To the woman who gave me life but couldn’t raise me – Happy Mother’s Day and Thank You.

It took me thirty-eight years to understand that it wasn’t so much that you didn’t raise me as it was that you couldn’t raise me. That there was a difference in ability rather than responsibility and that truthfully, choosing life, was the most important gift you could have ever given me. It was in that moment where forgiveness began replacing resentment and a gratefulness was fostered.

More days than I care to admit I believed the lie that I was unwanted, unloved and unseen because I felt that way by you. However, I don’t believe that lie as often these days. It wouldn’t be fair to lie to you and say that I never slip back into those moments of where I remember what it feels like growing up without a mother, because I do. However, I have a choice to make peace with my past and to remember that just because you gave birth to me does not mean you were meant to raise me and I thank you for choosing to give me life when you didn’t have to. In fact, my being a mother today is because the first thing you were supposed to do a mother, you did right.

It was around this time I learned the the events that modified the narrative of what my have been an otherwise “normal” mother-daughter relationship. One where you were present, one where you could have came from a place of choice rather than circumstance. When we mature and become parents ourselves our eyes are opened to an unparalleled level of understanding. There are situations that as children we are unable to sympathize with, wrap our heads around or see selflessly. What I saw was a mother who gave up, a mother choosing addiction and not choosing me. What I failed to see was a woman who was hurting, self-medicating and lost. When I was four years old taking care of myself and my two-year-old brother, it wasn’t because you couldn’t be bothered to care for us, it was because you were unable to care for yourself enough to even get out of bed. You were in many ways crippled by the blows life had served and a storm that still to this day has you in its grasp.

I understand depression, and although drugs/alcohol are not an addiction I know, I understand addiction manifests in other ways. Believe me when I say that there have been my share of days where depression has crippled me, days where getting out of bed is impossible and days where my unhealthy choices and patterns came before everything and everyone else including myself. You may not have raised me but we are more alike than you will ever realize.

You need to know something and I hope you let this really sink in. If I were six months along carrying my first child at eighteen, and my sixteen-year-old sister was raped and murdered and left along a highway, it would break me too. If nine months after having my baby, my mother died of alcoholism and a broken heart – I might have given up too. Additionally dealing with your sisters murder being unsolved for thirty-eight years, postponing any sense of closure is unbearable. Those are near impossible odds for anyone to come up against and win. Not to mention the small detail of who my father was, how I know he was to you – I’d go so far as to say you did the best you could. And, if the best you could do was to bow out, than I give you a standing ovation. If the best you could do was give me a better life by leaving than you succeeded. At the end of the day that is two things you did right by me, and from the depths of my heart I thank you.

There were moments where I felt alone, where I was angry, and where hate replaced any existence of love but those moments are in the past. It is important that you know I don’t hate you, I don’t even blame you to be honest and that I turned out just fine. My life may have looked different, my path may have been messier than most but God provided the people, the path and the direction I needed. It is not even me that I worry about anymore if I am honest; it’s you. My moments of questioning have cycled to where you are, who you’re with, and what you’re doing now. My mind also wanders to a place of where I’ll receive the same phone call I got when dad died and whether the loss will feel like a loss that I haven’t already processed. I need you to know, just in case you have regrets that keep you up late at night and I am one of them, or I’m a heartache that is numbed by any substance – you can let that go. Please let that go. Forty years ago you chose life for me, and my prayer for you this Mother’s Day, is that you choose life now for yourself.

I’ll keep praying, Happy Mother’s Day and Thank you.

Depression: The days no one talks about.

We all know that fun-loving girl who loves to get a crowd laughing. She isn’t above embarrassing herself to create joy, laughter and bonding with others. Connecting with others causes a euphoria, a false high to bottoming out lows.  The connection and camaraderie feeds her soul. Communication, sharing, and involvement makes her feel heard, necessary and valid. But when the last person leaves and the silence sets in – she waivers between appreciating the silence and depreciated worth. She laughs more than anyone you know, but cries when the world can’t see.

