Why I Love Valentine’s Day Even Though I’m Single ;) #MyConfessions

It’s no surprise to anyone who knows me that I love LOVE. <3 There is no shortage of hearts, the color red, or love in marquee lights in my home. I’ve always had a thing for the L-word. Hence the romance writing but the most beautiful thing about love is that it is more than hearts and flowers or lovey-dovey hugs and kisses. (Not that those things aren’t awesome cause they are.) Love is opening the door for someone. Love is mowing the lawn. Love is doing or saying something to help someone else. Love is being an encourager and sometimes it is being the person who listens and gives a shoulder to cry on. Love is an endless list of actions.

V-Day isn’t about the flowers, the chocolates, the jewelry, or all of those ways the world has commercialized love. You can’t buy love. You can buy lust but true love is a rare thing that cannot be purchased. It is found, fostered, and grown. It is something we spend so much of our time seeking that we often miss the fact it’s on our doorstep.

I’m learning that we need love from different sources—from our parents, our family, our friends (younger, older, and our own age), our significant others, and ourselves. I wasn’t able to fully love myself until I discovered the love that resides inside me through my faith, which has carried me through some seriously awful days and some amazing days, too. I’m incredibly thankful my heart was opened to that love.

Love has taught me that to live a fulfilled, bold life of purpose that I need the love and support of YOU. We are all connected. We need fellowship. We need encouragement. And no matter how independent we think we are, we do our best work when we work together. We need each other.

So like Thanksgiving is that holiday that reminds us to be thankful for at least one day (even if we should be filled with gratitude every day) Valentine’s Day is a holiday to remind us to love. And while all those gifts you buy at the store are wonderful and sweet, remember it’s of no monetary sacrifice to give the greatest gift of all—your love. The world needs more love and I’ll preach that until my dying day or until we live in a kind, peaceful, loving world, whichever comes first.

I know this day can be a difficult day for some. Believe me, I haven’t forgotten those first gut wrenching V-Days after losing Chris. They sucked. And if I hadn’t found a way to love myself or pour my heart into those around me and shift my perspective on this day, then I’d still be in that rough spot.

If this day is a tough one for you here’s a few things that helped me through:

Love never dies. It only changes forms.

Hearts take time to mend. Hearts take time to heal. Be patient with yourself and others.

You are loved. Repeat this until you believe it. Sometimes our heads can be stubborn.

And of course, never give up on your always and forever. Love covers a multitude of sins and hurts. Love heals the soul. I know this because I’m living proof.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Thank you for all the love you pour into my life! I wouldn’t be me without YOU!

#LoveHugsAndSunshine #NeverGiveUpOnYourAlwaysAndForever #YouGetWhatYouGive #GiveLove #FindYourShine

My Confessions: Fighting the “Impossible” and Danny Gokey Fangirling #MondayMotivation #DontGiveUp

Confession. Sometimes I feel like a lone soldier fighting for “impossible” dreams. I’m constantly battling the world I see with my eyes and the world I see with my heart. It’s a relentless war of trying to share, prove, and show to others and myself that there’s more beneath the surface. There’s great hope in our future.

When I was awakened by my adorable yet persistent dog at some ridiculous hour this morning, between the whining (from both him and myself) I climbed out of bed with a consistent thought on repeat in my sleepy head, “I know the plans of I have for you, plans for hope and a future.” Now that’s not the exact verse verbatim from the Bible, you can read the whole verse in Jeremiah 29:11 if you’re interested.

First of all, when I wake up in the wee hours of the morning my brain typically is not filled with thoughts other than, “if I don’t move maybe he’ll stop whining and go back to sleep.” (By the way, that rarely ever happens. He knows when I’m awake.) As I stood at the door waiting for my old pup to do his business and come back in side, the thought kept repeating in my brain like a broken record, “I know the plans I have for you, plans for hope and a future.” Well that’s all fine and wonderful but why do I keep hearing this? Especially at four o’clock in the morning when I should be sleeping.

After waking up at a more suitable hour that included coffee and breakfast, I finished reading an amazing book and I think I’m starting to get the message.

