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.

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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.

Sprinkling Hope Series: Own Your Story

We all have a story to tell. Regardless of if you think that you don’t, you do. And it’s up to you to not only share that story, but to also own that story. Where you begin to do those things is up to you. I know that for some of you, there may be parts that are difficult and painful to share. I encourage you to share anyways.

Life can be really really ugly sometimes. But it can also be really really beautiful. And sometimes we have to fight for those beautiful moments, but it’s so worth the fight. When we begin to own our stories, even the really painful parts of it, we begin to find a sense of freedom and healing. When we own the things that have happened to us instead of letting them own us, we save ourselves from a lot of heartache.

But sometimes we do let what happened to us own us. And it’s so important to remember that there is still good to be found in that. The good news is that we don’t have to stay that way. We don’t have to stay stuck in the moments that have brought us heartache and pain. We can stare that junk in the face and begin to own it. We can begin to walk in the freedom that is ours through Jesus.

And once you’ve owned your story, you get to do the most exciting and empowering and life changing thing ever: you get to share it! People need to hear your story. Each of our stories have such a unique role to play in others lives and their stories.

There will still be days that living your story will be painful and difficult. In those moments it’s important to have people in your life that are willing and able to pick up that pen and write for you on the days that you can’t. Because ultimately all of our stories are interconnected and co-written by the people we’ve chosen to walk through life with. And let me tell you, I’ve got some of the greatest in my corner.

Writing our stories is a lifelong process. Filled with light and with darkness. But remember friends, light is winning. Rest in that.

Laughter is the Best Medicine.

Today I’m starting a new series that in some ways could be the second part of my Reclaiming Hope series, but explores hope in a whole new direction.

I’ve talked about reclaiming the hope that I had lost and was so desperately searching for, and now I want to shift gears and talk about sprinkling that hope. I think that both can be done at the same time – reclaiming hope and also sprinkling it. I think that reclaiming hope is something that we’ll always be doing.

Much like this journey of recovery that I’m on, I don’t believe that one day I’ll wake up and be like “Oh I’m all better now and I’ll never struggle again because I’ve reach x amount of days,” I think the same is true for hope. There’s not some magical number or amount that we reach and can say that we no longer need hope. We will always need hope.

And I think that sprinkling that hope can be done in a lot of different ways. But laughing is by far my favorite way.

If I hear other people laughing, there’s a 99% chance that I will join in on that laughter. Why? Because laughter is contagious. Especially late night laughter. You know the kind I’m talking about. Where one person slowly starts to lose control and everything becomes funny. And before you know it, everyone is joining in. Moments like these can turn an otherwise ordinary day into an extraordinary one. And those days become my favorite days.

But have you ever had the perfect combination of people in your inner circle that you spend the majority of your time in tears with because you’re all laughing so hard? I’m so incredibly fortunate to have people like that in my life. These precious souls are not only the best people in my life, but have essentially become my family. And we’ve gone through some tough things together, but have always managed to make it through victorious. And laughing together is one of the best things there is.

I can’t even count how many hours we’ve spent laughing so hard that we hurt and some of us have tears in our eyes. These moments are usually take place in public and come with it’s fair share of looks from others, but we continue to laugh regardless.

I’m thankful for the moments that I can be silly with my favorite people and laugh for hours about the most ridiculous things. I’m also thankful for Snapchat for making most of those moments possible.

I think what it really comes down to in the end is that there is healing in laughter. And maybe that’s a new concept for you, it was for me. But in these past few weeks of self discovery and rediscovering who I am in the Father, I’ve learned a lot of things.

Laughter leads to joy. I just don’t think it’s possible to be upset anymore when you’re in the middle of a laughing fit.

And that same joy eliminates darkness. Heaviness and darkness can’t exist where there is joy and where there is light.

So ultimately, laughter equals light. And friends, light is winning. We have the final victory. Rest in that friends.

Reclaiming Hope Series: The Beauty of Vulnerability

If I’m being honest, the thought of being completely vulnerable sometimes terrifies me. And I don’t think I’m alone in that. We all have different faces that we put on at times and I feel like more often than not we don’t always show the real us to those around us.

It’s not that we don’t want to, it’s that it’s become so ingrained in our society that if we show who we really are, even the painful parts, people are less likely to want to stick around for the journey. So we hide. We only show so much. And sometimes, as I’ve shared in some previous blogs, we end up pushing people away as a result.

But I propose something different. That instead of hiding our vulnerability and hiding who we are to those around us, we embrace it. We own it. We walk in it. I think those are the moments when we realize that there is so much beauty in vulnerability and in being transparent.

I’m a firm believer that transparency can bring about some much needed healing in our lives. When we walk through life with others, there will no doubt be seasons of life that come around that can really knock us off our feet. And I think that for me at least, my first reaction when those difficult seasons come is to hide how I’m really feeling in the moment.

