Tag Archives: Kishia

32 years of mystery and revelation: Married to my best friend

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Thirty-two years ago tonight – I’m writing this on the eve of anniversary No. 32 (6/5/14) – my groomsmen, a bunch of on-fire-for-Jesus evangelicals, were probably somewhere eating pizza or studying their Bibles. I would have been right there with them except for a powerful need to be by myself. I was parked at the Belle City Park, facing the lake that had positive, powerful connections to my young life.  I stared out at the darkness, strangely calm although aware that an “I do” in about 14 hours would chart a course that I was not ready to begin.

Kelly had been 19 for six weeks. I would be 19 in nine weeks. We were just kids who were in love, drawn together six years earlier – barely teenagers – at about the same time both of our homes and lives were gut-punched by the divorce of our parents.

We weren’t “ready” to be married. Yet when I say, “Kids, don’t get married when you’re 19,” we’d do it all over again. Every day is at once new and predictable, laced with a solid measure of security yet seasoned with adventure and discovery. Kelly and I are as different as night and day yet also as similar as lifelong best friends and companions should be.

But imagine changing the way it began? Any delay, any detour might have meant missing the miracles of Feb. 26, 1985, and March 13, 1987 – the births of Kishia and Natasha. Imagine …

The night before our wedding, as I stared out over the pitch-blackness of the city park lake, I asked God for a sign, some indication of whether I should be getting hitched in a few hours. It already seemed that there had not been a time when I didn’t know Kelly – we started “going together” in the eighth grade, Nov. 22, 1976 – yet the thought that overwhelmed me at that moment was to imagine like without Kelly.

There was a lot I didn’t know at the age of nine-weeks-before-19. But what I saw at that moment was life-altering and confirming. The answer was right there in my gaze toward that dark lake: Nothing. Empty. Alone.

I didn’t see what the future held, but I saw what it wouldn’t hold if I opted out of “I do.” I’m not sure if Kelly had a similar epiphany. And if she did see even the most unfocused, however brief glimpse of our future together, the very fact that she didn’t flee and get as far from me as possible is a remarkable demonstration of grace.

I’m a mess. As a writer, I filter each word, sentence and paragraph I write through perspectives that range from, “That’s really pretty good” to “That’s the worst piece of drivel ever penned by a human being.” The wiring is basically the same when it comes to husband-hood. Just when I start thinking, “Hey, I’m finally getting the hang of this,” that other voice suggests, “Dude, you don’t even have a clue.”

I love to watch Kelly. Sounds kinda creepy, maybe, but I love just watching her: talking on the phone, reading, being Grammy to our Princess Kianna, in deep thought – sleeping. Her facial expressions, her unique-to-Kelly mannerisms and speech patterns, the look on her face when she’s sweetly and intently listening to a random stranger who approached her to just spill their guts about life’s trials and troubles. (That happens more often than I can count).

Thirty-two years.

There’s still so much I don’t know. I still don’t know how it’s possible to be so comfortable, so close and so connected to someone. And just when it seems that I’ve given my bride a lifetime of reasons to pull away and withdraw, she pulls even closer and loves even more.

Thank you, God, for Kelly, for these 32 years, our lives together, and the rest of our lives being amazed by the mystery of it all.

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Guest blog: Missing my Granny

By NATASHA JACKSON             

 

I didn’t realize until the other day that I am still grieving the loss of my Granny Nola. Of course I cried when she died. I cried a lot. And I cried at her funeral. But I had a lot of peace about her going because I wasn’t the one taking care of her when she got really sick. I was in Fiji. And I wrote her a “good-bye on this earth” letter while I was there and my mom read it to her. I didn’t see her at her absolute worst. And I’m so thankful that I didn’t.

But a few weeks ago, I went to a senior assisted living center in Warrensburg and played and sang piano for the sweet old folks. To me, I did horribly. My voice was cracking the whole time because I was getting so emotional. When I played the hymn, “Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross,” there was an elderly woman in the front row who started singing along to my poor piano skills. She sang so loudly and clearly. When I looked up at her, she had her eyes closed and was smiling so big. It really touched my heart. When I started to play and sing “Amazing Grace,” my emotions took over and I broke down. I had to stop playing. I was sobbing in front of 30 or so very elderly people. I felt so ridiculous. I mean, who breaks down like that in front of people they don’t even know?

