Tag Archives: healing

The Heart That Bleeds Gold

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Driven To Make Change

Some people have ice cold hearts, while others are warm and inviting. And then there are those whose hearts bleed gold. It takes the age old saying that someone has a “heart of gold” to an entirely different level. 

If you are not aware, the universal color representing childhood cancer is gold. 

Today, I met a man named Ronnie. He started Driven To Make Change. Before a couple of days ago, I hadn’t known very much about Ronnie and his heart that bleeds gold. He is a compassionate person, who – yes, has a heart of gold. His goal and mission in life right now is to raise awareness for pediatric cancer . 

He’s driving across 48 states to learn all he can about all the  pediatric cancers (139, currently known) and also to raise awareness. His hope is multi faceted. Not only does he have vision to raise funds for fighting cancer and finding a cure – he also seeks to take that deeper and further. 

He wants to aid research into the why. Cause. Find out why or how (any environmental or otherwise) these cancers form. It is then that they become preventable. 

Preventable cancer!?

It sounds like a pipe dream – but, I’ll draw your attention to medical history – so did the cause and/or cure for polio and other similar diseases. Let’s band together and turn this pipe dream into hopeful reality. Don’t tell me it’s not possible. 

Why the passion? 

I’m glad you’ve asked. My daughter Janet (Praying For Little Janet) was diagnosed with a rare (literally one of a kind) brain tumor at age four. She courageously fought brain cancer for three years, and passed away February 13, 2016. She is my why. My passion. My love. There is a giant hole in my heart that only she could ever fill. 

She is not my only why . 

There are so many people – so many families whose lives are turned upside down, in an instant – with two (not so) simple words: childhood cancer. To hear the words “your child has cancer” or “your child has a brain tumor” are game changers. They will (and should) change perspective and priorities in a huge way. Life as you know it will NEVER be the same “normal” again. Life will change. Death may happen. And that part so royally sucks. 

They are now also my why. Every family who hears those words. I fight for my daughter, and I fight for all the families affected by pediatric cancers of all kinds. 

My daughter died. My hope and prayer is that no other family, ever, has to endure this painful kind of journey. 

Pipe dream? Not forever. WE have the power to change things. It will not happen overnight. But, it WILL happen. The key is, we must advocate for our children. They deserve so much more than the 3.8% of federal funding for pediatric cancer research currently alloted. 

Please join me, Ronnie, and all those with hearts that bleed gold, in raising awareness and funds for pediatric cancer research (not only for a cure – but also to be able to pinpoint cause, and thus prevent the cancer) and share hope with the world. 

#RememberTheLove

A Movie, A Band, And A Necklace

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A Movie, A Band, And A Necklace

October 16, 2016. This movie. This band. That necklace. Life changing. Life giving. Life saving.

Every time I try to convince words to take a journey from my brain to the paper, tears threaten to make seeing the words impossible. In an attempt to share even a fraction of the significance of this event, I will break down the event and all the moving parts into little bite-sized pieces. 

Priceless the Movie. 

I’m not going to tell a tall tale. I hadn’t  heard of this movie prior to this text from a very dear friend: 

you…me…Sunday evening ‘Priceless’ at Ronnie’s 20?

So, this being a friend who I love and trust, I basically blindly said yes. She knows me. She gets me. What’s more, though?  She allows me the honor returning the favor. I’m grateful. Alas, I accepted her invitation, and nearly canceled several times. But I didn’t. As this day approached, the excitement and even anticipation grew. 

It made me happy to learn that the band would be in the theater live, playing  a few songs for us. Their flight was a bit delayed, so the acoustic set was after the movie. 

So, this movie is incredible. This is part in fairly certain I can’t get through without my tears going on mass exodus. Again. So, instead, I’ll ask you to click on the following link, and watch the trailer for Priceless

I will say this though. This movie and it’s storyline broke my heart. Mostly because it’s no joke. People, this stuff happens. It’s real, and it’s in our backyards. Don’t get me wrong. I loved the movie, those that produced it, and all who came together to make it happen. It was tremendously well done. I found a surge of emotions at varied times throughout the entire thing. It was beautifully painful. It hurt, and it healed. Most of all, it was God’s heart in a movie. God’s hand holding my shattered heart. The fact that God can use a movie to touch some very deep and dark places is testament to the fact that the whole experience (more to come on that) acted as a healing salve applied to some wounded places. 

