Friday, June 26, 2015

The Preparing of Hearts

I can't call Avery's death a tragedy. How she died, yes, absolutely. But that she died? I can't. I just can't.

Avery loved God in a way I never understood when she was alive. She lived for Him. And, while she certainly loved me like crazy, I can't help but think she saw me more as her foster mom. The earthly mama-heart loving her like my own while the ultimate goal was reuniting her with her real father: God in Heaven.

She lived her earthly life with the sole purpose - and soul purpose - to ensure one day she would go home to live with her Lord and Savior. And she did just that. How could I think it was tragic that she made it safely home into her Daddy's arms? 

But even knowing that.... man, it's hard, you know? To be, well, to be here when she's not.

I miss her every single second of every single day and unless you've gone through such heavy loss you won't understand how it is entirely possible to stand around a kitchen with friends joking and laughing about making dip and how you were named while half of you aches with a sorrow and grief so strong it threatens to steal your soul.

It's confusing and hard to make sense of, so I try not to focus on that part. Instead I try to think about how God can prepare a heart without us even knowing that's what He's up to.

After Avery's death I realized the multitude of ways God prepared our hearts for her departure. Different things she had said and done. The way she was able to spend one on one time with every one of her dear friends and siblings before her departure. The scripture she quoted and explained. The letters she wrote and the declarations she made. 

She was so happy in those days before her passing. More so, she was at peace. A peace that kind of unnerved me, if I was being honest. It's like those last days of a long vacation when you know it's coming to a close, when you sit back a little longer and just reflect on the fun you had, the memories you made. And you think, yes, this was good. But I can't wait to get home. 

It's almost like she knew.

And most certainly, God knew. Because He was so busy preparing our hearts.

I went to a concert the other day. Jon Troast has played at a couple events we've had in Avery's honor. He opened for Jamie Grace, played at Avery's birthday celebration and performed on this amazing historic boat when we announced AVERYday Ministries was committed to building a house in Haiti as a way to continue Avery's passion and dreams. I'm a big fan of Jon and you should be, too.

His concerts are always full of laughter and this incredible way he has to make profound statements in the most lighthearted, easy way. His music has thought and feeling and depth, while mostly being upbeat and dance-able - not to mention easy to sing along with. I always walk away feeling like I would have missed something important if I hadn't attended.

But I wasn't expecting this.

Jon turned to the audience and told us that recently his youngest brother passed away suddenly and very unexpectedly. A week earlier, not knowing any of this was about to occur - he sat down and wrote this song.... now, you tell me God doesn't love us enough to prepare our hearts well. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Speak Louder than the Photo

There it was. Posted for all the world to see. Or, rather, for all the friends of friends to see.

A series of innocuous photos. This family, bright eyed and smiling, arms wrapped around each other in one pose, cheerfully jumping off some concrete steps in another. There were pictures of just the grown siblings, just the grandchildren, the whole group with the grandparents, and with each separate family unit: mom, dad and children. 

Undeniable proof in each photo: Smiles. Camaraderie. Friendliness. Joy. Love. Acceptance

And my heart broke.

Because for me those photos symbolize the complete opposite of love and acceptance. They represent complete failure. They represent a whole lot of hurt. They represent a past I was unwelcome in and a future where it's best to pretend I don't exist.

Ten years ago I decided to take a dating sabbatical for 1 entire year. More than that, I intentionally swore off flirting, handing out my phone number and even taking inventory of eligible men in the room 15-seconds after I arrived. Instead I chose,for the first time in my life, to be present and aware of the moment I was in with the friends I was with. 

I'm not going to lie. Those first two months were the hardest. After a string of bad choices I was finally trying to do the right thing; but all I felt was alone and hopeless. I tried desperately not to compare myself to any girl in a seemingly successful relationship and mostly I cried myself to sleep.

I was a single mom of two beautiful girls. I had a decent job. I had fabulous friends. I lived 27 steps away from the shore of the most gorgeous lake in all of Walworth County. My life was good. I didn't need a man. 

Before I knew it I was actually enjoying my singleness. I grew in strength. I grew in courage. I grew in independence. I not only knew who I was, I liked who I was

The 12 months came and went. I didn't see anyone around me worth dating so I continued being happily single. I danced. A lot! I laughed. A lot! I became even more involved in my community. I performed in theater, joined book club and a MOMS group. And I prayed - prayed hard - that when the time was right, God would show me a good man with a good family who would love me the way I deserved to be loved and who I could be proud of.

I was so busy praying for all sorts of romantic notions I forgot to pray for a tough exterior. 

Don't get me wrong. They had every right to be concerned for one of their own; especially when he started spending time (and money) on an unknown girl with kids of her own. That's a big responsibility. It's a big risk. And they showed their love and concern by understandably zeroing in on me. 

And I accepted that. I sat quiet and respectful through some of the most ridiculous situations I have ever endured thinking that it's always difficult in the beginning and things will soon get better.

They didn't.

Things kept getting worse and worse and, quite frankly, I had absolutely no experience in how to handle the situation. Every time I showed up, I left with more hurt. 

So, I stopped showing up. 

Apparently, that made things worse. I was suddenly the most vile person on the planet because I didn't want to choose to go stand in their line of fire. He even warned me: If you stop going over there, it's going to get worse.

And boy was he right! I found myself thrust into an insane confrontation at Walmart that was one of the single most bizarre (and physically intimidating) situations of my entire life. I had never seen people act like that, much less been the target of it - the only thing I knew to do was avoid his sister at all cost. I couldn't even begin to imagine what she'd do to me if he hadn't been standing there next to me. Or if my child wasn't with. Or if I hadn't been pregnant. 

I stopped going to his ball games because she was there and I was petrified. 

I stopped going to the store because I might run into her.

A few weeks after our son was born I sat and listened as my boyfriend uncomfortably and quite awkwardly explained he had to go get photos taken with our son, with his family... but without me. 

From the very beginning they felt their son/brother deserved better than me. And they were probably right. Who knows, maybe I held on tighter to him out of a "you can't get rid of me" stubbornness. But I still held out hope: maybe if they would just lessen their anger toward me a bit. Maybe if they would apologize. Maybe if they would try to really get to know me. 

But it didn't matter. They weren't about to do any of the sort.

After another incredibly scary public confrontation at the county fair (this time I was surrounded by my parents, my niece, my brother and my two kids) I decided I just couldn't do it anymore. We live in a very small community and it was only a matter of time before I was met on the street alone. If that kind of meanness can come out with witnesses, I didn't want to imagine what would happen if there were none.

Their point had been made. I was not wanted. Nor would I ever be.

I couldn't make people like me. Nor could I make them want to be civil toward me. And I was far too weak and sensitive to keep showing up for more hate.

The thing about knowing you're not accepted, not wanted, not liked or tolerated, even, is that it hurts. It's a hurt that digs deep into the parts of you where whispers sleep, waiting to be awoken. 

Who do you think you are?

You are nobody.

Nobody likes you.

People can't even stand the sight of you.

You're not wanted here. 

We wish you were dead.

And unless you have a voice of love louder than that of hate, you're doomed.

Sometimes that voice of love comes in the form of a partner, or a sibling, or a friend. Sometimes, even in a stranger on the street.

You are beautiful!

I love how you make me laugh!

Your insight has changed my life!

I am in awe of your strength!

I have never met anyone more compassionate for others!

Your heart for others is contagious!

Thank you for being you!

I am so glad I met you!

I am so honored to have gotten to know you!

I am so blessed to call you my friend!

Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury of hearing a loud love voice. Not everyone has that loving partner who can talk over the scorn. There are too many sad mamas who sit alone staring at the posted photos thinking about how they represent a failure, a hope dashed, a loud and clear reminder that they are not welcome and never will be because they were deemed simply not good enough. 

So, it's up to us, to the ones who hear the love voice loud and clear to BE the love voice for someone else. 

You can never hand out too many compliments. You can never encourage past your quota. You can never love to loud or too hard.