Depression belongs to very convincing actors, often comedians, class clowns and lighthearted people who mostly are fun and overly selfless. Because in selflessness, making someone else happier, someone else whole– we forget temporarily that we are lacking and broken. And, no one wants to be or admit that we’re broken. The truth though is that we are all broken.

Broken carries a stigma, broken doesn’t feel fixable, broken feels heavy, insurmountable, and nearly impossible to share. Depression sometimes feels like screaming as loud as you can, and no audible sound comes out. Your body is paralyzed, your voice is mute and your mind deceives you and plays games that only the enemy can win. We need to know people feel this way. We need to make others aware that depression exists and what it looks like. Depression is not taboo, it is real.

Stop for just a moment, right where you are in reading this and think of a time that you felt the most alone, that you felt hopeless, unlovable, unreachable and non-existent. If you’ve never felt this before, I am asking you to imagine it, imagine your child feeling that way, a spouse, or a friend, a co-worker, maybe a neighbor even. And, then think how often you didn’t even realize someone was battling depression. Battling – suffering – living… these are words used to describe it

Most people won’t recognize depression. That is why so many are shocked when they learn of a loved ones suicide attempt or death. People won’t always understand you or me. They can’t see the feeling in your eyes, when life pulls you down as if it swept your feet from you in an undertow. They won’t understand that your heart is not built like theirs and even though you’re stronger than most and have made it through some awful things, you still get hurt. Words hurt, silence hurts, absence hurts – not being visible to other’s hurts, but the hardest is not being understood.

If you know me, I am willing to bet that you wouldn’t consider me as someone who lives with depression, but I do. Depression exists in a menagerie of personalities and those it affects can range from suffering from or living with depression. I live with it. The days I am speaking of are the very days getting out of bed is more difficult and truthfully sometimes impossible. Are those days often? No. I’m fortunate that when my depression hits, I know my lows intimately enough to know what I feel, is not always actual and I trust my God.

Depression robs us of hope, the heaviness of this spirit is meant to crush you, and wants to steal your faith, and isolate you. If I am feeling something that is heavy, I feel it only to process it and then to release it. The healing is in the release of the lies, the release of the shame and the release of the enemy’s hold on us. 2 Tim. 1:7: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Depression is the devil’s playground, he makes you think, say and act like someone else. He pulls you into a swinging motion of highs and lows and moments when he fools you into thinking you’ve beat it, only to celebrate and feast at the moment you fail again. Resilience is tricky, it manifests in you a sense that you can just pick back up where you left off and try to get further this time. And some like myself, can. But some don’t. And a few of the ones that can’t will never speak of it until it is found in a scribbled note written with fear and pain in a moment they feel completely alone.

I don’t want you to write that note, or find that note. I want the idea of that note to fade away as an option. It is not weak to admit having depression, it is not weak to ask for help or to talk to someone who can help. That is strength and powerfully beautiful. That is loosening the enemies grip and reminding him that God is in charge and what he has set you apart for, is no longer the enemies playground for deceit and pain.

Resisting the enemy, places you in faith. Action creates faith, and with courage you can make the enemy flee. The opposite of depression is gratitude. Put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness – Isaiah 61:3

Take back your life, minimize the suffering and know it gets better. You can call these numbers below, and visit these sites for more information. You are fully loved and deserve to feel safe to heal.

Sucide Prevention Lifeline: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now/ 1-800-273-8255

Crisis Text Line: https://www.crisistextline.org/ TEXT: HOME to 741741

National Helpline: https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline 1-800-622-HELP (4357)

Lust, Infidelity & Adultery

Please hear me when I say if you don’t take anything from this post but this next statement – I will consider this a win. – God will not send you anything or anyone that you must sin to have -. A married person is not yours, and if you are married, someone else is not yours either. Trust me, I understand the deceitful passion, the misleading and fictitious feeling of need. The feeling that this person must have been made for you or they wouldn’t be in front of you right now. But that is the devil – not God.

