When I was about eight, we went through a few dry years. One summer especially, it was declared an official drought…and I hated it. I live in the mountains of West Virginia, and those mountains are used to being green. Being rural, we had a well. Drought for us meant being very careful with and anxious over our water tables, being watchful of any sparks or fires, and praying God would send rain.

I was too young to know or care much about the bigger concerns. What I knew was that the lush green grass I loved running through barefoot was dry, brown, and pokey. Running barefoot through it held no appeal. What I knew was that our neighbors liked to burn trash, and fire was already terrifying to me after a rather large one consumed the hillside next to our house on my sixth birthday. What I knew was that this was NOT how my world was supposed to be.

I remember praying every night–every night–with all the earnestness of an eight-year-old that God would make the grass green again. I didn’t actually pray for rain. I prayed for green. Because that was what I saw. That was what I hated–the brown grass. And I knew God could make it green again…even without rain, right? Every night I would pray, and every morning, I would run out to the dining room window and look out, eager to see my miracle.

Every morning, I looked out that window and saw the same brown, scratchy, crunchy, hated grass.

Here’s the thing. I didn’t give up praying. I didn’t get angry. I just huffed a breath and thought, “Maybe tomorrow morning. I’ll just keep praying.”

Those memories have stuck with me for more than thirty years. Why? I think, looking back on it now, it’s not really because the drought itself scarred me for life or anything. It wasn’t because I realize, looking back, that I should have been praying for rain instead of green. I think that time has stuck with me, because Little Roseanna knew something Grown-Up Roseanna needs to remember.

We need to keep praying. Day in and day out. Disappointed or fulfilled. No matter how dry our souls feel. No matter how barren things look. Every day we’re left with a “no” or a “not yet,” we need to say, “Maybe tomorrow then. I’ll keep praying.”

As I ponder those days, I also remember something else.

I remember my phobia-level fear–terror–of fire. It was a real thing. In this day and age, I can imagine parents taking their kids to a counselor to talk through it. Because every night when I went to bed, I would tie my favorite teddy bear’s scarf around my wrist, so that if fire came and I had to jump out my window, I wouldn’t leave him behind. I would line up a few favorite things beside that same window, so I could grab them on my way out. I gathered all the matches I could find and soaked them in water, thinking they’d be destroyed forever and save me the worry of anyone making even the smallest fire in my house. Christmas Eve candlelight service? I was a wreck. I thought my long hair was sure to catch on fire and I wouldn’t hold my own candle.

Still, my neighbors, parents of my best friend, had a fire barrel. They would burn their trash rather than pay to have it picked up, and this…was…TERRIFYING to me. Especially because in that year of drought, one day the burning barrel blew over.

Fire. Fire was spreading through that dry kindling that used to be grass, and we were outside playing and saw it happen. Cue all the screaming. The rushing this way and that, having no idea what to do. My friend and I searched wildly for her father, certain the whole world was about to go up in flames…when he came sauntering calmly over with the hose and doused it in about three seconds. He’d been watching all along. He was prepared.

Then, in the next week or two, I noticed something strange.

The patch of grass that had burned grew back…green. I was startled. Amazed. In wonder. Surely that one dousing with the hose hadn’t accomplished that green, had it? Was it the single soaking of water or the fact that the dead grass was burned away?

I had no idea. But it taught me something I never would have anticipated.

Sometimes it takes destruction to bring new life. Sometimes my worst fears have to be realized in order to get the thing I long for.

After that, my best friend and I would joke about how we just needed to do controlled burns of all the grass to bring it back to life–a little match here, then a bucket of water to follow. We’d chase each other around the yard, pretending we were lighting and then quenching restorative flames.

Maybe, just maybe, that was when I started to heal from that phobia. Because of a drought that wouldn’t go away no matter how much I prayed.

I was remembering all of this because the last few weeks have been hot and dry here in the West Virginia mountains–not at all unusual for the last weeks of summer. The grass began to brown, and it would crunch under my feet when I walked through the yard. As it always does, that sound, that feel took me right back to that horrible summer of drought. Then we had a day of rain. One day, one good storm…and I walked outside the next day, and that crunchy grass was soft again. Green had overtaken the brown. Life had been restored.

