Tag Archives: hope

How Love Leads The Way When Shit Hits The Fan

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How would our world look different if love led the way??

Love. It’s almost like a four letter word. Oh wait…

In a perfect world, love would be the first thought, the forefront of everything we say or do.  When life is painful – when life isn’t fair, I just wish love led the way.

The bigger picture, in the great big world we live in…

In a world where love led the way, small children wouldn’t have to hide from daddy because he might hurt them again today. In that same world, the terrified wife wouldn’t have to cover up her bruises or hide in the shadows because of domestic violence. Husbands wouldn’t have to feel less of a man because he is the victim of domestic abuse. Men wouldn’t feel the need to “man up” and “grow a pair” because of their pain and brokenness. The sexual predator wouldn’t set out to destroy lives. Rape wouldn’t control destinies. When husbands and wives are more of a partnership than a dictatorship, love is allowed to lead the way. If love led the way, broken marriages and families would be a thing of the past.

In the perfect world, there would be much less pain, and much more love.

In that aforementioned perfect world, suicide also wouldn’t be a thing that tears apart lives, hearts, families and generations.  Love would lead the way. People would be loved, and love others. People would know others, and be unafraid of being known. People could live and love, hurt and cry – and just be in the world where love led the way. When people hurt, and saw no way out of their pain, love would surround them, and messy grace would hold them up. People would sit with them when their pain is blinding.

In my little corner of the world, I wish these same things on a smaller scale, I guess. When life hurts like hell, and all I see is pain, I wish love led the way more often. What does that look like, exactly? It can vary from day to day – from moment to moment.

Just one example. When my daughter died, if love truly led the way, people would be less afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing (and thus doing nothing) and would still be standing and walking with me. The people who drew close, and who were welcomed close like family, wouldn’t cease contact almost within days or weeks of her death. They would still be there. I need them differently now, but I still desperately need them.

When love leads the way, little threads of hope and strength are found – giving way to glances at peace unlike any other. When people come alongside others in their time(s) of need, grief, or sometimes insurmountable pain – this is how love leads the way. With love leading the way, people wouldn’t shy away from pain, and wouldn’t greet pain with awkward silence.

Let’s stop treating love like it’s an evil four letter word. Let’s be love. Let’s strive to let others see the meaning of love by looking at our lives. There’s enough hate and pain in the world. Let’s meet that with love. Can we let love spread like wildfire? Let’s let love lead the way!

Traversing A Tornado – When Life Seems Like A Whirlwind

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This past week, I cannot count the number of times I heard that it just felt like we were being caught up in a whirlwind. I can relate. 

You see, my big brother died last week. There are still more questions than there are answers. The pain associated with his death seems unbearable some moments.

 

When I look at this picture, and one I’ll share in a few moments, I’m a mixture of emotions. I smile, and I cry. You see, he was just 40 years old. He’s supposed to still be here. My big brother. 

I wrote, and had the honor of reading a eulogy at his funeral. It was not without tears, but it was also not without giggles. Fitting for the dichotomy that walks alongside losing someone you love. The following words are my hearts voice: 

Steven was a lot of things to a lot of people. To me, he was my big brother. He is a son, a grandchild, a nephew, husband, daddy, an uncle, and a friend. He was my friend. 

If you knew him, you’d know he wasn’t any cookie cutter mold of what society thinks of as normal. But, that’s what made him, well, him. He could be out there at times, but he was passionate. He had such a tremendous heart. He loved his family deeply, and he valued himself as a protector. He would do just about anything for those he loved. 

I know that many of us feel like this is a nightmare, one we wish we could simply wake up from. It feels so surreal, and it’s hard to even believe at this point. 

In his honor and memory, I would like to ask and challenge each person here to live life on purpose. Be intentional with your time. Love people like tomorrow isn’t promised. Tell them you love them. Make sure you know what they mean to you. Treat people with compassion and kindness, and make sure people know their value. 

None of us know how much we mean to others. But when I looked around the room last night at the visitation, and I look around the room right now, I see love. I see people who my big brother touched in some way, shape or form. He had a tremendous impact on this earth, and his absence this side of Heaven leaves a giant Steven shaped hole in a lot of hearts. Nothing can or ever will take his place. And it shouldn’t. 

One of the last things I want to leave you with is a reminder. It’s okay to not always be okay. It’s okay to hurt, and to mourn a loss of someone pretty incredible. Just don’t stay in that place forever. Connect with other people, and connect with hope. Celebrate that he lived, don’t only mourn that he died. 

