooey goodness of that hug and comment.

So I can now say I did something that scares me.

I’m very good at being responsible and taking care of my kids’ needs – be it emotional, physical, or spiritual.

But I know fun is also a need and I was lacking in that department.

I think I did a pretty good job.

However…before you applaud endlessly, take a closer look at those pictures.

In the midst of all the messiness…I did have paper towels spread out on the table in case any crumb happened to jump out of the bowl and create a mountain of Oreo crumbs on our table or, even more devastating, trickle onto the floor to create a carpet of Oreos that would swallow us whole.

Though…that does sound kinda fun…

On knees, head low, arms high…

When Soap Operas Compete with Jesus: a Treatise on Love

“What does love look like?” is the question I’ve been pondering
“What does love look like?”
“What does love look like?” is the question I’ve been asking of You

I once believed that love was romance, just a chance
I even thought that love was for the lucky and the beautiful
I once believed that love was a momentary bliss
But love is more than this
All You ever wanted was my attention
All You ever wanted was love from me
All You ever wanted was my affections, to sit here at Your feet
Then tell me

“What does love look like?” is the question I’ve been pondering
“What does love look like?”

Then I sat down, a little frustrated and confused
If all of life comes down to love
Then love has to be more than sentiment
More than selfishness and selfish gain

And then I saw Him there, hanging on a tree, looking at me
I saw Him there, hanging on a tree, looking at me
He was looking at me, looking at Him, staring through me
I could not escape those beautiful eyes
And I began to weep and weep

He had arms wide open, a heart exposed
Arms wide open; He was bleeding, bleeding

Love’s definition, love’s definition was looking at me
Looking at Him, hanging on a tree
I began to weep and weep and weep and weep

This is how I know what love is, this is how I know what love is

And as I sat there weeping, crying
Those beautiful eyes, full of desire and love
He said to me:

“You shall love Me, You shall love Me
You shall love Me, You shall love Me”

With arms wide open, a heart exposed
With arms wide open, bleeding, sometimes bleeding

If anybody’s looking for love in all the wrong places
If you’ve been searching for love, come to Me, come to Me
Take up your cross, deny yourself
Forget your father’s house and run, run with Me
You were made for abandonment, wholeheartedness
You were made for someone greater, someone bigger, so follow Me
And You’ll come alive when you learn to die

What was or is your definition of love? Mine was defined by watching four soap operas every day between the ages of 9 and 16.

I don’t recommend that.

Not only because that much television is bad for the eyes and the brain, but for reasons far more dire than that:

because it can ruin love for a lifetime.

It almost ruined love for me.

Luckily, Jesus came and pulled me out and promised me a new life. He wasn’t going to wipe out my past transgressions, though.

I used to believe that “true love” meant having a soul mate, meant passion 24/7, meant love not accountable nor responsible.

Love was supposed to be fun and exciting all the time and did not require work.

As the song above, written by Misty Edwards, says, I thought love was for the “beautiful and the lucky.”

And Felicia and Frisco from “General Hospital” were, indeed, beautiful and lucky. Their love story spurned many daydreams about my soul mate coming to one day rescue me.

Real love is not about running off impulsively to the nearest wooded area to passionately make love. It’s not about being trapped on an island and, through a variety of coincidences too hard to believe, the man you’ve always loved hops on a boat and speeds to your rescue. Real love is not only for the externally beautiful and thin.

Though I had a fictitious and, frankly, dangerous view of love for my entire life, when I came to Jesus, I had no idea what hit me.

Such a love was unfathomable.

There I was, at my lowliest, dirty with sin and betrayal. At my complete worst. And God looked at me and saw something worth saving. He saw beauty, He saw worth. He saw the woman He created but who I had discarded long ago.

Once accepting Christ’s love in that moment of being saved, literally, I realized that God’s love is full of accountability and responsibility. I knew this would be hard for me to understand because my kind of love had neither of those things. I was impulsive and ruled by my hormones.

God taught me that His love is based on forgiveness, mercy, and grace.

I didn’t need to be anyone I wasn’t, do anything I shouldn’t. I didn’t need to dress up or dress down. I didn’t need to put make up on; on the contrary.

