Tag Archives: Family

Mother’s Day blessings…

MyZoo

What is Mother’s Day?

It’s a day most of us celebrate the women who have poured love into our lives, nurtured us, cared for us, kissed our boo-boo’s, held us when we were sad or afraid, and so much more. It’s a love that’s irreplaceable and no one else can fill that role.

Not everyone has that love. Some never had it. Some had it in a warped way. Some have lost it. There are many things in our fallen world that separate us from the most special bond God intended us to have.

A mother isn’t just someone who physically gives birth to you. For me, while I have loved my mother, she was also not the mother I needed in some of the hardest times of my life. That abandonment still affects me greatly today at the age of 39. It’s a longing my heart aches for. It’s a loss I don’t want to accept.

I spent my very first Mother’s Day, back in 2001, alone. I asked my husband to take my son and go visit his family and leave me alone. I believed they were better off without me. I believed I deserved to be alone. Oh how wrong I was but the lies I’ve believed all my life tainted any truths I needed to believe.

That little boy will soon be 17. He amazes me more and more each day. Sure, we’ve had our issues and all I can say is I have messed up and apologized many times, as has he. And over the years, #2 and #3 have blessed our family. Most days, it’s a zoo but it’s my zoo. Most days, I’m tired, worn out, wishing I could find solitude in a tiny cabin in the woods where I can be alone with my thoughts, yet I know I would quickly feel lost in the quiet.

What I have learned is that being hurt by your mother doesn’t mean you will be a bad mother. I think in many ways, it’s helped me be a better mother. When our oldest son was five and I made a choice that too closely resembled choices my mother had made, I hated myself and feared I was becoming her. I knew my son deserved better than that, just as I had. I cried out to God with two requests:

“God, either you’ve got to take over or I’m not going to make it.”

I remember saying those words out loud and I can hear them just as clear today as I did on that September morning.

The roller coaster of life has continued as it does for most. There have been amazing times and there have been horribly, hit the bottom, completely empty times. Through it all, God has placed just the right people in my life at just the right times. For so long, I was angry at God for allowing things to happen in my life and for not having the mom and dad I saw so many others have. I wanted to feel that unconditional love, to have that complete trust in someone that no matter what happened, they would hold you, cry with you, and believe you.

I didn’t have that. I won’t have that. I have to accept that.

But this Mother’s Day, I’m going to celebrate in spite of the wounds I carry.

I’m going to celebrate the three amazing blessings that call me mom.

I’m going to celebrate that God has led me down a different path from my own mother’s choices.

I’m going to celebrate that even though I am completely broken, my children know they can always depend on me to believe them, hold them, cry with them, and love them.

I’m going to celebrate the many people God put in my life to keep me going and even though I wanted them to fill roles they couldn’t possibly fill, I can clearly see what special gifts each of them have been.

I fear naming them as I certainly do not want to leave anyone out but I can honestly say, so many people have greatly impacted my life and I am grateful for each of you. To those of you have been the closest to tending to me like what I imagine a mother or father would, I thank you. I probably put unrealistic expectations on you and for that, I’m sorry. But know that my heart is full because you poured into my life.

From earlier days in my life, thank you to my 6th grade friends who gathered with me in the small teachers lounge as I poured out my heart, wow…what a crazy position you all were in. I asked you to swear on the Bible not to tell and though you did swear it, you knew what I had said was something worthy of breaking that promise. You knew it needed adult intervention. And you made sure I got that. Thank you for being my friends, the first people I ever felt I could share my secrets with. And I so wish I could have said thank you to Mrs. Glenda who was the first adult I ever confided my secrets to. I learned she passed away a while back. She had such a gentle, loving spirit. I was drawn to her because she felt safe. She was my voice when I couldn’t speak. Even though things did not go well, I know she believed me. I am thankful for Mrs. Carson, my 8th grade English teacher who became a light in my life. I’m thankful we are able to still stay in touch. And I thank you for all you did for me and all you taught me. To Mr. Black, my high school art teacher, thank you for rocking the Duke sweatshirts and pulling for the “right” team! Thank you for fueling my love of drawing and art. Writing and drawing have been outlets that got me through life. I suppose you could say among many unhealthy was,  those have been my healthy ways of coping. Thank you for giving me something else to think about, to strive for, to love when my world was pretty dark. To my high school buddies, Erin and Christina…I kept you at a distance personally, just as I did everyone, but you were my friends and I’m thankful you were there. You helped create many good memories! My softball buddies, Kelly and Angie – fun times. Man, I lived for the dirt and I’m so glad we had so many good times together in a place I loved so much.

To my Guardian Ad Litem, Anne, who was there for me during some of the hardest times. Thank you for listening to me, for believing me, for treating me like I mattered, and for giving me a voice even though I was afraid to use it. I knew I was safe with you and that’s what mattered.