If that's a cute pair of shoes some lady has on, you march right on up and tell her I love your sense of style! Those shoes are fabulous! Because maybe those are the words that will hush up the hate she heard last night.

If that's a nice gesture that lady just did, letting that elderly man in front of her at the checkout, you look her right in the eye while you say that was such a gracious thing you just did! You are a great example to all of us that a little kindness goes a long way. Because maybe those are the words that will shut up the accusations hurled at her during Easter dinner.

And if that was a lot of work the volunteering mama did all by herself because no one else wanted to do it, you square up and make yourself known and tell her that was incredible! I can't imagine how many hours away from your children that took you, here's a gift card so you can go out with your family for dinner together, stress free! You deserve it! Because maybe those are the words that will finally silence the passive-aggressive sentiments she sat through as she tried stop her eyes from welling up with tears.

Because we are all so much more than what the people who don't want us would like us to think. And the voice of love is the one that speaks truth. You have got to believe that. 

Maybe if we all spoke love a little louder we'd finally drown out the voice of  hate. And maybe we'd all come to realize that there's a heck of a lot more greatness to us than what's represented by a photo posted online.

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Addict's Mama

My aunt tried to call her children to tell them Avery had died. I think about that sometimes. Those phone calls. How people found out. The numbers that were dialed first. The words that were spoken. The reaction.

I remember calling my cousin on the way to the hospital. To this day I feel so bad that I put that responsibility on her. Avery died. Please tell the others...  Can you imagine receiving such a phone call?

My aunt called her children. Except she couldn't get a hold of Little Luke. I used to call him Ducky when he was little. The most perfect child I had ever laid eyes on.

Luke was sweet. Gentle. Loving. He had the best giggle in the world. And I adored the way he said my name in his precious voice, unable to pronounce the "r"... Bwidget.

In the months before she died, Avery started insisting that we write Luke a letter to tell him we were praying for him. I never did that. I didn't know then what I know with every fiber of my being now -- that, whether or not people tell you, they need to hear that you actually do love them. That you actually do care. That you actually do pray for them by name.

You see, somewhere between the towheaded innocence of a toddler and the man he is now, my cousin became addicted to heroin. His face a stranger to me. Eyes bloodshot and unable to focus. Hair stringy and unwashed. A shadow of the man God had intended him to be. 

I see him sometimes, at the local cafe downtown or pulling into the gas station. And when I do I always go straight up to him and give him a hug. Sometimes he's alone. Sometimes I walk through the shifty, paranoid eyes of the people he is with. I can imagine what people are thinking as they watch me approach. But I don't care. I know what he looks like on the outside... but I also know his beating heart on the inside.

And that beating heart was one created in love but led astray by hurt, confusion, loneliness and fear into the deceivingly comfortable and accepting arms of addiction. 

Avery was dead. An 11-year old who had pushed and pushed trying to get me to reach out to Luke to tell him we were praying. "Mom," she'd say out of the blue with an urgency I didn't understand, "Little Luke needs to know that we pray for him!" She wanted to do good and I made excuses. 

While my aunt was trying to reach him - calling, leaving messages, even driving to the flop house he'd been known to stay -  Little Luke was driving, driving, driving to nowhere.

And then he pulled over and prayed. 

He prayed. 

In the days that followed, my cousin endured withdrawals with such extreme nausea, body aches and sweats that most people would have succumbed to them. 

While I was laying my daughter to rest, God was pouring new life into my beautiful cousin.

I wish I could say that was the miracle we were all waiting for. I guess it was, for a little while. But not long enough. Heroin is the devil himself dripping from the end of a needle, bullying his way through veins once teaming with joy and laughter with only one goal in mind: complete and utter darkness. 

Little Luke relapsed. Then went back to rehab. Then relapsed again. 

Fighting back tears my aunt spoke, "sometimes it feels like my child is already dead.... I'm just waiting to be told when I can bury him." 

And something snapped inside me.

My aunt has been grieving, grieving hard for her child who comes and goes in fleeting shadows - alone. Alone. 

How fair is it that I have a far reaching community of friends and strangers willing to hold me up when my sorrow becomes too much? But who makes themselves seen to hold up the broken hearted mama of the dirty, drug addicted man-child who ought to know better and make the decision to just "be" sober?

