Tag Archives: pain

If You Are Who You Follow

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If you are what you follow on social media, then I am

a gay, straight, lesbian, heterosexual, single, married, bipolar, possibly suicidal, mentally ill, happy, hopeful, loving, hated, bullied, loved, toddler, restaurant, pastors wife, pastor, executive pastor, youth ministry, worship leader, friend, caring, empathetic, waitress, friend with benefits, grown ass man, feminist preacher, apologetic pastor, agnostic, TV news anchor, weatherman, LGBTQ+ community, hurting, broken, exhausted, energetic and wide awake, husband, wife, Christian band, boxer, wrestler, asshole, sweetheart, photographer, mentally challenged, evangelist with a love of fishing, triangles, pencils, scary movies, music, songs, pickles, cake, bacon in any shape or size, chocolaty popcorn, and all things love.

So, as you can tell – I am very diverse.

I am a human being, you see. I am you, and you are me. We are us. We are a team. We are individuals. We are better together and we really must not ever be alone. We all need grace, compassion and love.

Let Them Know Us By Our Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Life Changing Love And Grace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sometimes that attitude actually seems to hasten my low points.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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When Pain Hurts Deeply, Tears Speak

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Tears.

Some would say they’re cleansing. Others would say they sting, while others feel they’re a form of expression of the things we struggle with and have no real way of expressing. There are also happy tears. This is not about those right now.

If the truth is known, my thoughts and personal experience encompass all these things.

To be honest, I have had a mixture of these tears streaming down my face this morning, and across the lines of history. My tears are born from pain, but also out of empathy. You see, pain seems to be a universal language that all understand.

Case in point. My heart sank, just broke with news of a friend hurting over the loss of someone they hold very dear. Their pain is tangible, and I can relate to it through my own experiences. My heart hurts, and tears express that pain in a way I can’t with words.

I guess the bigger lesson here is that everyone hurts. Everyone has struggles. Every person alive knows what pain is. It may not be your pain, but it is theirs, and ur hurts still the same.

Pain manifests itself through tears sometimes. We need to recognize that, sit back, and listen to the message that our tears are trying to communicate. Don’t be so quick to wipe away your tears. There can be strength in allowing them to flow. Sometimes, you allow nothing, as they also seem to have a mind of their own. Just ride the wave, and pray it doesn’t take you under.

Right now, my tears have stopped. For the moment. I must have heard the message. My particular message in this moment is that it’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to feel pain. Just feel. Allow yourself to not be okay when that’s your reality.

Also, hurt when others hurt. Even when you hurt deeply, there is a level of unspoken comfort when you don’t sit alone in your pain. Be a friend in a way that isn’t self centered, and heart what you’re friends tears are saying too.

Don’t be afraid of tears – for they are valuable. They speak the language you’re unable to express without them. They serve a purpose. They know the pain, and they know how to release it. Let the tears flow when they need to. It’s hard, but worth it.

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.

The Power In Music – Zealand Worship, Citizen Way, and MercyMe Concert

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Music is powerful. That is more than a statement, and music truly is more than a song. Many artists freely admit that their songs stem from their own stories. They write from their own heart – which often contains unimaginable pain. To the naked eye, these songs are just pretty music with nice words. This is where I challenge things. Not that those thoughts are wrong, but I’d simply like to add. A song allows the artist to tell a story – and that story may include pain, hope, sadness, joy or a myriad of other emotions. But, it tells a story and that story resonates with different people on different levels – but does do Aggy whatever step on this journey through life they are taking.

To share a practical example of this principle in action, I’d like to share a personal moment with you. I was invited to a concert to see Zealand Worship, Citizen Way, and MercyMe live. Part of me wanted so much to go, but the other part of me wrestled with this. I was physically tired, and not feeling like getting out of bed after the late afternoon nap I couldn’t avoid. But, my choice to go and to be with friends for a night if music won that battle. I went. And I’m glad.

To further explain just the significance of those moments in time…

To backtrack a slight bit, I’ll briefly tell you why I was in the mood and frame of mind that I was. As you may or may not know, we lost a baby through miscarriage, and also seven years later – we lost our precious 7 year olddaughter Janet after a very courageous battle with what we’d learn was terminal brain cancer. I’ve lost friends and military unit members to suicide. I’ve experienced abuse, and know the effects of trauma. I know the pain of depression and the effects of mental illness.

I was thinking, mostly about missing my little girl since her death is still so fresh. (She passed away Feb. 13, 2016.) But, those thoughts brought up so many more. Thoughts of brokenness. Thoughts of pain. Thoughts of hope and love – often hidden or elusive. I really wasn’t okay.