To my sweet grandparents, affectionately called Nana and Papa. I miss you. Thank you for taking me in when you were both facing your own nightmares. You had each been diagnosed with cancer but at the same time, you were there for me, supporting me, and taking me in as your own. You had always been there but you made your home mine too. You loved me as much as you could. I know it was hard. I was horribly broken. I was a depressed, hurt, abandoned, and lost teenage girl. I know it was hard on you. But you loved me anyway. Nana, you had your moments that really hurt. There were stings from you that I still feel today but at the same time, I remember those moments when you let me crawl up on your lap and cry. It was the only place I could cry. That meant more to me in that moment than anything. When I needed a place to cry, you gave me that. And Papa, I don’t think you ever did anything wrong in my eyes. I looked at you with nothing but admiration. You were the perfect gentleman. You taught me to love others, to help others, to care about others, and to forgive others. You taught me what real, safe, true love looked like. You smiled at me at all the right times. Your eyes filled with tears when you knew I was hurting. Your face showed disappointment when you knew I’d made bad choices. But you never stopped loving me. You never stopped letting me know I was loved. You are the reason I am married to the man I am. He is God’s precious gift to me and he came just as you left. God didn’t allow me to be without that one perfect man for me. First it was you and when you could no longer fill that role, it became Tony. He’s so much like you. The perfect gentleman, the one who would help anyone, who has forgiven endlessly, who has shown me every single day of our life together that I matter and he loves me. Thank you for being such a great example of what a real man is. And thank you for playing ball with me, for late nights, for giving me and Nana lots of giggles when your teeth fell down or your major comb-over had come to the dark side, lol. Thank you for giving me my blue eyes when no one else in the family had them…just you and me. And now, no one in my little family has them except my own daughter. What a special gift we share with you. Thank you for loving me.

Danny and Lee, thank you for loving me, for caring about me, for loving my grandparents and being a support to them as they faced their own trials and raising an abused, scared, angry teenager. What a world they were thrown into. Thank you for taking me in when I had no where else to go. You not only provided shelter for me and my sweet Tippie, but you provided a sense of family I’d never experienced. I got a glimpse of what a real family looks like. For a short time, I got to know what it felt like to have a sister and brother, a mom and dad. And though you couldn’t really fill those roles, you certainly did all you could to make me feel at home. The physical gift of providing me shelter was beyond wonderful but the emotional love you showed me was priceless.

Jimmy and Cindy, thank you for making me laugh. Oh what fun times we had…and some not so fun (like stacking the phase 10 cards just to see me get mad or flipping the hat off my head). Sure, those things made me angry on the outside. My short fuse often reacted. But on the inside, I knew you loved me and cared about me. I knew everything you did was out of love for me. You not only loved me but you gave me the outlet I so desperately needed. You gave me other things to focus on than my own nightmares. You gave me reasons to smile and laugh. You stayed up late endless nights with me playing Rook. Those moments were a treasure because I wasn’t alone. If it hadn’t been for that, I’d have been alone in my own world of darkness, despair, and hopelessness. When I was with you all, you lifted my spirits and shined your light into my darkness.

To Becky and Bill, I guess if anyone could claim to be my parents, you both could. At times, you have loved me like your own and from day one, you claimed my kids as your own grandkids. I have loved that. What a special treat it has been for myself and my kids. My biggest regret is that we haven’t made much time for you all lately. Life has been busy and has taken us in different directions but you are never far from my heart. You’ve loved and supported me since I was 17. You were there when my grandpa died and again when my grandma died. You were there when I needed help with Noah and your love for him was priceless. You’ve continued that and I am so grateful for all you have done for us. Thank you for loving me and my family.

To my church family – there’s no way I can name each of you individually because I would certainly miss someone. Each of you have impacted my life in some way. I won’t say it’s always been easy or even good but that’s how families are. I know first-hand that families are dysfunctional. What you all, my chosen family, have taught me is that families work through those things, they overcome trials, they support one another, believe one another, and forgive one another. What amazing lessons I have learned from this sweet family God brought me into.

Thank you Skip and Jeff for being faithful leaders who have taught me more about myself than I ever imagined. You’ve taught me I’m not alone and you’ve accepted me in my darkest moments. You never turned me away. Instead, you poured hope and love into my life. You showed me that I was worthy of your time and God’s love. What greater gifts could I have asked for than for someone to reassure me that God has a plan for my life?

To my sweet friends who have come, gone, or stayed by my side, I thank you all. Even if our ways have parted, you were there at just the right time and blessed me beyond anything I ever deserved. In your own ways, each of you has allowed me to be a part of your life and your family. You have shown me the love of a sister or mother when I needed it most. I realize expecting that unconditional, irreplaceable love from you was never fair to you and probably only hurt me more. Even still, you showed me the closest love of a sister or mother than I could imagine. Leslie, Ashley, Jennifer, Ambra, Rachel, April, Karin, Keg, Julie, Trish, all my amazing Bible study sisters, thank you for walking through this life with me. I know I haven’t been the perfect friend – far from it and you loved me anyway. I know I carry with me some pretty heavy baggage. You’ve helped me carry it. My emotions and reactions can change instantly. You love me through it. You’ve accepted me. You’ve allowed me the freedom to be honest about things I maybe never felt safe enough to share. And you’ve prayed for me so many times. What an honor it has been to have each of you in my life. My heart will always hold you in a special place and I am a better person because of you.

