I came out of 2016 thinking that it was a tough one

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I came out of 2016 thinking that it was a tough one. I came out of it searching for truth. I came out of it searching for worth. I came out of it searching for purpose. I came out of it searching for a place to step off the rollercoaster of peaks and valleys. This was a year of so many peaks, which were always met by valleys.

One of the things I felt like I lost in 2016 was my voice. I was silent a lot. I was numb a lot. I was lost a lot. And part of all of that was a fear of whispering to even those I loved the most that I wasn’t “perfect.” I thought that speaking that word would somehow strip away my fight, my determination, my hope. I thought that somehow speaking that reality would strip me of all the things I loved about me. But one of the strangest things in life is that it seems to speak the words you can’t for you and I realized as my family and friends reached out to say “me either,” that I am still everything I want to be. That very mixture of words of “imperfect” and “none of us are” has allowed me to realize once again that it is okay to change. It is okay to let down your armor and let others protect you, it is okay to hold onto your dreams and let others fall away, it is okay to chase after wings and plant roots.

It is crazy how we hold ourselves to standards that we allow no others to hold themselves to. Somehow we are supposed to always be okay, while we tell those leaning on us that it is okay to not be okay. Somehow we are supposed to be the ones who never cry, while telling those we catch that tears are a sign of letting go and strength. Somehow we are supposed to know how it all will work out, while telling others to trust in the process. Somehow our brokenness is ugly, while we truly see beauty in those scars left on those we love. Somehow we are hiding, while we are screaming for truth. Somehow we have grace for everyone else and leave none for ourselves.

So as 2017 gets scratched off of the calendar, day by day by day, it is time I found my voice. It is time I advocated, I shared, I inspired. Most new years, I put a lot of stock in what the year will bring. I set out these goals of finding this, and changing that. This year, the only thing I really want to say when that last date is scratched off is that I was brave and I fought to be light in your darkness, in my darkness, and in both of our lights. The world doesn’t need more diets, more budgets, more exercise, the world needs more of us giving ourselves and those around us grace. More of us choosing love. The rest will follow.

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Darkness is nothing to be afraid of, if you know there is always someone pursuing you with light.

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Sometimes I think it’s sad that I only sit down to write on days like today. But the truth is it is really only days like today that I can’t run from the weight of loss. Every time I look at that calendar I see December 6. December 6. Today I should be celebrating. We should be taking her out for dinner and filling her cards with sappy notes about how much she matters, and laughing until our hearts hurt. For at least 18 years of my life that was what December 6th meant.

Now, it is just another day. One where those who miss her the most might pass comforting texts or if we’re feeling ambitious pick up the phone. Mostly we let it pass mourning her loss in silence.

But I think silence is stupid. I think her story needs to be told. I think there are too many families in the world that have December 6th of their own that need to know they aren’t alone. There is a tribe of us who know what it is like to get the anxious looks of pity when we say our person took their own life. There is a tribe of us who will always feel the gut wrenching desire to scream out “You’re wrong” when someone tells us there is always hope. A tribe of us that will forever sit wondering if we could have done something more, or sit condemning ourselves that we should have done more. A tribe that struggles everyday with the fear that our person won’t be remembered for their joy.

To the tribe that is listening, the only way this world will move from that label of suicide written across our person’s life is to talk about our person’s light. The only way we will move our world from losing others to darkness is to champion each others’ light. The only way we can be beacons of hope is to shine our own light.

48 years ago, my mama was given a life full of light. She was beautiful and perfect, just like all of us are on that day. She was a gift to this world. She was gentle and smart. She was a protector and a dreamer. She was the only one like her.

For years, she stood toe to toe with darkness, and she fought through. She bore unbelievable pain for years in silence. She continued to show up even though no one around her showed her how. She was a champion of love, when she chose me regardless of the shame. She was the bestower of unconditional love, when she had my brother. She was goofy and smart. She was passionate and kind. She was a shoulder to lean on and the first to show up when called. She was so beautiful inside and out. She loved so deeply that she forgot herself.

And it makes me so mad, that when the world hears her story, they only hear one thing. Suicide. She and those who loved her the most are shamed for not fighting harder. She is deemed a champion of the weak; she is swept under the rug. But she wasn’t any of those things, even in her last moments. She was fighting for light, and I truly believe she just didn’t want it to cost those she loved so much anymore. She went out a fighter. That’s a mama I can be proud of.

Evert part of what is good in me comes from some part of her. She was the one who made me believe that I can do anything; that my life could be different. She was the one who guarded me when the ugliness of the world came calling. She was the one who prepared me for the darkness. Even in her darkest of days, there was light.

