April 23, 2014

Heal

In the weeks following Emmett’s death, I received many priesthood blessings. One in particular—given to me on a very trying day when I was exhausted—stands out in my mind. My body hurt, and I didn’t know if I could take another minute. A spiritual leader from my church, my Stake President, put his hands on my head and blessed me with many things. The phrase that stuck out in my mind for weeks after the blessing, was: “There is a man who has been preparing to come and help heal your family.” I knew when that sentence hit the air . . . that one day I would meet a man who would have the gift to help heal my family, and I could only hope that meant that I would be a wife again in the future.

I put that thought in the back of my mind for safekeeping. It didn’t seem to be an idea that could pertain to me in any near future. I had a broken family to put together, a murder trial to go through, and let’s be honest . . . a body that JUST had a baby. There was no way I would be ready for said man to come our way any time soon. I knew in my heart that even if a man was being prepared to come and help me heal our family, he was going to need to see some hope that we were fixable . . . and I saw no apparent timeframe for that happening . . . EVER.

One afternoon, I had an appointment with a partner of a friend of ours to discuss some changes in a health plan policy. I had met him a few times, but really didn’t know him personally. We sat on the couch in my living room chatting about his line of business, and he offered me some great long term advice. As he got up to leave, he turned and said, “I know I don’t really know you . . . and this is super awkward . . . but I feel strongly I need to tell you this. … I was randomly listening to a talk this morning with one of the General Authorities talking about when his wife died. He was saying how he felt lost and like he could never love again . . . but then he met a woman whom he felt inspired to marry quite quickly after his wife passed away . . . and the whole way here I have felt really impressed to share this with you. … You will probably never feel prepared to love again, just like the man in the talk, but Heavenly Father might send you someone who will come to help you heal.”

The minute he said the word ‘heal,’ I thought back to the blessing I had received containing that very same word. Heal . . . that is what I planned on doing long before a man would ever get to know me again. I appreciated this health insurance agent’s willingness to share those thoughts with me . . . but inside, I was almost laughing. Like I really needed to worry about someone ever wanting any part of my crazy life.

Some weeks after our talk in my living room, I found myself once again sitting alone in the Celestial Room of the Temple. I spent a lot of time there trying to find peace. This day, my tears were a plea for healing. In silent prayer, I begged—not for the impossible ‘do over’ for which I had spent weeks wishing—but for true healing. I didn’t want to be broken any longer; I didn’t want to feel alone. I wanted to be free from the void enmeshed in my soul. I prayed for healing that when the time did come, I would be able to stand worthily and be prepared.  

I knew that, one day, I would be given the opportunity to love again . . . but I began to have a very strong opinion of what I had to be first, and what I had to have.

What if there was someone prepared to come and be my partner? My mind wandered to my internal list of requirements. I wrestled with my thoughts and began setting high standards and criteria for this imagined man’s personality traits and qualities. I reflected back on Emmett’s virtues, but also on his imperfections, which I had come to blame for my current situation. I began to panic. I could not accept anything less than perfection if I were to ever love again. Emmett and I had seemed to be a dream couple . . . he had so many of the qualities I had looked for in a spouse . . . and yet here I was, sitting alone . . . and feeling even more alone inside. If I were ever to do THAT again . . . I deserved perfection and ease . . . and that was FINAL.
   
As I sat in the Celestial Room, I let Heavenly Father know exactly what I expected this man to be. He wouldn’t be able to come into my life for a few years, because I wanted to be “whole” first. Like me, he needed to be a widower. Other things I was certain of as well: he would not have attended Centennial High School, he would not have a tattoo, and he would not be a convert to our Church. I listed off every one of the background facts about Emmett, which I had come to blame for his bad choices. I told Heavenly Father what I would be able to put up with this time around . . . and informed Him what I expected of this next man . . . PERFECTION. I had been through anything but . . . and I was not about to think of allowing myself to settle for less than that.