Please, do not ever forget my big brother. Let’s always strive to remember all the good, or even downright amusing moments that bring joy and make us smile or laugh. Those same moments may also bring tears at times, and that’s okay. 

Heaven welcomed an incredible person, and I’m proud to be his little sis. I know we’ll all miss him greatly, but we’ll be okay somehow, because we have each other, and none of us will carry his loss alone. Thank you.

I meant every word. Though miles apart, we knew love. He often joked that I was his little big sister, because he was able to come to me with “some really big shit” and he knew I would be honest, and I would help him in any way I could. He also knew he could trust me to tell him the truth, even if he didn’t really want to hear it. 

That’s what love is. Love does. It’s an action word. My brother walked through hell on earth, but he wasn’t alone as he traversed his tornados. Even literal tornados – just ask me about his treehouse one day. 

Just as he wasn’t alone, none of us traverse life’s most difficult whirlwinds alone. 

I won’t lie though; right now, life feels really heavy. It hurts. I think of Heaven, and I long for the reunion(s) that will one day happen there. But, reality then sets in, the here and now reminds me that life isn’t always fair, fun, or even good – and sometimes I’m just sad, really sad. And, I know that’s okay too. 

I will echo something I’ve said a lot of times. I firmly believe we were created as community people. To know others, and to be known. To love, and to be loved. The key here is: not alone. I’ve been reminded a great deal very recently – it’s okay to not always be okay. 

Grief needs to happen, and what grief looks like is very individual. If you’re sad, know that it’s okay. If you’re hurting, know that the pain won’t always feel as intense as it does in these moments. I’m there. I get it. These words are as much for me as the next person reading this. 

With that all in mind, let me share an open invitation: please walk with me. Don’t greet my pain with silence. Give my heart a voice, even if that voice may be a little shaky. I need you. 

And let me offer that same hand of friendship – If you need someone who won’t ever give up on you, and who will simply sit with you in your pain- allow me that honor. 

The Date That Would Alter Realities

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 This is the face of hope…of courage…of faith. This is my beautiful, then 4 year old daughter, Janet. Until this day, she had never had a hair cut in her life. Cancer treatment would take her hair away, and eventually her life. But, the smile you see here – it never really faded. She had a smile that could melt an iceberg.

This day in history. On some calendars, it is merely but a day. On mine, it will forever mark the day (four years ago today, if you’re reading this in 2017) – that our lives changed forever. It was this day, 2013, that our sweet little Janet was diagnosed with a brain tumor. That was the day that life as we knew it – it would never be the same. The normal we once knew, would never be heard from, or seen again.
 
From that day forward, however, we would also learn an indescribable love.
Yes, this journey would become not a sprint, but a marathon. A journey of epic proportions. A journey so painful, it is hard to breathe some days…but so full of love. It would be the beginning of our journey fighting childhood cancer alongside Janet. She was so very loved, and never alone — and knew both of these things to be truth.
 
With all the love in the world, it’s still a journey marked by intense pain and heartbreak. This day, 2013, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor…and three years later, she would breath her last breath this side of Heaven. Friends, I hate the fact that this is our reality. It shatters my heart, and I wish with everything I am that life wasn’t this way.
 
But, it is…and here we are. Continuing to breath, and continuing to have a heart that beats. I made some statements and promises to Janet just before she died. I told her that we were going to miss her like crazy, like there’s no tomorrow…and that it would hurt when she was gone, but that we would be okay, because we’d be together. I did tell her that we would ALWAYS #RememberTheLove. And, that is a promise I will never break.
 
For those of you following, and who share love and support – and also prayers, it is with heartfelt gratitude that I say thank you. Please, please don’t ever stop.

This Is What Compassion Looks Like In Real Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waiting On Sunday To Dawn

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Today is Saturday. Yes, it’s the day of the week, but it marks the beginning and end of so much. It’s the day after Good Friday. Let’s take a look at that. 

The death of Christ ushered in grief unspeakable. Saturday became a day where many lost hope in all they knew. The Savior of the world, now dead. All people knew was the hope of the world, their world, had suffered intensely and then died. What is good about that? 

Good Friday would NEVER in a billion years be considered good…unless you knew Sunday was coming. The grief of Saturday, and the tears of pain and heartache – those would give way to life. The impossible. The good became part of Friday when the Savior of mankind rose from the dead on the third day. 
That is one of the most general looks at the Christian story of Jesus being crucified, dead and entombed, and rising from the dead – leaving an empty tomb. He had risen, and hope restored. 