I always think about the conversation I am going to have with my kids someday about their Grandma. I wonder how I am going to tell them why she isn’t here to love on them. And although, I haven’t figured it all out quite yet, I know it’s going to start with a story of her light, her strength, her love. She was human, and on somedays she was my hero.

So to my tribe and those supporting us, keep searching for each other’s light. Keep chasing those you love into the shadows. Darkness is nothing to be afraid of, if you know there is always someone pursuing you with light.

28…..boogity boogity boogity…lets go racing.

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Dear mama,

Today I turn 28, unlikely you could forget. To be honest however, I dreaded this birthday, until I saw the 28 written in an email. 28. Your special number. Davy Allison, Nascar, and 28. Three things that meant the world to you. Three things that made you, you. Every password you ever possessed had a 28 somewhere in it. The car you raced around the track had it on the side. The jacket that still hangs in my closet still has that number on it. It is even on your stone for eternity. How can I dread 28, when it means a daily reminder for an entire year of the person who shaped me the most? the person I miss the most?

You know, I said when I turned 27 I was going to be brave, but to be honest mama, I ran a scared race last year. I was hard on myself in everyway. I was stalled out by my choices. Always looking left and right as I went around the track, never looking straight out at what was in front me. I was so worried about all the cars passing me on the track that I forgot what I had under my own hood. I forgot the unique components that I brought to the race. I forgot how powerful I am, I forgot how steadfast I am, I forgot a lot of things. I don’t want that on the track this year. I want to go around that track this year with freedom in my tank.

I want to be brave enough to stay in the uncomfortable point of wanting to give up. I want to wear my unique paint job and know that each of those chips in the paint are a gift that allows me to relate to other people with similar chips. I want to accept that this track isn’t ending at a specific destination. There is no predestined lap pattern, with standardized pit stops, that I have to follow. This is race that never ends and as long as you keep going forward, you always win. If other people pit first, I want to be confident that staying out on the track isn’t the wrong thing to do, it’s just different; I will pit when it is good for me.

I want to know that just because I can’t see my pit crew, doesn’t mean they are going anywhere. I want to hold steadfast to their whispers in my ear, that no matter what I do out there, they will be there. If I crash, they will be there to pick me up and put me back together. They aren’t going anywhere. Even in the process of rebuilding, they won’t ever leave.

I want to be thankful for my teammates out there on the track. I want to hold fast to the knowledge that I am not alone in this race. They may pass me, they may push me, they may let me go; but that’s the trueness of team: You don’t let each other play small. You don’t let them quit. You push them to be better, they push you to be better. They will block for you and cheer for you, and love you. Gosh mama, I love my team.

Mama, most of all, I don’t want to waste this 28th year. There are honestly some days when I feel so overwhelmed I want to pull off to the side and just watch. But there are so many more days, when I wake up and just feel so blessed to even be a part of this race. I have a great set-up, and I can’t understand why sometimes I can’t see that. I was built from good parts, with a lot of love and endless hope. I come from a place few will ever be lucky enough to call home. I want to live a life of gratitude this year.

So mama here’s to you and me and 28. Thank you for bringing me to this racetrack called Life, I got this. As Darrell Waltrip always says: boogity boogity boogity…lets go racing. This ones for you mama.

Forever & Always

N.A.

Our rocks…

IMG_5396As I walked up that beaten road today, I noticed how the tar had been stripped back and nothing but the bare rocks remained. I noticed the beauty of the foundation that the world tried to cover with a sleek black armor. With each step I felt a desire to feel those rocks beneath my feet. To feel the type of freedom that comes when the sleek black armor of who the world says you are is worn down and you truly are the uneven and jagged, yet perfect reality of who you were meant to be.

We spend a lot of our lives trying to wear that sleek black armor, to distract people from the messy foundation beneath, but the beauty of life is what lies beneath. We want to be smooth and efficient and easy. We want to show the world that we are strong and beautiful, but in this we lose the beauty of having to rely on one another. We lose the strength that comes from solidarity in our human desire for vulnerability. We lose the truth that love always wins.

For many years, the world bought my sleek black armor; my armor from the mess I left behind. The world was jealous of my armor, while I struggled with the weight of how many layers I needed to hide the jaggedness of the rocks below. And then four years ago today, that armor got washed away. In one phone call, I was nothing but rocks. And in that instance I never felt more whole, yet the world told me to run and pick up my armor again. Yet in those days of complete chaos, I felt honest and beautiful, I felt true and understood. But the world taught me the danger of being nothing but exposed rocks so I layered that armor back on. Only this time, I couldn’t cover it all. And the jagged rocks began to peak through without choice. And as they did, I heard her whisper, “You can’t lose me. I don’t love you for the armor, I love you for the rocks.”