To my amazing Armstrong family…wow. What a beautiful blessing it has been to be a part of such an amazing family. I often jokingly say  you are the most normal family I could ever imagine but really, it’s true. Sure, there are kinks but I have never seen such love for one another, encouragement, love, and support. And I get to be part of that! It sure has been nice to feel like I am part of a real family. I hate we don’t get to see each other as often as I’d like. You all have shown me what “family” really means.

There are so many more people I could name, who have touched my life in amazing ways, who have shown me that I matter, encouraged me, pushed me, and loved me. My SCS friends and family, the kids I’ve been blessed to work with through subbing, my photography friends and families who’ve trusted me with their most precious treasures and those who’ve allowed me into their lives during some of their own most difficult losses, to those in the fire department and rescue squad who became my family when I had none. I know they call it a brotherhood and I was the only girl around but you didn’t leave me out or single me out. You made me feel like I belonged.

And to my sweet “friend,” Kara. I hope you have a wonderful Mother’s Day. I know you and I have a different relationship and most days, that’s more than frustrating. And yet I know you want the best for me, even if that means things are different. You’ve provided me a safe place to bear my heart, to cry the tears that have flooded me inside. You’ve taught me more about myself than…well probably more than I ever wanted to know, lol. And you’ve helped me make sense of my own mess, my broken world. You’ve helped me patch the wounds, right the wrongs, replace lies with truth. You’ve taught me my own truth and you’ve taught me God’s truth. You’ve shown me a love so unconditional, I can’t even put into words how priceless it’s been. You’ve believed me. You’ve encouraged me. You’ve supported me. You’ve prayed for me. You’ve allowed me to be real with you. You’ve helped break down the walls I had built so high and strong. You’ve made difficult choices when you needed to knowing it would lead to hurt or a loss of trust, but you did so to keep me safe, to protect me, because you care. You have become such a huge part of who I am, of who I am becoming, of who I will someday be. Everything you have done for me is irreplaceable and even if there are times when I want assurance that you are who I want you to be, you are always who God made you. You have taught me to trust. To trust you, to trust others, to trust myself, and to trust God. I came to you having little to no trust and look at where I am now. I’ve still got a long way to go so don’t plan on going anywhere :)

So you can’t all be mother’s, in fact, none of you can be my mother. There’s only one woman on this earth that was given that name. What I ask of all of you is that you pray for her. My life is very different and I am stronger now. I have had to be a mother to my children. I have had to protect them, guide them, love them, and everything that I am supposed to do as a mother. Part of that was saying goodbye to my own mother. I know it hurt her. That was never my intention but it was what was necessary for me and my family. I have never, not one day hated my mother. I have loved her and wanted a mothers love more than anything. But what I’ve learned is that just as I am broken in my own ways, she was broken in hers. Part of that was in her ability to be the mother I needed. Please pray that she can find peace in her own life and know that she is loved from afar.

And because I’ve lived without a dad too, we’ll go ahead and count this as my Father’s Day note too. So here’s to all of you…Happy Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, friend day, sister day, brother day, family day, etc.

“To the world you may only be one person but to me, you’ve been the world.” – unknown

Update and book suggestions…

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Hey y’all! Today’s post is a nice laid back update :)  Here’s answers to a few questions…

What have you been up to?

Well, I’m in school full-time. I’m hoping to graduate in May with my Associates in Arts degree and then transfer and pursue a Bachelors in English. As if that isn’t enough, I’m heading into week three of teaching a new study on Grace at church. I’m also involved in a Tuesday morning Bible study with some amazing and dear women. I couldn’t do life without them and am so grateful God brought them into my life…just when I needed them! And of course I have the normal every day stuff…husband, kids, dog, and life. But ya know what…that last one, life…it’s good to be able to say I have life! Praise God. Last year this time, I couldn’t say that.

What’s up with the new things coming?

Well, I’m glad you asked! I posted back at the new year that big things were coming…they still are. I’m a little slow on that mostly because I’m focusing on school to make sure I graduate! I haven’t forgotten and ideas are being born and tweaked! Things are coming! For now, I can tell you there are plans for more regular posts on here. I have a very looooonnnnnngggg list of topics and hope to get those written and scheduled so they go out regularly. I’m looking at probably 2 to 3 posts a week for my goal. Also, other social media outlets are coming. If you don’t know about Periscope, check it out. I plan to start a 5-minute morning soon. Periscope is similar to YouTube, only it’s live. Basically, you would see me and be able to comment as I talk. I can’t plan anything with too much pressure right now so these 5-minute mornings seem like the best way to go. Topics will range from everyday life, parenting, Bible study, planner and journaling related things, and more. Basically a hodge podge of topics but the point is, I’ll be there. What I’ve realized from watching others on Periscope is that they become family. They become part of your life. You see them and you get to know them. It’s hard when you don’t see them for days and you wonder about them. Because I want to shine His light, I hope my 5-minute mornings will bring joy to your day! So, that’s in the works. I’m also on Twitter and YouTube. My YouTube videos are mostly planner related for now. (Did you know there’s a whole world of women obsessed with planners, paper, pens, stickers, and all that fun stuff?)