After the movie concluded, the band took the stage for a few minutes. They sang/played a handful of songs. Again, the heart of God, in human form, stood before us on that theater stage. The words of their songs grabbed my heart, and didn’t let go. I can’t begin to count the number of times I wiped tears from my eyes. At one point, Joel, from 4 King And Country, looked directly at me. He smiled as if to say, I see you. You matter. Your pain matters. In truth, he probably thought nothing of the sort, but in that moment – God’s grace, His love, just held me. 

At one point, they polled the audience to see if anyone was confused as to who they were, and why a band was live on stage in a movie theater. One person responded. They welcomed her, and asked us all to say hello. 

What happened next floored me. 

Joel picked up a necklace – the one you can see me wearing in the picture above. He spoke about its meaning and significance. The words “She’s worth fighting for” just melted my heart. As he spoke, he looked at me again and reached down and handed it to me. Yes, of course, tears streamed down my cheeks. 

I’m nothing special, but in that moment, God’s love and grace swallowed me whole. It was as if God Himself was giving me a much needed hug. Joel doesn’t know my story, but something (that small voice, like in the movie perhaps?) urged him to share it with me. To give me a gift. A necklace. 

It was more priceless than any gift could have been in that moment. You see, it showered me with God’s love. I felt important, and as if my life has meaning. God used that moment to hold me. To help me see glimpses beyond the pain. It helped me feel hope in tangible ways. It helped me just breathe, and know I’m loved.

I wanted to share this for a multitude of reasons.Mostly to share my own gratitude. To my friend for inviting me. To Joy FM for whatever part you played behind the scenes to help this event happen. To 4 King and Country for the hearts you had in creating this film, delivering it to the public, and the life-giving mini concerts you  allowed His heart and presence to touch others with. And especially to God, for not giving up on me, and for allowing your love to penetrate some shattered and somewhat dark places. Please don’t ever throw up your hands and realize I’m just too much. 

And to all reading, if you might be in pain, know that you are not alone. I do not have to walk your journey to understand that you hurt. I think we all do in some way, shape, or form. I see you, but more importantly, God also sees you – exactly where you are if I could say one more thing, it would just be to not give up. I want to see that your life has value and worth, and you still have purpose here. 
I needed these same reminders yesterday, and they flooded my heart with love and healing. If you need similar reminders, here they are. Someone, please just point me back to this page, and my own words when you see or feel the need.

Know that you’re not alone. It’s okay to not be okay, and it’s okay to reach out. Just don’t give up. There is still time for good things to happen. There is time for hope to surprise you. You are not out of time, and neither am I. If you’re hurting, just take my hand, and allow me to sit with you – even virtually – in this pain. It may be real, but it will not be forever. You will come to know more than the pain that tortures you. You matter. Your story matters. You’re worth so much more than you can comprehend. 

Please, keep giving hope a chance to surprise you. You are loved. 

When A Rape Turned Home Invasion Saved My Life (Guest Post) 

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This is an anonymous guest post. This is a guest post, and very few details have been altered – only to ensure her anonymity, protection and continued safety and freedom. 

Rape. Take a closer look at this picture. A mere 10 days after rape, you’ll see a positive pregnancy test, a crying eye, and embryonic growth and yolk sac. This picture shows that.

I cannot cope with reality. Plain and simple. It’s no secret that my significant other and I aren’t close these days. No one can tell me this excuses rape. 

Our lack of intimacy does not afford him the freedom of violently taking what was not, and never will be again, his. If you don’t think rape can happen inside a relationship, established home, marriage, etc, then you are part of the problem. 

As I lay on the cold, wooden floor, I could still feel the burn of being restrains. As I lay there, begging for escape somehow – asking God to allow me to perish, mysuddenly terrified daughter walked in the door. 

