Beauty from Ashes

Beauty from Ashes

I had the opportunity and priviledge of interviewing a very inspiring young lady who is wise and brave beyond her years. I believe that her story will touch many lives and help others find the healing, peace and courage that they need in order to move forward from their own traumatic experiences. Here is an iconic “lemons to lemonade” story.

Tabitha is a 17 year old junior at Liberty North High School in Liberty, Missouri. Her life seems like that of a typical teen. She was involved in cheerleading and enjoys art. She takes pottery/sculpting classes and has an after-school job. The majority of her time is spent focusing on academics so that she can meet her future college and career goals. In meeting Tabitha, you would never guess that her past holds such a dark experience. 

Around the age of five years old, Tabitha began going to her Great Grandfather’s house to be cared for while her mother went to work. She would go there about four to five days per week. Her Great Grandfather lived in a cabin in the woods, a long distance from town. When he began taking care of her, he would talk to her about sex; explicitly describing the concept to her which led to him performing the act with her each time she went to his house. He told her that it was their little secret and not to tell anyone about it. He also brain-washed her into thinking that this was a normal relationship between children and adults and that all kids did this, it was just never talked about. This routine continued on for five years. 

Tabitha’s mother fully trusted her grandfather and never imagined him performing such horrific actions towards her daughter. She noticed behaviors in Tabitha that raised concerns and qued her into asking questions of her daughter. This led to the secret becoming exposed. Tabitha said that the initial concerning behaviors her mother witnessed were that Tabitha was much more mature acting than other kids her age. Also, when Tabitha was around her great grandfather, their relationship dynamic was more like that of a girlfriend/boyfriend. Once the secret was out, Tabitha’s mother notified authorities immediately. When her great grandfather realized that his actions of five years had been found out, he shot and instantly killed himself.

Once Tabitha was enlightened to the fact that what her great grandfather had been doing to her was wrong and that he was dead, she became a very angry person. What angered her most of all was that, in her words, “he took the easy way out. He never had to pay for what he did to me and I wouldn’t get my justice.”

This is a clay sculpture that Tabitha created, depicting her molester and the innocence that was stolen from her as a little girl.

Processing such a life-altering event spilled over into everything in Tabitha’s life. Her thoughts were consumed by the events of her past. She became a very emotional and angry individual. She became a loner and didn’t want to spend much time with other kids her age. She felt that other kids were living “perfect” lives and could not relate to what she had been through. It was easier for her to keep to herself and escape into reading books. Tabitha suffered from severe depression, anxiety, and PTSD. She had difficulty sleeping. Counseling didn’t seem to help her either. She just wanted to be alone all of the time to process her thoughts. Her mom was always open to talking with Tabitha whenever she needed someone to simply listen. She used art as an outlet for her feelings as well.

At the age of 14, Tabitha recalls a conversation that she had with a special father-figure in her life. He asked her what she wanted to become when she grew up. She said that she wanted to pursue becoming a nurse and ultimately a nurse practitioner and work in the Obstetrician or ER department. This conversation brought about the realization to her that she had her whole life ahead of her. That “that man” had stolen five years of her innocense and childhood. The anger and emotions that his actions caused, stole another four years on top of that. She wasn’t going to allow him to control and manipulate any more years of her life. “Your past traumas don’t have to define you and rule over the rest of your life. People don’t have to let things (from their past) control them.” What a profound statement coming from a seventeen year old! Such wisdom and courage! That new mindset at the age of 14 was a turning point for Tabitha and that is where healing began for her. 

Tabitha, with her little brother.

At the present time, Tabitha feels that she has healed and is moving forward. She no longer struggles with any depression, anxiety or sleep difficulties. She has normal, healthy relationships with her peers. Telling others about what she went through has been a major step towards her healing. She said that the only “trigger” she sometimes has is when she hears someone’s story that is similar to her own but with a different outcome. Such as the child being killed or taking his/her own life. It makes her sad because they never got the opportunity that she did; to heal, move on, and live their life. Tabitha’s future goal of becoming a nurse practitioner will enable her to take her own experience and in turn help, educate, protect, and empower others. In essense, make “lemonade out of lemons.” When I asked Tabitha to summarize her traumatic life event, she concluded, “I’m stronger because of it!”

