Letting Go of What Would’ve Been

I love the movie Titanic, even though we know how it ends.  I love all of Kate Winslet’s dresses in the film.  I really could’ve lived in that day and time, as long as I was wealthy enough to dress like that.  There’s an iconic moment in the movie where she lets go of Leonardo Dicaprio’s hand so that she can be rescued.  There’s a lesson to be learned in that.

It’s a weak analogy, I know.  Her losing her love that lasted a few days is not nearly the same as losing a husband of 15+ years.  However, she had to let go to survive.  She had to let go of the past in order to move on.  To some extent, we must do the same thing.  We must make the tough choice to let go of the life we had, as well as the life we were going to have.  If we live in the past, we can’t live in the present.  If we hold on to the darkness that enveloped us when we lost our husband, it robs us of joy in the present and of hope in the future.

Letting go doesn’t mean we don’t cherish the memories we had.  It doesn’t mean that we don’t still miss our husband.  It simply means that we accept the life we now have instead of clinging to how life used to be.  Letting go means choosing the joys of each day in the here and now.  Life is certainly different without a husband, but it doesn’t mean that there’s not things we can still be grateful for and find happiness in.  It’s not the same, but in order to survive this thing, we have to quit holding on to the future we used to have and start shaping a new one.

Some days, it feels that all the cards are stacked against us.  We can take comfort in the fact that God still has a plan for us, and he also holds our future.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  Jeremiah 29:11

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzkRjangfp8

 

When Mosquitoes Attack

 

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I have problems with mosquitoes.  I can be the only person in a room that’s bit by one, and I’ll end up with five bites.  They swell up like blimps and itch like crazy.

Last night, I went out to my backyard to pull weeds around my roses and lilies.  (There’s only 2 of each.  Don’t get carried away thinking I have some enormous flowerbed!)  I have a large citronella plant in close proximity to me; it doesn’t help.  The first problem was as I cleared weeds away from a tomato plant, I found a snake skin.  Now, this is actually worse than finding a snake.  Why?  Because it’s not a snake, just a sign that there is one nearby.  So what did I do?  I bribed my ten-year-old son into protecting me from snakes.  He stood guard with a large shovel and kept a lookout while I pulled weeds.  He did his job.  As I was clearing away weeds (quickly!) from a rosebush, he yelled and sure enough, there was a tiny snake behind it, up against the house.  I still have no idea where he went.  Luckily, it was just a garden snake.  I wonder why the Snake Away pellets I bought and dumped liberally around my house last month are not working with this little guy.  I finished pulling weeds without ever seeing the snake again, but not without incident.  You see, I wore some short shorts outside to pull weeds because it was really hot.  I was in my backyard where no one could see me.  The problem?  A mosquito bit me three times on my behind.  It is uncomfortable to say the least.

What does this have to do with anything?  First of all, take a lesson from me.  Don’t wear shorts if there’s mosquitos around, and have a brave boy to guard you from snakes.  Next, find humor in ordinary circumstances.  A mosquito bite on your bottom is humbling and annoying, but I have to admit, it’s also funny.  Life is hard.  It’s exhausting, and it’s difficult, and it’s hard to know what to do sometimes.  Don’t forget to find joy and humor in the throes of ordinary, everyday life.  Sometimes you have to laugh when your toddler comes in with eyeliner drawings all over himself.  I laid my two littles down with me for an opportune Sunday nap and had to smile at them playing and giggling together before they fell asleep.  It is easy to get frustrated or worn down by the struggles of single motherhood.  Don’t forget to see the joys in it too.

There are so many joys around us, if we just take the time to recognize them.  The sound of birds early in the morning.  A hug.  The smell of fresh bread baking in the oven.  Someone saying “I love you.”  All the kids staying in bed and no one getting up for an extra cup of water.  These are the things that sustain us.  Relish them.  Nehemiah 8:10 says that “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” He was talking to people whose life was difficult.  They were rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem amidst great opposition.  In fact, danger was so imminent that they worked with swords in their hands, just in case they were suddenly attacked by the enemy.

