Signs of Spring Bring Out Signs of Dad

Signs of Spring

Dad always farmed, his life revolving around the seasons. Only in winter, when nature hibernated, did the frenzy ease. That’s when he pruned his orchards, removing what was necessary to keep fruit trees strong and bearing as much as possible. He had to be ready for spring when the landscape, and the work, kicked into high gear.

It shouldn’t have been a surprise when he paid a visit last weekend as I celebrated two rites of the season—Spring Open House at Clare’s Cycle and an equinox fire.

Without hesitation, I accepted Lisa Taché’s invitation to take part in Clare’s event. Clare’s, a family business founded in 1955, is a fixture in the community. They were the go-to shop in my early riding years and they’ve been tremendously supportive of my more recent work.

Setting up my book display, I reached into my brown leather jacket pocket for tissues. The jacket is one of my favorites but I hadn’t worn it for a while. As it turned out, not since Dad and I travelled out west together in August 2017 on a pilgrimage to the lands he’d lived on as a boy. What I at first thought were crumpled up sales receipts were the boarding passes from our trip home.

I looked up and smiled, sensing his presence.

Dad had always been supportive of my riding, as he and Mom were for all their children’s interests. He didn’t blink an eye when I began motoring around the farm at age sixteen. He loaned out his barn for maintenance workshops I hosted and Clare’s participated in. Whenever I’d visit, he’d have a parking spot cleared out in the barn for my bike. As far as I know he never rode but he loved to chinwag with my moto friends.

Of course he’d be at Clare’s spring open house but I didn’t expect him two days in a row.

On Sunday I gathered with a group of friends for a fire ceremony to honor the spring equinox. One of them is an aficionado and collector of old wooden wind instruments. I didn’t recognize the five-inch wooden slat he brought.

“It’s a bullroar,” he said. I thought I’d misunderstood.

“Pardon me. What did you call that?

“A bullroar. You attach it to a string, whirl it in the air, and it roars like a bull.”

Dad had a few derogatory Plautdietsch (Low German) terms in his repertoire but he didn’t use coarse English language in front of me or in public. Maybe in front of my brothers or other farmers. He used the term “bullroar” in place of “bullshit,” as in “That’s a pile of bullroar!”

Again I looked around and smiled. He was at the fire too, honoring the seasons and the Creator.

Wherever Dad is, I doubt there are seasons. Yet he recognizes and responds to times of awakening. Our relationship evolved enormously during our time together and is a significant part of my journey as told in Crash Landing. Even though he’s no longer here in human form, he’s around, supporting, celebrating, and ready to help me in my growth in any way he can.

Thank you, Dad!

Related post: Bookkeeping, Spring, and Signs of Awakening

Photo credit: Joe Cosentino on Visualhunt / CC BY-ND

Bookkeeping, Spring, and Signs of Awakening

signs of awakening
signs of awakening

My journey described in Crash Landing did not end with the last chapter. It continues to unfold and if anything, the pace has picked up. Always, there are lessons, reminders, and events that initiate reorganization, rework, and refining of life priorities.

Winter is a time of darkness, hibernation, and cocooning. Trees, plants, and animals take a break to prepare for the next growing season. I like to do the same and use it as a time for revisiting priorities, preparing for the coming season, and nurturing body, mind, and spirit.

Part of my daily practice is a prayer asking Spirit to guide me to be of greatest service and fulfill my highest destiny for the greatest good of all, whatever that is. My newly updated soul contract is to live from a place of awe, curiosity, surrender, love, gratitude, and trust. If I can stick with that, I’m good.

It sounds dreamy but we’re also human and life has a way of keeping us grounded.

Since Crash Landing’s release, I’ve been preoccupied with helping it and its message get out into the world. It’s a big job.

First of all, it’s hard to switch modes from writing to marketing. It requires a different skill and mind set.

Second, it’s tough to decipher the best marketing strategy to compete with the thousands of books published daily worldwide. An unending stream of experts with compelling messages give all kinds of advice about how to be “successful.” It’s a steep learning curve while I also write for my clients and tend to a growing Energy Medicine practice. I love it all. (Note to all self-publishing authors: Carla King’s Self-Pub Book Camp Courses are life-savers.)

