1330. Long is the way and hard, that out of Hell leads up to light. ~John Milton

In a futile attempt to erase our past,
we deprive the community of our healing gift.
If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame,
our inner darkness can neither be illuminated
nor become a light for others.
~Brennan Manning

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Everyone has a story no matter what their age. We who are older however are actually made up of a series of stories, and in each of them tides turned along the way or remained static because of the choices we made and/or the chances we took. And one of the most critical choices each one of us has to make is whether or not to be authentically who God intended us to be. Most of us have somewhat of a grasp of that early on, but adolescence is and was a game changer. Living through those years is like what Virginia Woolf once said, “the eyes of others are our prisons; their thoughts our cages.” During the formative, teen years rather than remaining true to oneself, many try to be what the eyes of others think they should be and to think thoughts and to have ideas that this body of “they” believe to be “cool.” Because teens, like everyone else, want to be liked and accepted, their innocence and naïveté prompts many of them to succumb partially or wholly to the standards and choices of others in order to remain “free” from the prisons and cages of their peers, the intimidating, corporate “they.” And I was just as guilty of that as anyone else until one night, years and years later, in the middle of a very emotionally and physically painful night, it dawned on me that though there was no one there in the darkness to help me cope, to soothe me, or to stop the pain. And that was the mid-life game changer that motivated me to walk back far enough through time to remember who Natalie genuinely was, to embrace her, and to walk into the future as the Natalie I was meant to be. A subsequent choice I made was not to let what had broken me define who Natalie was and is but instead with God’s grace to find my inner light and let it shine even if at times it yet has to break forth through tears.

Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light. ~Brené Brown

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden…” ~Matthew 5:14  ✝

**Collage of developing ages in Natalie’s life gathered and put in chronological order by Natalie

826. With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts. ~Eleanor Roosevelt

We live between the act of awakening
and the act of surrender.
Each morning, we awaken to the light
and the invitation to a new day 
in the world of time.
Each night, we surrender to the dark
to be taken to play in the world
of dreams where time is no more.
~John O’Donohue

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Every morning is a chance to forget
the pains of yesterday and to see
the changes a brand new day brings –
chances to dance and laugh again,
chances to make up for wrong things done.
Most of all, it’s God’s reminder
that He’s sending another blessing –
another chance at this thing called “LIFE.”
~Edited lines by Justice Cabral

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness, Lord. ~Lamentations 3:22-23  ✝

Oh Lord, lover of my soul, thank you for coming to dance with we again…

**Image via Pinterest