What are your book suggestions?

Right now, I’m reading a pile of books…and most of them have a shared theme. Grace & Identity. I’ve been reading these for the Bible study I’m teaching. The study is called, “Finding Your Place by Knowing His Grace.” Right now, it’s only available to the class I’m currently involved with but at some point I may take all my research and notes and write it up to share. It’s so worth digging into and one of the most crucial parts of this life to understand.

Books:

I Know His Name by Wendy Blight
Because He Loves me by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick
You’re Already Amazing by Holley Gerth
Lord, I Need Grace to Make It Today by Kay Arthur
Victory Over the Darkness by Neil T. Anderson
In My Father’s House by Mary A. Kassian

If you’re looking for a good book, any of these would be a great one to grab. Grace is the foundation of God’s love for us. It’s His unwavering, unending love and acceptance…of You and me! It’s His precious gift to us. Understanding His grace opens the door to a life meant for living. If you aren’t sure about grace, have questions about it, or just want to know more, pick up any one of these books and start there. And I’d love to hear from you. If you have questions or thoughts you want to chat about, email me!

So, that’s it for now! Don’t worry…I’ll be back soon.

Want to help me? A couple things I’d really appreciate…your prayers. Prayers for what’s to come here and through other social media…that God would keep me humble and grounded, obedient and consistent, fully relying on Him. And also, share this out…my blog, Periscope, Twitter, Facebook page and so on. It’s not about the numbers but every life that has a chance to hear is the possibility of another life changed. Help me extend that grace. Let’s shine His light!

Love & Blessings,

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Simple Words…

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I’m a former firefighter and a firefighter’s wife.

I know the power of simple words…

“Thank you.”

Those are some of the most reassuring and power-filled words…not only for the receiver but also for the giver.

Today, I am extending my own thanks after many “Thank you’s” have poured my way over the past week.

Last week, I shared about the trials I recently faced in my post “Back to Life.”  It wasn’t an easy time and it wasn’t easy sharing about it either.  But I knew, I had to share.  I had to share because my story needed to come from me.  I had to share because God’s story needed to shine through my brokenness.  I needed to share because it was the right thing to do.

In sharing some of the most intimate parts of this messy life, I admit, there was a little concern.

What will people say?
What will they think of me now?
Will they abandon me?
Will they look down on me, think less of me?
Will they forgive me for being broken?

Some of those questions, I realize now, weren’t even necessary.  “Will they forgive me for being broken?”  If you’ve asked yourself that before, don’t.  We are all broken.  Period.  It’s not up to others to fix me…or to judge my brokenness.  We all have dirty, ugly parts.  We all have broken pieces of our lives.  We all need mending.  My brokenness is God’s to heal…and slowly, tenderly, and carefully, He is bringing me back to life.

Today, I want to thank all of you who have poured out your words of understanding, encouragement, support and unconditional love.  I’ve received Facebook messages, emails, blog comments, emails and more emails.  The responses have been overwhelming…good overwhelming.

You’ve shared your stories of encouragement.
You’ve shared your appreciation for my honesty and transparency.
You’ve shared your own heartaches and moments of despair.
You’ve shared your tears.
You’ve shared your wounded, broken places to remind me I’m not alone.
You’ve allowed me to remind you that you’re not alone.
You’ve reassured me that I am on the right path.
You’ve given me a voice and allowed me to use it.
You’ve listened and you’ve heard.

I could go on and on … the list of thank you’s is extensive.  Thank you.

Such simple words cannot express my gratitude.

Three weeks ago, I didn’t think I would see March.  Today, it’s March 11th.  We’re nearly half way through this month.  Three weeks ago, I thought my life was over and I was okay with that. 

Today, I am thankful for the air I breathe.

Today, I am thankful for the words I was able to write last week…the words that spilled from my heart when tears wouldn’t fall…words of desperation, fear, chaos…and blessings…so many blessings.

Today, I am thankful for my faith in a greater power, the One who has saved me time and time again.

Today, I am thankful that He has placed people in my life to help hold me up.

Today, I am thankful that those people are letting Him lead them, that they are choosing to walk this road with me, choosing to encourage, support, and love me.  No one is obligated but they have chosen to be a part of this beautiful mess.

Today, I am thankful for all those near and far who have shared their own pain and grief, who are sharing their own wounds in the hopes we can heal our wounds together.

Today, I am thankful for this life that has been given to me, for the desires He has placed on my heart to speak, write, teach, and love.  I never imagined I would share the scars of my past as I have here…but I do believe God is using and will continue to use all my broken pieces for His good.  For that, I am thankful.

Today, I am thankful that He gives me purpose.  He takes all these ugly parts of my life and is using them for something beautiful.  Hope.

