Small & Packed with a massive heart

Small & Packed with a massive heart

As I was pulling into Nashville, TN I knew that one of the most special ladies I have ever met had some roots in the Music City.  I decided that I was going to shoot a message to Coach Dar, Darleen Santore, and ask her for some recommendations on some potential passionate/amazing people to meet while I was in town.  About as soon as I sent the text, Coach Dar had sent out a text message to a couple of friends letting them know about my journey and what I was looking for.  Just as I expected, Coach Dar’s recommendation did not disappoint.    Check out Coach Dar’s Website: & make sure to follow her on Facebook and Instagram.  Her passion to “Raise the Bar,” is inspirational and motivating.  She is one of a kind!

Soon after coach Dar sends out a text, I get a buzz on my phone and it was from Laura Lyn.  Here is what her message read:

Hey Justin, this is Laura Lyn.  I’m a local native of Nashville and have lived in Franklin, TN for the last 20 years.  I have 5 kids, 3 in college, 1 in high school, and the youngest in 1st grade.  We adopted our youngest son from Haiti and are celebrating his 7th birthday on Sunday and his 3-year coming home Anniversary in April. 

My husband and I have been in the music industry for almost 3 decades and met when we both worked in Christian Music.  My husband now uses entertainment as an avenue to bring people together at unique locations (hard to explain but fun!)

Our family has had battles of its own that I’m open to sharing.  I’d love to be able to help in any way that I can or that is appropriate to your journey. 

Please don’t hesitate to reach out.  I could probably meet you on Monday.  Have a great day. 

What an amazingly thoughtful text, I thought.  She doesn’t even know me, but is willing to reach out and share and meet up at a drop of a dime.  I knew that anyone Coach Dar set me up with would be amazing, but after this text I understood that I had to stay an extra day in Nashville and hear more about Laura Lyn’s story.


The day we are set to meet, I get a text from Laura Lyn with the address for the Good Cup in Franklin, TN and she said:

“Look for a petite blonde, hair just above shoulders.  I am looking forward to meeting you.”

My response:

“Awesome – I can’t wait.  Look for a super tall chubby guy, hair also above the shoulders.”

As soon as I get to the Good cup and walk in I see the most adorable women sitting in a chair with a bright grin on her face.  I walk up and we exchange two hugs, one from her and the second all the way from Arizona, from Coach Dar.   As I sit down, I noticed that she gave me the smallest seat sitting low to the ground.  As I get comfortable and look up she is sitting above eye level as she goes:

 ” I gave you the small seat and me the tall one so I wouldn’t be so small.  Also, you are not chubby.”


 Ahh…flattery, I like her already.  I thank her and tell her that if she wants to continue she can. 🙂


I immediately felt very comfortable with Laura Lyn.  You just kind of know when you meet a special person with an amazing soul and they immediately knock down any barriers you might set up.  I began to talk about my journey and the reason I am taking it.  I talk about my depression, Kristina, my life, and openly some of my struggles that I don’t often share with many people. After I explain more about my journey and where I have been, what I have done, and some of the people I have met, Laura Lyn jumps in with:

“You know I have battled major depressive disorder for 20 years.”


I immediately went to the: Yeah right, her soul is beaming with energy.  I then started to think about how other people have reacted when I have told them that I have been battling depression for the past 17 years.  They are always like “No way, not you.”  You are so inspiring and you do so much and you are always going.”  I then quickly went back to listen to here share more details about her depression.


Laura Lyn shared that she had felt ashamed that she couldn’t fight the depression witout medication.  Through medication, getting off medication, trying holistic approaches, reading more scripture, prayer “harder, etc,, she finally came to accept that taking medication was okay.  She had a disease that needed medication like a diabetic needs medication. This is what helped close the synapse in my brain and brought me back to myself.

This was exactly what I had thought for so long.  I didn’t want to take medication, because it was almost like I was admitting that there was something wrong with me.  This is something that I still battle – the idea of taking medication and not trying to beat it on my own, which often feels impossible.

She then said:

“I just realized that when I am not taking care of myself, which includes taking my medication, I was not me and when I was I started to feel like myself again.  I am now able to recognize, identify symptoms, and then make changes to right the ship when episodes come on.  It is really now feeling more like a side obstacle that I deal with now.”