There are no casseroles to store in the freezer for that night when the fear and anxiety become too much and there is no energy left for peeling potatoes when the mother of an addict spent all night on her knees begging God one more time to protect her son and deliver him from the grips of his addiction.

There are no cards with words of hope scribbled in love to the mama whose heart has been shattered for so long she can no longer tell you where the splinters fell. 

This is a mama, a good mama, who held her newborn baby and was filled with the same ferocious love you had when you held yours - and a fierce strength to protect and love him forever. 

This is a mama, a good mama, who looked into her baby's eyes and saw hopes and dreams for him that would rival the ones you had for your own child. 

No, this is not a bad mama. This is not a neglectful mama but rather a compassionate woman of love and strength who believes in an Almighty God and angels who walk among us on earth. This is a mama with a big heart and an even bigger love --- and yet neither of those were big enough to stop her son from sliding down the slippery slope that has plunged them both into an unrecognizable place in this world.

What mom dreams of being the mother of an addict?

What child skips around the house and says when he grows up he wants to shoot up heroin?

Neither are where they pictured themselves to be. 

And the scary, hard to hear truth is there isn't a fierce mama love strong enough to stop any one of the plethora of diseases, addictions or death that can dig their claws into our sweet, sweet babies.

But you know her. 

You know that mama you avoid eye contact with because her kid is the one who smokes or drinks or cuts or swears and thank god you don't have to deal with that. (Guess what? She never thought she would have to deal with that either.)

You know that mama you try not to talk to because her world is so different from yours - what are you going to say to her anyway? So, I hear your son was arrested last week for drunk driving... You don't want that stuff seeping into your life. (Guess what? Maybe she didn't either.)

You know that mama that you ask about some of her kids - the good ones - but not the bad one. It's easier to just pretend that one doesn't exist. (Guess what? She can't pretend.)

I invite you to stop for two minutes. That's all. Just two minutes. And imagine yourself with one of those kinds of kids. The depressed one who was hospitalized again. The addicted one who was fired again. The angry one who was arrested again. 

And tell me, would you want to deal with this heavy, hard stuff while feeling all alone?

We're Mamas and we need to help each other stand! 

Grab a card and send words of hope in it. 

Thinking of your heart today.
Praying for strength and peace

or maybe

Not a day goes by when I don't think of you.
Know that you are always in my prayers. 

That mama who is setting serious boundaries - unwilling to enable their child's addiction by forbidding them into their home, refusing to allow them to participate in Christmas or Easter gatherings, standing firm by not shelling out a single penny to keep them off the street - that mama is tired. Tired to the inside of her bones. 

That mama who flinches every time the phone rings, vacillating between ignoring what could potentially be another venom fueled rant or answering what might end up being the final declaration of her child's life - that mama is tired. Tired in a way that makes her feel 80-years old and unable to see the goodness of a simple sunset anymore.

That mama who worries about meeting new people because inevitably they will ask how many children do you have? and for some reason that simple question pulls her emotions in a way that makes her want to vomit - that mama is tired. Tired to be living this hard mama life she didn't sign up for. Tired of not fitting in with the other mamas. Tired of belonging to a club she never wanted to be a member of.

That mama who sits sometimes at the stoplight wondering if anyone would even show up to her child's funeral, besides, how do you eulogize someone who spent their entire adult life addicted to drugs, finding ways to lie, cheat and steal for more - but yet visions of that beautiful baby and that precocious toddler tells her the truth - that goodness was there and as long as her child breathes on this earth that goodness is still here; it's just being held hostage right now - that mama is tired. So very, very tired. And she doesn't know where to start. 

We can change that. 

A simple smile. A card. A dinner. 

Say to her I am really good at listening.

Say to her I don't understand what you're going through, but know that I am here

Say to her I see you. You are not invisible to me. 

Because, I don't know about you, but sometimes I feel like raising kids is kind of a crap shoot. There's no tried and true formula that ensures a child will never get wrecked in such a way that depression or addiction can't worm its ugly way in. And, while I know we're all doing whatever is in our power to protect our kids, there are just some things beyond our control. And we could all use whatever support we can get.