I felt so rude. I had come to bless these people with my musical gifts, and I couldn’t even get through it. Of course I had to tell them what was up. I told them that my great-grandma had passed away and we shared a very unique bond over the Gospel and old hymns. No one understands that side of me better than my Granny Nola did.

The night before her funeral, I had a dream that she was whole, beautiful, and healthy. She was singing “In The Garden,” one of our most favorite old hymns. She loved roses. And she loved Jesus. Granny was so ready to go and be with Him where she could walk and talk with Him. She expressed to me several times how ready she was to go Home. The first verse and chorus:

“I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses; And the voice I hear, falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses. And He walks with me, and He talks with me, And He tells me I am His own. And the joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known.”

Granny is with Jesus. Experiencing joy incomparable to anything anyone on earth has experienced. Instead of mourning that she is gone, we should be rejoicing that she is there. And I do. But I miss her.

My Granny got me the most thoughtful present I have ever received. For my birthday one year, she gave me a book that had something like 9 or 10 CD’s in it, and they were all instrumental hymns.

At the assisted living center, I had to stop playing hymns and switched to contemporary worship songs. I apologized for my breakdown, and they were all more than understanding. I thought that I was going there to bless these people. But really, it was the other way around. I was blessed, because being there with them helped my heart continue to heal and go through the grieving process.

I thought I was done hurting about my Granny being gone. But apparently I wasn’t, and being at that center was exactly what my heart needed to heal. When I was finished, I went up and talked to the lady who had sung along when I played the old hymns. Her name was Virginia. She asked how old my grandmother was when she passed. “84, almost 85” I said. With a big smile and a tear in her eye, she proudly stated, “I’m 85.” She also played the cello when she was my age. She was delighted to hear that I had and asked me to come and play for her sometime. I told her I would come and help her to relive some memories. Her smile couldn’t have been any wider.

I sensed Granny’s spirit in that place. Not because it was a home for “old people,” but because it was a place where the Lord was worshiped and they loved their old hymns. Just like Granny and me.

Journal Note: Here’s Alan Jackson performing “In The Garden.”

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Grandpa, uncle, godfather: the best titles

When you’re around good kids for any length of time, you learn to appreciate their parents.

We retired to slumber Sunday night with a different kind of tired. Friday night we had our four godchildren for a sleep-over: siblings Desiree, Dasia, Bryant and Bryson. I will provide photographic evidence of this relationship in the future. We only recently were asked to be godparents. With these siblings, their mom, Rochelle, has already done the work of teaching values, manners and personal responsibility.

Kelly and I are simply following that path to reinforce Rochelle’s work. The godparent role is typically associated with Catholicism, so I’m doing some research to figure out what this means for Protestants. It’s basically the same thing, I believe: spiritual mentoring/education.

Any suggestions?

We went from godparenting to having Kelly’s 3-year-old nephew, Marik, on Saturday, overnight and until Sunday afternoon. Just a few days ago I made it clear that when granddaughter Kianna reaches the “why” stage, I will answer every single “why” with a clear, Kianna-level response.

I got that “why” vow put to the test with little Marik this weekend. I’m not good at short, concise answers — just ask Kelly, my co-workers  and anyone with whom I exchange email. But I’m better at that now than I was just 36 hours ago.

Finally, bringing Marik to Jefferson City to hand him off to his dad, en route from Jeff City to Byron in Osage County, our rendezvous site was the Brown Estate where little Kianna awoke from a good nap to find Grammy and Grandpa cooing and doting over her. Her parents, Kishia and Darnell, are making a difference in their daughter’s life. As a result, I have no doubt that Kianna will make a difference in the lives of countless people.

Princess Kianna will be six months old on Aug. 15, two days after this Grandpa’s 49th birthday.

I think a birthday picture will be in order.