Today, I am thankful He is bringing me back to life.

It’s not easy. 

For weeks now, I’ve asked, “What now, God?  What now?”  Life after a suicide attempt is not easy.  When you are in that place, ready to embrace death, willing to breathe your last excruciating breath and kiss this world goodbye, when you are ready to be in the loving, gentle, safe arms of Jesus, and you face the reality that you’re still here, living this broken, messed up life you tried to run from…well, it’s not easy.

I am learning to breathe.
I am learning to face each day…in a new way.
I am learning to live again.

You see, I couldn’t live the way I did before February 21st, 2015.

I was gasping for air. 
I was drowning. 
I was dying.

I certainly wasn’t living.  There were things that brought me life…joy…happiness.  Those are the things I held tight to the night of February 21st, when I felt more alone than ever…my desire to write, teach and speak, my family and friends, and God.

I am thankful for the Words God had planted in my heart and mind that week.

I will not die but live and proclaim what the Lord has done.  Psalm 118:17

I am thankful for the songs lyrics from For King and Country, “Shoulders” He gave me to remind me I was not alone.

“…My help comes from You
You’re right here, pulling me through
You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness all on Your shoulders
Your shoulders
My help comes from You
You are my rest, my rescue
I don’t have to see to believe that You’re lifting me up on Your shoulders
Your shoulders…”

I am thankful for the time He blessed me with the privilege of getting to know some amazing people who were broken and hurting just like me.

I am thankful He brought me home with a fresh perspective on what matters most…on life…on living.

And though there are still doubts (those don’t magically go away over night)…

He has given me hope, not just in today, but in tomorrow. 

Three weeks ago, it hurt too much to think about a tomorrow because it felt that day would not come.  Today, I am thankful that I have hope in tomorrow.

Sweet friends, may I ask you to pray for me and my family…because I am relearning many things.

I am learning how reconnect with those I’ve pulled away from.
I am learning how to love my family and friends again, to let them in, to allow them to love me.
I am learning how to live.

He is bringing me back to life…and I am thankful.

Thank you for being a part of this journey.

Today, I am thankful for Chris Tomlin and his song, “Thank You God for Saving Me.”  Go…listen to it…and think of all the things you can thank God for today!

“…I called your name, you heard my cry
Out of the grave, and into life
My heart is yours, my soul is free
Thank you God for saving me
Thank you God for saving me…”

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A Different Kind of Goodbye…

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This past weekend, I had what I’m going to call an opportunity.  I had a chance to turn my life around.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are made new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  Lamentations 3:22-23

His mercies are made new every morning.

Each day is a chance to live again, to start fresh, to lay down the mistakes of the day before and walk a new path.  I’ve known for years now I was on the path God had led me to.  It has been quite the journey, filled with many aches and pains.  There have been years of suffering and darkness, nights filled with terror and hopelessness, but through it all, one thing remained.

He is faithful.

God never abandoned me, never once.  He was always there.  In the middle of the night when I little girl cried out for someone to rescue her, He was there.  As a teenager begged for someone to hear her cries, He was there.  As a young woman drank to numb the pain, He protected her.  As a young mother believed her child would be better off without her, He brought them peace.  As a woman struggles to heal from a broken past, He continues to fill her heart and mind with His love, His truth, His tender guidance, His mercy, and hope.

My life hasn’t been headed in the wrong direction…in fact, I’m quite sure I am exactly where God wants me to be.  I feel quite certain of God’s calling on my life and He’s planted the desires in my heart to follow His calling.  The issue comes in with my inability to say no.  I’m a fixer and a helper.  I want to do everything and I hate telling others no.  It stirs up something inside me and makes me feel less than.  This past weekend, I learned to let go.

There’s a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven.  Ecclesiates 3:1

My dearest friend loves to talk about seasons.  Sometimes, I think she does it just to stir me up.  I’ve been in a season of doing everything I could to keep busy.  I thought it was helpful.  I thought I could handle it.  I thought I could do it all.  In trying to do it all, I left little time for writing, teaching, and loved ones.

For months now, I’ve allowed things to get in my way, causing me to get lost or off track, distracting me from what I knew God was leading me to do.  I need to write, speak, and teach.  I’ve neglected this blog and I’ve neglected the books my heart aches to write.  I poured my heart into many things, all of which were for good reasons but when you pour into too many things, there’s little to offer each of them.

Let me just say, losing it all brings a whole new perspective to one’s life.  When you have nothing, you quickly realize the things you miss the most and I can say with certainty those things that caused distractions and left me feeling lost and worn down, they were no where near my thoughts when I was stripped of everything.  Honestly, the first thing I thought of was a pen and paper, the comfort of my stuffed dog, and God’s word, followed closely by the people I love the most, my family and friends.

So now, I am choosing a different kind of goodbye.  I’m saying goodbye to all the things I thought were filling me with joy, made me a good person, or gave me life.  They were suffocating me.  When things get too heavy, there’s no room to breathe.  Breathing is difficult for me anyway so I need even more breathing room.  I’m saying goodbye to the distractions and road blocks and I’m saying hello to what matters most…writing, teaching and loved ones with God at the center of it all.

