Tag Archives: grace

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! 

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Spiritual Recovery Group – Who Needs That!? 

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I want to share this opportunity with you. Before you shut down at the word opportunity, please keep reading. Give me a couple minutes of your time. YOU are worth it. 

When you read a title about spiritual recovery, you might have laughed to yourself like I did when I was told about the group. That all changed when I took the time to dig deeper, and really understand the value of what was being offered. I will share briefly why this is so, SO very important to me. 

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, it should come as no surprise that I am hurting – in about a billion places, for nearly as many reasons. My heart is shattered, and I feel disconnected and broken in too many areas. I often feel as if I don’t even know who I am anymore – especially when it comes to being a Christ follower, a Christian. 

My daughter passed away five months ago after a three year battle with a one of a kind brain cancer. That does something to your soul. To every aspect of your life, if we’re being honest. To say that I’ve lost faith is inaccurate. To say that I have completely unwavering faith – also somewhat inaccurate. To say there are days I’d kinda like to punch God in the face – accurate! To say I have so many questions, and no clue how to navigate them – completely accurate. 

I am at a place that I recognize the need for clarity. I grew up around church my whole life. I had, and still have faith. However, recently, I became aware that my faith want built on a very strong foundation. I have realized the need to own my own faith. I no longer desire to follow blindly. As such, I’m finding the desperate need for digging deeper, researching more, and not only knowing that I have faith – but the why behind my faith. 

Enter this spiritual recovery group. 

This group offers an incredible amount of hope to me personally. I joined this group, and would like to offer you the same opportunity. 

Because the life and legacy my seven year old daughter leaves – one of hope, grace and especially love – I wanted to also share that there are now two partial scholarships available. The cost of the course is $149, but two people are now able to attend for just $75. Would you be one of these two people to join me? 

From the website offering this online group:

As a former  youth pastor and worship leader, I know how deep the words of well-meaning people can cut. Even after Bible college and ten years of traditional ministry, I was secretly addicted to pornography. And when all of my mess became public, it seemed my family was too messy for the church. My desire for this recovery group is to help people take off the mask of performance-based Christianity, find healing for their wounds, and move forward.

Here’s a sad fact: the church is often too scared or ill-prepared to tackle the hard topics.But our lack of engagement with broken people is literally killing God’s children. The good news? I have been re engaging my faith and the local church for the past four years, and I can tell you that refusing to live like a victim has changed my life. Recovery isn’t easy, but second chances are possible for you…and the church.

Who is this group for?

  • Someone longing to engage their faith after years of being disconnected from the local church.
  • A person wanting to engage the local church again but in need of clear boundaries.
  • Anyone who has been diagnosed with a mental illness and is scared of what the church will say.
  • A member of the LGBTQ community who fears they can no longer belong to a faith community.
  • Someone in a crisis of faith.
  • Anybody who feels “soul confusion” and is longing for clarity, belonging, and hope that God is still listening.



For me, I personally fit into multiple categories listed above in the “who is this group for” section. 

I know this is a group beneficial to not only me, but countless others who may be lost, hurt, broken, unsure, or any number of other emotions. Would you like to join me? I’d love to walk through this experience with you. If you are unable to afford the full price, please don’t let that be your stopping point. 

You can reach out here in comments, email me directly via the contract me page. Or, you can reach out to Steve Austin, on the blog post he shares about the group, and also scholarship opportunity

No matter if you join this group, or where you are in your faith journey, please don’t do it alone. You aren’t alone. Allow others to walk with you. You deserve it, as do those you’ll do life with! 