The whole purpose of this series is to inform you that you are not disqualified by your sins. It is impossible to be a Disqualified Christian.

Even as I heal – there will always be cracks in who I am as a woman. There is no way around that, and I am learning to love and appreciate the cracks for the gifts that they are. I think we learn to love ourselves more each day, as we mature, as we conquer challenges and receive Gods grace despite our shortcomings. I’ve learned that love is an act, it is a choice and it takes work. It is not a fleeting moment or a gaze when the moon hits just right – that is hallmark and romance – and while I am sucker for that too – you can’t chase that. It will not sustain you.

I’m the last person in the world who would ever give marriage advice, but I can absolutely give you – “you’ll regret this” and “you’ll lose sleep at night” and “you will carry this shame with you because I have been there” support. So please know that what I am sharing with you is because I have been there, and with zero judgment I want you to know you are not alone. And, it is not over. God is the ultimate redeemer. When I read the book of John and came across the story of Jesus and the Woman caught in adultery – my shame started to diminish. It was as if God was speaking to me and I no longer felt alone. That is what I want you to experience too.

“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her”

John 8:1-11

Marriage before my husband now was not valued or understood as it was intended to be. That saddens me because I didn’t comprehend the weight of the vows I made to the other person, to myself and especially to God. But even as unworthy as I felt, God made good on his promise. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 NIV

To be forward and fully transparent in the past I traded infatuation for love. Popularity for acceptance and abuse for companionship. It would take me years to learn that I would never replenish what I was lacking with such convoluted thoughts and actions. A compliment led to things and places it never should have. Attention was much like a wolf in sheeps clothing; dangerous and disingenuous. The truth was it all happened so fast that before I knew it, I was in too deep. And when you are in too deep – the enemy loves that. And you find yourself wanting things you never actually wanted, you find yourself doing things you never would have done until one day you are promising two people – what you can’t even promise to yourself.

When something superficially pleasing is suffocated by secrecy, lies and shame – it can’t be right. There are so many aspects of affairs, the damage it inflicts to all involved and what really lies at the core of a breakdown of a marriage that is not possible for me to cover it in one blog post. The desire that has been placed on my heart is to speak to the women who are ashamed and think they are unworthy of Gods love, forgiveness and grace. This is for them.

If you’re a woman involved in or have had an affair whether it be emotional or physical please hear me when I say this, you are still a good person. Your feelings that you had/have about your marriage, yourself and this other person were/are real to you and I honor your feelings. What matters most to me though is that you are able to see yourself as the woman you would respect years from now, and that you considered your actions with your spouse and how it will affect them. Your marriage has the possibility of being saved still, you can choose at any moment to honor yourself, your spouse and your marriage enough to seek a marriage counselor, personal counselor or someone at your church even. And, if you are suffering in the shame of a past infidelity there is hope for you as well. This does not have to end here, not like this. You are still valuable.

If you’re a woman involved in an affair with a married man, the same goes for you – except I encourage you to honestly ask yourself this: What am I really getting from this? Is this the way love looks, acts and feels? Am I fooling myself to believe that this man who sneaks behind his wife’s back won’t do the same to me? Am I foolish to believe he will leave her for me? And, if he does – would I want that? The reason I say this is because you are making the choice knowingly to potentially destroy someone else’s marriage – someone who meant their vows, someone who loves their husband and do you know that 75% of marriages that have suffered an affair, survive? My worry is that you’ll lose yourself, while they repair themselves and I love and care about you too much to standby and not speak up. You deserve better than this. This is not Gods plan for you, I can tell you that wholeheartedly.

Please hear me when I say if you don’t take anything from this post but this next statement – I will consider this a win. – God will not send you anything or anyone that you must sin to have -. A married person is not yours, and if you are married, someone else is not yours either. Trust me, I understand the deceitful passion, the misleading and fictitious feeling of need. The feeling that this person must have been made for you or they wouldn’t be in front of you right now. But that is the devil – not God. You cannot start a fire in a place that you are unable to contain it. You cannot start a fire in hopes for warmth with infatuation. Steven Furtick said, the word infatuation in Latin means false fire. It looks like and acts like fire – but it can’t keep you warm. It can however get away from you, and there will be collateral damage as it burns everything around you to the ground. And, it will.