Without hesitation, she ran to me. Fiercely protective, this one. After a long talk, and at the request of a friend, 911 was called. Trembling and afraid, I opened the door. 

Compassion. 

Some of those exact moments remain a blur. And I’m not complaining. But I recall completely losing my shit at the ability to feel safe. Someone was there. For me. But not to hurt me. They offered no judgment, only compassion. 

Even if I wanted to turn very small and scurry away, I couldn’t have. Even if I didn’t press charges, my body forced the “this is getting investigated” scenario. Am ambulance was summoned, as I nearly passed out. From my cold, wooden floor to a cold hospital gurney, I became important enough to listen to. Important enough to fix. 

I did survive, but in those moments, living was not a desire. Yes, I wanted to die. 

Eventually, with my personal effects placed nicely in the newly crumpled brown super market bag,  I went back home. Home. It wasn’t a safe place anymore. I ached to not exist. 

As a routine follow up, I had wounds checked, blood and urine tested, and was then sent on my merry way. It was not until the following day, that I got a phone call that rocked my world.

My doctor needed me to come in (ironically on Labor Day) so he could further break my heart. It was one of the moments where it was hard to not kill the messenger. 

Your testing is back. (no dip!) I have some complicated news. You have hcg levels consistent with early pregnancy. (no amount of doctor speak could have lessened the new reality about to kick me in the stomach and steal the breath from my lungs. 

How did I respond to the news that I’m now a human incubator? Like a monster. I felt less than human. Broken beyond repair. I am carrying within my body, the product of rape. I fell apart. Crumbled into pieces. 

As I sat, now in a little ball – think crying in the fetal position, I could only think of how violently this little growing life had invaded mine. 

While I cannot fathom bringing a child into this world, I can comprehend, even less, taking his or her life. I will not stop a beating heart. But i also see myself as the world’s biggest asshole for not wanting this little growing life. 

The very next day, I was asked to come for imaging. Every other time I’ve seen a prenatal ultrasound, it invoked excitement. (and I have seen hundreds in my line of work.) But seeing my own, it terrified me. 

How then does this whole thing having happened play a part in saving my life? Simple. As much as I don’t want to be a human incubator under these circumstances, I do want give this child a fighting chance. I cannot die because someone, literally, relies on me to live. 

Yes, I do have family and friends. I remain alive for them because I know I’m needed or wanted, but this – this is different. 

Yes I’m terrified of this future, but strangely at a peaceful place where a trusted friend reminded me that beauty can and will somehow come from this. I can’t believe her right now, but I’ll borrow faith, and  the outstretched hand of others – that hand which will help me stand when I can’t even feel the solid ground beneath my feet. 

When Missing My Baby Turns Into A Conversation On Faith, And Includes God Being Called An Asshole

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This piece appeared just moments ago on my daughters prayer and support (Facebook) page.