Plus, eighteen months ago, I committed to taking care of myself holistically so I can be of greatest service. That includes a daily spiritual practice, daily walks, yoga at least four times a week, and time with friends and family.

Then along comes year-end. My year-end books were due at my accountant’s on March 1st. Thinking it would only take a day or two to get them ready, I started reviewing them on March 6. I think this every year and it always takes much longer. This year it took seven days—a week out of my schedule away from “important” work! It almost drove me crazy, even when I’d call my updated soul contract to mind. My chaotic energy didn’t help get a job requiring accuracy and attention to detail done any sooner. It threw me off my game.

It wasn’t until the following week when I was grousing to my friend Alisa Clickenger that I saw the lesson. The week of disruption had taken me away from what was threatening to become another energy drain. I’d fallen into familiar patterns that I’ve worked to overcome—trying to be in control, multi-tasking, and losing focus. I didn’t think surrender to a greater purpose included bookkeeping but it was what I needed to recalibrate and focus!

All was well.

The books got done and submitted. More importantly, I was able to reassess and recalibrate my other activities. I felt refreshed and ready for whatever’s next.

Spring, with its signs of awakening, is here. Seeds that have germinated over the winter, when it looked like nature was sleeping, will soon appear.

I too am awakening. I await the new growth with great anticipation!

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Building a Better World: Gender Equality is a Start

better world

A balanced world is a better world. That’s the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day being commemorated today. The organizers ask us to celebrate women’s achievement, raise awareness against bias, and take action for equality to “forge a more gender-balanced world.”

It’s a start. But it’s only part of the picture.

“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights,” said activist Gloria Steinem.

Human rights are fundamental to every person on this planet, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, or any other way we label people.

We all have feelings, aspirations, and families. We all feel the cold, heat, thirst, and hunger.

We all need love, compassion, and understanding.

Not everyone has the same access to education, wealth, or opportunities, but that doesn’t change that we are equal as beings on this planet.

Our inherent gifts, cultural backgrounds, and life experiences make us unique. Equality doesn’t mean we’re capable, or even interested, in the same pursuits, but we all have something to offer and to teach.

Ecosystems strive for balance. We become ill when our bodies are unable to maintain homeostasis. Is it any different for the world we live in?

Mitigate feelings of superiority or inferiority by putting yourself in another’s shoes. Imagine what it would be like to walk their path. Question the stories you tell yourself about their worth as a fellow human. Treat others with dignity, respect, and fairness. Extend that to the rest of nature.

That’s how we build a better world for all.

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Uncovering a Rare Edition: The Book of Answers

book of answers

Have you ever wished you could drop by your local bookstore and pick up a Book of Answers?

Life can be challenging and solid solutions hard to come by. We get into situations we’ve never experienced and don’t know how to navigate through the tangle of possibilities.

We could be faced with choosing from several options, none of them ideal. Or maybe we’re trying to find the best choice from a field of many potentials. Circumstances feel overwhelming and we’re the only one who can choose our path forward.

I’ve felt that way from time to time in this early post-Crash-Landing-launch era. Marketing experts and experience tell me that writing and publishing a book is only about five percent of the effort needed to get it into the hands of readers.

Most of the rest is marketing.

There are more ways to market than ever, and more experts (and professed experts) willing to help. You get bombarded with advice you “must” follow to be “successful” and it’s hard to know where to start.

This is when that Book of Answers would help.

And then I remembered. I have the book!

The exact circumstances are different but I’ve been here before—when I was deciding about leaving my marriage and corporate career, when I was starting my business, and most profoundly, after my crash.

That brought me to my knees. I didn’t know which way to turn, not that I could do much moving anyway. I was SO sure Spirit had guided me to go on a quest. How could I have read the signs and my intuition so wrong?

The answers came during the ensuing time of stillness, introspection, and research. They were in me the whole time, buried beneath many layers but they were there. To find them, I needed to explore those dark spaces, pull back the protective layers, and let the light in.

While today’s marketing-evoked emotions and circumstances are very different, I can look back at the process I used to navigate through that time. I know the strategies that ultimately worked and can apply them to my current situation. And the next one that will come along.

