Take the trip

I love to travel.

Seeing new places. Trying new foods. All of it.

It’s not just about the trip itself. It’s everything that goes into it. Researching the flights. Finding the perfect AirBNB or hotel. Planning activities to do once we’re there. It’s a thrill for me. Even if it’s not my trip, I love helping someone else plan theirs. I think in another life I was a travel agent.

The only thing I hate about trips is they cost a lot of money. Especially right now.

Seven years ago I was living in Little Rock and was a few months in at my new job as a multi-media journalist at a local news station. A fancy title for a job description that literally requires you to carry up to 50 pounds of camera gear and shoot, write and edit a story on a deadline each day. Not the most glamorous of careers, and certainly not the highest paying, but I loved what I did.

In the summer of 2015, my boyfriend Brock asked me to go to Alaska with him. He was born there and grew up in Juneau. I had never been to Alaska. I’m a Florida girl at heart with a love of beaches and warm weather. But the travel bug had bitten me and I could sense an adventure was on the horizon.

The only problem? I was broke. Starting out in the news industry yields very little income. Not to mention, a flight from Little Rock, Arkansas to Juneau, Alaska was easily a 1/4 of my paycheck. But I was in love and I wanted to share this adventure with Brock and explore the place he loved so much.

So I booked the flight. I can’t remember, but it was most likely on a credit card. I didn’t care though. All I could do was count down the days until I took off to a place I had never been before with the man I loved.

If you’ve ever been to Alaska, you already know it’s a beautiful place. I had no idea what to expect, but something told me it wouldn’t disappoint. And it certainly didn’t.

Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska

Brock was so excited to be my tour guide. Our first stop was Mendenhall Glacier. I had never seen a glacier before! I was amazed. I remember the sun was out and there was a slight chill in the air. I thought it was wild that it was the middle of summer and I was wearing a jacket!

Brock and I in front of Mendenhall Glacier, August 2015

The next week was spent doing all sorts of things I had never experienced before. We went fishing for salmon, which we caught and cooked that night. We ate Pel Menis, Brock’s favorite food, at this little restaurant in downtown Juneau. We saw humpback whales jump out of the water and create the biggest splash I’d ever seen. It was the most amazing week of my life.

Fishing for salmon in Alaska, August 2015

I remember waking up very early to go to the airport the day I was set to leave. It felt like the week had flown by. I hugged Brock so hard. I didn’t want to let go. Goodbyes are always hard in long-distance relationships, but this time felt different. I had this unnerving feeling. I was scared. I remember so clearly thinking, “What if this is the last time I ever get to hug him?” I don’t know why I thought that. Maybe I was overwhelmed with emotions with such a beautiful week coming to an end and our long-distance relationship beginning again. I missed him and I hadn’t even left yet. I hugged him tighter. I kissed him, said goodbye, and walked to my gate not knowing that was the last hug I would ever get from him.

Three weeks later, I got the call that Brock had passed away.

My heart aches when I think back on that moment at the airport. I had no way of knowing that was the last time. How could I? If I had, would I have done something differently? Would I have never left? Would I have made him come with me? The questions have run through my head on countless sleepless nights. I have wrestled with more “what ifs” than I can count. My mind replays that moment over and over again. I can literally feel the warmth of his hug, the touch of his hand holding mine. The ache becomes so real all over again.

There are so many things I wish I would have said or done had I known it was the last time. But there is one thing I would never change.

Booking that flight and going on that adventure was the best decision I ever made. Words cannot describe how thankful I am for the precious memories made on that trip. They are all I have left of the man who stole my heart and forever changed my life.

Life is short. Tomorrow is not promised. You only live once. We hear these sayings the time, but are we really listening? This life is a GIFT and so are the people who are in it. So take advantage of every moment. Experience a new adventure. Try a new food. Quit your job if it’s making you unhappy. Stop waiting and ask him out! Be brave. Start over.

And always, always, always, take the trip.

Love, L.

Turning unbelievable pain into incredible purpose

Earlier this week, someone asked me the question: “When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?”

Over the years my answers changed. I wanted to be a police officer, a fire fighter, a mail (wo)man, a teacher and an astronaut. Eventually I settled on a “Lemonade,” which I thought was a person who ran a lemonade stand. A Lemon-aide. Get it? No? Yeah — me either. But I did have some pretty lucrative lemonade stands as a kid.

