Tag Archives: beauty

Hopeful Expectancy – It’s Time To Start Dreaming Again

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It is no secret that I have struggled with the idea that hope, often times, seems elusive. Pain from trauma, brokenness, grief, mental illness, etc – that pain can be so intense it’s blinding. It removes hope as a word in our vocabulary. It insists that hope for anything beyond the pain isn’t a thing – that it never really was. It ensures we cannot remember what hope even feels like. It says hope isn’t real, at least not for me. I’ve also come to realize that this is dangerous, and false thinking – simply put: hope never goes anywhere. Yes, our life’s experiences that allow for that temporary blindness that makes hope appear to play a mean game of hide and seek – with us consistently losing. I urge you, however, to remember that hope is still real, and it always will be. Yes, I’m speaking to myself as much as the next person reading.

Today, however, something pretty interesting happened. I will explain more specific details in a future post, but I will say this. I was at a very low point today, and – if I’m being honest – the same can be said for plenty of the time recently. I have been questioning the meaning of life, in combination with the actual desire to keep on walking. To keep breathing. It’s been a struggle, trying to simply be, and live with the intensity of the pain. Instead of getting easier to navigate and deal with over the course of time, it’s been getting intensely more difficult. I have questioned my ability to keep fighting. Life shouldn’t be a fight.

Today, I was feeling really very overwhelmed, like giving up – and just, hurting. Instead of forcing myself to deal with it on my own, I reached out to a trusted friend. I will write more about this friend in time, but it became a moment, inspired by God Himself. That is not something I say lightly. But, it is something I say absolutely, with no doubt, was orchestrated by the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth.  Grace took on the form of human connection, and reminded me of hope. And smiles. And laughter. Even tears. But, more than that, reminded me of the life saving grace and love that God offers.

This day especially, I needed this reminder. Had I forgotten who God was, or all He’s done in countless lives, mine included? Absolutely not. Had I been blinded by the pain, so I was unable to see or focus on Him at all? Yes, more than I care to admit.

But, the beauty of it all? Hope arrived. Though it never actually left, it did become real again. I would be lying if I said all was now a bed of roses, and all my thoughts and feelings are suddenly all totally better. I would be telling a tall tale if I told you that I now have it all figured out, due to this magical conversation with a friend. Though, I will say that the conversation was absolutely a tool God used to penetrate some dark places – to shine light on hope again; to allow for hope to arrive. What did happen, was beautiful indeed. I dared to allow myself to hope again.

Then, like a healing balm applied to a painful wound, a word was beginning to take form, and be etched in my heart. Expectancy. More than that, to live with hopeful expectancy. That is a change from where I am right now. It became a moment of deciding to choose not to live life comfortably – a moment where I chose (and will continue to choose) to dismiss the status quo. I realized, I really do want more than just the pain that life has offered. I know there has to be more out there. I will not give up on it.

You see, just last night, I was listening to this same  previously mentioned friend talk about dreaming. That our dreams are possible. While he was speaking, something broke inside me though. It was at that moment that I realized that I do not really have a lot of dreams – big or small. I haven’t been dreaming anymore. This really bothered me. But, I didn’t have the answer – the “how to” on dealing with it.

During my conversation today, though, That word, expectancy – it became real again. It is taking up residence in my heart, and is helping me grow my thinking.  It is helping me believe that not only is hope real, but also that dreaming is possible again. I haven’t really dissected this all that much yet. I haven’t sat down and really put much more thought into it, but I am going to.  I need to be in a different place than I am right now, and I can already tell it will require re-framing of my own thoughts. Re-framing reality even.

So, even though I don’t have it all figured out – I say that’s okay. I have something much greater: hopeful expectancy. That, in combination with my faith in a God who loves – that, is where I believe life change will begin to happen. That is where I see hope growing and thriving. That is where redemptive grace takes hold, and doesn’t let go. For this, I am grateful.

With this, I say, let’s get to dreaming. Never let your dream(s) die. If you aren’t dreaming, it’s time to rekindle the fire that says to not give up, and to never stop dreaming. You’ve got this. I’ve got this. Together, we can change the world. Maybe not the entire world (maybe so though) but we can change our individual world. That is worth hopeful expectation.

Dream big.

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When Depression Partners With Grief

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If you’ve read this blog for any length of time at all, you’ll recognize that I’m generally encouraging, or at least positive and pretty upbeat. I apologize in advance, because this is not going to be that. The words that follow will be fairly unfiltered and mostly unedited.

I’m tired, y’all. (Yes, I said y’all! I was born and raised in the south, so it’s allowed!) So jokes aside, I’m just exhausted in pretty much every sense of the word.

Before I go any further, I should warn you that what you’re going to read isn’t comfortable, and may frighten you as you question how I’m doing. That isn’t my intent. And, know this – I am safe, just need a space to process all this. I normally wouldn’t so openly, but ours is a world in pain. If just one person feels less alone, then there is purpose in the sharing.

I’ll get right down to it. I’m feeling overwhelmed and like I said, exhausted. I feel like I am just barely managing to keep the tears at bay some moments. No, I’m not a walking waterfall of tears, but I’m finding that they have a mind of their own. They want out more than I try to prevent them.

This whole grief thing – it sucks. Yes, the sun does still shine from behind the darkest clouds, and there is tremendous beauty all around us – even when depression makes everything bleak and dreary. Even though I know depression lies, it’s hard to hold onto that when is talons claw deeper.

My parents watched as we said goodbye this side of Heaven to my 7 year old daughter. I watched my parents bury my brother a year later. Days before my daughters death (she knew she was dying) she remarked how this just isn’t natural. And she was right. It isn’t. Parents shouldn’t watch their kids die. It sucks.

Depression, especially when partnered with grief, is a dangerous thing. It robs you of the ability to see or feel the beauty everywhere. It encourages statements like, “I just can’t do this anymore,” or simply, “I’m done.” I feel that way often.

But, here’s the thing. So far, I’ve managed to hold onto the idea that depression lies, and grief won’t always be painfully intense. The problem I struggle with is this. It’s hope. For me, hope seems about as easy to hold onto as wet soap in the shower.

I don’t like living like this. I genuinely wonder how it’ll be possible to keep going another day, let alone decades. Yes, I have sporadic suicidal thoughts. More than I care to admit. They’re painful and annoying, but no – I don’t entertain them either. They come, and I let them go. I try my best not to dwell in those moments. I choose not to act on them.

Let me reiterate – I really am okay. Well, a better description would be safe. I’m not particularly okay right now, but I am safe. Like I said, I won’t take unsafe action when those bad thoughts invade.

I guess I just need to hear the same words I share with hurting people all over the globe. It truly is okay to not be okay. It won’t always be this intensely painful always. Hope is real, and it always will be. I am a living, breathing story – one with chapters still being written. My story matters. I matter. I need to hold onto these things, rather than the lies depression partnered with grief tell me.

If you need to hear these things, or you know sometime who does, please tell them. You may be the lifeline they need in whatever crisis moments they’re walking through. If you hear nothing else I’ve said, please hear this. You are not now, and not ever, alone. I know the storms will still rage, and can be damaging – but one thing is for sure. You aren’t on your own, and neither am I. Take my hand if you need a friend…and please also offer yours. As I wrote last week, there is power in an outstretched hand; healing happens in friendship.

Love Like Tomorrow Isn’t Promised 

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Love. 

I will quote one of the most inspiring people on earth, Jamie Tworkowski; founder of To Write Love On Her Arms. I’m grateful for Jamie’s heart, and for the worldwide Army of people loving people exactly where there at, that he has created and continues to help grow.  He recently shared these words (and clothing with this coined phrase) :

Love is still the most powerful force on the planet. 

