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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Reclaiming Hope Series: Tell Your Heart to Beat Again

This is the final entry of my series Reclaiming Hope. Next week I’ll be starting a new series also about hope, but taking it in a new direction.

I am infinitely thankful for those of you who have inspired a lot of these words and the words to come. You are precious souls in my life. Thanks for being a part of this incredible journey.

If you aren’t familiar with or have yet to hear Danny Gokey’s song Tell Your Heart to Beat Again, I highly, highly encourage you to stop what you’re doing and go listen to it. Right now. And then come back and read this. Or read it while you listen. But seriously, go listen to it. You’ll thank me later.

I’ve never found a song that has resonated more with a season of life than this one has. I think we’ve all come across those songs that we could swear were written about our lives specifically. And if I’m being honest, it sometimes makes me chuckle at how even in the simplest things, God is moving on our behalf. Like how crazy good is he to us??

These last few months have been some of the hardest ones I’ve walked in quite some time. In an instant, everything I knew, everything I thought I knew, and everything I thought I was laid broken in more pieces than I thought I could ever pick up. And there were plenty of days that I wondered what the point was in even trying to pick them all up and if I could ever put them back together.

And the answer to that second question was no. At least not by myself.

Trying to do things on my own was a large part of why things had become so terribly broken in the first place. I had pushed away those closest to me and pushed God away as well.

And then in traditional fashion, He graced me with one of the many “Shoulda had a V8 moments” that I think have become one of His favorite ways of communicating with me. Only this time, He used a song to do the talking.

I have learned more about myself in this past month than I have in quite some time. It’s almost like a new beginning. And in a way it is.

These past few months have brought a lot of tears and a lot of questions. And there were days when I wondered if those questions would ever be answered. Most have been. Some haven’t. But I’m learning to be content with the silence.

Leaving the darkness can be hard sometimes. I think we get so used to it that we’re almost afraid to feel the light again. But friends there is so much more freedom in the light than there ever could be in the dark.

Every fall, every tear, every difficult moment has prepared me for this new season of life that I’m entering. The time for looking behind me is over because looking ahead has never had a better view than it does now.

The heart is a remarkably strong thing. I can be broken but also has the ability to be repaired and can beat stronger than ever afterwards. But only if you allow it by allowing Him to work on your behalf.

Light is winning my friends.

Hope is winning.

Rest in that.

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.

Reclaiming Hope Series: Choosing to Stay

Reclaiming Hope Series: Choosing to Stay

I think in life when we walk through something really difficult, there are several different choices that we can make. We can choose to own it or let it own us. We can choose to run away or we can choose to stay.

And when our first and natural instinct is to run, choosing to stay can prove to be difficult. But it’s in that moment that we choose to stay that we find the most healing and redemption.

For me, my first reaction is to run. I will try with everything in me to push people so far away from me that there’s no possibility that they would ever come back. And then to my surprise, they continue to love me through the really difficult moments and you would think that would make everything better. But it doesn’t. At least, not at first.

Once I start pushing you away, it can be really hard for me to stop. You can sit there and tell me countless times that you aren’t going anywhere and that you’re in my corner, but I still push. It’s not because I don’t want you there. It’s because I’ve convinced myself that you don’t really want to be there so I continue to give you reasons to leave. But there you stay.

And it’s in the middle of those moments where I’m pushing people away that I’ve already given up. And this situation was no different. I stood there with as much of a smile on my face as I could muster through the tears and promised that I would be back. I hugged necks and said that it was only temporary. But in that very moment, I didn’t know if I would be or not.

In that moment I thought that I had broken things with friends past the point of repairing and wondered to myself what even was the point of trying to fix things with them.

I was ready to run. Ready to give the sugar coated answers that I would be back soon, all while knowing that I really didn’t know. Some answer was better than no answer because it bought me some time.

And then it hit me. Or rather God hit me in one of those “shoulda had a V8″ moments. I had a choice to make. I had to choose which way I was going to go: continuing on this path of self destruction that I’d found myself on or the path of a victorious comeback. I couldn’t have both.

So I made a choice.

My choice is to stay. To fight for my story. To own my story, even the really difficult parts of it. To rebuild what was broken. To walk in my calling. To live my faith by loving relentlessly.

Choosing all of this is hard. Rebuilding things is hard. But struggle produces growth. And I’m lucky that I don’t have to do any of that alone.

It doesn’t matter how many times we fall. What matters is that we choose to stand back up again. And I’m choosing to stand and choosing to stay.

I know the calling that God has placed on my heart. I also know that I’m so incredibly stubborn and try to insist that I can do it all on my own. I’m thankful for a Father that is much more stubborn and friends that keep me in check.

Living a life of transparency is difficult. But it’s so beautiful.

Won’t you join me?

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.

When the Road Becomes Lonely.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past ten years, it’s that finding long term stability when it comes to navigating the waters of mental illness can be incredibly difficult. It’s almost as if at any moment the proverbial switch can be flipped and you find yourself in the middle of the biggest fight for your sanity. Sometimes it comes with plenty of warning signs along the way while other times it comes without warning.
But sometimes it finds itself in the middle of both: you know the warning signs are there, but you ignore them because you think to yourself that things aren’t really as bad as your mind makes them seem and then instead of tackling them head on, you convince yourself that everything is okay until one day it isn’t.

And then you watch as everything goes up in smoke.
You hurt people.
You stop responding to the very people who love you more than anything in the world.
You push them away because you don’t want them to see you like this.
You apologize incessantly and wonder which time will be the last time they respond back.
And then you lie awake at night with a million different thoughts racing through your mind that you can’t shut off.

And then when the dust starts to settle and the smoke begins to clear, you see the full scope of the chaos you’ve created.

I think that’s when you realize how lonely this road can be.

Please don’t misunderstand and think that this is my way of waving the white flag of surrender. It most certainly isn’t.

I’ve fought this fight before and came out victorious and I’ll do it again this time. I will rise out of these ashes better than I was before.

To those that I’ve hurt, please know how very sorry I am. From the bottom of my heart, I am sorry.

To those that I’ve pushed away, please know that’s not what I want. Please be patient with me as I figure this out.

I can’t force you to stay and I won’t. I understand if you feel the need to walk away. I’m not mad at you. It’ll hurt, but I will survive.

I think that’s ultimately what this journey teaches you: that you’re a survivor.

I have survived.
I am surviving.
I will continue to survive.

To those of you that refuse to walk away, thank you. I love you.

To those of you that have chosen to walk away, thank you for walking what you could. I love you.

Here’s to the road ahead.
Here’s to the shadows.
And here’s to finding the light again.

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.