When I got through with my check lists of “Do’s and Don’ts” I sat there silent, embarrassed that I had just given God a list of what I expected Him to do for me. I could almost picture Him sitting there with His arms folded saying, “You about done daughter?”

I looked around the room, feeling uncomfortable for having just stubbornly rattled off all of my expectations. I was about to stand up to leave when I felt the calmest feeling of peace come to my mind, along with this message: “His mission in life will be to heal this family.”

Now I was not just embarrassed, I was ashamed that instead of spending the last half hour listening and praying for counsel, I was demanding and elaborating on what I would and wouldn’t accept in a possible future husband. What was wrong with me? I was too ashamed to stand up and leave on that note.

His mission . . . what did that mean? Did that mean he would not have served a full-time mission as a young man? Well that surely didn’t fit the mold I had just created, but yes . . . that seemed to be exactly what the message meant. He hadn’t served a mission . . . but taking on my crazy clan would be just that for him: a full-time mission! That realization settled deep down inside of me and brought a tear to my eye . . . and a smile to my face.

I drove home with a new sense of hope that day. Maybe I didn’t have to have it all figured out . . . if this poor fellow needed to serve time to fulfill his mission, maybe my broken family was good enough just the way we were right now! I walked a little lighter as I opened the front door and looked around at what some might look at as a broken group of individuals. All I could see was beauty.

One night, a few days later, my sister Ali and her boyfriend at that time, Will, helped me put all the kids to bed. As we sat down on the couch, they started talking about how much work it was for me all alone, and how I needed some help. Somehow the idea of going online and checking out eligible bachelors became a reality. Ali and Will spent hours laughing their guts out at the idea of “lining me up” with some of the men they found on the internet. I humored them by laughing . . . but inside, I began to grow scared just thinking about the process of dating again. I stared at a few of the photos thinking . . . there is no way I will ever trust a single one of them. First of all, I just had a baby . . . who would ever want to take out a chubby widow with five kids whose husband was murdered because he was cheating on her? The odds were certainly not in my favor. After deciding we were done for the night, I felt discouragement set in as we turned off the computer, and I headed to bed.

I lay in bed, a little ticked off at myself for even looking at those men online, but I was even more overwhelmed by the idea of putting myself out there in any way again. I resolved that I would never again look at another online profile.

However, without my knowing it and as it turned out, luckily for me, Ali and Will had a greater scheme brewing. They had entered my e-mail address onto the site!

Over the next few days, every time I checked my e-mail, there would be a million messages from the dating website where we had been browsing. I hated the reminder that I had been looking in the first place. It was hard enough for me to check my e-mail as it was . . . the last thing I needed was to be stalked by this dating website, or to have to pay a fee or give them any more information about myself.

One afternoon, I had had enough. I opened one of the e-mails from the website and scrolled down to find the ‘delete me from your records’ button. However, as I scrolled, I came to a section called NEW IN YOUR AREA. A row of photographs stared out at me, but all I could see were two blue eyes.

I kept scrolling down, then found my way back up to the big blue eyes and happy smile. Wait . . .  I didn’t remember this face from the other night as we had laughed our way through the profile pictures. I knew this guy hadn’t been on there then, and there was something about his eyes that drew me to him. I couldn’t stop staring at his photo.

I clicked on the photo, which led me to his profile. What was I doing? This was not what I wanted to do . . . but as I read and gazed at a handful of his photos, I couldn’t help but smile. I sat at my computer staring. I tried to send him a message, but since I hadn’t paid to have a profile posted, the site wouldn’t allow me to send a message. So I got out my credit card and paid the fee.

I think my message said something like, “Hey . . . yeah . . . so I am not going to do this whole online dating thing, but looks like we are from the same town and I don’t know, you seem normal and if you ever want to chat my number is . . .” (I later came to learn that he had to pay the fee to sign up as well, just to receive my message!)