This week …

  • Tuesday: Guest blog by youngest daughter, Natasha. She reminisces about her Granny Nola, who died in December. Have your tissues ready.
  • Wednesday: Getting back to the Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting theme, a memoir-in-progress of my life’s spiritual journey.
  • Friday: The 80’s. Not the temperature, but the decade. Another memoir-in-progress.
  • Saturday: The Write Life. (Writing advice, writing prompts, words from other writers, etc.)
  • This schedule basically resumes the thematic approach I took with The Journal back in the spring. I’m also genuinely interested and anxious to have guest contributors as often as possible. Practically any subject (we’re family-friendly, but also thought-provoking), preferably something from 200 to 600 words, and I’ll ask for a bio and mug shot.

Now … Reach out and blog.

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Somebody’s 5 months old!

I’ve got a bevy of stories to share for another day, namely two water events that almost changed or ended my life forever, that occurred in July. (One in 1978, involving the Gasconade River, and the other in 1993, involving the Missouri River). One of the all-time most tragic news stories that I covered was in July 1984 in the little town of Bland, Mo.

I’ll let you know when those true tales are ready. (I also just wanted to use the word “bevy” today).

And our current heat wave of consecutive 90-plus degree days is already the fifth-longest such stretch ever. If it becomes an all-time record, which is becoming increasingly possible, it will probably crack my Top 10 Lifetime Weather Events. So I’ll keep you posted, with an eventual update on the futile effort to produce tomatoes, zucchini, cukes and other goodies in the back yard.

Those are stories for another day, because the topic of this day is granddaughter Princess Kianna!

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Good, bad, better, best

Here’s how this works: I list something “good,” followed by something “bad,” then, recognizing that life has too many blessings to count, identify “better” and “best.” The list of four somethings may or may not be related.

Let’s begin.

Good: Started today with a good 5 mile bike ride. Bad: The central air unit was frozen this afternoon. Literally frozen. Ice on the tubing. Uh oh. Better: Lunch and afternoon get-together with our girls, Kishia (and hubby Darnell) and Natasha (and boyfriend Korey). Best: Granddaughter Kianna napping on Grandpa and Grammy’s bed, then waking up and smiling and looking for me when she hears my voice.

Good: Watering my parched plants just before sunset. Bad:Andy Griffith died yesterday.

Sheriff Andy Taylor
TV and entertainment pioneer Andy Griffith died Tuesday.

Better: Navigating the Creasy Springs roundabout on a bike creates an awesome buzz of adrenaline. Best: My nephew, Zeke, and his wife, Julie, had their first child on Monday, David Thomas Assel, weighing in at over 9 pounds. His daddy, Thomas Ezekiel, is one of my favorite people on the planet. (Just don’t tell him, ‘cause he has an inflated opinion of himself. Bazinga.)

Good: Preparing brats, chicken breast and my own on-the-grill scallop potatoes for grilling. Bad: Failure to pick up lighter fluid after the last grill-fest. I’m a briquets-only grill guy. Better: Natasha and Korey making a speedy trip to Moser’s to pick up lighter fluid. Best: Brats, chicken, potatoes were magnificent. Also grilled pineapple for the first time. Not a pineapple fan, but apparently it was okay.

Good: Two box fans and a borrowed window unit air conditioner getting the indoor temperature down to 80. At 11 p.m. Bad: Mediacom cable service. No complaints for eight months, but last four weeks or so? Grandpa’s very dissatisfied. Better: Our little dog, Bella, a Brussels griffon, is finally starting to like me. We’ve had her almost three years. Best:Spending most of Tuesday with Kelly enjoying Grandpa/Grammy time with Kianna.

Grammy and Grandpa with Princess Kianna

Good: The Fourth of July. Bad: Too much political and ideological polarization in the country. Better: Agreeing to disagree. Best: Living in the U.S. of A.

Good: Getting four free tickets to Monday night’s “Hot Summer Nights” chamber recital at Broadway Christian Church. Bad: No downside to this one. Better: Remembering Jerry Clower’s routine, “Public School Music Class.” Best: Enjoying the concert/recital/event with our friends Scott and Jane Williams.

