by Bethany Hamm
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. This year, I watched one of my best friends lose her father to suicide. As you read her brave and beautiful words below, take some time to breathe them in and out slowly. Chances are, you or someone close to you has been affected by suicide. Speak up, darlings. You are not alone in this. To find ways to be an advocate of hope, or to find help, please visit http://www.twloha.com. -Shannon
My wedding day. For some reason, of all the things I could think of, that is what always comes to mind first. My dad won’t be there to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day. Granted, we had our ups and downs and there were some days when I wasn’t sure I wanted him to walk me, but now I don’t have that choice. My dad took that moment from me the day he ended his life. My dad won’t be there to walk me down the aisle.
The other day I went to call my dad. I wanted to tell him about the new nursing job I landed at the hospital he used to work at because I knew he’d be so proud. But I couldn’t call him. My dad took that moment from me the day he ended his life. My dad won’t be there for me to call.
I took my baby sister to college this week. My alma matter. My dad’s alma matter. We went and visited my dad’s old dorm, met friends he went to school with, even saw the church he and my mom got married in after he graduated college. My dad should have been there helping us move my baby sister into her dorm. Our dad took that moment from us the day he ended his life. My dad should have been there when my baby sister went to college.
I have learned in these last few months that these moments where my dad is glaringly absent don’t really get easier. I have learned that “what ifs” only make a very painful journey even more difficult. I have also learned, however, that our story can and has affected other’s stories, and in that lies hope and even some healing.
So to those of you who are battling the darkness, hear me when I say, you cannot be replaced. No one will be able to walk me down the aisle like my daddy was supposed to. No one will be there to answer my calls and celebrate my victories like my dad could. No one could have hugged my baby sister goodbye and told her she would be great in her first year at a new school like our dad would have. No one can replace my dad.
No one can replace you.
Think of all the moments and the memories that will be forever altered if you are not a part of them. Think of the weddings and the phone calls and the first days. Fight for those moments. Fight for your futures. Choose to believe that you are not alone and that help is closer than the battle would have you believe, because I promise you, it is. You are worth it. Your memories and your moments are worth it.
You cannot be replaced.
This weekend we celebrated our one year birthday! A HUGE thank you to Cause A Scene, Joshua Erhmann, Traveller, Steven Fiore, and Adley Stump for making this special night in Nashville happen. And to everyone who has supported us in the past year– we love you. We wouldn’t be here without you. Keep spreading the courage.
A couple of weeks ago, our sweet friend Hannah Simpson got a group of ladies together for a What’s Your Worth party! Check out the beautiful night below. If you want to learn more about throwing your own What’s Your Worth event or spreading the courage in your own community, visit this page, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Faith Wecker
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the friendships I have surrounded myself with over the years. Some of which are tied to memories of laughter, joy, and strength, while others are interwoven with insecurity, hurt, and anxiety. I can look at an aerial view and be so grateful, because God has changed my heart and revealed some beautiful things to me about what it means to be a friend. However lovely or painful it may be to begin to look for patterns in the way you exist within friendships, I think it is extremely eye opening.
I have done this in my own life and have decided to share some of my observations.
1. Women are so jealous of each other. It is not a competition ladies. The things that you hate about yourself, whether it’s physical, creative, or emotional, someone else is probably jealous of. It is a vicious cycle, and it’s ruining us. Jealousy destroys relationships. Jealousy destroys trust. Jealousy destroys intimacy. Jealousy fuels the fire of self-loathing. Let’s put our weapons down, and retract those claws. Instead, let’s celebrate the things that make us different from one another. I mean, I think we can all agree that jealousy is just ruining the party.
2. Everyone loves differently. I read a book by Gary Chapman called “The Five Love Languages”, and it totally shifted my perspective on relationships. It’s all about figuring out the ways that you need to be loved and the ways that you most naturally show love to others. For instance, I receive love through words of affirmation and quality time, and I show love through words of affirmation. My boyfriend Josh receives love through quality time and acts of service, and shows love through acts of service. Do you see how at times we can get so hurt? He will clean my car as a grand romantic gesture, and I will be left feeling misunderstood and unloved because what I needed him to do was tell me I’m beautiful and whisk me away on a carriage ride through central park. When we began to realize that we had to love each other differently, God changed our whole communication system for the better. Just read the book okay? You won’t regret it.
3. We assume a lot. In any kind of friendship/relationship it is easy to stop communicating and start assuming. We do this all the time. “Yeah, I mean, she responded with like one word in her text… I think she’s mad about something”. Sound familiar? The truth is, assuming gets us nowhere. You have to start hoping for the best out of people, because expecting the worst is exhausting and quite frankly, it gives you premature wrinkles… which I definitely do NOT want. Can I get an amen?
