Being There For a Friend Who is Grieving

Hey Friends,

A few weeks ago I gave you guys a list of topics to blog about and asked you guys which one you wanted me to cover first and the most popular one was about being there for a friend who is grieving or going through a hard time. Now I want to be clear, I am not an expert, but if you have been following my blog this past year, you know that my family has walked a long road as my Papa was first diagnosed with cancer and then passed away at the end of March. What I am going to be sharing here is things that good friends of mine have done and how my community has rallied around me that have been helpful. Obviously, everyone handles grief differently and in the end you know your friend, the most important thing you can do is to not let them walk the path alone. That may look differently for different friendships, but what matters is that you are there for them.

Anytime your friend goes through a hard time, it is always going to be preceded by some form of crisis mode. Crisis Mode is generally early on when whatever tragedy your friend is dealing with happens. It generally does not last for long, but I have learned that it can be experienced multiple times as a situation goes from bad to worse. In my case the original crisis mode lasted just a few days, but there were many smaller crisis modes as things continued to fall apart as my grandpa’s cancer began to draw closer to the end.

The first thing I recommend doing when your friend is in crisis mode is be there. All I wanted when we received the diagnosis was someone to give me a big hug. I needed a safe place to cry. However, there are moments when this is not a good idea. I have several friends who live out of town and they all offered to come be with me when we got the diagnosis but I begged them not to come because the thought of having to take care of more people was more than I could handle. If your friend is out of state, the best way to be there is by text and phone call, only come in town if your friend says it is okay or you are willing to get a hotel.

Your friend is going to cry a lot and be struggling as their whole world has been turned upside down, resist the urge to say, “It is going to be okay.” I know that you want it to all turn out good, and maybe it will, but you can’t promise them that and this will do more to alienate you than draw you closer together.

Text and call your friend often checking in to see how they are doing but be okay if they don’t respond. One of the best things one of my good friends did for me that lives out of state is texting me nearly everyday to tell me she was praying for me and checking in to see how I was doing. What made this a blessing and kept it from overwhelming me is that she would always say in the text message to only reply if I felt like it but to know she was always there. This gave me permission to not reply if I didn’t have the energy but let me know that I was thought of and prayed over.

Set an alarm on your phone to go off everyday at a certain time reminding you to pray for your friend and let them know you have done this. A girl I knew but wasn’t very close to did this. Shortly after my grandpa’s diagnosis she texted me to let me know she had set an alarm everyday for 4:00 and she would be praying for me then. Everyday as I got off work and saw the time I knew she was praying for me as I returned home to the battles waiting and it helped give me strength.

Bring food. Whatever you do, don’t ask if your friend needs food, just bring it. Don’t stay long unless they want you to, but trust me, your friend is needing food and having to leave to go get food is the last thing they want to do or is on their mind. I can’t tell you how many times I stayed late at the hospital and by time I left all the restaurants were closed and there was no food at home because we hadn’t been home to cook so I’d just skip dinner. When your loved one is sick or dying you don’t want to leave their side even for food, so be the hero and bring food for your friend. Towards the end my grandma (from the other side of the family) came over and brought food for my family so we wouldn’t have to leave and we were able to keep it in the freezer pulling it out as needed. That was a lifesaver for us and the reason we were able to be there at the end instead of worrying about food.

Listen. Your friend is going to have a lot of emotions ranging from sadness to anger and occasionally just wanting to pretend it isn’t happening. Listen to them. They don’t need you to fix their problems, they just need to know that someone is there and they’re not in this alone. I had one friend in particular that every Sunday at church would come up to me and start out by asking me, “how are you holding up.” She knew I wasn’t doing good, but she needed to know where I was emotionally. If I didn’t want to talk she always respected it, but if I needed to she was always available.

Most importantly, pray for your friend. You can’t change what is happening in their life or even heal their broken heart, but you have access to the one who is in control over everything and the mender of broken hearts.