This season of my life is arguably the most difficult and painful of any I’ve ever walked through. Some days the guiding force of life seem to be pain, grief, and hopelessness. Those things dictate the way I feel and relate to life on a given day. 

Today is my Saturday. The biggest motivating force that keeps whatever hope alive is that Sunday will dawn. Just as those in Jesus day found hope was in fact alive, I have to believe that there is life yet to be lived; life still possesses the possibility of hope for something beyond pain. I have to believe that Sunday will dawn. I’m not there right now, and frankly, I don’t know how to hold onto that hope. 

Today is Saturday, and I will perhaps learn to embrace the whatever is, right now. When I feel like life is impossible, and don’t know how to keep walking, I’ll just know that maybe – just maybe, Sunday will dawn. 

When A Concert Is More Than Just Good Music

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I went to a concert last night. I didn’t have the money to get in the doors, but I still went. I wanted to be there, and I knew I needed to be there. Music is one of a few safe places in my life right now. There was an individual, my friend Dan (from DCA Events) who knew a bit of my story, and invited me in. I didn’t have the money, and he knew it. He said words that probably set the tone for the entire evening. He said this, “It’s not about a concert. It’s about Jesus.” I already had tears streaming down my face at this point, and he invited me into the concert and (without a seat at the time) I just stood at the back. I watched, and I cried. Concerts are also something my daughter and I very much enjoyed going to before she died last year. So, the emotions surrounding that also were fighting for their place. I think I cried more last night than I have, ever, in any concert. It was healing, but it also hurt.

This is a tour called Worship In The Round, and featured Building 429, Josh Wilson, and Chris August. I’ve seen Chris August a couple of times before, but never the others. There was also a guy, Adam Weber, who I’d later learn was the pastor of a church with multiple campuses out of state.

Something happened there though. In my heart. Sadly, I didn’t magically find all this hope that has seemingly gone on an extended vacation. But, what I did find was a safe place. Music is still that. I heard words and messages of hope. Of love. Of faith. Of Jesus. I heard all those things. The only dilemma I have right now, is finding the strength to keep holding onto those messages. I need them to be more than great words that exist in the here and now, but vanish like a vapor. At an intermission of sorts, I saw a friend from church. When she saw me, she made her way over to me, and she gave me a hug, and simply held me as I cried. And cried. That was kind, and so needed. I didn’t know how much it was needed until I just sat there in tears.

What happened after the show, more than any moment during the concert itself, is what sparked something in my heart. The guys were all out signing autographs. I took the time to make my way to each one, including the dude I came to realize was a pastor. The show itself was incredibly impactful, but what happened after became personal.

You see, I’ll start with him. Adam Weber. I actually ran into him before the show, or before I went in. In passing, he asked if I was okay. I didn’t lie. I told him I wasn’t and he said something about all having days like that. I had no idea who he was at that point, just some dude passing in the hallway. But, from the stage, he was talking about prayer. More than that, about how prayer was not some foreign language we have yet to learn. Instead, it’s carrying on a conversation with God, as if He is a friend sitting next to you. He shared a few thoughts, and I listened to every single one. My heart was open to the hope in his words. So, afterwards, I took a few moments and I talked to him. In a brief nutshell, I shared where I was with my daughter having died, with hopelessness in ways, and with my faith. Had I known he was a pastor, I am not sure I’d have said all that. But, it didn’t matter. I did. He wasn’t condescending, but his words were filled with love. He asked if I had told God all those things. More than that, he thanked me for sharing the things I did with him. He valued our conversation, and that was special.

Next, I had the opportunity to talk to Chris August. First, I showed him a silly picture of him and my son from 2011. He signed his forehead, and it was a fun, candy filled memory. (My son had every visible part of him – his face, neck, and his arms signed that evening.) He mentioned that he doesn’t always remember everything from all his shows, but that one still sticks in his memory banks. (It might or might not have anything to do with the fact that Timehop reminds me of these things, and so I share with him each year. haha) But, I was able to just be real. I showed him a picture of my sweet little girl, and shared the pain attached to her death. I talked to him briefly about my life, and what led me to where I was and some of the why. He took the time to listen, and to let me know that where I was, was okay. I was able to do something I’ve wanted to do for some time, simply say thank you to him. His heart is for and with people.