One of my biggest lessons was learning to trust that all is well. Know my destination, but embrace the journey without being attached to how I’ll get there, or where I end up.

It’s all in the Book of Answers. Sometimes we need to make quiet time to read it.

Each of us has our own Book of Answers. It may be on a cluttered shelf in the recesses of our heart and we may need courage and help to uncover it. But it’s there, waiting to be read, updated, and put into practice.

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A Chilling Tale: Mennonite History and the Holocaust

mennonite history and the holocaust
Children march in an October 1942 parade honoring the visit of Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, in the Halbstadt Mennonite colony in southeastern Ukraine. Courtesy of the Mennonite Heritage Centre, Winnipeg, Alber Photograph Collection 151-71.

The Mennonite kindergarten in Einlage, southeastern Ukraine, was a Nazi showpiece. WWII Nazi occupiers had gone door-to-door, categorizing inhabitants according to “genealogical and racial biological” criteria. One hundred and twenty-nine of the 10,000 kindergarten children deemed to have “German blood” found themselves in this exclusive school.

At Christmas, soldiers handed out wooden toys. German carols, not sung openly since the Bolsheviks had seized power in 1917, rang through the hall. It was the first time many of the children had seen a Christmas tree.

My grandparents and two great-grandfathers had immigrated to Canada in the 1920s from this area of Ukraine, then part of Russia. Although they’d withstood atrocious times during the Bolshevik revolution and Civil War. However, worse times were ahead for many of their relatives. Those who survived the initial onslaught, faced further decades of terror, starvation, and deprivation under Joseph Stalin.

Journalists ascribed these terrors to ”Jewish-Bolshevik tyranny.” As Mennonites (and to a lesser extent, Lutherans and Catholics) were feted by the Nazis, Jewish property was seized and redistributed. Mennonites received “used clothing” through aid agencies such as the German Red Cross.

Individuals with the church participated in fascism and genocide. It was a chilling turn of events for a cultural group where nonresistance was a tenet of their faith; who were known as a peace church. They justified their position through stories that weren’t true.

Confronting darkness is hard to do when you’re already living in fear, hunger, and constant danger.

But how is it that even today, some Mennonites who grew up in Ukraine during this time express gratitude for their generous treatment by the Third Reich? Why are Nazi officials credited with returning a “semblance of normal life“ to Ukraine?

These stories of “rescue” are indelibly embedded into the collective psyche. They continue to operate from the subconscious of the survivors and descendants of that era.

I’ve never had to worry about a knock on our farmhouse door and hear my father taken away in the middle of the night. My plate and my closet have always been full. I’ve grown up in a land of opportunity and abundance. I can’t fathom life under a cruel totalitarian regime.

Yet, I, too, have grown up with stories that have shaped my world view and life choices. Stories are powerful and they stay with us, especially the stories we’re told as a child. Questioning them is what prompted me to set off on the quest narrated in Crash Landing.

We can’t alter the past, but we create the present and future. Let’s make sure we consider all sides before judging another. Practice curiosity rather than accepting a story at face value.

Change begins with us.

Resources:

Belong to Yourself Before Community

belong to yourself
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For a micro-second after my crash I was stymied. By the time the dust had settled, I had a plan.

While the Good Samaritan I flagged down drove me ninety-minutes to a hospital, I emailed the only person I could think of in Calgary. I’d met him a week earlier at a gathering of adventure motorcycle travellers. If I could reach him, he’d help. His positive email response infused me with great relief and gratitude. I could focus on my medical treatment.

My friend’s kindness and generosity in the coming days and weeks were extraordinary, but not unusual. Riders who travel around the world recount amazing stories of kindness from ordinary people, but it’s not to the same degree as they’ll receive from within your riding community.

Humans are social beings and for millennia, our societal groups have provided the structure for us to survive. Communities arise from a common identity and shared values, whether it’s motorcycle riding, geographical location, or special interests. It’s within our communities that we find acceptance, support, and camaraderie. Membership can be involuntary, such as the one you’re born into, or voluntary.

In spite of the feelings of home and sense of belonging arising from being with your people, there are hazards to navigate.