Don’t forget them after some time has passed. It has been two and a half months and I still have days that I am struggling. Grief comes in waves, one day your friend might be fine and the next falling apart. That is actually what happened to me this past weekend, Saturday I went and watched fireworks with friends and had so much fun laughing and being totally alive. Sunday though found me crying and struggling as if I had just lost Papa that day. Sometimes if your friend is having a really good day you may want to check in on them the next day as the lows are even harder after they have spent some time laughing and feeling “normal” for a few hours. Grief, especially after losing someone, doesn’t have a time period for when it ends, it will look different for each person and your friend needs you to be there and not be left alone.

I hope that this was helpful and now the next time a friend is going through a hard time you won’t feel so helpless not knowing how to help them. Don’t forget, it is always okay to just ask your friend what they need. Most of the time they will be able to tell you if they need to talk or for the moment forget, and if they don’t know be willing to just sit and be quiet until they do know. Remember, you’re their friend and they need you during this time just as much as you want to be there for them. It is messy and hard, but your friendship will come out stronger after walking this together.

Leighton Michele

Easter Sunday

Happy Easter my sweet friends! I wanted to take a few moments out of this day and share with you some things that have been on my heart and that God has been teaching me this year. While all of our Instagram feeds are filled with sweet family moments and children’s Easter egg hunts, I celebrated it this year in a cemetery alone eating ice cream. If you follow my Instagram , then you know that shortly after the start of this year my Papa was diagnosed with cancer and after two months of bravely battling it, he lost his battle with it here and went home to be with Jesus last month. Early into Papa’s battle my family realized that his birthday fell on Easter this year, and when he passed, I will be honest that I really struggled knowing that a holiday meant for celebrating the resurrected King would be clouded by the knowledge that I should have also been celebrating my Papa’s 91st birthday with him. As I have been walking this road of grief this past month I have come to realize something though, truly, God could not have chosen a more perfect day for Easter to fall this year. You see, my Papa knew Jesus as his Lord and Savior and as a result, I know that he is celebrating Easter and his birthday in Heaven with Jesus! The thing is, aside from Jesus’ work on the cross and the empty tomb, that comfort I have would not exist. Aside from Easter, death would have stolen my beloved Papa from me forever with no hope, but because of Easter death is not the end! Instead of having to tell my Papa goodbye forever, I only had to tell him “until I see you again”!

I am so so thankful that 2000 years ago God saw fit to send Jesus as a baby into the world to live the perfect life that I could not live and to die the perfect death. I am even more thankful that it did not end there on the cross, for you guys, three days later Jesus did the impossible, he defeated death and rose again! Because He lives, I can face today, tomorrow and eternity with hope knowing that I have placed my trust in Him and He will never disappoint me! He is my comfort when I sit at my Papa’s graveside crying because I miss him, but praise God that I know I will see him again! If you don’t have this hope, know that it is available to you! As I shared in my stories on Instagram, God didn’t wait for us to figure it out and get our lives perfectly together before we could have fellowship with Him and be given hope, rather He sent His son Jesus to us while we were yet sinners and died for us! If you have not heard of this hope that we can have before, please feel free to reach out to me, I would love to share more with you! I hope that each and every one of you had a wonderful Easter, but more importantly it is my prayer that each of you are encouraged and filled with hope this Easter because the tomb is empty and Jesus is very much so alive and active!

Xoxo,

Leighton Michele

An old throwback to my sisters and I with Papa

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Dress: WayF (sold out) similar, similar, similar| Pumps: A New Day (sold out) similar, similar | Purse: Steve Madden (sold out) similar, similar | Hat: Old similar, similar

As we keep moving closer and closer to Easter weekend, I have been going back to a talk that Angie Smith gave at the If Gathering back in 2016 and I thought I’d give a recap of it today since it has been on my heart.