One storm. One good soaking rain. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

I know many people in the country are suffering from severe drought right now of the natural variety–I have a lot of friends in Texas who are desperate for rain. How many more are suffering, all over the country and the world, from spiritual drought? How many get up every morning, hoping to feel life and hope only to be met with the same brown, crackling, prickly world?

I get it. I’ve been there, both spiritually and physically. But be encouraged, friends, by Little Roseanna and her insights. Keep praying–pray for relief, pray for healing for the root cause, pray for it all. But also know that sometimes, those droughts are there to heal us in the most unexpected ways. Sometimes, being stripped bare, down to the nub, parched of everything we thought we needed, we’re finally able to dig out the roots of fear, of bitterness, of shame, of regret, of hate. Sometimes we need those droughts so that the cleansing fire can get rid of the chaff and healing–life-giving, pure, clean, flowing healing–can finally do its work.

Droughts don’t last forever. Neither do floods. Life is always cyclical, with highs and lows, the dry and the soggy, the too-much and the not-enough. Faith doesn’t change any of that…it changes us and how we see it. It teaches us to see not the lack, but the opportunity. It teaches us to trust in our good and faithful Father, who is always watching, even when we don’t see Him there.

I will never like the feel of crunchy grass under my feet. But I will forever be grateful for what God taught me about Himself through my drought.

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Word of the Week – Ambivalence

Word of the Week – Ambivalence

Did you know that ambivalence was coined as psychological term?

It was based on the word equivalence, which is comprised of two Latin roots, equi (equal) and valentia (strength)–which of course means that two things are of equal strength. Well, in 1910, Swiss psychologist Eugen Bleuler wanted a word to mean that two things conflicted with each other in someone’s desires, so based on that well-established word, he took the Latin ambi (both, on both sides) and paired it with valentia.

Of course, this Swiss doctor spoke German, so his term was actually Ambivalenz, but within two years, English speakers had picked it up as ambivalency and were using to indicate “simultaneously conflicting feelings.” It had been shortened to its current form by 1924…and by 1929, the purely psychological term had been taken up by the general populace and applied in both literary and general senses.

I had no idea this word was so new! How about you?

Word Nerds Unite!

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Thoughts on AI

Thoughts on AI


It’s a hot topic right now in all circles. Certainly in creative ones. And I’ve heard everything from “shut it down before it takes over the world” to “this is the best thing since the Garden of Eden.” As a creative–a writer, a cover designer, a blogger, and co-owner of a publishing company–I have my opinions. And while everyone has their opinions, which means mine isn’t worth more than anyone else’s, I wanted to weigh in. Because in my family, we’ve given this a lot of thought. Like, A LOT. So I’m hopeful that the perspective we’ve reasoned out will be helpful to someone else out there.

What Is AI?

AI stands for Artificial Intelligence; it’s been around for a long time at this point and is already integrated into most of the technology you use on a daily basis. For the purpose of this discussion, though, we’ll be focusing on the specific forms of AI that are igniting all this controversy–“chat bot” and the AI image generators.

ChatGPT, and at this point, many other language-based AI interfaces, is basically a program into which you type your question or thought or prompt, and the computer spits out an answer.

You’ve no doubt seen countless articles about what it can do, its weaknesses, scary examples where it claims to be alive, people using this in ways they shouldn’t, like to write legal briefs or school essays, and so on.

The image generators vary in their capabilities, but they work largely the same way. You type in a prompt like “ultra-realistic photo of a woman dressed in an evening gown from 1909 standing in front of an English manor house with a lion at her side, from the back, sunset lighting” and the program delivers you four possible images. You can ask it for more or click on one you like and ask it for refinements, or to zoom out, and so on.


But should we be using it? Is it really dangerous? Is it stealing from artists?

The Fears

Every single post or article I’ve read–and I’ve read A LOT of them at this point–that decry AI come down to one very important thing: they are afraid that AI will displace them.

Creatives are afraid that people will use AI to write a book or create art, and users won’t be able to tell or care about the difference, and that human artists will be a thing of the past. They’re afraid that they’ll lose their income, their purpose, and their creative expression to a bunch of bot-created garbage.

And let’s be honest. People will use it for that. Just like people have been pirating others’ creative work and passing it off as their own for decades if not centuries. People will put dozens of bot-created books on Amazon with their own name and count on people buying them. Oh, Amazon will crack down on them when they get complaints and take them down, but they’ll already have made some money. And when they take down one, they’ll just put up another. They’ll open new accounts when theirs get suspended. They’ll do anything for that easy buck.