I look forward to writing more here…to putting what fills my heart into words.

I pray this brings me back to life.

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Beyond Thankful…

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This Thanksgiving, I want to challenge you.

I want to challenge you to go beyond. 

Beyond your dinner table. 
Beyond your home. 
Beyond your family.
Beyond your own blessings.

I want to challenge you to go beyond by remembering…

By remembering that out there somewhere is a lonely heart, a lost soul, a broken dream, a shattered life.

They are men, women, and children.  They are mothers, fathers, grandparents, husbands, wives, daughters, sons, friends, neighbors, strangers.  They are people.   And so many feel so alone.  This time of year can be so hard for many.

As you gather around your dinner table, sharing laughs and smiles with your family, remember the wife who said goodbye to her husband this year, who is learning to live without him, who is spending this Thanksgiving questioning why he’s no longer with her, why God had to take him away, why it hurts so much.  Remember all those grieving the loss of their loved ones, their significant other, their best friend.

Remember them and pray for them.

As you embrace your loved ones, your spouses, your parents and children, remember the broken families.  Remember the wives left behind to explain to their children why daddy moved away.  Remember the husbands lost in a world of confusion, wondering where things went so wrong.  Remember the children torn between mommy and daddy, two houses, feeling insecure and carrying burdens their little bodies were never meant to carry.

Remember them and pray for them.

As you think of all the blessings you have, remember the men, women, and children without a place to lay their head.  Remember the ones sleeping in the cold, with nothing more than a box for shelter.  Remember the ones with empty stomachs, wishing they could taste even the smallest crumb.

Remember them and pray for them.

As you share in the joy of watching your children play and giggle, embracing each hug and kiss, remember the families who laid their little ones to rest all too soon.  Remember the ones who cried out, “God, save him!” or “Can’t I hold her just a little longer?”

Remember them and pray for them.

As you hear others tell you how much they’ve missed you and how loved you are, think of the children who have no one to love them, who are tossed from home to home, living with no stability, no hope.  Remember those who sit in quiet corners, scared and alone, tucked away and forgotten or silent in fear.

Remember them and pray for them.

As you head out for holiday shopping and the temptation to become frustrated or annoyed with the hustle and bustle of overcrowded malls, empty shelves, and mass chaos, remember the employees who are working, sacrificing time with their loved ones, to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.  Remember the emergency workers who risk their lives every day, including Thanksgiving and Christmas, who give selflessly, day after day, spending time away from their loved ones to be someone else’s hero.   Remember those who have lost their jobs, who have tried to provide for their families and now wonder how they will feed their children, much less give them a special gift at Christmas.

Remember them and pray for them.

As you sit back and think about the many things you are thankful for, remember the ones who are struggling to find a reason to be thankful, some who are just trying to find a reason to survive.  We have so much to be thankful for and yet for some of us, it’s an almost unimaginable feat.  Some days, just being thankful for the air we breathe is a grand accomplishment.  Some are stricken with illness, disease, unable to get out and enjoy each day.  Some are stuck in hospitals or nursing homes.  Some are consumed and plagued by depression and other issues that leave them bound up inside.

Remember them and pray for them.

When you share with others the things you are thankful for, the blessings God has poured into your life, remember where you came from.  Remember that everything in your life is a gift from God, your faith, your hope, your love.  Remember those who don’t share your beliefs.  Remember they are people too.  Remember that just because someone does not agree with you or believe the same as you doesn’t mean they are bad or wrong.  Be kind.  Be understanding.  Get to know them anyway.  Shine your light regardless of someone else’s beliefs.  Remember we all have to start somewhere but if we never give them a chance to start, if all we show is hate or disgusts, we are not shining the light of Christ!

Remember them and pray for them.

We live in a broken world with so much loss, hurt, pain, and torment.  For some, this is physical, current and real.  For others, it’s replayed over and over through memories of difficult times, sleepless nights that impact our ability to function, grief, trauma, and so much more.  It’s people of every race, sex, nation, and age.  Grief, loss, hurt, and pain are a part of life.  For many, each day comes with it’s own share of trials but the holidays can increase the loneliness, the burdens, the worries, the heavy weight of unbearable pain.

None of us are promised tomorrow.  As you gather with your loved ones, remind them how special they are, how much they mean to you, what a gift and blessing they have been.  Tell every person who crosses your path that they are important, they have a purpose, they are needed and loved.

And to push this challenge even further, I ask you not to stop at remembering and praying for them, but reach out. 

Lend someone a hand. 
Volunteer your time. 
Sing at a nursing home. 
Give a stranger a hug. 
Buy a child a toy or a coat. 
Take a homeless person to dinner. 
Ask someone what they are thankful for.  Tell them you are thankful for them!
Bake cookies for your local fire department and police department…and tell them thank you when you drop them off. 

Do something, anything to lift someone’s day, to give them a reason to be thankful. 