Life is hard, but gratitude and praise can be our greatest weapons against our enemy.  Sweet friend, use them.  They will be your strength, and they will keep you sane.

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boaz in tv

Clutter and Chaos

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As I write this, my linen closet won’t shut because the blankets and sheets are strewn in the doorway and down the hall.  Why?  Because my toddler likes to play on the shelves where he climbs up and squeezes himself onto them to play.  Yesterday, he dumped oats all over the kitchen floor and distributed water all over his bathroom.  And you want to know something?  I sometimes clean these messes up when I find them (like the bathroom so nobody slipped and fell), but I sometimes leave them for later because I’m too tired to deal with them right then.

Before T died, I would do this mad scramble before he got home and tell the kids to pick up the common areas of the house so he didn’t trip on a toy as he walked in the door from work.  I still make them pick up each morning, but I’m not nearly as concerned about having a clean house as I used to be, and that’s OK.

My days are busy running kids to appointments, practices, and activities.  In between, I have to pay bills, meal plan, homeschool, cook, and do laundry.  Life feels chaotic at best, and overwhelming at worst.  I had a very structured routine and orderly life that was taken from me with the news that he was gone.  When we’re trying to do the jobs of two people plus grieving, is it any wonder that our days seem cluttered and chaotic?

So what’s the solution?  We embrace the clutter and chaos.  It may seem crazy to embrace the very thing that reminds us time and time again that our lives are different now, but in doing so, we may find precisely what our soul needs.  The clutter and chaos mean we’re still going.  It means we’ve survived.  Life is messy, but the clutter and chaos can serve as a reminder that we are honoring our husbands and our Lord by continuing to put one foot in front of the other.  We give and give and give of ourselves so that our children can have as normal of a childhood as possible, and that is something to be embraced and applauded, despite the chaos.

Today, instead of feeling guilty or discouraged because of the clutter and chaos, feel encouraged.  Smile.  Embrace it, because as we know, life is short.  The clutter and chaos mean we’re still alive, and that’s something to celebrate.  Here’s a toast to us – those of us who are fighting the good fight and still going, despite the pain.

Feelings

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You feel like you’re on a perpetual roller coaster.  You’re fine one minute, angry the next, and crying the moment after that.  It certainly doesn’t help that stress contributes to hormonal fluctuations which causes mood swings.  Your feelings are all over the place, so what do you do with them?

I didn’t struggle with depression or anxiety until after I lost Trevor.  I was pretty even-tempered, so my emotions often shocked me by how strongly I felt at times or how quickly my feelings could change.  It took a very long time (and medication) to feel anywhere near normal again.  It’s been almost two years, and yet I still struggle with mood swings.  Fortunately, they don’t occur as often, but depression is still a struggle sometimes.  When circumstances get tough or I haven’t gotten enough sleep (child #4 is still not consistently sleeping through the night!), I tend to have a relapse.  Sometimes it’s just being down or feeling overwhelmed.  Sometimes, it’s a complete, laying in my bed, sobbing for a long period of time meltdown.

First of all, it’s OK to have feelings, whatever they may be.  After going through the trauma of losing your other half, it’s perfectly normal to feel all sorts of things and to feel them intensely.  However, we have to be so careful what we do with them.  It’s easy to sin in our anger, especially by snapping verbally at our kids since they’re the ones we’re around most of the time.  It’s easy to become self-centered when we’re struggling with depression and neglect our responsibilities.  Don’t ever make a choice based solely on feelings.  According to Jeremiah, the heart is deceitful above all things.  It’s OK to feel your feelings, but don’t be lead by them.  Be lead by what you know is true.  Be lead by what the Bible says, not by what you’re feeling at the moment.

The next thing that I’ve come to realize is that I’m an emotional wreck if I feel all of my feelings and those of my kids.  I finally figured out that I was allowing myself to become depressed when one of my kids was or to become angry when one of them was upset.  Not only can I not speak wisdom into the situation when I do this, it also adds chaos to the moment.  I can help them so much more if I take a step back emotionally.  I can validate their feelings and talk through a situation with them without feeling all of what they’re feeling.  I can identify with them without taking on what they’re struggling with myself.  This may seem obvious, but I think as moms, especially single moms, we’re prone to doing this because we hurt when our kids hurt.  We have to be careful to empathize with them without taking on all of their emotional baggage.  We can talk openly with them, pray with them, and pray for them without taking on their feelings.  I have found parenting a lot less exhausting once I realized this.