It’s true. They will. You know how I can be sure? Because those people have already been doing the same thing, either with stolen work from the internet, public domain books, or the like. Those people will ALWAYS try to cheat the system, and they’ll succeed to an extent. But are they really a threat to legitimate artists and writers? Of course not. Because audiences are built through trust. Real creatives grow audiences who come back to them time and time again because those readers or art-enthusiasts love their work. That isn’t going to change.

But haven’t people been put out of work before by technology?

Yep. They sure have. Factories employ a lot fewer people than they used to. Cashiers have been largely displaced by self check-out. Not entirely, of course, because there are always those customers or items or parts of a process that still require a human touch. But it’s true that the numbers have changed. It’s a very real issue, and one that has to be addressed; honestly, changing technology has ALWAYS impacted the workforce, from the first factory that put cottage-industries all but out of business to today’s leaps.

Here’s where this new development is different–humanity needs to be creative. We are creative. I firmly believe it’s part of being made in the image of the Creator. And while we also need to work, we don’t need to do one specific thing. Yes, we absolutely find jobs we like and enjoy and don’t want to lose…losing those jobs is a horrible thing for anyone to go through. It’s traumatic when it happens, and my prayer is always that when it does happen, those people will find positions they like even more, that provide even better. Distasteful and scary as it is, the job force is constantly changing, with some positions being obliterated and new ones being created. My family was caught up in some of this too in recent years, so I know firsthand how it can affect people. But one thing we had to learn to ask was this: is that job part of your identity before God? When He looks at you, does he see cashier or factory worker or transportation manager? Of course not. He sees His precious child–that is our ultimate identity.

And creativity is part of that identity, because of His creative image He stamped on us.

No matter how good AI gets, humanity will still find a way to be creative. Writers are still going to write. Artists are still going to paint or sculpt or draw. That will not change, because it cannot. We, by virtue of being human, cannot just hand off our creativity to a machine and be content with that. We will keep creating because we must be creative. And as long as people keep being creative, other people will keep supporting it, because we also have a deep-seated recognition of the value of others’ creativity.

Use Versus Misuse

So, yes, people will misuse it…but does that mean it’s by nature bad? The internet is misused all the time, but can you really imagine your life without it?

The fact of misuse doesn’t mean the thing itself is bad. It’s just a tool.

You can misuse any tool–even to the harm of others. Hammers, chainsaws, pipe wrenches, crowbars…they’ve all been used for crime. But you know what else they’re used for? Building. Crafting. Creating. Fixing. Making things work.

Personally, I’m a big fan of indoor plumbing and a roof over my head, so I’m not going to begrudge the plumber his tool, nor the carpenter. I’m not going to tell my husband to cut up the firewood with a handsaw because chainsaws have hurt people. For that matter, I’m not going to say we all have to walk wherever we’re going because people have used cars to run other people down.

We can’t judge a tool for how people misuse it. So let’s look at what AI is actually bringing to the table and evaluate it objectively.

AI Image Generation

I’m a book cover designer. I use a lot of images in my work, most of which are what we call “stock photos.” Specifically, I use “royalty-free stock photos.” What this means is that photographers take images and supply them to a site that then sells them to consumers. With a standard license from this site, I can create images for commercial use that can sell up to a half a million instances of the image. If it goes above that, I’d need to purchase the extended license, but that rarely comes up. Royalty-based stock images are also photographer-provided, but the end user pays per impression; so an initial license would cover, say, 5,000 books, and after that they must renew the license for another fee.

There are FREE stock images in plenty of places…but most are not. Most expect to be paid for their work.

Guess what? People steal them. They use images, either on purpose or unknowingly, inappropriately. They use things for commercial projects that are NOT licensed for commercial use. But thankfully, that doesn’t keep people from still making their photography available for legitimate use. I’m glad of that. Because most of the book covers I create use 5-20 images.

Yes, you saw that right. The book covers I put together often have two or three images in the background, sometimes more like four or five. The model can be comprised of as few as 1 or as many as 8-10 different pieces. Then I’ll use vector images for flourishes, dividers, corners. I’ll get another to apply to the whole thing for texture or light.