4. Confrontation is hard, but necessary. Do not be afraid of confrontation, especially when it is a relationship that matters. Now, I am not talking about the kind of confrontation that is a laundry list of all the ways the other person had wronged you. That gets you nowhere. I always say, do not act on your anger or hurt. Give yourself time until you can feel at peace and bring it up when you can be separate from your hurt and speak the truth in love. The truth is no one likes to feel cornered, so approach tough conversations with love, truth, and care. It will change the depth of your friendships.
That’s it folks. My challenge to you is simple: be grateful for the beauty that God has placed in your life through people, moments, nature, & sound, and steward that beauty as best as you can.
by Taylor Tippett
I sit here, watching the rain fall on my back porch. I woke up, made my coffee, started reading my new read. The same routine every morning for the past few months.
But something is different today. Something is different, indeed.
If I could be real and transparent for a few minutes– I’ve been beyond discouraged for the past few weeks, and I really couldn’t tell you why. I’ve been discouraged with my job, with my community, with my faith, with my financial issues, with my complacency, with where I live, with my beauty, with relationships, with my future.
I tried to fight it off at first. Then I just decided to be real with God and tell Him how I’ve been feeling. I didn’t yell at Him, but I certainly had a few words to say. And He’s quite the funny one, you see. In the midst of feeling so discouraged, He decided to teach me about something I didn’t even think was a problem– something I didn’t even have in my mind for a second.
True Christlike, feminine beauty.
So the lion is beautiful.
…but how? How do I possess a true, graceful beauty unlike anything of this world I live in?
The question lingers still.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “You’re so beautiful JUST the way you are!”
Oh, really? I spend countless hours researching hairstyles and makeup tricks on Pinterest, and I still wake up every morning to look in the mirror and be discouraged. I am surrounded by health and weight-loss pictures and programs, and can’t leave the house without makeup on and my hair done. And someone wants to tell me I am beautiful JUST the way I am? Does that mean with or without makeup?
The struggle to be beautiful hurts. It aches. It’s doesn’t allow you to get up in the morning and just be.
But what if we lionharts traded in our pursuit for the cheap beauty that culture throws at us, and decided to aim for true, bold beauty?
I am learning that God wants that for us, and we want that for ourselves. Whether we can admit it or not, we are tired of being empty. We are tired of our worth and desirability being measured upon how fast men can get into our beds.
So we want to hold on to lionharted beauty. But how? There has to be some kind of book or 6 month program right?
He whispers upon me these simple truths:
The lionhart is beautiful because she holds herself to a standard of grace- not perfection.
The lionhart is beautiful because she ignores the perverted images of Hollywood and this world that demand her to be covered in makeup, stripped naked in bare clothes, and following the ways of society.
The lionhart is beautiful because she is brave. She is gentle. She is kind.
The lionhart is beautiful because she knows how important loving herself is- for she knows she is loved.
The lionhart is beautiful because she doesn’t settle. She doesn’t settle for anything less than what she deserves.
The lionhart is beautiful because she knows where her worth lies. She knows how valuable and cared for she is.
And so my sweet sisters, it is as simple as that.
Embrace your lionharted beauty today.
by Lara Parker
I am going on 21 years of singleness and that does not make me broken, sad, unworthy, or less beautiful.
It means none of the lies I have told myself, none of the lies the world has shoved down on me. It does not mean that because I get lonely sometimes the only way to fix that is finding a significant other. That I can’t reach the next milestone in my life without a “stable relationship” or marriage.
It means I am holding out.
I haven’t so much as gone on a date in over a year, or been interested in anyone in six months. Boys seem to have disappeared from my realm of priorities, and by God’s power, that was done. It was becoming overwhelming: doing my hair and make up everyday “just right”, wearing things that showed “just enough” but not “too much” or “too little”, making sure I liked “this” music or “that” tv show.
All of the relationships that I have pursued or been involved in in the past have been centered around one thing: being the perfect girl for whichever guy I was interested in. It was exhausting. I didn’t even know who I was anymore because of all the morphing was doing after I was disposable to one guy and the next showed an ounce of affection. I was hooked on attention and flattery, and decided that my value was in “likes” on a picture or the frequency of how often males would text me. These involvements left me feeling invaluable and lost, without an identity of my own because I left it to the decisions and feelings of males to tell me who I was, what I could do, what I should do, and who I should be.
Truth be told, I hadn’t been fair to them either. I wanted attention. I didn’t get it, I moved on. I forgot about them. They became irrelevant, other than a means of catering to my ego. I was a monster.
