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A few months ago, I came across a non-profit organization called To Write Love On Her Arms. So, I checked it out. I saw this story that was posted on the website, a story that apparently gave the background of how it got started with the focus of helping just one person named Renee survive long enough to make it into rehab, and being there for her after she got out to continue to love her and to let her know she has worth. And, so I read it.

I was very moved. I’ve rarely been so moved in all my life. I’ve known people like Renee. And one of them was ever on my mind as I read that story. In fact, after I read the story, I sent her a message to say that I was thinking about her and that I love her.

To Write Love On Her Arms is far beyond just another cause to fight for. It is a movement dedicated to providing hope to those who struggle with depression, addiction, suicide, and cutting. The people that run it have no delusions of grandeur. They are broken people reaching out to broken people to show the healing and life-changing love of Christ.

Please take the time and read the story. All of it is true. Renee is real, and she has real struggles. You likely know someone who has similar struggles, but just aren’t aware of it. Even if you don’t, there are people in your town and at your place of work, at your church, in your classrooms, and riding next to you on the bus who have these struggles and are crying out for help, if anyone would just listen.

If you have the desire to get involved, this organization needs you. You can buy their distinct shirts, you can donate money, you can provide connections to professionals who help those who battle with these issues, you can spread the word, or you can simply pray. Contact them and they’ll let you know how you can become involved.

Here’s the story, as written by founder Jamie Tworkowski.

Pedro the Lion is loud in the speakers, and the city waits just outside our open windows. She sits and sings, legs crossed in the passenger seat, her pretty voice hiding in the volume. Music is a safe place and Pedro is her favorite. It hits me that she won’t see this skyline for several weeks, and we will be without her. I lean forward, knowing this will be written, and I ask what she’d say if her story had an audience. She smiles. “Tell them to look up. Tell them to remember the stars.”

I would rather write her a song, because songs don’t wait to resolve, and because songs mean so much to her. Stories wait for endings, but songs are brave things bold enough to sing when all they know is darkness. These words, like most words, will be written next to midnight, between hurricane and harbor, as both claim to save her.

Renee is 19. When I meet her, cocaine is fresh in her system. She hasn’t slept in 36 hours and she won’t for another 24. It is a familiar blur of coke, pot, pills and alcohol. She has agreed to meet us, to listen and to let us pray. We ask Renee to come with us, to leave this broken night. She says she’ll go to rehab tomorrow, but she isn’t ready now. It is too great a change. We pray and say goodbye and it is hard to leave without her.

She has known such great pain; haunted dreams as a child, the near-constant presence of evil ever since. She has felt the touch of awful naked men, battled depression and addiction, and attempted suicide. Her arms remember razor blades, fifty scars that speak of self-inflicted wounds. Six hours after I meet her, she is feeling trapped, two groups of “friends” offering opposite ideas. Everyone is asleep. The sun is rising. She drinks long from a bottle of liquor, takes a razor blade from the table and locks herself in the bathroom. She cuts herself, using the blade to write “FUCK UP” large across her left forearm.

The nurse at the treatment center finds the wound several hours later. The center has no detox, names her too great a risk, and does not accept her. For the next five days, she is ours to love. We become her hospital and the possibility of healing fills our living room with life. It is unspoken and there are only a few of us, but we will be her church, the body of Christ coming alive to meet her needs, to write love on her arms.

She is full of contrast, more alive and closer to death than anyone I’ve known, like a Johnny Cash song or some theatre star. She owns attitude and humor beyond her 19 years, and when she tells me her story, she is humble and quiet and kind, shaped by the pain of a hundred lifetimes. I sit privileged but breaking as she shares. Her life has been so dark yet there is some soft hope in her words, and on consecutive evenings, I watch the prettiest girls in the room tell her that she’s beautiful. I think it’s God reminding her.

I’ve never walked this road, but I decide that if we’re going to run a five-day rehab, it is going to be the coolest in the country. It is going to be rock and roll. We start with the basics; lots of fun, too much Starbucks and way too many cigarettes.

Thursday night she is in the balcony for Band Marino, Orlando’s finest. They are indie-folk-fabulous, a movement disguised as a circus. She loves them and she smiles when I point out the A&R man from Atlantic Europe, in town from London just to catch this show.

She is in good seats when the Magic beat the Sonics the next night, screaming like a lifelong fan with every Dwight Howard dunk. On the way home, we stop for more coffee and books, Blue Like Jazz and (Anne Lamott’s) Travelling Mercies.