Good: Writing a blog entry for the first time in too long. Bad: Going so long without keeping up with Jackson’s Journal, especially after building an audience with “Countdown to Kianna.” Better: Making a commitment to return to a 5-day-a-week blogging schedule. Best: Keeping that commitment.

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Baby, baby!

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Something special about today

Yesteryear’s calendar …

Easter Sunday, April 11, 1982 — Preach sunrise service, Pilot Knob Baptist Church.

John 20:15-15Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.

Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

John 10:27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

That Easter sunrise service I preached 30 years ago didn’t use the text I just shared. (That morning the text was Philippians 3:7-11, focus on verse 10). But if I had an Easter message for 2012, the title, based on the above reading from the King James Version, would be something of a take-off on the reality music show, “The Voice.”

Growing up as a preacher’s kid, Easter was a big deal. Sure, it was the fancy-dress Sunday of the year, and the day when you saw people in church who you might be surprised to see in church. (No doubt they were surprised to see me, too.)

There were Easter eggs and a big meal, but nothing like the commercial exercise that accompanies Easter these days. I’m not sure I got an Easter basket as a kid, but I don’t feel slighted. Honestly, I didn’t understand the dyed eggs and what that had to do with Easter, because I knew that Easter Sunday was different – and it wasn’t about bunnies and eggs. I was taught from the earliest days that I can remember that Easter was a celebration of the resurrection of Christ. It was the one day and the one image – and empty tomb – that separated my faith from all others.

We might have attended or been part of some sunrise services, but I don’t recall starting that as a personal tradition until I was in high school, after my parents divorced and as I began finding my own way spiritually.

A friend and I sang regularly at the First Christian Church in Belle and I recall going there for one or two Easter sunrise services if only because the service was followed by Easter breakfast. By the time Kelly and I were married and had Kishia and Natasha, I was pastoring somewhere up until 2001. From 1992 to 2001, Easter sunrise service at Beulah Baptist Church just outside Belle was a dual breakfast feast and early service, just maybe not as early as sunrise. Easter Sunday.

The music, the attire, the sermon – everything just seemed a little extra special even if it was super formal; or early. Strange, I know, but some of the things I now miss most about my early childhood church experiences were the traditions, formality and structure of the church environment. I doubt I appreciated those elements at the time.

I don’t know what Easter traditions you hold dear. Perhaps none. I’ve got a number of atheist friends who scoff at Christians more on Easter than any other day. But I’m not swayed, sorry. Easter is real to me.

The empty tomb. The cross.

The Voice.

Some of the most vivid parts – in my mind – of the story of the passion of Christ:

– The rising tension in the upper room where Jesus and his disciples had the last supper. The knowing glance between Jesus and Judas Iscariot. The uneasy mix of sacred worship and nervous laughter as the disciples could sense something eternally profound was going to happen.

– Impulsive, knee-jerking Simon Peter, the one character with whom I most identify. “I will never leave you. I will never deny you!” Then the rooster crowing and the crushing conviction of betrayal, denial and abandonment – within just a few hours of the humble meal in the upper room.

– The risen Christ’s grace and forgiveness, extended to impulsive, knee-jerking Jodie J… I mean, Simon Peter.

– The unwritten account of the angels of Heaven prepared for battle, poised on the edge of Heaven, anxiously awaiting the Son’s call or for the Father to say, “Go get my son.” Instead … I imagine chaos among the heavenly host – “Hey, isn’t Someone going to stop this?” or “This can’t be happening!” – as they see Jesus betrayed, falsely accused, beaten, stripped, mocked – and nailed to a cross; all the while the Father weeps oceans of tears …

Then turns his back.

– The command from the Father to the angels on the third day: “Go get my son!”

– Mary Magdelene’s broken heart yet continued devotion. “Oh, where is his body? What have you done with it?” Pain so deep that it’s all she knew. Hopeless, exhausted, confused. Pain so deep that she literally couldn’t recognize the man.

Until … “Mary.”

The Voice.

