To Write Love On Her Arms

to-write-love on her arms

If you hope to understand the movement and the fashion that is To Write Love On Her Arms, you must understand the story. For some this is a story about depression, addiction and recovery.  For some it is the story of the fastest growing charitable organization ever.  For some it is the story of a clothing brand that exploded into the marketplace.  For some it is the story of how the underground Christian music scene fueled a social phenomenon.  It is all of those things but it is none of those things.

This is the story of a girl who was finally willing to accept love and found life.  This is the story of a man who was willing to share Christ’s love, with five days of  his life, and was handed a mission.

Renee Yohe, a 19 year-old drug and alcohol addict and cutter, had rejected love to the point she had attempted suicide twice.  But in February 2006, Renee was convinced to accept the pleas of Jamie Tworkowski and his friends from church to enter rehab.  However, because of Renee’s drug tests and wounds she inflicted upon herself during the admittance process, the rehab center delayed her admission for five days until she detoxed.

Jamie and his friends knew this may be their last chance to help Renee and feared she might not live another five days, so they became her Church and lived with her during her five day detox and preparation for rehab.

Those five days, Renee’s willingness to be loved and Jamie’s willingness to stop his life for five days to serve like Christ has changed the world for thousands of people.

Jamie wrote the story, To Write Love on Her Arms, of the five days with Renee, set-up a MySpace page and printed some t-shirts to help pay for Renee’s rehab.  Christian music artists Switchfoot and Anberlin embraced the movement immediately and the explosion began. Three years later that MySpace page has more than 325,000 friends, there is a worldwide To Write Love On Her Arms week (September 10-17) and on February 13, 2008 more than 380,000 members dedicated themselves to writing “love” on their arms and sharing the message around the world.  The TWOHA “Hope Line” has fielded more the 2.7M calls from people seeking help with depression and addiction.  So hot is the brand that TWOHA tshirts became the top selling brand at Hot Topic within two weeks of its launch.

Jamie Tworkowski and Renee Yohe (2009)

Jamie Tworkowski and Renee Yohe (2009)

So what is this movement we call To Write Love On Her Arms?  It is best captured by the TWLOHA mySpace page:

To Write Love on Her Arms is a work in progress. This began with one broken girl, one painful night; addiction, depression, cutting. This is a glimpse at the five days that followed, a decision to love and to begin telling her true story. To Write Love on Her Arms is becoming something bigger, something hopeful. It’s the realization of what life can be when we commit to meeting a need. A friend of mine told me there’s no such thing as suicide prevention. This is an attempt to prove him wrong, to say that love can change a life. We can hold back the darkness. Rescue is possible. More soon to come. Join us as we continue to write this story, and as we begin to offer hope to the many hopeless who walk these dark roads. A Jimmy Eat World lyric has been stuck in my head today, “Believe your voice can mean something.”

TWLOHA has risen to prominence through endorsements of celebrities such as the members of Paramore, Jon Foreman from Switchfoot, Sean from the Blackout, Derek Sanders from Mayday Parade, Deon Rexroat from Anberlin, Amy Lee from Evanescence, Bryce Avary from The Rocket Summer, Casey Calvert from Hawthorne Heights, and Brendon Urie and Ryan Ross from Panic at the Disco and has a growing loyal fan base. Other supportive bands and musicians include A Skylit Drive, Between the TreesThe Almost, Underoath, Bayside, As We Collide, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, and many more.

to-write-love-band-collage

To Write Love On Her Arms has become a global phenomenon, but how is the girl who was the subject of all the attention in the first place?  Renee Yohe seems to be doing well.  Youtube has many vidoes of her, including one of her celebrating her third anniversary of sobriety.  Here she is in 2008 talking about her life and her book which tells the story from her side.

Jamie Tworkowski has become a global celebrity.  He continues to pursue his calling to spread love over depression and addiction.  Here are a couple of excerpts from an interview with Jamie::

“I think it all begins with the idea that our story matters – regardless of influence or attention or any of that. Our story matters because we’re part of a bigger story. Our story matters because we’ve been created to love and be loved. I think we’ll each express it differently – some will write books or blogs, some will write songs. Someone else will make a movie. I think the most important outlet, the one that applies to all of us, is community. We all need people we can do life with, people who will journey with us, people who can meet us in our questions.

As for a secret or advice for telling a story, I’ll go with this: Be honest. We all have our dreams and our fears and our questions. The tendency is to keep these things quiet because we don’t know what to do with them, or because we’re worried that other people will call us crazy. I say it matters. I say you might just find your greatest gifts in those scary places. I say it’s worth wrestling with because the world needs more people who have something to say, people who are interested in fixing things, people who are willing to dream… So be honest. It’s scary, but it’s good….

…As for what I want to say next, I don’t always go here because I don’t want to push people away. I think the language of it has been abused and misrepresented. But I’m in the middle of a difficult season, and the difficult seasons have a way of causing me to be honest. Maybe it’s that when things are hard, you don’t have the strength to fake it. Anyway, that’s the disclaimer. What I want to say is that, when it comes to the power of story, I suppose the best example in the history of the world would be Jesus. Jesus spent a lot of time telling stories. And perhaps God loved us so much that He sent Jesus to collide with our story, the story of humanity, the story that continues tonight – me in an apartment in Florida typing these answers, and you wherever you are, reading these words on a similar bright screen. Perhaps we’re all in this together and perhaps we’re all more loved than we’ll ever know.”

Before you dive into the story that started it all, please embrace these essential lessons:

  • You were created to be loved.
  • No matter what abuse you have endured, you deserve to be loved.
  • No matter what you have done to yourself or others, you deserved to be loved.
  • Christ loves you so much, no matter who you are or what you have done.
  • As Believers we have received that unconditional love.
  • We must share that love by loving the “unlovables”.

Here is the story,  “To Write Love On Her Arms” (be careful, the story contains profanity), that started it all.

You can buy “To Write Love on Her Arms” merchandise, get involved or donate at twloha.com