Tag Archives: rescue is possible

Love – An Unrelenting Anchor

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Love is an anchor

Anchors have one job – but they often do so much more.

Love, unlike anything else in the entire universe, is capable of being an anchor – the very anchor that does so much more than keeps us in place. It goes further. It keeps us safe. It keeps us stable. Put plainly, it keeps us alive. Love is an unrelenting anchor. It does it’s job, whether we want it to or not.

Let me get up close and personal with this train of thought. What you are about to read won’t be comfortable, and will (hopefully) make you pause and think. And, it should. Here we go…

It is no secret (nor should it be) that I struggle. With a wide variety of things. Hope, or often times – the seeming lack thereof. Brokenness. Shattered hearts and broken dreams. Pain that intensifies as time goes on. My health (physical and mental) needs help sometimes. Help I sometimes wonder if actually exists.

When grief, depression and a variety of pain conspire together – the results are nearly impossible to put into words. Together, the result is blinding. It renders me unable to see or believe in hope. I won’t lie. There are more times than I want to think about – let alone admit – that I wish I weren’t still breathing, with a heart that beats. I sometimes wish I weren’t alive. This doesn’t mean I am actively going to seek a way out of this pain in the way that ends my beating heart – it just means that I so, so very wish that I felt something more than pain.

In reality, suicide is an option many people turn to. I don’t condemn them. I don’t even say I can’t understand how they could do that. The sad truth is, I do get it. I may not be at that place right now, but I can absolutely understand what can take a person to that depth. I have empathy, and I have compassion.

In those moments where the darkness threatens to encapsulate every aspect of life, for me – let me explain a little of my own experience walking through these moments in time. Though they are only moments in time, they can seem like an eternity when moments turn to hours that turn to days, weeks and months…but, I digress. I want you to hear about the anchor that sustains me.

That anchor is love. When I feel weak, pain, and like I couldn’t possibly continue to even figure out how to keep putting one foot in front of the other – love holds me. Sometimes this actually makes me mad. I even said to a trusted friend that I wished they didn’t care – didn’t show love, cause it would make exiting this earth an easier option. However, it is so much more.

Love doesn’t stop there.

I look around, through the lens of my own shattered heart. I feel the pain of losing people I love. My own daughter. My brother. My cousin. My friend. A previous colleague. And, the list goes on. Most recently, my heart hurt as I walked through the crowd at a visitation – talking and sharing LIFE with friends and family. Talking about life amongst the newly departed. The pain was intense. But, the love – it was more intense.

What I realized was this. And a thousand other things. Love is the anchor that grounds us. When all we see is pain, love holds us. Love keeps the grieving mother’s heart beating. Love keeps us sharing the stories of more than just that person laying in a coffin. Love shares LIFE…even in the shadow of death.

I will take it even deeper and share something pretty personal. I love my family. The family I was born into, the family I married into, the family I’ve given birth to, and the family I’ve chosen as family over the course of time. All family. All love. I look at my parents. They’ve had to bury one child. I know that pain. I look at my grandmother. She’s had to watch two of her grandchildren die, and even a great grandchild. That’s pain I can’t comprehend, and I hope never to. I watch my own children as they grieve – as their sister breathed her last breath here on earth. Losing a sibling is a pain I wish I didn’t understand. Watching and holding my child as she took her final breaths this side of Heaven – not a pain I wish anyone else could relate to.

I see the pain on the faces of those at any number of the recent history’s visitations and funerals – the pain of those grieving those who they love, and have departed earth before they or we were ready. Pain lines the faces of those who hurt.

The flip side of that pain, is love. The pain wouldn’t be as intense as it is, if not for having love as an anchor. Put plainly, we wouldn’t hurt deeply if we didn’t love deeply.

With that as my train of thought, I will circle back to suicide. More specifically, why suicide is an option I’ve taken off the table in my own life. Yes, prematurely leaving the earth would mean an escape of the pain for me. It doesn’t, however, erase the pain. It transfers it to all those who know me, love me, or otherwise would be affected by my death. It is because of love that I couldn’t do that to my family, and to those I welcome alongside me in this journey of life AS family. I know it isn’t and won’t always be easy – but I’ll pray to always be able to hold onto this love in such a life-giving way. I’ll pray you can do the same.

There are days that I really don’t want to take another footstep, to walk another mile, to breath another breath – because, some days, I just feel entirely too much. However, love – it is and forever will be the most powerful force on the planet. More powerful than pain. More powerful than racism and hatred. It acts as a healing balm shattered hearts and broken dreams.  More powerful than all that seeks to destroy us. I’m learning that I don’t have all the answers, and maybe that’s okay.