Tabitha’s story is one that, sadly, rings true to too many individuals. Her courage to speak out, not only brings freedom and healing in her own life, but also to other victims. I asked Tabitha what she would say to someone who has been sexually abused, or who is currently in an abusive situation. She said, “Don’t let them (the perpetrator) win. Don’t let them consume your life. Talk to someone you trust or go to authorities.”

I also asked Tabitha what she would say to parents or loved ones of someone who has been victimized. She said that you need to be a listening ear. Whenever the child needs to talk, always be open and willing to listen. She said that you should not push counseling if the child does not want to do it. Some kids want it and find it helpful, others do not. Let the child decide. Finally, she said that if the victim asks questions, then answer with truth and always be empathetic. Lastly, her words to parents: “Parents, look after your children, and other children, anywhere you are at. Listen to kids. Don’t be afraid to teach them the real terms for body parts and what good and bad touches are. If anything is suspected then ask questions. Molesters want parents to keep kids in the dark.”

I love Tabitha’s perspective and attitude towards life and her past! We can all learn and grow from her. I think everyone has been through some type of past hurt that has left a wound or scar. For some, it carries on for years, keeping them from fully living and enjoying their life. Take Tabitha’s mindset and break free from the bondage of your past that is holding you back! Today is a gift! Today is your day to start anew!

“Don’t let one experience ruin the rest of your life. We only get one life.”- Tabitha Michelle

If you would like to contact Tabitha with questions or comments regarding this article, you can reach her at: [email protected]  

“Watching Tabi grow and develop into not only a better sculptor over the past 3 years has been certainly wonderful. However, being witness to Tabi working on her piece, communicating about her sexual abuse as a child, had to of brought up much emotion again for her. I hope the experience was therapeutic and brought her more healing. I applaud Tabi for being so vulnerable, to not only me in sharing her story and idea for the work, but knowing she had the inner strength to make the work and also display it in school among her peers is rather amazing for someone her age.” -Chablis Sanchez Martin, Art Teacher, Liberty North High School

Be Bold, Be Brave, Be Beautiful!

Be Bold, Be Brave, Be Beautiful!

Meet my friend Nikki! I asked her to share her story. I have enjoyed watching her confidence grow over the years! She is bold, brave, and beautiful!

“Become so confident in who you are that no one’s opinion, rejection, or behavior can rock you.” – Annie Sikdar

“Not long ago, I bid on this vintage hat at a local silent auction, fully expecting to walk away empty-handed. I’ve never bid on anything in my LIFE and I was sweating bullets thinking my husband would kill me if I won it. I even tried it on, jokingly saying to my friends that it would be all wrong…but when I turned around & looked in the mirror I felt beautiful, and I immediately fell completely in love with that hat. But then the very next second, I instantly doubted what people would think if they saw me wearing it. This hat in itself is so much bolder than I’ve ever had the nerve to be; I’ve never worn anything remotely like it, but it spoke to me. So I did the thing I would normally never do, I bid on it. And I won it, along with a n o t h e r hat!

I had my mini freak-out moment, but ever since then, I’ve been on this path of finding more things that make me feel the same way. Bold. Brave. Even beautiful – which is not something that freely comes to mind when I think of myself. Truth be told, I too often revert back to that girl everyone made fun of in school so many years ago. I still struggle with those hurtful comments that were probably so easily forgotten by the people who said them and this hat brought those feelings to the surface as well. But even more so, I loved the way this hat made me feel, and I feel like because everything happens for a reason, that it crossed the decades and was meant to be mine forever. It might sound silly, but I feel like this hat is my new good luck charm. Sometimes the most unexpected things fall into your lap, and it’s scary sometimes…I get it. I hate change and my initial response to things like that is to usually say #byefelicia but I’m learning to say yes more often…turns out it’s actually kinda fun! Who knew??

-Nikki

#faithoverfear #timetofly #whisperoftheheart #getinhere #youbelong #leapoffaith #changeisgood

Above All Else, Love.

Above All Else, Love.

