Fear used to be the thing that lived under my bed when I was a small child and threatened to grab my foot if I let it dangle over the edge of the bed too long. It would rear its head sometimes, but when I turned the lights on, found someone that I loved to be near to, and fear would retreat.

After losing my daughter last year, fear has taken on a new form. I hear bad news, from markets taking a downturn to illness spreading, and my heart begins to race. My mind whirls with “what if”s that steal my peace and my hope. And I worry that someone else that I love will be taken from me. I worry for all of those who will lose a loved one to senseless violence, illness, or accident. I worry that everything will fall apart again, and that this time, everything will be too broken for me too pick up the pieces and keep going.

Losing Cora was a trauma. It took me a a long time to recognize that. And I carry scars from that trauma, physical and mental. We’re working on the mental scars, and have been going to a therapist. (An aside: If you’re struggling, go see a professional. There is not shame in going to therapy.)

There are so many people suffering trauma now. It feels like the world is ripping itself apart. Fifty people were murdered and countless more injured last weekend.

And the truth is, I am not strong enough for this. We are not strong enough for this. I am not strong enough to pick up the pieces and keep going. But the basis of the faith that has come to mean more to me since Cora died is that God loved us all so much that He was willing to give up His only Son so that we could be saved from punishment for our sins by accepting Him. The point is not that I am supposed to be strong enough to keep going. The point is that I’m to turn to Him when I’m hurt, confused, and falling apart.

It is impossible to hope on my own after loss. To hope that God would allow me to get pregnant again and carry a baby who lives; to hope that it would be soon. To trust that although bad things happen as a result of sin, that God is still good. Hope is an easy task when you have not experienced loss or disappointment. When you know loss and disappointment, hope is an act of faith. Hope is a hard choice that becomes an act of worship and surrender to God, because you know the pain that loss can bring and know that God may choose to tell you “no”. Hope is believing that God is good  and will sustain you even when you are disappointed and hurt. Hope is trusting that God will hold you together when everything goes wrong.

Hope is knowing that even if everyone that I love is lost, even if I never carry a child who lives, even if my home remains empty of children or another sort of calamity visits my life, God is still good. I still choose to love Him because He first loved me. I deserve nothing, and yet Christ loves me.

God is still good. Even when it feels like the world is burning down around us, God is still good. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.

If you follow Christ, live your life in the light of hope in Christ, not hope is material things or family members. Even in light of the murder that was committed just this past weekend, hope audaciously. Pray without ceasing. And then go do something. Show your love to another who is hurting. Weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. May we all take our fear and pain to the foot of the cross, and then act as Christ would have acted. May we glorify God’s name by living our lives and choosing daily to trust in Him.

If you do not follow Christ, my words won’t make much sense. If God is good, why do people die? If God is good, why do people spew hate in His name? If God is good, why did my unborn child die or why did a man murder fifty people over the weekend? I cannot sum up the whole of my faith in a blog post. I would encourage you to read scripture. To examine the life of Christ and to see what He said about Himself and how He loved and lived, and how He died to pay the price for our sins. I also encourage you to ask questions. God does not require that we become perfect before we seek Him. He came to seek and save those who are hurting and those who are sick.

And when we see pain and sickness, suffering and death, and people who claim faith who wield it like a club with which to beat others, know that Christians are not perfect and that some who claim faith in God are misled. We are a poor reflection of the Christ that we serve. I pray that you would seek Him with your whole heart, because He is waiting for you to find Him.

Don’t want to talk

These past few weeks have been dark for me.

Since losing Cora, I have had many hard days. I have learned that sometimes grief pops out of nowhere and hits you over the head with heartache that you were just starting to feel like you had come to grips with. I have learned that sometimes I feel guilty for being happy, and I have daily wrestled with the quiet that is still in my home. No tiny person to keep me up at night; no toys and supplies betraying a little human who has taken residence.

And life has gone on. I still get up and go to work every day. I’m teaching again, and I’m planning and hoping. But these past few weeks, I have struggled. I have felt hopeful and hopeless, alone and surrounded. Life as I think that it should be doesn’t exist.

And I become bitter. I compare myself to those around me whose situations I envy and I want to give up. I try to figure out God’s will with my human reason, and I feel even more bitter and upset. I focus on myself.

And I cry, and I hide. And I tell God that I don’t feel like praying right now. I don’t feel like studying my Bible. Being obedient to God and pursuing Him isn’t like shaking a magic eight ball and being told “Yes! Definitely” when I present God with the desires of my heart. He gives me more of Himself, but not exactly what I want Him to give me. And I feel such guilt for telling God that I don’t want to talk to Him.