Finally, there’s a few things that can help you sort through your feelings.  You can pray and ask God to help you identify what you’re feeling and why.  I have found journaling especially helpful for this.  It also can be helpful to see a Christian counselor who is trained to help you talk through your feelings.  Whatever you do, don’t stifle and ignore your feelings.  They have a way of coming out.

You can also refer to this earlier blog about things I do to help me when I’m down:

rekindlingjoy.com/2018/08/15/ways-i-coped-after-losing-my-husband/

 

For Such a Time as This

The Poltimore Tiara, estimate $260,000-350,000, is displayed

I wonder if Esther ever questioned why she was chosen to go to the king’s palace.  After all, she spent over a year there before she ever met the king.  In that day and age, living in the palace probably wasn’t as wonderful as we imagine.  Only one of those women would become queen.  The rest?  They would live their days out in the palace, possibly with only seeing the king once.  Unless he called for them by name, they would never see him again.  Just imagine that for a moment.  Most of those women knew that they would probably live their lives out in solitude – sure with other women – but without a real husband and without children.  Realistically, the king would only continue to see a handful of them; it wasn’t good odds.

However, we know why Esther was there.  We know that she had a very special role to play – to save God’s people.  The king of Persia was ruthless; it took an unbelievable amount of courage to go before him, but she did.  We know it, and God knew it, but she didn’t – not until afterward.

What if God has allowed all of the pain and hardship in your life so you would be right where you needed to be?  What if he created you for such a time as this?  I feel so horribly inadequate at times trying to parent children on my own, especially hurting children who have lost so much when they lost their dad.  But what if, somehow, I was the right person for this job?  I definitely don’t feel that way, but God put me here, and I know he doesn’t make mistakes.  What if I have more compassion for others in the future who are struggling with their own difficulties?  What if I’m better able to relate to other women who have had their worlds torn apart and minister to them because of what I’ve been through?  What if there’s a role in the future that I could only play if I’d gone through what I’m going through right now?

Ruth didn’t know she was going to marry Boaz and become one of Christ’s ancestors.  She just knew that she had to go out and do the back-breaking work of gleaning in the fields so she and her mother-in-law didn’t starve.  Joseph didn’t know he would save his whole family and the nation of Egypt from starvation.  He just knew he’d been sold into slavery and that he’d spent years in prison after doing what was right.

Here’s the lesson for us.  We’re stuck in the middle of the story right now.  We don’t know how it will turn out, but we can trust that God does.  We can trust that He has a plan and is working even now for our good and to use us for the good of others.  Sweet sister, take heart.  Even if you’re bone weary today or struggling with depression or angry with God himself, God loves you and has a plan for you.  Perhaps he has placed you right where you are today for such a time as this.

for such a time as this

It’s OK to be that Mom

Three Baked Muffin With Strawberry Filling on Top

We’ve all done it.  Stayed up late folding laundry or baking cookies or otherwise serving our kids.  We’ve also not done it.  We’ve been the one to swing by the store and pick up store-bought cookies instead of baking cupcakes ourselves.  We’ve also completely forgotten to send the treats.  Before Trevor died, I was so organized and never recall missing an appointment.  Things change when you’re suddenly responsible for everything.  Every appointment, phone call, grocery trip, sports practice, dress rehearsal, etc.  Everything falls on your shoulders.  You will forget things, and that’s OK.  Sometimes you won’t forget things, but you’ll pretend to forget them so you can just sit at home for a night and have a moment to catch your breath.  That’s OK too. 

Some evenings I’ll watch TV with the kids or play a game with them.  A lot of nights, I am cleaning the kitchen, folding laundry, or paying bills.  Some nights, I just sit and read or watch TV in my room because I just need a minute to myself.  All of those are OK. 