What was I doing? I felt ridiculous and yet . . . I felt so confident. It was exactly what I was supposed to be doing. There was something in this man’s eyes that reassured my heart.

That weekend, some of my friends kidnapped me and took me on a two-day girls’ retreat. It was the first night I had spent away from the kids, and I was so nervous to leave them. The first morning I didn’t even wake up until noon! It was a relaxing and beautiful getaway up in the mountains with great food and nothing but calm. It was the perfect weekend.

On the last day, I was in the middle of a massage when my phone received a text message. The therapist asked me if I wanted her to hand me the phone. I said, “No thanks . . . I’m half asleep and don’t want to talk to anyone at the moment.”

When my time was up, she left the room and I lay face down for a while, tears streaming from my eyes. I loved getting away, and being so relaxed, but I missed my children. I missed their sweet faces and the safety I felt when they were in my arms. I hated being away from them. What if they needed me? What if they felt frightened or alone and I wasn’t there to help them? What if I needed them? They always made me feel so loved. I always knew that I was enough for them. I missed them so badly.

My face began to hurt . . . but I didn’t move. In that moment, I felt the reassurance that my kids were all I had . . . and I was okay with that. I couldn’t wait to get home to tell them about the feelings of peace I had found over the weekend, and I couldn’t wait to go home with a renewed sense of who I was and everything that I saw we could be.

I finally stood up, got dressed and began to head for the door. I pushed the button on my phone to see what time it was, and there it was . . .

“HI. This is “Lakersfan24.” You gave me your number and I just thought I would say hello. How is your afternoon going? I just got done with my daughter’s dance recital. It was super fun. Anyway, I was just thinking of you and wanted to say Hi.”

I sat back down, with butterflies in my stomach. I read the words over and over. I started to text back, then I paused. What should l say? I erased everything I had written. For a few minutes, I tried to decide what I should write to someone who didn’t even know my name. I vowed that I wouldn’t give any specifics about myself until I knew for sure that this man was not a crazy person.

I went downstairs to join the rest of my friends, who were having fun in the game room. I kept putting my hand on my cell phone, in an attempt to text back, but I just couldn’t do it. Every time I reached for my phone, guilt would set in, because Emmett had only been gone for a few months. I was insane to even think about talking to another guy, let alone a stranger. As I sat and talked with my friends, my mind churned with this internal debate about whether or not I should respond and if I did, what should I reply.

I went in the bathroom where I could be alone and decided that it was time. I took out my phone, and typed out my message: “Hello there. Sorry it took me a while to reply.  I was getting a massage. Dance recital huh? That sounds fun.”
   
We texted back and forth throughout the day. He was so refreshing and seemed so real, and I genuinely enjoyed our conversations. He even sent me a picture of his cute daughter in her little ballet tutu. Everything seemed to be going great. I couldn’t wait to read his next text. He was adorable and funny and the smile on my face seemed to grow with every word he typed.

Then it came . . . I got the text that almost became the deal-breaker of a lifetime.
   
“Well,” he revealed to me, “I grew up in Eagle and went to Centennial High School! I live here in town. I have been divorced for two years.”
   
I put down my phone . . . NO! … I had resolved that there was no way I would ever go out with anyone who went to the same high school as Emmett. Couldn’t I just get away from people who knew anything about me? I didn’t want to have to tell him that I was the widow from the horrible story he had read about in the news. He would run for sure if I gave him any of that personal information. Plus, I needed someone who didn’t know Emmett, someone who would be emotionally unattached to anything from my past. AND . . . Divorced? I had enough baggage on my own.
 
I didn’t reply for a long time. I was debating about whether I should just never text him back, or if I should make up some kind of a story. So, I would pick up my phone and start typing a lie . . . then I would feel guilty and erase it. I didn’t want to give him any reason to reject me, so I thought maybe I should just get it over with, not let him know anything more about me, and just end this conversation once and for all. Again, I wrestled inside of myself about what to do. Then all of the sudden this burst of ‘what the heck’ came over me, and I decided to just rip it off, like a band aid.

