Tag Archives: grace

Issuing A Challenge – Remembering How To Smile

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I was just browsing through some pictures of my sweet girl. For those of you who might be unaware, my little girl passed away three and a half years ago after fighting a one of a kind brain cancer. I have shared previously on this blog, and I’m fairly certain I will share again in the future.

11026172_803042006452078_6786944172042754938_nThis one, like so many, captured her personality. Sweet and dainty, yet fierce and vibrant.

She wasn’t afraid to wear what she wanted, when she wanted, simply because she wanted. She wasn’t afraid to go against the grain. She wasn’t held back by societal norms. She was authentic. She was real. She loved people well, and she was loved.

I write this because the thought grabbed my heart. Why aren’t we all a little more like Janet – a little more like an innocent child? Yes, we live in a broken world, and it’s easy to become jaded in the face of the polar opposite of love.

When we hurt, when we walk through trauma – through hell on Earth, it’s easy to grow calloused and protect the vulnerable interior.

But, I want to challenge you today. Just as I seem to need to challenge myself.

Let’s take a look at my little girl. Take a look at your own child. Maybe take a look at yourself as a child. Go back to a time where there was innocence. Remember a time where happy existed. Remember the moments where you’d go outside and play, or perhaps beg for ice cream from the ever sounding ice cream truck.

Think on times that society had not yet set “norms” and expect you to adhere to. Think on love. Think about what would happen if you allowed yourself to abandon all those preconceived notions on what life could or should be like, only if…Allow yourself to simply, be.

Give yourself permission to be who you are, who you are right now, to feel how you feel in this moment, and to know that somehow – that has to be okay.

Recognize that it truly is okay to not always be okay. Just try, even moment by moment, to not live in that place forever. Try to see the beauty. Know that even when hope may seem to be playing an epic game of hide and seek – it is only hiding, not missing. It isn’t gone. Drill that fact into your head and heart. For, know this. There will be times that your head and your heart are at war.

If you can teach yourself some simple truths, to hold onto during those rocky times – those broken fragmented moments will pass, or you’ll at least be closer to enduring them with even slightly more strength.

I wrote all that to say this – all hope is not lost. It may be the hardest thing you do today, but think of something that makes you smile. If you are not happy right now, if you are hurting – think back to even just one thing, to one time you were happy. Allow yourself to smile, even laugh. It may not last forever, but allow it to last for this moment. This moment matters. You matter. You are worth it. Your continued story is worth it. You are valued. Just as you are. Here and now. Take the time you need to simply, be. And know that it is enough for this moment. And for the next moment. Strength is grown moment by moment.

If you are hurting today, know that you are not alone. I am too, and I understand the sting of pain. I understand missing a child, a brother, a cousin, a friend, and many others. But, I also know the value in reaching out. In community. In being part of a tribe.

Thank you for continuing to be a part of my story – my journey. I need people in my life, and I know you do as well. It is part of the human condition. We are created as community people. To do life alongside each other. Thank you for giving me that gift. To those who continue to share your love, and your thoughts and/or prayers – know you have my continued gratitude. Please, never stop.

If this resonates with you, and you would like to further discuss, please feel free to reach out – either in the comments below, or you can always feel free to send me a message. I love connecting with this beautiful community. A community founded on love.

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Pain And Healing – The Value Of An Outstretched Hand

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Pain And Healing – The Value Of An Outstretched Hand

Every human being alive knows the definition of pain. For some, it’s chronic illness – physical, or mental. Life has a habit of launching some curve balls aimed at destroying the status quo. Our action, inaction, or reaction to reality altering events is what sets the tone of our journeys and lives.

When the pain is unbearable, it is easy to lose sight of hope – hope for anything other than pain. In the intensity of a crisis or painful episode, the shaded sunglasses are fastened tightly. Through them, we only see darkness. The brightest sunny day, with birds chirping and life happening can appear dark and dreary as we wear these glasses. It’s being sight impaired to beauty for fear of the pain.

That is what pain does. It blocks our vision. It keeps us from enjoying the okay or good times because there is a paranoid expectancy of the demons and darkness lurking around the corner.

On the converse, those moments where we’re feeling those unexpectedly beautiful moments, and we are able to take joy in them — it’s more crushing when the pain returns. There is no denying that good and beautiful things happened. There are sometimes undeniable miracles at work. Even with those, it’s hard to hang onto what feels like fleeting beauty. Sunglasses continue to darken the world around us. 