God wanted to make me up.

And while God prunes me, I grapple with my old view of love and how that almost destroyed my ability to love my own husband the way God calls me to.

I grapple with feelings of emptiness, worthlessness, and failure.

I grapple with hurting my husband with distance and disinterest.

I realize, though, that it is because of fear.

I thought this emptiness meant something was wrong with me. What if I was in some kind of debilitating depression? I had been before, Lord knows, so what if something was askew in my brain chemicals?

No, I know what true depression feels like. And this emptiness didn’t feel like depression. It brought on discouragement, but I was not without hope. Which meant this was not depression.

What I think is happening is God has emptied me out in order to fill me up.

I have prayed and prayed to truly understand God’s love for me. Why and how He sacrificed for me, such a horrible sinner.

Why on earth did God choose that moment in time, when I was at my worst, on the floor in tears and covered in the mud of sin; why did God choose that moment in time, after 31 years, to open my eyes?

That, in itself, is love.

And my husband was a key player to that door being opened.

Because somehow, in the midst of immense pain, he opened his heart enough to feel God’s pull, to feel God’s urging to tell me about Him.

What does love look like? Love looks like sacrifice. Not just Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross – though that is the ultimate act of love – but my own husband’s love for me despite all that I had done.

*

Today I spent the morning and early afternoon at a beautiful cafe tucked in the woods.

Cafe in the woods

I listened to Misty Edwards’ music for the first time and my heart poured open like a geyser.

I got it. I felt it. I understood how turned-around my heart has been all this time and how I need to reorient it towards Christ and fill my needs up with Christ and look to Christ for validation and acknowledgement.

And how, once filled with Christ’s love, I can better love my husband.

Because he is home, waiting. He is home, hurting, feeling my distance and pain. He feels lonely and discouraged.

And now I must dash off, leave these wooded arms, and go home to 3D Man and hold him tightly, reassure him of my love, now that I have a glimmer of what love is.

This felt like an earth-shattering day, but all I did was open my heart to feel what God had been pouring down on me since the beginning of time.

I read some books, looked at some blogs, listened to a lot of music, scribbled down a poem-of-sorts, and wrote in my journal.

But the most important thing I did was open my heart to feel God.

*

I was trapped on an island. Jesus hopped on a boat and came to my rescue. Only Jesus is my Savior. Only Jesus is my One and Only.

“And You can love me more in a moment

than other lovers could in a lifetime.”

~ Steffany Frizzell in “The More I Seek You + Spontaneous”

*

1 John 4:7-8  Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

On knees, head low, arms high…

Good Dog: When Anger Morphs

This is my second “Good Dog” post, the series where I talk about my adventures (nice use of word) trying to lower my yelling ratio. I found I was yelling at more than loving on my kids.

My ego kept making excuses: These are your stepkids. You weren’t ready for full-time motherhood; you didn’t know how to be a good motherYou were thrown into this role too fast, no wonder you’re stressed so much.

But I know Truth. I know Jesus has given me His mind and that mind does not create the thoughts I have when I get so angry that ugly spits out of my mouth. I know that I can control these negative thoughts; I can take them captive.

So no. I could not blame my yelling on my circumstances, only. I could not blame it all on the fact on my inexperience or lack of readiness.

Because I believe God never puts in a place where we won’t be ready for. We might not be ready yet…

but God turns our yet into yes.

I might not have been ready at first, but through God’s molding, God’s refining, I become ready.

I just have to accept the training God gives me. 

So there’s no blaming anymore. I was yelling because I felt out of control due to our various family stress. I was yelling out of fear, pure and simple.

I was not listening to who God says I am.

I am listening now. I join other parents who have had enough yelling and want more loving.

I’ve been journaling about my yelling and anger for a few weeks now.  I’ve tried alternatives to yelling and worked very hard. My yelling has actually decreased.

But the anger hasn’t.

So what happens when the yelling decreases but the anger still remains at the plateau?

My yelling morphed into things I, personally, think are even worse:

sarcasm, meanness, snapping, rude weariness. 

Seeing those words typed out in loud, bold print, seeing my most ugly side out there for all to see – it’s humiliating. I catch myself thinking I am the only one with this problem and I must be the worst parent in the world.

