2018: I Am Taking My Life Back.

2017 was the year I became lost. 

The sadness could not be shaken. It would well up in me during the most inappropriate moments. It would create actions and words that I never knew I had in me. 

I lost everything I knew, without warning; quickly and with no time to adjust. Depression roared loud in my ear and crept vigorously into my veins. I ran towards toxicity. I ran towards people I should not have trusted to help me heal. I ran towards the path that felt good under my feet. I became a master at escaping from myself. I wanted out of my life. I wanted to trade. I wanted someone to live in my body for a day and understand how painful and hard it was.

It is exhausting to sugar-coat what grieving feels like. It physically hurts to breath. I breathe more shallow because it hurts less. It hurts to live. Like breathing, it is less painful to live shallowly. Wordly. Not caring. Giving up. Doing anything that makes me feel better. Trusting God hurt. So I trusted God shallowly. So shallowly, that I could not even talk to Him anymore. It hurt to talk about Him. I couldn’t sing worship songs because I could not believe the things that I was saying. I would break down anytime someone would pray or sing. The church became painful. Christian community was painful. Being home was painful. Being alone was painful. Being with people was painful.

It hurt to live. I became shallow. 

Psalm 69:1-3 “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God.”

I had a conversation with God on October 3rd. The last thing I journaled before closing my notebook for the rest of the year was:

“God, I do not know how to grieve this. I am pushing away everyone. I am changing. I am different. God, I am making some really poor choices and I can not stop. What if I am taking the wrong path? I know I am being judged for my actions, but I have stopped caring. People do not understand. They treat me differently. I treat people dfferently. How am I supposed to walk through this when I have no one to walk through this with me? God, WHERE ARE YOU. You haven’t answered a single prayer I have prayed in six months. How am I supposed to be a light for you when you are leaving me in the dark. You have forgotten about me.”

Yes. I am utterly heartbroken to start a new year without my mom because it makes her seem that much farther away. Going through traditions without the person who started our traditions feels completely defeating. Eating her favorite foods or listening to the songs she would sing or laughing at a joke she would have made or hearing people say a phrase she would say or sitting in “her” chair or accidentally calling her name or arriving home and knowing she won’t be waiting for me outside of the garage or knowing that everyone around me is sad and there is nothing I can do.

Those things are gone, but I am not. I am not empty.  I am not numb. 

2018: I am taking my life back.

I will not live shallowly. I will not let depression have the final word. I will appreciate the small miracles in my life. I will find deep meaning in the minute things in life. I will appreciate the people who I call family. I will rise out of the toxic cycle of blame and hurt and anger and sadness. I will deeply trust even when it is hard. I will look at others like they are made of magic. I will keep myself healthy by sleeping regularly and nourishing my body with healthy food. I will not deprive myself of nutrients. I will seek optimal mental health. I will write and read to grow my mind and learn more about myself. I will let gratitude guide my life. I will sing loudly. I will forgive myself. I will apologize when I am wrong. I will love Christ first. I will seek Christ first. I will do hard things to honor Christ. I will learn something new about my heavenly Father every day. I will let God lead my life. I will honor my mom. I will be selfless. I will give. I will worship through my lack of understanding. I will understand that I can not understand what He is doing. I will gain wisdom from pain. I will not be silent. I will help others. I will be reliable. I will be a trustworthy friend. I will spend alone time with Christ every day.

Micah 7:7 “But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.”

Turmeric Skin Brightening Mask

During the winter months, my skin gets sickly dull. I did my research on healthy and natural ways to combat this (so people don’t constantly tell me how sick I look…lol) and I came across the many, many health benefits of turmeric. Turmeric is a strong antioxidant that has many inflammatory properties. What intrigued me most was the many, many positive cognitive correlations it has, such as combatting depression and increasing our memory health. Whether taken orally or topically, I am excited to make this a part of my daily life!