I talk about love often. We all should. Why, you might ask? It’s simple. 

Love is the backbone of strength. 

Every human being needs and deserves to be loved. We all do. But, taking that a step further, we also need TO love. 

My daughter, unbeknownst to her, created #RememberTheLove. (Feel free to search Facebook with that hashtag) This is something that she lived and breathed. It’s something I strive to do more of every single day. Yes, in her honor and memory, but also to make an impact and love people well. 

Think about it. 

If we loved people in the same way we’re loved, or how we *should* be loved – we would strengthen ourselves, our relationships, families, communities, our Nation, and yes- the world. Dramatic? Sure. But it’s truth. Love (kinda right up there in connection with hugs) makes the world go round. 

My daughter was dying, and she knew she was going to die. She didn’t want everyone to be sad  (even though she knew they would be) when she went to Heaven – but, instead, she asked that we would #RememberTheLove. She GOT it. She understood.  Friends, at 7 years old, this sweet little girl knew more about love than many know in a lifetime. 

That is where strength comes in – at least for me. When the moments come, and they come often, that I am overwhelmed, and maybe feeling kinda hopeless – it is love that sustains me. It is grounding, and produces strength.  Love is this powerful force that gives strength unlike anything else possibly could.

So, yes, you’ll find that I talk a great deal about love. It’s because love is life changing, life giving, and even life saving. Will you join me in this journey of loving people well? Oh, and I should add – loving people well also includes YOU. Self care is vital. As you show yourself love, it’ll be easier to reach out with and in love. 

To all who read my words, who love my daughter and our family – thank you more than words can ever express (though, clearly it won’t be for lack of trying) for being strength for us every single day. I need you. Our family does. And, we are grateful for the continued love, thoughts and prayers, and support – in whatever form it takes. Love and hugs, all the way around. 

Have You Been To A Concert That Rescues And Saves Lives? 

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This is a picture taken at a concert that began with “For His Glory” (which is more than just a band, and then followed by “The Great Romance” – who already held a very special place in my heart.

Have you ever been to a music concert that saves lives and rescues people? I have. Two nights ago. 

I had an opportunity that had my stomach in knots. A concert. No big deal,  right?!  In my case, not right. Let me explain… 

My daughter passed away in February after a three year battle with brain cancer. During the first year of her fight – on a cool and crisp sunny October afternoon, Matt Vollmar (Lead singer of The Great Romance -TGR) came to visit Janet during one of her many inpatient stays at the hospital. He sang an incredibly meaningful song, Bigger Than The Odds. The song speaks of A God, who is bigger than the odds. Janet fell in love with that song, the artist who sang it, and the band that plays it. She’d take much pride in requesting and hearing it played on the radio. Every time TGR was in concert anywhere within a reasonable driving distance, we made it a point to be there. It would be an understatement to say they meant a ton to us. 

Case in point, Matt Vollmar was one of a small handful personally asked to sing at Janet’s Celebration of Life (funeral) service. He sang an couple of her favorite songs, fitting for the occasion. 

This concert was the first concert I’d been to since she passed away. If you knew much about me, you’d know I’ve been to several concerts in recent years – at least 95+% of them, with my daughter in attendance. She loved music. Music has such a message, and even as a young kid, she “got” it. 

I had virtually no idea how hard, yet how impactful this concert would become. 

If you look closely, these are several of the pictures from the set where these guys/gals played/sang.

I walked in as the first group, For His Glory, was being introduced, and began to share about a cause that they support – a cause near and dear to their hearts. They seek to offer hope, healing, and practical help to people and ministries worldwide. In this instance, they spoke passionately about human trafficking, and connecting them with true and lasting, sustainable hope. The kind of hope that rebuilds lives, and communities. They have a global market, where they sell goods made by these rescued girls, to help them continue with sustainable income. I saw some of these beautiful items – baby bibs, any weather scarves, winter scarves, greeting cards, wooden sculptures, jewelry, etc. Incredible talent. 

