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Adventurously Expectant

This is a space for dream words, made up words, love words, flying words, fall down and get back up words.

a dream on a mountain

mountain photo

Have you ever had a dream so vivid you can feel the air and your heart beating while it’s happening? I have – a few times and they always end up being really important.

In September after a month of writing my story and putting decades of pain and healing on paper, I had a very vivid dream. So real that I could feel the air, the breath in my lungs and the weariness in my bones. Lately, there has been a lot of darkness – the kind that is fighting for people I love. I’ve had old friends and new ones share the hard things that are pressing in on them – and as they share, I remember this dream. Every which I way I turn – is a balance between the heavy and light. I’ve spent days recently enraged at the darkness and others reverent at the light that pulls me close.  I don’t exactly know why I needed to share this – I thought it would be just something I kept close. But, I believe there might be someone in my world who needs to take this for themselves.

This dream has stayed with me, and if you need encouragement today of days where light breaks through and freedom awaits in your own journey, I hope it breathes a bit of hope today.

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[Dream from September 2015]

Misty skies, cool air, majestic evergreens around and below – I stood right at the edge of the cliff. breathless and as though fire and weariness coursed through my veins.  “I made it”, I whispered.

Putting my hands on my knees, bent over trying to catch my breath for all the had brought me to this place. Remembering the recently departed trek up the mountain – encountering the elements and every obstacle, my own resistance to pursue the top.

Slowing my breathing, I remembered the broken girl who began the journey at the bottom of the mountain. Broken yet determined to be free – not knowing what was ahead but that it was worth the attempt. For though I may not know what freedom felt like, the hope of it was great.

As I breathed in and out, at the top of the mountain – memories crashing over me of the darkness I went through. Lonely nights, feeling lost and afraid, weary beyond myself

but also of how –

every time light would break through the night.

Beckoning me forward. Pulling me to higher places.

A slow smile spread across my face as I recalled the days of the journey where my bones felt strong, new life taking shape, courage.

Courage, dear heart, they said. I listened. I knew I could be brave. I would begin to walk strong – and as I would feel like I had gotten the hang of it, a storm would roll in.

Storms so great they would leave me feeling whiplashed – working to recover that strength I had just experienced.

So, I would sit down. Sometimes lie flat on the ground  in the cool dirt when the storms were so great. Waiting for it to pass over – protecting myself from the elements. There had been too many times I stayed on the ground longer than was necessary.

Telling myself that people get tired, and many don’t finish the journey. It’s expected – not everyone can make it all the way.

The light broke through, and I would tell my weary heart that it was time to go. Get up, Suzanna, get up.

Shakily I rise. Shake the dust and dirt from my clothes. Putting one foot in front of the other. Eyes straight ahead.

It felt as though every level of resistance met me – whether from my own fear or external elements out of of my control.

The journey took longer than it should have – but I found myself at the top. Level ground – expansive beauty ahead, below and around.

My breath evens, and I bring my focus to where I am now, at the level ground of the top.

I knew it was time. I had been afraid of heights my entire life – yet I knew I was being called to jump from this cliff. Having faith I would soar – yet my doubt screamed I wasn’t brave enough.

I took a deep breath, and another. Resolutely deciding that freedom was my only option – trusting that He would catch me as I freefalled.

Stepping back a few feet, I prepared to run. Breathe in, breathe out. Blood on fire as adrenaline ran through me.

Pulling myself back as though a spring, I began to run.

Threw my arms open and flung myself from the safety of the ground.

Absolute freedom takes hold, followed by the shakiness of fear,  yet immediately a powerful peace took over.  

Arms open, fire began to surround me. I look down as I began taking the shape of a phoenix.

New life rising from the ashes.

Free.

I was free.
It was as it was always meant to be.

The Power Of A Word

 

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The past several years I have began each new one with a word, deeper than a resolution, an intention that covers every decision, failure, success and step of courage. Even the very small ones. It started as a way to encounter my own life when I felt a bit lost. The past years have held words like, Refinement, Courage, Whimsy, and most recently – Freedom. It’s become a beautiful anticipation of what the word ahead might be and without provocation it will start to find it’s way to me during the Fall months.

Walking into 2015 on the heels of a year that was a daily act of bravery – a new city, new community, new church, building a brand/company from scratch, learning new jobs, living way outside my comfort zone – falling, getting back up, and falling again – the Lord put Freedom on my heart for the year ahead.  A thoughtful friend made me a banner flag with the words “Live In Freedom” printed onto the canvas. The flag hangs in my room and reminded me every day as I woke up to pursue freedom. That word began to infuse itself into my every thought and action – pushing me to places I didn’t know I could or was prepared to go. I’d stop for a moment and ask myself “ does this propel mine or other freedom (physically, emotionally, spiritually?”

