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.

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.

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

Choose me, my beloved

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But I say to you, ‘I know the purposes I have for you but you must choose me. You must choose me. I cannot pour out all that I have for you until you choose to receive it. A human heart needs to choose its own path, needs to discover its own love, needs to feel free in its decisions. My love is big enough to wait with outstretched arms, because you are my beloved’

‘So lean in my beloved’

‘You find yourself once again at a fork in the road, and there is no enduring failure in either path, but one way in mine and the other is the worlds. In the world, you already know what the path looks like; you already know where it leads. It is easy but its only reward is that you control it. Sure there will be beauty and laughter, but your soul will still long for fulfilment on this path. Your head drives on this path, your heart drives on my path. My path requires eyes of faith for you must step into the unknown, you must to go to places inside of yourself you have never gone before, but you will never go alone. You must let go of fear, and grab onto my power, my might, my ability to do all things. My path’s rewards are immeasurable; you will know what it feels like to have your soul set on fire, to be poured into as much as out of, to be fully alive, not just existing.’

‘So my beloved, you choose.’

‘I will always walk you back to this place if you choose the world’s path. My path never goes away, it is always there for you to choose. But I need all of you. My beloved, this means I also need your trust. Trust that you are my beloved and that I will sow nothing but beauty and grace through you. ‘

‘So choose my beloved.’

‘If I chose for you, I wouldn’t have all of you. That is why this decision is yours. If I chose for you, you would always question if I was right. That is why this decision is yours. If I chose for you, you would waver in your belief that this is the way for you. That is why this decision is yours. And I promise beloved if your heart is already mine, stop listening to the lies that anyone else can hold you heart the way I can, and my purposes will be already in your hands.’

‘So choose my beloved’

‘If you chose my path, you will be the beacon of love you so desire. Your heart knows you do not lust after the riches of this world, your heart longs for the people of this world. I gave you a heart of service, I gave you a heart of love, I gave you a heart of hope; chose the path that uses that heart, chose the path which allows you to become fully alive. I didn’t create you to exist. I created you to be alive.’

‘So come my beloved.’

‘Live the life you love; you are not going to take any of this with you when I take you to the place I promised. There are no resumes, there are no elites, there is no money, there is no power in man, there is only your heart in that place. No one is going to ask how many square feet your house was, how much money you made, how many countries you travelled, how skinny you were, or how far you ran; all that will be known is that loved with every fibre of your human being, and then beyond what humanity can do alone’

‘So come my beloved.’

‘Your life is a gift from me to you; from me to the world. You will not answer to anyone but me about how you used it; how you lived it. You will not be compared to anyone else; you are you and that’s all I ever intended. You are not intended to fulfill the purposes your parents have for your life. You are not intended to fulfill the purposes of this world. You are not intended to fulfill the purposes of your friends. Your heart longs to fulfill my purposes rooted in beauty unfathomable, joy indescribable, and freedom abounding.’

‘So come my beloved’

‘That ‘well done’ your heart seeks so zealously, can be spoken by none by me. No one else’s ‘well done’ will reach the soul in the place where that longing sits.’

‘So come my beloved’

‘Walk in faith, trust in my purposes, and seek me first. Find strength in my unconditional love for you, find power in my power, find hope in that that is to come. I have chosen you, and I will love you no matter how far you wander. My choice knows no boundaries, no conditions. I made you more perfect than the wind. I made every ounce of you to accomplish all your heart’s desires, for your desires are my desires.’

‘So come my beloved’

‘Don’t take another step down that path of longing, of worry, of fear, and of confusion. Chose me and let me direct your paths. Walk in my protection and my might. Chose me. It is time my beloved, let it all go, and chose me.’

‘So trust in me, with all your heart. And lean not on your own understanding. But in all your ways acknowledge me, and I will direct your path”

-From God with love, Feb 22.15

I’d rather be brave in love, than guarded in fear….

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February 14 2015.

3 years exactly.

Calgary airport. February 14, 2012.

I said goodbye to my mom for the very last time. I hugged her through her tears and told her how much I loved her. I told her how much I believed in her. And then I let go and boarded that plane.

And I’ve been boarding planes ever since hoping that one day when I touch down she will be standing there, where I left her, armed with a hug and an “I love you.” But on days like today, I’m reminded that the truth is her love has never left me. No matter how many countries I’ve gone to, how many planes I’ve boarded, how many places I have planted my feet, she’s always there.

She’s always been there.

When I was in grade 9 and I moved away for the very first time, in our tearful goodbye, she whispered, “You can’t lose me. Wherever you go. No matter how far. My love is where you are.”* Love is crazy like that. It isn’t something that fades when a person physically leaves our presence; it is the kind of thing that lives inside of us.

