After Midnight.

The ball has dropped.
Confetti has settled.
Fireworks shot off.

The old is gone and the new is here. Will you allow 2017 to be the year you want it to be? The year you need it to be? Will you leave behind the things and the people that brought you down last year? Will you allow God to create in you the future he’s always seen for you?

Will you let go of past hurts?
Will you forgive?
Will you let yourself be forgiven?

We hype up NYE so much that it’s almost like we forget that it’s an ending, rather than a beginning.

It’s never too late to start over.

Will you fight for yourself?
For recovery?
For sobriety?
For healing?
For freedom?

These are all things that you can have. If you want them. 2017 has never happened before. What will you do with it? Will this be a year of beauty and light? I pray that it is.

There’s an entire year of memories to be made. So go make them. May this be the year you’ve always needed.

Happy New Year friends. Much love to you.

Welcome to Midnight.

What a year it’s been y’all. 2016 has been an interesting but equally incredible year. There have been countless tears shed but also countless laughs. I’ve hit rock bottom but I’ve also found redemption. I have learned that the people God has placed in my life are the most beautiful and genuine people in the world.

Like most years, 2016 started out on such a positive note. I walked into the new year with some new friends and the possibilities were endless. Doing life and ministry with the people you love is such an incredible thing. But life quickly took a turn in the opposite direction when I could no longer ignore my depression or anxiety and they both began to get the best of me and almost cost me the very people I love.

And when I was certain that I had lost those people for good, to my surprise they stuck around. They got in the trenches and walked through hell and back with me. It was a hard road. But somehow, we made it.

I rediscovered my heart this year and the song that lives inside it. I have laughed and cried and everything in between. I have lost some people but have gained so much more than I lost.

I’ve learned that there is always beauty to be found in life and it’s usually in people. And I’m so thankful for the people I get to do life with.

In 2016 I will leave behind the mistakes that I made and realize that I’ve been made new in the eyes of the Father. In 2017 I will walk in the freedom that I have and in the hope that this will be an incredible year.

What will you leave behind in 2016 and what do you hope to find in this new year?

The ball will drop in a few hours and with it comes endless possibilities. There will be fireworks and confetti. What will you celebrate? What will you let go of? What will you welcome in?

Heavy and light. It’s a fine line. But one cannot exist without the other.

Welcome to midnight my friends. May you find the beauty that already lives inside you. May you fill the empty pages of this coming year with love and laughter. May you realize that those things have always been there.

Much love to you.

Dear Dad – Happy Birthday.

It’s been a long almost fifteen years since you were last on this earth. Fifteen years of trying to figure out what a life without you looks like. And I’ll be honest, at 28 years old, I still haven’t figured it out. What should have been nothing more than a routine hospital stay, turned into the last place you would ever be. And what would have been a lifetime of plans to share with you, became dreams that would never quite come true – at least not in this world.

But I know that where you are now is so much better than where you were. Dancing on those streets of gold with Jesus. How could I even remotely be upset that you are continuously surrounded by his glory?

But I’ll be honest, birthdays and holidays just aren’t the same for me anymore. Yes, I have the absolute best people in my life, most of whom you would probably like more than me, hah, but it’s just not the same. Holiday traditions just aren’t the same anymore and being the last person in our family with our last name is bittersweet at best.

I will always be thankful for that time that we shared. I’m so glad that God chose you to be my dad. You taught me so much and I’ll keep those things with me for always. I hope that you’re proud of who I am and who I’m still becoming. I know that when we meet again, it will be better than anything.

So happy birthday Dad. I know that this will be the best one yet, because how could it not be when you spend it with Jesus! I’ll miss you forever and love you for always.

When You Love Recklessly

I think that when you experience grief at pivotal point in your life, it changes you. Now I also think that experiencing grief at any point changes you, but hear me out. I think that in those pivotal moments, it changes how you love. I know that this is completely true for me.

When I lost my dad at 13, I was still figuring out who I was and all the typical early teen angst you expect to go through. It wouldn’t be until four years later that I would fully begin to understand how that changed me. Despite the fact that I began to take my inward pain out on myself, I loved others fiercely and recklessly. I never wanted anyone to feel the emptiness that I felt. So I loved with everything I had to give.

Over the years, the emptiness has ebbed and flowed, but the inward pain is no longer turned on myself. But the degree to which I love hasn’t changed. I still love recklessly. And the more I’ve gone along in life, the more I realize that sometimes loving recklessly allows for situations that you didn’t ask for. And sometimes it leads you to believing that it could all be gone in the blink of an eye.

I think that’s where the grief comes back into play.

You love recklessly because of the grief that has changed you. But because you love so recklessly, you will hold on to those people at any cost, and at the slightest hint that it could all be slipping away, you do a complete 180 and push away and build walls.

But sometimes you get lucky. The very people that you tried to push away, to your surprise, stay. But it’s never quite the same. No matter how hard you try to convince yourself it is. Because pain changes people. It changes how they love.

“We’ve all done things we weren’t proud of. I understand that. I know nobody’s perfect, but how do you live with it? How do you get up every morning knowing you could have done better, that you should have done better? Is being sorry enough? Can an apology actually heal our wounds? Ease our pain? Can it undo the hurt that we’ve caused?”

I love that quote. Those are tough words to swallow. But I think there comes a point where you have to allow the apology to be enough, regardless of if the other parties agree. Apologies can’t undo the hurt that we’ve caused, but it can bridge the gap that was left in place of the hurt.

I will never regret loving recklessly. It’s just who I am. I will regret the pain that it’s caused to other people, but surprisingly don’t regret the pain it’s caused me. It’s just part of loving like I do. I’ve loved recklessly for the past 14 years. It’s just part of who I am now. And while it’s caused a lot of heartache, it’s also brought a lot of love.

It’s all about a balance. And sometimes I fail to find that balance. I often love more than what is returned, but not for a moment have I regretted it. When I love someone, I will love with everything I am and through every difficult moment.

I will continue to love and I will continue to try and find that balance. I will probably fail, a lot. But that’s okay. Because love is worth the risk.

Even When it Hurts

It should come as no surprise that Hillsong United is probably my favorite worship group these days. I mean, they have some phenomenal and powerful songs that they have shared with this world, and you can find one that resonates with just about any season in life. And their new album does just that. From the highs to the lows and everything in between. But today, and in light of everything that has happened in our world as of late, I wanted to focus on the song in the title of this post.

I decided weeks ago that I wanted to do a blog about what this song has meant to me during this most recent season of life that I’ve found myself in. But life always seemed to get in the way of me actually sitting down and writing it. And then yet another act of violence took the lives of innocent and beautiful people and I felt like what a better time than this to write this post.

Have you ever noticed that when things are going well in your life, it’s really easy to sing our praises to the Father? I mean after all, He has blessed us with those things, so it’s only fitting that we give the glory to Him in those moments. But will those same words carry over in the face of adversity or tragedy? Will we still praise Him?

I mean when life is going grand, we can’t shut up about how great it is and about how great God is. But when we find ourselves in time of struggle, we oftentimes forget, or rather choose to forget, that He is still sovereign through it all.

When we have no song to sing, will we sing anyways?

Surely the people of Orlando and the LGBT community have nothing to sing about, right? After all, their lives were turned upside down in an instant. Loved ones gone. Families grieving. A nation in shock that things like this keep happening. Surely they have no song to sing, right?

Wrong.

I have seen video after video of communities all over the world coming together to honor those that were taken so violently from us in song. Standing in solidarity in song. That even when it hurts, they still have a song to sing. And maybe it’s not the song that you think they should be singing. Maybe it’s not the song that you would sing. But I believe that there is something so powerful in music. That there is great healing found through a song. And that God isn’t confined to moving through only a contemporary Christian song or old fashioned hymn.

When we feel like we are walking through hell, will we still praise Him?

If what these people are going through isn’t hell, then I’d love to hear what it is. Our valleys and the things that grieve us to the very depths of our being is different for everyone. No tragedy is worse than another. No one’s grief is more important than someone else’s. But what these precious people are going through, no one should have to.

But they have refused to stay silent. They have refused to lay down and surrender. It may hurt like hell right now for them to walk forward. Their biggest accomplishment of the day may simply be getting out of bed to face the day. But they are moving. They are breathing. They are fighting. They are singing.

Will you sing until the morning comes? Will you hold out for the miracle? Will you trust that even though what you may be walking through is difficult to face, that He is still good?

It’s really easy to praise Him when we find ourselves on the mountaintop. And those moments are important. Because He deserves our praise. But I think that we find out more about ourselves and who we are in the Father when we are able to praise Him in the valleys.

This is something that has taken me awhile to learn, and if I’m honest, I’m still learning. No one wants to walk through the storms and struggles of life, but it’s how we make it out of those that speaks volumes. Struggle produces growth. But only if you allow it to.

As for me, I will continue to sing. Regardless of if other people think I should be. Regardless of if they approve of the song I’m singing. Regardless of if I meet their standards. My life and every breath I take does not exist for them or because of them. But for the One that put that very breath in my lungs and song in my heart.

Even when it hurts, the light is still winning. Rest in that friends.

WSPD15

Every 13 minutes in the US, a life is lost to suicide.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-24.
Untreated depression is the leading cause of suicide, with almost 2/3 of people never seeking proper treatment.

These statistics scream the biggest lie that’s ever been told. The lie that depression and suicide are things that we can’t talk about. That we should continue to suffer in silence because there’s no possible way anyone could understand what we’re going through.

Today I hope to change that. I hope that by starting honest conversations, that others will have the courage to follow suit. I believe in a world where suicide is no longer an option.

This is a world that should have been available for my friend Christine and her son Marc, but sadly were not.

I met Christine through Project Semicolon and have been working with her and her church for the past couple of months writing a bible study curriculum for them. She too believes in a world where suicide is no longer an option for those who struggle with depression and addiction. Tragically, her son’s life was cut short by his own hands this past weekend and now more than ever, she is determined to fight for those like her son who struggle with depression and addiction to find the courage and the help they so desperately need and deserve.

But what about when you lose your way and you don’t know where to turn to?