There were a few positive outcomes, like losing 4 pant sizes because I liked a boy who was obsessed with fitness, but 2 of those sizes are back and so is my confidence and my identity. The roller coaster of changing and adapting got me to a point of needing drastic measurements before something awful was going to happen. I took a step back and realized that I hadn’t spoken to some of those guys I had compromised myself for in months, they had no care whether or not I liked what they did, they wanted that “one thing” that our parent’s tell us all guys want.
I don’t believe it is true that ALL guys want ONLY sex, I believe as humans that is an inherent thing we are created to desire but realizing the intimate, important, and sacred element to sex was what turned my heart. Seeing that if a guy had his heart set on anything else but glorifying the Lord and following God’s will, that I was not going to get what I wanted out of the relationship, and I couldn’t be a proper girlfriend if I didn’t start doing those things as well.
I used to be angry at God, wondering why he wouldn’t let me find “love” and yes, I have prayed for a boyfriend a handful of times, but with that prayer being ignored, a better one was answered. I found that God could fill my lonely time, that the times I was sad was when I laid my worth in the hands of people and not my Father’s, and that the Lord has a very specific plan for me. I was angry at myself for falling so far off, for pushing Jesus away, for trying to satisfy the desires of my own flesh and not of the Lord. I felt as though there was no way He could love me anymore, that I had “cheated” on Him. Good news, He loved me regardless. Brokenness aside, He loves me with a love bigger than I can imagine. When I stray and hit rock bottom, He runs to me and hugs me to let me know I am loved.
To know Christ-like love has set a new standard in my life. I believe I was “intentionally single” so that the Lord could work in my life, change my heart, change my perception on myself, on men, on what my purpose was. I have claimed abstinence after years of giving my body instead of my heart. I have learned to love myself through other amazing women who have been put in my life to help show me my worth as a Woman of God.
I want a relationship, yes. I want marriage, yes.
But I am holding out for the man God has chosen for me, the one who sees me as a creation of the Lord and values me no less than my Father would. I am holding out for a man with good intentions and a spirit-filled heart, a man who would never expect or challenge me to abandon my values, beliefs, and happiness to satisfy worldly desires. I am holding out for a man to be a Spiritual leader and be my partner in pursuing my relationship with the Lord.
I am perfectly fine, finally, being single until that day comes.
This morning as I woke in a Sacramento hotel room, I opened the blackout curtains and it hit me- today was Father’s Day. Seeing as how my father isn’t in my life, I’ve never particularly enjoyed this Sunday in June, and I know too many others who feel the same. I thought of a best friend spending her morning scattering her late father’s ashes at his favorite hunting spot, and of a childhood friend who just recently became a father for the first time. There’s a certain weight and significance in being a father or having one around that reaches deep to the core of who we are, and I can’t help but think it’s because fatherhood is the one relationship or position that was meant to best reflect God in our lives.
But alas, we are humans (messy ones at that), and sometimes our earthly fathers fail or are not around to guide us… What are we supposed to do with that? How can we be Jesus to others in the midst of absence?
Lately, and especially this weekend, I’ve been thinking a lot about presence, and how our time and care and concern directly affects those we love. How many times have you been excited to spend time with someone, but their cell phone took priority over your conversation? What about that moment you are hurt and confused and need a hug or encouraging word, but you’re not sure who you can call?
Presence isn’t getting the credit it deserves these days.
There are women in our own communities who need others to step up and step in. Girls whose biggest enemy is a meal and a mirror. Women whose young husbands are facing the possibility of chemo, or who are shipping off to faraway countries in distress. Ladies who don’t have a safe place to lay their heads at night, or who haven’t had new clothes in years. Girls who think their bodies are more valuable than their hearts. And women who feel brokenness in their hearts and down in their bones.
When I began Lionhart, I simply wanted it to be an outlet for women to build strong relationships with themselves and with others through the power of encouragement. But encouragement isn’t restricted to words; it’s a way of acting. And it begins with presence in our communities. You won’t always see Lionhart posting consistent status updates online– that’s because doing life with others off of the Internet gets in the way of social media. And we’re more than okay with that.
Our dream is for you to go deep with other women in real, day-to-day life. The kind of life that doesn’t depend on how a profile picture looks, but how your day is actually going. Show up at a friend’s house with coffee and nail polish. Invite the new girl in town to a local hangout. Write letters. Throw a What’s Your Worth party. Give more hugs. Spend time with that person before your heart judges them.
Let the actions that follow an encouraging word be the breeding ground for trust and love. Because presence leads to hope, and hope can change the world.
These encouraging and beautiful words showed up in our inbox this week from Sarah Watson, and we couldn’t help but share. Thank you for your bravery, Sarah.