If you can relate or if you feel connected at all to any of my words here, I want to encourage you to hold on. It won’t always be easy. It certainly won’t be pain free. I ask you to remember the love. I ask you to allow love to be your anchor – even during the times that hope seems elusive. I can’t and won’t promise that it won’t hurt, and that the pain won’t be intense at times. I will, however, promise this – that I will try alongside you – I will continue to hold onto that love, and allow it to breed hope. When hope seems to be on an extended vacation, I’ll allow the anchor that love is keep me stable – as stable as anyone can be in a broken world. Will you join me in that?

I gently ask you to take my hand, and to do the same. Extend your hand of friendship. You are needed here. Allow me to sit with you in your pain. Together, we can traverse the ups and downs, and ride the roller coaster ride that is life. Together being the operative word. People need other people, and we do not walk these paths alone. Not you. Not me. Not that unassuming soul you’ve yet to meet. They need our smiles. They need our love. We need each other. Instead of focusing on all of our collective differences, let’s focus on one thing that unites us unlike any other anchor possibly could – love. Let’s learn to operate with empathy and compassion, backed by love. Let’s let love lead the way.

If you are in immediate danger to yourself or another, please dial 911. It is NEVER too late. You can anonymously call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-873-8255. If your voice is shaky and you would rather text, you can send a text to the @crisistextline 747-747 and you will be connected with a person who cares about you. Where you are. How you got there, and want to help you see that hope is still real. Love is still the most powerful force on the planet. You can find a host of local resources from @TWLOHA as well.

 

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Are You Aware? Let’s Talk About It!

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Many months, or many individual days come with awareness titles. Each day, or month respectively, seek to bring awareness to a cause. Something near and dear to someone’s heart. Well, this month – and specifically also this day is no different. Before I get to that, I would like to say something though. I almost wish I could go back to the brand of naivety where I simply didn’t know or understand these things. But, I can’t. And, my prayer is that, after reading this post, you won’t be able to either. I want you to be aware of these things, as nothing will change until we start to talk about them. No stigmas will be removed by remaining silent.

September is awareness month for multiple things. But, near and dear to my heart are two very intensely painful and “special” ones.

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First, September is childhood cancer awareness month. The month we bring awareness to something so rampant, and so widespread – but yet so many people think it is rare. Kids get cancer too. So many children, my daughter included, have fought and died as a result of this monster. So many children fighting this fight every single day. Cancer doesn’t discriminate. Cancer knows no race, ethnicity, gender, etc.  If you are interested in standing with us to raise awareness for all those who have, or who continue to battle this monster, we’d love it if you’d consider ordering a special t-shirt – created actually by my daughter and I while she was still alive, this side of Heaven.

Children need hope – especially those who have to fight for their lives in a battle with childhood cancer. What they need is awareness, funding, research, hope and a cure. It all starts with you being aware. No amount of awareness will bring my daughter back, but hopefully fundraising that provides research will provide the potential of new medications and therapies. My heart hurts, and it is my desire that no other parent know this kind of pain. The cold hard fact is this though – there have been no new childhood cancer protocols to save our babies lives in multiple decades. DECADES. the taxpayer-funded National Cancer Institute (NCI) plays a pivotal role in research, yet only approximately 4% percent of its annual budget is dedicated to childhood cancer. The result is that children are dying every day waiting for promising new treatments that lack funding. Our children deserve more than 4%.

There are multiple organizations (locally, and nationwide) where funds go directly to research and finding a cure. There are also several organizations that directly help the families with a child fighting cancer. If you need help finding a reputable place to make donations to, please ask – either here in comments, or via my contact me page. I’d be happy to help you find what makes sense for you – and will gladly share my own experience in those places who made a difference during our journey fighting childhood cancer alongside my daughter for the three years she fought.

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As we open our hearts, and fight for these little fighters all across the globe, we also need to open our hearts and fight for some other fighters. They don’t fight cancer – but, they fight other demons. You see, September is also suicide prevention and awareness month – with September 10th being Worldwide Suicide Prevention Day. This is a day where the entire world locks arms and stands together, fighting the stigma that surrounds mental illness and suicide. It is this day and month, that we are more vocal. Talking about it. Giving a voice to those who feel they have none. I have personally been affected by suicide as well. I have lost people I love as a result of their taking their own lives, and have struggled with my own inability to see anything other than the intensely painful moments that just hurt. I have had suicidal thoughts, and I know that I was made for more than just the pain.

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If I were to take (or have taken) my own life when I couldn’t see beyond the pain, I wouldn’t be here to ask you to please stay. I’m here today, asking you to stay. Please stay to be surprised. Please stay for love – to love, and to BE loved. Please stay to know others, but to also be known. Please stay and know that you are loved – that your life matters, and that your life is a story – with chapters, yet to be written. Please don’t take a beautiful story away from those who need to hear it. You are not alone. Not now, not ever. I join my friends at To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) in asking you to stay, and find what you were made for.