The Letter I Wish She Could Read

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To anyone who may read this – this is going to be a letter I write to my 7 heart old daughter Janet. She passed away three day before Valentine’s Day, 2016, after a three year fight with brain cancer.  I have no idea how long this will be, but I have so much on my mind. You don’t have to read it – but do please feel free. I am not going to edit or even change grammar or spelling errors because, frankly, I don’t want to. I’m writing on/from my cell phone, and so God knows (and so do several of you) that I’m probably going to say any number of things that might not compute! I love you all. Thank you for being here. And for all you love, support, thoughts and prayers! 
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Oh, precious Janet! I love you so much, sweet girl. I will always and forever #RememberTheLove. Like I told you before you took your final breath this side of Heaven, we do miss you like crazy – like there’s no tomorrow! But, just like I followed that up with this then, I will now say that we are okay. The reason we’re okay is because we have each other. We still have you here with us, just only in our hearts. 
I’m not going to lie – sweetheart. This has been the hardest I’ve ever felt. Some days are so much harder than others. You know what I’m learning? That’s just the way it is. I do know this, though. If you were able to, you’d give me a gigantic squeezy hug. You did those the best. You’d tell me it’s okay, and you’d wipe away my tears. I know this. Sorry. I’m just missing you. 
I’ve learned so much about myself, other people, life, and even God. I think you’d be proud. I hope so, at least. God knows I’m also not perfect. But I know you’d remind me how much you love me and no matter what, that wouldn’t change. I said that to you all the time – and you picked up on or, and knew when to say it to me. 
I’m so so sorry we couldn’t do more to save you. I know it’s not my fault. But I still wish. So much. I just feel so broken. My heart hurts so much sometimes. I hate this pain, and how much it hurts. But them I remember that it hurts so bad because we shared so much love. The love you shared with me will forever be in my heart. 
I’ve been listening to a lot of music. I know how much music meant to you. It makes me smile. 
Guess what else? If you were sitting beside me, I know we’d talk about this. I’m learning a lot right now, especially about God, and my faith. Also about love, and compassion – and this messy thing called messy grace. I learned so much about this thing called messy grace at an incredible place – a blog written by my friend Steve. There is also a really neat messy grace community Facebook group that are just a bunch of people that love people just where they are. That helped me too! They just love people really well, and they share so much of this messy grace with everyone. I mean it, Janet. EVERYONE! I bet that would make you giggle. Just all this talk about messy grace! Hehe. 
I wanna tell you a little bit about the things I’ve been thinking about and realizing. I’ve been telling Jeremy and James this, so I’d tell you too. 
I’m starting to see just how much God loves us. I’m finding out a lot about my own faith in God. I know, you’d smack my hand if I told you I wanted to punch God in the face some days. I’m not doing to lie, baby. It makes me so mad at Him sometimes because you weren’t healed here on Earth. But, I’m so so so happy that you got to meet Jesus. I know that even just hours before you took that last breath, you smiled because you knew it was almost time. 
Anyway, I’ve decided to live my life in a little bit different of a way. I’ve decided it’s time to own my faith. What that means I’d I know what things I believe, but I just realized I didn’t always know why. Do you understand? I know you do. I don’t want to have what’s called blind faith. I just mean that – you know, when a person is blind, they can’t see. Well, I don’t want to believe things with my eyes closed. I want to believe them for myself – not because someone else tells me to. It’s more important than that. 
One of the biggest things that my heart needs, and wants other people to understand, is love. Love can move mountains. I bet that would make you laugh – silly mommy. But live is such a big thing. I know you knew that though. 
The world we live in right now needs so much more love. One thing going on right now is so many people aren’t showing people love very well. I know, you would ask why, and it would make you sad. Baby, it makes me sad too. 