Throughout the past year I walked alongside of friends darkest days, championed things I believed in, celebrated exciting beginnings with ones I love, pursued my relationship with God, uncovered important truths of myself, began sharing my stories of surviving abuse and the redemption that comes from healing, had my heart broken a few times, co-labored with some of my heroes.

The greatest takeaway from last year was how strong I feel.  The kind of strength that extends yourself a lot of grace for all the things yet to figure out. Holding a quiet reverence for how hard you fought to feel this strong – causing you to wonder what more beautiful stories are yet to unfold.

As I prepared for what this year may hold I knew that it must be one that compounds the previous ones and all the wonder, loss, hope and courage into something powerful. After reading Brene Brown’s newest book, I tentatively deemed 2016 as the year of Rising Strong.

The word choice has become important – there isn’t any pressure to it – but something I have come to believe in. So I let it sit for a few months. 

Rising Strong felt like the ethos and as I searched for the word, right before NYE a close friend said “ I think this is your year of the Phoenix”.  Yes, I replied, it most definitely is.

2016 has become the year of the Phoenix. No, (not Phoenix, Arizona) the kind that represents a mythical bird  that will burn itself on a funeral pyre, and to rise from its ashes in the freshness of youth and live through another cycle of years: often an emblem of immortality or of reborn idealism or hope (translation) 

Under the intention of this year’s word I am pursuing boldness, grace, greater depths in relationships, (both with God and friends/family)  continued healing, and extending the kind of love that leaves people and situations changed.  

Hope, has been on my heart a lot lately. As I wrestle with the current state of the world, personal dreams left unfulfilled, nearing thirty, and so many maybe’s out there. My thoughts are surrounded by how to use the healing, and strength I have found to help others. In my right now and in places far away who need us. Wondering how can I as a follower of Christ,  help bring light and real time support to those in the greatest need. Whether that be survivors of sexual abuse, friends with dreams deferred, The Church in it’s disarray but exponential potential for good, the innocent lives being affected by trafficking or ISIS, or the young people losing their life to suicide in my city. Other days, most importantly being the best sister, daughter and friend I possibly can.

Sarah Bessey wrote ” I guess I am foolish enough to believe they will know us by our love. I don’t want to be swallowed by the darkness. Nor do I want to be blinded by the beautiful facade. No, I want to be part of a people who see the darkness, know it’s real, and then, then, then, light a candle anyway. And hold that candle up against the wind and pass along our light wherever it’s needed from our own homes to the halls of legislation to the church pulpit to the kitchens around the world”. (excerpt from Out Of Sorts)

That’s what I hope Phoenix 2016 will be filled with – pursuing the light, covered in boldness and grace – finding ways to see the darkness but always lighting the candle anyways.

In this last year of my twenties, which has been one hell of a long decade, I am working to let the old hurts, dreams, scars, joys, pain and trauma burn off of me in a funeral pyre to come fully alive in renewed hope and purpose. Continually pursuing the purpose ahead of and within me. 
What would your word be this year? What kind of support would you need to see it through? Where could you push yourself or extend even more grace to yourself and others? What have you longed for? I’ll walk with you if you need a friend in it – I believe it’s a worthy adventure. 

Keep Daring,

Suzanna Rose

The Roots

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I’ve lived in so many places, built life alongside so many different communities, and started all over again that I thought I knew what roots meant. Turns out – I really knew about adaptability and seasons. Not, the rhythm of everyday life.  The joy, sorrow, shared and projected pain, disappointment and celebration that comes with finding people with whom you choose to live life  with and alongside of.

I thought I knew what loving unconditionally meant, because I had loved many.

That love thing, got it down!  (one should never think they’ve got anything down too intensely – God will shake that up pretty quickly) There was reason to think I knew something about it. I have four sisters, a single mother and seventeen first cousins. Add in the wild amount of community I am blessed with around the world, loving people – I thought I had figured out – for I had been doing it all my life. Loving through seasons and changes – but the important difference was that I had never been rooted in the same place.

But then the test of real, true love begs for its authenticity to be checked. When unmet expectations, yours and their brokenness become exposed. Where you wake to days that you start walking a little less straight next to one another – and the realization that standing tall next to them –now- might take more work than first anticipated.

They break your heart, and you may break theirs. Sometimes just for a moment, sometimes for months. What do you do then? I wondered often. Some days I resolutely took stride beside them, others I retreated – even if quietly. But, there are days where I’ve been loved so extravagantly it took my breath away and left me humbled by the grace.

The past two years of building roots in Nashville, I feel as though I have lived more real life alongside my community than any years past. I’ve had both light and dark moments – where we’ve carried each other through the harder days and celebrated in the joyful ones. Some days simply resting in the quiet of being still.