It's time to stop judging. Stop pretending not to see. Stop fearing that if you show compassion to the addict's mama you somehow ushered addiction into your own children's lives. 

It's time to stop making excuses and start showing compassion.

 And after you have suffered a little while, 
the God of all grace, 
who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, 
will himself restore, 
and establish you.
1 Peter 5:10

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Driver

Years ago, the man I began dating had a motorcycle. He grew up in a family of Harley riders - his brothers, father and even his mother drove motorcycles. I did not. I grew up with 4-wheeler's on dusty trails. Dirt bikes that soared over soft hills. Snowmobiles that raced through open fields. We did not do hard pavement and oncoming traffic at 55-miles per hour.

My hesitation and concern was voiced. It was simply not something I did. Not something I had ever done. Not something I was sure I even wanted to experience. Because hopping on a motorcycle means hopping on something that might, quite possibly, hurt you.

There were stories. Newspaper articles and breaking news announcements proving that one could get hurt when riding a motorcycle.

He heard me. Heard my fears.

And brought me a helmet.

He talked to me about how to lean into a curve and how it was dangerous to try to do the opposite.

He explained how hot the pipes were and how to hang on.

He promised to go slow.

And he did.

True to his word, he puttered slowly down the road, me clinging so tight to his waist I'm almost certain he was incapable of taking in a single breath. Slowly we returned to my driveway, the shortest first trip ever known to man complete, his steady hands carefully unbuckling the helmet. Smiling into my still shaking self he said see, I promised I'd be careful with you.

That trust allowed for longer rides. And longer ones still. He always went slower than he probably wanted. Always took turns more conservatively than he probably wanted. Always cautious and aware making sure I felt safe until I was riding confidently on the back of his bike, head tipped to the sun, the warmth and the wind lulling me into a relaxation I'd never experienced before.

This was good.

Everything was good.

Life was good!

And nothing could touch me!

Until that sudden moment when out of nowhere the bike swerved in a way I instantaneously knew it shouldn't and I could feel the wrongness before I could understand what was happening and without thinking I threw my arms out, hands splayed open, trying desperately to stop myself from hitting the ground, willing myself to please be okay, please be okay, please be okay.....

And then it was quiet.

So beautifully, peacefully quiet.

And the sun was still shining and the sky was still blue and the birds were still singing and the grass was bright green and it was still a picture perfect summer day. Except it wasn't. Because picture perfect summer days weren't supposed to include a motorcycle on its side and a girl in a ditch and her boyfriend - where was her boyfriend?

But then he was there. Right there. Eyes wide and wild, are you okay? Bridget! Are you okay? I'm sorry! I'm sorry! Are you okay? I'm so sorry! And I looked up at him stunned and confused and not even sure if I was okay or not but I said I was. Yeah, yeah. I'm okay. I'm okay. 

He looked at my hands. At the blood dripping and the gravel sticking and we both knew it could have been way worse had he not been driving slow and careful. But we didn't say it.

I wanted to walk back. Like a little kid taking a spill on their bicycle, pushing it back home to get a band aid. But I couldn't. We were in the country, in the middle of nowhere. A pothole, perhaps, misjudged. We thought we were doing everything right. Driving careful. Driving slow. Staying on the quiet roads nobody ever traveled. And we still got hurt.

I had to get back on in order to go back home. I didn't want to. I suggested instead that I sit in the ditch while he went back and got his truck. Bridget, he said quietly, apologetic eyes searching mine, I can't let you sit here by yourself. I knew he was right.

I didn't want to know he was right.

I had to get back on.

With bleeding hands I turned toward the very thing that had just hurt me, took a deep breath and hopped back on.

He went slow. Very slow. And steady. Calling out are you okay? and how are you doing? and is this too fast? I can slow down. And I know he would have.

We went to his grandmother's where she cleaned and bandaged my hands and filled me with her amazing food and listened to me as I told her how scared I was and how I was never, ever going to get back on a motorcycle again.