Even as I got older, my answer as to what I wanted to be when I grew up changed. Or really, it stalled. In college, all my friends seemed so sure of the paths they had taken, or so it seemed. Doctors, teachers, lawyers, nurses. But I was still unsure.

Eventually, I found my calling in television. Looking back I’ve always wanted to be a news anchor. I loved watching the news growing up. My sister and I even set up an pretend news desk in our room when we were kids, threw on my step-dad’s old blazers, grabbed some coffee cups and in 3…2…1 we were live. One time we “reported” in a hurricane holding hairbrushes as microphones and made my brother “blow away” behind us in a bright yellow poncho. Yes there is video somewhere, and no you will not see it.

The purpose of this post though isn’t to reminisce about what we wanted to be when we grew up. Instead, it’s about our purpose in life. God’s purpose for us. And sometimes that purpose is born from grief.

Grief is overwhelming. It’s the most unimaginable pain in the world. It’s as if someone ripped your heart out, stomped on it and then hands it back to you, but there is a giant piece missing. An incredible ache that will never go away.

I spent many dark, sad and lonely nights pleading with God to “just take the pain away. ” There were so many times where I didn’t think I would survive the night because the pain was too much to bear.

But what if there is a purpose in that pain?

Hear me out — I do NOT mean “everything happens for a reason.” If one more person tells me that, I may ACTUALLY punch them in the face. (Grief is ugly remember?) But this pain cannot be for nothing, right?

As I continued on my grief journey, the pain stayed with me, but it softened. My conversations with God softened too. Instead of screaming up at Him yelling, “Why God, why?” I prayed for Him to use me. To give my pain purpose.

And so he did.

A year ago today, I stood on stage and accepted an Emmy award for a documentary I poured 5 months of my life into. In the documentary, I openly share about my loss. I’ll share more in a future post, but I spent many years alone in my pain and grief. It was when I prayed for God to use that pain to help others, that the door opened and I saw Him at work through me.

Since then, I have traveled the state and shared my story with schools, church groups and organizations. I started a grief group in my city. I’ve used my platform as a news anchor to educate others. God is giving purpose to my pain and allowing me to help others. He doesn’t “give his biggest battles to his strongest soldiers,” (another punch in the face) but He does give us His toughest battles to prove His strength to the weak. To prove that we are only strong when we admit we are weak and lean on Him for guidance.

I don’t know what your specific purpose is, but rest assured that God does. He has the power to turn your unbelievable pain into incredible purpose. And He will — when the time is right. Have faith in that.

Pastor and author, Levi Lusko, once wrote, “Pain is a microphone. And the more it hurts, the louder you get. Suffering isn’t an obstacle to being used by God. It is an opportunity to be used like never before.

Well, I’ve since traded in my hairbrush for an actual microphone, but don’t worry you don’t need the real thing. Allow God to use your pain for something great. And if you aren’t sure what that is yet, simply ask Him to show you.

Love, L.

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Choose Joy.

Have you ever woken up in a bad mood? Maybe you slept badly. Or you are hungover. Worse yet — it’s Monday. Oh — and it’s raining.

Yes, that kind of day.

The bad mood you wake up in can carry with you throughout the day. Unless, you decide to change it and choose joy.

It’s a decision.

A conscious effort you have to make every single day.

And it’s not easy.

But let me be the first to tell you, there are worse things that can happen to you than being hungover on a rainy Monday morning after sleeping badly the night before.

Choosing joy has been a mission for me these past few years. And I’ll be the first to admit, I have failed at that mission. A lot.

But in order for me to live, I need to choose joy. It’s not an option. It’s necessary.

This blog isn’t just for those who have lost someone and are dealing with the unbearable pain of grief. But if that is you, keep reading.

It’s for the person who is struggling to find the light in the dark.

The person who, for whatever reason, has lost hope.

I’m not a therapist and I don’t have a happy pill to make life better. But I can speak (and write) from experience that even when it feels like all hope is lost, there is a light.

And that’s what I plan to do with this blog.

To write what I feel, when I feel it, and pray that it will reach someone who needs to hear it. It’s a little terrifying to put your pain on paper and be vulnerable, but in my experience, it has only helped me in the process of my own grief journey.

Just like in my Facebook posts, what I write will be raw, real and honest. Some things will come from my everyday encounters. Other parts will be straight from the pages of my personal journal, to help you see that where you are now in your hurt and pain is not where you will be forever.

Thank you to my friends and family who gave me the encouragement to do this. Here goes nothing! #ChooseJoy

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Love, L.