I feel a weight come off my shoulders.  In my head, all I could think about is “You mean you can do that.”  You can feel normal, you can identify when episodes are coming on, and you can control it.  I can’t even explain the relief that her words just gave me.  I have often heard:


  • “You just are not the same person you used to be.”
  • “I don’t recognize who you are.”
  • “You are not the same person I feel in love with.”


While I completely understood where these above comments were coming from, they also took a piece of my heart with them when I would hear them.  “I know,” I would think, but “I don’t know how to become that person again. How do I become the person I was before?  How do I become the person you fell in love with?”  This waged a constant battle in my heart, mind, and soul because so much of me wanted to turn back the clock and be that person again, but I didn’t know how.  I have an amazing counselor, great friends, and I have read books/blogs/info on how to heal.  These words for some reason really spoke to me.  I started to finally say:

“If she can battle this for 20 years and feel like herself again and control this, well…… so can I.”


This conversation alone, would have been enough to make this meeting worth a million bucks, but believe me it gets more intense.


Laura Lyn then began to explain her more details about her life and about her parent’s seemingly insurmountable difficulties 25 years into in their marriage. After two years of hard work and counseling, it looked like their marriage was potentially going to end. They called a family meeting where they explained the situation and what they were thinking.  During this conversation, one of the family members chimed in and said “You know when I have a goal, I write it down.  I put it on the mirror and I just do it.”  Laura remembers thinking “Ok, that is too cliché and this is much bigger than that,” but the very next day her dad moved back into the house, they worked continually on reconciliation and reconsolidated, and they have been together and happy for another 22 years.

I immediately started to think: “Wow the power of sharing and communicating.”  Sometimes we hold back from saying things that are in our heart because we think they might be silly or trivial.  Here in this story we have a family member who just shared what was in their heart.  It seems to be a very basic advice, one that I also did in high school as an athlete, but not something you would think would impact the decision on staying married through a traumatic experience.

If her family member sits there quietly, the chances are that her parents get divorced. Instead – they shared what was in their heart and the impact was life changing.

As I heard this, I decided that I didn’t care what the situation was and how I was feeling, I was going to work on sharing what was from my heart. That night I sent a message to someone and just spilled my feelings all out there. It was not a long message, but it was a simple and it came 100 percent from my heart:

“Not sure, but I had this feeling you needed to hear it.  You are so smart and valuable as an employee, person, teammate.  You deserve the world and you deserve to do what you love. Just know that you deserve it and don’t ever settle.  You are way way to special to ever settle for anything and the right thing will come your way if you keep pushing, it just has too because you have a special gift that needs to be utilized to its fullest.  I Love you.”

I decided that you just never know what tomorrow will bring, you never know what a person needs to hear, and you never know what sharing from your heart can do for someone else.  The idea of giving and sharing love outweighs the fear of what response/reaction you might get when it truly comes from the heart.  It could seem simple and maybe it won’t amount to anything, but why chance it.   Your heart sometimes knows more than you do and as my guy D.J. Diebold always states “It is one of your brains – your head, heart, and your gut.”


As Laura Lyn finished up her story, she stated:

“All of this just helped me learn about counseling and the power of communication.  This was something that showed me the significant importance of communication in my marriage and later gave me the tools to deal with another family battle.”


Laura Lyn has 5 children (3 boys and 2 girls ranging from the ages of 22 years old – 7 years old). In high school one of her boys struggled with substance abuse.  She and her husband found out, and as a last resort, and with his consent, sent him to a treatment program out of state. It was the hardest thing they had ever had to do but it was to hopefully save their son’s life. After the treatment program, things went well for a few months then turned for the worse. They lived in a constant state of fear and ended up putting their son in an outpatient program. It was during this program that Laura Lyn really began seeking help for herself instead of trying to fix the situation which is always what she wanted to do. She began attending AlAnon regularly (AlAnon is for the family members of addicts as well as for recovering addicts). This program opened her eyes to how to help herself. It gave her support and helped her and her husband not feel so alone. While her son was reluctantly in outpatient, he was actually growing and she was too…so much so that she was able to put boundaries into place that drugs and alcohol wouldn’t be tolerated. She also released her grip on control of her son or anyone for that matter and focused on her own healing and boundaries.

“I am a fixer.  I try to fix everything.  I would read books, scriptures, quotes and be like – try this, read this, do this.”  I finally and to let go and realized I was powerless.”