I’ve spent the last four hours online talking through things with my friend. Listening. Trying to help. Saying what I hope is from God. My hands are really cold, and my legs hurt from being so tired. My body yearns for rest, to lie down, to be comfortable. But even if my friend said to me right now, “Please go, rest and we’ll talk later,” there’s no way I could move from where I am sitting.
Having these conversations, venting with one another, it helps me realize even deeper my purpose, and the purpose of honesty. How sharing the depths of one’s heart with someone can be healing. Staying five more minutes with a friend can save their life, can change their world, can heal their heart. By listening and trying my best to comfort someone else, I find healing for my own life. Self-sacrifice and investment in others, despite our pain, can be one of the truest forms of healing.
Death and decay are only allowed to be present when we allow them to. I know what it feels like to be dead. I know what it feels like to suffer. But I also know what it feels like to be joyous; and whenever I am filled with true joy, it’s because I’m not living for myself. There is a time for tears, and a time for suffering and pain. We all have a journey we are working through, and we all are going to hit mountains that feel impossible to climb.
My deepest hope is that you, whoever you are, wherever you are, will not give up on your journey. Talk to a friend tonight, share how you feel, don’t neglect yourself. Listen to the words of love. When you feel like no one else understands, or that you’re alone and no one is there; know that no matter how deep the hole, how high the mountain, how gruesome the scars, you are loved more than your mind or heart can comprehend. Know that there are others suffering as well, and that together we will make it to tomorrow. You are beautiful.
These conversations benefit both parties. I cannot fathom how faithful and forgiving God is. I can’t understand how He has blessed me with a heart that beats. How He hasn’t forgotten His promise, and how He never really left me. Take courage, and see that all your fears can be washed away. Everything you want to be, can be. Everything you need to be, will be.
Blessed is your story,
blessed is your life.
Tomorrow holds something for you,
Something greater than strife.
You are made new,
By the pain you can’t handle,
When you tell me you’re hurting,
Honesty lights the candle.
And the flame gets brighter,
As your path becomes more clear.
You are a treasure,
You have nothing to fear.
Go, and be free. All my love. Go, and be free. All my love.
Trigger Warning– this blog involves a story of suicide. We realize this may be hard for those to read who have struggled with suicide or who have been affected by it. Please know that you are not alone. For resources on how to find help, please visit our friends at To Write Love on Her Arms (www.twloha.com).
Last week, like any other morning, I awoke for work and picked up my phone to turn it off silent-mode, only to see a message from one of my best friends that her dad had committed suicide. I was overcome with a rush of panic that flooded out of me through hysterical tears as I hurried to get dressed and get to work and figure out how I would get to her. She had just graduated and planned on driving from New England back to her family’s Nebraska home that day, and here I was in Tennessee, feeling utterly helpless and confused and broken for someone I loved so much– someone who had stood by me and gotten me through two of the hardest years of my life.
A couple of days passed and I was able to make the 12-hour drive to Lincoln, largely in thanks to a group of friends who secretly pulled together gas money for me. To be surrounded by loved ones who believe that presence is everything when you’re scared you have nothing is an incredible blessing. When your people are hurting, do whatever it takes to be there.
Those days spent in Nebraska could only be described as some of the heaviest and lightest moments I’ve ever known. You can never prepare yourself for tragedy, or know how you’ll react. As someone who trained and worked in suicide intervention, I never imagined it would happen so close to home. Was there anything that could have been done? How could I take this pain from my best friend? I had a lot of questions for God, but felt as though I was swimming in His unsurpassable peace despite my doubting heart. Over the weekend, we heard a lot of stories, both hard and beautifully endearing, and talked about a lot of uncomfortable things. All the while, my friend and her family of beautiful women carried the kind of strength that reminds you of who created them and formed their hearts.
The day of the funeral, the pastor spoke of a scandalous grace, given to us in the midst of all of our messiness, and not dependent on our actions. His ending words flowed through my heart like a river of peace, putting to rest my questions and bringing a comforting reminder of all of God’s mightiness and love: “God’s grace was sufficient. Tom was not saved because of works and his salvation is not lost because of a work. Tom was not saved because of his performance and his salvation was not lost because of his final performance.”
What a beautiful truth too often forgotten. Friends, no matter what you have been through and what you believe, there is grace enough for you. Maybe you need to hear those words today, or maybe you need to repeat them to someone you love. We are not bound by perfection in this life. You are not defined by your failures or mistakes, but by the beauty of redemption. Spread courage to others through your kindness, air of forgiveness, and belief that you are more than good enough. This life is not meant to be walked through alone. Look in the mirror and learn to love what you see. Show up at someone’s door. Sit and talk for hours on porches. Find the beauty within you and others, and never let it go.
Because today is a story of scandalous grace– one that is far from over.