This post is going to be one of my birthday gifts to myself. I give myself the strength that surrounds not walking alone – the strength of community. So, I can guess this will probably be a bit long. (What’s new, right!?)  But, today is my birthday (the 24th of August) and this will be an attempt to be real, but also infuse joy. 
Wow. So, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve been able to post. For a chunk of the time, I was sick. But, the rest is the time I was a combination of brokenhearted and simply trying to survive. I know each of you understand, to a degree, that this is the most crazy difficult thing I’ve ever walked through. Excruciating may begin to describe it. 
This last month or so, I’ve been hurting, but also finding myself again. I’m not going to lie – it’s been tough. Watching her take her final breath here on earth was so hard, but it’s the living without her physically here that’s killing me. 😢 
Yes, the good thing is that she had an incrediblly beautiful and special seven years of a life, well lived. She truly leaves a legacy of love – surrounded by incredible joy – hugs and smiles. #RememberTheLove 
I shared so many photo collages because they are beautiful. She is beautiful. These are a small fraction of the memories I fondly remember. In time, I will share more. Many more. 
She may not be here in the flesh, but she is EVERYWHERE. I see her at every turn. As we do things as a family, or I do things she and I used to do – I pause, remembering fondly, those things — but also with a shattered heart, because no parent should have to utter the words “she would have liked this… we had so much fun, etc.” Past tense. That just sucks. No real better way to explain it. 
Oh, I have to say something while it’s on my heart and mind. Let me put a theory to rest. Some people feel like they shouldn’t talk about Janet, reminisce about her life, even talk about her death, or share the thoughts, curiosities, etc with me.  THIS COULDN’T POSSIBLY BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH!  PLEASE don’t EVER stop. I may be sad, bit you talking about my baby didn’t make me that way. Her dying wins that trophy. So, please – if you’re sad and miss her, tell me. I’d you are curious how tall she’d be, or how she’d be doing in school, share that with me. If you want too smile and laugh, remembering beautiful moments, do that with me too. I guess all I’m saying is that anything related to my daughter – don’t EVER hesitate to bring up. 
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been on a “me finding” journey. This also includes my faith. If you’ve followed me, or this page for any length of time, then you know that my faith has been my rock – a source of strength when it seems The World is falling apart. Well, that hasn’t changed. It’s more like its evolved. 
About me faith, I found I had the need to own my faith – for it to be able to stand on its own two feet. I knew my faith, and what I believed – but if asked why on certain topics, I realized I had no idea. Why did I believe the way I did? Your guess was as good as mine. When I realized this, I decided this needed to change. So, I’ve been digging deeper, and seeking answers. No longer am I able to follow faith blindly. 
While this is all going on, I’ve been evaluating my feelings and thoughts on faith in general, but also specifically on God. I’m not going to lie here either. There are days I’d kinda rather punch Him in the face. I’ve seen Him as an asshole at times too. Don’t get me wrong. He’s still good. He’s still in control. He’s truly a good, good Father – even when it doesn’t feel like it. See, the “I don’t like God thing” is a personal thing. It happens when I feel like His inaction spoke more volumes than His action did. NO, I do NOT think God GAVE her cancer, or couldn’t be bothered to lift a finger as she fought and then died – but He didn’t. 
What I want you to hear is that I still had the faith I always did, but parts have evolved. Other parts I’m human enough to say I feel were flawed theology. I’m also transparent enough to say I don’t always like God, I do question Him, BUT THAT’S OKAY.  I’ve learned that it’s vital that I FEEL these things. I have to feel them before I can move past them, or whatever the situation dictates. See, I often feel like I disappoint God. However, this is false. This happens when we try to attach human emotions to a God that isn’t human. 
Thankfully, His love for each and every one of us is never ending, and unfailing. 
So, as you can see, I’ve been talking since combination of baby steps mixed with leaps and jumps towards finding myself again, and establishing who I am as a wife, mom, friend, and Christ follower. It’s kinda like a roller coaster. So many ups, downs, twists, turns, hands up in the air screaming – but with hint of joy etched on most faces – or perhaps hidden a little deeper. 
Right now, I hurt but I love. I cry but I smile. My heart is shattered, but the fractured and broken places are where healing is happening, and more light can shine through. I fall, but I pick myself back up – often with the help of friends. I miss my baby girl, but I had 7 incredible years with her here by my side. I often don’t know who I am, or where to turn – but my God doesn’t need a roadmap to find me. Janet us physically gone, but she is everywhere. 
Dear goodness, apologies on the length this has become! I just miss you guys so much. I won’t guarantee that I’ll post every day or any of that, but I will tell you that I’m happy that I feel strong enough to BE back. Thank you for loving Janet, me  and our whole family. For better or worse, we’re figuring out how to do life in the midst of great pain. 
So, for those of you still reading, thank you. Sincerely, my heart has so much gratitude. Please and thank you in advance for continued love, support and prayer. I’m beyond grateful. 

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!

A Time And A Season For All Things

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This picture is one I haven’t always as freely shared. It, however, is a beautiful moment in time. A moment that I have come to cherish so much more than words could ever explain. This little girl blessed lives, mine especially, in tremendous ways. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t miss her smile, hey love, and her “squeezy hugs” she so lovingly shared. I shared the following on her page, and I’d like to share it here as well. I feel these words are important enough that ALL people need to hear them.