Although its scary to let go of the armor, I am fighting for my rocks. I am fighting for the tears that show the world how much I long for her; how much I miss her. I am fighting to be authentic with my vulnerability, how damaged and hopeful I feel. The funny thing about our rocks is that they are no less powerful than our armor; they are actually the place where power lies.

So I’m not ashamed to throw down my armor tonight and admit that I might cry myself to sleep as I remember what this day felt like 4 years ago. I’m not ashamed because I wish someone would have told her that her rocks were beautiful and powerful too. That imperfection, doesn’t mean unlovable. That being not okay, is perfectly okay.

But I guess tonight, I’ll settle for seeing her in the stars.

Be brave with your LOVE…..

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For anyone who has ever lost a someone, there are those days that hit you like a ton of bricks. Those mornings where you wake up and you remember that you cannot pick up that phone, get in the car, or jump on a plane to be close to them. They will never again exist in your physical space. There are mornings where the busyness of your life gets stripped away and you feel the pain of the words, “my mom is dead.” Yes, there are some mornings when death sits besides you and nestles itself alongside loneliness in your heart.

For me, one of those mornings is always without a doubt Valentine’s Day. It breaks me down every Valentine’s morning, when love should radiate in the air, that it was 4 years ago since I last felt her embrace. It breaks my heart that it will be the rest of my lifetime without feeling that embrace again. I can see that last hug, suitably for my life, in an airport, tears in both of our eyes. I can feel her kiss on my cheek.

I never really thought that embrace would be our last. I continually circle back to all of the things I would have done or said. And maybe that’s the lesson of this all, that we never know, so its important that we don’t leave anything on the table when we get on that plane. We don’t take for granted that “next time” or “later” aren’t guaranteed in this messy thing we call life. That we forgive before it is too late. That we let go before we no longer have the option. That we find peace that the people we love, know how we feel.

Nelson Mandela once said, “people are not going to remember what you did, or what you said, they are going to remember how you made them feel.” I find refuge in this comment, because I know on that day, when I walked away, my mom knew I loved her with my entire heart. It wasn’t about the words, or actions, on that one day, but rather how I fought for her most days of my life. How when I was with her, I was present, I was with her, she was the center of it all in those moments where our hearts were both open and all of the circumstance of our world were stripped away.

And when I think back on my mom, it is not her actions, not her words, but rather how she made me feel that I long for. I miss how brave she made me feel, I miss how safe she made me feel, I miss how beautiful she made me feel, I miss how empowered she made me feel, I miss the presence of my mom the most.

As I sit here on a cold and snowy Valentine’s morning, I am reflecting not only on her, but on those I love the most. I am reminded of something I heard at church on the first Sunday of this year, “do things to be loving, not to be loved.” This is a reminder that it is not what you do but why you do things. It is not what you say but why you say those things. I hope I make those who I love the most feel loved and accepted, and free, and beautiful, and cherished in my presence. I hope that on those days when the world throws a curve ball they can find reassurance in how I made them feel. I hope I have left nothing on the table when it comes to pouring into them. I hope there is no questions about how I feel.

So this is my valentine’s challenge, like last year, go out and sow love. Go out and be intentional with all that you are with those that you love the most. Put away the phone, the to do list, the circumstance, and wear your heart on your sleeve. Go spend time pouring out and being poured into. Walk away at the end of the day knowing that those you love know exactly how you feel. Be unafraid with vulnerability, because tomorrow is never guaranteed, and the time is always now. Be brave with your love, because the world is dying without it. And remember, love is alive, love is eternal, love changes us, love is a decision, and love always, always wins.

Happy birthday……Words spoken to an empty room, except for me and your memories.

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Happy birthday….

 

Happy birthday……

 

Words spoken to an empty room, except for me and your memories.

 

Some days are always going to be harder than others. Some days are always going to make me cry. Some days are always going to bring back the excruciating reality that you aren’t coming back. Today is one of those days.

 

I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately. Maybe its because you were always my biggest supporter, and I could use a little more support these days. You always reminded me that nothing I could ever do would make you love me any less. If I wanted to throw up my hands, and say enough, you’d let me crumble into your arms. If I wanted to be different, you would never try to push me back into the perfect box the world asked me to step inside. If I wanted to demand more from society, you let me cry on your shoulder. Maybe these days, I miss being seen through your eyes.