In those moments, I really wasn’t okay. I wasn’t actually suicidal. But, I’d be lying if I told you that living through this kind of personal hell on earth can be seemingly impossible. I was thinking about life being unfair, and seeming so broken, almost beyond repair. I was thinking about life after death. I was thinking about seeing my daughter, and so many others who have gone before and after her. Thinking of the epic reunion that would be.

But, the thought of going to a concert again won. I had attended several concerts with Janet. She adored music as well, and could sing right along to many songs. Songs with messages. I had to remember that. I had to go and see what messages I would hear. I wondered if there would be anything spoken or otherwise delivered that could still touch my shattered heart. I may have had doubts there, but the desire was there for a reason.

Love, comfort, peace and strength were just a few of those reasons.

The first band to take the stage was Zealand Worship. I had never seen them before. Their words and their songs were spot on. They made me smile, and wish for a CD. To see the raised hands (the bands, but countless others around the arena) in worship did something. It sparked a memory of love – if a time in life that did know pain, but more accurately also knew tremendous hope.

The next band to walk on stage was Citizen Way. This band is one I met roughly five or six years ago at A Christmas concert. At the time, my daughter hasn’t even been diagnosed with cancer, but life still knew pain. At the time, they spoke words directly from God to me heart. This concert was no different. In fact, meaningful took on a whole new meaning. Ben Calhoun (from the band) spoke so many words that my heart grabbed onto. But, when he started to talk about the pain and trains behind some of the passion in their music, I held onto every word. You see, he and his wife had to say goodbye to a son (Jeremiah) that they never had the opportunity to know this side of Heaven. They may have had the opportunity to hold him, and to experience death in a strong, personal, and very real way. When Ben related how he felt His God was speaking to him – that, that grabbed hold of my heart. God’s warm and loving hands were holding Jeremiah in His hands. From Ben and his wife’s hands, directly into the hands of God. That thought brought me so much peace and comfort in that very moment. It helped me see my own story in a similar light – as I had a similar experience with pregnancy loss, but also in the death of my seven year old princess. Citizen Way’s songs just spoke to my heart than they ever had before. They spoke to my heart on a personal level. They were instrumental in the tears in my eyes being happy instead of painful tears.

After Zealand Worship and Citizen Way were finished, I wondered what more was in store – what ways God could use music notes and words from a page to bring peace, comfort, strength, and love to this broken heart. To this depressed and hurting (proud to be recognized as) child of God. So, I opened my heart to the possibility of hope being real again, even of life having purpose once again. For love to hold me. So, there I remained – now with renewed expectancy. Next up was the final band of the evening.

The final band to bless the arena with its presence, and to share the heart of God with the same kind of passion of the two bands on stage before them, was MercyMe. Their lead singer, Bart Millard spoke from his heart – sharing so much pain and yet so much hope and peace in spite of the hurts. As a case in point example, he spoke of a venerable part of his story with such heartbreaking transparency – to an audience around six thousand, give or take. He shared the original hell on earth he lived as he endured verbal and physical abuse from his father – from someone who should have been busy protecting his heart, not crushing it. Then he shared the real miracle. His father came to know Jesus as the Lord and Savior of his life. Though skeptical, he watched his father’s heart and entire life surrender to Christ. Through that process, he was able to forgive his father, and a relationship built on love was permitted instead of one surrounded by painful memories. He even said he hopes to be like him when/if he ever grows up. (Bart, for what it’s worth – I don’t think you ever need to be concerned with you ever growing up. I don’t believe that’s a thing – it even possible! But you are a man with a heart like it sounds like your father finally came to know – – one of so much love and compassion.)

I’ll now circle back to my own thoughts, feelings and emotions that evening. There were thoughts of pain and hurting, of not wanting to live life this way, and of wishing for escape – that point where hope seems elusive. You can know in your head that how was never lost, but convincing your heart to believe it – sometimes very difficult. So I went there to spend time with dear friends, but left with so much more. I went to what I knew would be nice – maybe even encouraging music. What I did not expect was the very real infusion of hope and love right back into my heart. God’s love, largely in part due to the words and messages in the songs and spoken words, was able to permeate more broken places in what I feel is my shattered heart. But, what I realized was that He is still God. He is still good. And, He is still in control. No amount of pain or loss will ever take that away. He holds every single shattered piece of my heart (and yours too, if it’s broken) in the palm of His loving hands – close to His heart. I found myself falling in love with the heart again in such a sweet way.

So, if you’re a musician, songwriter, or anyone (from all thees venues, staff, and all members of the bands) who makes this possible – thank you. Don’t EVER doubt your worth – personally or as a team. What you do matters, and is life changing – life saving even. I may never have the opportunity to personally meet you. But, if I did, I’d consider it an honor to just look you in the eyes and say thank you. To say job well done. To say I’m proud of you for stepping outside your respective comfort zones and sharing intimate details of your life, and allowing those details (even the pain) to bring hope and healing while allowing countless others (myself included) to know they aren’t alone. Ever. Through anything.