I haven’t been silent here on Janet’s page because I wanted to – more because I needed to. Life just kept happening in a way that I had to take a step back, reflect, and just be. I know this is an incredibly beautiful community. A place fill of so much love. You all understand the concept of what #RememberTheLove really means.

Friends, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t an element of brokenness also as to why the absence. As you can imagine, life isn’t ever again going to be what it once was – full of her bright, love-giving smiles and hugs. This, alone, breaks my heart. But, that’s not to say that life doesn’t hold incredibly precious moments.

I will say this also. Both Janet’s life and also her death have taught me powerful lessons on life and love.

You see, I’ve often mentioned the value of another person’s time and the true gift that it’s friendship. It is simply irreplaceable.

I’d like to share a “case in point” example of this scenario in action. What I want to showcase is that – though there is pain attached to these memories and events – there is also an incredible amount of comforting love.

In the months and even years leading up to her death,  so many people surrounded us in love. As those years turned to months, and the months then turned to weeks – a different kind of people, new and deepening friendships emerged. The last two weeks were beautiful in so many ways. People we never expected became close, like family. They were welcomed with open arms. Desperately needed in those final moments. And, they were there.

In the weeks, now months since Janet passed away,  there has become yet another shift. I have come to realize that some of those friendships were built for just a season. That season, and sadly nothing more – whereas, some of these same friendships have stood the tests of time – and also including death and grief.

There have been many who uttered words that I’ve found myself only wishing they meant – I’ll be here for you – any time, day or night. But, even in those times, I sit back and breathed it all in. I take those (sometimes painful) moments, and I remember whatever season someone said this to me in – thankful again for whatever part they played in our story.

I will tell you this – it is for these reasons that I don’t as often say these words to people. When I do, you can rest, assured that I mean what u say. That kind of offer won’t ever come with an expiration date. Perhaps this is because I know the intense pain of needing someone who once filled a very special place – it maybe just because I love people and see the inherent value of human life.

Whatever the case may be – I want to thank you for the part you’ve played in our journey – before or after Janet passed away — even if you are one who (consciously or otherwise) walked away when you didn’t know how to handle things. This (inaction) doesn’t define the purposeful and special times we did share.

You be you. There’s no-one more qualified to play your part. Just also allow me to be me – learning and growing, grieving and loving. That, after all, is what so much of life is about. To live and be loved.

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And, friends, I meant every word – both there, and here. It is with sincere gratitude I say thank you for sharing and walking through this life with me. I cannot do it alone.

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A Time And A Season For All Things

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This picture is one I haven’t always as freely shared. It, however, is a beautiful moment in time. A moment that I have come to cherish so much more than words could ever explain. This little girl blessed lives, mine especially, in tremendous ways. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t miss her smile, hey love, and her “squeezy hugs” she so lovingly shared. I shared the following on her page, and I’d like to share it here as well. I feel these words are important enough that ALL people need to hear them.

I haven’t been silent here on Janet’s page because I wanted to – more because I needed to. Life just kept happening in a way that I had to take a step back, reflect, and just be. I know this is an incredibly beautiful community. A place fill of so much love. You all understand the concept of what #RememberTheLove really means.

Friends, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t an element of brokenness also as to why the absence. As you can imagine, life isn’t ever again going to be what it once was – full of her bright, love-giving smiles and hugs. This, alone, breaks my heart. But, that’s not to say that life doesn’t hold incredibly precious moments.

I will say this also. Both Janet’s life and also her death have taught me powerful lessons on life and love.

You see, I’ve often mentioned the value of another person’s time and the true gift that it’s friendship. It is simply irreplaceable.

I’d like to share a “case in point” example of this scenario in action. What I want to showcase is that – though there is pain attached to these memories and events – there is also an incredible amount of comforting love.

In the months and even years leading up to her death,  so many people surrounded us in love. As those years turned to months, and the months then turned to weeks – a different kind of people, new and deepening friendships emerged. The last two weeks were beautiful in so many ways. People we never expected became close, like family. They were welcomed with open arms. Desperately needed in those final moments. And, they were there.

