Tag Archives: community

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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Facing Life After Death – Walking Through Life’s Unbearable Moments

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This child. This courageous fighter embodied strength combined with love. She knew and showed compassion. Though she faced insurmountable odds, she gave the world so many gifts – love, hope, compassion, joy, and so many other beautiful things. She leaves a beautiful legacy of love.

Last night, I had the opportunity to spend time on the oncology floor at our Children’s hospital. If you know my story at all, you know that my daughter died (13 months ago today) from brain cancer. She spent a great deal of time on this very same oncology floor. So, to be admitted with her older brother – it was difficult. When I introduce this paragraph as this being an opportunity, I did so intentionally. I had the chance to feel things that needed feeling.

With regards to being on that floor again – it was quite a mixture of emotions. Each and every emotion you could have, I did. I was angry. I was happy. I was sad. I had joy. I knew deep pain. I knew incredible love. It hurt so much. But, there was so much beauty. I was able to see the love in those walls. Empathy and compassion on the faces of nurses who remember Janet, and who remember the love. I was stopped once, and asked if I was Janet’s mom. That was such a heartbreaking and more than that – heartwarming moment. She was there the night before Janet died, and she remembers. She’ll never forget my baby. I saw another nurse this morning that also knew Janet well. No magical words, but compassionate eyes. We did talk, and it did my heart good. They still care. They’ll never forget her either. My heart needed to feel the pain, but to also feel the love.
 
I kinda think each and every day, all of life, is this way as well. Think about it. As I have said so many times before – I KNOW that I feel the deep pain that I do because of deeply rooted love. If you look at ANY passion or emotion, look at the polar opposite emotion. Usually, you can find them attached at the hip. Weakness is attached to strength. Hope to hopeless. Broken to healing. Etc., etc., etc…
 
I want to encourage you guys with some encouragement that has been life – giving to me. As we all know I stand on the FACT that it is okay to not always be okay. More than that, it’s okay (make that vital) to feel what we need to feel. If we hurt, allow ourselves to feel. There’s that fine line, though, of not staying in that place forever.
 
If you need to know that you are not alone, allow me to be the voice that says, “me too.” No matter what you are walking through, know that you are walking THROUGH it. I know that you may be struggling with the most horrific pain you have ever experienced. Is it the same as my pain? No, not always? But, also, yes – perhaps. Either way, pain (like love) is a universal language. It speaks. Will you listen?? I will. Maybe you don’t need words. Maybe you just need someone to be willing to sit, even virtually, with you in your pain. That is a gift that has been offered to me, and it’s an outstretched arm I also offer.
 
I would also like to offer this tidbit. As a bereaved mother, I want you to know – any of you reading this, it is an honor to walk alongside you on your journey as well. Do I enjoy pain? No. But, there is great healing (for me) in doing life alongside other people. It gives me great purpose to be able to say, “I may not get exactly what you are going through, but it’s an honor to sit with you in this pain,” and mean it. I still consider it a distinct honor to walk alongside parents with children fighting cancer – at the beginning of their journey, or even in their final moments. Does it hurt? Absolutely. Is it hard? Without a doubt. Is it worth it? Absolutely, positively, without a doubt. I said all that to say this, PLEASE connect and reach out. Though I have walked through some very painful seasons, it gives me tremendous purpose to use our experience(s) to share hope, compassion and love with others.
 
So, in the event you ever need help, know that help exists. You aren’t alone, and you matter. You are valued and loved. Please give yourself the ability to feel what you need to feel, to be honest and to give your heart a voice. It is then, and only then, that healing can begin.
 
If you would like to talk to me, I am here. Reach out. If you have a friend who has a friend fighting cancer, don’t hesitate to reach out. We have a wealth of knowledge, and though it sucks, it’s an honor to share experience(s) with those walking through similar life experiences. If you’re just hurting, and your heart needs a voice, I’m here. A non-judgmental, listening ear.
 