Communities rely on structure, expectations, and unwritten codes. Conformity. This is particularly vital in times of hardship when events threaten the survival of the group, as my Mennonite ancestors experienced this during the Bolshevik Revolution, Civil War, and famine.

Your birth culture naturally tries to condition you according to its norms and beliefs. It becomes your identity. The biggest danger from a strong culture, whether it’s based on religion, motorcycles, or yoga, is that in keeping the peace you risk losing yourself.

We’ve all come from somewhere that’s molded us. Inner conflict arises when the group’s beliefs and ways of being don’t fit us. Then you need to figure out how to find resolution. Leaving isn’t necessary for everyone, but it was for me. Whether you step away or your nature pushes you away, viewing your culture from the outside helps you understand and value it better. Depending on the group’s significance in your life, it can be an arduous journey, and so worth it.

When we belong to ourselves first, we can explore the strengths and weaknesses of our heritage from a place of wonder and curiosity rather than hostility or judgment. Only then can we find our community and choose how we interact with it. Only then can we know the peace of mind and heart that comes from finding home.

Learn about my journey and how to map out your own in Crash Landing.

Liz’s Currently Reading List for February

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Stories have captivated and shaped me since time began. Before I could read, I listened. Dad would hold me on his lap and read from my first collection, The How and Why Program of Child Mental Development.

Currently Reading

The hardcover series depicted everything from Nature, Science, and the Alphabet, to the obvious favorite called Stepping Stones. Spine frayed, illustrations scribbled-over, and pages loosened from their moorings, it was a tome mostly of Bible stories and poems. Eventually my repertoire expanded to include books like Nancy Drew, Little Women, and Cherry Ames—a nurse.

Love of reading has been a constant throughout life although my interests have evolved. Once a mystery and historical fiction junkie, I now seek out books that explore spirituality, culture, and adventure; stories that inspire, make me question my thoughts and beliefs, and open my mind to new perspectives.

Books have expanded my world and catapulted me into internal and external adventures. Because they play such a central role in my life, over and above my obvious interest as an author, I thought I’d share my current reads from time to time. They may be of interest to you too.

Links are included for more information. Note that none of these are affiliate links, i.e. I don’t get a kickback for recommending them. There are no affiliate links on my site, other than for my own books and services.

Currently Reading List:

The Invitation, by Oriah. This book changed my life when I got it more than a decade ago and it’s never been far from reach since. Simple yet profound, exquisite, and eloquent, its wisdom reaches right to my soul. Read it to discover the true beauty of life. As if to demonstrate its enormous appeal, biker-dude at the Edmonton Motorcycle Show, spontaneously quoted a verse from The Invitation poem as soon as he saw Oriah’s blurb on the front cover of Crash Landing!

Falling Into Grace, by Adyashanti. Adyashanti teaches mindfulness and how to stop believing thoughts that perpetuate suffering in our lives. This book has been an immense guide for practicing the lessons of surrender and trust—and experiencing grace. I needed to read it a second time with greater thoughtfulness and deliberation, necessary because of its meatiness. The book came along on last fall’s cross-country motorcycle trip. Days of motorcycle travel across open landscapes and putting his advice into practice propelled me through some wild situations.

After the Vote was Won: The Later Achievements of Fifteen Suffragists, Katharine H. Adams, Michael L. Keene. Confidence, self-esteem, and personal power are within us all the time, like infinite potential waiting to be called on. When we test ourselves and push our comfort zone, like when we learn to ride a motorcycle, we discover these treasures that have been there all along. We can carry them into all areas of our life. These women took tremendous personal risks in the suffrage movement, but that was only the beginning. They went on to accomplish even greater feats of social change. This book came into my awareness through my friend Alisa Clickenger who’s organizing the 2020 Suffragists Centennial Motorcycle Ride.

The Living Kitchen: Healing Recipes to Support Your Body During Cancer Treatment and Recovery, Tamara Green and Sarah Grossman. A close friend is facing many months of chemo, surgeries, and radiation. I heard about this tremendous resource the day after her first treatment. While I feel helpless to change things, I can prepare meals for her and her husband. Recipes are designed to combat side effects, and support and nourish your body during and after treatment.

