"There is no greater threat to the critics and cynics and fearmongers
Than those of us who are willing to fall
Because we have learned how to rise.
"With skinned knees and bruised hearts;
We choose owning our stories of struggle,
Over hiding, over hustling, over pretending.
"When we deny our stories, they define us.
When we run from struggle, we are never free.
So we turn toward the truth and look it in the eye.
"We will not be characters in our stories.
Not villains. Not victims. Not even heroes.
We are the authors of our lives.
We write our own daring endings.
"We craft love from heartbreak,
Compassion from shame,
Grace from disappointment,
Courage from failure.
"Showing up is our power.
Story is our way home.
Truth is our song.
We are the brave and brokenhearted.
We are rising strong."
-- Brené Brown's "Manifesto of the Brave & Brokenhearted," Rising Strong
The good news is that she and I are learning how to rise strong - from Brené, from Mary Oliver, from Michelle Gardella, from Flannery and Joy and so many others.
The honest part of that is - you have to fall down before you can truly learn to get back up.
Honestly - she and I were both hurting. We found ourselves facedown, bruised and unsure, and looked around and said - "You too?" That's what fortified this friendship.
But hallelujah for this friendship.
And hallelujah that she and I are learning, and growing into braver artists, more merciful people, more faithful followers of Jesus.
Hallelujah for this beautiful, strong friend of mine, who starts a new year of her life today, in more ways than one.
Also - I have to thank and credit Michelle Gardella for teaching me the power of going to the River for portraits. She is the creator of River Stories, and is a force of empowerment and truth. Her work stirs my soul, and Melissa's, and we took these photos because we had to. I had to show Melissa the power and the beauty I see in her. Whether she knows it or not, Michelle helped create these photos, and I want her name written down with them. www.michellegardella.com