Love is alive.

There are going to be people in our lives that we’ve loved and lost but that love we shared with them continues inside of us. Just because the people we love are gone, does not mean their love is gone.

Love is eternal.

Love is what moves us into the deepest places of our lives. It is what forces us to open up those most vulnerable places. It is what makes us feel most alive.

Love changes us.

Even though I will never get to say “I love you” one more time to my mama, I get to whisper it everyday in the way I choose to live my life. I can live my life being afraid of days like these, because I guarantee there will be days throughout my life when I say “I love you” for the very last time, or I can live my life seeking opportunities to pour out love into this world, despite days like these. I’d rather be brave in love, than guarded in fear.

Love is a decision.

I’ve seen the heartache in this world first hand. I have experienced it first hand. I have wanted to surrender to it. I have wanted to give into it. But in every situation I have faced, the one thing that has always conquered the darkness, is love. Because love wins.

Love always, always wins.

So don’t be afraid of the last time your get to say “I love you.” Be brave and say it today, tomorrow, and for as long as you get. Let love change you. Let it work into the most fearful parts of you. Let it radiate light into your darkness.  Let it give you light for other people’s darkness. Let love live in you.

Choose love.

And don’t forget to say “I love you” to the most important person of all….yourself. You are worth so so much love. Until you love yourself, you will never be able to fully accept love from another; nor will any love you find in another fill the spaces deep in yourself earmarked for the love that comes from within.

Love is work but its rewards are endless

So Go love. Go say it for the first time. Go say it again. Go say it by showing up. Go fight for it. Go.

*It was our song: Faith Hill, You Can’t Lose Me

We will be the hopeful

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The other day I was wearing my TWOLHA t-shirt that simply says “We will be the hopeful.” Someone in the airport asked me what that meant- what it is that “we” were going to be hopeful for. And my answer was simply “light.”

I spend a lot of my days pouring over heartaches in the world, whether it is from friends, or family, or work, but it always reminds me how much darkness creeps into each of our lives. How many moments do we spend disappointed with ourselves, wishing we were something better, something more, something less? How many moments do we spend asking why me? Or when will this end?

But the reality is we have a choice. We can choose to live in that darkness or to seek light. We can choose to be beacons of light into the lives of others. We can choose to see obstacles or opportunities. We can choose to be the hopeful.

I’ve come to realize that life is not fair. Life is never going to make sense. I will never know why everyone suffers. I will never know why some people will have mountains to climb while others have hills. I will never be able to save everyone from pain. I will never be able to save everyone. I will never know or be able to do a lot of things. But what I do know is that I can live my life hopeful; I can choose to bring light into this world.

The next question the man in the airport asked was what is “light”. I smiled and said it is the kind of love that shows up. It isn’t convenient. It isn’t easy. It is the fighting kind of love. It a shoulder to lean on, a love letter, a compliment. It’s the kind of love that cares about the real answer to how are you. It is the kind that keeps promises. One that is slow to anger. One that is gracious. It is the kind that never fails. It is the kind that recognizes that we are blessed and that this world will die in darkness if we don’t use that blessing to bless others.

A lot of people tell me that I do great things because I help people in Africa but the truth is we all can do great things. We spend a lot of time belittling our ability to bless others when the truth is we all possess the one thing that everyone needs. We all have love. You don’t need to go to Africa, you don’t even need to go to a homeless shelter, you just need to go to the people next to you. Blessing others doesn’t require anything more than you and the light you hold inside.

So my wish this year for all of you is to be a light; to be the hopeful. May you show up when people need you, even if they can’t say those words. May you be fearless in love, even when you’ve been hurt before. May you help each other chase your dreams. May you be a rock in someone’s storm. May you recognize your worth, your blessing, and your importance in this beautiful mess we call life.

And may WE BE THE HOPEFUL

If you are looking for ways to get involved in something different this year check these out:

Help me sponsor 7 kids to go to school in Kenya

Write Love Letters

Donate your birthday to Charity Water

Support To Write Love on Her Arms

I will always be here holding your heart and all things beautiful…

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I hate how it takes me getting back down on my knees to bargain for freedom before I realize how far I have let myself slip. Every time I offer up a bargaining chip, He throws it across the room. The stakes are too high here for any of that. There is nothing I could put on the table that He already doesn’t control. So what am I doing here? What do I bring to the table?

Me.

That is it.

That is everything.

As another chip gets thrown against the wall, He speaks softly, calmly, deeply, “There are no condition keeping you from who you are. You don’t need to bargain for a grace already offered”

The words hit me like a thousand pound boulder. Why do I think I need this thing, this approval, this affection before I can be that person I see in my dreams?