Their mission is one near and dear to my heart as well. I was astounded to hear their heart and words in support of this cause. 

As they played, their songs spoke to my heart. I listened, and I cried. It simply couldn’t be helped. They were beautiful tears – not marked with sadness. They were my heart connecting with what felt like the very heart of God. I knew, in those moments, that I had to connect with these people. That is an indoor process at the moment, but their mission is also my mission. I’ll look forward to updating again as friendships form, and differences are made in our world. 

At the completion of their set, it was time for The Great Romance to take the stage. I didn’t know what to expect, emotion wise, but I didn’t have the slightest clue the difficulty level either. 

Look closely. These are some of several shots taken during this concert.

Their first song was a light hearted (one of a few) favorite of Janet’s. I had tears, but I was okay. The next song grabbed my heart, and was one Janet loved, got the meaning of, and was also sang at her Celebration of Life. Disappear. The basis of this song is asking “if I were to disappear, would there be footprints on the floor” – asking if the person wasn’t there any longer, would they leave a footprint on this world – a legacy of something more. At seven years old, my daughter knew she was doing, but she KNEW she would leave a legacy of love. She was and still is right. So yes, that song got me. A few other songs hit a spot, but nothing came close to the deluge of emotions that poured out of my eyes in the form of tears. I lost it. Not on a horrible way, but the tears freely streamed down my face, giant and very real crocodile tears. They were healing while heartbreaking, simultaneously. I was just enveloped with God’s love, but sported a shattered heart – knowing how much that song meant to Janet, and wishing I could watch her beautiful bald self, dancing to it time and time again. It hurts to not have her here – but my God – I wouldn’t trade having such beautiful and love filled memories of a life – seven years of a life – well lived. 
My daughter truly LOVED more in her seven years, than many will live in an entire lifetime – one that spans into adulthood, and old age. She was robbed of so much, but it NEVER put a damper on her smile. When I grow up, I wanna be just like her! Ha! 

To everyone who continues to connect with Janet’s story, and our ongoing journey, I want to thank you for the continued thoughts and prayers. Please and thank you for them continuing! 

When Pain Hurts Deeply, Tears Speak

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Tears.

Some would say they’re cleansing. Others would say they sting, while others feel they’re a form of expression of the things we struggle with and have no real way of expressing. There are also happy tears. This is not about those right now.

If the truth is known, my thoughts and personal experience encompass all these things.

To be honest, I have had a mixture of these tears streaming down my face this morning, and across the lines of history. My tears are born from pain, but also out of empathy. You see, pain seems to be a universal language that all understand.

Case in point. My heart sank, just broke with news of a friend hurting over the loss of someone they hold very dear. Their pain is tangible, and I can relate to it through my own experiences. My heart hurts, and tears express that pain in a way I can’t with words.

I guess the bigger lesson here is that everyone hurts. Everyone has struggles. Every person alive knows what pain is. It may not be your pain, but it is theirs, and ur hurts still the same.

Pain manifests itself through tears sometimes. We need to recognize that, sit back, and listen to the message that our tears are trying to communicate. Don’t be so quick to wipe away your tears. There can be strength in allowing them to flow. Sometimes, you allow nothing, as they also seem to have a mind of their own. Just ride the wave, and pray it doesn’t take you under.

Right now, my tears have stopped. For the moment. I must have heard the message. My particular message in this moment is that it’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to feel pain. Just feel. Allow yourself to not be okay when that’s your reality.

Also, hurt when others hurt. Even when you hurt deeply, there is a level of unspoken comfort when you don’t sit alone in your pain. Be a friend in a way that isn’t self centered, and heart what you’re friends tears are saying too.

Don’t be afraid of tears – for they are valuable. They speak the language you’re unable to express without them. They serve a purpose. They know the pain, and they know how to release it. Let the tears flow when they need to. It’s hard, but worth it.