But then I read The Orange Rhino’s latest blog entry and read some of the community’s comments and I know instantly that I am no where near alone on this island of anger.

We’re all trying to find some paddles to swim to safe land. We find them differently. We even paddle differently.

So with this revelation of my yelling morphing into still-damaging coping mechanisms, I continue the uphill battle of loving my kids more.

I find myself spilling over with attitude and grumpiness, crankiness and hard snaps. Then, I feel awful and get into the horrible cycle of feeling bad about what I did and then being so stuck that I keep doing it.

How to rise out of the molasses?

One trick I did which I learned from The Orange Rhino: launch into an animal noise.

Seriously.

I cock-a-doodle-do-d my way out of my anger

I cock-a-doodle-do-d my way out of my anger

I crowed like a rooster to jar myself out of my icky-place. And, by jove, it worked!

The anger left me and I felt more able to talk appropriately.

So my yelling has decreased, but somehow my need for control has found new ways to grip life hard.

I want to stop that as well.

I will not let this biting sarcasm and sharp off-hand comments harm my kids anymore than I would let my yelling.

I cock-a-doodle-do-d my way out of yelling, I can moo myself out of snapping.

And I will.

Because I have two things, among many more, on my side – but these are the best two:

Grace from God

and

a host of animal noises to make. 

With a baah baah here and a neigh neigh there.

On knees, head low, arms high…

my stepson's school art project that he gave me

my stepson’s school art project that he gave me

Good Dog: First Good Dog Post on a Bad Day

So I’m so happy to see the response that I have received from various people about my Good Dog endeavor (if you are not yet familiar to this, please see the page titled as such on this blog over on the third tab). I was all psyched up about it and kept up on the blog-reading and self-talk and journal writing, trying to untangle the messy web of anger that resides inside me.

And then I came home from work and I just felt grumpy and resentful and I made a few parenting mistakes and I just failed. Horribly failed.

I know what you’re thinking: she’s too hard on herself.

And I say, if I’m not hard on myself, who will be?

And then I hear a whisper: why does anyone have to be hard on you?

Well, I stammer, because I can’t keep doing this. I just can’t.  I’m miserable, depressed, anxious. I come home with hands shaking because I don’t want to deal with child-confrontation.

But how messed up is that?

It hit me today, the main objective I want to get out of this Good Dog endeavor:

I want to take delight in my children

Shouldn’t that be easy?

Long story short, I made plenty of mistakes in just three short hours.

But there is a very important concept – not just a concept, but a gift, that God gives us.

And that is grace.

“I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are

and does not leave us where it found us.”

~ Anne Lamott

So…as the Bible says, His mercies are new every morning. I tell GlitterToes every night she goes to bed angry, upset, or sad: tomorrow is a new day, wiped clean.

Perhaps I ought to listen to my own words. And ponder what grace, literally, means:

unmerited favor

God bestows grace upon me because He created me. Not because I did or didn’t do something.

Grace is truly a hard thing to wrap your mind around because it is so counter-intuitive to our culture and, frankly, quite uncomfortable to truly comprehend.

Do murderers get grace? Do thieves?

Ah, the hard questions. For now, I’ll focus on us angry parents who yell too much and who want to stop the angry imprint and, instead, build up a loving child’s heart.

Love more, yell less.

I wrote a lot of observations in my “Good Dog” journal (while I put myself in a time-out in my bedroom). I won’t share them now due to the lateness of the hour, but I do hope to share some of the things I realized, such as my triggers and how I show my anger (which, to my surprise and horror, has changed somewhat recently) and what could be achieved if I did meet this goal. I will share these things in time.

So in the meantime, I wish to extend the reminder of God’s grace to each of you.

And take it in, myself.

On knees, head low, arms high…

Join me at Good Dog!

Hello new friends,

I’ve started a sub-blog, which is to say I’ve created a series that might get you angry.

It might get me angry.

It will hopefully help all of us get a little less angry.

“If you don’t learn to deal with your anger, your anger will just deal with you – angrily. “

~ me, from Good Dog! Thoughts on Intentional Peace in the Family

I never used to yell at other people. I was the type of person who internalized all of my anger. But in recent years, that anger has been spilling out into my family life and I’ve become tired of it.