I picked up my phone and let it all out, “Well . . . my real name is Ashlee Corrigan. I have five kids, and I was recently widowed. My husband’s name was Emmett Corrigan . . . and he went to your high school. He was the man who was murdered a while back at Walgreens.”  SEND . . .

 I knew that would be the end of our conversation, and I was okay with the fact that this would probably be how my dating life would be . . . for a long time. In that moment, I truly knew in my heart that I would never hear from Lakersfan24 ever again.

I put my phone away and tried to enjoy the friends who were all around me. Auna and I did a ‘Dundee’ awards ceremony and awarded random mugs—which she had found at thrift stores—to each of our friends for a specific funny reason. It was hilarious. I laughed so hard . . . actual deep belly laughs. It felt so good to be laughing and having a good time, but in the back of my mind, I was really wondering what “lakersfan24” was thinking.

As our night came to an end, I finally got the courage to pick up my phone. I had a message. It was him. “Wow,” he wrote “I had no idea. I read your entire story in the news. When I saw your picture, you looked so familiar, but I didn’t put any of that together. I am so sorry for everything you have been through. I can’t say I have any words to describe how sorry I am. I know a lot of people who knew Emmett. I never met him personally, but everyone who knows you has raved about what an amazing mother you are. I would like to take you on a date if that is okay with you.”

What? He knew how crazy my life was, and he text me back? I didn’t know this man, and I didn’t know if he would ever really take me on a date, but just the fact that he text me back, after hearing who I was, healed something inside of me. It gave me hope that my broken life didn’t have to define who I would become. It healed the fear inside of me that led me to believe that I would never go out on another date.

As we all went to bed that night, I couldn’t sleep. Again, I offered up prayers to my Heavenly Father. This time, I thanked Him for sending me a new friend. I didn’t question His timing, and I didn’t even question why this friend had so many of the traits I had put on my “Unacceptable List.” Instead, I just told Him how grateful I was to have a friend who was willing to look past the crazy life that was mine, and try to see me.

I thanked Him for the healing I had felt that entire weekend. I begged for a continued road to reconstruction as I went home that next morning to a family who needed my love.

We left the country to go back to the city, and as we drove into town, I could see light infuse every landscape we passed. It was Mother’s Day. I went to church to celebrate myself as a mom, surrounded by my babies. They seemed to glow, and so did I.

I knew that day that we were going to heal. Someday, we would be set free from the darkness that had tried to destroy us. For the first time since their father died, my children had a real light in their eyes. They were looking to me to help them find peace, and I was watching the hand of God send me my own. He had a plan for us, and I could feel the power of His plan. I was no longer going to fight it. I was going to let Him steer my course, and I wanted to show Him that I had faith that He would not lead me astray.

On the road to moving forward, the steps to healing are different for each of us. Sometimes, we need years to heal ourselves before we begin to think about moving forward, and other times, God has a greater plan to help us heal. He asks us to leap.

Whatever dark roads have caused you pain, there is a path that can lead you to the healing you seek. I thought my job was to heal myself, and then search for a way to find love again, but Heavenly Father seemed to have a different plan in mind for me. That text message was not just some random message from a man I didn’t know, it was a gift from God reminding me that maybe my past was dark, but I was not broken. There was hope that someone might be able to look past the crooked road I had traveled, and help me find the way to the new road He had planned for me. The thought of love became less scary as I felt the loving hand of God reassure and inspire me to follow the spirit, which led me to a new friend. 

Healing, is not something we can always do on our own. Some of us need the help of professionals, some need medication, but we all need each other. We were not sent here to earth to do everything on our own. As a bull-headed woman, I didn’t always comprehend that. I could do most things on my own, and I didn’t always like to rely on someone else.