1 Cor. 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.

I’ve always been a hopeless romantic. Or maybe more positively put, a “hopeful romantic?” Like many little girls, I dreamed about my wedding day at a very young age. I just celebrated my 16 year anniversary. Naturally, celebrating such a mile mark causes one to reflect:

I planned out my wedding long before I knew Jeff and then again after we were dating and then yet again after we were engaged. A friend/coworker of mine was engaged before I was, so we spent a lot of time looking through wedding magazines and discussing ideas. I was uncertain of Jeff’s intentions for our relationship at the time. I would tear pages out of the magazines that had ideas and pictures of things that I liked. That is how I found my wedding dress. As soon as I saw the dress, I knew it was the one for me. I saved the picture for whenever the time came to buy a wedding dress. It was like someone had made it from my imagination.

After I got engaged and the time did come for me to buy a dress, I took the picture down to a local wedding dress shop. I told them that that was the dress I wanted. They found the exact one for me in their catalog and had to order it. It was $400 on sale. Score! I had to buy it without trying it on and the purchase was final. It was a gamble but I took it because I was certain that it was the right dress for me! How about that for a “Say Yes To The Dress” episode?!

My dress was my biggest expense for the wedding. To this day, I would not have chosen anything different! I chose it because it reminded me of the pictures of my Grandma Mildred’s wedding dress; a classic 1940’s look. Very simple and slim-cut, with a deep-V opening in the back. A long, slim train and some simple pearl and sequin beading. I borrowed the veil that belonged to one of my good friends, she was one of my bridesmaids. It was long and very classic. I wore a necklace that belonged to my mom; a simple, thin gold chain with a single, real pearl as well as her pearl-drop earings. The look was timeless. I would not have done anything different to this day.

The wedding ceremony was simple but beautiful and very classic. It was held in a church full of candles, white Christmas lights, red berries, and evergreen. The ceremony was held at 4:00 p.m. The sky was a pretty, wintry dusk blue. Heavy snow had started around noon that day and turned into a full-blown blizzard by the time the ceremony was ready to start. Many people were not able to travel, and guests later told us that they had started out and had to turn around. So the wedding turned out to be an even smaller gathering than planned, but still really beautiful. My dream wedding never took place in the winter, but it really turned out nicely other than bad weather. We didn’t want a long engagement and so the Christmas season is what we chose. Also for the ease of family who travels “home” for Christmas, they were already around for the holiday.

I can still see the huge, fluffy snowflakes swirling around outside the window that was located at the front of the church. We could see our reflections in the window during the ceremony. Thinking back to all of this, it is a reminder to me of how God cares about every detail of our life and the desires of our hearts. I had seen his hand in the smoothness of how plans fell into place. He brought along the right family members and friends to help and used their talents. The ideas I had pictured in my head were all unfolding before my eyes on this day. It seemed surreal. God is good!

My parents had given us a set amount that we could spend on our wedding. They said that it could all be spent on the wedding ceremony or we could have a simple wedding and use the rest to pay for our honeymoon. My dad encouraged us to elope and just take the cash to start our life out together as a married couple. Looking back, that probably would have not been such a bad thing to do. We both wanted a ceremony and since I love to travel, I wanted a nice honeymoon. Since I’m pretty frugal we found a way to do both. I was able to accomplish my “dream wedding” at right around $1500 and the remaining ($2000) covered most of our travels. I know this sounds impossible, and today that amount would be unheard of but God provided everything we needed and it was done nicely. It really was a pretty wedding!

We had a relaxing honeymoon at Sanibel Island, Florida, one of the world’s top shelling beaches. We were both really tired from the months of planning, me finishing up college and graduating, the holidays, and then I was still adjusting to my new diagnosis of an autoimmune condition and battling the symptoms and medication side effects. A relaxing vacation was much needed! We spent most of the time either sleeping or picking up seashells.

I share all of these details because not only is it fun for me to reminisce, but a major point I want to bring across is that it’s not the size of the wedding or the amount of money spent on it that makes for a successful marriage! I need to add about 16 exclamation marks after that sentence. The amount of money spent and debt accumulated on weddings these days is, in my opinion, absolutely ridiculous! It does not make for a successful or lifelong relationship!

I recall sitting through sermon messages when I was a teenager (and yes, I was listening)! My pastor would talk to the youth about marriage and he would say, “there will be times when you don’t like each other. There will be times when you don’t feel in love. The glue that holds you together is commitment.”

Commitment. Loyalty. I think our culture is forgetting what these words mean, or perhaps not learning how to walk it out for starters. Is it yet another dying art? In my mind, commitment, loyalty, and perseverance all go hand-in-hand.

I will be the first to admit that marriage is hard. Really, really hard! My husband and I are opposites in so many ways. It’s pretty amazing that we have found a way to cohabitate and find some middle ground in many areas. I speak for both of us when I say that there are probably a handful of times over the years when one or both of us wanted to quit. I look at all that my husband has had to face regarding my medical battles and the stress and strain that it has put on our relationship from the very early days. He very easily could have thrown in the towel; said: “This isn’t what I signed up for,” and walked away. Sadly, many men would have done that.

The struggles we have faced right out of our first months of marriage are things that most people don’t expect to face until they are elderly and in their very last years of marriage. We were just 22 and 23 years old when we got married. We really did not have much of a “honeymoon phase” because of the physical battles I went through. That makes me sad. I feel that we lost that and it’s not something we can get back. Commitment is what has held us together when we wanted to quit. It is what has caused us to move forward and to find our rhythm together once again. I would also say, a healthy dose of humor! I encourage couples who are facing difficult times to seek counseling. Or even if things are going pretty well and you just want a little “tune-up.” This has taken some pride-swallowing for us, but been beneficial. There are still wrinkles to work out after nearly 2 decades together. That is a long time!

1 Corinthians 13. The “Love” chapter in the Bible repeatedly read at weddings. Verses 1-3 speak about if you do not know how to love, no matter what amazing things you do accomplish…you are nothing. Wow! Without love…we are nothing! That is a big statement. To me, that shows the significance God places on love. Verses 4-8 break it down for us and describe what love looks like. How to love:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.Love never fails.

Love has so many faces. There is the love between a couple, ultimately a married couple because they have vowed before each other, God, and witnesses to stick together no matter what. There is the love between a parent and child. There is the love between friends, which I put on the same playing field as the love between family members. God even tells us, not once but twice, to love our neighbors in the same way we love ourselves (Mark 12:31 & Matt. 22:39). Then, the ultimate love, God’s love for mankind:

Live a life filled with love (some versions say “walk in love”), following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. Ephesians 5:2 (New Living Translation)

Christ set the ultimate example, he gave his very life so that we could experience salvation (redemption from a life of eternal damnation and reconciliation in a relationship with God). So that we can experience a life of freedom from the bondage of sin and new life in Christ! What a gift!

The Bible speaks of God’s love for us as being so great that he will go to any great length to seek us out and draw us to him. The Parable of the Lost Sheep appears in Matthew 18:12–14 and Luke 15:3–7. It is about a shepherd who leaves his flock of ninety-nine sheep in order to find the one which is lost. Following this story are two other parables with the same concept; the Lost Coin and the Prodigal Son.

I enjoy the song lyrics to Reckless Love by Cory Asbury. They paint a beautiful picture of God’s unfailing, unlimited, neverending, pure and unadulterated love for each one of us:

Before I spoke a word, You were singing over me
You have been so, so good to me
Before I took a breath, You breathed Your life in me
You have been so, so kind to me

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah

When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me
You have been so, so good to me
When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me
You have been so, so kind to me

And oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
And I couldn’t earn it. I don’t deserve it…

I don’t know about you, but I feel so undeserving of this kind of love. It’s hard for me to accept it. Who am I? What have I done? That’s the beauty of God’s love…there is nothing that we can do to earn it. His love is already there in full-force. It’s the same for the Mother Theresa’s of this world as it is for the Hitler’s. That is mind-boggling to me! You mean there is nothing I can do to cause God to love me anymore than he already does? Nope! Absolutely nothing! He is sold-out for you and willing to do whatever he has to, to draw you to him. The book of Song of Songs (also called Song of Solomon) is a romantic love story between a man and woman and his tender and adoring pursuit of her. It is also a picture of God’s tender and loving pursuit of us, for our salvation.