The Good Dog series will tell of my exploits as I attempt this challenge of yelling less and loving more. Not becoming a doormat or a floppy noodle, but an authoritative mountain of love.

I will not be moved.

Please join me there?

On knees, head low, arms high…

Introducing a New Series: “Amazing Esthers”

Passion.

Click that link and it will take you to my first “Amazing Esther,” as I call them.

The link will take you to the blog of Lydia Lee, daughter of one of my favorite bloggers/online-sisters-in-Christ. Her blog details her love for God and serving the “least of these,” most notably, in Haiti.

Her heart for God will astound you.

GlitterToes and I love to read Lydia’s blog together and talk about her posts. What a way to show your own child how another child – another Esther – can change the world!

On knees, head low, arms high…

On Starting the Beginning in the Middle: a Welcome!

On Starting the Beginning in the Middle: a Welcome!

When I became a Christian a little over two years ago, being a writer I, of course, started a blog. That blog chronicled all my questions and ruminations about the new faith and love that God had placed on my heart.

As my faith matured so did my desire to change my blog. Thus, We Are The Esthers was born.

What does that mean? Well, many things.

My aim in this blog is to talk about how everything relates back to faith: parenting, marriage, our life’s calling, emotional well-being; every decision we make in life comes back to the faith we do or do not have in God.

I lived approximately thirty years not believing in God, being an “ignorant God-liker,” as I say. I liked the idea of God, but I never realized the commitment, accountability, and bravery it took to become a Christian. I knew what that life of “not believing” felt like and the struggles it brought me.

Now that I believe, I don’t find that my life has any less struggle, but I find a peace and comfort I could never imagine. And, yes, I do believe everything circles back to our belief – or unbelief – in God.

The Biblical heroine, Esther, was a nobody who rose to be quite a somebody.

I think God specifically chooses those types of people to glorify Him.

I believe we are all Esthers – women and men: called to rise up from our everyday ordinariness and claim who we are in Christ: someone extraordinary. Someone loved, someone cherished.

Someone Jesus Christ gave his life for. Yes, friend, He gave His life for you.

Right here. Right now. Jesus calls you to do something big.

Now before you get all nervous and intimidated, you should know that words like “big” mean something entirely different to our God. God sees you give that homeless man a bottled water and that is “big.” God sees you bandage up your child’s cut elbow and that is “big.” God sees you go to that job you need but might not love at this moment and that is “big.”

Esther probably didn’t know that she’d save the lives of an entire race.

Whether you change the life of the one child entrusted into your care or whether you work out on the missionary field and spread the Gospel to hundreds, even thousands – it’s all “big” to God.

Right here. Right now. For such a time as this.

I love that phrase, for such a time as this. It comes from Esther 4:14 and speaks to Mordecai telling his niece that perhaps she was called to royalty right here, right now – to save all God’s people.

Can you imagine what Esther must have felt?

But God carried her through all those nerve-wracking, crying-out-why-me feelings. He walked with her as she approached the king. God carried her all the way and led God’s people to victory.

So, too, will God carry you if you walk those brave steps toward tomorrow which is the “such a time as this” place.

We are needed, you and I. As children, as parents, as friends, as spouses and co-workers. We are needed right here and right now.

Because you just never know what kind of “this” a time will be.

You bless me with your presence here today. Won’t you return often and converse with me? I yearn to be a beacon of the light Jesus has placed in my heart.

I love the broken because I am broken, too. I love the needy because I am needy, too.

And I am called to reach out to those who hurt and hold them with my words and my prayers. Won’t you let me do that for you? And I am not above accepting words and prayers, even questions and challenges, from you, as well.

I will also be starting different series about certain things dear to my heart.  For instance, I hope to share my struggles with parenting (particularly stepparenting) as well as my emotional struggles – all in hopes of connecting with any up-and-coming-Esthers or Already-Esthers who might need some encouragement or a listening ear. I also hope to spotlight some pretty amazing Esthers I know in my real-life and online.

I look forward to getting to know you better.

On knees, head low, arms high…