I’ve been to funerals of children I never knew, simply to stand in solidarity with my community. Sat with friends and family who celebrated huge beginnings – and experienced intense despair – stories shared over coffee or meals. I began to acutely learn what roots mean. The kind that have been dug deep into the ground and weather seasons that come in the form of joy, sorrow, disappointment and hope for better days. The kind that actually have any sort of foundation – the kind that can last past what we’re sometimes capable of sustaining on our own.

I’ve longed for roots for as long as I can remember. One of my leading dreams for several years was to have a place and people to call home. After living in over 30 spaces, 9 cities and 6 states – I longed for consistency.  The not going anywhere, normal, steadfast, consistent kind of stability.

I have found that here and in these people I love. I discovered that digging roots is both glorious and uncomfortable. It’s being made aware of your holes and places still to be mended while standing with open hands and hearts.

I’ve wrestled with my own disappointment – in myself and others, waiting to see who I would be after that rumble. Learning so much about who I actually was and who I long to be – and landing somewhere in the middle of that dance.

Recognizing that I have made loving myself and others a lot more complicated than was necessary.  I want to be someone who loves with great ease and little expectation. Because I believe in roots that are deep, season tested, and last unconditionally.

The kind you come back to even if life takes you elsewhere.

I want to be space that hearts feel more loved and free for having knowing. My hope in life is to be safe harbor – for the weary, the broken and the hopeful.

I needed to learn what roots meant.  I had to let my own personal ones heal and be made whole – redeemed. I had to encounter what limitless time, non-conditional community and relationships looked like.

I learned that well dug and formed roots are the foundation for the glorious. The cultivation of them is not shallow or necessarily easy but the result is what feels like everything good about being human. Love that stays even in the less than perfect conditions, community that cheers you on and carries you when you’re tired and foundations that breathe courage into your purpose.

My expectation of roots may have been a bit naïve. I may have finally come to understand the draw of the wanderer, or where restlessness comes from. Though, I have to tell you – I love this season and all it’s learning curves and unexpected wonders.

Weary World, Rejoices.

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At every turn it seems there is only darkness, loss, hatred and drawn lines. It can be so daunting, debilitating that even ones who want to act feel so unsteady it’s hard to find balance. In the span of a few weeks we’ve encountered local and global devastation – and those are only the ones we know about – because they trended on Twitter or headlined news coverage. Even then it’s as though everyone is trying to yell louder.

If we look at the impact of darkness one could say it’s winning. I’ve been traveling most of this past month, and that itself was a personal sojourn that I am still working to carve space to understand. Yet, when there were quiet moments my mind immediately went to the loss and people in need around the world. It takes my breath away and my heart is so weary, as I am sure yours is as well. How can it not when just last month I attended a beautiful twelve year- old girl’s funeral, because she had hung herself and died by suicide. Or as we watched the city of lights reel from devastating attacks, and hear how a center that supported development disabled was also under attack.  Lost lives. Senseless violence. Broken hearts.

It’s enough to want to turn off every avenue to social media and the news. What do you do? How do you help? Can it ever get better? Are we too far gone? The thoughts fly through my mind, and then the Holy Spirit gently pulls me away from thoughts of defeat. Reminding me that light and goodness will always be greater than the darkness. That Jesus has already won these battles, and though the suffering is great – we have been purposed for such a time as this. My heart cries We are so weary. I feel the resolute response Yes, but I have already overcome.  I need you to be light, I need you to be love. I need you to act.

I found myself in meetings during these last few weeks that made mobilizing a movement for good  – real. As the stories of war, loss, rape, suicide, ( I could go on and on) unfold – the realization that there is no collective, cohesive movement for good occuring in the world to not only match but supercede the darkness. There are infinite efforts taking place by so many on the ground locally and globally, imagine what could happen if those efforts were to come together. It would be a force so extraordinary it would move mountains. I believe The Church is called to be that. Regardless of what you call God or who you worship – if you believe in peace, light and love – then it’s on us. We have been placed in the story of humanity at this time because there is something that each of us is uniquely created for. I pray we get low and quiet, lean into where we can put our hands to work.

Waking this morning, the words – Weary the world rejoices  played over and over in my mind. There is power in acknowledging your weariness, but what matters is what you do afterwards.

What is facing our world today is not a national issue, political party debate, religious sect or cultural difference. It’s a human issue, a humanity crisis. Beyond time to step outside of the drawn lines, outside of ourselves. To step up and into where you can give, volunteer, rally, pray, act, and love.

 
Weary world, rejoice. Take heart and courage. 

Open Hands + Imperfect Timing

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You know those months or seasons rather, where life is coming at you so quickly all you can do is try and catch your breath? It’s not even about the details, simply that life has just been happening all together too fast with it’s changes, events, discoveries, pains, joys and everything in between.