Even before Emmett died, I didn’t really NEED him in parenting. I did most things on my own, and though I really longed to have him with me, a part of me enjoyed doing it all my own way. It wasn’t until after he died, that I realized how much I really did need him. At that point, I also learned that I had to rely on others. It was a humbling time when I learned that I did need others in my life when I fell short. Emmett’s death was humbling in more ways than one. I learned that when I felt insignificant by myself, it was okay to ask for help.

It wasn’t until after Emmett’s death that I truly realized how much I really did need Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Atonement.
Healing was not something I could do on my own. I needed Heavenly Father, I needed Jesus Christ’s love, and I needed the power that was available because of His life on earth and His death on the cross. I needed to have Them steer my course . . . and I needed to have faith that when They told me to have patience . . . I needed to wait. When They asked me to jump in with both feet with faith . . . I needed to leap.
There had been so many moments when I had prayed for help in my life when the answer always seemed to be: “Be still, and have patience.” And, as a woman who constantly needed a reminder to wait and have faith in God’s timing, I had counted on those lessons in patience continuing. Little did I know, that for once in my life . . . at a time when all I thought I needed was patience . . . Heavenly Father would ask me to take a giant LEAP of faith.  
We all need each other when it comes to healing. We need to support each other, we need to help others through their hard times . . . and we need to allow others to help us through our own. This answer to my prayer, through the text message of a stranger, would not be the last time that Heavenly Father would send help to me on my road to healing. 
I didn’t need a list of what would be best for me, because God’s list was what I really needed. There wasn’t going to be a “perfect man” sent my way, because frankly . . . I was not a perfect woman. I was in no way ready to “move on,” but I wasn’t about to fight the peace that came to me as I did. 
Sometimes we will be humbled by the “I will nevers” of life. Just when we think we have it all figured out, that’s when we are sent the deal-breakers! When his text came with the description of his childhood that had parallels to Emmett’s, I wanted to run away. I had made it clear that I had my own plan, and I had my own perfect list. 
One of the greatest teaching moments in life is just when we think we have it all figured out, we are sent trials or opportunities to exercise our faith. We will be asked to have patience through sickness, we will be reminded that we are not invincible. We will be asked to love others through their addictions, and shown that we can have the power to help them heal. We might be asked to carry the heavy load of others’ pain as they learn to heal. And then other times, we might be asked to be humble enough to let others come in and fulfill their missions as they help us reconstruct ourselves.
We have to have faith that sometimes—even when the conditions we have created are not met—our Heavenly Father’s blessings are even greater than any we could have imagined on our own. 
Nonetheless, His timing and His blessings will sometimes come in imperfect packages. Sometimes, the very thing we have put our foot down about, will be just the thing He uses to allow us to show Him that we can still have faith. 
Where ever you are on your road to healing, watch for the little blessings being sent your way. Allow them to be the tools they were meant to be, even if they are as simple as a feeling of peace that comes to your heart, or a text message that reminds you that you are lovable, just the way you are.

On the other hand, even though we all need those around us in this journey, we can’t always wait around for others to heal us either. Sometime, ours is a road that is personal and only God will be there for us, but when He does send the little moments to remind us that He is there . . . we can’t forget to thank Him for those reminders. 
He loves us. He loves you when you are face down in a massage chair crying tears and missing a life you once had. He loves you even when you think you know what is best for yourself. He loves you when you feel confident that, even though you’ve gone through hell, you will fight your way out. He loves you when you are broken and on your knees in your closet. He loves you when you are rattling off demands about what you will find acceptable in your future, and He loves you even when you are trying to plan your life without His help. 
He doesn’t ask us to be perfect, but God does ask us to carry on through our imperfect lives. 
We cannot fight His timing. I was in no way in any shape to start looking at online profiles. I didn’t go looking online because I felt I was ready to find love, but I was guided to a place where two blue eyes waited to help me heal. 