To all who continue to surround our family with your thoughts and prayers – know that we are, and forever will be grateful. The love and encouragement you continue to share – there is so much strength found there. Thank you for, forever and always, for you reaching out and being able to #RememberTheLove. It brings me strength, and does my heart good.

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. 

Dear Corporate America

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Dear Corporate America,

I’m writing today to say some important things that I sincerely hope you take to heart, and listen to. I’ll start by saying that I need you. But, stopping there would be a disservice to both of us. Here’s the thing: you need me too!

When you look at me, you see an unemployable individual. You stop at my outer appearance alone, and never offer even an opportunity to showcase who I am. You see my colorful hair and two tattoos – one on each forearm. You might see a creative person who wouldn’t work well as part of a team. You may think that I buck the rules and can’t conform.

Allow me to alter your thinking, and share who I really am.

I am amazing. I am one of the best team players your company would come to know. How can I have the audacity to say these things?

I’m not conceited, but I know my value. I’ve struggled with mental illness, but this does not define me. I know deep pain, having lost my child after her cancer battle. However, because of this pain and loss, I know that hope is real. Though I am creative, and can work on my own – as an individual, I recognize the value of community. I have incredible attention to detail, but know how to ask for help when there is a need. I have unquestionable integrity – beyond compare, and a work ethic unlike many others. I’ve proudly served these United States while on active duty military service. I am a person you need in your team.

I’m not asking you to relax or throw out your personal appearance policies. I am, however, asking you to see me for who I am, and the countless others who don’t fit societal norms, for who they are. Recognize that I come to you, eager to better your company, image, and community footprint. That, amongst a host of other reasons, is what you forfeit when you deny the possibility of my employment.

You see me and think it’s easier to simply say no – we can’t hire you – this statement on appearance alone. You’re worried about offending those who expect societal norms. What you fail to understand is that my appearance will make far more people smile, connections within  the community, and start conversation. You need that, and I need you.

My plea to you is that you at least consider giving me a chance.

Close your eyes for a moment and pretend you don’t know my tattoos and bold colored hair are even a factor. Think about the kind of person you want working alongside you. Think about trustworthiness and integrity, along with precise attention to detail. Envision a person who treats others with respect, kindness, and operates with compassion. This person values human life, and knows that every person they come into contact with are living, breathing stories – stories that matter. Think of those things, and you’ll have a good picture of some of the many qualities I bring to the table.

For even the consideration, I share heartfelt gratitude.

I am certain that I need you – but, you also need me.

Finding Grace In A Tweet

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Never underestimate the power of social media. Ever. Just don’t do it. Social media often wears the hat of a villain. Many consider it the downfall of modern society – a breakdown in communication. A place where people forget what “real” relationships are. 

I challenge that notion. It can be the polar opposite, on every level.  

Allow me the opportunity to talk a little bit about human connection, and the power of our words – and how a simple tweet can set events in motion that will allow two separate worlds to collide. 

If you know me at all, you may know that grace is a big deal. I live and breathe it, and want every human being alive to know grace, feel loved, and know their worth. 

Watch as this story plays out. 

First, let me tell you about my friend Aaron. He’s known as @CulturalSavage on Twitter, and shares his heart on his Cultural Savage blog. Aaron knows what it’s like to experience seemingly insurmountable odds, and feel deep pain. But, Aaron also knows about grace. I may write again another time about my friend, but for now, let me explain how his “simple” tweet changed the trajectory of my today (and potentially more).

Yesterday, he shared a tweet about grace. More specifically, he shared an opportunity to be a part of a book launch team. A new book about grace. In doing a little research, I connected with the author of this book, James Prescott, along with his Facebook community (made up of people from all walks of life, from all over the world) for his book launch. 

What I found was so much more. 

On a day like yesterday where I’ve felt pain, and cried a river – this encounter (all from a “simple” tweet) has made today new. I have a renewed sense of purpose and direction. 

Instead of allowing depressions talons to sink deeper, I find myself collaborating with other like minded people. I find excitement about future events, and passion surrounding this book launch. 