Everyone I talked to from this past summer seems to have been living in sort of universal pressure cooker. Maybe you can relate. Life has been my best attempt at trying to stay in stride with the engagements, marriages, unexpected changes, new jobs, bad car accidents, loss of jobs, disappointment dreams, launches, learning of traumas experienced by others, new roommates and relationships of the community around me. Supporting where I can, sitting in silence with someone while they are hurting, letting them yell, cry, figuratively smash things against the wall, celebrate new chapters and dream of next ones.

I’ve spent the past six months scattered to the rhythm of life around me, while working to maintain the many roles I’ve been carrying. Sister, friend, follower of Christ, entrepreneur, consultant, church and community member. If we’re being honest, I’ve not done entirely great at any of those one things. I have been learning about how imperfectly wonderful our stories are when we open our hands and hearts to be led wherever is next. Extending both ourselves and others a whole lot of grace.

While my community of family and friends have been navigating intense transition or events – my summer was filled with my family in the NW, three important weeks with my baby sister, a  bad car accident, new projects, heartache, learning, new dreams, weariness, wonder and total breaking.

After a trip to celebrate Gina’s graduation and visit family in the Pacific Northwest, I brought my favorite human back to Nashville with me. The three weeks we had together was so special – it always is. This time was different than ones before, it wasn’t entirely made of adventure and sweet days. Having so much one on one time I started to see how she had been progressively struggling harder and harder with connecting to the world around her. For the first time in her twenty-ones years I was having a hard time reaching her.  At a loss, I prayed hard, and got simple with our days and trying to find ways to connect.

In the midst of her time in Nashville, we were in a serious car accident with my friend Tara. Quite miraculously protected, where we shouldn’t have walked away as easy we did. A young driver had fallen asleep at the wheel and propelled towards us at 45 mph as we sat still in a turning lane. Head on,  only the slight turn of the wheels Tara made at the last minute prevented total impaling of both the car and all of us inside.

The image of post impact with little Gina sitting in the front seat, airbags deployed throughout the vehicle, smoke pouring out of her mouth, the look of shock mixed with fear on her face – was enough to undo me. As they transported us to the hospital, I sat behind her stretcher, and as my vitals were being taken, silently wept. Shock mixed with knowledge of what almost had just took place to both my sister and friend. The medics politely told me I had to stop crying or they were going to start for it was actually the saddest cry they’d seen. Got it, got it, got it.

Gina, as always was a total champ. Once the cute male doctors arrived in the ER, she happily proclaimed this our July Disaster  and kept saying So happy we’re alive. We’re miracles!

Yes, my girl, yes we were.  

We recovered at the attention of my sweet friends and the generosity of my mom for girl days. It’s incredible what happens when you’re people arrive immediately on the scene of crisis – advocating for you at the  hospital, supplying gallons of OJ and mashed potatoes. It’s the simplest, and most present kind of love to experience. The kind that sets their alarm every 4 hours to wake you and ensure you’re not bleeding in your brain because of a bad concussion, making sure your pain meds are in supply.  I have been silly blessed with good people, I’m telling you.

Mid July ended the Sister Nashville Summer trip, saying farewell to Gina, heartbroken putting her on the plane. Saying goodbye to her never gets easier. Her response to my tears before boarding the plane You’re going to be fine! I’ll call you! (she was fine, obviously)

After Gina headed home I felt as though I took a side step back into my life, which was simply humming with to-do’s, days filled to the hilt, and a powerful not so subtle prompting that I needed to start writing my story. Not great timing I kept repeating.

The weeks flew by and I found myself on a Wednesday morning amidst an insane week of work and event prep for an upcoming prayer gathering. The moment I woke up, I felt in my spirit God say, turn your phone off, sit down and start writing. Right now?! I threw back.  Yes, right now. It’s not entirely something I can describe but rather a deep knowing that there was someone, somewhere who needed me to sit down and be willing to lay it out on paper. All of the pivotal memories of the abuse, breaking, hopelessness – but more importantly the healing, restoration and transformation of the heart that has taken place in my life through Jesus these last years.

So, I started. While pushing my way through work and commitments, writing 40,000 words in twelve days. A dam had burst open in my heart and as I weaved in and out of memories that have shaped, broken and healed me it took everything in me not to stop. On the thirteenth day, I finished my last sentence of the first draft and laid on my bed facing outside looking at the trees – silent. My heart was exhausted, it was body and soul kind of tired that felt mighty and a bit reckless.

Since writing those words, that pile of pages is now on a journey, one that I am excited to see where it leads. If those pages were for my sisters and I to discover greater healing – it would be worth it.

Something happened when I wrote those 40,000 words. The unseen heaviness of the memories and stories that had been right below the surface now had life outside of me – I slept deeper than I can ever remember.

There is so much happening these days. It would be so easy to become overwhelmed, but what I’ve been learning to deeper levels is – obedience. What beautiful things come when you unclench your fists, let your hands – your arms open wide, and say Whatever Your Will. It’s a daring thing to say, and trust me, God listens when you speak.