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in the almost ten years that I’ve struggled with depression it’s that it can sometimes be really easy to lose your way. To forget the things that you know are true about you and believe the lies that your depression and the enemy feed you.

To be spun around so many times that you forget which way is up. But it’s in those moments that the core of who I am is dependent on remembering why my story is so valuable and so irreplaceable.

No matter how heavy life may feel, there is something out there that is more powerful and more constant than our struggles could ever be. Hope.

Your struggles matter because you are a walking, breathing, living story of hope.

As for me?

My story is one that has been continuously changing over the last ten years. Depression has become a word that I am ever so familiar with. It explains why I’ve felt the way I have, but it in no way defines me. Self-harm is something that I thought would consume my life forever. But 953 days ago, I made the decision to live a life of recovery because I’m worth the fight. Suicide
is something that twice has tried to be my final chapter. And I thank God every day for the people that he placed in my life for each of those moments.

I am a story that could’ve ended but didn’t. I am a story of recovery and redemption. Our stories may be different, but they all deserve the new beginning that hope promises.

The reason that I fight for people to continue their stories is because I know all too well what it’s like to not have anyone that will stand in the gap for me. And it’s also because I believe that through my story, through my brokenness, that people can find hope in their own stories. That they can find the redemption that we all long to have.

There are still days when darkness wins – days when I allow every lie that the enemy feeds me to become my supreme truth.

There are days where my past rears its ugly head and I question every positive step I’ve taken in the past three years. These are the days when I am so thankful to have the arms of friends to hold me up and the love of Jesus shining through them to guide me back.

The beauty and the peace that I’ve found from letting people into my story has been the best thing I’ve ever done in my journey of recovery. Having people in my life that genuinely love me and loving them in return has done more for me than I think they or myself will ever know.

If there is still breath in the lungs that God gave you, your story is far from being over. And because of that, you owe it to yourself to continue to fight for your story.

There will be days where that seems impossible to do. But you aren’t alone. But you have people that will fight with you and for you on the days that you can’t fight for yourself.

We were never meant to do life alone. We were created for community. You never know who is
watching you and wondering how you manage to stay hopeful despite the battles you face.

Whether your battle comes in the form of depression like mine has or something entirely different, I’m going to ask that you realize the importance and the value of your story. That you would continue it. That you would realize that you are surrounded by people who love you and a Savior waiting to give you the redemption that you so desperately want.

I pray that whatever you are struggling with today that you find the freedom that is found in transparency, but more importantly, that you find the freedom that is found in Jesus. That you would lay these down at his feet because you were never meant to carry these things.

You are more than these moments. You are not your struggle. I am not my depression. I am not the scars left behind from years of self-harm. I am not my two suicide attempts. I am the daughter of the King. I am a living, breathing, screaming invitation to believe better things. I am a story that is far from being finished. And my ultimate prayers is that you would begin to believe those words for yourself.

You are beautiful. You are set apart. You are worth it. You are loved. Your story is still being written.

NSPW15 Preview

if I claim to be a follower of Jesus and strive to be like him, then where is my compassion for others at if not in the hopes of them continuing their stories.

As I’m working on this, I have about a dozen side projects going on simultaneously. One of the biggest ones I’m working on is our upcoming push for National Suicide Prevention Week which falls in the middle of Suicide Awareness Month. Working for a nonprofit that exists to help raise awareness for these issues, I know first hand the importance of these weeks.

People don’t talk about these issues because they make people uncomfortable. They make people uncomfortable because we’ve spent so long avoiding it that we don’t know how to talk about it. So we assume that the only solution is to continue to not talk about it.

I’m here to say that’s a load of bull. Lives are going to continue to end as long we keep deciding that suicide and mental illness is too uncomfortable to talk about.
I mean, let’s look at this logically. Are we so wrapped up in our own need to be comfortable that we’re completely okay with stories continuing to be cut tragically short? Have we really become that selfish of a society?

If you have a broken bone or the flu, do you just ignore it and not let your body heal properly? Of course not! Why? Because that’s completely ridiculous. I’ve broken my fair share of bones in my life, and every time I did, I went to the doctor for treatment. So why do we shove mental health under the rug and pretend that it doesn’t exist? Not only in our own lives, but in the lives of others.

Why is it that the only time people feel the need to talk about mental health is when something tragic happens? Why can’t these conversations exist all the time? Are they uncomfortable to have at times? Yes. But I would much rather be temporarily uncomfortable and get the help I need or the help for someone else in need than continue to ignore it until something happens.

That’s why the month of September is so important. People need to know that they aren’t alone in their struggles and that their story matters. Until people realize that placing a period in their story is no longer an option, I will continue to fight for their semicolons. Not just because I have struggled with these issues personally, but because if I claim to be a follower of Jesus and strive to be like him, then where is my compassion for others at if not in the hopes of them continuing their stories.

Project Semicolon will be using #HopeIsAlive15 for the entire month of September. We encourage you to join the conversation with us. Whether you struggle personally or have loved ones that do, you can make a difference. You can help break the stigma behind mental illness and suicide.

Your story is sacred. And it is so far from being finished. So please stay. If you’re having trouble fighting on your own, please know that you aren’t alone.