This book is launching on the exact day of the one year anniversary of my daughter taking her final breath this side of Heaven. She died one year before this book launches. That may seem sad. It is. It hurts. But, this is a way that I can see redemption and not only pain on that day. 

As that date approaches, I will share more information, more thoughts on grace, and I’ll continue to invite others to join me in helping James launch his book. His message is one I believe in, and am passionate about helping spread. 

Grace. I need it, you need it. That guy down the street that you go out of your way to avoid – he needs it too. Would you join me in an effort to help grace spread like wildfire? Click on this link, and find your spot in this grace filled community. You belong. 

If you are struggling this season, or through life in general, please know you aren’t alone. If you’d like to know more about this concept of grace, please feel free to reach out. I’m here. You can comment directly on this post, or your can use contact me link. I’ll look forward to connecting. If you do nothing else, at least recognize that your life matters, and that grace is for you too. You aren’t alone. 

Life Changing Love And Grace

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If you know me at all, or just happened to stumble on yesterday’s blog post – then it will not come as a surprise that I struggle with depression. Some days, it feels so dark – crippling even. There have been points in my life (like yesterday) where hope plays a better game of hide and seek than any child I’ve ever known! The emotions that surround these moments lead to intensely painful times. It is what is done during those exact moments that either sustain life or make you want to see it end. I know that sounds dramatic – but anyone who has hurt so deeply can unfortunately relate to that in some way, shape, or form.

Now what I’d like to offer you, is a perspective different than I was able to see, or even comprehend yesterday. This will highlight the importance of friendship, love, grace, and the ability to be real. Even when “real” hurts.

Let me be honest. Yesterday, something just broke inside me. That’s the best way I can put it. I felt a pain with intensity of the blazing sun. Okay, that may be a bit dramatic. But, the point is this – I was hurting in a way I hadn’t ever felt. The realization that life was this vicious cycle broke me to the core. Suddenly, I felt all semblance of hope has all but disappeared. But, what happened next would change that all. It would open up the door, even a crack, for hope to come back in. It never snuck out, but I was unable to find it. The fact of the matter is that grief and depression clouded my eyes, and how everything appeared.

If I’ve learned anything, it’s that things aren’t always going to be good, okay even. They’ll sometimes suck more than anyone wants to admit. Even in those times, I’m learning that it’s not only just helpful, but vital to my very survival to reach out, and not allow myself to face those moments alone. Let me explain the shape my last 24 hours took. (in all actuality, this will not be complete until the morning because lack of sleep is rapidly catching up with me!)

And, so now I pick up where I left off! (I’m exhausted, as I – quite literally – didn’t sleep at all last night. So, tonight should be an early bedtime!)

As intense as my pain was – I still (thankfully) realized the need to surround myself with people. I reached out and either called our messaged those who were available.

My friend Jayson shared an incredible example of how to – even knowing the hard times would be lurking around the corner – still find joy and beauty in the good times. I can’t paraphrase and better than he did, so (with his permission) I will quote him.

Imagine you’re going on an exotic vacation (yeah, me either . . . but let’s pretend). So you have a week in this wonderful place, but you know you’re going to have to go back to work in a week.

You can either be constantly thinking “Only 5 more days until I am back in the grind.” Or you can make the choice to put work out of your mind and just enjoy the repast.

I kind of think of it as the same thing. If I am enjoying a peak, but constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop I am cutting of the height of the peak. Does that make sense?

The valleys stay just as low, but I am ruining the vista from the mountaintops because I’m constantly telling myself “at any moment this is all going to be ruined.”

Sometimes that attitude actually seems to hasten my low points.

It takes some work, but you need to learn to be a hedonist when the opportunity presents itself. It’s completely okay to enjoy the pleasure and break from the darkness.

Even reading that all over again brings such peace. It showed me a couple of things. In reality, I’m not the only person in the world who hurts, and has had similar thought processes. It also opened my eyes, and helped me simply focus differently. I was able to see beauty and truth in what he said.

