I am so proud of one of my best and dearest friends, Heather Talley, for having a heart that is so tender and passionate for women that are in need. Heather and I go back a long, long time, many years!! We’ve been to the Philippines together, we’ve spent summer nights in tents that never stayed upright all night and we’ve woken up buried under sleeping bags and what used to be something that half way resembled a tent. We’ve climbed to the top of the fire tower with our BFF, Amanda, and we’ve come close to being arrested in Big Spring Park because Amanda was crawling through the large flower bed clock past curfew. We’ve been through the days of Avril Lavigne and we could sing all the words to every single Evanescence song. We formed the sisterhood that we so lovingly gave the name DAS that stands for something Heather, Amanda, and myself will take to our grave. I love Heather, or as we’ve always called her, Bird. Heather has always been the glue that held us all together.
Heather and I share very similar stories. We’ve shared the same bad habits, fallen in to the same patterns of abuse, been on the same roller coaster ride that abusive relationships really are, and we’ve been hurt in the same way. But the really cool thing about our story and our similarities is this: we are no longer the victim. We made it out alive.
In May of 2012, Heather and a group of women in the Four State area created a non-profit organization called Breathe Hope (www.tobreathehope.com). They chose this name because:
When a woman has been forgotten, beat down, exploited or rejected, she may often find herself on the floor, in the fetal position, lying in a pool of her own tears trying to catch a breath between outbursts. Hopeless. It is in these moments that she tells herself, “Just breathe.”Breathe Hope means to stop, take a breath, and remember there is hope. All she needs is someone to breathe hope into her. For her to know that she does not have to be a victim, she can become a survivor, even thrive. They may never be the same, but they can be better…healthier. It begins with someone breathing hope into them, but ultimately, they obtain a sense of personal power. I can say from my own personal experience that I found myself in that position so many times, feeling hopeless and trapped, literally curled up on the floor, crying so hard, and begging for God to just let me fall asleep and forget the pain that I was feeling. You see, I was never really abused physically, but the emotional, verbal, and mental abuse that I suffered all those years was, at times, harder on me personally than the pain of physical abuse. I remember times that I wished I had been beaten physically rather than verbally because the physical pain always goes away eventually. The bruises heal within a week or so, but the wounds from the words that cut me so deep lingered for weeks, months, years….until I was finally able to realize that there was hope for me. There was a way out. Heather has always been just about a year ahead of me in all this craziness. We kind of joke around about it at times, but in all seriousness, I’m so thankful that she has walked this road before me because without seeing that she made it out of a very similar situation alive (and is thriving!!), I don’t know if I would have the hope of a better tomorrow. Of course, I have the faith that comes from God, but I will admit, it is encouraging to see first hand that it can be done!! On October 22, 2011, I made the choice to start over and no longer hide behind the identity of the victim. I remember calling Heather that night and being scared half to death and her telling me how proud of me she was and that if I needed a place to stay or needed anything at all, she was there for me. And she has been. She’s listened to me cry a lot of tears but most importantly she was been that person that has breathed hope in to my life and reminded me that better days are ahead. And here I am a year later, and I am thriving and I have a sense of personal power. This coming Saturday, October 6, Heather and the rest of the Breathe Hope team will be hosting a 5k to raise awareness about this organization and all that it offers. I am so proud to support this cause!!! Their vision is to give women in our community love, hope and the resources they need to make life-changing decisions. If you aren’t doing anything on Saturday, come out and show your support for this amazing group of women that have poured so much time and and energy into helping the women in our Four State area!! I’m one of them!!! The course is USATF Certified 5K course starting at Cunningham Park in Joplin, MO. The run will be chip timed. Registration starts at 6:30am and the race begins at 8:00. Even if you’re not a runner, come walk the course with your family!! (http://www.tobreathehope.com/events/) Heather, I am so proud of you, friend. When I look at you and see how far you’ve come, I can’t help but get choked up. I remember countless nights, laying in the living room or in your bed on Mulberry Drive, listening to you, seeing your broken heart, searching for a way out….and now you’re a wife to a man that loves you with all his heart and sees the beauty in you and all that you have to offer…a man that would never take you for granted. I’m so thankful for all the things that we’ve been through because we are now given the opportunity to help women who are in the same situations we once were in. Look how far we’ve come, Bird. I couldn’t have done it without you, without my family, without Christ, without the love that I’ve felt from all of you. I’ve got your back 100 million percent. I love you! See you on race day!! THEN: our teen years AND NOW: