Rachel and I started out as pen pals somewhere around 15 years ago. Somehow in the hundreds, probably even thousands, of pages of letters that flew between us we became the best of friends. A lot of life has happened over the years, the sort of life that changes a person; I suppose adulthood will do that to you. Yet life, with all of it's changes and seasons has only proven the reality of our close friendship.

More recently life dealt blow after devastating blow to this beautiful friend, leaving her as a single mom with some of the most immense heartache anyone can know. She worries a lot about the future of her precious children. She fears what the outcome of a vindictive ex's continual onslaught of false accusations will do to their lives.

She doesn't know this, but she's the bravest person I know. Every day she gets up and she owns her fight song. It's a fight for what is right, and her daughters are watching and silently learning. They are growing up with the same sort of bravery instilled in their hearts.

That day she finally stood up for herself and the safety of her children was day one that she proved to herself and the world that she's stronger than she ever realized. She stared fiercely into a dark and scary abyss of starting over, of treading where she never thought she would ever have to tread, and with a bleeding heart she faced her fear of nobody ever believing her story. She was scared of being alone, yet she ran headlong into the great unknown, finding light for the way in her new-found motto, "Have Courage and be Kind." There truly isn't a better possible definition of who she is.

Courageous. And Kind. 

She asked if it would be okay to come spend the weekend with me over Mother's Day and naturally I couldn't think of a more desirable way to spend such a holiday. My kids love her kids and we just always have such a nice time together. In spite of the lack of sleep and somewhere between the caffeine highs and chocolate fixes and stale tasting Pirate's Booty, we squeezed in a photo shoot. It was beautiful. I love having beautiful mothers who inspire me to no end in front of my camera. Rachel is beautiful. Her daughters are beautiful. Her story is raw and painful, but she makes it beautiful.

This is my friend Rachel, and this is her fight song.

Rachel's story is shared with permission. She hopes it will help someone, somewhere in their awful situation find the courage to stand up for themselves. To take back their lives and prove that they can and will be alright. Living with an abuser is not actually living. You are stronger than you think.

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