But among the pressurized summer months, and the life that’s being lived full throttle around me, I am being called quietly, firmly into daily of acts of obedience. Letting go of everything that has paralyzed me and preparing for new purpose and direction. I find myself crying at the strangest times, or needing more quiet than normal. Finding that in these seasons of so much change, learning and commitments you simply need to extend yourself more grace than usual. (and drink lots of good coffee)

I know that we’re giving life our best shot. Diligent in the commitments, and frustration of the present. Making bold moves to follow our hearts and dreams – others working at building structures and roots. Humbling ourselves in the waiting of dreams yet to be seen.

Tonight, I just wanted to encourage you to keep going. I needed to tell myself that today too – and thought you might need it as well. Among the changes, pressing deadlines, disappointment, excitement, stillness and digging – be obedient to the prompting in your heart. It’s unique to you. It’s important.

Keep going, keep daring.

Unclench your fists, open your hands, extend your arms and breathe in.
With as much joy as you muster, trust the step ahead of you, and then the next one

Let Heaven Come | Encountering Jesus

Photography: Austin Mann
Photography: Austin Mann

Say the word and there is light | Say the word and dead bones rise | Every start and end hangs on Your voice | For Your word never returns void| Written in a billion skies | Speaking to this heart of mine | “Say The Word” by Hillsong United 

Ten years ago I stood at the edge of the shore in SW Florida, shaking with anger, pain and sorrow. It felt as though the expanse of my heart had been blown apart across the ocean before me and there was nothing to tether me to shore. I  lived the first eighteen years of my life steadfast in the pursuit of God, being the good Christian girl and living out every parameter set before me to ensure I was living a holy life. Was I perfect? Never. But, I was committed and believed my faith to be central to life. No questions asked, I was simply all in.

I was a classic example of the modest, true love waits, youth group regular, camp trips, discipleship class attendee. I followed all the rules. Do not misunderstand,  my faith was not shallow, it was held fast to the belief that God healed, restored and saved. My early years had been filled with abuse, divorce, trauma, confusion, and an array of other issues inflicted by the pain of others. God was my lifeline to what I believed life was supposed to be, Him and listening to Josh Groban sing “You Raise Me Up” while I laid on my floor and cried many nights.

That night at the shore ten years ago,  I simply screamed, “ If this is what it means to follow you – count me out. I’m done.” It was no small proclamation and the vault of my heart locked tight. I ran hard and fast from my faith, the Christian culture I had grown up in and any relationship with the Holy Spirit.

Though I never doubted He existed, I was uninterested in being near a Savior who didn’t show up for you. He became just another father figure who walked away, who didn’t fight for me, didn’t love me enough to pay attention.  I possessed no interest in claiming a religion that I felt did not live out what it built churches and ministries around. [ what I’ve become to know is the Church is filled with broken people who are made whole by His grace, but we are never perfect which is why we need a Savior]

I spent seven years away from God, the Church and any sort of personal relationship with God. It always pulled on the edges of my heart, like a distant echo, a call home, but one easily ignored if enough effort was put forth. I promise you, I put forth every effort. I was as committed to my lack of relationship with God as I was to the one I had spent the first 18 years of my life building. In the midst of those seven years, I traveled, met amazing people, pursued work I believed in, challenged the capacity of my life and although life was unfolding to places I’d never dreamed, something felt unnaturally  hollow.

Three and half years ago, days before  my Uncle James passed away from cancer, again I felt the deep sense of becoming untethered. The haunting feeling I’d had six years prior on that shore.  On a cold, rainy night in Portland, OR on the floor of an old gazebo,  I knelt down- and desperately cried out to the heavens. “ If  You are real, and I know You are, I need You to show up, and I need you to show up now”.

In a moment, I was overwhelmed with the most extraordinary peace I’ve ever experienced. It was as though I didn’t know I hadn’t been breathing until I took a breath.

The following days, weeks, months were the darkest I’ve ever known. I didn’t know who I would be at the end of that journey. For all the trauma, pain and abuse that I had survived had finally taken me out. I felt as though I had become dust, with no form to make sense of the woman who had existed before. [and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Ecc. 12:7]

I share this, because the most important part of this story, is what happened after.

Eight months later through a series of divine encounters I got on my knees again and laid my life down before Jesus, knowing that there was nothing else more important than acknowledging His goodness, His existence and His love for me. Knowing that there was no way I could be healed without Him.

The past 2 ½ years have been the most powerful journey of love I’ve ever known. For, I have been in the depths of pain and have experienced firsthand what it feels and looks like to encounter Jesus.  It has had nothing to do with religion, doctrine or politics, but a true journey with who I believe is the Creator of our universe. Learning what a personal God, He truly is.