Thank you for helping me remember these things.

If you are a fellow music lover such as myself, I want you to also hear these words. You are not alone. It’s okay to not always be okay. But, it’s also okay to allow yourself the freedom that comes with also allowing yourself to feel joy. No matter where you are in life, or what personal hell you’re going through, you don’t have to experience life alone. Please don’t believe the lie that tells you you’re alone, or that no one could possibly understand. No one can understand your specific brand of pain – bit they can relate on a universal level – that pain hurts. Allow others in. If this is you and if you’re hurting, please reach out. Talk to someone – a trusted friend, your pastor, your family, a counselor or therapist, or right here on the internet. Speak and be known. Feel free to reach out here and post in comments or send me a message via the contract me option. I’ll look forward to connecting and sharing life with you. Yes, I mean that. And yes, I’m still talking to you. You – you are loved and hope is real. Rescue is possible.

To everyone reading, a side note – May is a number of things, but two of them are near and dear to my heart. May holds title of brain cancer and also mental health awareness. So, as such – take the time to surround anyone you know (especially those fighting brain or any cancer) With love. Take the time to get to know people on more than skin deep levels. Let people know you’re willing to walk with them, or sour together in the pain. You have no idea the impact you can have or the absolute fact that you could potentially be saving a life. Even when you know a person, unless they choose to take off the mask, you may not fully know them. Be that for someone else, and allow someone the honor of being that for you. You be you, and know you’re loved. Right where you are. No questions asked. You ate a human being, worthy of so much love and grace. Again, you be you – your the best person to play your part.

For a slideshow videos of more pictures from this event, please feel free to check this link out. Concert pictures on YouTube

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.

365 Moments Of Gratitude: Thankful For Thieves!

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For those of you unfamiliar with Young Living oils, this title might throw you for a loop! Let me explain…

In recent weeks, my eyes have been opened to the world of therapeutic grade essential oils. I’ve known, or at least heard about them for many years now – almost a decade. However, like much of humanity, I was skeptical. I had no idea how something – an oil – could really make a difference. As time progresses, I will share personal testimonials about how these oils have made a difference in my life. Today, I’ll share a brief, but powerful story.

There is a little oil that packs a big punch – Thieves. From Young Living’s Website:

Thieves was created based on research about four thieves in France who covered themselves with cloves, rosemary, and other aromatics while robbing plague victims. This proprietary essential oil blend was university tested for its cleansing abilities. It is highly effective in supporting the immune system and good health.

So, let me rewind and tell you a little story.

This past Thursday, I started the day with a slight headache. It went from a slight headache to a really annoying headache by lunch time. I took my daughter to lunch, and sat there, waiting on my food. As our waiter was conversing, he asked if I was okay. I told him that I was, but just had a really bad headache. I figured I must need food, since I hadn’t had much that day yet. That wasn’t the case. Nothing, not food, ibuprofen, peppermint oils, NOTHING was working. I went home and it progressively got worse. Finally, with the aid of prayer, more peppermint oil and some good rest, the headache was gone. It was replaced later that evening with a tickle in the back of my throat. This did NOT make me happy!

The next morning, I woke up with the same tickle, just worse. I used my “normal” oils, but nothing targeted to help in this case. Fast forward a day.

I wake up Saturday morning (and several times through the night) to a really sore throat. At this point, I’m an unhappy camper. I did a bit of research, and learned that Thieves would be an excellent choice to help my body fight off whatever was ailing it. So, I put two drops on my tongue. Then I put a swallow of water in my mouth and gargled with it. After gargling for a bit, I slowly swallowed. I could, literally, feel it working. I did that three times spread out throughout the day. It felt so much better by evening.

Sunday morning, and I’m not kidding, it was gone. It was completely gone. It was, again, a combination of prayer and definitely oils that helped the duration be so short. I’m grateful to God for what I’ve now deemed is (one of many of) His gifts to humanity! It’s up to us to take hold and use them!

365 Moments Of Gratitude: Thankful For Hot Water

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As silly as it may sound, I’m tremendously thankful for hot water. Truth be told, I’m thankful for any kind of water. However, there is something healing and soothing on aches and pains / sore muscles that hot water makes feel so much better.

Yesterday, I went back to the YMCA (first time since the tumor removal) and took it easy. I did not want to pull out the stitches or otherwise cause damage/pain. Taking it easy or not, my muscles are letting me know I made them work! It’s the kind of pain that feels good – knowing you’ve done something! Even still, I love the soothing feeling of nice, hot water!