But the more and more that I spend time with those around me and with Jesus, the more and more I realize that we weren’t meant to do life alone. That the people in our life are there for a reason and have chosen to be a part of our lives, both the good and the bad. And when you’re lucky enough to be surrounded with people who genuinely care about you, being transparent with them can be the thing that not only strengthens those relationships, but bring about a sense of peace that you might have never felt before.

Trust the people in your life. Trust that they will love you regardless. Trust them when they tell you those things.

I’ve also learned that being transparent can bring about healing for others in your life. I believe that each one of us has a unique role to play, not only in life in general, but in the lives of those around us. And while no two stories are the same, the more that we reach out and the more we open up to others, the more we realize that there are a lot of similarities between our pages.

You may come across someone who is at the beginning of a journey you’ve been on for years and see so much of yourself in them. And chances are they probably aren’t ready to be completely transparent about what they are struggling with. But by you investing in their life and sharing your story with them, the walls they have built around them will eventually begin to crumble and you will begin to see a new life spring forth in them.

People need other people.

I’m also learning that being vulnerable and transparent with people doesn’t equal being weak. I’ve spent so much time thinking that if people really knew some of the things that I’ve spent so much time hiding that they wouldn’t love me the same way or that I would lose them completely. But what I’ve learned in my own discoveries in being transparent it’s that these are the moments when true friendship is born.

So often we underestimate what people are capable of handling and I think that’s because maybe we don’t want them to see all those broken moments. We think that we’re doing them a favor by keeping them at bay when in reality we only end up hurting ourselves.

Being vulnerable is hard. And if I’m being honest, there are a lot of days that I would rather do anything else. But it’s in these moments, as difficult as they’ve been, that I’ve found the most healing.

Hope is winning friends.
It won’t be kept silent.
We have the final victory.

Rest in that friends.

It Takes Two.

Today I sit here reflecting the life that was my mom’s. It’s crazy to think that it’s already been two years since I said goodbye to her. There have been a lot of things that have happened over the last two years, equal parts good and bad. But there is something so beautifully different about this year.

In the days and weeks immediately following her death, I was on autopilot. Simply just going through the motions. I was far from being okay, but I wasn’t about to put anyone else through the personal hell I was battling through. So I faked it. I put on a smile and convinced the world that I was okay. Some believed it, others didn’t. But regardless, I wasn’t going to budge.

And then one evening in June, I decided that enough was enough. That I just couldn’t physically or emotionally do this anymore. And I am so eternally thankful for the people that fought for me in that moment. You are a big reason why I’m still here.

When the first anniversary rolled around I think I was still trying to convince myself that I was okay. And for the most part I was. But I still held on to so much regret, so much anger, and so much resentment.

There was so much that was never said, by either of us. And so much that was that was never made right. And instead of letting go of all of it, I kept it there and refused to let the wound heal. I stayed angry, knowing that it wouldn’t change anything and knowing that the only person I was hurting was myself.

Anger and bitterness can change a person. Even if you don’t think it’s changing you, it is. And it wasn’t until these past few weeks that I realized how much it had.

A month ago if you would have asked me how I felt in regards to today, I probably would have avoided your question like the plague. I was dreading it because I knew I wasn’t ready yet. I wasn’t ready to let go. I wanted to keep all my anger and bitterness because I still thought that it had a place.

But it doesn’t.

I cried the day my mom died because well, that’s what you do. I cried because I was left with this unimaginable pain and a void that I thought could never be filled.

I cried one year later because I was still hurting and was still angry at her. I wasn’t ready to let her go because letting go meant that I had to accept the things that were both said and unsaid. And I just couldn’t do that yet.

I cried today because I’m finally at peace. I’m finally ready to let her go and to let her rest in peace. I can’t unsay the things I did and neither can she. But I can say the things that I didn’t. That for the past two years I’ve been unable to.

I forgive you. I love you. I will see you again.

I think this is the part of the grieving process known as acceptance. And if I’m being honest, the thought of that is mildly terrifying. To accept means to let it go. To let it go means to move on. To move on means to live my life without her.

But I’m ready.
I have the most beautiful people in my life who I love more than life itself.
I have the eternal grace of my Father.
And I have the memories and love of both my parents in my heart.

There will no doubt still be days that are hard. And I will break down and cry. But there will be an underlying sense of peace about them.

I said goodbye to my mom two years ago. But what I should have said was see you later. I’m thankful for that promise that we have in Jesus.

Today I will walk in grace. I will probably cry more, but these will be tears of peace and of healing. I will remain hopeful. I’ve got a lot of life left to live, a lot of people left to love, and a lot of purpose left to walk in.

So Mom, I love you. So very much. I’m not going to dwell on the things that can’t be changed, but rather live a life that you would be proud of. This isn’t goodbye. This is see you later. Tell Dad that I love him and to try and not be so ornery. That goes for you too. Leave the light on for me. I’ll see you again soon.

Losing Grip.

Today’s post is the first of four in a new series that I’m starting about reclaiming hope. And while the idea of sharing some really honest and difficult to write words scares me, there’s also a lot of beautiful words intertwined throughout. So if you’ve found yourself reading these words today, just know how thankful I am for whatever role you play in my life.