The intention, healing,  purpose and sweet grace that has covered me the past 2 ½ years as I have drawn closer in my relationship with Jesus – has left me in awe. He has shown up through so many friends, strangers, books, slow mornings and a million small things.

To say I’ve experienced wonder in every sense would be an understatement.

I share this today, because, so much of my heart has been positioned to bolt if things started to feel too much like it had before. But, that has  been fear.

Fear I am  no longer willing  to allow take hold of the purpose and journey set before me.

If you’ve witnessed my early life of faith, encountered me during my seven years in what felt like a  wilderness, or know me now – I have had to make a decision, and it’s been one that feels as though it’s exactly how it was always to be.

I am fully committed to be a follower of Christ, a disciple of Jesus.  To wherever that leads me, how ever it disrupts my life or propels me to places I never dreamed of going – I am all in. Because, the healing, love and grace that I have encountered has made everything else pale in comparison.

This transforming journey has had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with a personal relationship with Jesus. If you’re struggling with your faith, angry at the Church or believe it to be broken, trust me there is restoration, healing and freedom like you’ve never known.

It’s because of powerful sojourners alongside me that I have been brave enough to pursue the greatest adventure of my life.Today, I pray that  you encounter Jesus and feel heaven come to your normal everyday life.

Keep Daring,

Suzanna

My Emancipation Decree

“If ever there comes a time when the women of the world come together purely and simply for the benefit of mankind, it will be a force such as the world has never known.”

Matthew Arnold [Nineteenth Century British Poet and Philosopher]

Enough. Enough. Enough.

I believe that when pain is inflicted on innocents the universe grieves, a deep groan that fills the cosmos.

Every day someone in the world, in every corner of the world is being marginalized, trafficked, raped, abducted, abused, overtaken by violent rebels, domestically abused, sexually abused and the list just goes on far too long. Has that sunk in? Everyday. Everywhere.

The headlines, conversations and experiences of ones I love who have been and are being traumatized, has led me to what I can only describe as the most important kind of breaking point.

The one where you just say to the depths of who you are: Enough, Enough, Enough.

Throughout my life, I have had too many women I treasure be the victims of sexual assault and abuse. One would have been too much. These women have bravely shared their experiences with me, inviting me to sit in the pain and tears with them. A truly sacred space to be invited to as a woman, an honor that has never been taken lightly.

After too many stories, headlines and beloved women being harmed – I am simply saying, enough.  For the women I love, for myself, the women and children around the world being taken advantage of and for the ones yet to tell anyone.

I am most definitely not the first or the last one to share my truth, but today I am officially joining my voice to the battle cry that is sounding around the world.

Since I was a little girl I have been keenly aware of that darkness that at times can sulk in the shadows and sometimes is so bold it’s taunting you with it’s confidence. As a little girl I ran after the light, every part of me in the pursuit of wonder and imagination. Sometimes I wonder who I might have been had my wonder not been tainted. But, we’ll never know who she might have been. Today, I am ok with that. I’ve grieved and wrestled with it and am now so excited for who I am and am going to be.

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I was five years old.

I loved wearing the most twirl worthy dresses and even better if there was matching gloves and hat.

I remember it being an ordinary day, but one filled with friends and family – feasting on Alaskan King Crab and fresh bread. You remember details like that you see, when your world shifts.  What other people remember and what I remember from that day are very different. Because, I was five years old and someones choice, made from their own brokenness, dimmed my light.

I was sexually abused by someone I never expected nor knew to be afraid of. The experience was rough, violating and dark.  I remember, at five years old feeling shame, though I didn’t call it that – then. Though confusion and shock were the primary emotions, the experience was very real.

The  impact stayed. It lingered.

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As the years passed and something always just felt, not quite right, with how I perceived myself, my worth, and my innate goodness. Stemming from that trauma, at thirteen our family went through the intense divorce of my parents, a deep ripping apart of life and how we knew it to be. Only to discover that my father had inflicted such sorrow inducing abuse upon our family, that still at times can leave me reeling. That further increased my level of sadness and sense of abandonment. As I learned of others abuse and pain I mentally downgraded the impact of my own trauma to elevate the impact of theirs. Believing that somehow that would decrease the ache.

As the years passed I did everything  within my power to heal, but my capacity was limited. What I had truly done for most of my life was disconnect from my truest self, setting the fullest part of me aside to protect myself without even knowing it.

There have been moments in my journey where I’ve felt ripped apart by the impact of what happened that day – 23 years ago. Watching films like Precious and Short Term 12  wrecked me. I remember leaving the theater as my best friend held my hand the whole way home as I wept – for myself, for others I knew and had never met.

Memories were triggered and the pain so intense the only response was coming undone – what I have learned is that the awareness of the pain is sometimes the most vital catalyst for healing.