At the very beginning of scripture in the garden of Eden, we see two questions asked. The first one is by Satan and it is ‘Are you sure that God has your best in mind?’ and the second is by God and it is ‘where are you?’. Now, when God asked Adam and Eve where they were, it is important to realize that God had not lost them, he was asking them, what is the posture of your heart for me? God already knew where their hearts were, but by asking them Adam and Eve had to reevaluate their own hearts and find where they are. Several chapters later and hundreds of years after the garden of Eden, we find Abraham. He is now an old man and God had promised him a son that He would build a nation out of that would bless the whole world. In his old age God did grant Abraham that son, Isaac, but sometime later God tested Abraham which brings us to our first point: don’t let anyone ever tell you that God will not test you, He will never tempt you, but that is different than testing. The truth is, if we get honest God often gives us more than we can handle, and honestly, this whole life is more than we can handle, but that is why we have Him because He can handle it all. God called Abraham to take his son, his only son that he loved, up onto the mountain and to sacrifice him. On the way up the mountain as Isaac carried the wood and Abraham the fire, Isaac looked over and asked Abraham, “My father, we have the wood and fire, but where is the lamb for the sacrifice?” Abraham replied to Isaac, “God himself will provide the lamb.” We all know how the story goes at this point: right before Abraham sacrifices Isaac, God stops him and tells him that because he did not withhold anything from God, not even his only son, He knew he loved him more than anything. At this point God opens Abraham’s eyes and Abraham looks up to see a ram caught in the thicket and sacrifices the ram in Isaac’s place and walks down the mountain with his son. It is a story with a happy ending, of course Abraham can say that God is good when he walked down the mountain with his son, but what about when you walk down the mountain without your loved one as was the case with Angie Smith and me with my grandpa? It was during one such time in her life that Angie felt God leading her to go back and read this story again and again because He had something there for her. After reading it several times she realized something that changed her life and in a ripple effect has changed mine over the past several years, especially this one as I watched my Papa battle cancer and lose the battle. Go back and look at the beginning, as they were walking up the mountain, God promised to provide a lamb, He never said anything about a lamb. The promise was THE Lamb. Two thousand years later on this same mountain range, Jesus Christ was crucified on our behalf, HE was the promised lamb. When you think about who Christ is to you when you are being tested, have you spent more time with your eyes locked on the thicket or on the cross? We have no guarantees about the ram, but we have EVERY guarantee about The Lamb. He will not fail us, and these things that feel scary, we have to live it out and place our trust in Him, the Lamb of God. So as you face the two questions that have been asked since the beginning of time and continue to be asked over and over again, when you hear the enemy whisper, “are you sure?”, here’s your answer: “I’m not sure about the ram, but I am certain of the lamb.” And when you hear God asking, “where are you?” your answer is simple, “Right here Lord, ready and willing. You send me where you want me to go, and in your power and your strength I will do that.”

You guys, as I walk through life and all the scary hard trials that come with it, facing it with the realization that while I do not have the promise of the ram, but have EVERY promise of the lamb, I know I can walk through it because I won’t be alone, He will be there. Whatever you are facing in life, no matter how hard or scary, know that you are not alone, you have been promised the Lamb and He will not leave or forsake you, He has promised you this. If you’re needing encouragement right now (and honestly even if you don’t need it right now, because at some point you will need it), go watch the full talk that Angie Smith gave here. It is under seventeen minutes and SO worth every minute. As I said at the beginning, I have gone back to this so many times over the last several years and it has carried me through this past year.

I love all of you and am praying over each and every one of you this Easter season.

Xoxo,

Leighton Michele

Encouragement for Single Ladies on Valentines Day

Black and blush combo in Delano

Black and blush combo in Delano

Black and blush combo in Delano

H&M Black Bodysuit | Soprano Blush Tulle Skirt (sold out) similar, similar Arturo Chiang Studded Pumps (sold out) similar

It can be hard sometimes, can’t it?  This single life.  Most of the time you’re decent at faking it, and there are even very real seasons that you’re actually grateful that you’re still single as it allows you the freedom to experience things that your friends who are married are not as easily able to experience.  It does not change the fact though that there are very real seasons of loneliness and times when you wish you could do life with someone as it seems everyone else does.  I want to let you know this Valentine’s Day that you are not alone.  I’ll start by being open and sharing my own struggle.  This past Christmas and birthday were hard for me.  I would love to be married and be a wife and mom, but that is not the season that God has me in right now, and while I still hope for that someday, I am also very aware that it is not promised to me.  To all of you other beautiful single ladies out there, I want you to know that it is ok to cry sometimes when the ache in your heart to hold your own little one as you hear that another friend is having a baby or the longing to have someone “pop the question” to you becomes overwhelming as you see on Facebook that yet another friend is engaged.  Go ahead and cry.  It does not mean that you are less excited or happy for that friend, it is simply an acknowledgement that your heart longs for the same.  The secret I’ve learned is to not stay there, but rather after the tears have begun to slow to cry out to the one who holds my future and knows where life will lead.  I promise you, God has not forgotten us.  While life may not look how we always thought it would, that does not mean that God does not have something amazing planned for you, different is not always bad, it can actually be just as good and sometimes better.