Today I did a turmeric face mask to brighten my skin and it looked a little something like this:

fullsizeoutput_1011

Ingredients

-1 Tsp. Organic Turmeric Powder

-1 Tsp. Organic Olive Oil

-1 Tbsp. Organic Honey

-1 Tsp. Milk or Yogurt

-1/2 Tsp. Lemon Essential Oil

After mixing all of these ingredients together, make sure the consistency is not runny. That means you might have to add more honey or yogurt! Apply to your face, neck, and/or chest. Leave on NO MORE than 15 minutes (otherwise, your face will turn orange).fullsizeoutput_1000.jpeg

I suggest drinking a steaming cup of coffee while you wait.

Make sure to rinse it off completely with water and then a facial cleanser, not a scrub. If your skin looks a little too orange for you at first, then feel free to use a light scrub.

I plan on doing this about once a week during the winter months to keep my skin looking bright and healthy! Let me know what you think!

We Will Not Be Home For Christmas, Mom.

The countless Hallmark movies,

decorating the tree, 

You and this precious family.

This year is a reminder

of everything we are missing

Her

And the carols we will not be singing

The brick in our throats

When we try to go through the motions

But you will not be here.

Opening presents with picture frames of you

We cannot find the words

This is completely new.

Be gentle,

We do not even know what we are going through.

A word does not exist

For that knot in our stomach

When your name is brought up casually

Because you are not casual

You are extraordinary. 

We saved a spot for you at our dinner table

But our conversation was dull

Because of your absence

And laughter seems like a chore

You were always the one to ask the questions that mattered

You were the one to remember the details

Traditions 

They were kept because you taught us their importance

And in this season, loving others well was your primary mission.

Whether it is the gift of quality time

or lunch

or gifts

You knew everyone’s needs so personally

and that is what made you extraordinary. 

We will not be able to be home this year for Christmas, Mom.

But you already knew that

Because you are watching from paradise

We are homesick

Because you are home

And we are not

We are patiently waiting for the reuniting

You are so worth it

And missed

And we love you.

Your first Christmas in Heaven

The contradiction of this being your best Christmas 

And ours being the most excruciating

But a presence that is missed

is a presence that was well-loved

well-thought-of

well-cherished

well-lived

well-remembered.

 

The Alternative Travel Guide to New Orleans, Louisiana

A good friend of mine, Sarina, and I led a group of ten Georgia Southern students to New Orleans for a week of service and social justice education. This is why I like to title this post “The Alternative Travel Guide” because this was a service trip- not a recreational vacation. This was through the Alternative Breaks program at my school. We worked together beforehand to combat the ever-controversial issue of voluntourism. I am excited to share with you what we did, where we went, and all of the tips and tricks in between so you can have a successful volunteer experience while being conscious of the environment, people, and social issues you might be working with.

Our group of ten went to serve at the local animal rescue center, also known as ARNO. We would wake up early in the morning to make ourselves breakfast and coffee, pack our lunches, and to have time together before we would split into different teams for the day. We would arrive at our destination at 9 a.m. and would split into Dog Team, Cat Team, and Chore Team. The staff at ARNO was extremely friendly, helpful, and answered the many, many questions we had about the animals and facility. Our tasks for the day would include cleaning dog and cat kennels,  folding laundry,  doing dishes, sanitizing litter boxes, socializing and bathing animals. 

This was an indoor/outdoor facility, so layering for service was extremely important, especially in December. Temperatures tend to change super quickly during this time. I packed old clothes that I did not mind donating to the shelter afterward (and also made my load a lot lighter on the road trip back to Georgia). It is a good idea to have options on hand- such as a t-shirt, flannel, and sweatshirt on. I would wear thermal leggings with running shorts over them, in case I became hot and needed to take off my leggings. Wearing shorts over my leggings also prevented the animals from clawing into my leggings and ripping them, which was an added bonus. 

After service, we would come back to our cozy and eccentric hostel, “The India Hostel.” This was my second time staying here and I can not rave enough about it. The staff is very friendly and helpful, the rooms and common areas are clean, and the other travelers are extremely personable. The hostel provided sheets, blanket, a pillow, towel, and washcloth in our rooms. They serve dinner there for $5 a plate or you can make your own dinners in the community kitchen (which is what we did most nights). During meal times, the kitchen and dining areas can get pretty crowded- so if you are claustrophobic or get over-stimulated very easily, I would wait until unpopular hours to make your meals. Also, there are two living areas, one with a TV and one with a nice fireplace. This seems to be a popular place to hang-out and talk with others. They have a nice “take one leave one” library and a ton of board games to choose from! The outside area is very quirky with string lights, artwork, and a beautiful garden. Although it was too cold for us to use, they have a nice pool, too.  