I regret not knowing God then like I do now and this is in part why I am sharing this series with you. If only I realized then that he could fill me up, that his words and promises could have been the man that headed our table and our family. And, to immerse myself in the peace and knowledge that he would eventually lead me to the husband I have today – the man who was set apart for our family. But I took the hard road as I always have and learned it for myself.

I promised God I would share my failures in order to reveal his grace, and his love for us as sinners. It is not easy to share my flaws. The only reason I do is in hopes that my words deter you. And remind you that even if you have a past that involves some form of infidelity – you are not disqualified. Gods love for sinners is abundantly and freely given when you trust in him and give him the weight that has been too heavy to carry – he just wants your heart, and he can heal it.

You deserve to heal.

What most fail to see is that our God is a loving God. He creates beauty from our ashes and works all things for the good of those who love him. You see, God was with her that awful day 23 years ago. He held her hand the day she suffered and thought she was alone. Although he disapproved of what she was doing, he never stopped loving her. Just as a loving father does. And, on the night a few weeks later when she closed her eyes pleading for him to take her life for the life she took, and for his forgiveness, he had answered her prayer.

The truthful story of a young girls’ abortion and how God’s grace restored her faith.

Abortion is not a topic people like to talk about aside from an easily forwarded meme or a hashtag. Many tweet their support or opposition much like the trending #youknowme , #shoutyourabortion #abortionishealthcare and #abortionismurder , #lovethemboth and #unplanned. Your friends are most likely divided as well and some like myself may have been torn on how they felt and throughout the years changed their minds. I’m sharing her story because we need to talk about the things no one talks about. We need to include the unknown, the uninformed and what really happens behind closed doors, inside broken homes and what can lead to, occurs during and follows an abortion.

She’s sitting there in a paper gown staring down at her feet praying harder than she’s ever prayed before, asking God to please not let her be pregnant. Pleading her case with him that she can’t be pregnant. She is too young, she is unprepared, her home-life is broken, she’s financially unstable, alone and scared. She only had sex one time, this can’t be happening. There is no possible way she can raise a child on her own when she is a child herself. As the door opens and her eyes meet the doctors eyes, she knows the result before he opens his mouth; she’s pregnant.

The nurse comes in, she is gentle, supportive and kind. The nurse consoles her, hands her a tissue and tells her she is going to be okay. Though unplanned this is not unmanageable, she has options: Abortion, Adoption, Abortion, Being a mother, or Abortion. She’s not very far along, approximately 4-6 weeks, there is no heartbeat yet, just a clump of cells – abortion is an option. And, she can have one tomorrow. She isn’t given tools for coping with the news of her pregnancy, she isn’t given time to discuss options, research options, and she isn’t offered support in becoming a mother.

This girl; she is more common than you realize. She is your sister, your mother, your wife or girlfriend. She is the lady beside you at church that cries every Sunday. She is your grandmother, your teacher, your coach, your therapist, your doctor; or maybe she is you. And, she is just as loved by God as you are. We don’t know her backstory, we don’t know what led her to a choice we may not choose or understand, and very few understand the torment that consumes her life after she realizes what she’s done.

The girl I knew was only sixteen when she found out she was pregnant. She had only had sex the one time. She was a good teenager for the most part, went to church every Sunday, stayed away from drugs and trouble. She had an unhealthy home-life which was littered with abandonment and loss, so she found “love” in relationships. She thought he would love her if she gave herself to him, but she’d find out eventually she was wrong.