I promise, you’ll walk away with the bigger blessing…all because you gave.  This year, go beyond thankful!

I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the LORD Most High.
  Psalm 7:17

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.  Psalm 28:7

Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.  Psalm 106:1

And to share with you…I am thankful for music.  I am thankful for the men and women who travel the country to put music in our hearts, who’s words I’ve clung to in the most desperate moments and words that have filled my heart with joy and peace.  I am thankful for their talents, for the encouragement and blessings their words have brought into my life.  And here’s one of my favorites for you…

Lincoln Brewster “Made New”

 

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The most selfless act… {Part Two}

GiveHope

Read Part One here!

How can you help someone who is struggling with depression and/or suicidal thoughts?

I won’t pretend to have all the answers on this one and it may be different from person to person so I’m going to tell you from my own experience what has helped me and what has not.  There are many websites with tons of information.  One of the first steps you can take is to educate yourself.  Learn what depression is and what it isn’t.  Try to understand how it affects a person, physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Take a stand to know more and then take what you learn, apply it and share it!

For me personally, it has been difficult for anyone to come along and “save me.”  This was never an option.  I simply do not allow others into my darkness…until now.  I will say, the only reason I am sharing this now is because the good that can come from this far exceeds any fears I have of rejection and judgement.  I simply have to be a voice for all of those who cannot find their own voices.

Friends have come and gone.  Many never knew just how clouded my thoughts were.  Only this year, have I really started inviting people in.  Even when I let the walls down enough to let someone in, this depression, the darkness, the thoughts of dying, are things that continue to be locked tightly away, even from my closest friends, including my husband.  This just isn’t something you want to share with those you love.  You don’t want to burden them with these fears, worries, or pain.  You don’t want to create panic in them.  You don’t want to cause turmoil or upset in their lives.  So it stays hidden, deep inside.

I think what I am learning is that if the day comes when my irrational thinking wins the battle, there will be nothing anyone can do.  I don’t say that to scare you even more or to turn you away, I say that to let you know that it is never your fault if someone makes the choice to take their own life.  So many survivors left behind from suicide take on this guilt, wondering if they should have noticed more, done more, or been a better friend.  Don’t carry those burdens.  Just don’t.

Keep in mind these are written from my own perspective but let’s assume they apply to anyone suffering with depression.  If you have a friend who is battling this fight, ask them…really ask them what they need.  They may not be able to answer you right away.  Encourage them to really think about what is helpful and what isn’t and ask them to share that with you!

So, what can you really do?

You may not be able to prevent suicide.  What you can do is extend love, compassion, try to understand – even if you really can’t – simply try.  Be there for me, let me know I am not too much for you, that you can’t carry my burdens but that doesn’t mean you can’t be there for me.  Tell me how much I mean to you, how important I am to you and others.  Just knowing that someone truly cares may be all it takes.  Believing that may not come easy for me.  My mind is filled with lies and all that clouded judgement.  I may not believe that you really care.  I may not even want to believe it.  Keep telling me.  You might get frustrated and feel like nothing you’re doing is working or helping.  You may want to give up on me.  DON’T!  Be patient wit me.  Encourage me to keep fighting.  Keep telling me over and over, that you are there, that you love me, that you know I am hurting, that you see my pain.  I may get angry with you.  I may try to push you away.  I may pull away and try to shut you out.  This is not because I don’t trust you or because I am actually angry with you.  It may simply be my defenses that long ago helped me to survive but now, keep me very alone.    This darkness has invaded so much of me and it will take time.  I may try to avoid you.  Don’t let me.  Due to the depression and the irrational thoughts, I may not be able to make all the right choices, but you can help me by choosing not to give up on me and not letting me give up on you.

From my own experience, what I don’t need is preachy.  I know Scripture.  I know how to read my Bible and I do.  I know God loves me.  I know and believe He has a plan for me.  I have no doubt that God can heal me.  What I need is a friend.  Sometimes all I really need is a person to be there, so that in those moments when I feel so alone and so invisible, someone can remind me I am not alone.  Someone can say, “I am here.”  That’s a hard step for me, to admit I need anyone, and it’s even harder for me to let them in.  In my mind, I feel like too much of a burden.  I feel like I am wasting someone’s time, that they’d rather be doing something else or that everything else in their lives is more important than me.  Don’t let me carry that.  Sure, you have things that are important, but let me know I am just as important and that there is nothing you wouldn’t do to let me know I am not alone.  On the flip side, some may not know all of this.  Some may need to hear God’s word.  You need to get to know your loved ones well enough to know their needs.  Ask them.  If they can’t tell you, keep asking until they can.  But please, please don’t be offended if they are not ready or in a place to hear God’s Word.  You can pray for them and let God work in them through the love your share with them and the light you shine in their life.