Like I said earlier, we took initiatives to combat which I believe voluntourism: using reusable water bottles, recycling, taking public transportation, living cheaply- staying in a hostel or air BnB, and supporting local business in our purchases (we went to Cafe Du Monde, Parkway Poor Boy’s, Cafe Beignet, and Southern Candymakers.)

For our leisure time, we walked around the French Quarter, the French Market, supported local artists by buying locally made items. We took the Street Car Trolley which cost about $3 a day using the RTA app. Overall, have a flexible itinerary- within a big group, it is easy to have very Type A personalities and very go with the flow personalities- make sure both are accommodated for.

I hope you chose to take time educate yourself on the different social issues our communities are facing. Reflecting on the diversity and learning about the type of impact you can make is extremely important. Check out a few of these resources to find out more!

http://alternativebreaks.org/finding-the-power/

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/pippa-biddle/little-white-girls-voluntourism_b_4834574.html

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/pippa-biddle/little-white-girls-voluntourism_b_4834574.html

https://www.ted.com/playlists/444/when_your_beliefs_are_being_ch?utm_campaign=social&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_content=playlist&utm_term=global-social+issues

Not What I Was Planning

1:45 a.m.

If you are wondering why I am up this late (or early), on a school night, in the wee hours before my 8 a.m. exam, I will explain why.

A couple of months ago, I was told I have insomnia. I could go into all the detail about my struggles with this frustrating and discouraging diagnosis, but that will come in another post. 

Just know this- a lot of prayer has been surrounding this problem. I have asked God that if He chose not to heal me now, that He would at least reveal things to me in the restless late hours or to open my eyes to something that would only be revealed to me in my fatigue. 

1:53 a.m.

This past summer changed my life in obvious ways. If you don’t really know much about my family’s story, you can read about it here.

After my mom suffered her heart attack and the word cancer became deafening, I quickly changed what my life was supposed to look like in those months to come. All of a sudden, school work became unimportant. My involvement became unimportant. My social life became unimportant. Not in a way where “unimportant” meant neglected, either. Unimportant in a way where something finally clicked and I realized that these activities in my life were completely habitual. I realized that I was about to step out of normalcy and routine and into the unknown. 

So what matter’s most in the “unknown?”

Love. Patience. Soul. 

2:06 a.m.

Sitting in a hospital room teaches a person a lot about time- or the lack there of. Morning becomes dinner time and the evening is constantly interrupted by beeps and clanks. Tangibly, all my family had was each other to hold onto. We no longer had our busy schedules to keep us distracted. We were forced to face the reality of being present.

Being present with someone who is terminally ill is extremely emotionally demanding. It can feel isolating and draining. Sometimes we crave the normalcy in those times.  Sometimes, we forget to place value on the present. 

There is so much value in stillness.

In love.

In quality time.

In detachment. 

These things are important for our souls… and for the souls of others. 

In the fast-paced moments, remember to take the time to step out of normalcy.

Take the time to be present with others. Each moment we have with them is a special gift.

2:20 a.m.

I’m not going to pretend to understand why God allows certain things to happen. I’m not going to pretend that I’m not angry that my mom was not healed on earth or that night after night it feels like my prayers for sleep are not answered. But Jesus laid this on my heart… and from one insomniac to another… I hope you grasp the real and raw concept of presence like I was able to tonight. 

Covering Your Tracks

I am going to let you in on a pretty dirty part of my soul. This is something I have struggled with ever since I came to college and became a Christian. It’s not pretty. It’s profoundly embarrassing. I never truly recognized it as sin until recently, when a friend called me out on it pretty intensely. 

I denied it. 

Then I was forced to meditate on it. I prayed about it. I was convicted that this was utterly true and stagnating my walk with Christ in an abundant of different ways.

It was crushing my witness.

Whoah. “So what is it?”

I suffer from the debilitating sin of “covering my tracks.”