As a parent, I can most easily identify to a sliver of what God must feel for us. Personally, there is nothing I would not do to save one of my children. I would give a kidney. I would give my very own life. Now love others, those who are not so easy to love, even sometimes my own spouse…that can be a little bit harder. That requires a little more of God’s grace, his love through us.

At a recent women’s conference that I attended, a speaker was talking about God’s grace. She said, ” Grace means love. If someone loves you, it’s because of God’s grace. If someone has favor on you, it’s because of God’s grace.” What a concept! Grace and love go together!

Because of God’s grace (love), he pursued me. He wanted me back! Lavish people with God’s grace (love)! 1 Peter 4:10 says that each of us should use our gifts, which are trophies of God’s grace (his love). I don’t know about you, but the times when someone has gone out of their way for me; shown me grace, kindness and ultimately love, when I did nothing to earn it. I have felt so undeserving. That is the ultimate picture of love and God’s love towards us. God, loving us through others and loving others through us. What a mystery! What a beautiful picture of the greatest of all that remains! In the end, above all else, is love.

Love wins. It always does!

I See You

I See You

Mama, I see you. Yes, you. You’re brand new at this, aren’t you? You’re driving that sweet bundle home from the hospital. Wide-eyed. You are in awe and amazement. Those tiny fingers and little lips. You can’t believe that just days ago…hours really, that little person was living inside of you, feeling her kick. You gave that tiny being life. You brought that perfect little human into this world. There is also another part of you that is silently terrified. “What have I done? You mean…I’m 100% responsible for this little person?”

I see you, Mama. Yep. You. You’ve been up all night with a sick child. Rocking her. Telling her that everything is going to be alright. Your body aches from exhaustion. You can see the first glimmer of daylight starting to peek through the curtains. You know that in just a short period of time the other kids will be waking up for the day. If only you could catch a few minutes of sleep. Perhaps extra coffee can help you make it through the coming day.

And you, Mama…you’re a single mama. You have the weight of the world on your shoulders. Everything your kids need is all on you. You’re working two jobs, trying to provide. It’s hard to find much time where you can recharge your own battery, let alone stay on top of all the housework, help with homework and be everything to everyone. There is no back-up or extra hand to give you assistance at night when you’re putting the kids to bed or having to discipline behavior that you have had to deal with umpteen times. You’re trying to make decisions and navigate your little family through this world on your own. I see you too.

Mama, I see you. Your child has special needs. You’re doing the best you can. Learning and planning and adjusting life to help both you and your child; to make the days go just a little bit smoother. You call ahead to a location before your first visit in attempt to plan for anything that could “throw him off.” You know…loud sounds, long lines…simple stuff. All those over stimulants. You ask about a bathroom that can accommodate his specific needs. Every part of your day seems to revolve around this child. The slightest thing can make a good day turn bad. The public tantrums that make you want to run and hide. You watch other parents and their kids play. They move through life with such ease. They play and interact with their children in what appears to be so care-free in comparison to you.

What would it be like to simply have your child be able to carry on a conversation or reciprocate love back to you? What is going on inside of that child’s head? You know there are thoughts. How can you draw them out? Every once in awhile, there is a glimmer of hope. A smile or eye contact. You love your child so much. You don’t want to change your child yet sometimes you just wish that he could be…well…”normal.” Yet, you realize and are strangely thankful for the great lessons in life this pure, innocent little person has taught you. Lessons such as kindness, compassion, enjoying the simple things, loving others with nothing but pure, unadulterated love. Inclusion, “not judging a book by its cover.” The list goes on.

It can be easy for dark thoughts to loom. What will it be like when he gets older? Will he make friends? Will he be able to care for himself and live on his own as an adult? What about college? Is a career at all possible? You push the questions aside and resolve not to entertain them for now.