 

And maybe I’ve been thinking about you lately because legacy has been on my heart. The idea of what I want to leave behind when I’m gone. The idea about what all of “this” means. And it kills me to think about how my story of triumph rests a lot on your story of pain. Much of what has made me resilient comes from the manifestations of your pain in our relationship. Much of what has made me brave comes from living through my worst nightmare of your pain. But I don’t want pain to be your legacy. And looking back at our story, yes there was darkness and yes there was pain, but late at night when I’m all alone, what I long for more than anything in this world, is your love.

 

I long for the light in your eyes when I would tell you about my dreams, which the rest of the world thought I was crazy for. I long for your gentle pat on my hand that everything was going to be okay. I think you were the only person in the world, who was brave enough to grab me in a hug when I professed I was strong enough to do it on my own. So no, your legacy might be a little rusty on the surface, but below it all your legacy is hope.

 

I think the hardest part about being here….is that no one knows you. No one but me holds your memories. No one but me holds your legacy. And one of my biggest fears is losing myself to this race I’ve entered. Losing myself and you to conformity and the struggle to be enough. It hit me in the face yesterday, when I was asked, what things we used to do? And I drew a blank. I got so caught up in the flurry of finals and proving my worthiness, that I was on autopilot. I was forgetting why I am here, and who I am, removed from all of this. So today I took a break, I lit a candle, I cracked a Budweiser, I made you a cake, and I celebrated your life. You are changing the world from heaven. Your “-“ mattered and it deserves to be celebrated.

 

So here I am on your birthday, 15 page paper ahead of me, reminding myself that there is nothing to fear. When doubt creeps in, I must take the time to breathe and remember how I got here and where I am going. Because if everyday is part of our legacies and we define our stories……I know I want mine to be one that is celebrated after I’m gone.

 

Here’s to you mama….47 years of changing lives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I wish I could tell you…. #WSPD15

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What I wish I could tell you…..

You matter. We all want to matter. We want to know our existence is a puzzle piece that is required to complete the large puzzle of humanity. We want to know we hold value. That without us around, people will notice…the world will notice.

No one else can play your part. The most beautiful thing about humanity is that we are all unique. Most of us spend a significant time comparing ourselves to others, so we know this; but what we tend to overlook is that instead of wanting to be like everyone else, we should be celebrating the value our uniqueness brings to this world. No one will ever be able to adequately replace you. No one else will ever play the exact same part you do.

It’s okay to not be okay. This is the truth I think our world needs the most. So many of us feel lonely and isolated because we think we are alone in our “not okay” state, when in reality we’ve all been there. There is this pressure in society to have it all together, but the truth is, not being okay, doesn’t mean you are failing, it just means you need a little help. And help is why we were created; realtionships and leaning into one another is at the core of fulfilling our souls so these “not okay” moments should be embraced as opportunities to grow in our relationships, not moments to hide in shame. You will be okay once again; but being able to be true to yourself, what you feel, and what you need are essential to moving forward. We all need a little more truth, and a lot less performance.

Life may not be perfect but none are. Social media has created this world around us full of beautiful people, with great love, and grand adventures. However, you and I, both know that life is not perfect but that is the beauty of it. The mess is where the good stuff is. The mess is where you are changed. It is where your story is built. It is where you get to show darkness that your light will not be distinguished; sure it may falter but it is going to revive once again.

Keep fighting, one day at a time, because you were made a winner. I have come to see life as a war. There are battles everyday; there are victories and there are loses. There are days when you let your guard down and you get hurt and there are days when you stand tall shielded by the knowledge that you were equipped with everything you need to win. Darkness can only win if you let it, and everyday is a new opportunity to stand up to darkness and win by choosing light. And there will be days where you lose the battle, but the thing is the sun will rise tomorrow with you in the winner’s seat once again. Hold on and win the war.

Breathe out grace. We all need grace. Grace with ourselves, grace with others. No one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes. Mistakes don’t prohibit love. You are always going to be enough.You aren’t alone in discounting yourself, but you deserve more. You deserve to forgive yourself; you can always turn from shame into grace.

Hold tight to a faith in something bigger than yourself. Hold tight that you can fall in defeat and be caught by something more powerful than any force of darkness. Hold tight to the knowledge that you were created for more than all of this; and this too shall pass.