One thing going on is the LGBTQ+ community. I know, those letters sounds silly. What those letters are talking about are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and the plus is for all the other things in between. Lesbians are when girls like or love and want to marry other girls. Being gay is like the same thing, but with boys who like other boys. Bisexual is when a boy likes boys and girls, and also if girls like girls or boys. Transgender people are people who feel like they were born in the wrong body. They might be a person who was born with boy parts, but has always felt like that was a mistake. And even sometimes girls are born with a vagina, but they always feel like they were supposed to be a boy. Queer is kind of hard to explain. Not really, I don’t guess. It just means anything but straight. Straight people are when a man loves a woman, or a woman loves a man. But, when a person is queer, they can like it love anyone. The Q also can stand for questioning. For a lot of people, there is a time when they start to question and explore who they think are nice and that they might want to get to know better and maybe love. 
This community is in the news a lot lately. It makes me sad, and I know it would make you sad too. One thing that makes me sad is that people don’t treat people very nicely. I think you’d be super proud to help me with this next thing. I know how much loving people means to you. You would want to help me love people well. ALL people. 
See, you know we go to church. I have figured something out, sweetheart. Not our church, but so many different churches aren’t doing very well in how they love people. I know, you probably can’t understand that! It’s crazy! Cause, God wants us to love every single person – even if they look different, or live different, or if they marry differently. But so many people don’t love people like that. They only love the people they understand. It makes me sad about this LGBTQ+ community because they are very special too. The Bible does talk about homosexuality (that is when two people who are either both boys or both girls love each other and want to be a family) and says in some places that it’s wrong. A lot of churches even tell them that they can’t be a Christian because of the way that they love people. 
I’m going to tell you this. I don’t really believe that’s true. I know there are a lot of people who may not like that I say that. And they may not believe it. Some may even get mad. But, I think they can come to Jesus and all Him (like you did) to come into their heart and be a part of their life. What happens after that is between that person and God. I’m not God. (I know! That’s funny for me to say!) But, I’m not Him and I can’t really tell you how He will act or react. But what I do think is that He will love them very well. You know how I feel about God, and when people want to know Him more. He welcomes people right where they are. That is what I think. 
I want to help people, all people, even in the church to love all people well — not just the people that they agree with. See, I’ve told you this so many times. As people who love Jesus, (we call them Christians or Christ followers) we are asked (by God Himself) to be like the hands and feet of Jesus. Kind of like if Jesus was here, we should act how He acted. Even to people we don’t think deserve love. When Jesus was alive as a person on the earth, He would be deleted with so many people. He loved people well. He would even hang out with really sick people, people who would break the law, and even really mean people. Just like I told you a lot, Christians need to act like Jesus because sometimes we’ll be the only Jesus they might ever see. We need to act like him, and treat people like He would. It makes me so happy when people really do that. 
So, I just think everyone, even and especially Christ followers, need to be known by how we love people, not by all the things don’t like. It’s all about the love, and I hope so many more people can start to #RememberTheLove. With ALL people. 
Janet, I love you more than The World – to the moon and back. Your Daddy, James and Jeremy also miss you so much. We all do. People we’ve never even met love and miss you! Oh, and I was looking at some special notes that your friends from school wrote to you when you were here, and even some notes from every single kid in the first grade work you. That miss you so much too! Evie. I know how much you loved her. I do too. Her whole family is just amazing. Every time I see Evie, I get a great big squeezy hug. She always tells me how much she loves you, and misses you. Do you know how happy that makes me? I’m so happy she likes to give me hugs. Oh, did you know, she cut off her pretty long hair so she could donate her hair to another little person like you were. I know why both of you got along so well. I hope that we can stay friends with her whole family, forever. Me and Jeremy got to go with her to get her hair cut. I will share pictures here after I make sure her mommy doesn’t care. 