Do what you can, but sweet friend, don’t beat yourself up for the things you can’t.  It’s exhausting to be a single mom.  It’s exhausting to grieve.  But doing both?  Nothing short of a miracle provided by our Lord.  If you get out of bed each morning, you’re doing great.  Even if you are still in your pajamas come afternoon and haven’t showered yet. 

Be careful about things you commit yourself or your kids to.  Every time you say yes to an activity, you’re saying no to a lot of other things, including your sanity.  Know your limitations.  If you’re having a particularly tough time emotionally, you won’t be able to do as much without wearing yourself out.  Don’t overcommit.  It’s better for your kids to have a healthy mom and do fewer activities than getting to do all the classes and lessons and sports, but having a mom who is stressed and exhausted all the time.  I know that for me, when I’m extremely tired, I’m much more likely to lose my patience with my kids or struggle with depression.  Lack of sleep or wearing yourself thin during the day can also cause you to get sick more easily.  Since it’s just you, it’s vital to balance things.  It’s always a juggling act, but if you find yourself constantly overwhelmed or stressed, reevaluate what you’re doing and cut out things that are not absolutely essential.  Before you sign your child up for an activity, know exactly what you’re committing to and whether or not you can handle it.  Think about the times and what you’ll do with your other kids and how you’ll prepare meals and make sure it’s worth it.  There’s always other activities they can do. 

Make sure that you allow time in your schedule for you, doing things that recharge you and give you the emotional energy to keep pouring into your kids.  It might be one morning a week at a coffee shop by yourself.  It might be getting your nails done or going jogging.  It could be reading a book in a favorite spot without the kids.  It could just be time when a friend takes your kids to the park so you can take a nap.  Whatever it is, make time to do it.  The most important thing you need to have in your daily schedule is time with the Lord.  It’s essential for any believer, but particularly as a single mom, you need to stay connected to Christ in order to gain the wisdom, strength, patience, and grace it takes to walk through this season of life.

I listened one day to a podcast by Sally Clarkson, an author I absolutely love, and her daughter Joy.   They spoke straight to my heart.  One of the things they spoke about was living in the story God is writing for you.  Don’t try to live in another story.  It’s hard when you’re living a story that feels more like a nightmare than a fairy tale, but remember – Cinderella’s life seemed like a nightmare until the prince came along.  God is writing a beautiful story, even if you can’t see any beauty yet.  You just have to trust his plan.  Live the story God’s put you in; you’re the heroine, sister, which means you’re going to make it.  There are days that may seem chaotic and messy and absolutely insane, but that’s life.  Live it.  Embrace those days because, without them, the good days wouldn’t seem nearly as bright. 

Remember – it’s OK to be that mom, whichever mom you are, on any given day.  Yesterday, my three-year-old ran outside naked and unashamedly played “bad guys” in the driveway.  He’s my superhero, taking on villains in the nude.  This morning though, he leaned over where he sat watching cartoons (while I tried to do my Bible study) and laid in my lap and said, “I wuv you, Mama.”  Don’t worry about what others think of you.  Embrace the story God is writing for you; after all, he’s the master storyteller. 

“Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”  Psalm 30:5

Then Jesus Called Her Name

In the darkest days of her life, when grief and loss were new, she got up before the sunrise to anoint the body of the one she loved for burial – the one who had saved her.  She was broken, confused, hopeless…until Jesus called her name.  She was weeping so hard, she couldn’t even see him, but she recognized his voice.

How beautiful it is that Jesus appeared first to her.  In a culture where women were second class citizens, not even able to testify in a trial, Jesus appeared risen first to a woman.  Jesus loves you too and knows your name.  This is the hope of Easter – that because of what Christ did on the cross and at the resurrection, he speaks into your deepest hurt and redeems it.  He pieces back together the shattered parts of your heart and says he will use it for good.

Jesus descended to the depths of hell and bore the wrath of God for your sins.  He took your husband, but he loves you and has a plan.  He walks with us, especially on our darkest days, and calls our name out in the middle of our hopelessness.  He has a plan that we can’t understand but we definitely can trust.  We can keep going because he’s already defeated sin and Satan and death forever.  It’s not just a cliché line of a song, it’s a truth: Because he lives, we can face tomorrow.