Suicide leaves you wondering if you could have somehow changed the end of the story. It leaves you wishing you would have said or did more. It leaves you with so many what ifs, you find yourself lost in the hypothetical. But the truth is, nothing will change the outcome of a war already over, so we must fight for the wars still going on. We must remind those we love, how much they matter, how much they are loved. We must be honest about who we are and why we struggle. There should be no fear of the truth; we all hurt, we all need help. We were never meant to go at this world alone. So before it’s too late, say those words you meant to say, give that hug you meant to give, and fight for that light that keeps you going everyday.The world needs us all to sow more love. Don’t stop. Don’t ever stop.

Join me in helping TWLOHA fundraise towards helping people sit in front of a counselor for the first time, distribute FIND HELP resources, and fund training for volunteer crisis counselors. 100% of all proceeds go to these causes. Donate by clicking here and help me spread a little more light in this world.

Check out TWLOHA for more information on mental health and suicide support

Humanity is worth the gamble

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This has been a hard month. So much change, so many valleys, so many peaks. The emotions have run me dry and filled me up, day in and day out. Besides beginning my PhD program, the heaviest thing on my heart has been the children, my friends, and family, and I have been sending to school in Nyeri, Kenya.

 Last week I found out one of the boys, the most recent member to our little family, Boni, decided to walk away. The circumstances around it are complicated because he is a bright kid, an orphan, an easy candidate for charity. And the truth is I don’t know what happened in Boni’s heart; all I know is he has challenged me to look deeper into why all of this matters. He has forced me to humble myself and re-evaluate the point of any of this. He broke my heart and fortified it all at once

Boni was extra special to me because when I decided to take Boni into our program, it was because I saw myself in his eyes. We were both someone who lost the person we loved the most; the person for as long as we could remember was the center of our existences. And when they left, we didn’t know where to turn, who to let in, where to go. Boni, like I, lost his advocate, his protector, his safe place when his mom died.

I was blessed when I lost my mom that I was surrounded by family -both blood and those that chose me. I was surrounded by people who offered me a safe place to land; a safe place to grieve and grow. I wanted to give this to Boni. He had been in a children’s home, which was unstable because of financial issues and the remoteness of the home. So I thought if I could offer him the structure of boarding school with his cousins and spending his breaks with his aunts who knew who he was, who his mom was, that he would be in a better position to grow into his greatest potential. Him and Halima (his surrogate aunt) talked about this at length, and his heart seemed so happy as he accepted the offer. You could see a lightness in his eyes.

So when he decided to walk away, I felt hurt and discouraged. I was hurt because I wanted so much to protect Boni. I wanted so much to give him steady hope. No I couldn’t promise him a life in Canada, or a mansion in Nairobi, but I could promise him someone who would always be in his corner, someone who believed that anything is possible if he worked for it, someone he could always call on to be there. I wanted to show him that he mattered; that someone in the world cared about what happened to him.

I was discouraged because being so far away from these kids most of the time, forces you to rely on faith that the investment that I am asking myself and those closest to me, to make in the lives of these kids, is worth it. It forces you to believe that people are good; that people are gracious. So when you put yourself out there, like I did, asking for the trust and support of my friends and family in loving this kid, it feels like you are letting them all down when it fails. It feels like asked them to gamble and lost all their money. And my biggest fear, in all of the world, in the deepest parts of my soul, is being a disappointment.

But as I sat with this, and drove across two countries, I was reminded that when I started this, I made a commitment to believing that humanity is worth the gamble. And I believe the people who have joined me in this adventure to offer these kids the opportunity to change their lives, believe the same thing. I know they believe in me, and in this cause. They understand the gamble and are willing to lose because even the smallest victories, like Derrick learning how to read for the first time at the age of 13, is worth any loss along the path. One life changed is worth all the valleys that it took to get to that peak; it is worth the possibility of being a disappointment.

And in the end, I would rather be able to say, I tried, than to say I was too scared to try; I would rather say, I walked by faith, than I let my fear of failure win. I do believe Boni was worth the gamble, just like every other kid we send to school. When I hear from their teachers or talk to the kids, I can see the change that has been made possible through this little program. Our impact with this program may be small, a tiny tiny dot on the issues of a fallen world, but it matters. It matters to these kids, it matters to the community they come from, and it matters to humanity. By supporting these kids we are saying to the world that we believe all lives are equal and we all have a role to play in using our blessings to bless others. We are standing firm in the face of a world of heartache to announce that we believe love always wins.

If you would like to help us with the fees for next year, please email me at nicolekeaudette@gmail.com. Also I am hoping to start a charity to capture all of this fundraising, so if you would like to be a part of that, please let me know.