The Good Shepherd knows my name. Does He know yours?

Set aside seven minutes for Ray Boltz’s video and song, “Watch the Lamb.” Please watch it. Let me know what you think. You only need a little over two minutes, but it’s not Easter without “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.” My treat, brought to you by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

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Sweet Kianna, sweet Sunday

Palm Sunday, April 1, 2012
Dedication of our granddaughter
Kianna Allene Brown
led by Pastor James A. Howard Jr.
at One in Christ Baptist Church, Jefferson City, MO.
The pastor's passionate prayer, Kianna's calm demeanor -- this picture speaks thousands of words.

Southern Baptists do things differently. There are a few tenets that set us apart from other denominations. Consider, for instance, “eternal security” and “the priesthood of the believer.”

 The former is the belief that God’s grace not only saves me, but keeps me saved. Christ died once. To lose one’s salvation would require Christ dying again. I wasn’t saved by works, by some action of mine — other than confessing with my mouth and believing with my heart. There’s not a bunch of classes and no curriculum other than the Holy Scripture.

Those who shake their head at the notion of eternal security — and I’ve certainly shaken my head over my own actions at times — ultimately ask the question, “Would a true Christian do” … (fill in the blank)?

Great question. Everyone must answer that for him/herself. And which sin or number of sins tips the scale to “salvation lost?” The question I always ask my friends who believe one can fall from grace and lose his salvation is this: How will you know? I mean, one minute I have assurance that my ticket to Heaven is punched, the next minute some old lady who shouldn’t even be driving COMES TO A COMPLETE STOP! in the Creasy Springs/West Blvd. roundabout, and I honk and scream at her simultaneously.

I don’t scream anything profane — but I’m THINKING it!

What if in the very next instant I’m plowed over and flattened by one of the city of Columbia public works trucks, trash trucks or city buses that generally don’t stop, yield or otherwise obey the traffic laws the rest of us do? Did I lose my ticket — my salvation — because of my unkind, even unChristian thoughts and reaction to the old lady in the roundabout?

The other uniquely Protestant doctrine that Baptists cling to like fried chicken and peach cobbler at a carry-in dinner is the priesthood of the believer. 1 Timothy 2:5, “there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” Simply put, I come to, commune with and have a relationship with Christ one-on-one. My prayers are to God in the name of the Son.

My mom has a story that illustrates this beautifully. I’ll try to tell it correctly.

About 35 years ago my mom’s parents took my mom and all her siblings to Italy. At one point during the trip they were preparing to take a ride up a rocky hill in a rickety bus when the driver announced he would pray to St. Jude for safe passage. My little granny — my mom’s mom — piped up and said, “Can I just pray to God? I’ve got a direct line.”

That, my friends, is the priesthood of the believer.

Now to the point of this post. It seems that every culture and every religious order has some method of dedicating babies and children to God. In Baptist life, the dedication of a child isn’t a sacrament or a baptism, but it’s simply the parents agreeing that the child belongs to God and an affirmation that the parents will make it a priority to raise the child to love and obey Christ and His church. (Which I define as all believers in Christ, not a particular house of worship or denomination). But the parent’s house of worship does come into play, because after the grandparents, aunts, uncles and other relatives agree to encourage and hold the parents accountable, the local church body then takes a vow (a simple “we will,” “I will” or “yes”) to affirm what the parents have committed to.

In that respect, the Southern Baptist child dedication ceremony has more to do with the local church, the parents and the extended family than it has to do with the child. But it’s a beautiful thing.

This morning Kelly and I — Grammy and Grandpa — along with three aunts and uncles, a great-grandma, and a handful of cousins, stood at the altar with Kishia and Darnell as they dedicated our granddaughter Kianna Allene Brown to God. Being part of that service was a highlight of my whole life.

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Grandpa brag time

Friday is typically a memoir-in-progress of the big hair and big dreams of the 1980s. Today The Journal takes a detour to share photos of Kianna Allene Brown at 6 1/2 weeks old.

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Unexpected moments of Light

It’s time for “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting” when Jackson’s Journal undertakes a memoir-in-progress of my life’s spiritual journey.

Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting

I’ve been asked to speak and sing “The Lord’s Prayer” at a memorial service for one of Kelly’s cousins, Delena Sholler, on April 21 in the fellowship hall at First Baptist Church in Belle. The location alone sends an unexpected wave of emotion through me, something I’ll explain at a later time, under different circumstances. Delena was living in Texas; I barely knew her. But my “adopted” in-law family called on me, as they often have, to memorialize and celebrate her life.

Delena’s parents are John and Nina Tynes of Union. Kelly, Kishia and our new granddaughter Kianna were planning to visit Uncle Johnny and Aunt Nina today. They are Kianna’s Great-Great-Great Uncle and Aunt. And they are two of my favorite people. Uncle Johnny “gave Kelly away” at our wedding; I recently found a gospel song that Nina wrote and I arranged several years ago.

Remembering that shared history has given me a smile and also brought to mind Nina telling the most spine-tingling ghost stories I’ve ever heard. When I mentioned that to Kelly the other day, she held out her hand to stop me. “Nope, nope,” Kelly said, waving me off and shaking her head. I imagined that just the thought of Nina’s gift of vivid narration sent goosebumps pulsing up Kelly’s arms.

Nina and her sister, Neva, have seen their other three siblings enter eternity: Leroy Guinn, perhaps the most influential man during my early teen years; Nora Wallace, whom I was with when she breathed her last; and dear, sweet Grandma – Nola McDaniel – whom a dozen of us surrounded and serenaded into Heaven with quiet, sacred hymns just three and a half months ago.

Unexpected moments of Light. That’s what I’ve experience time and again with Kelly’s side of the family probably more than my own. The last words I’d use to describe that clan – especially the distant, great-great kinfolk – are pretentious and artificial. These folks are as real as they come. A loose cannon like me fits snugly into the fold.

I’m going to follow this theme of unexpected moments of Light for a few weeks. Last week there was no “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting” at Jackson’s Journal, the first time we’ve missed in three months. I’ve shed the legalistic view that “going to church,” even in the virtual world of The Journal, is mandatory for keeping a place at the grown-up table in Heaven. What isn’t acceptable, though, is just going through the motions when it comes to worship and examining my heart, but I’m a pretty good motion-goer-througher. I think I’ve mentioned before I learned from the best.

But you know one of the incredibly cool things about God? It’s as if He decides, “I’m gonna rock your going through the motions routine – when you least expect it.”

That’s called Grace.

So here I was, searching for guitar chords for “The Lord’s Prayer,” and thinking that I’d find something on YouTube, say “here’s what I’ve got for us for Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting,” and then we’d have a quick prayer and walk one block down the street (in Belle, Mo.) to Cecil’s for a frozen dairy treat.

What I found was The Martins singing their own version of The Lord’s Prayer. I clicked. I simply wanted to listen, grab the link, slap it on this page, say “Amen” and get on with setting my lineups for the too-many fantasy baseball teams that I’ve drafted. But wow, what a version. I love, love, love The Martins.

Instead, I went next to In the Presence of Jehovah, another Martins song.

An unexpected moment of Light. If this doesn’t launch you into full-fledged worship mode, then you haven’t got a pulse. This past Sunday Natasha texted me to say, “Visiting a church and a lady is singing ‘In the Presence of Jehovah’ for special music. Thinking of you.”

God was rocking the complacency that I’d allowed to creep in to my heart.

Finally, in observance of Lent and in preparation for Palm Sunday (Kianna is being dedicated) and then Resurrection Day (we also call it Easter) I offer what might be an overwhelming experience. An a cappella rendition of O Sacred Head (one of the more challenging bass lines there is), set to video from The Passion of the Christ.

Granted, this is a long blog entry. (Broke my own rule). And it will take 12 minutes or longer to hear all the songs – and the scenes in the video are unbearably graphic. The thoughts and emotions from this post’s music weren’t what you expected when you started reading.

But I’ll bet you, too, experienced unexpected moments of Light. You’ll let me know, right? 

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