Secondly, surround yourself with a community of friends who are there on your side.  It can be so tempting to bottle all of the emotions up inside, but you won’t find healing that way.  Open up to your community and ask them to stand alongside of you.  I have one friend in particular that anytime I can feel myself beginning to feel lonely or wishing my life had followed the route I had thought it would, I send her a text message and she prays for me and sends encouragement reminding me of truth.  Your community does not have to all be single either, two of my dearest friends are both married and one has a precious little one and the other is expecting her first baby.  They have been an amazing source of strength to me by letting me be a part of their lives!  Being around them and their families is actually healing rather than hurtful, my friends little boy always puts the biggest smile on my face and both of them have been incredible encouragements.  I also have learned so much about relationships thanks to them that I would not have learned otherwise, and whether I get married or not that is invaluable!

Finally, life does not suddenly magically begin when you get married, it is happening right now!  Don’t waste these years wishing for something you can have no control over. Instead, go live life as full as you can!  Some of my favorite stories my mom would tell me growing up happened before she met my dad, and you know the reason she had those stories?  It is because she chose to make the most of her single years and lived them fully!  Make this time you are living now worth looking back on and smiling over instead of looking back and realizing that you wasted such a large portion of your life.  This is your chance to go on that trip of a life time, volunteer at your church or that mission downtown.  Go find a younger girl and invest in her life, you will never regret it!  Spend time investing in the friendships and relationships you currently have in your life, one of the things my married friends has taught me is that when you are married you still need those girl friends just as much as you did before you were married.

I want to challenge you this Valentine’s Day to not stay at home wishing that someone special was there to celebrate the day with.  Go find some single friends and invite them to a Galentines or Palentines party!  Or if you’re like me and nearly all of your local friends are married, host a Galentines party a few days before or after Valentines Day.  Go make memories that you want to remember!

Finally, I just want you to know that you are a beautiful, amazing young woman.  Yes YOU!  Not having a significant other does not make you any less wonderful as the woman in a relationship.  You already are LOVED, CHERISHED AND BEAUTIFUL.  God has not forgotten you, and He has not left you alone.  He is on your side and He is in your corner.  I also am here for you if you need someone.

Happy Valentines Day!

Leighton Michele

Happy Easter

What my sisters and I are wearing:

Left: Top (similar), Skirt (similar), Shoes (similar)

Middle (me): Dress (similar), Shoes (same)

Right: Dress (same), Shoes (similar)

“God proved His love on the Cross.  When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.'”

-Billy Graham

I love this quote by Billy Graham, for truly, this the whole meaning behind Easter.  We never need to look any further than the cross in questioning how great the Father’s love for us is.   God loved us so much that He chose not to leave us in our sin, separated from Him for eternity in the punishment that we deserved.  Rather, He sent His only Son who knew no sin to become sin and die a gruesome, horrific death on the cross so that we might be reconciled with God!  But, the best news of all is that Jesus didn’t stay in the grave, for if He had, all hope would have been lost, but rather, on the third day He rose and now all who believe in Him can have eternal life and are adopted into the family of God!  I will never be able to fathom the kind of love that drove God to do such a great thing for me, but I will forever be grateful for this great love of His!

I have been loving the song Reckless Loveand thought I would share the lyrics of the chorus here today for Easter as they are so perfect for today:

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.  Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine.  I couldn’t earn it, I don’t deserve it, still you gave yourself away.  Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God.

Happy Easter sweet friends!