In the weeks, now months since Janet passed away,  there has become yet another shift. I have come to realize that some of those friendships were built for just a season. That season, and sadly nothing more – whereas, some of these same friendships have stood the tests of time – and also including death and grief.

There have been many who uttered words that I’ve found myself only wishing they meant – I’ll be here for you – any time, day or night. But, even in those times, I sit back and breathed it all in. I take those (sometimes painful) moments, and I remember whatever season someone said this to me in – thankful again for whatever part they played in our story.

I will tell you this – it is for these reasons that I don’t as often say these words to people. When I do, you can rest, assured that I mean what u say. That kind of offer won’t ever come with an expiration date. Perhaps this is because I know the intense pain of needing someone who once filled a very special place – it maybe just because I love people and see the inherent value of human life.

Whatever the case may be – I want to thank you for the part you’ve played in our journey – before or after Janet passed away — even if you are one who (consciously or otherwise) walked away when you didn’t know how to handle things. This (inaction) doesn’t define the purposeful and special times we did share.

You be you. There’s no-one more qualified to play your part. Just also allow me to be me – learning and growing, grieving and loving. That, after all, is what so much of life is about. To live and be loved.

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And, friends, I meant every word – both there, and here. It is with sincere gratitude I say thank you for sharing and walking through this life with me. I cannot do it alone.

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Forgiveness And Healing – Even After Rape

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First, I will start by simply mentioning that this is part two of a two part blog post, centering around rape – and even forgiveness that is possible. I recognize that this is an incredibly sensitive topic, and you may not feel comfortable reading further. No harm in this.

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To everyone reading these words, know this – forgiveness is possible after something as horrible as rape. However, before I go any further, I want you to know that just because I was able to come to a point (years later) that I was able to forgive – I do not expect you to be in that same place — and that’s okay. My prayer for you is that you find peace, whatever you are. If you’re tormented, having nightmares, thinking about ending your life to escape the pain – know that you aren’t alone. However, PLEASE DON’T! Your life matters, and what was done to you does NOT define who you are. Or may have been able to sculpt parts of your life – but it doesn’t have to maintain that hold on your heart.

Recently, I was listening to a message from a pastor (Craig Groeschel – sorry, Craig, if I butchered your name) of a church I’ve never been to. It was a message online. This topic was about forgiveness. He had a little or graph and talked about when we forgive people – it’s not for their sake, it’s for ours. The age old saying that mentions “when you forgive a person, the prisoner it sets free is you” rings so true. In this message, Craig also mentioned taking forgiveness a step further and pardoning people. To recognize that they don’t deserve our forgiveness, and they can’t realistically repay the things they’ve stolen.  That wasn’t all there was to the message – but that was the main part(s) that stuck out and grabbed my heart.

Later that evening, I continued the thought process a lot. The very next day,  I made the conscious decision to write this. A crazy thing happened. I actually also began to pray for these people – that, somehow they’d come to know Him.

Did I send these letters? Nope. Not a chance. Not yet. Plus, I don’t actually have an address to physically send TO anyway. All said, these were written for me. To allow my heart peace. To give my heart freedom.

This is what I had to say:

I’d like to bring up the inappropriate sexual contact. Okay, sugar coating this isn’t going to get us anywhere. You went from inappropriate touches, and advanced to sexual assault, attempted rape and rape. Sure, over time. It was wrong in every way. You stole things incapable of being replaced. You physically hurt me. You broke my heart. You took innocence. As much as you do not deserve it, I am choosing forgiveness. That’s the thing. You DON’T deserve it. But, I didn’t deserve forgiveness of my sins either, but Jesus died a death He didn’t deserve so my sins, and your sins would be washed away – as far as the east is from the west. So, I do not want fear, disgust or hatred to color my vision of you. I want to see you through eyes of grace. I mean it when I say words I never thought I’d be able to utter – you are forgiven. Though I recognize that you took far more than you could ever repay, I want you to forgive yourself for this too. You owe me nothing, and what you did will no longer have that hold on me. I choose to no longer give it power. I know you may not think you need forgiveness, or that you need to forgive yourself, but you should. You deserve joy in your life. You deserve to be loved. You need to know that you are, by virtue of being a human being, loved. Even when/if you’re seemingly undeserving. Walk in freedom today moving forward. I am. Be free to love and be loved. Understand that grace is a free gift, and I want you to have it. Please take care of yourself. Please love and cherish your family. Be a father. Know how much your words have power. Ask yourself if you want your child to only see pain and anger – or if you want him to know love. It’s a choice. It’s a decision. He’ll grow up before you know it. I don’t have to tell you that none of us are promised tomorrow. Love today. Start with yourself.