You always knew how much you were loved though. So these special people like here in your page (who I love so so much too) also pray for our family all the time. I know I’d make it somehow, but you being in Heaven is even bearable because of all these friends and all the people who love us, and who pray for us. I know that makes you happy too!
I guess I will stop writing now. I want you to know how much I love you, and I always will. I miss you, baby – but I’m smiling now. I’m so happy that even though you were here with us on earth for only seven years, I’m so proud to be your mommy. You James and Jeremy make me so happy. I’m smiling right now because I remember so many really happy and special times. I love you! Forever!

Is Grace Permitted To Be Messy? 

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Is Grace Permitted To Be Messy? 

Painted and photographed by yours truly

Most people understand and agree that life is messy, but to project our messiness onto a beautiful concept like grace sometimes makes some people squirm. ~ Steve Austin

For those of you who will tell me that trigger warnings are bullshit, and don’t need to exist – I respect your right to think as you may, provided you also respect my knowledge that some DO need them. For those of you who do – and if you’re triggered by anything – especially the mention of rape, you might want to give yourself grace and stop reading for now. And that’s okay! 

What word picture does your brain conjure up with the term messy grace?  Alone, at least for me, it made me tilt my head and entertain the confusion as I tried to make sense of what it could possibly mean. 

As seen in the definition word picture above, these words do not naturally fit together. 

Messy is a word I’m increasingly familiar with. Untidy or dirty. Yes, this. From my childhood and through these moments raising my own children, untidy can describe our house at any given time. Not always dirty, but untidy – absolutely. 

Then, there is this concept of grace. Grace has always painted a pretty picture of someone who deserves forgiveness and grace. Deserves being the operative word. To tell me otherwise has seemed like a foreign concept. 

To have the audacity to claim that the God would offer someone grace, someone who DOESN’T deserve it, it was mind boggling to me. To drive this point home, you’re going to tell me that the asshole who raped me gets this free and unmerited favor – I’m sorry, but this does not compute. This. This just isn’t fair. 

That’s exactly the message of grace. It isn’t fair, and isn’t justice. Justice is the polar opposite of grace. Grace isn’t only for the deserving. And, each and every one of us should be very glad about this. If we are being honest, there is not a human being alive who is perfect and not in dire need of some free and unmerited favor – grace. But, as it’s definition indicates, it is freely given to ALL. ALL people – regardless of their checkered past, their messy present, or whatever the journey of life escorts them to in the future

But, so often – myself included, I forget some very valuable lessons. 

  1. Grace is for the undeserving. 
  2. Grace is also for me. 

    See, I often see myself as less than worthy. I look in the mirror and see the pain looking back. Heck with that whole seeing beauty thing. No. I don’t always like what I see, and God knows I need that same grace. I don’t deserve it – but no one does! 

    For the people who profess Christ as Savior,  (and anyone else who takes the time to read) I’ll remind you that Jesus – in history, the only perfect personeverwith no sin. That guy died a brutal death (crucifixion) on The Cross – a death He didn’t deserve – so we could have a life (and grace) we don’t deserve! 

    If you are like me – and every other human being alive – you don’t deserve grace. The beautiful concept is that grace – messy grace – is yours for the taking. You don’t deserve it, but none do. Reach out your hand, and please take mine. Together, we can enjoy this foreign concept called grace. 

    Let Them Know Us By Our Love

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    This blog post comes not quite 24 hours after a deadly massacre in Florida. A horrific terrorist act. A news story that rocks our world, and unravels the very fabric of all we believe. Or at least it should. I will share my thoughts, and welcome yours in return.

    I would like to mention that this is written from my own vantage point, and I will speak for myself – but with the bulk of this message being directed at those who call themselves, collectively, the church. Christians. Christ followers. People of faith. Those who love the Lord. Those who love the sinner and hate the sin. The body of Christ. This is for them. This is for you. This is for all who love and breathe – but ultimately, for those who embrace faith, and consider themselves followers of Jesus.

    First, I’d say that, as Christ followers, this is one area, and with one community (the entire LGBTQ+ community as a whole) we get so many things wrong. Love. Let me explain from the vantage point of a married somewhat heterosexual female. I say it like that because I see beauty in so many places, and in so many people. I love all people. But yes, I’m married to a man. Moving on…

    As a Christ follower, I so often want to apologize on behalf of Jesus Himself for all the Christians spewing hate in His name. This, friends, is not love.