The end creation is made up of the work of a lot of people…but none of those people have a right to that end work, only I (and my client) does, because I used those pieces to create something new. I used those pieces correctly, with permission, licensing each one. Or using free ones, I do that too. I use public domain (all rights have been released) images for plenty of things.

With the best AI image generators, I can tell it what I want and it’ll give it to me, to a greater or worse degree. Would I use it for an entire cover? Absolutely NOT, because those images can’t be copyrighted, which means someone else could use the exact same thing. But that’s the same reason I don’t use ANY stock photo for an entire cover. I always change something, so that my client’s cover will never look exactly like someone else’s.

Would I use an AI-generated image for part of a book cover? I would. And I have. Not for the whole thing, but for bits and pieces that I otherwise couldn’t create or would have had to spend days creating from this arm and that shoulder and this back and that set of hips. It’s a tool that can save me hours and days, and I’m not at all opposed to using it like I use public domain or stock images.

But How Can We Know It Hasn’t Stolen the Images?

Here’s the thing. All creativity is based on what we’ve encountered in the world. When I draw a flower, I’m basing it not just on the flower I saw in nature, but on the style of artists I admire. I may even base it entirely on another painting I’ve seen that I don’t even distinctly remember seeing.

Or, weirder still, I might draw that at my desk while, across the world, someone else is drawing something so very similar that we’d be considered copies of each other, without even knowing it. It happens ALL THE TIME. Creativity is never unique, much as we want to think it is. Ideas pop up independently at the same or similar times in different locations ALL THE TIME.

So no, I can’t say for sure that AI used only inspiration from public domain things. I can’t say it didn’t, either. I can’t say that what it created hasn’t been created before…just like I can’t say it won’t be created again by a human who never saw that AI image.

What I can say is that the more it’s used, the better defined its rules will become, and the more precise it will get. As with any technology, use means continual progress. And I’m okay with that.

I hear a lot that Fairchild’s Lady is very similar to The Scarlet Pimpernel. Which is hilarious, because I’ve never read it, watched it, or even come across a summary of it (until I looked it up to see if that was true). But sure, it’s similar. Because there are only so many variations of plots. We always make them unique…but they still sound the same in a short description.

AI is going to do the same thing. It will have commonalities with existing work, but that doesn’t automatically mean it stole from it.

What About Writing?

I’ve read, at this point, thousands if not hundreds of thousands of words created by AI. Sometimes, yes, they sound very, very similar to whatever I’ve asked it to draw from, which is a great caution not to use it as-is for something meant to be shared as your own.

But like any tool, you can get better at it and teach it to deliver something more original and unique. Something my husband has been doing a lot is saying, “Here’s an example of Roseanna’s writing. Now, in Roseanna’s voice and style, give me a written, virtual tour of Alnwick, Northumberland, highlighting the places of historical significance to tourists.”

ChatGPT then delivers a written tour. It selects the places most popular in the area, and it sounds close to how I would sound when describing it, rather than how the tourism sites sound. I then can take those descriptions, edit and add my own personal tastes and touches, and use it on my website. Why? Because it saved me literally hours of research and drafting. I fact-check it, but that’s quick. I edit and rewrite, but that’s quick too.

But that’s just for internet content that I really don’t claim any specific rights to.

Books or content I sell is a different matter. Would I use AI to write my novels? Absolutely not. I love writing my novels, and I love knowing that what readers enjoy about my novels isn’t just the plot or concept, but the bits of me I put in them. My faith, my insights, my epiphanies, my pain, my heart. AI can approximate all those things surprisingly well, but it’s never going to be as “me” as I am.

What it can do, however, is help me take my creativity to new heights. The advantage of AI is that it isn’t confined by the same limitations that my imagination is. So if I were to lay out a plot snag I’m having and ask it for suggestions, it would come up with some wild and crazy ones…and some very mundane ones…and everything in between. It would present me with CHOICES that I can then incorporate into my own ideas, and as with any brainstorming, it will help me broaden my mind from the often-fake limitations I’ve put on things and help me see beyond them.

It can help me outline. It can help me identify flaws. It can be a TOOL that shortens some parts of the process so that I can focus on other parts.

I personally see no problem with that, any more than I see a problem with Spellcheck or word processors in general, with critique groups or name generators or any of the hundreds of other tools available to writers.