We all have pasts. The collective pain and brokenness that each individual brings into a crowded room is unfathomable. Hidden scars. Brokenness. Some have walked through addiction, sexual abuse or rape, traumas of all kinds, physical or mental illnesses, bullying, crisis moments, losses of small and great magnitudes – just pain that is unimaginable.

We all need to recognize the FACT that every single person in there is a living, breathing story. Each comes with their own story – what brought them to where they are today.

Let’s talk about healing. And taking off those sunglasses. 

Healing is a term that people throw around when things hurt. Physical or mental. When life hurts, I can almost guarantee that you will hear that time heals all wounds. Whoever tells you that is lying. They may not intentionally be liars, but time doesn’t heal everything that hurts. Some things, time does allow you to better get a grip of, or to carry a little easier…but take away the pain? Nope, not so much.

However, there are  things in life that help heal. 

When life hurts, love heals. It doesn’t make the wounds automatically go away, but it dulls the sharpness of the pain. When someone offers an outstretched hand, and doesn’t greet pain with silence, healing can happen in unimaginable ways. Hope that we were temporarily blind to – that hope holds your hand and sits with you in the pain. That place is where healing happens.

It’s important to note that it’s okay to not be okay. But, when you’re not, please reach out – and allow someone else the honor of your taking their outstretched hand. No, reaching out doesn’t erase the pain. It won’t, and it can’t. Even when you feel that you’re walking through hell on earth, it’s heartwarming to know that you don’t have to do it alone.

Even not being alone doesn’t mean the storms aren’t damaging.

It is what we choose to do in these moments that define us. For me, it’s accepting the gift of friendship. When there is an outstretched hand, it’s taking it and allowing myself to just be. To just feel. To cry the tears that I want to suppress. A friend recently reminded me that I needed to feel what I was feeling, and that it was okay. Even the brokenness and tears. That is a reminder I have shared with many people over the course of time – but, hearing the words said to me – did something in my heart.

No, healing doesn’t mean the damage never existed. It means the damage is no longer permitted to control our lives.

I know it’s sometimes easier said than done. I’ve walked through hell on earth. I’ve known deep pain. But, I’ve also come to know hope and healing.

If you are or were a kid who was picked on and bullied, know that you don’t have to be defined by that. Healing is possible, and you are more. Your life is valuable, and you matter more than the words of any written language could express. There are many who may feel their pain is a result of their own doing. If you feel like you’ve messed up, always remember that you are not a sum of your past mistakes. You can make choices that enact positive change. You don’t hold all the keys to the universe, but you do hold some to your own world. We can’t control everything, but we can control our own actions.

Yes, bad things happen. Yes, it sucks. But, no, it doesn’t have to define your entire life. Brokenness can be exchanged for healing. It may not happen immediately, but it can happen. Sometimes love and friendship is like a healing salve applied to intensely painful wounds to aid in the healing process.

In case no one has told you this, please hear me. I believe in you. I believe in your story. I believe in the power of a shared story. So, let me offer this. If you have a story to tell, or just want to talk – reach out. I’m here, and others are as well. You can post in comments or send me a message via my “contact me” page. Just never give up on your story. Yours is a beautiful story, with chapters yet to be written. Never, ever give up. 

A Grateful Nation Remembers

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Memorial-Day-Images

Take a look around you. What do you see? In neighborhoods, and on lawns across these beautiful United States, you might see grills fired up, parties happening, and celebrations going strong. This is a day off work, a day to celebrate, a day for BBQs and fun. But, it is a day for so much more.

This day is a day we link arms, and we remember. We remember the fallen – the brave heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice to allow for the freedoms you and I take for granted each and every day. On this Memorial Day, let’s continue the beauty and celebrations of this day – but, let’s also honor and remember those who gave their all.

Having served our Country on active duty in the military, I walked through hell on earth at times. However, I got to come home. My heart is heavy, on this day especially, as I remember (I could never forget) my friends who did not come home. Some of my friends died as a result of military conflict, and some at their own hand. Either way, they never came home. Suicide isn’t the ultimate sacrifice that includes bravery in the way that we celebrate, but these beautiful people, my friends, never came home. They weren’t a direct result of war, but they were an indirect result of the affects of war.

This article isn’t about suicide, but I would be amiss if I didn’t mention it in the scope of people who have died in the service of our country. The intense darkness that people in the military face at times – it can seem unbearable. The mental health system in the military and all across the world, is so very broken. I know. I was in the military, and I faced unspeakable things. Thankfully, I got help, and I came home when the time came and I was able. For some, this isn’t their reality.