I can’t get over it.  Telling me to “Just get over it,” “Let it go,” or “Snap out of it,” does not help.  In fact, what I hear is my problems are nothing, that I shouldn’t be struggling like I am.  Or maybe I hear you don’t have time for me and we both just need to move on.  I take on guilt and shame for being too broken.  I began to question, even more, what is wrong with me.  I know that’s not your intentions.  I realize your intentions are most likely good, that you are trying to be helpful.  If you don’t know what to say, that’s okay, you don’t even have to say anything.  You could offer a hand.  You can pray for me.  You can put me in touch with someone you think would understand.  Please don’t expect me to just get over it.  It simply does not work that way.

I don’t need anyone to fix me, nor do I believe they can.  I don’t need all the answers.  I don’t need you to right the wrongs.  Sometimes, I may just need you to listen, to let me tell you what I am thinking and why I am thinking it without the worry that it will scare you away.  I may need to share the thoughts or memories that flood my mind, without fearing my pain will hurt you.  I may need to scream, or cry.  I may need to just sit and hold your hand.  I may need a hug.  At different times, there may be different needs but I never need you to fix it all or carry it for me.

Take care of yourself.  That’s what I want most.  In doing that, don’t leave me hanging.  I know your family and obligations are important but I need you to remind me that my life is just as important.  If I call you at an inconvenient time, I’m sorry, but if I’m taking the step to call you, then trust me, it’s really important.  Depressed people, remember, pull away, shut others out, withdraw.  So if I have taken that step to call, please know my intention is not to inconvenience you or cause disruption in your life.  If I call, it’s because I am in a desperate moment and am very much in need.  In saying that, if you can’t be that person who drops everything in a moment of need, say so.  Hopefully, I can find someone who will be that go to person.  Encourage me to find two or three people who I can call on at anytime.  Remind me I am loved and cared for and that you’re not bailing on me.  Tell me I am not too much for you but that you also have to take care of yourself.  I will try to understand.  Remember, I don’t want bring pain or suffering to anyone else, but I do need honesty.  And if you are that person, who is willing to accept a call at any given time, take care of yourself.  Have your own support system in place.  If you begin to feel weighed down, don’t shut me out, but seek out support for yourself.  I don’t want you do carry this burden alone just as you don’t want me to carry my burdens alone.

Most importantly, give hope.  Tell me reasons to live, why I am important.  Point out good things in my life.  Remind me of good times.  I may not always hear you.  I may brush you off and not believe you.  I may try to ignore you.  Those are all my defenses.  Those are lies that have filled my mind.  Tell me anyway.  Give hope to the hopeless!

And if you are the person who is walking in my shoes…

Please know, you are not alone.  Yes, I know you feel so very alone.

I know the pain is often unbearable.  I know that sometimes it feels like the weight never lets up.  I realize the fears and worries are overwhelming.  I know it’s hard to believe anyone cares or could possibly care.  I know everything in you wants to run away.  I know your heart aches with every beat.  But you are not alone. 

You may not feel supported.  You may have hundreds who love you or you may have none.  Somewhere out there is someone who will take the time to help you.  Please call a friend.  If you don’t know anyone to call, call a support line, a therapist, a doctor.  Go somewhere and make a friend.  Go to a church.  Go to a hospital.  Go to the police station if you have to.  Just don’t walk this road alone.  Tell someone how you are feeling.  If they won’t listen, tell someone else.  Keep telling until someone hears you.  Someone will listen!

You are not crazy!  You are hurting.  You are lonely.  You are in a dark place and you need light.  You are suffocating and you need air.

It really is okay to need and there are people in your life who will help you find that light.  You may have to seek them out.  I know that can be extremely difficult…do it anyway!  Don’t let your light fade out without trying everything you can to get out of the darkness.  You are worth it.  You are loved.  You are amazing and God can do something with all the garbage you carry.

If you can’t bear your heart to another soul, know that God is always with you.  Even if you are angry at Him.  Even if you don’t want to believe in Him.  Even if you are like I was, that little eleven year old girl who believed her God could never love her or want her, who prayed for Him to save her and never heard her prayers answered, who begged for him to protect her and felt so abandoned, I want you to know, He never left me … not once.  I have run so far from Him, turned my back on Him, been furious with Him, and yet each day, He reminds me that I am loved, He offers me peace and comfort, He extends His grace, and He never lets go.  You are worth it!  You are not alone!

Take off the mask.  You don’t have to be okay.  One of my favorite pastors once said, “It’s okay to not be okay!”  That was a message that I have needed to hear over and over.  It’s okay to not be okay!  Let the tears flow.  Be a mess.  Let others in, let them see the brokenness.  If they truly care and love you, they will love you along with all your imperfections and broken pieces and even more than that, they will want to be there, along side of you, to help you, to be there for you, to listen and to love you.  Let them!

I know this is difficult.  I know this is easier said than done but know I am speaking this as I am going through it with you.  I am facing this just as you are.  I am walking this road with you.  I know it’s not an easy journey but doing it alone only makes it harder and more painful.  I would love to hear from you.  Please know that my heart aches for you.  If you want to send me a message, feel free to do so.  I read every comment and I try to comment back.  I may not be your go to person, but I can encourage you to find one :)  Don’t give up!  There is hope!

www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Suicide Hotline – 1-800-273-8255

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