Since hitting publish on How I Learned to Shine Again, I’ve been pulled back into the not so fun places of sadness and loneliness. Also, all of the little issues with getting the paperbacks out (to no fault of my designers or my own) has been incredibly frustrating. (And I’m still fighting that battle.) I’ve come to learn when I get in those low places, I have to reach out and find ways to help myself work through the feelings and re-ignite my fire again. Sometimes it involves spending time with my peoples, reading the Bible, listening to music, taking a walk, or writing, but it always includes lots and lots of prayer. This time I think I prayed so much God had to be thinking, “I know, I know. Chill out.” Okay so He probably wasn’t thinking that but I’m telling you if I wasn’t sleeping, I was praying.

I went through my usual “How to Make Michelle Feel Better” checklist but still the funk held on. Every time I’d get close to kicking it, it would return at full force. When this happens it steals my focus from my work and throws it back to my obstacles. It’s difficult to be creative and to move forward when you’re stuck on the negative. And I was really stuck, but I was trying. I still am.

The Friday after my book released I had the wonderful opportunity to see Danny Gokey in concert and even got to meet him! It was just this last spring that I even “discovered” him and his music. (I know. I’m totally late to the party.) His song, “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again” came on one of my Pandora stations and left me in tears–the emotions, the words, the music–everything about it felt like me. I downloaded his albums and realized his music is the soundtrack to my heart. It perfectly captures the feelings of my life since losing Chris–the pain and the hope. In writing my book, those songs allowed me to transport myself back and forth from the tough memories to the hope in my heart. And while wrapping up final edits, his latest song, “Rise” gave me the extra push I needed to kick the self-doubt and rally to finish it.

In case you want to check out the songs…

Also, I started following him on social media. I cannot tell you how much his posts with his beautiful wife and adorable children remind me to not give up on the dreams in my heart, to not give up on my always and forever. As humans we need to see real life moments and victories to help strengthen our hope and faith for our future.

While at the concert I realized he wrote a book so of course I HAD to buy it. Again totally late to the game here. I was disappointed that I didn’t have a copy of my book to give him because I’d written about how his music helped me. I’d planned all along to give him a copy, but you know life–things don’t always go as planned. Regardless, I was still super excited to meet him!

14915210_10100263470694919_6084696830045117188_nThis morning, I finished his book, Hope in Front of Me. I read about his struggles, his loss of his wife, and his journey. The love and respect I already carried for him grew even deeper while at the same time it felt as if I was reading my own words–my own story from a different view. I had several, Holy crap! I talk about that in my book, too kind of moments. It wasn’t until the end of the book–those last few chapters the tears hit me.

I was reminded I’m not the lone soldier fighting the good fight of “impossible” dreams, trying to find ways to instill hope, comfort, and healing in the hands of those who need it most. I’m not the only person who’s endured these struggles.

Of course I know that. I know I’m not the only one who has suffered but in reading his victories–personal and professional and the “real life” obstacles that accompany them it allowed me to push away the barrier of isolation again. It allowed my heart to believe it.

I know I’m not the only one with a mission in my heart that people don’t always understand. I know I’m not the only one who doesn’t feel ready for what my heart is calling me to do. I know all of these things and more but just like seeing your life in black and white makes the pain and loss undeniably real it also makes the love, hope, and healing incredibly real. It reminds us what seems impossible isn’t always the case.

I needed to read that book just like I needed to wake up with that broken record thought spouting hope for my future. I don’t understand how or when but I know the dreams in my heart will happen. I’m not stuck, I’m still moving forward even if I don’t always know where the next step is going to land me.

And so are you. Sometimes it feels like nothing is happening and we’re stuck in the troubles of today while worrying that the what if’s of tomorrow are only going to make things worse. I know how hard it is to put faith and hope into the good possibilities of our future and I’ve seen and felt first hand miracles in my own life. How easily we forget miracles. How quickly we believe we’ve already received our life allotment of magical moments. I’m going to keep believing in my always and forever’s (that’s right I’ve got more than one dream.) I hope you find it in your heart to keep hoping and moving towards yours.

If you’re interested in Danny Gokey’s book, here’s the Amazon link–> Hope in Front of Me

And remember never give up on your always and forever.

#MondayMotivation #DontGiveUp #BookLove #MyConfessions