Let me give you a little background.

I pride myself in being pretty transparent with people. In conversations, I am not afraid to talk about where I have been, what I have struggled with, and how Christ has gotten me through an abundance of trials. I also love learning how I can better myself, love Christ more, and love others well. 

Sounds pretty good, right?

As a Christian, I think we fall into this lie that we are never supposed to be tempted by sin. We might not mentally think that in our heads, but subconsciously, we feel as if certain desires are completely removed from us the minute we ask Jesus into our hearts.

There are few things further from the truth than that statement. 

What happens when we fall into sin and people are looking up to us as role models? What happens when we feel like no one can know about certain sins because they are not “normal” sins that Christians deal with. What happens when you struggle with something way more intensely than your other Christian friends do?

We cover our tracks. Well, at least I do. 

What does “covering our tracks look like?” Burying our sin. Telling people to take down their stories on Snapchat. Having people remove certain pictures from Instagram so people won’t know you were there. Texting that boy and telling him to NEVER tell anyone what happened. Doing it again. Lying to our friends. Pushing it so deep down that it becomes unreal to ourselves.  

When we “cover out tracks,” we are unable to receive the accountability we need from our friends. We are unable to hold ourselves to a higher standard because we become numb to our sins. We are unable to give advice without being a total hypocrite. 

How do we overcome this?

We start by defeating pride in our life. Covering our tracks stems from a place of deep rooted pride in who we want to be, but are not authentically. We need to MOURN our sins, even if we do not feel completely saddened by it because we have buried it so deep. We need to pray for forgiveness, mercy, and grace.

If that seems tough, I am about to give you an even tougher task.

Be honest with your friends. Tell them what you have been truly struggling with. Do not sugar coat it. Be as authentic as you can. Cry. Be angry with yourself. It is okay. Let those buried feelings be unmasked and naked. 

Then you are held accountable. You are finally held to the standard that you need to be held to. 

As Christians, we are called to a life of accountability. But how exactly is this done?

I mentioned earlier that I had never truly been called out on my sin until recently. Christians do not do a good job at holding their friends accountable. Let me tell you why:

Instead of holding our friends accountable, we  need to hold ourselves accountable for our friends. We can not be afraid of their brokenness. We can not be afraid of conflict. It is loving others so much that we are willing to surrender to the task of accountability. Actively knowing what is going on in our friends lives so we can have a deeper intimacy- one that might have a lot of real anger, tears, and brokenness. That is what it means to have a loving friendship.

And to the receiver of accountability (a.k.a. me in this story):

Pride makes us defensive and unable to receive criticism. Pride is blinding. Nobody offers you advice because they know it won’t end well if they do. Be quick to recognize the pride in your life. Be quick to apologize without an “I’m sorry….but…..” Stop obsessing over the opinions of others. When you “be” instead of “do,” your walk with Christ will speak for itself.

Acts of Kindness: Birthday Edition

About a month ago, I celebrated my 21st birthday. You can even read a little bit about it here. As conflicted and anxious as I was for my birthday, I knew I wanted more than the celebration of just myself to come from this (because let’s be real, that’s awkward). I could have asked people to donate to a charity in honor of my birthday using that cool new Facebook tool OR I could have even spent my day at the local soup kitchen. These are both amazing ideas that I highly suggest. But I decided to jump out of my comfort zone a bit. I designed a game that would make people ACT. I called it “The 21 Acts of Kindness” game. This is how it worked:

I posted a photo on Instagram (as seen in the featured image) with a poster-board labeled 1-21. I asked people to comment a number and whatever number they commented, I directly messaged (dm’ed) them a personalized act of kindness from a list I made. 

I disclaimed that it might be a small financial contribution, a small portion of their time, or just a big smile to a random stranger. 

With over 130 comments, I spent my “birthday eve” sending people their “act.” It was such a joyous process. The next day, I had people sending me pictures of themselves doing their act of kindness and I could not have been more blessed.

Even if only half the people participated, that is still a ripple effect starting with nearly 70 people. Incredible!

Here are a list of the Acts of Kindness in case you want do this yourself!