I can see the pain in His eyes. The kind of pain that comes with the deepest rejection. The pain that whispers “You are not enough.” It breaks my heart to know I caused that. Those words are not from my heart, but I can’t seem to get my actions to follow my soul. I can’t seem to wait for the promise. I can’t seem to stop causing us both so much unneeded pain.

Without anything to promise, without anything to offer, I weep. I weep for the disappointment I feel I have become. I weep for everything I was too afraid to be. I weep for the faith I lost.

This is it.

This is the bottom.

This is the place where the thoughts never to be spoken about creep in. This is the place your soul becomes vulnerable to the lies and fears waiting to take you into the darkness.

And its this place, on the edge of defeat, where leaders are born. Those people who refuse to allow the mistakes they’ve made decide who they will be. Those people who tell life to take a step back because its valleys will not win. It is here world changers are chosen. Those people who accept the pain, tragedy, and regret, self-inflicted or selflessly taken, and begin searching for ways to rise again. Those people who refuse to listen to the people, the places, the guilt that says “It is over.” It is here, in the reassessment of everything that makes a life worth living, that this truth reigns:

“You already are that person you want to be. You already are so loved. You already deserve the promise. Not all is lost. Stand up. Try again. Just be. One battle, one step, one thought at a time. You have never gone too far to be found. No promise you make will reclaim the love or the plans for your life. It is impossible to reclaim something you never lost. I have great plans for you, I always have. No matter how far you run, or how lost you may feel…..I will always be here holding your heart and all things beautiful.”

As I rise abounding with gratitude and conviction, I feel a familiar hand on my shoulder. A hand that reminds me day in, day out that there is someone on the throne bigger than all of this. That there is a love greater than all of this. That there is hope stronger than all of this. No more chips, no more shame, no more fear, just me and the valleys and peaks between where I am and everything He intended me to be.

This is her story and this is mine…..

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The truth is I used to hate the word suicide. I used to think it was a cop out for putting in the hard work. I thought it was a word people threw out when they didn’t want to deal with the consequences of their actions. It was a threat I’d heard too many times to believe. I used to say there was no forgiveness for something that selfish. There was no grace for that kind of end.

Three years ago, however, I realized how wrong I was. I witnessed the kind of pain it takes to push someone to that threat, to that attempt. I saw the kind of brokenness that keeps closing in, covering every glimpse of light in a life. I watched hopelessness become a reality. I saw the most important person in my life begin to lose the battle.

I watched doctors try to medicate it. I listened to psychiatrists deem her a lost cause. I saw her ripped apart by the evil parts of this world. I listened to her say there is no where to go; no one to understand; no one could ever possibly overcome her kind of pain. I heard her sobs of loneliness, even though I was right there. I heard her desire for love, that I couldn’t alone fill. I saw her will to fight, and then I saw her strength disappear.

I wish I would have been able to save her; been able to love her back. I wish I could have made her see no one else can play her part. Despite my own fight, that day, that most painful day came. She was gone.

I wasn’t angry. I didn’t blame her. I didn’t think of her as selfish. I didn’t think of her as a coward. Instead, I just missed her. I just wished the world would have taken her in its arms sooner. I wished we all wouldn’t have been too busy, too tired, too afraid to do the hard work. I wished we would have been able to feed into her, to make her believe she mattered, to find the people who could help her. I wished we would have validated her, tried harder to see life through her eyes. I wished suicide wasn’t our story.

But here I am, over two years later, putting this word to paper for the first time since that day.

Suicide.

There has been a part of me listening to a voice inside my head telling me that as long as I didn’t say this word, it wouldn’t be real. A voice that said keep moving, keep going places where instead of the truth you could say she died of cancer. Cancer doesn’t bring the judgement that losing someone to suicide does. Cancer isn’t a choice, so there can be no one blame. You can’t be held responsible for cancer. Cancer doesn’t mean the image of perfection that was falsely built up around you comes shattering down in the rumors of a small town. I let that voice allow the shame that led to her suicide live on in me; in a way I let that voice tell me to be ashamed of her story. 

But today I am taking a stand against that voice because this is her story and this is mine. I didn’t choose suicide, but it is part of who I am. It is part of my journey. And I am not ashamed of my mothers story. I am ashamed that we as humanity run away from this word, as if we don’t all have a role to play in its existence. I am ashamed that we don’t fight harder to protect those battling the reality of mental health issues. I am ashamed that we don’t choose love.

So as I continue down this journey, I hope I can use our story to bring light into other people’s darkness. I hope I can show others that they are not alone. I hope I can inspire others to pour out love, grace, and compassion.  And I hope more than anything that through our story, the world will see that love always wins.

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