What I create using that tool will be no less mine. But collaboration with ANY other thinker, be it human or artificial, will force me out of my own box and make me MORE creative. That’s nothing to shy away from or apologize for. It’s something to celebrate and embrace.

My Conclusion

I don’t think AI itself is anything to fear, any more than any technological advancement is to be feared. Can and will it be misused? YES. Of course. Because EVERYTHING is misused. That’s the fault of the humans, not of the tool. But the more it’s used correctly, the more refined it will become, and the more rules will be created to keep that misuse to a minimum, as with anything.

I’ve come across a lot of people using ChatGPT in ridiculous ways (“write a poem about this political figure”), just to try to prove a point. I call THAT a misuse too. One thing Chat is great at is learning what the user wants and delivering that. So if the user wants to play “gotcha!” it will provide something to “get.” But you know what that reminds me of? People in the 90s putting in odd search terms into the early search engines, to try to make it give bad results. Silly, right? Because what we want are GOOD results, and in this day and age, we can’t even imagine not having those search engines available.

AI will be the same way. As more people use it WELL, it will not only become better, it will simply integrate into our daily lives in ways that make those lives better too. As we test its limits, we’ll expand our own. As we let it lead us outside the box, we’ll soon find some walls coming down in our own minds. There will be those who try to use it to build walls, too, but they’re not going to get very far with it. They won’t be the ones shaping the future either of AI or of the world.

AI is here to stay. It’s been here for decades already. Now it’s finally to the point where it’s accessible to the common person, but that doesn’t mean the common person knows how to best use it…just like most of us use the internet to watch cute cat videos on YouTube instead of constantly educating ourselves on the wealth of knowledge stored within it. 😉 But it is WORTH using, and using well.

More, I firmly believe that those who learn how to harness it and use it to expand their own endeavors will soon be leading the pack in whatever those endeavors are. Not because they’re cheating or using stolen material, but because they embrace the tool and figure out how to best use it for the things they love. This is like the introduction of tractors or the automobile or the internet. It’s a revolution that many won’t understand but most everyone will end up using in some form or another; some for entertainment, some without even thinking about it, some to create and innovate and increase.

Regardless, it isn’t ever the technology that we need to fear. It is, as it has always been, the people. People will cheat. People will steal. People will lie. But that’s no reason not to use something right.

I’m excited about what opportunities AI is opening up for us as creatives…because I know it will not displace us. Instead, I know it will help us to be MORE creative, to reach new heights, to focus less on drudgery and more on the fun parts. And the readers and art-enthusiasts will benefit from that too.

I’ve thought many times about how glad I am that I live in the computer age–I don’t have to write my books out by hand (though some still do) or on a typewriter (though some still do). I don’t have to rely only on out-of-date encyclopedias or my local library’s minuscule offerings on a subject, I can access EVERYTHING with a few keystrokes. Writers 150 years ago might have thought it unsporting, ludicrous, or not “true” creativity, because it wasn’t their way of doing things. That’s okay. I know that I’m only here, doing what I love, because they paved the way.

But I won’t make the mistake of claiming the same thing about the next technological revolution. AI is that next revolution, and I’m not going to fight it. Instead, I’m going to master it. I’m going to embrace it. I’m going to learn how it can make me better, not fear that it will put me out of work.

How about you?

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Word of the Week – Sloth

Word of the Week – Sloth

Time for another round of “which use came first?”! My husband and I were talking about this one a little while ago. Sloth. So which came first, the deadly sin or the slow-moving animal?

My theory was that the attribute came first and the animal was named after it, and that was right…to an extent.

The interesting thing about the word sloth is that it DOESN’T have its roots in French or Latin or Greek. It’s unique to English, tracing directly from Middle English slou or slowe (look familiar?), which in turn came from Old English sleuthe.

Once you take off that -th ending that the speakers of earlier English were so fond of, you see how close sloth and slow are, so it’s no surprise that they in fact share a meaning. Sloth was used as the attribute of slow applied to people or animals, but it carried with it an idea not just of slowness, but of sluggishness, indolence, and neglecting responsibilities. Those negative connotations never totally disappeared, but by the mid-1300s, it began to be used to indicate slowness or tardiness without necessarily including the neglect.