As my heart felt crushed, and I begged to feel something other than pain, I spoke with another friend. I was asked how things were going, and I explained honestly how I felt. It was explained that they couldn’t relate to or even understand the hurt I felt – but would hold my hand, and sit with me in the pain. That alone have my heart peace and small (yet huge) amounts of healing.

Another odd experience was when I stumbled on a new friends blog. I read just one blog post, and it grabbed my heart. I read and tears decided to go on mass exodus from my leaky tear ducts. It was a reply from the blog author that till me by surprise. He asked if I had joined the facebook group. I hadn’t heard of it, let alone joined it. With that, and very little searching later, I found a link that I would never regret clicking on.

It was a closed facebook about a tribe – a gigantic family/community that welcomed all people – without regard to social, marital, religious, sexual or any other status or identity. This, all in the name of grace. I was assured that all were welcome in that place – all in the name of messy grace. It’s saying that, no matter where you are, or how you got there – that you wouldn’t be judged, but WOULD be loved. For who you are, where you area – right now.

Truth be had, I was in a very dark place, but I instantly felt safe there. I opened up a small amount, and was immediately welcomed as a friend. I felt loved. Immediately, nothing really changed. However, the more I shared my personal hell, and the more my broken heart escaped and turned into words on a page – the more I felt drawn in and loved. And true kind of love that had no expectations in return. It was indeed a safe place. A shelter for the wounded, while also being a church for the hurting, a party for the celebrating – and a love fest for all who came by. Yes, I saw it. It was all those things. But, for me personally it was a place I was allowed to hurt, and to just BE. Friendships were born in an instant. Even as the night went on, there was always a person with a listening non-existant judgemental ear. And quite a few kind words that enveloped me with love. It was so tremendously healing.

Last night, I was also invited to join a twitter live chat. It was one where all were welcome, and none turned away. The chat was about church and mental health. I didn’t even really know how it all worked – I just jumped in there and answered the questions asked, and connected with others who also replied. It was clearly evident that it was authentic community as well. Everyone brought their own life and pain to the table. It was crystal clear to me that love was the driving force. To just be together, and to connect in a way – exactly where any number of us were in those moments.

I believe that the message I am trying to say is that – even if I hurt, and even if I feel as if life has nothing but pain and heartbreak to offer – it also has love and hope. Offered freely. I can speak for myself when I say that I understand how easy it is to lose sight – to essentially become blind and completely miss hope, grace and love.

People – who start as complete strangers (if I choose to allow) – can surround me during whatever brand of personal hell I’m walking through. To be loved through the pain speaks a language I was unaware that existed in such a way.

All this leads up to the concept that you aren’t EVER alone in your struggles. During the times you feel life is too overwhelming to even keep walking – it is then that you need to allow others the honor of holding your hand, and helping you take even baby steps when you feel unable to walk on your own. Please,  PLEASE reach out. You are worth it. Hope IS real, and often will come disguised as other hurting people who will love and hold you. You may think it’s difficult (I do!) but I assure you. It is worth it. You are worth it.

You are a living story – one with more pages, yet to be written.

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365 Moments Of Gratitude – Thankful Today For Community And Love

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Today’s post is a going to be a little bit different. Today I am grateful for something I talk about often – love. More specifically, love that is evident by watching people band together in support of something more than themselves.

Today, I had just such an opportunity to watch an outpouring of love. A funeral. A friend’s mother passed away, and today was the visitation and funeral service. The love shown was all around, but referring to the love shown for the family. There were several people who showed up to simply show their support for the family and let them know how very loved they are. It just struck me as beautiful to watch a community rally around people in their time of mourning. No one wants to go through a death in the family, and even moreso, no one wants to go through such heartbreak alone. It was heartwarming just to watch and know our friend was not alone.

Many times, people will not step out of their comfort zone to support another person – but on this day, it was honored to watch a bunch of people recklessly loving others. Thanking God for community and for His love being shared in such real ways.