But the funny thing is, I did.

Not right away, but eventually I did.

Because I trusted him. Because I knew he didn't intend to hurt me. Because I knew that when I did hurt, so did he. He had known I was scared to begin with, and yet he had been so gentle, so patient, allowing me trust him in my own time - not pushing or getting frustrated that I was taking too long. And he waited patiently again.

I enjoyed many rides on the back of that motorcycle. Taking in the scenery of countrysides and lakes, hills and highways. But always in the back of my head was the knowledge that this could lead to hurt.

I think, sometimes, that being a mother is like that. Wanting to be that carefree, wind blowing your hair back woman - but knowing this could also lead to hurt.

And sometimes it does.

Sometimes, no matter how careful you are, a pothole is misjudged and throws you right off.

But with the right driver - one patient and kind and caring and trustworthy, you choose to get back on again.

People ask me how I do it. How can I function after my child suddenly, without warning, died? How do I face each day ready to ride when I'm still reeling from the greatest fall? Because God is my driver. Because He was there the whole time. Because He picked me up and searched me asking, are you okay Bridget? Come with me. I'll take care of you. And I promise not to go too fast.

And He hasn't.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Why Monica Lewinsky's TED Talk Matters (to me)

This morning I listened to that woman talk for twenty-two and a half minutes about cyber-bulling and the way public shaming and humiliation can affect a soul.

I don't know her. I just know what the media has told me about her.

I've never spoken to her.

I've never had a conversation with her.

And I would never, ever claim to know what psychological disorder (or disorders) she might possibly suffer from.

But I sat, captivated for twenty-two and a half minutes.

And I thought about her mother the entire time.

Because I have seen, first hand, what happens when people think they're being funny by photo shopping a nasty picture with your child's face on it for all the world to see. I have seen what being called whore, slut, bitch and nasty ass ho over and over, in the halls, yelled from a passing car, and plastered all over Twitter and Facebook can do to the inner dialogue of a daughter.

And, just in case I was slow in my education, I know what it's like for a seventeen year old girl to be known by many, but in reality known by few. I know the feeling of watching the face of my daughter drop as, day after day, yet another horrifying comment was made by strangers and "friends" alike after an online news article, or following a Facebook post,  - things like pretty sure she was drunk, and if that was me I'd kill myself. 

I know how, as her mother, I felt angry and helpless. How, before the police report of the criminal investigation ever came back, I knew that even if she had made a horrible, awful, tragic mistake - my love for her, my protection for her heart, my worry over her soul, knew that no matter what had happened, she did not deserve what she was getting.

Because my beautiful 17-year old daughter - who was grieving all sorts of loss and what if's - was forced to stand before thousands of faceless judges and juries, who were happily declaring her guilt and pointing out all the reasons no one should care that she might possibly be hurting all over social media.

And we made sure she wasn't left alone.

And we made sure she showered with the door open.

And we made sure people checked on her multiple times throughout the night.

Because, what no one was saying but what everyone was thinking was, "no one can withstand this torment."

I had wanted my daughter to "get back to normal" as soon as possible. I forced her to walk back into the hallways of a school where her peers whispered about her in a volume loud enough for her to overhear. And the tools I gave her to protect herself? "Don't take that stuff personally. They don't know what happened." Like that actually helped.

Her senior year, she barely passed her classes, and yet, I am the proudest mother on the planet. Because she survived. Day after day, she walked into that school - well, to be honest, most days she tried her hardest to avoid that school - but she survived it. 

She survived the rumors and the jokes that were never the least bit funny and she survived knowing that the whole time, there was a pending criminal investigation against her because, yes, if the police found anything that she had done wrong, she would be charged with causing the death of her baby sister. And she survived the online commentary about the pending criminal investigation and about how they knew for sure she was guilty and she lived each day knowing that it wasn't going to magically go away and get easier. She woke up each day knowing her hell was simply continuing.

And, I don't know about you, but I'm not sure I would have the strength to handle all of that at an age where I should have been suntanning and getting obnoxious at football games and hanging out at the mall talking about what college was the ideal distance away from my parent's house.