    As the body of Christ, we are expected to act as He acted. In and with LOVE. To ALL people, regardless of who they love, or are attracted to.

    Those who claim or speak in the authority of Christ should NOT show disgust in those who sin differently than they do. Instead, we should sit with them in their pain. Perhaps when we stop judging, and start loving people as we’ve been shown unconditional love – then, and only then, will people truly be free. Free to live community faith in action. Free to hurt, but free to heal.

    To drive this point home – I’ll stop those of you (just for a moment) who are itching to throw the ever so popular idea that God hates homosexuality too – and that their sin will surely keep them from Heaven. See, I AM NOT arguing that homosexuality is (or isn’t)  a sin. Nor am I saying that God doesn’t mention it as sin, I will allow you to come to a conclusion on your own. That decision is ultimately between you and God. No one else. Yes, you can look to the Bible for knowledge on this – but also for knowledge on often times, messy grace and the true picture of reckless love. Love in the face of danger. Sharing love, and allowing grace to mold lives and change worlds.

    I suppose the final thought I want to ensure you don’t forget is the idea that yes, we are called to share the truth – lest any person perish. However, the truth shared with love is always where it’s at. You don’t have to agree with a person’s lifestyle to show them grace and to love them. As a gentle reminder – none of us are God. Neither you nor I were appointed judge, jury or executioner. For those in this community, or for anyone whose “sin” is different than our own.

    With all this said – I’d like to implore you to allow this to be a heart check. Take a moment (and lots of moments moving forward) to love people the dance way you need love. BE the change in our world.

    Allow your heart to break with all the hearts of those who lost their lives in Orlando during this act of violence so utterly horrible. Let this stand as an event in our Nation’s history where love truly does win. Do not take your situation (life and security) for granted. Love those who are different. Extend grace to all. Please pray for everyone involved – for those families and friends of all those who are mourning the lives of those they now miss. That the holes in their hearts will have comfort and peace, though broken and hurting. Pray, also for the injured, and for those still fighting for their lives. When you don’t know how to pray – let love speak.

    To the LGBTQ+ community as a whole, please allow me to address you directly. I wish I could speak on behalf of everyone who puts on the hat that sports the title of “Christian” – but that I cannot do. As I mentioned previously, I believe this is something that we, the church, get very wrong a great percentage of the time. I want you to hear my words. I’m sorry. I hear you. I want to sit with you in your pain. I don’t have to know precisely how you feel to just love you where you are. That, I can offer you. I offer you the same messy grace, and the same heartfelt love that I’ve also been freely given. So here – please take my hand. Allow me to walk with you, and to do life with you. Together, we can make a difference in our world. Call it a pipe dream, or call it whatever you’d like – but know that my words are true, and my love for you is real. You are beautiful. Period. My love for you is like Christ’s love for me – it is real, and cannot be denied. Please know how truly valued you are, and that love is yours. Allow these words to wrap themselves around you like a friend giving you a hug. (Side note – I’m fairly certain that love makes the world go ’round.)

    For anyone who is struggling in the aftermath of this tragedy, know that you are not alone. If you’d like to talk through it – I am here. I am only one person, and I’m no counselor or therapist. But, aside a human being, I am qualified to love you, and to help you see hope in a hopeless situation. Please feel free to reach out. Do not hesitate to connect via the “about me” page – or post directly in the comments. You are worth it, and your story matters. Today is a page (or maybe a defining chapter) In your story. But, this day is not the end of your story. You have a beautiful story – much of which is yet to be written. Please talk to someone if your pain feels unbearable. Do not attempt to walk through this – or any part of life – alone.

    Much love, and many hugs to all who happen upon these words. Let’s do life, together, as authentic community. A community founded on love and operating with messy grace.

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    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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    Forgiveness After Rape – Is It Possible?

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    As the title suggests, I am going to be talking about rape, self harm and depression in this post. I understand if this is a sensitive subject for you and you can’t read it.