So how about the animal? The South American Sloth was discovered in the early 1600s by the Portugese, and they applied the word preguiça to it. Preguiça means “slow, lazy,” from Latin pigrita, which means “laziness.” The English speakers chose sloth as the closest equivalent.

Have you ever seen a sloth in person? We saw one at a zoo…but it was curled up in a box, sleeping. Go figure, right? 😉

Word Nerds Unite!

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Forks…and Sharing Dreams

Forks…and Sharing Dreams

On August 21, we dropped our firstborn child off at college. Our college, the one David and I both attended. We drove into the lot we’d parked in a thousand times before. We walked her, our arms laden with her things, into the same dorm building I’d been in Freshman year. And then nostalgia really hit when we stopped at MY VERY DORM ROOM and her roommate welcomed us in.

Yep. MY ROOM. My daughter is in my same room! I hadn’t remembered the number, but there was no mistaking the door. Or the dark ink stain on the tile I failed at scrubbing off. Or the view from the window. (If only I’d carved my name into a board in the closet or hidden something behind some molding! What was I thinking?? LOL)

We got her situated, we attended the family reception, we chatted with the dean (who was a professor while we were there) and the assistant dean (who was our classmate!) and anyone else we recognized. Then we left her to settle in and we drove home and…here we are. Doing what parents have been doing for so long. Letting our baby spread her wings, in a place we know and love.

Being me, I find myself pondering when and why different realizations hit. For instance, do you know the moments I miss her most? It’s not at bedtime when she’s not there for family prayers–I can brace myself for that. It’s not in the morning when I no longer have to poke my head in to wake her up–I forgot to do that half the time anyway, when I was caught up in my own work.

It’s when I reach for a fork and, from habit, pass over her favorite one.

See, we have some mismatched silverwear, some of which was inherited from the grandfather whose house we now live in. When we moved in here, each of my kids picked a favorite fork. They were 5 and 8 when they did this. Xoe liked the one with the little stars on it. Rowyn liked the one with the tightly-clustered flowers that give the handle a black tone.

Over the last ten years, I trained myself to save those forks for each of them. It’s a silly little thing, but if I pull out the star or flower fork, I automatically put it back unless I’m handing it to them.

I still find myself putting that star fork back in the slot, even though Xoe’s not here to claim it later. And that’s when it hits. My girl isn’t here daily. She’s off on her own adventure.

Being not only her mother but an alum at her school, I want to know every detail–but of course, I rein myself in, LOL. David and I were talking about that last night too. All her life, she’s been hearing our stories of St. John’s. She’s been taught the lessons we learned and shaped by the reality we discovered there. But now it will become her story. Her lessons. Her reality.

On the one hand, that’s weird and even difficult from our perspective. But on the other hand, it’s so beautiful. Because that’s true not just of a college, right? But of life. Of faith.

All we can ever do is teach our kids what we’ve learned. But we can’t make them learn it. We can’t make them believe. We can’t make them put their hands in the Lord’s. We can show them, and we can demonstrate, and we can pray. We can instruct and shape them to an extent. But they still have to take their own steps. They have to embrace it for themselves. They have to decide

I don’t know what Xoe’s story will end up being while she’s at St. John’s. I don’t know the friends she’ll make or the truths that will settle in her heart. I don’t know if maybe she’ll meet someone who makes her heart squeeze like mine still does every time I weave my fingers through her father’s. I don’t know what her favorite thing will be, or what she’ll hate. I don’t even now for sure if she’ll love it or if she’ll decide it’s not for her after all.

What I do know is that life, family, faith…they follow a pattern for each of us. We all have to take those steps. Walk into our own destinies. We have to face our fears and wrestle our anxieties. We have to grab hold of our dreams and let them take us with them in their flight.

I miss my girl. Won’t deny that. And I’ll probably keep passing over that fork for who knows how long. But that’s okay. Because in this new chapter of life, I’m going to love opening my dreams to her in new ways. Listening to her stories of how she walks the same halls and sees things in them I never saw. How she’ll live the same dream but experience it in a whole new way. Just like I’ve been doing every time she shares something she learned about faith or love or truth or family.

In life, it’s never enough for something to be our parents’ or grandparents’, our friends’ or siblings’. For it to matter, we have to make it ours.

And when we do, it changes everything.

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