And Mama. Stay-at-home Mama. I see you too. You’re feeling a little lost in the piles of laundry and dishes and the endless messes. Every time you finish a job you turn around and it’s already undone. It’s the simple things that you desire: to use the bathroom without an audience. To sit and eat a hot meal all the way through or drink a cup of coffee without having to microwave it 17 times before it’s gone. To go to an appointment without juggling and entertaining a child by your side. If only there was a reason to fix your hair and dress nicely. You know…an outfit that doesn’t work boogers and spit-up into the dress code. Those days you long for adult conversation. Days at home with little ones often leave you feeling lonely, unappreciated, depleted and questioning if you have a “greater purpose.” Oh, you know deep in your heart that your job is a high-calling; that you are molding and shaping little lives and not just any lives, but those of your own children. Those judging comments from the world that leave you feeling less-than. Remarks that conclude the misperception about what your day entails. “Do you work or just stay at home with your kids?” You do not sit and eat bonbons and watch soap operas all day! You work hard at your “job!” I see you too, Mama. Your work is valuable.

Then there is you, Mama…you put in well over 40 hours of work per week at that career you’ve spent years aspiring to achieve. Years of school. Piles of student loans. You’ve moved up the ladder to a head position. You have worked and worked and it feels good. There is a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. You’re doing what you love, right? But you’re also tired. Very, very tired. You’re trying to do it all and you are spread so thin. There is so much “mom guilt” resting on your shoulders. How can you be everything to everyone? You had to miss your daughter’s softball game last weekend. She still hasn’t forgiven you for missing her dance recital last spring because you had to travel out of town for a conference. No matter how hard you try, you still feel like you’re coming up short. Cutting back hours on the job doesn’t feel like an option. You feel torn. Many days you feel like you have to pick a team. Career or family?

Mama, I see you. You are trying to just have a fun outing with your kids. You know, be “fun mom.” But the oldest won’t stop picking on the youngest. Every time you blink, middle child turns up missing. Getting everyone safely from point A to point Z feels like an ultra-marathon. That walk across the parking lot, purchasing passes, the summer heat, the toddler meltdowns. Is anyone having any fun? What? Baby just blew out her diaper and your package of wipes is almost empty? Who came up with this bright idea anyway? Next time you all will just stay home and take a walk around the neighborhood.

And you Mama. You’re just trying to take a walk around the neighborhood. You’re pushing that big ol’ double stroller with two crying little ones while big brother is following behind, army crawling across every yard. I see you too, Mama! I’m cheering you on! Go! Go! You can do it! Uh-oh…brother just army crawled through dog doo-doo. You got this Mama! I’ve been in those shoes too!

I see you, Mama. You’re the one down the grocery store aisle. It’s been a long day. Everyone is tired, but your fridge is empty and your cupboards are bare. You just need a few things to give you something to eat for a few more days before payday. I hear your kids arguing and crying. You lose your cool. It has been a hard day. Actually a hard year. All eyes are on you. One lady makes a sharp remark towards your child and gives you some unsolicited parenting tips. You about come unglued. Hang in there, Mama. They don’t know what you’re going through. It will get better. The pendulum has to swing to the other side at some point, right?

And over there. You. Mama. You are sick and tired. And so tired of being sick and tired! Trying to care for your babies when you yourself need someone to care for you. You spend your days pouring into others from what is oftentimes an already empty cup. You don’t feel well. At all. You’re so used to not feeling well that you wouldn’t know what it felt like to feel healthy. To have energy. To smile and love life and feel blessed by all of these great blessings because there is constantly a weight on your shoulders and a dark cloud hovering over your mind’s eye. Mama, I see you and you are doing the very best that you can! Hang in there! Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

And you, Mama. Yes, you truly have earned the right to be called “Mama.” I know it may not feel like it to you, but truly, you have! You’ve tossed out more “negative” at-home pregnancy tests than you can count. Each month brings you new hope and added disappointment. And the positive tests? Well, you’ve seen those too. Each one makes you want to hold your breath and brace yourself for what may lie ahead. The letters D & C have brought on a whole new meaning to you over the past few years. Dashed hopes and dreams. You feel your heart becoming calloused. Can it take any more loss, hurt and pain?

And that one time…remember…you knew your baby’s gender. You had a name all picked out; a closet full of infant clothes. You thought this time…THIS was going to be it! Holding that baby in your arms felt so real, you could just taste life as a Mama, that life was so close. Now your baby…well, never did you imagine that you would be picking out a coffin and paying for funeral expenses. Your baby was born early and stillborn. How can a good God allow this to happen? Where did you go wrong? What did you do to deserve all of this? Mama…I see you. Despite not having those babies to hold and rock in your arms…you too are a Mama! God’s shoulders are big enough to handle your hurt and anger. He feels your pain. He catches every tear that you cry. He desires to wrap his big arms around you and hold you. We live in a fallen, imperfect world. Death is just as sure of a thing as life. God sees the desires of your heart. Don’t lose hope!