But, that is prayer in itself, isn’t it? God is not so small as to not be able to handle my emotions. He isn’t surprised when my worn out heart looks at Him and says “I can’t do this for another day. Take it away from me.” As a dear friend listened to me whine last night, she reminded me of another person who asked for His circumstances to be changed if God willed it. The night before Jesus was betrayed and arrested, He went to God, His Father, and said:

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42)

He knew what needed to happen. He understood. He knew that on Good Friday, He would be put to death and that in that death, He would pay for my sins and yours so that we could be untied with God upon accepting Christ’s gift.

And I, a frail human, have no idea what will be required of me tomorrow or if today’s cup will pass from me.

But I know that Christ willingly subjected Himself to death and suffering for me. He suffered. He knows my suffering. And I know that on the third day, He rose again.

Easter is coming. Redemption is at hand.

2016-02-08 08.15.10

Six Months

A lot of life can pass in the space of six months.

You can be the only teacher of your own class.

Your office can move to the other side of campus and you can gain epic window views. (Evidence below.)

You can pay off your debt except your house. Which is entirely because of the grace of God.

You can spend every minute missing a baby that you never knew outside of your stomach, too.

It’s been six months and one day since Cora died. We’ve been to grief counseling with a therapist four times. I’ve been to the doctor more times than I’ll count, and have had blood drawn more times than that. I’ve cried what feels like an infinite number of tears.

And life has kept going. The moment that I found out that she was gone, I felt like time stopped. The days following when labor was induced and she was delivered were so saturated with pain and grief that they felt like years. Coming home from the hospital with only two big people in the car and no tiny people felt like it took a year.

And time has kept the same pace. God has continued to provide, despite my struggles and complaints. When you grieve, it seems like time should slow down to let you sit with your pain. But it doesn’t.

Time marches on, and our lives have continued. Today, my grief feels heavier than some days for no particular reason.

If you find yourself in grief after a significant period,  you’re not alone. God is still good, even when you feel like a tattered teddy bear being pulled along by time.

Perfect #sunrise at work. #Monday #goodmorning

A photo posted by Carla Patton (@thismessyheart) on

Psalm 34

1I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the humble hear and be glad.
3Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together!

4I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
5Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
6This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
7The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.

8Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
9Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
10The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

11Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
12What man is there who desires life
and loves many days, that he may see good?
13Keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking deceit.
14Turn away from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

15The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
16The face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.

19Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
20He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
21Affliction will slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22The LORD redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.



It is no small task to trust, although we usually take it for granted. You trust the chair that you’re sitting in right now. You trust the foundation of the building that you’re in or the dirt under your feet to not give way.

That trust is easy when it’s never been tested. If you sit on a chair and the chair collapses, the next time you go to sit down, you’re going to sit differently. Your heart will speed up a little as you go to sit. Your legs will be ready to catch you if you fall. You’re on high alert for a while, because something unexpected happened. Every time you go to sit down, you wonder if what you’re relying on will do what you expect it to do.

As a Christian, I believe that God has a plan for my life. I believe that He loves us so much that He uses everything in this world to draw us towards Him. I believe that He “works all things together for the good of those that love Him.” (Romans 8:28) My definition of “good” is warped, though. I see “good” through the lens of a consumer: a nice home, a family, a good job, security. But that isn’t the “good” that the Bible talks about. God wants to draw people to Himself; to make us into His image. When Christ came to the earth, He wasn’t given the best body, a rich family, or a stable political environment. He was born to a blue collar father and a teenage mother, wasn’t much to look at (Isaiah 53:2), and he was born into a tumultuous political environment that He and His family had to flee from because His political leadership wanted to kill him (Matthew 2).

Christ chose to endure all of this even though He knew the kind of pain and poverty that He would have to endure. Why? Because He loved us and loves us still and wants to see everyone turn to Him to be saved. When I became a Christian, I committed to that goal, too. I committed to adopt that goal as my own (Matthew 28:16-20). I accept the greatest gift ever given: being reconciled to God through Christ’s sacrifice by admitting that I am a sinner and that Jesus died for my sins.

A lot of people think that becoming a Christian means that things become easier. That in an instant your problems are gone and that you’re free from sin. I’m forgiven of my sin, but I struggle with it every day. My problems didn’t go away, but I don’t have to go through them alone anymore. I don’t have the same goals as God automatically and I struggle with wanting material things instead of pursuing the goals of my faith.

And when something bad happens, I struggle with trust. When Cora died, it was like the floor fell out from under my feet. The Bible says that “children are a gift from the Lord” (Psalm 127), so why was my gift taken from me?