Then I had the opportunity as Jason, from Building 429 was about to walk out of the room – to talk to him. I felt bad, cause I knew he was getting ready to leave. But, I asked for a moment of his time. I wanted him to hear my words. Mostly my thanks. I didn’t have anything for him to sign. I told him thank you for doing what he does, and he asked what was going on with me. His fault. He took the time, and he asked. haha. So, there were the tears from the whole evening. Back again like a faithful friend. He asked if he could give me a hug, and briefly held me as I just cried. Poor guy. That was not my intention, but nor could it be prevented in that moment. I explained some of the why behind the pain, and where my hope was, or wasn’t. And, my faith too. It was a brief, but very transparent and I guess pretty vulnerable conversation. He asked about what support I had, and then he asked if he could pray with me right then. That was powerful, and the tears refused to not overflow. The prayer itself was powerful, sure, but that he simply took the time. He reminded me that I was not alone. He asked my name, and then shared that they’d pray for me on this tour. Tears aplenty.

After more of the crowd vanished, I saw the opportunity to also speak with Josh Wilson. For an odd change of pace, I was somewhat speechless. It was a fight with those tears. They wanted to be known too. All I could manage to say was thank you, for his music and for sharing his story. It wasn’t a star struck sort of speechless either. There were tears. It was an overwhelming feeling, hard to put into words, culminating from the entire evening. I was feeling some sort of stirring. Something in my heart. There were, again, tears that refused to not make their presence known. I did manage to share some of my struggles with him, even feelings not of suicide, but of wishing that I was already in Heaven. And, like the others, he listened. Mostly, he reminded me that it’s okay. Where I am right now, it’s okay. The pain I have, it’s okay. If my words forgot their filters, he wasn’t offended, and heard my heart, and pain. And, he also reminded me that God has broad shoulders, and can take it too. If I’m mad, it’s okay. If I hurt, if…any of those ifs…to talk to Him about it. I might or might not be at a place that I can do that right now. But, the point all boiled down to the fact that the things I felt, the emotions I had, they were okay. I’m not broken beyond repair, even though it often feels that way. He, again, reminded me that life is precious, and that I am too. That people need me, that I am here for a purpose, that I matter, and also that I’m not alone.

The one constant thing amongst conversation with all of them was this. They were unafraid of my tears and my pain. They didn’t run for the hills, and they didn’t hide. They saw me. It wasn’t a ton of time, but they took the time to just be with me in those moments. My seeming lack of faith didn’t make them look at me as less of a person. They were bold, encouraging, and they heard me. I can’t explain what that did in my heart, but it was undeniable. I was no longer alone in a giant crowd of people. They became the hands and feet of Jesus, in human form. They reminded me that, even if I couldn’t see beyond the pain, that it was okay. Ultimately, where I am right now is okay. In different ways, each one of them reminded me that life continues to be worth fighting, worth living, and that even if simply putting one foot in front of the other and continuing to walk was all I could do – that it was enough.

So, folks, that’s where I am right now. You can take a look at yesterday’s post and get a general feel for where I am in general, and why last night’s concert was as impactful as it was. If you pray, I welcome those. If you have hope, I welcome you to hope. Even during the moments I can’t…I ask you to hold onto those things for me cause maybe there will be a time they exist again in my life. Whatever you do, and wherever you are, I welcome you to join me. I know there is strength in community, and I know there is healing and hope also found there. I may not have a good grasp, or none at all, on some of these things right now, but if you do – please don’t let go.

And for any musician apt to play shows or concerts – this, friends, this is why what you matters. This is why a concert is so much more than just good music, or great music in this case. It’s more than entertainment. The simple gestures, hugs, moments in time that you offer or share – those change lives. Those share hope with the hopeless. What you do is life changing for some, life-giving for others, and even life-saving for some. Please know that music is a place where people can feel safe and seek refuge. I am that person. Music is a safe place. Thank you for that gift.

And, to DCA Events, thank you for playing your part in making concerts like these happen. To quote what Dan says of himself and DCA Events, “….As a believer and follower of Christ, it’s what we are called to do. Dca Events is here to bring Jesus to the hurting & lost, our concerts are about promoting positive influence thru music. That positive influence is Jesus.”  Dan, and DCA Events, thank you for the mission you have, and for doing it well. Like I mentioned before, this shows me who Jesus is, in human form.

I still have many questions, a lot of pain, and a faith and life with so many questions and concerns – but I am not the same person I walked into the concert as. I don’t know what that means, but I do know that I’m grateful to have had the experience, and for the safe place it provided.