On Saturday, the Taste of Chaos tour is in town and I’m not even sure we can get in, but doors do open and minutes after parking, we are on stage for Thrice, one of her favorite bands. She stands ten feet from the drummer, smiling constantly. It is a bright moment there in the music, as light and rain collide above the stage. It feels like healing. It is certainly hope.

Sunday night is church and many gather after the service to pray for Renee, this her last night before entering rehab. Some are strangers but all are friends tonight. The prayers move from broken to bold, all encouraging. We’re talking to God but I think as much, we’re talking to her, telling her she’s loved, saying she does not go alone. One among us knows her best. Ryan sits in the corner strumming an acoustic guitar, singing songs she’s inspired.

After church our house fills with friends, there for a few more moments before goodbye. Everyone has some gift for her, some note or hug or piece of encouragement. She pulls me aside and tells me she would like to give me something. I smile surprised, wondering what it could be. We walk through the crowded living room, to the garage and her stuff.

She hands me her last razor blade, tells me it is the one she used to cut her arm and her last lines of cocaine five nights before. She’s had it with her ever since, shares that tonight will be the hardest night and she shouldn’t have it. I hold it carefully, thank her and know instantly that this moment, this gift, will stay with me. It hits me to wonder if this great feeling is what Christ knows when we surrender our broken hearts, when we trade death for life.

As we arrive at the treatment center, she finishes: “The stars are always there but we miss them in the dirt and clouds. We miss them in the storms. Tell them to remember hope. We have hope.”

I have watched life come back to her, and it has been a privilege. When our time with her began, someone suggested shifts but that is the language of business. Love is something better. I have been challenged and changed, reminded that love is that simple answer to so many of our hardest questions. Don Miller says we’re called to hold our hands against the wounds of a broken world, to stop the bleeding. I agree so greatly.

We often ask God to show up. We pray prayers of rescue. Perhaps God would ask us to be that rescue, to be His body, to move for things that matter. He is not invisible when we come alive. I might be simple but more and more, I believe God works in love, speaks in love, is revealed in our love. I have seen that this week and honestly, it has been simple: Take a broken girl, treat her like a famous princess, give her the best seats in the house. Buy her coffee and cigarettes for the coming down, books and bathroom things for the days ahead. Tell her something true when all she’s known are lies. Tell her God loves her. Tell her about forgiveness, the possibility of freedom, tell her she was made to dance in white dresses. All these things are true.

We are only asked to love, to offer hope to the many hopeless. We don’t get to choose all the endings, but we are asked to play the rescuers. We won’t solve all mysteries and our hearts will certainly break in such a vulnerable life, but it is the best way. We were made to be lovers bold in broken places, pouring ourselves out again and again until we’re called home.

I have learned so much in one week with one brave girl. She is alive now, in the patience and safety of rehab, covered in marks of madness but choosing to believe that God makes things new, that He meant hope and healing in the stars. She would ask you to remember.

Stop the bleeding. Rescue is possible. Love is the movement.

To Write Love On Her Arms



  1. you are so amazing some one dose care you guys meen so much to mee thanks love big miek i have firedns that support you u saved my friedn from hurting her self thanks so much

  2. Hi Jonathan,
    I 1st found TWLOHA on Facebook and have since read more about it. My question is if you know whether or not there is an organization that has a place or perhaps a home for hurting kids for TWLOHA? I’m thinking about perhaps offering this to hurting kids sort of like AA is for alcoholics. It has been my dream for YEARS to have a home for hurting kids and kids that self harm where they can hear about our precious Jesus and can perhaps recover from their past and start a brand new joyful like in Him!
    Please let me know when you can and i hope you have a happy and blessed day in HIM!

    In His Grip,

  3. To Write Love On Her Arms is the single most brilliant organisation I’ve ever heard of. Jamie provides solace for hurting kids. It’s just beautiful. There’s no mallace, there’s no alterior motives with TWLOHA. It’s straight-forward: Love certainly is the movement.


  4. i’m new to the group, thought i would say hello. also, i wanted to share another great resource for help. it’s a site that is really awesome. check it out sometime if you want. you’re not alnoe! this group is awesome. take care!

  5. This really is the most amazing organization i’ve heard of. My best friend has gone through struggles similar and its great to know people care so much. She’s the greatest friend ever ❤ im doing a benefit and i need to contact them.. If someone knows the contact info pleasee please e-mail me with the details at thanks so much

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. By Random Thoughts at Christmas « twelve:one on 25 Dec 2007 at 5:29 am

    […] cool is that?!? Also, the fact that I average roughly 20-35 hits daily for one entry alone (”To Write Love On Her Arms“) is indicative of a) the growing amount of exposure for the organization, and b) the aching […]

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