Thank God for friends who will hold your hand and sit with you in the quiet – where no words are needed and they have the capacity to sit in your pain while the wave crashes. Eli LaFlamme, I’ll love you forever for moments like that.

My personal trauma manifested in a lack of self care, my identity wrapped up in work and the results I could produce. Rationalizing my deep lack of self care to, that though I knew I wasn’t well,  it was all in the pursuit of important causes.

Translation of that message. I was not an important cause.

I can attest that no matter how hard you work, or how much you sacrifice for the love of others – unless you face your pain squarely in the face –  healing will only ever be an illusion, you will never be fully alive.

Trauma is real. It hits the core of who we are and as women,  it takes away something sacred from our belief in how beloved we are. I believe the destruction of the female spirit may be one of the greatest atrocities of our time. Because it happens in the dark – often in spaces where no one else is, where the cries for help are never heard. Or worse of all the spaces where they don’t even know they should or can cry out. So often times the violence exists in the the rhythm of our everyday lives but overlooked either from a lack of awareness or bold faced denial.

How I long for our girls, women young and old to know of their worth. To be free from the pain that stills their purpose and takes their voices. But more than longing, I have had enough. I posses a depth of frustration and sense of injustice that leads to all out revolution. The kind that takes broken people and makes them warriors.

There is a battle being waged for the hearts and futures of women around the world, and today – this is my self proclaimed enlistment.  I share this part of my story to say to the ones on the front lines, you’ve just gained a teammate.

I am all in.

In The Breaking & Redemption

There was a time in life where I knew the faint whisper of sadness, the echoes of trauma from a life filled with all sorts of turns and twists, but not the total honesty that comes of breaking. There was a time where I thought to be whole.

At  many points in my story up until April 3rd, 2012, I believed I had overcome the pain experienced through childhood and those wonderful teen years – building a new life distanced from the epic center of chaos. What I discovered was that all I had done successfully was layer on a sealing cover over a very broken heart.

Today is about taking the minutes slower than normal and remembering. The past two years on this date, or let’s be honest, the entire week leading up to this day, I’ve had a bottle of wine in hand tucked away somewhere alone, or with a friend barely breathing through these minutes. This year the ache is a bit duller and the memories sweeter.

Three years ago we said goodbye to the very best man I have ever known, my Uncle James. After a valiant battle with Stage 4 cancer he said goodbye after days surrounded by his people, toasting with wine and listening to Adele til the very last. The last moments you have with someone who is an intricate part of your heart, I learned, become the ones you think you might stop breathing from – and everything around you seems to stand still. Your mind trying desperately to understand the moment you’re existing in. I’ll never forget my goodbye to him – but that will always just —  be something I hold. To this day, having the chance to say goodbye has been an ultimate treasure, one I have not taken lightly.

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It was a brutal journey, the loss of him. Ended up the gateway to intense depression compounding from a life of brokenness not dealt with that led me discovering my truest self. There hasn’t been a day in three  years that I haven’t thought of him – and on the normal one there is a heaviness that settles when thinking how he can’t be part of what’s happening today. To see his best friend and wife of 30 years champion being a single parent – tenacious in her pursuit of a life well lived. Or be able to see his beloved daughter start high school and start to dream. I want to sit in his living room and talk about the state of the world, good wine, hear what books I should read, and listen to his unmatched sarcasm.

What’s interesting about loss is that when you pay attention – you see the spirit of that one you loved everywhere. It’s in the sun filled mornings with the birds singing outside your window or in the countenance of someone you’ve just met – taking you by surprise when you recognize the glimpse you’ve been given.

On April 3, 2012 – I broke. It was as if the jumanji of my heart toppled down – propelling me into a place so dark I wasn’t sure if I could ever find the light again. It was the first time I encountered my fragility as a human, and it’s a scary place to find yourself in.

But, through the sweet grace of God, and constant love of friends I did find the light again. I have come to understand what real loss, pain and grief feels, tastes and sounds like – enabling me to connect with people I could have never before. I wasn’t yet capable to sit with them in their pain because I had yet to face my own. Realizing you don’t have to have experienced the same loss or broken heart, something in-explainable binds you together.

His incredible story was cut short far too early and has only caused me to want to live mine fully alive.  Creating a legacy and life that he would be proud of, because of the vital role his life played in the shaping of mine.

In the published eulogy at his funeral it was written  “ James encouraged an open door policy, always ready to set another plate at the table, always ready to welcome a stranger into his world”.

It’s that example of the life he lived that taught me what it means to show up for people, and to love in real ways, things I try do my best at everyday. While still failing and learning.

Loss broke me, Jesus redeemed me, and hope rescued my tired heart. Today, these minutes will draw out and if grief is an ocean, I am not drowning in it’s waves – but standing with my back to the shore feeling the ebb and flow of it’s approach. It’s like that, you know. When you’ve met the center of sorrow and come back. It’s easy to sense it coming and a choice to stand rooted on the shore.