To say that I’m a stubborn person would be the biggest understatement of all time. I think that’s something that I learned from both of my parents. And while sometimes it’s a good thing, there are other times that it does nothing but push those that mean the most to me as far away as it possibly can. Especially when I find myself in the middle of a battle between who the enemy tries to convince me I am and who I know I am in the Father.

And that’s the moment that I lose grip of who I am. And I will push until everyone leaves. I hurt people. I say and do terrible things. I give people a reason to leave because I’m so convinced they’re going to anyways, so I might as well help them out the door, right?

Wrong.

What I lose sight of is that these are the people that love me more than anything in this world and they are the ones that I love more than anything.

This mindset doesn’t just come out of nowhere though. It’s gradual. And is usually triggered by something. And I’m always well aware of both of those things.

This was no different.

It’s no surprise that the holidays are still quite difficult and at times uncomfortable to me. And winter has always seemed to be especially hard for me despite Christmas being my favorite holiday. But this time felt much different.

The general just blah feeling didn’t go away when the holidays did. I still found myself struggling to put a smile on my face and be around people. And then my first panic attack in well over three years came and slapped me in the face and I was left with my head spinning, trying to find my way up again.

But that was nothing compared to what was ahead.

February was probably the most challenging month I’ve had since my mom passed away. And while I’m still not ready to go into detail about everything, I will say that I was left at the bottom of the biggest hole I could have ever found myself in.

And it scared me. Because I literally had no idea what to do or which way to go. And I tried so hard to not lose grip and lose myself, but that’s exactly what happened. And at the time, I didn’t even know it.

Thoughts that I hadn’t had in quite some time and the lies that satan so desperately wanted me to believe became my reality. And at first I felt like I was dealing as well as one could and was intentional about reaching out to those closest to me when I was really struggling.

And then the panic attacks became much more frequent and much more severe. And then I had the worst one I’ve ever had in front of three of my closest friends and I felt like I’d literally had the life drained from me. I don’t know that I had ever hurt more for my friends than I did when I finally got home that night. The fear and uncertainty that I saw in their faces still breaks my heart.

I had never seem them look so utterly helpless. They didn’t know what to do, and honestly neither did I. When I got home and in bed, I proceeded to cry harder than I had in awhile. I never wanted them to feel that way again. And that was the moment that I bought the biggest lie from the enemy. I decided that they could never see that part of me again because I could never show them.

They had seen enough. I had shown them too much. And I believed the lie that if I showed them any more that they would leave. So I faked it. I faked it so well that I think I began to believe it to myself. Until I couldn’t anymore. The panic attacks were still there. I just decided to suffer in silence. I shut everyone out. But these guys were really good at breaking through my walls. And once again, they began to fall down. They got closer and I grew more and more terrified.

So I pushed harder and farther but in the most subtle ways. So subtle that they didn’t even know for awhile, or at least didn’t say anything, and I absolutely hated myself for it. I became so convinced that they would never be able to, or even want to deal with everything that had been dumped in my lap. But time and time again they proved me wrong and it did nothing but scare me. Because I just knew that eventually enough would be enough, and I would rather give people a reason to leave instead of them leaving without warning.

And then the pushes that I couldn’t take back started. And I watched myself become a shell of who I really was. I hurt people. I lied to them. I broke their trust. And lost what was left of myself in the process. All while knowing that every bit of it would come out eventually.

And it did. Oh boy did it. And I still tried to fight it, to fight them. And then I just broke. And I laid in their laps the reality of what had been going on. And it was met with an unexpected response.

I was convinced that this was the moment that I lost every single one of them for good. I expected to be on the receiving end of words such as “Don’t ever speak to me again” “I don’t want anything to do with you”, but instead I received “I love you” “I’m still here for you” “We’ll get through this together”.

None of those were the responses I was expecting. I anticipated rejection, but what I got was grace.

It’s funny how in the moments of life that are really difficult and uncomfortable, God reminds us of his promise to us.

He gave his son the rejection we rightly deserve and gave us grace. It’s funny how grace always seems to win, isn’t it?

Beauty comes from ashes. February left me with a lot of ashes. And what wasn’t already burned, I managed to finish on my own. But for the first time in a really long time, I’m starting to see the beauty come through. All while realizing that I’m part of that beauty.

For such a time as this. I’m here for such a time as this. No one else can play my part. My purpose is unique. My calling specific.

And this? Well this is nothing but a really ugly and doozy of a bump in the road. I am more than this moment. More than the mistakes I’ve made. More than the lies I’ve believed.

I have the most beautiful group of friends who have chosen to stick by me when no one would have blamed them if they had chosen to walk away. They are more than just my friends. They are my family.

I have the crazy love and grace from the Father, who never ceases to amaze me.

And I have a story that is so far from being finished. I’ve taken enough time away from it. It’s time to pick up my pen, pass some out to those in my life, and get to writing the next chapter of this beautifully broken story.

The light always finds its way out of the dark. And it’s starting to take control again, just like it always does.

Rest in that promise friends.

Much love to you all.