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One would never know this picture was taken in the darkest season of my life.

My marriage of 21 years had just ended, and I was filled with despair. I recall it being a tough day - most were - but this day seemed engulfed by doubt and fear. My heavy-ladened and broken heart was crushing every part of me, stealing my ability to breathe. I felt incredibly unloved and unlovable. I needed fresh air.

As my swollen eyes and chaffed nose stared back at me in the rearview mirror, my car escorted me to a park across town where I sat on a bench and watched the leaves dance at the whim of the wind.

I don’t recall how long I sat, but I can still feel the moment the leaves swept under my feet and whispered, “shape us into hearts.” An hour later, upon a mile stretch of walking path, I had crafted 21 hearts, one for each year of my marriage.

It wasn’t easy at first, but while pushing the leaves into shape with my feet, I called out a blessing of gratitude for the gifts of our union; my beautiful children, happy memories, his family, growing through our trials. One or two hearts later, I became overwhelmed by the abundance of gifts that bubbled to surface.

As each heart came into fullness, like a warm foamy sponge, peace washed over my pain.

I rarely look back on those days almost two decades ago, but they can be easily triggered by such things as a photograph. However, now when the memory resurfaces, there is no pain or anger, instead I feel grateful for all I learned through the trial.

Whatever burdens your soul today; a broken marriage, a shattered trust, the loss of a loved one, failing health, a hurting child, may I assure you today is not the end of your story?

There are blessings in your trial that will come to light when you are on the other side of pain. As you endure and seek healing, wisdom and compassion are growing within you.

Seek to find gratitude in little things, even a pile of dying leaves. Act out of love, even when - no, especially when - you are fueled by anger. And, most of all, in all things, choose forgiveness.

These are things that will set you free and make you whole again.

You will get through this, my friend. I promise, spring will come and one day you will look back with pride for having made it through and your story will no longer feel heavy, but become the soapy sponge that washes over another’s pain.


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