  1. Buy a small gift for someone.
  2. Bring 2 friends a meal.
  3. Call 3 friends/ family members and ask how you can pray for them.
  4. Make a gift basket for your neighbor with 4 items in it.
  5. Call 5 friends you haven’t talked to in a while and pray for them.
  6. Buy coffee for the person behind you in line (approximately $6).
  7. Walk/play/wash 7 dogs or cats at the local animal shelter.
  8. Send letters to 8 chronically ill children or to families at the nearest Ronald McDonald House.
  9. Visit the nursing home and hang out, talk, play bingo, read, or pray with 9 elderly people.
  10. Give a random person a $10 gift card to a place of your choosing.
  11. Give 11 thank you cards to the local police station.
  12. Take 12 photos of someone to make them feel beautiful- edit them and email them to them.
  13. Write a positive review on a business that you like and admire with 13 different aspects in which you like the business.
  14. Donate 14 of my items to a local women’s shelter or charity.
  15. Give the double amount of money to the charity you usually give to, or if you do not give regularly, start doing so!
  16. Collect 16 soda can pop tabs to give to the local Ronald McDonald House.
  17. Put 17 positive notes around campus (or your work).
  18. Give 18 compliments friend or strangers.
  19. Pick up 19 pieces litter around me and throw it away/recycle it.
  20. Send 20 texts with encouragement to numbers you haven’t texted in a while.
  21. Smile at 21 strangers.

You can reference the Instagram post here. I hope you feel inspired to do an Act of Kindness today, everyday, and especially on your birthday!!

Hebrews 13:2 (NIV) “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

Unspoken Broken

Unspoken broken.

What does that look like?

What does it look like to try and live with a shattered heart.

Let me tell you what it feels like from over here. It’s people saying “I’m so proud of you- you are handling this so well.” “You are going to come out stronger.” “You are taking the right path in this journey.” 

Reality: The more I pray, the more I have felt completely abandoned by my Savior. Where is He in the darkest depths of the night when my body is numb? Where is He in the middle of the crowd when I feel like I might actually lose it “this time.” How long, Lord, must I keep praying and you keep ignoring me. Christ… why do I feel hollow and weak and unable to keep up with everyone else. 

Then I was honest with God. I did not tidy my prayers, put them in a pretty box with a bow on top. I ugly prayed. And cried. And screamed. 

My conviction was rooted in my honesty. To God, myself, and others. 

And today.

Today I accepted the imperfection of my grievance process. I have built so much pressure to walk this journey completely perfectly; to model the way for a good, clean Christian grievance.  It’s not a clean break. And I have cracked. And I have fallen. And I’ve broken.

Now, I am allowing myself to be the spoken broken I’ve been afraid to speak.

I am not afraid of broken things.

The 21st Birthday

Let’s talk about something that Christian’s seem to have a really hard time discussing.

The 21st Birthday.

This is something I have had every intention of writing about, but decided to wait. I questioned my motives for waiting. “Just say it, Faith. Say what God has so fervently laid on your heart.” 

So I did the opposite. I waited. I consciously lingered around the subject. I waited for my 21st birthday to come and go so I would not be held accountable for my actions on the very day that caused me so much anxiety.

Two years ago, I dreamed about the day I would turn twenty-one. I could not wait; it was obviously going to be the greatest day of my life. It was the day I got a free pass to drink as much as I wanted, party as hard as my body would let me, say whatever I wanted to say, and do whatever I was capable of doing. 

After dedicating my life to Christ, these views changed… but not for the better. 

Instead, I was filled with an unhealthy worry and tension for my 21st birthday. What the heck does a Christian do- especially in this crazy college culture? Do Christians get a free pass to do whatever they want? Or do I sit at home and watch a movie on my birthday? 

Is it normal to feel extreme anxiety for a BIRTHDAY? Do other people feel this way? Am I alone in feeling this way?”

Option B did not sound like an appealing offer. I sought out wise counsel from people who mentor me. Although they gave me the answers that I knew deep down in my heart, I buried it deeper. 

And so my 21st birthday came and went.

Paralyzing disappointment.