So, on this day – and throughout this entire month, will you join me in talking about the topics hard to discuss? Will you reach out to anyone you might see that is hurting? Know that any small act of love, of compassion, of kindness – it might just save a life. If you see someone in pain – for whatever reason, be present. Care enough to not greet their pain with silence. You may not have the right words to say, and it’s alright.

If you are reading this right now, and find yourself feeling hopeless, please know that you are not alone. You don’t have to do this journey alone. Please reach out for help. You are worth it. Your story is worth it. The world needs you to be here. If you need help finding resources, feel free to post here in comments or contact me directly via my “contact me” page. Also, you can find helpful resources on TWLOHA’s page.

If you are in immediate danger to yourself or another, please dial 911. It is NEVER too late. You can anonymously call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-873-8255. If your voice is shaky and you would rather text, you can send a text to the @crisistextline 747-747 and you will be connected with a person who cares about you. Where you are. How you got there, and want to help you see that hope is still real. Love is still the most powerful force on the planet. You can find a host of local resources from @TWLOHA.

I don’t have all the answers, and maybe that’s okay. I tell myself this often. I ask you to join me in raising awareness for these two causes this month. Let’s take it beyond just this month – and make it something we talk about regularly. It is only with open and honest communication that we even stand a chance at making a difference, and erasing the stigma(s) that keep us from talking about it – that same stigma that takes lives, and keeps people from seeking help. Let’s be the change our world needs. Let’s talk about it. Let’s do something. Let’s let love lead the way. Always, Remember The Love.

A Grateful Nation Remembers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#RememberTheLove

 

Painfully Broken – When All You Know And Believe Comes Into Question

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*******Trigger Warning*******
This blog post will speak mostly of depression, but also suicidal thoughts. If this is a struggle for you, please reach out – but I also understand if you are unable to read further.
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I actually wrote this post a few days ago, and true to form, I’m in a slightly different, and much better place currently / mentally. It’s still on my heart to share because I am not alone. If I believe this, then there must be others who will stumble upon today’s blog post, and need to know there IS hope, even when the silence seems deafening. This is also a little longer than normal, so you may want to take it in parts!
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There are days and there are times that life seems shattered. Unbearable. It is almost as if nothing is real – like all I ever knew was a lie. In those moments, I feel so broken – where all my thought processes, beliefs, and even faith is so unsure. I question myself, trying to figure out who I even am. It’s that moment where the person staring back as I look at the mirror is a stranger. I often feel like a stranger in my own skin.

You might wonder how I handle those times. Simple – I don’t. Just kidding. It is imperative that I remember (like with roller coaster style depression) that the person I fear is lost or hiding – or why just plain feels unfamiliar – is really still there. Maybe, just maybe, the person looking back from the mirror is a culmination of all many of life’s experiences, all bundled into one. Maybe I don’t recognize those eyes staring back at me because I choose to avoid the reality packed away, deep inside.

I also mentioned my faith. Yes, it still exists. I still believe in God, and give Him credit where credit is due. However, I’m not going to lie. I have moments where I wonder if any of it is even real, or if it matters at all. I question a God who seems so passive sometimes. My daughter battled cancer for three out of her seven years of life. She has beautiful, innocent childlike faith. She still died. Based on the faith I have, He COULD have miraculously healed her – but he chose to silently not lift a finger. He sat by, unable to be bothered. But yet – all of this is so far from the truth.

You see, I simply must continuously commit to memory, and make a place in my heart for the knowledge that, before she was my daughter, she was His. I don’t know why some are healed – and I don’t believe I ever will on this side of Heaven. And I’m learning that this truly is okay.

On the days where hope is shattered, and where my heart is also – seemingly just broken, beyond repair — it is then that I must somehow remember the vital nature that hope still exists, even when I can’t see it.

Right now, I freely admit that I need help – that I’m not where I need or want to be emotionally. Of course, that comes and goes – and seems capable of changing moment by moment.

Please allow me to share a snippet or two from a post I made in a community that prides itself on being a safe place for ALL human beings – regardless of their status in life, marital situation, sexual orientation, or any defining characteristic they may identify with — all without expectation or requirement to even be okay. They welcome people, exactly where they are. They offer love and friendship, coupled with a grace that it’s so often times messy. Messy grace. Anyway, these are part of the words I shared openly in that safe place. Now I need to also share with you. Need may be a strong word, and that’s okay. This is a strong and messy situation – one I’m realizing I’m far from alone in.

I want to start by saying this is a safe place. That’s why I’m here – about to say what I have to say. What I don’t need or want is your pity. What I do need is your love. I need you to hear me. And those of you who pray – I need you to do that. Though, not gonna lie – not sure how I feel about that. Oh, I also need to tell you to stop reading now if the occasional “bad word” is going to offend you. I don’t intend many – but I also don’t pretend I will be perfect in that area right now. No one even has to reply – cause I just want to say these words. Feel these feelings and either find a way through it, or not.