Then there is you, pretty Mama. Oh, I think I may hurt most of all for you. Your life looks perfect on the outside. You have it all, or so it seems. The big, beautiful house, the nice vehicles, closets full of name brand clothing; your hair and makeup and kids always look so put together. You are the president of the PTA and first to volunteer in your child’s classroom. Make cookies for the bake sale? No problem! Your kids all get straight A’s and excel in every, extracurricular anything, that they pursue. And your husband, he has that high-paying, prestigious career. You get invited to all of the fancy parties by everybody who is anybody. Yep, you’ve got it all together and life is perfect. Right?

The truth is…inside those walls…behind closed doors…you are crumbling. Not just you, but your entire family. You have turned a blind eye to all of those “late nights” and “out-of-towns” your husband has “career obligations.” Your kids…well, you give them anything they want so that they will see you as the “cool mom” and “favorite parent.” It’s often so much easier to just give them things instead of saying “no” and hearing their snarky comments, back-talk and teenage tantrums. Your Ladie’s Night Outs are just another opportunity to compare and compete and downsize anyone who may closely “measure up.” Mama, I see you. You are hurting and not ready to see your life for what it really is. Healing and change cannot come until you are ready to be honest with yourself and those you love.

Mamas. I see you. All of you. If there is one thing that I can say that I want you to walk away with is this…You are NOT a failure. You were chosen to be that baby’s Mama. It was no accident. God gave you that child or those beautiful children because he sees you as fit…able…capable for the job! He hears those guilty thoughts that so easily get stored up inside. The questions that ask, “am I able? Am I good enough? Will my babies somehow turn out lacking in some way?”

Mama, I see you. For many of you, I have walked in the same shoes. If only I could give you a hug. Tell you that everything is going to be alright. Tell you that you…just being you; being present and loving on those babies every chance that you get…speaks volumes to their hearts. Your actions say to them “You matter. I’m here for you.”

Mama, when God placed that tiny little baby into your arms, He…the Creator of the universe. The One who spoke, “let there be light” and established day and night. The same God who hung stars and galaxies and told oceans where to start and stop; that same God wove your child’s figure together in your womb (or into your heart, adoptive mamas). Those perfect toes and nose and tiny little fingers, He had it all planned out even before time began. He knew that child would be yours! He breathed the breath of life into your baby’s lungs and set her rhythmic heartbeat. This is the same God who ever so gently cradles your face, Mama. He wipes every tear and gently lifts your chin so that He can stare into your beautiful eyes. The ones that He too created.

He says, “Mama. Precious Mama. I love you. And…you…

YOU are doing a GOOD job!”

Choose Life!

Choose Life!

I believe that there are no mistakes or coincidences with the people we cross paths with in life. I also believe that there is something we can learn from everyone. Everyone has a story to tell and gifts to share; a purpose to fulfill. Many people have been beaten down by life and lost sight of who they are, or perhaps they just haven’t ever figured out who they are and what they have to contribute to others. We have to choose whether or not we will learn and grow from those people and experiences along life’s journey.

I am only human. I fail every day. My choices and actions can unintentionally hurt others. When I fall short, I have to choose to pick myself back up again, brush myself off and keep going. Looking for people and opportunities in which I can serve and impart my gifts and wisdom into and share what I’ve gained through my personal life lessons.

None of us is done growing or learning until we have breathed our last breath. Even with the best of intentions, I make mistakes, hurt, and offend. Often my desire is to just be authentic, transparent or helpful and to do what is right, according to my personal convictions.

I cannot undo what has been done or change how others might perceive me. I can keep going and keep trying my best! Keep loving those who God puts in my path. Keep praying for and blessing those who no longer are in my life. Forgive myself. Forgive others. Move forward. Choose joy. Choose to love. Choose to bless; help and serve where opportunities arise. Choose to persevere. Choose to be all God is calling me to be. Choose LIFE. Life is a choice. I choose to LIVE!

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