“The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.” 1 Peter 4:7

I’m going to be real with you all. I had the farthest thing from sound judgement and sober spirit on my birthday. I was completely seduced by sin and took my “not-so-free” pass to do whatever I pleased. Feeling completely disqualified to show my face around my christian community ever again, I quickly began to fall into a false identity of unworthiness. 

“I must do A, B, and C to get right with God again. I must prove myself before man that I am an honorable Christian. I must do (insert number) good works before Jesus will forgive me. I need to attend every Bible study this week that I can possibly go to.”

Jesus quickly tugged on my heart-strings and gave me jolting truth while studying His Word.

In Romans 6 and 7, Paul discusses how we are torn between the law and our sin. Sin has found a way to pervert the law and make is seem like a “forbidden fruit.” Although Paul is obviously talking about God’s law, the parallels to the earthly law regarding “the legal drinking age” is still applicable. 

The “forbidden fruit” of drinking is finally broken when we turn twenty-one. But sin has creeped in and completely warped our thinking around this activity. The world tells us that drinking excessively is okay and totally normal. Despite the “normality” of this, we get condemned from our fellow peers for our actions from the activity they told us to participate in. Ironic. Why are we looking for this kind of approval from man if it will always disappoint us? 

Paul says in Romans 6 that we are dead to sin, but are still required to fight it everyday. This is not an effortless action just because we are a Christian. In Romans 6:15-18, Paul talks about this struggle, “Because we’re out from under the old tyranny, does that mean we can live any old way we want? Since we’re free in the freedom of God, can we do anything that comes to mind? Hardly. You know well enough from your own experience that there are some acts of so-called freedom that destroy freedom. Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it’s your last free act. But offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits. All your lives you’ve let sin tell you what to do. But thank God you’ve started listening to a new master, one whose commands set you free to live openly in His freedom!”

Paul goes more in-depth saying that our desires WILL be contrary to the Spirit. Excessively drinking, whether on your 21st birthday or not, is an act that will cause us not to walk in the full freedom that Christ has offered us. 

Galatians 5:17 “The flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.”

Whatever sin causes us anxiety, we need to be in an accountable state at all times. We need to constantly be resting in a state of sound judgement and a sober spirit. Sin will compete for our attention. The world will compete for our minds. We will be reminded after falling into this that it never sustains or satisfies. But we will also be reminded that Jesus loves us with no strings attached. Once we accept Christ as our Savior, we are constantly redeemed, loved, and worthy. There is an ongoing work in us; don’t let our short-fallings become our identity. 

When You Just Can’t Get Out of Bed

“Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.” James 1:12

Last year, I went through a break-up that brought me closer to God than I could have ever imagined. After the healing process, I ran to my mentor and friend Katie Bulmer and said “I need God to break my heart again. That’s when I felt closest to Him. I need that again.” And I prayed for it. I literally prayed to God to break my heart. Little did I know that my heart would break in a way that feels completely unreal and unwelcomed.

Two weeks ago, I lost my best friend- my mom. Although I have a joy and peace that she is dancing in the gates of heaven, my heart feels like it is being crushed every second of every day. I have been stretched emotionally, mentally, and spiritually these past six months far more than I could have ever asked for. Trying to live life normally does not exist, because life is not normal anymore. This time, being close to God has not come so easily. It has been something I have had to fight for. Quite frankly, the cracks in my heart have been filled with anything but Jesus. They have been filled with bitterness and guilt. 

Grieving is authentically hard. Jumping right back into school after such a life-change is very tough to endure. Mourning makes you feel like a ghost of yourself.  

I do not have much to offer in this season of life right now. I do, however, intend to finish this race with my eyes set on the cross. I choose to stick it out. The Bible instructs us to not let our hearts wander off. I will find more comfort and strength in Him than I will ever find in the world. I have my faith and a secure foundation. Jesus will not fail me, leave me hanging, or forget about me. He cares about my heart so much and will not let it be hardened if I stay close to him. Scripture provides a guide for a time such as this: 

“When troubles come and all these awful things happen to you, in future days you will come back to God, your God, and listen obediently to what he says. God, your God, is above all a compassionate God. In the end he will not abandon you, he won’t bring you to ruin.” Deuteronomy 4: 29-31

Seek Him with your whole heart, in the good times and in the hard times.