Instead, my daughter tried to hide from the public shaming. She avoided the city we lived in at all cost. She deactivated her Facebook. We prohibited her from going online.

And, one day, when I thought maybe, just maybe, we could start moving forward again, the Twitter feed was found. Post after agonizingly awful post.

Ironic, right? That just when I thought we could move on and into a better future, the internet shoved everything from the past back into the forefront again. It's relentless, these interwebs. Unforgiving. Always, always ready to strike.

But there were bright lights in my daughter's path during those dark, dark months. A couple dear friends that wouldn't release their grip on her. A girl she had met years ago at bible camp who would drive hours from the city just to spend the weekend attempting normalcy. A young man who had recently lost his father in a way that seemed to make the public salivate, who drove her to school so that she wouldn't have to walk in alone. Another friend who, instead of gossiping with the rest, saw my daughter's strength and told others about it. Even nominating her for a special award that was presented to her on graduation. Grace and compassion standing in front of that entire gymnasium, speaking about the strength and goodness of my daughter.

You see, you can discount Monica Lewinsky's message because you think she's the sum total of who she was twenty years ago, quoting stories and clips that you can still find online; and you can choose to ignore her words because you feel she's unworthy of saying them based on who you think she is from what you read online, but the truth is, we have an epidemic that can no longer be ignored.

In our small community alone, there have been too many young adults who have not survived the public shaming of whatever it was the online community deemed them guilty of. Some were too fat and should have been embarrassed to be living. Others thought they were too high and mighty and needed to be knocked down a few pegs. And for others, the ones everyone thought were beautiful, well, they needed to be reminded about that one night they got too drunk and made a fool of themselves so they were nothing but a little whore.

There are too many kids not surviving.

Personally, I don't care who Monica Lewinsky was twenty years ago, or two years ago, or even who she was the last week when she walked into her bathroom. But I do care that she spoke out and reminded us that we, as participants of an online community, hold some responsibility to how we make others feel. She offered us an invitation to choose whether we participate in this world as bystanders or as upstanders.

And, maybe she is only talking about this because she's a narcissistic opportunist and likes to see herself in the limelight. To be honest, I don't care. Because there is hard truth to her words.

Ask Tyler  Clementi's family.

Ask Megan Meier's family.

Ask Amanda Todd's family.

Ask Ryan Halligan's family.

Ask Viviana Aguirre's family.

I think you get the point. And if you don't, well, it's pretty easy to add more names. Beautiful, precious children that should still be here, like Erin GallagherPhoebe Prince and Ronin Shimizu.

We've gotten to the point in our society where we believe that our opinion must be spoken out loud - regardless of how hurtful or damaging it may be to someone else. As if our need to speak our mind deserves to trump the heart of the person we're attacking.

Where our compulsive need to speak our opinion supersedes our potential for compassion. 

Maybe it's time we started think before we speak and follow some simple rules:

Is what I'm about to say TRUE?

Is what I'm about to say HELPFUL?

Is what I'm about to say INSPIRING?

Is what I'm about to say NECESSARY?

Is what I'm about to say KIND?

Regardless of how one feels about Monica Lewinsky, there is a dialogue that has been started. A dialogue that affects too many young people in our world today. A dialogue that deserves to take place.

So, you can either take place in the dialogue about cyber bullying and the effects of public humiliation and shaming, or you can choose to make comments about how awful you think that woman is and how anyone who shares her words are perpetuating an opportunist. That choice is yours to make.

And, for those of you who really need to know the nitty gritty details: no, there were no traces of drugs or alcohol; there was no cell phone usage - calls, texting or pictures; there was no speeding, and there was no negligent driving. In fact, it was proven she was driving 5 miles under the posted speed limit. And that comes from our District Attorney. There were no charges and no tickets issued. It was simply, an accident. One that God was well aware was going to happen on that day, at that time, and in that manner. And the moment Avery turned and looked into the face of Jesus, there were no tears. Just an incredible, unbelievable,  joyful reunion between a little faith-filled girl and her beloved Heavenly Father!