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    Before I go any further, I have to say this. If you are in my family, and feel betrayed because you didn’t know – I’m sorry. Not all that many people did – for what I thought were valid reasons. As such, please don’t pry to find out more or specifics I’m not sharing at this time. You won’t know or guess, and that’s intentional at this point.

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    As you can imagine, it takes every ounce of energy I have to address this topic. Not in a way where I relive the trauma, but in a way that something hiding is coming to light. You see, it’s far easier to live in shadows of anonymity. I was going to guest post about this on another blog, but I decided to acknowledge what happened and allow there to be power in my words – for my story to be told. Not just told anonymously – but by me.

    I will just stop finding words to say it. I have experienced sexual trauma, including rape. Sigh. Those words are scary. But, what I need to hear – and if this is something you need to hear, then listen up – this is not a dirty little secret.

    The fact that you were raped doesn’t make you suddenly become damaged goods. It makes you a human being who was hurt. A human being with – no matter your age – an innocence stolen.

    Yes, something was taken from me that is impossible to get back. Feelings of security were replaced with fear and anger – with a brokenness unlike anything I had ever understood – let alone experienced. I began a road that led to self harm and depression. I was that person who loved life – and all it has to offer. Turns out, not all it has to offer. I retreated inside myself, and struggled to let others in.

    Getting hurt was not on my list of things to do. It didn’t have to be for the experience to repeat itself. They took lessons, it would seem, and reconstructed a way in. Trust was broken, and so was I. At a time I was finally starting to feel almost safe again, that dream became a nightmare, and I felt as if I was shattered – but beyond repair. I almost felt as if there was nothing more to live for. I couldn’t protect myself. I felt doomed to a life that included nothing but heartache and pain. Humility and shame.

    That went on for a while. Days turned into weeks. Weeks turned to months that turned to linger and longer. So much time being unable to escape these things I had come to know as reality – my own personal hell on earth.

    Then everything changed. A ray of hope. I learned that I could be valued for more than I was – and for more than had been done to me. I learned that there was more to life than betrayal. I learned that love wasn’t just a concept for other people – it was also for me. Until then, I had virtually no clue how much I ached to feel deserving of love. I firmly believe the desire to love others, and to be loved rests in each of us.

    I will tell you this though. The first person to break through to my heart – helping me break down those guard walls – wasn’t a person at all. It was no less real though. I’m talking about God. Yes, He was always real, and I always knew (somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain) that He loved me, and desired me. He wanted all of me, with nothing held back. So those broken pieces – I began seeing them as puzzle pieces. Those delicate pieces were in His hands – in the hands of my Maker. He was putting together a beautiful puzzle – a masterpiece. Yes, I started trusting God to hold my heart, and to bring healing to some dark places. I started to have faith that not all people would stab me in the back while playing the part of a thief. The kind that steals the unseen, but nevertheless real things – hope, security, love, safety, innocence, etc. I could go on.

    I was angry for a long time – and rightly so. I felt violated, and I had been. I felt like hope is a different future was a lost cause. It wasn’t. Through having an encounter with the God of all creation, this changed.

    Little by little, I started seeing myself the way He sees me. Truth be told, seeing myself that way is still something I struggle with. I still look in the mirror and have to remind myself that I am a child of God, and loved and adored by Him.

    In time, this recurring theme – forgiveness – kept coming up. Surely this is a sick and twisted joke right!?  I wasn’t expected to forgive this asshole was I? (pardon the word there, it’s what replaced any names for a long time.) They didn’t deserve to be forgiven. They deserved to pay for what they’d done. What he did was unforgivable – or at least that idea had been burned into my head. But there was conviction that came in time. I didn’t HAVE to forgive anyone – and no, they certainly didn’t deserve it. But – at some point – that all changed.