And the truth of the matter is that I don’t know why. I can’t tell anyone that Cora died so that one specific person would come to faith. I can’t tell you that she died so that other people’s faith would grow. I don’t know why she died, and I’m not supposed to know why.

That’s where real trust comes into play. It’s not the trust of sitting in a chair, either. Chairs are made by people, and people fail. This trust is that God is good even when He lets me walk through fire. This trust is that God still works together all things for the good of those that love Him, even when what He allows to happen hurts.

You see, that verse in Romans 8 that I quoted before isn’t talking about having super powers because of our faith. In context, it’s talking about suffering.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

It was one thing to trust God when I hadn’t known suffering. But I have suffered and I still suffer today. And I can tell you that I have to choose to trust God every day and He hasn’t let me down once. So, as you walk through your day, remember that God is good, but that His goodness doesn’t hinge on you getting your way. His goodness is the truth that we cling to when the floor falls out from under us, and His faithfulness is the very thing that sustains us when we suffer.


Five Things to do Instead of the #merrychristmasstarbucks “Protest”

As a Christian, I am called to love others. The Bible says in 1 John 4:10-11: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” I am not perfect, and I don’t do this well all of the time. But, it’s what I’m called to do. There is a lot of debate about what “love” really is. Because I’m a Christian, and because I sincerely believe that choosing to have a relationship with Christ is the single most important decision you will make, I will share my faith with you. If I did not share my faith with you, I would be condemning you to an eternity of separation from God through my silence. I will speak about how my relationship with Christ has transformed my life out of love.  

When I wish you a Merry Christmas, I am wishing that you know the freedom and joy of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I am wishing you the peace and joy that comes from knowing Christ. The name of Christ is not meant to offend you. His name is not a curse. His name and the celebration of His birth are a blessing.

I know that many of you celebrate Christmas as a holiday not rooted in Christ or His birth. As a Christian, that causes my heart grief because I know the great joy that comes with knowing Christ. I know that many don’t celebrate Christmas because they believe in other faiths. I believe that Jesus “is the way, the truth, and the life and that no man comes to the Father but by [Him]” (John 14:6). It grieves my heart when you don’t know Jesus as your savior, and when you celebrate or don’t celebrate Christmas without knowing Christ.

The #MerryChristmasStarBucks “protest” truly grieves my heart. The name of Christ is not a prank; nor is it a club with which a Christian should beat a corporation into using “Christmas” during the holiday season. Starbucks has clearly indicated that it does not celebrate Christmas as the birthday of Christ. Furthermore, do reindeer and snowflakes on your coffee cup symbolize Christmas as a celebration of Christ’s birth?


As Christians, instead of protesting a corporation’s choice to not decorate their cups with Rudolf (and ignoring the fact that they make a killing off of their Christmas blend coffee annually), let’s think about using our social leverage to accomplish these five things:

  1. Spend the five dollars that you would have spent on your Starbucks drink on food for the local food bank.
  2. Practice responsible consumerism. If you find that a corporation doesn’t act ethically, don’t do business with them. Did your clothing come from a sweatshop? Was your food produced in a manner that was harmful to the environment? Your energy might be well spent making informed decisions about the companies with whom you do business based more than just an image on a cardboard cup.
  3. When it’s the Christmas season (post Thanksgiving) cheerfully wish whomever you interact with a Merry Christmas if appropriate. Do not force them or trick them into wishing you a Merry Christmas. Jesus did not go around tricking people into saying that He was the Messiah.
  4. Understand that as a Christian, your social responsibility is not to force corporations and their employees to act like you want them to while ignoring widows and orphans. Your responsibility is to know and share Christ. A five dollar cup of coffee not decorated with meaningless symbols not representative of your faith is not cause for great alarm in the light of wars, famines, droughts, an overcrowded foster care system, corrupt corporate government systems, or global warming.
  5. Act like Christ would have acted. Love your neighbor as yourself, and correct your fellow Christian in love if you see them behaving out of line of the faith. (IE- If you see them acting foolishly over a cardboard cup of bean juice because it doesn’t have a picture of a mythical red-nosed quadruped on it around the time that you celebrate the birth of your savior.)

Happy Thanksgiving, friends. May true gratefulness for all that God has blessed us with full our hearts and lead us to acts of love that reflect His willingness to come to earth as a helpless infant to die on the cross to pay for our sins even though we don’t deserve it.

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Emotions Lie

Hi, internets. I’m here. I’m alive. I’ve been hiding. I’m way late in my 31 day series, but sometimes, we have to set our to-do lists aside and deal with ourselves in private.