Xoxo,

Leighton Michele

New Year, New Resolution

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Dress: Versona (sold out online, but I’ve seen it still in stores)

 Jacket: Similar Shoes: Similar

Happy New Year Everybody!

If you have been around for awhile, you may remember that last year I shared with you that I don’t enjoy doing the traditional resolutions, but rather enjoy picking a trait or two to work on for the year.  Last year my words were to be gentle and kind, and while I was not perfect, I have definitely seen growth in this and am so thankful that I spent the past year focusing on this.  There were several times where because I had this at the front of my mind I acted in a kinder and more gentle manner than I might have otherwise.

I have been looking forward to sharing my words for this year with all of you for sometime now.  While spending some time with God last October, I felt him leading me to have my words for 2018 be faith and courage.  This year I want to focus on having faith and trusting God at a new level, knowing that He will never lead me wrong.  This is so much easier said than done, and that is where the courage comes into play.  Sometimes it is scary to step out on faith, and this year I want to have the courage to go wherever God may lead me.

And while this isn’t part of my “words for the year”, I want to draw closer to God and own my identity in Him of a sinner saved by grace and a beloved daughter adopted into His family.  What are your goals and resolutions for the new year?  Does anyone else choose a word or words to try to define your year with?  If so, I’d love to hear them!

Xoxo,

Leighton Michele

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  I hope everyone has been having a wonderful day filled with family and friends and thinking through everything you are thankful for.  Tomorrow I’m going to share a recap of my Thanksgiving as well as how I decorated our table, but for tonight I want to share some things I am thankful for.  This past Sunday at church our pastor encouraged us to spend the last five minutes of the service writing down a list of things that we were thankful for.  I quickly discovered I was not finished after I had filled a page and have continued with the list since.  For Thanksgiving I thought I would share twenty things I am thankful for here on the blog.

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  1. Incredible parents who love me and have supported me my whole life.
  2. Sisters who are my best friends and that I know are always there for me.
  3. An incredible group of friends who are seriously more like family to me than friends, community is an incredible gift that I do not take for granted and am so thankful for.

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4. Food on the table

5. A job that I can actually enjoy going to throughout the week with incredible coworkers that I enjoy spending the day with.

6.  The blessing of having the chance to go back to school and pursue a degree I love and being able to do so debt free.

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7. Dance.  When I had to quite dance at 9 I was devastated.  I am so thankful that God gave me the opportunity to get to dance again later in my life and even pursue the dream of earning my pointe shoes.

8. A chance to travel.  I have been blessed with the opportunity to go on many missions trips and as a result see the world and meet so many incredible people.  One of the greatest gifts this has given me is actually finally being able to understand the bigger picture that the church truly is.  It is so encouraging to know that there are people serving God all over this world even when I can’t see them.

9. An incredible church that I love where I learn every week more about God and have found an incredible community and grown so much in my faith.

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10.  A car that while it has had issues, gets me to where I need to be.

11. The baristas at my favorite coffee shop downtown that know my favorite drink and always have it already started for me before I even step foot inside.

12.  Extended family that is always there and that I enjoy seeing when we get together.

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13. Living close to work and being able to come home for lunch and spend time with my puppy and family.

14. My sweet puppy Checotah and cats Tiger and Oreo, they bring so much joy to my life with their sweet cuddles and personalities.

15. I am thankful that when I look over my life how I can see God’s fingerprints all over it and know that truly, I have never walked alone, He has always been there and always will be.

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16. A bookshelf overflowing with books in my bedroom that I love sitting down to read.

17. Afternoons spent playing the piano and soaking up the music.

18. The holiday season and how it brings family and friends together, both ones you see all the time and ones that you don’t see often.

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19. The gift of the Bible and living in a country where I am free to read it and study it without fear of being arrested.

20. And finally the most important thing I am thankful for, the gift of salvation.  When I truly stop and think of this, my mind truly can’t comprehend the love that God must have for us that he would send his ONLY SON to die a horrific death to save ungrateful wretches who were living in rebellion against him.  I will forever be thankful that he to give my a life filled with his grace.

Xoxo,

Leighton Michele