When she found out she was pregnant, she was terrified. It was as if she was gifted an impossibility. She was handed something that she could never really have, and none of what she wanted even mattered, because her hand was forced. Her boyfriend wanted her to have the abortion, her father would have done worse, so her desires never entered her mind or heart. Her fear cancelled out any clarity or possibility of love, her shame cancelled out the desire for help, care or concern, and their control erased her options of breaking the unhealthy cycle of the life she was born into.

The day after she found out she was pregnant, with the help of a kind nurse and request of her boyfriend, she had an abortion. Just like that, quickly and easily accessible. A child, without parental consent or knowledge, any proper counseling, had an abortion. She was simply carrying a child who was viewed by others as a problem that their solution could solve. Her boyfriend wanted rid of any responsibility and eventually would leave her as well, once the “problem” was solved.

It would be six years later that she would find herself in a similar paper gown, this time with her husband and the hope of being pregnant. The doctor came in confirming the good news, and performed an ultrasound. This was the first time she had viewed a baby on an ultrasound. She saw a fluttering and asked what that was, and he told her it was the baby’s heart beating. She asked how far along she was and he said about 6 or 7 weeks. And, she cried. Not tears of the love to come, the joy of being pregnant but tears of regret, failure and disappointment. She suffered a loss in that moment realizing the supportive nurse from before wasn’t as honest and helpful as she had thought. And, she felt undeserving of this child too.

She revisited that day six years ago; which consisted of mere moments scattered like chaos. She remembered the emptiness. She looked back down at her feet just as she did at sixteen and remembered leaving that clinic feeling like a worthless woman. She remembered the steps from the exam room to the front door of the doctors office being heavy and long, that the hallway stretched like looking through a funny mirror and one step closer felt like 300 steps back.

She remembers that the exam room table chilled her body. That the air held a smutty dampness that was thick enough to choke you yet invisible; deceiving you into trying. That it held an ominous feeling of emptiness and an overabundance of death. She remembers the tears running like she wanted to. Running and hiding behind anything and anyone to save her. But, she had no one.  And, no one would understand or feel sorry for her.

The cramping and immense pain that started as mild discomfort gradually became the type of pain only a monster deserved to endure. It was a hell she deserved. The silence that accompanied the pain was broken by the sound of a machine being switched on. A low hum of suctioning, sounding strangely familiar to the sound she had just heard today of her baby’s heartbeat; except that this machine had silenced it.

She’s unable to recall arriving or leaving the doctor’s office that day. No idea of how she got home, how she cared for herself following the procedure or any other detail of that day. All she remembers is that outside
of that room she was an empty shell of existence and was never the same again. There wasn’t just the painful awareness and absence of what had been growing in her belly the past few weeks, but also the realization that every ounce of her soul was extracted and held captive in the same container that held her baby.

She had often wondered if the women who came before and followed after were as uniformed, frightened and tearful as she was on that day. Were they alone and there because they felt like they had no other choice? Did they feel as though God didn’t love them and that he would never forgive them? Do the tears ever revisit them, weighted with the same shame and despair as hers? Did their lives get lost without healing, did they slip into addiction, self harm, sexual or physical abuse, or did they possibly attempt suicide like she had.

She recalls being disgusted with herself the days and weeks following her abortion, even her own reflection was too much to bear. Even though the nurse told her it wasn’t a baby, she felt like it was and she felt as though she suffered a loss. A loss that others would say she had no right to suffer or grieve, thus going without any healing. And, today six years later she realized she was right, that the clump of cells was a baby, it had at the very least a heart forming and depending on how far along she really was, possibly beating.

After the abortion, she was tormented every minute by the memory of what she did, how she wasn’t strong enough to keep her baby. She knew she had let her baby, herself and God down. She wasn’t worthy of the breath she breathed, she was worthless, tainted and unlovable. She was desperate to escape her hell and trade it in for whatever hell God had planned for her. Surely she deserved it. She wrote her goodbyes, swallowed handfuls of pills and with an odd sense of calm and peace, she closed her eyes praying that they never open again.