My due date was November 4th. Many of the babies who were due around Cora’s due date have been born, and my heart has been struggling with the Lord.

New waves of grief have swept over me daily as I’ve been shown images of fat, healthy babies born in the last few days; as I’ve heard the names that have been given to them that speak life over the years that we pray that the Lord grants us with them. I’m so thankful for the healthy babies that the Lord has given those that I love. I’m so grateful that He’s granted their mothers health and safety through their delivery.

But I wrestle with myself. I wrestle with God as I fight my emotions that don’t tell the truth. My emotions tell me that I’ve been cheated of the physical discomfort of late pregnancy. My emotions tell me that I’ve been cheated of a happy, expectant stay in the hospital waiting for a live baby to be born instead of wishing that I’ll wake up from a nightmare and still be pregnant. My emotions tell me that anxiety is normal, and that because the worst case scenario has happened, it will always happen. My emotions tell me that I’ve been cheated of joy around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

My emotions don’t tell me the truth. They tell me that God can’t be good because my heart is still in pieces inside me as the weather turns cool. They tell me that God can’t be good because we don’t know what happened or if I should try to become pregnant again. They tell me that pain is bad so God cannot be good because He has allowed me to experience immense pain.

These things are not true, and that has to be my inner dialogue. God is good. God has not abandoned me, nor does He when my emotions boil over. God’s nature has not changed. He knows my pain, and feels it with me. When Lazarss died, even though Jesus knew that He would raise him from the dead, Jesus wept. He mourned him.

As you help those that you love through loss, help them recognize when their emotions are not true; when they should resist them. Encourage them to take their emotions to the foot of the cross every day, praying continually and reminding themselves of God’s goodness daily.

Throughout the month of October, I’m writing a series titled “Hopeful Grief” with a fabulous group of writers, doing the Write31Days challenge. To catch up, or see new posts, click here. Interested in last year’s Write31Days posts? Click here. Know someone that this series may touch? Share as you see fit. 

You can also sign up to receive notifications when I post something new, using the link to the right. If you’d like, you can sign up for extras too, such as exclusive newsletters and personal updates, by using the “Click Here” button to the right. Want even more? Connect with me on social media. 

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Another thing that has helped me immensely has been taking the time to focus on my health after losing Cora. Physically, delivering her and dealing with the grief of losing her left me in pain. I needed to spend time resting because I was so exhausted. My time of rest was needed, and I still need to take breaks.

But the time came that I needed to move. I needed to exercise to take care of myself. So I started slowly. (Sometimes I did too much because it was so nice to not sit down.) And I decided to try and exercise. I wanted to be outside as much as I could, so I started a Couch to 5k program. I thought that the shin splint issues that have plagued me since I was a teenager would take me out of the program after a few weeks, but the plan (and app) would help me get started.

So I started. And I really enjoyed it. And it got me outside three times a week. And I’ve kept going, and hit a milestone yesterday. I ran for twenty minutes straight. I have never been able to run that long. I was so proud of myself.

Having an exercise goal has been so good for me. I’ve been physically taking care of myself, I’ve been focusing on a positive goal, and God reminds me that He gives me strength for each day. And exercise makes me feel better.

When a loved one goes through a loss, when the time is right, encourage them to physically take care of themselves through exercising. It’s so easy to get swallowed up in grief and to decide to not care for your physical body, even though God commands us to do that. Exercise is good for their hearts, too. When my emotions are in turmoil, moving helps calm my emotions. It helps me turn my focus from my sadness to God.

So when you go visit someone who’s gone through a loss, ask them if they want to go for a walk. It might help them clear their head a little bit.

Throughout the month of October, I’m writing a series titled “Hopeful Grief” with a fabulous group of writers, doing the Write31Days challenge. To catch up, or see new posts, click here. Interested in last year’s Write31Days posts? Click here. Know someone that this series may touch? Share as you see fit. 

You can also sign up to receive notifications when I post something new, using the link to the right. If you’d like, you can sign up for extras too, such as exclusive newsletters and personal updates, by using the “Click Here” button to the right. Want even more? Connect with me on social media. 

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Don’t be Afraid

I’ve found in the past three months that when you lose a baby, people are scared to talk to you about it. They feel like if they bring up your loss that they will break your heart all over again. I feel almost like the elephant in the room, because everyone knows what happens but everyone is scared to broach the subject. I won’t explode if someone bring up miscarriage, stillbirth, or pregnancy around me. I can guarantee that I’ve probably already thought about it that day. I may cry, but that’s part of the grieving process. (Crying isn’t that bad. Crying is actually good for me. It helps me process my grief.)  