    I began to pray, and (as cliché as this is about to sound) give it all to God. I mean it though. I decided to give Him all the broken pieces and trust that He’s capable of protectively handle with care. Healing was – much to my amazement – starting to happen. I’m not going to lie though. Forgiveness wasn’t on my radar for quite some time. With words, at a few different things, I may have said that I forgave them – but I didn’t fully. I reserved the right to be angry. I reserved the right to despise even the thought of their names. I might have seen them on a regular basis,  but that still didn’t include interacting or connecting outside of what was needed in that moment. So, my words uttered forgiveness – but that’s about the only part of me interested in that concept.

    It actually wasn’t until recently that I became aware of this. That I actually realized that part of me may have forgiven, but the rest was still in shackles. Chained and bound by something beyond my control, and way outside of my reach. I was being held captive – in small and large ways – by these acts. Yes, my past had indeed defined the person was – who I had become.

    But it didn’t have to. For the sake of time, and all of our collective sanity, I will save the rest of this transition and how it took shape in my heart for the next post. I will share how I was able to learn and truly walk in something different – something other than all the heartbreak and pain that defined me for a considerable amount of time.

    Before I go, I simply must share a real life example that happened in between when I started this until now it’s completion. I had a function to attend. As I was making small talk with a few in attendance, something of concern caught my eye. I saw some dear friends of mine that were visibly upset – both with tears freely flowing. Something had happened, and I didn’t want to be nosey – but wanted to let them know that – no matter what, I see their tears, hear their cries, and that they weren’t alone. In a split second, my friends daughter came over and just stood in my embrace. After a moment, and just holding her – I asked what was wrong. After a pause and an attempt to not lose it, she bravely told me that her moms attacker was there. Being unaware of all the details, I went to comfort and spend a little time with her mom also.

    *** I will stop to say this — I have spoken directly with them, and have been given the go ahead to share briefly their story. It is painful, but it is real. ****

    It was at this point that the rest of the story unfolded with such heartbreaking and painful details. The truth of the matter is that mom was violently raped (and had to go via ambulance, as a result) and her precious daughter was forced to watch in terror. This asshole (no, I don’t generally use this term, but I am giving myself a pass because honestly it doesn’t even begin to describe him) came to this same function, and made it a point to ensure his presence was known to them. You see, our justice system failed in this case. He wasn’t convicted of her rape – or the (at least) two other rapes he had part in. So, this man is free while the fear was brought right back to the surface in an instant.

    At another point during the function, he was walking directly in our direction. As he approached, their fear was visible. He was visibly pleased. I took the time to (obviously safely) place myself in between them and him. I would not allow mom or her daughter to make eye contact with a monster trying to continue to enslave them in this bondage – the fear that they currently live with and have nightmares about. So any further damage in that moment was thwarted.

    But, friends – the damage has been done long before. The fear was no joke.

    I’m telling you – this is what rape does. It enables a person to maintain control of a person – not just during the physical act of forced non consensual intercourse (yes, that’s one definition of rape) but also for a long, long time to come. That fear and anxiety takes control and runs with it.

    What I will share in my next post will be about how I got to where I am today, what that looks like, and the thought process that got me there.

    If this tells your story, I want you to know so many things. But the most important is knowing that you aren’t what happened to you, and you and you absolutely are not alone. You do not have to feel such pain alone. If you would like, I’d be honored to listen to your story. You’ll find out that I can’t do anything to erase history, or even to make it better. But, you’ll also learn that there is freedom in sharing your story. There is healing mixed into that freedom – and control and power taken away from your attacker when you can face what happened (not in a way of re-living it, just in the way that shares with someone else that wouldn’t judge, would empathize and let you know it’s okay to hurt) and just know its okay to feel how you feel. You can be okay again. So, again, if this is you or anyone you know, understand – I’d be honored to stand by your side and heart your story. If you feel like it, you can share or comment in the comments before. If this doesn’t feel comfortable (and God knows I understand that one) then please feel free to reach out via the contact me button. I am here.