To all my brothers and sisters in arms – to those who still fight today, and to those who did make it home, I say thank you. To those who took their final breaths in support of our Country, and also to those who saw no end to the pain you endured and took your own life – you are, and never will be forgotten. I love you.

As you celebrate this day, I encourage you to also remember. Remember the fallen. Remember the heroes. Remember those whose lives were painful in a way they couldn’t escape and took their own lives. Let’s remember them all.

If you’d like to talk about this or anything, please feel free to comment below, or send me a message via my “contact me” page.

Suicide-Hotline

Side note. If you are a veteran or service member who has lost someone you love, and you are hurting – please know you are not alone. You are not ever alone. I feel your pain, and I see your hurting. Know this. There is help. There is hope. And, rescue is possible. I urge you to seek help. I hope you will reach out and connect with others. There are people, myself included, who love you. You can feel free to post in comments below, or connect via my “contact me” page. I am here. Others are available as well.
If you are in immediate danger to yourself or another, please dial 911. It is NEVER too late. You can anonymously call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-873-8255. If your voice is shaky and you would rather text, you can send a text to the @crisistextline 747-747 and you will be connected with a person who cares about you. Where you are. How you got there, and want to help you see that hope is still real. Love is still the most powerful force on the planet. You can find a host of local resources from @TWLOHA.

#RememberTheLove

 

This Is What Compassion Looks Like In Real Time

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So, today is Resurrection Day. It’s Easter.  A day of hope rising, and of life. A day where hurting gives way to hope.

Today was good, and today was hard. Both. I find that’s a dichotomy I live with routinely.

I went to church, and I could not have predicted or in any way prepared for the rush and sheer flood of emotions that followed my just walking in the door. This is what grief does, folks. It just shows up, like the unwelcome guest that shows up unannounced to your celebration. 

It started with a hug from a precious little friend. I love her hugs. She was close to my daughter, and to our family. Her hugs are beautiful, and they’re magic. Then, I found out a beautifully touching moment from their lives this week. They had a little bunny that died. And, their mama shared with me about how my daughter now has her own little Easter bunny. It was an incredibly sweet moment for me. It showed love unlike many other things. But, yes, it also tugged at my heartstrings. Then I walked into the bathroom, and there were beautiful flowers. All I could think was that my daughter would have loved them. More tears.

A random assortment of hugs later, I went into the service – just as the beginning of the service, the songs were starting. As I walked to my seat, again with the emotions. Tears streaming down my face. Unstoppable emotion flowing freely from my eyes. I cried lots of tears. Sitting in front of me was a man with two beautiful girls. So sweet. I could see my daughter in the innocence and playful nature of the youngest. She was a sweet girl, full of smiles.

After a very good, and also challenging service, I exited the auditorium and walked around – just connecting with people. Lots of hugs, and so much love. Did it solve all the worlds problems, or my heartache? No. But, did it act as a balm to some open wounds? It did do that. I did leave in tears. It had been an emotional morning, to say the least.

As I started on my way towards getting lunch and heading home, I ran over the edge of the shoulder as I wiped away tears that were randomly escaping my eyes. At this exact moment, a police SUV going the opposite direction happened to be passing. Yep, you guessed it. It wasn’t long that the very same officer was in my lane, behind me, pulling me over. Cause that seems like a fun addition to Easter.

But, what happened next was unexpected. The officer walked up to my window, and told me why I had been pulled over. He asked if I was alright, and if I could explain what had happened. I shared with him my pain, the loss of my daughter, and the rush of emotions that have been present today. His response was one of compassion. He asked about her – how she died, how old she was, how long it has been, etc. He listened, and he cared. He could see my pain, but didn’t ignore it, or run from it.

I did receive a warning for my driving infraction, and I’m sincerely grateful for the grace that goes along with not actually getting a ticket. He inquired about my plans for the rest of the day. He asked if I was okay, but didn’t stop there. He asked the questions he was trained to ask – the hard questions. He asked if I was really okay, and if I had thoughts of hurting myself or of suicide. I explained that I’ve had those thoughts before, but that I think every human being alive would be hard pressed to say they never have. He not only made sure I was safe, but that I remembered (and no, I haven’t and won’t ever forget) I have two precious children waiting at home, and that need me. He reminded me that they (the police department) were there – just a phone call away if there ever was a need. His concern is only one reason that I stand by the fact that we live in a community I’m proud of – backed by a police force I’m sincerely grateful for.

While there is a lot of pain attached to any day (Easter, or otherwise) – there is also a great deal of compassion and love. It is those things alone that keep any version of hope alive.

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.