After that situation:  Her son is now 2 1/2 years sober and “is such a smart and amazing kid.”  He is going to college, speaks at programs at Vanderbilt University and around town and Is also the area director for an NA support program for those in recovery.

In my head, all I could think about is how small and tiny this woman is, but how strong and the courage she presented.  I was amazed at how open she was and quickly realized that this gave her strength. Talking about her ups and downs seems to be a type of therapy.  I couldn’t agree more as I felt so much weight off my shoulders the first time I let out the idea that I was battling depression.

Earlier she had mentioned that they had adopted a child that was 7  years old from Haiti.

“How did this come about” I asked her, just knowing from our previous conversation that the story behind it was going to be amazing.

In 2010 Haiti had a massive Earthquake. Some of their good friends were in the process of adopting a child from an orphanage in Haiti when her 9-year-old daughter came up and asked for her to get her savings down so she could count it.  Laura Lyn would keep all of the kids’ savings in a mason jar so they could see how much money they were saving.  She got the money down and her daughter counted up the money: $128.00 saved, not too bad for a 9-year-old.  The daughter then said:

I want to give this money to our friends so that they can adopt their child from Haiti.


She was completely stunned by the comment and that was not what she was expecting when she pulled the money down for her to count.

She said “You want to give All of it?”

Her daughter said “yes, all of it…What am I going to do with it?”

She said “Alright! Let’s make it happen!”


They went to her friend’s house and her daughter presented the money to her friends and as you can imagine it was a very touching and powerful moment.  What 9-year-old gives up $128 dollars to help someone else.  I thought to myself- well a daughter from an amazing family, obviously.  A few days went buy and her daughter started asking if they could visit Haiti.   Then days turned into weeks and that turned into months where her daughter asked daily if they could visit Haiti.  Finally, on Christmas “Santa” brought her daughter a note with approval for the trip, but there was one stipulation.  She was going to have to raise the money to take the trip.  Her daughter immediately started to write letters to people asking for donations and picking up odd jobs to earn extra cash.  A year later – her daughter had earned enough money for two tickets to Haiti.

Laura Lyn and her daughter embarked on a trip to Haiti where they worked in the orphanages, ran soccer camps, and just loved on the children. While they were in Haiti, her daughter had a huge impact on the other people working on the mission trip.  Her impact was so touching that locals started to say “there is something special about this girl” and one day they performed a prayer over her blessing her.” A few days later Laura Lyn called her husband and her daughter could not wait to get on the phone:

“Can we adopt?”


Her husband, like Laura Lyn, were thinking “ok 4 kids and our youngest is 10.  We are almost done and free.”  When they got back from the trip they called a family meeting to talk about the potential of adopting.  They decided that they would take 30 days to pray and then come back together to discuss.  Sometime during that 30 days her husband, who was reluctant, heard something at church that sparked him to come back to the family and say:

“I can help one.”


This put the family on a 3-year journey to adopt.  There were tons of red tape, bureaucracy, and a lack of government infrastructure that caused the process to delay.  Along with all of the issues with the Haitian government, they also had to come up with the money to complete the adoption.  They were going to need to raise $34,000 dollars.  They had so much support from their community who helped the with fundraising efforts and they even had a friend donate airline miles so the family of 6 could travel together to go pick up their son from Haiti.  It was really a tough, but amazing experience.  When I asked about it Laura Lyn stated:

“If you would have known everything ahead of you on a challenge, most likely you wouldn’t go through with it, so it is amazing that we just battle and trust and keep pushing forward.  Amazing things happen when we do this.”


They got back from Haiti with their son and the now family of 7 was greeted by a huge group of people with signs and screaming with joy.

As I concluded our discussion I thanked her so much for her time and told her how amazing I thought she was.  As I walked out I started to think about this woman battling depression, family trauma, a son with an addiction, and a long journey to adopt a new son from Haiti and to then see her just smiling bright and sharing so openly was a very powerful experience.  I don’t know if any of you have ever been in the presence of someone who has an Ora that just absolutely glows and rubs off on the people next to them.  If you haven’t, I suggest that when you find that person – ask them questions, build a relationship with them, and try and be in their presence as much as you can; because it is a powerful experience.

As I drove off for the next leg of my journey I thought to myself:

“Such a little person, such a massive heart”

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