Y’all are the answer to my questions of doubt

 

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I spend a lot of time wondering if everything I am fighting for really matters. Does it matter in the scheme of things if I send 7 kids to school in Kenya? Is this really going to change anything? Is it worth the awkwardness of asking my family and friends to believe in children 1000s of miles away? Is it naive to believe one child can change the future?

Is my belief in changing the narrative and exposing truth worth going back to school? It would definitely be easier to take the job and make money and do what has no risk, but would I ever be content playing small? It’s hard to listen to your heart when the loneliness that comes with chasing purpose instead of ease makes you want to lay it all down.

Is it worth my pride to expose this deep desire in all of us to love and be loved? Should I write that blog post or send that love letter if only one person reads it? Is the belief in a more loving world worth the vulnerability it takes to truly live that out?

There are a lot of questions that seek to paralyze me in a cycle of fear. There are a lot of questions that place seeds of discouragement and overwhelming pressure deep in my soul. There are days when I just want to give it all up and say ‘No thank you God, I am not your girl to set this world on fire.’

But the greatest thing this world has ever shown me is that in those days hope somehow shows up. Be it a person, a song, a book, a phone call, or a gift. Hope always shows up.

Hope doesn’t make the climb any easier; it just removes the clouds so you can once again see the peak. You can see the reason you started this climb. It reminds you that this mountain matters to you, and that is enough; no one else needs to be on this mountain but you. Hope doesn’t remove the fear of failure; of reaching that peak only to find the other side looking as barren as the one you are walking out of but hope gives you strength to push through it; to open that door to fear and keep walking.

And so I want to say thank you to all of you who have blessed my life with hope. Who have whispered into the darkness ‘you are the girl to set the world on fire and I am going to be standing behind you to add fuel to your fire when you see only sparks.’ Your kind words, your silent belief, your gifts, your ferocious fight alongside me are the answer to all these questions in my head. The fact that you showed up means more than I could ever explain. There is no greater feeling than knowing you are not alone. I need you all more than I ever allow myself to admit.

I also wanted to give a big thank you to the people who contributed to the school fees of Ravon, Derrick, Boni, Nasir, Saum, Agnus and John for this year. This year has been a big one, you all showed up to help invite Boni into our family when he found himself without a stable home. You guys continued to breathe hope into these kids lives and we were able to support Agnus through a hit-and-run accident and Derrick through a broken arm. We are completely paid off for the rest of this year and it is only April; you guys showed up. I can’t wait to share stories about everything they’ve learned this year. Your generous hearts are what keep me fighting; you mean more to these children and me than I could ever express.

Go on and set the world on fire….

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She set the world on fire. She left nothing as it was. It was all charred with her grace, with her love. All of it was made new. Like slash and burn, she ripped through the world breathing hope of new beginning into used and dry ground.

She let nothing slow her down. When the winds of the world’s hatred, intended to push her backwards, rose up, she invited them in and turned them into fuel spreading her love, her grace, further, faster, stronger. She knew no boundaries, because this wasn’t about her. The world needed her light…..she set the world on fire.

With her intoxicating beauty, those who watched her wondered about the force that creates that kind of light. She didn’t have the dimensions of perfection but she was strong. She was the rare kind of beauty: raw and honest. People reached out for her embers, knowing that one little spark could change everything. They too could burn from the inside out. They too could set the world on fire.

This wasn’t about her physical appearance. It wasn’t about her gender. It wasn’t about her circumstance, it was about her. It was about how she chose light. The fighting balance between the fear that stifled the fire and the gasoline of passion that made it rage. She fought to set the world on fire.

If she knew anything it was that the center of her, the center of that flame, was the most important. It was here that she knew she deserved more than the world offered her, more than she was told she could ever achieve. It was here she believed in faith, hope, and love. Her flame would ebb and flow, but because she knew this center more intimate than anything else, she would endure. She would continue to set the world on fire.

On fire she saw hope. On fire she saw the world as it could be. On fire she believed change was possible. On fire there was no place too far, no obstacle too high, no desert too dry. On fire the world has no bounds.

No matter how close to ashes she gets, all she needs is a breathe of fresh air to reignite. And the most beautiful thing about fire is its paradox: some of us try to put it out while others use it as a hug of warmth and productivity. Some of us use fire like we use our lives; some destroy and some create. Some burn it down, some bring it to light. But the truth is that nothing can ever undo what a fire has already done.

So go on and set the world on fire.