I have learned so much through saying goodbye to that man I loved.  Seeing our family navigate life without him and start new chapters all the while taking pieces of him with us has been a testament to their strength.

Through his life and death I learned that all can be redeemed – even the most profound breaking of human spirit. That new life can  be produced from it and if given the chance it can hopefully be a life our lost loved ones can look down from heaven and say “ it was worth it ‘. Oh goodness, do I ever hope he can see our lives and think that.

James Hendricks was the type of man that left everyone better, truer and stronger for knowing him. He loved his family and friends fiercely, worked tirelessly and was always down for a good martini.

Though he won’t in real time see retirement with his love or watch his brave Mariah graduate high school, or walk me down the aisle when I get married – we are all better more giving people because he loved us.

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It’s that love I carry with me everyday. He was in it to win it – and though success would have been more life with him, we were given an extraordinary gift for having him central to our stories.

20 Seconds Of Courage + The Year Of Freedom

Dearest Friend,

I start new years with a word, a theme vs. resolutions. 2014 was Courage. Oh — what a journey of trust and deep breaths it’s been.

When this year started there was so much unknown laying out ahead of me. The untapped reality of a new city, community and working to bring the vision of KAIO to life. The first few days upon arriving in Nashville, I was overwhelmed with the most intense fear I have ever known. Debilitating, heart breaking fear. That I had made a massive mistake and wasn’t sure how to extract myself from it. On my second morning, as I put makeup on through tears streaming down my face, I told God he had to show up today. That he had (yes I was demanding) to make it known that I was supposed to be in this city.

My courage had packed my bags, gotten me on the plane, off the plane and then faltered as the reality sunk in.

I believe the most powerful thing I will take away from this past year is that when you say YES, when you have courage and trust in something greater than you, it frees both you and God to work on your behalf. When you step outside of your comfortable spaces and into the unknown, or let’s be honest, ultimately getting out of your own way. Things you never dreamed of start to meet you. They find you in all of the unexpected ways and remind you that you’re story is part of a Great Story. You playing your part, completely and fully present is vital to the all of the other pieces fitting together. As you say yes, I have found, it gives others the courage to also say yes to their life. Because it was other people’s Yes’s that gave me courage — and I am sure have you as well.

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First home in over a decade where roots were being put down! March 2014

There is no secret to discovering your purpose, it’s about being willing to get deeply uncomfortable. To trust in yourself, your tribe and God, enough to take another step into the unknown. Then another, and another and another. So that you’re so far down this uncharted road that you no longer even think of turning back to what you once knew. Although the idea of resting a bit, taking a respite often comes. But, still, you keep moving.

When you are bold enough to start looking for all of the ways you’ve been designed to impact the story, the work designed just for you begins to reveal itself.

I’ve learned through a lot of kicking + screaming, that you must, in order to keep moving, lean into a level of trust that doesn’t come naturally. To step outside of yourself far enough to catch a glimpse of the capacity for your life.

Untangling your worth from everything you’ve believed til this moment that has stilled you. Every disappointment, heart break, failure or pieces of your heart you’ve tucked away. It has be to let go. Dearest, let it go.

Then — you can stand tall, arms open, face turned towards the light and breath deep. Repeating the YES, and the I Trust You so many times it might as well be tattooed across your chest.

It’s in the mess and unknown, beautiful and gracious day to day that I believe we start to meet our purpose. It’s a day by day encounter and being willing to throw everything you’ve thought worked — out the window. To be bent lower in humility and grace so that the divine might meet you there.

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KAIO Team Meeting// November 15th, 2014. A testament to dreams coming to life through community and tenacity.

There are days where I wake and I am stilled by the vastness of all that I cannot see. But once that fog lifts the extraordinary hope for all that can come to pass through trusting in a dream bigger than my capacity, fills every hollow corner that’s doubtful. It’s in that hope that I pray we both reside. Hope of dreams already realized and the ones that haven’t even taken form yet.

May we reside in that hope when we’re tired, ecpscially when we’re weary.

Starting the day with good coffee and finishing with even better wine, I have found is a serious support system.

This year has been about taking deep breaths, and having 20 seconds of courage over and over.

As I worked at calling forth bravery within myself, I met the courageous over cups of coffee + tears, in unexpected friendships that have changed my life, and in moments that can only be described as divine. I pray my whole life is having the chance to meet you over coffee and tears.

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50% of this table was people I’ve known but fell in love with this year and the other half were strangers 12 months ago who have had a hand in my life rich + beautiful since the move to Nashville. (oh and the best wine)

2014 was a call for Courage.  2015 is the year of pursuing Freedom.  I can’t wait.

May we adventure with a steady heart.

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Life essentials for adventures with a steady heart.

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