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

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

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

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

Love Like Tomorrow Isn’t Promised 

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Love. 

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

Love is still the most powerful force on the planet. 

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

Love is the backbone of strength. 

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

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

Think about it. 

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Corporate America

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Dear Corporate America,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For even the consideration, I share heartfelt gratitude.

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

Mental Illness Is Screaming – Church, Do You Hear Her? 

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Dear Church, 

I need you to listen. Right now. Please put on your listening ears and hear what I have to say. 

Mental health is important. 

Mental illness is real. It is no joke. You cannot simply pray it away. While prayer is powerful, and works tremendously – it is not always the kind of healing that’s needed. 

My best friend almost died today. She may not pull through. Her suicidal thoughts won the battle raging between her heart and head. You see, she has been diagnosed with mental illness, and lives this roller coaster every day. She felt she could no longer handle all the ups, downs, twists and turns. 

She is a person of deep rooted faith. 

But, even still, she is unwell. 

She often wonders if life will ever be okay again, let alone good. The pain cuts so deeply, into the very fabric of her being. Today, emotional lies convinced her that it was time to give up. She could hold on no longer. She was ashamed, angry, and wanted to die. 

How does this have anything to do with you? 

She is a faithful member of your church. You know her. You are placated by her feeble smile. 

She has come to you for help. 

You were all she knew she could trust. You did what you knew to do. You told her you would pray – and even offered to pray with her then and there. You even told her that God never gives people more than they can handle. This is the place, the exact instant, that she started distancing herself from a God who would “give” her all this. 

She takes medication to help fix a chemical imbalance. She feels like less than a person, and like she’s broken. 

She questions her faith,  and asks you for help. 

With compassion, you tell her how much Jesus loves her – that He died for her, and wants her to be healed of this sickness. You share that you believe medication isn’t always needed, that Jesus blood, and God’s healing power will meet her needs. 

But you weren’t 100% correct. 

God does love her, but He hasn’t healed her. She feels like a disappointment to this God you speak of. She knows she must be unworthy of His love because, after all, her faith isn’t good enough to get healed. She took your words to heart. And they broke her. She looked in the mirror and saw someone that even God couldn’t love. 

She called to tell you a final goodbye. Secretly, she hoped you’d talk her out of it. She wanted to be talked down, but felt this was impossible. You heard the pain in her voice, and her shaky voice as tears streamed down her face like a monsoon. You asked her to breathe, and to calm down. You told her that everything would be okay – that she can survive this moment. She took a few deep breaths, and calmed down temporarily. You were appeased. You prayed for her. She thanked you and, after a bit of small talk, ended the phone call. That may have been the last time you would hear her voice. 

You did great things. Truly. But, they were not enough. This may not be your fault, but things need to change. 

Instead of trying to placate her in matters you may not understand, please familiarize yourself with all mental health – including mental illness. Know warning signs. Take them seriously. 

You don’t have to have all the answers. 

If you don’t know how to handle her situation, take time to explain that to her. Tell her how much Jesus loves her, and tell her you do too. You can explain that you are unfamiliar with medications in her situation, but see to it that she isn’t led to feel ashamed for needing and taking them. Assure her that God loves her, exactly where she is. She is worthy of His love, and His grace is a free gift. Remind her that God can and does heal people, but it isn’t a strike on her character – or a lack of faith – if He doesn’t take her illness from her completely. Keep showing her love, and let her know you’re with her, care about her, and will sit with her in her pain. Offer to be there during the painfully brokenness. Mean it. 

But, there’s more. 

Tell her about resources outside of your church. Ask her if she’s willing to talk with a counselor or therapist. Remind her that there is no shame on needing help – that it’s okay to not always be okay. 

Loving her well includes pointing her towards help – even if that help is not inside the four walls of your church. Explain that mental health professionals are there, and can also be trusted. Remind her that you’re not turning your back on her, but rather adding layers of helping hands able to assist her. 

It’s okay that she needs help that you can’t adequately provide. 

You can still be a safe place, and talk to her when she needs. Give her heart a voice. But, in so doing, make sure psychological help or mental health resources are available. Point her on that direction while doing life alongside her.

Have you heard me? Did you listen? Please pray for her, and the multitude of others like her. Help her not walk through the journey of life alone. Learn how to see her through eyes of grace – while also pointing her to help. 

Church, you can change the world.