Prayers, A Communion with Our Creator, by Don Miguel Ruiz. I’ve incorporated this power-packed booklet, which surfaced in my library a week ago, into my morning time. Based on the principals in The Four Agreements, it’s an inspirational collection of topics and how to integrate them into your life. Subjects include wisdom, healing, courage, love, integrity, courage, love, integrity, forgiveness, truth, and happiness.

Now it’s your turn. What books are you currently reading? Tell us in the comments.

Root Medicine: Good for What Ails You

root medicine
root medicine

Think about medicine today and you’re likely to conjure up images of synthetic powders, pills, and serums. Even today, there’s resurgence in the use of root medicines, including turmeric, ginger, and licorice, to treat maladies like inflammation and digestive disorders.

But if you really want to get to the root (excuse the pun) of what ails you, you’ve got to dig deeper to your roots of origin.

Understanding your roots tells you how you’ve been conditioned. It helps you restore balance, appreciate who you are, and thrive.

My desire to know who I was before my culture shaped me was the impetus for the profound, adventurous, and arduous quest described in Crash Landing. I’m discovering it’s only the beginning of appreciating those forces that live in me.

Crash Landing’s release less than two months ago has connected me with extended kin and community, even as I’ve exposed my truth, which may not agree with theirs. In January, two funerals, a cousins gathering, and a presentation at the Mennonite Historical Museum embraced me with tradition. My motorcycle show/book tour, coincidentally in Mennonite enclaves in western Canada, melded motorcycling and ethnic communities. It reacquainted me with friends I hadn’t seen in more than forty years. They remembered me as I was in my church-going days.

There was a time, not long ago, having spiritual conversations with family would have made me very uncomfortable, to the point of avoidance. That’s no longer the case.

Accepting, then exploring my lineage so I could understand the teachings that were passed down to me, was the first step. That enabled me to see the context in which traditional wisdom originated. I appreciated how teachings that had terrorized and almost suffocated me were the bedrock that had sustained my ancestors through perilous times.

The same medicine isn’t effective in all situations, however. Sometimes it’s merely the dose that needs adjusting. Sometimes you need to move away from it, as I did, to find your way. But first, you need to know what you’re dealing with.

Now I see much more clearly. I’m so grateful and proud of my parents and grandparents who stood up for what they believed in, not only to others outside their community, but also when their beliefs and interests went against a strong internal culture. Their faith never wavered. Yet, it was the exclusionary nature and literal interpretation and application that I couldn’t accept. Still, they taught me courage, independence, and compassion. Trust.

Root medicine opened the two-way door to open, honest, and much deeper heart-relationships. My family may not agree with or understand my beliefs, but they’ve accepted my story. Root medicine has allowed me to embrace the strengths of those who have gone before. Now I can write the story of my life rather than live from a prepared script.

Interested in finding the right prescription for you? Contact me to learn more.

Photo credit: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on Visual hunt / CC BY-ND

Keeping the Stories Alive: Grief, Joy, and Memories

keeping the stories alive
keeping the stories alive

Three days ago I was sitting down to my favorite three-egg-salsa-avocado-breakfast, a treat after being on the road for almost three weeks, when my phone buzzed. It was a text from my cousin/sister Jude, letting me know her dad had just passed away. He’d been languishing and it wasn’t unexpected. It’s still final. A shock.

Aside from the profound grief and loss we feel when our loved ones pass, there’s another loss. The generation of parents, aunts, and uncles, are the story keepers. They know the lore of our grandparents and other ancestors who have gone before—ancestors whose experiences we carry in our energetic DNA.

Crash Landing narrates my physical and spiritual journey to explore my heritage and unearth memories of family and culture. It’s a story of reconnecting to myself by reconnecting with a culture I’d estranged myself from. While many of the memories were personal, or came from my parents, extended kin of my parents’ generation supplemented, and probably embellished, details.

For the first three weeks of January, I had the good fortune to travel to Calgary, Edmonton, and Abbotsford (Vancouver), promoting Crash Landing. Much of the story is set in the west so a trip there is a great opportunity to reconnect with kin.

Tragically, Elvira, Mom’s cousin and a family historian, died in an apartment fire the day I arrived. Rather than visit as planned, I attended her memorial. In Edmonton, I met Bev, a second cousin I’d only become aware of, for the first time. Our grandmothers were sisters and her family has pictures, stories, and records from Dad’s first two years in northern Alberta.