This Easter, praise the one who gave his life for you.  He’s calling your name.

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When the Hits Keep Coming – What Easter Means in Suffering

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I felt like a hurricane hit me when Trevor died.  Unfortunately, the storm didn’t stop, and when I thought life was getting easier, another storm would hit.  Can you relate?  I told a friend once that, just as I was able to get up on my knees after one storm, another wave would knock me over.  Have you ever asked God what he’s doing?  Why he won’t give you a break?  I have.  Irreverent.  Ungrateful.  Real.  God knows your heart; you don’t have to hide your true feelings from him.  He knows when life is hard, and he understands your pain.

I know several sweet women who have also walked the difficult road of losing their husband.  None of them – not one – didn’t have multiple difficulties afterward.  There’s a financial and legal nightmare to wade through when you’re trying to grieve.  Every widow wants to do paperwork and make phone calls when she’s trying to cope with life on her own.  Money is tight, and you try to figure out how to pay the bills and take your kids to counseling and pay for all of their usual activities and needs.  Illness comes.  Relationships break.  There are always struggles, and they just keep coming.

I don’t say this to depress you.  I say it to show you you’re not alone.  There’s nothing more that Satan would like than for you to believe you’re alone, abandoned.  That everyone else has a peachy, easy life while you’re struggling to survive.  Know that your life is hard, dear friend, but you’re not alone.  Hang in there.  God is doing something to build your character that he wouldn’t be able to do without these difficulties.

A potter makes all different kinds of vessels.  Some are made for normal, everyday use, but some are made special.  They take more work, more molding and remaking.  God’s making you into something special; you just have to trust the process and know that he’s making you into something beautiful.  You may see broken and hurt and struggling, but God sees you as already beautiful because he knows what the end result of your suffering will be.

We have scars on our heart – scars that will always be there this side of eternity, but rest assured, because of Easter, we have a Savior who also has scars.  The scars that prove his love for us.  And the night before he died for our sins, he spoke these words to his disciples about suffering: “In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33b)  Jesus knew how much his followers would suffer for his name, and he wanted them to know that what he was about to do would forever change how they’d view their trials.  The same is true for us, sweet friend.  Because Christ conquered the cross by rising again, we know that all of our difficulties are temporary.  Now that’s something worth celebrating this Easter!

“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long.  Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!”  2 Corinthians 4:17-18, NLT

 

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Waiting for Spring

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For a long time after Trevor’s death, the future looked so dismal and devoid of hope.  It was a terrifyingly dark thing to think about.  The future is still uncertain, but God has taught me to trust him and therefore live with the uncertainty of the future, knowing that He’s already there and already in control of it.

This week will mark 21 months since I lost him.  It seems crazy that it’s been that long.  For months, I didn’t know how I’d make it another day without him.  It seemed like a travesty of justice that the world kept spinning and the sun kept rising without him.  As cliché as it sounds, it just took time.  Time to not hurt every moment of the day.  Time to be able to see joy and hope again.  Time to accept the season of life God had placed me in.

As much as it pains me to say, God has taught me lessons that I never would’ve learned if Trevor were still here.  I’ve had to learn to completely trust God, even when things aren’t the way I want them.  I’ve had to learn to do the hard things.  I’ve had to learn to accept that God’s plan is bigger and better than my own, even when it hurts.  I’m a different person today than I was two years ago.  You can’t go through something like this and remain unchanged.

As you begin to heal and go on with life, God will most likely put another widow in your path that you can speak to and encourage.  It’s hard because it forces you to remember the pain and loss, but it’s what we’re called to do in 2 Corinthians 1.  I know I am so blessed to have a friend in a women’s Bible study who lost her husband a couple years earlier than I did who is always willing to talk to me.  Sometimes, it’s just so helpful to talk to someone who has been where you are and knows what you’re going through.  If you have the opportunity, be that person for someone else.