Okay, and then we have you. You hurt me. You learned from him how to do it. How to essentially hurt me. You learned how to rob my innocence. You knew how to cause fear and self hatred in that way. You should have been able to be trusted. You violated all levels of trust. To feel what you forced me to feel isn’t right. With what you, did you could never repay me. It isn’t realistic to think there is or ever can be justification for sexual trauma or rape. In any form. You took things from me that can never be returned. I am tired of holding onto the hatred, hurt and anger. It’s not fair, and I’m done. I don’t allow this to maintain it’s grasp on my heart. Even though you did terrible wrongs, more than once, I want you to hear the words “you are forgiven” and know that they are yours. Let them free you, as they are freeing me. No, I am not the same person I once was, but I am stronger now. With God’s help, I am able to see you through eyes of grace. Grace, backed with love. You are also loved. I want you to know that God loves you, and wants you to come to Him. Just as you are. Allow your past to remain there. Allow forgiveness to permeate your heart. You don’t deserve it, but not one of us do. I truly hope you cry out to Him and allow Him to give you the same grace, love and hope. You are God’s creation, and thus beautiful. Smile. Know that you are forgiven. I am free of the hold this had on me. I want you to be too.

This was difficult to write in so many ways. However, the freedom I’ve found and the grace and love I truly feel in this moment is like nothing else I can put into words. I genuinely feel the call to prayer for these individuals. I want them to know the freely given grace and love that I know. Though they once caused unbearable pain – I have decided today to not allow that to maintain any form of control in my heart. They are forgiven. Not only forgiven, they are pardoned. They are free. I am free. Blessed by grace, covered with love and filled with hope.

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.

When Perpetually Suicidal Thoughts Become More

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Take a good look at that picture. You can’t see everything there – but what I want you to see is what a potentially lethal dose of medication looks like. Let that sink in. The meds are legal, and for in the palm of your hand. They are common meds – when used properly, save lives. When not – well the opposite is true. This one small handful of meds could take your life.

You might wonder how I have stumbled upon such information!? Simple. I looked it up. I asked the knowledge whale known as google for a little guidance. I was curious what completed suicides were as a result of specific medications. Medications I have easily within my disposal. I honestly wondered what that looked like. Why the picture/meme then!?  Again, a picture tells a story, and this one tells so many people’s story. As I looked at the picture, I realized two things – 1) it scared me and 2) the thought of “how easy it would be” made entirely too much sense. The next morning, I created that meme. I recognized the need to seek help was very real.

I may circle back around to that whole “seeking help” thought process in a moment. However, I’m going to just tell it like it is. Open up the window called transparency and let you see a glimpse inside.

Let’s talk about suicide and suicidal thoughts. You do know there’s a difference, right!? See, a person can have suicidal thoughts and not actually be suicidal. A person walks over the line between the two when a plan starts being concocted. People think about suicide all the time. People think about the meaning of life every day and wish it weren’t so painful. Neither thought makes them suicidal.

On the flip side, people also create plans to carry out suicides – to find a way to escape whatever painful reality they desperately seek relief from – every day as well. This, though, is a game changer. This is that moment where reaching out is vital. The suicidal person cannot see beyond the here and now. They cannot grasp the concept or even possibility of hope being real. People sometimes experience whatever makes up their own personal hell, and simply feel as if they cannot take the pain any longer.

At this point – or perhaps immediately upon reading the title – you might be wondering where this is coming from, or why now. My next question is why NOT now. Suicide is not a pretty word. It conjures up some (quite likely) painful thoughts. The stigma that surrounds mental health topics (suicide being only one in a vast ocean of others) cannot diminish if we cannot talk about it. It may be hard, but the conversation will be worth it.