In Abbotsford (near Vancouver), I had dinner with Mom’s cousin Hedy, two months her junior. She and Mom spent much of their first five years together until their parents were forced to move to opposite sides of the country. Hedy and Mom remained friends. While Mom can no longer remember the stories, Hedy emanates joie de vivre and relates a wealth of stories and inspiration. She’s one of the last connections to my ancestors.

This weekend we’ll celebrate another life well lived as we gather for my uncle’s service. Eventually we’ll all pass on. While our elders and we are still here, however, take time to be with them. Embrace them and their wisdom, even if you don’t agree on everything.

They’re our connection to who we are. By understanding our roots, we understand ourselves. It frees us to live our life to the fullest.

How do you keep family stories alive? Tell us in the comments.

Read Crash Landing to help you on your healing journey. “Liz Jansen brings a rich vitality to several generations of ordinary people who become extraordinary through her painstaking research and beautiful writing. The Ancestor Trail is a journey with a difference: part road trip, part spiritual exploration, and part self-discovery, it answers questions that lie within all of us.” Mark Richardson, author of Zen and Now, editor of Canada Moto Guide.

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Empowerment: A Journey Not a Destination

Empowerment is a Journey, Not a Destination

The past two weekends, I’ve been at the Calgary and Edmonton Motorcycle Shows, (today I’m in Vancouver) promoting Crash Landing and Women, Motorcycles and the Road to Empowerment (WMRE). I love the opportunity to engage with readers face to face and hear their stories. These conversations also highlight myths and misconceptions about empowerment.

Men and women, familiar with my writing, walk up, and purchase, no questions asked. Others stop to ask what my books are about and often buy one or both books. They share heart-wrenching stories or their face lights up with joy when they tell me how they’ve overcome a life challenge, on or off the motorcycle.

Others glance at the titles, roll their eyes and keep walking. A small minority comments about why either book is not for them, without knowing what it’s about. WMRE gets the most eye-rolls or eye-contact avoidance. I hear, ”I ride. I’m already empowered.” Or a man will grab his female companion’s hand and say, “She doesn’t need your book. She’s empowered enough,” as he guides her away. Conversely, some men try to pressure their partners into buying it because they want them to learn how to ride.

I get that my stories aren’t for everyone and don’t take any comments (praise or criticism) personally. I’m simply the messenger, following my heart and trying to be of greatest service with my gifts.

When I respond to questions about WMRE, I explain that it weaves stories from a diverse group of women into a larger story. These women trusted me with personal experiences where they’ve pushed past their comfort zone, pulled from strengths they weren’t aware of, and shared what that’s opened up in other areas of their life.

Although the stories are told through women who ride, WMRE is about the possibilities that appear when you discover and exercise your strength in the face of formidable obstacles, not about motorcycles or women. Motorcycles just happen to be an outstanding way to push your comfort zone. But it’s not the only way, nor does riding a motorcycle automatically mean you’ve “become empowered” and there’s no more personal work to do.

Empowerment isn’t about trying to make something into what we want it to be or trying to control the outcome. There is no map. Our role in life is to show up for what’s needed in the moment, do our part, then surrender, trust, and let go of judgment or attachment to a particular result. We can’t make meaning for anyone else. We can facilitate, support, and lend a hand, but they have to find it on their own.

Often, it’s good to pause and listen to the words I’ve spoken with others, especially when I’ve repeated them frequently, like describing how WMRE is about pushing your comfort zone and opening up new possibilities. Those words apply to me. I’m also on a journey and need to make sure I don’t get complacent in familiar settings rather than pushing past my comfort zone.

One of Crash Landing’s major lessons is that I may not know the best way to the destination, but as long as I’m on the road, trusting and following my inner guidance, no matter how circuitous the journey, I’ll arrive. This internal journey is often uncomfortable.

All of us hold a reservoir of personal power, even if we don’t/can’t access it. It takes courage and trust to venture into the unknown. All these “empowering” experiences along our journey transform us into who we’re becoming.

How do you define empowerment? Tell us in the comments.

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