But just as she had prayed weeks ago that she not be pregnant, God too left this prayer unanswered, or so she thought. He did not take her that night twenty-three years ago, instead he opened her eyes once again to a life she was meant to live. A life that carried consequences, pain, and anger – but ultimately filled with love, compassion, growth and understanding. She was given another chance to break the unhealthy cycle she was in, to toss away the crutch of false security and stability she leaned on, and to stand firm on her own foundation of faith, restoration and love.

What most fail to see is that our God is a loving God. He creates beauty from our ashes (Isaiah 61:3, NIV) and works all things for the good of those who love and follow him (Romans 8:28, NIV). On that awful day 23 years ago, God was with her. He held her hand the day she suffered and thought she was alone. Although he disapproved of what she was doing, he never stopped loving her, because she had never stopped believing in or loving him. Just as a loving father does. And, on the night a few weeks later when she closed her eyes praying for him to forgive her and take her life, he actually had. It wouldn’t be until six years later that she would realize that.

Failure can serve a beautiful purpose if we let it and that is why you often hear that God uses broken people to share his grace and glory. Today, I am that broken person. This girl from so many years ago, was me. And, this is my story, my truth and my testimony.

When the doctor laid my daughter on my chest six years later, and her cries were comforted by my heartbeat, I knew. It was then that I realized God have given me a new life, he had forgiven me and he showed me an endless amount of the loving grace he is. My cries were comforted by her heartbeat as well, and I named her Gracie. She saved my life in ways only God knows as that was his plan all along. She gave me purpose until I could find my own, she taught me unconditional love as I was learning to love myself and she reminded me that each child is a gift from God, perfectly planned in his image.

It took twenty-three years to heal from this and I still grieve both the act and the loss. If my sharing this either deters you or helps you understand you deserve to grieve, to heal and to be loved, then I will boast of the things that show my weakness, (1 Cor. 11:30 NIV). If you think you’re too far gone, or God’s too far away, simply say his name and know he is already there, (Isaiah 30:18, NIV).

You deserve better.

The worst part is that there are people who think this is what they deserve! That this is the best they can have. That no one will love them outside of this relationship. That they have nothing to offer the world, no dream to chase, no voice to be heard, or gift to be shared. They look in the mirror and see failure, ridicule, embarrassment and despair, when instead they should see strength, honor, integrity, beauty, hope and success. And love, damn it! You should look at yourself in that mirror and see LOVE, for yourself.

Some of us are raised with such convoluted ideals of what is expected and acceptable in relationships. Even when we know better, we don’t choose to do better. We relent, we condone, we allow others to interject their opinions and what they feel our relationship should produce or protect. Truth is – it is not their relationship. I’ve heard wait until you’re with someone for 15 years – that is a real relationship, real dedication, and real love. The hell you say?! Real love, real dedication – has no essence of time. Period. Love is an ongoing action, not a timeline.

Being a self-proclaimed love addict that had the belief that one day, if I put up with enough these disastrous, abusive and detrimental relationships would surely blossom into a loving and healthy lifetime commitment, was a fallacy. I’ve literally laid down and allowed men to walk all over me my entire life, starting with my own Father. That feeling of worthlessness was like sewage that continued to spill into relationship after relationship. You want to know why that is? Because we believe what we are fed, things like the adage “you might as well stick it out – because the next person has just as much issues as the one you are with.” LIES! People listen here, that is completely inaccurate. Did you ever think that maybe all these closed doors, all these U-turns, was GOD saying “Hey, I love you, this is not right for you and you need to go a different direction?” Not, stick around and continue to be beat down, unloved or beaten at all.

Everyone has their flaws like leaving their clothes beside the laundry basket, forgetting to take the garbage out, not always helping with the kids, but serious issues, deal breaker issues — there are men/women without them. You can do better!