I think that this is half the reason that pregnancy and infant loss is obscure in our culture. We don’t ever talk about it, so when someone wants to bring it up, they don’t know how. They don’t know if it’s okay. That’s one of the reasons that I’ve spoken so much about loss in this past month, because if I speak, it might free someone else to speak about their own experience or questions.

But I want to encourage you. If you have a question for me, for instance if you’ve gone through loss and want to know if we’ve felt similar things or if you know someone who is going through a loss now and you want to see what I would have appreciated in that situation, ask me. I appreciate your sensitivity to my grieving process and for my feelings, but it’s okay to ask if you have a question. If you ask a nosey question (where you’re just trying to get all up in my business and we’re not that close), I will most likely tell you that I’m not comfortable talking about your question. But you won’t hurt my feelings. I’m a naturally nosey person myself, so I’m totally okay with you asking and I’m totally okay telling you “no” if that’s what’s needed.

If you love someone who is going through a loss, ask them questions. Don’t be scared to talk about loss around them, as long as you’re careful to be sensitive to who they are and what you know of them. If they ask you to not bring something up, honor their request. But don’t make them feel like the elephant in the room. That only makes them feel alone in their grief.

Throughout the month of October, I’m writing a series titled “Hopeful Grief” with a fabulous group of writers, doing the Write31Days challenge. To catch up, or see new posts, click here. Interested in last year’s Write31Days posts? Click here. Know someone that this series may touch? Share as you see fit. 

You can also sign up to receive notifications when I post something new, using the link to the right. If you’d like, you can sign up for extras too, such as exclusive newsletters and personal updates, by using the “Click Here” button to the right. Want even more? Connect with me on social media. 

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One of the most powerful things that you can do for someone who has experienced loss is to pray for them and let them know that you’re praying for them. It seems simple, but so often it’s forgotten.

This may feel too simple, but really, it is so pivotal.

James 5:16b-18

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

So, if the loss is of a child or of an adult, remember to pray for those who are left behind. And let the person you love know that you’re praying for them.

Throughout the month of October, I’m writing a series titled “Hopeful Grief” with a fabulous group of writers, doing the Write31Days challenge. To catch up, or see new posts, click here. Interested in last year’s Write31Days posts? Click here. Know someone that this series may touch? Share as you see fit. 

You can also sign up to receive notifications when I post something new, using the link to the right. If you’d like, you can sign up for extras too, such as exclusive newsletters and personal updates, by using the “Click Here” button to the right. Want even more? Connect with me on social media. 

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When someone that you love has experienced a loss, offer to help. And when I say “help”, I mean ask them if they need anything at all. And if it’s possible, do what that person asks, even if they ask you to not come to see them right away.

Right after I got home from the hospital after we lost Cora and Momma went home, my siblings came down to see me. My sister asked if I need anything, and I asked her to buy me a betta fish. Sound strange? Maybe it was. But it was what I needed at the time. My old betta fish had died right before Cora died, and I was so sad to not even have a tiny little fish to take care of after I had given birth. So my sister bought me a fish, and we named him f-Swimee. And I’m picky about my fish, and I only trusted her to pick out the perfect fish.

While I sat upstairs with my sister, my brothers helped Husbandman fix a broken bed support in the basement. He needed people to be with him, and I needed time alone.

After I’d been home for a while and Husbandman had gone back to work, my friends from work would drop food off every day for over a week, and people would spend a few minutes sitting with me and talking to me if I needed it. They really helped keep me from going crazy from being alone with my thoughts too long while I was home alone.

So, when someone that you love loses someone, listen to what they tell you when you ask them what they need. If they can’t figure out what they need, offer something specific, like food or doing laundry. Ask if they need someone to clean their house or if they need you to take them out to get their nails done. Ask if they need to be alone or if they don’t need to be alone. And if they need to be alone for the time being, send them a card or flowers or a sweet gift and then ask them if they’re ready for company next week.

And hear them. And do your best to care for them.❤

Throughout the month of October, I’m writing a series titled “Hopeful Grief” with a fabulous group of writers, doing the Write31Days challenge. To catch up, or see new posts, click here. Interested in last year’s Write31Days posts? Click here. Know someone that this series may touch? Share as you see fit. 

You can also sign up to receive notifications when I post something new, using the link to the right. If you’d like, you can sign up for extras too, such as exclusive newsletters and personal updates, by using the “Click Here” button to the right. Want even more? Connect with me on social media.