Maybe the wound’s still fresh for you.  Maybe you’re still in the winter of your life.  Maybe it’s hard to imagine spring coming in your life.  Know that God promises to always be with you.  Psalm 23 assures us that he is with us in the valley of the shadow of death which can also be translated as the valley of deep darkness.  Notice he doesn’t say he’ll save us from the valley or prevent us from walking through it; he just promises to be there with us.  Some days, it felt like I was lying down in the mud and mire of that valley and I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to crawl out.  God was still with me, and sweet friend, he’s with you too.  He will never leave you.  He will walk with you through this season and every other season too.  Don’t let the enemy lie to you and tell you you’re unloved or alone.  There’s a spring coming, one that only the Lord can bring.  He will shine light and healing and love into your most broken places.  Trust the Lord, and trust that spring is coming.  It may be just around the corner.

 

Side note: get outside and plant something, even if you’re not a gardener.  There is something strangely therapeutic about growing things.  I dug a little flowerbed last year outside my window and planted a couple roses.  This year, I added a couple lilies.  It’s nice to see something blooming outside your window.  I also planted a few veggies.  There’s something incredibly satisfying about eating things you’ve grown yourself.  So get up, make a trip to your local grocery or hardware store and buy a few plants.  I even let my daughter pick a couple flowers to pot for our back porch.  My boys can help pull weeds and water the plants too.  They all love picking the veggies when they start growing.  My toddler kept picking cherry tomatoes last year, hoping they’d magically turn into grapes.  😊 I’d love to see pictures of the things you’re growing!!!

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Tears and Sapphires

“O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires.”  Isaiah 54:11

 

It’s the days that no one sees that are hard – the struggles that no one knows about.  Once time elapses, people assume you’re fine.  They think you’ve recovered, and all is well.  You keep on going (because you have to), and you fix your hair and wear makeup, so people assume you’re okay.  In some ways, you are.  You don’t cry as often.  You’ve adjusted to a new (yet exhausting) routine.  But there are still days.  Oh sister, there are still days.  The days when your kids fight with each other and disobey you, and you no longer can shake your finger at them and say, “Just wait ‘til your dad gets home!”  Now, you have no more overarching threat.  When you have a rough day with them, there’s no looking ahead to the evening when relief comes in the door from work.  Now, all you have to look forward to is their bedtime.  When you have to make difficult decisions on your own or life is hard, there are tears, the ones no one knows about.  Because life is still hard, there are still constant reminders that this is not the life you chose.

Some days, I feel like a two-year-old at the foot of the throne of God, pulling a fit, because this is not the way my life was supposed to look.  I’m so grateful that, at these times, God is so patient with me and so merciful.  In these hard moments, God gently reminds me of all the things I have to be thankful for.  Even on the hardest days, there are still things to be grateful for.  Sometimes, the sapphires sparkle a lot brighter when there’s darkness all around.

He knows your afflictions and is personally acquainted with your grief.  He sees the tears and knows the pain you still feel because he carries them for you when the burden becomes too great.  In fact, he loves us so much that he waged a war on the cross against death and Satan and sin.  The promise of Easter that we eagerly look forward to is that he won.  He didn’t just win a battle; he won the eternal war, defeating death and the power of Satan for all of time, so we know that our pain is not the end of our story.  He will redeem it.  He will restore you.  He will take the broken pieces of your life and knit them back together, and it will be beautiful because everything he does is perfect.  He won’t leave you battered and bruised; no, he “will set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires.”  Sister, when he’s done with you, you won’t look like that figurine you’ve hot-glued back together 10 times after your kids have broken it.  No, you will be sparkly, like a precious and beautiful gem.  One day, you will look back and see beauty instead of dust.  Until then, we trust that he’s working in the storms and he will see us through.  There were things I prayed about in the early days after his death, things I begged God for.  I can now look back and see how he’s already granted some of those heart-wrenching, tear-stained prayers, and say, “Yes, God.  It hurt and it was hard, but you are so, so good to me, and I know you will be with me every step of the way because you already have been there in my darkest hour.”

sapphires

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=reAlJKv7ptU