They say if you want a different outcome, you must do things differently. In each relationship, I tried that. Any previous failures from ended relationships, I would try to preempt and rectify in future ones. If the guy before was unfaithful, I made myself more sexual, more available, more pleasing. If the guy before was unhappy or felt unimportant, I learned to cook, to provide, to take care of. If the guy before was deceitful and untrustworthy, I tried to open more, communicate more, to allow and invite an openness in the relationship. If the guy was emotionally, mentally or physically abusive, I would modify my looks and my behaviors. I would give up my life, my fun, my wants and needs and dedicate myself completely to helping and fixing them. DO YOU SEE THE PROBLEM HERE?? The problems and changes to be made were not mine to make. It was simply the wrong relationship. I didn’t trust myself enough, I didn’t listen to my brain or follow my own intuition which was screaming incessantly that this was not okay, I can’t fix this, I deserve better!

It is important for you to realize this: It is not your job to take on the success or failure of a relationship in its entirety. If the marriage/relationship is failing and you are the only one fighting…STOP. Cheaters, cheat. Liars, lie. Abusers dominate and destroy. And Addicts, simply transfer their addictions. You do not need to stay in any of these situations. It is your choice – not God’s choice, or the Bibles choice, because if it was, it wouldn’t hurt you. God would never ask you to sin, or put yourself in harms way. It is not what is best for your children, or what is best for you. You will undoubtedly lose yourself as you continue to lose this battle.

Here is the thing, yes, we tend to fall into relationship ruts, and picking a different type of the same bad guy repeatedly. But you have the ability of modifying and updating your hardwired picker – your picker doesn’t have to remain broken. You are wiser than you give yourself credit for. And, my favorite part is this: Not every person will abuse you, not every person will cheat on you – repeatedly. Not every person will be systematically deceitful, selfish and manipulative.

In my lifetime, I have loved entirely and completely three men – an abusive alcoholic, a kind and gentle lost man, and an honest to goodness good man. The honest and good men – do exist. I didn’t have to settle. I didn’t have to allow someone to hurt me to feel loved temporarily. Or chase him for attention, affection, or temporary stability. He chose to stay, he chose to be kind, to be considerate, to listen, to communicate and to love me for me – even when I feel like I don’t deserve it. And, he makes that choice every day, because he chooses to.

You’ve heard the saying do not compare your behind the scenes to someone else’s highlight reel, and it is true. Trust me, I lived in a highlight reel life, I boasted and hung tightly to every UP, because I was so tormented by every LOW. I thought I needed to be thankful for the good times, because they made the hard times worth it, which is true to a point – a breaking point. When the hard times are many and the good times are few, you must be strong enough and value yourself enough to look at why that is, and when necessary, draw the line. Enough is enough.

There are several unhealthy relationships that are littered with guarded secrets, ultimatums, unstable foundations, infidelity, deceit and immoral actions. The worst part is that there are people who think this is what they deserve! That this is the best they can have. That no one will love them outside of this relationship. That they have nothing to offer the world, no dream to chase, no voice to be heard, or gift to be shared. They look in the mirror and see failure, ridicule, embarrassment and despair, when instead they should see strength, honor, integrity, beauty, hope and success. And love, damn it! You should look at yourself in that mirror and see LOVE, for yourself.

In my mirror, I can choose to see all those negative things as well, I can see my flaws and imperfections, my failed endeavors, relationships, parental screw-ups, employment mistakes, and lord knows what else. But, you want to know what I see when I look in the mirror? I see my daughter. I see her impressive beauty, her intelligence and witty personality, and her STRONG sense of self-esteem. I see my sons, their goofy ways, kind hearts, and loving souls. The reflection of my green eyes that I love, that have cried tears of happiness more than sadness, and that many have investigated, viewing the goodness of my heart. I see a woman who has been real, honest and fought when necessary and is learning to let most battles go. I see a woman who is beautiful because of my actions, my children, my mind, and my heart – not because of my physical features. And most importantly I see a woman who is gritty, quick-witted, stubborn, hilarious, bold and authentic. There is no one like me and GOD did that on purpose.

That is what I choose to see, and what I will continue to raise my daughter to choose to see. It is what you should choose to see. Choose yourself and take back the ownership of your life. It will be the best investment you will ever make.