Ask me how I know.

I want you to know something. First and foremost, I want you to know that I am not suicidal. Note my language again. I’m not suicidal. I do, however, have suicidal thoughts. I think much of the population would – if they’re being honest – admit having had suicidal thoughts at one point or another. I want to circle back to stigma again. What’s sad is that someone currently having, or having had suicidal thoughts IS NOT a secret needing to be hidden. It’s not something people should have to ADMIT TO, as if it’s a dirty little sin.

Okay, so back to my breaking the silence about my own suicidal thoughts. Yes, they happen. Yes, they’re real. No, they’re not happy. No, they’re not fun. They’re scary at times. However, I am able to separate myself from the thoughts. I can look at the thoughts, and I can know they exist. There have been moments where it’s been difficult to grasp onto the reality that things will ever be okay again – let alone good. In those moments, it is vital to remember that, though currently elusive, hope is most definitely real. Though the clouds in a dark and gloomy sky may hide that hope, all hope is not lost. I have to remember that the sun will break through the clouds, and it will shine again. Maybe not today, but tomorrow brings with it the potential of sunshine – of hope.

There are times where I feel like my heart is shattered. Times where I feel broken, almost beyond repair. I’m not though.

And neither are you.

Now, let me take a moment and address you. Yes, you. That person who knows nothing other than how to hide behind a mask. That person who believes that hope is a good theoretical topic, but isn’t for them. That person who looks I’m the mirror and doesn’t know or like the person starting back.

That person. I want to talk to them. And so should you. Take a moment and look for signs. I know you’re busy, but someone’s life is worth it.

If you ARE that person, welcome. Welcome to the conversation you never saw yourself having, but are going to be grateful that someone cared enough to have. Buckle up, and hold on. I will tell you things that you need to hear, but may not be inclined to believe. Your eyes may be clouded by the depression that catches your gaze instead. In that case, I simply want you to hear my words. You’re listening – really listening, yes?

Okay, these things I need you to hear. You are a living, breathing story. The Storm you are walking through will not last forever. It may be painful, even seemingly unbearable, as you walk the path. Though, soon, the eye of the storm will pass by. It’ll be scary, and it’ll teach you the meaning of living through pain. However, you’ll soon just look around and realize that you made it. You’re still alive. As time and distance come between you and the storm, you’ll be fascinated by the fact that you’re actually GRATEFUL that you made it – that you’re alive. You’ll look down at your scars, and you’ll immediately think of that scary storm – but, much to your surprise – you’ll see the scars for what they are. Your scars tell a story. They tell your story. They show the very real pain associated with your storm. They’ll also remind you that where there is a scar, there is some form of healing also present. You’ll look at those scars and see that they represent healing and strength. You’ll be able to see them for what they are – a reminder of that storm, but also a reminder of the strength and healing.

You know, you might have just laughed as you kept reading. I know that you may chuckle when someone is amusing enough to actually write out such words. You believe that those words might be great for other people, but can’t hold onto them as truth for yourself. You see, I understand how you think. I AM you.

However, I am also hopeful. I am hopeful that you can take a break from your thoughts, and be gentle with yourself. Know that your story matters. Know that YOU matter. It may hurt right now, but it won’t hurt forever. You may not be able to see beyond the pain, but please allow me to be a voice that speaks hope. Let that hope be fueled by love and wrap itself around you like a hug.

You and I. Maybe we are broken, but no one is telling us we can’t be broken together. Take my hand. Look me in the eye and see the hope in mine. When you can’t find yours, please borrow some of mine. I guarantee there will be times I will return the favor. Please know how much you mean to me. Please don’t go anywhere. Please stay. I need you to be my voice of hope during the moments I feel like I can’t hold on.

Hear my words. I need you and you need me. We need each other, you and I. As we walk along this path called life, take my hand. Help me walk – one for in front of the other – when I’m not even sure I can breathe. Let me do the same for you.

Together.

Let’s be broken together.