Oh, and as a side note. I am a Christ follower. I do go to counseling / therapy, and my primary doc is aware of all that I’m about to say. I am not suicidal, but sure as shit, I am definitely having suicidal thoughts. (yes, also known by my medical team, and church leadership.) So, to say I’m overwhelmed – that would be an understatement of fairly epic proportions. I wish I could honestly tell you that I care anymore. I do but I don’t. I am so damn tired of people who don’t mean what they say, say what they mean, and have actions that match their words. I’m tired of trusting people and expecting their words to be honest and true. I’m tired of people telling me they’ll be here any time, and that being bullshit. I’m tired of life. I’m just done. I’m not talking about killing myself – I’m just feeling so over it all. I’m finally realizing that I can’t keep believing that it’s ever going to change. How I’m able to believe that for others, and not myself – I have no idea. But it’s true. My heart is shattered – just so broken. And I know it always will be. Here’s the God’s honest truth. I wish I wanted to be alive – that I wanted to live because life is good. But, friends, that’s just not the case. I want to live so I my death doesn’t cause other people pain. But it will, and I hate that. So, here’s I am. Living for others. But – I’m guessing that living for any reason beats dying for none. While my heart is shattered, my faith seems to be crumbling. I don’t say that lightly. I want to believe that my faith is as real as it every has been. But, if I’m being honest – that just isn’t true right now. My hearts desire is to fall in love with the heart of God again. I want to believe all the things I tell each of you (or anyone with ears) every day – that God is good, that He is still God, and that He’s in control (even when we’re not)… But I don’t know who I am anymore – let alone what I believe. I guess I still believe the things I always have, since coming to know Christ. I just don’t care. I have missed the previous 4 or 5 of the previous 6 weeks of church. Since I started faithfully attending church, this has never happened. At first, it really bothered me. Until it didn’t. The first 3 weeks, I was sick. I finally get over that mid week to find myself in the ER Friday night, a week and a half ago. 7 hours later, went home. Sick or some other valid reason, I didn’t attend. I think it really made me sad and miss the place — till I realized the place didn’t actually miss me back. I could count the fingers on less than a full hand, the number of people who carried enough to be the body of Christ – who reached out and asked if I was okay, or simply told me that they missed me. Yeah I know, it’s not all about me. Trust me, I know. I say that, but I care deeply. But I think I’ve just been walking a path where I’ve been slowly giving up. Praying for the faith and hope that says keep going. And clearly – whether I realize it or not – I’ve found that faith and hope time and time again. Cause I’m still here. I have breath in my lungs, and my heart still beats. See guys, I don’t really need anything. I guess I just wanted a safe place to write all this out – the safe haven this community is. What I don’t know is why. Why I felt compelled to share this. Please don’t feel pressured to reply. I mean, feel free – but ya don’t have to. I guess writing is therapeutic for me. Cause, fun

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So, as I mentioned before, I am not currently suicidal – and not having suicidal thoughts at the moment either. I’ll share more of recent / current events in the coming days.

To anyone who is hurting – and to anyone having suicidal thoughts – you ate not ever alone. Know this. Not ever do you need to walk this earth (as messed up as is on some days) alone. If you’re struggling, please reach out.  You can post here, or reach out via my contact me page. I may not be able to physically do anything – but I’m more than willing to listen – to hear you, and to simply – even virtually just sit with you in this pain.

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WORLDWIDE SUICIDE HOTLINES

Community Challenge – In Three Sentences Or Less

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Challenge time

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It’s about community – it’s importance, and how it makes a difference.

Here’s your challenge. Think of a person you respect. Tell them in three sentences or less things you love about them, and remind them of things they may struggle to remember on their own.

I welcome you to post your answers here in the comments – or feel free to connect via my contact me page and I’ll update this post with all of our community of answers. Comment or message me with as many people as you’d like. This is all about love.

The first person who came to mind is To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) founder, Jamie Tworkowski. Here are the things I wish he knew and could always hang onto:

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Jamie is a kind hearted person who encourages, shares hope and compassion, and loves people well. He is tremendously loved as a son, brother, uncle, friend, comrade, and one day a lifelong companion. He lives life authentically, but with vulnerability as he tells his own story of brokenness and triumph, pain mixed with hope, and sees value in all people – all the while reminding everyone that it’s okay to not be okay, to be honest, and that everyone has a story worth telling, and one that is full of love and hope, while also remembering that rescue is possible.

(See what I did there? I made about six sentences into three – all with the magic of breaking all sorts of grammar rules – so I beg you now — don’t think it necessary to remind me of this.)

I may share and highlight others as well – but wanted to give everyone a chance to #RememberTheLove.

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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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