He will send you whispers of His love; He will send you earthly Angels to write you messages that will help you find peace. Don’t try to heal yourself alone. Watch for the signs flashing in your face, and for the silent peace that comes to your heart when you are exactly where you are supposed to be. Healing a life that was once broken, is not impossible. With Jesus Christ as the foundation of your path to healing, you will find a way. He can guide you there.
He believes in you, and in the peace you seek. Only He can send you along the road to help you heal, and His plan is always going to be greater than your own. Only He can direct you to the hidden blue eyes waiting to help you on your road to peace. 



April 17, 2014

Holes

I never knew a gun could leave so many holes. Emmett was left with the wounds that Rob’s bullets made in his forehead and heart, but my holes were not as clearly visible. I had holes in my heart that didn’t cause me to lose blood or die, but their penetration had caused me to lose my very sense of life. That gun left holes in my family and an empty space at my table, but it also left holes in my mind that blurred my vision of who I was, and who I wanted to become. Those holes impacted all aspects of my life . . . especially my parenting. 

When I was in seventh grade, I had a rough year. My parents’ divorce had become an excuse, in some ways, for me to lash out. I found myself using it as an excuse for doing some of the things I did, or for getting out of doing things I didn’t want to do. At church, I had a teacher who seemed to hate me. Every chance she got, she called my mom and complained about something I was, or was not doing. The sad part is . . . she was usually right. My behavior warranted complaints and I deserved being disciplined for the way I was acting.

My mom was good at handling these constant complaints. She always managed to find a punishment that fit the crime. She took away privileges that were important to me, and it worked. It helped me admit my shortcomings, instead of making excuses that the teacher was just picking on me. My mother was always very loving in her approach, but she never allowed any of the circumstances in my life to be used as excuses for bad behavior.

One day, I was out in the hall at school working on a project. My group had gone back into the classroom, and I was still out in the hall alone, cleaning up our mess. My church teacher, who was also a substitute teacher at my school, walked by. She didn’t say hello, so I didn’t bother to speak to her either.

That evening, my mom asked me to come into her room. She told me that my teacher had seen me “in trouble” again in the hall. The story she told was elaborated, and for the first time, it was not at all true. I became emotional because I feared losing a privilege for something I hadn’t done. I  looked into my mother’s eyes and said, “Mom, you know . . . I’ve been making some bad choices at school, and at church . . . and almost every story you have ever been told, is true. I accept responsibility for the things I’ve done, and I can see why this teacher is frustrated with the fact that she has to deal with me . . . but Mom, I promise you, this time . . . this time I did nothing wrong, and I would really like you to believe me. I was in the hall doing a group project, and I was not in trouble for anything. This time, she is just picking on me because she hates me . . . and I deserve that . . .  but please believe me, this time I didn’t do anything wrong.”

I know my mom must have prayed hard at that moment, because she didn’t doubt me for a second. She gave me a hug, and I left her room. She didn’t question my story—she just believed me. I’m sure it got so old hearing about all the mistakes I was making. I’m sure that at times, I was a burden for my poor mom, a single mother raising five children. As if she didn’t already have enough on her plate, there I was giving her added challenges.

There are times when we go through trials for our kids, and other times, our children themselves become our trials to bear. Even if we don’t see our children as a burden, it doesn’t take away the fact that their challenges become our own. 

In the months following Emmett’s death, almost everything that could have gone wrong with my children did! One week in particular, I remember Teage walked into his room, and for no particular reason, he broke a bunch of toys and destroyed some books. Bostyn and Bailey pushed a boy down the slide at the park, and his parents yelled at all of us. There was so much anger in Kaleeya that she was biting holes in all of her binkies. I wasn’t ready yet to wean her off of something that gave her comfort, so I had to run to the store multiple times a week to buy more. Tytus was still having allergic reactions to all of the formulas we tried. It felt like the list of problems with each of my children seemed to be getting longer and longer.

I was overwhelmed by the task of raising grieving children, and I was unaware of how to help them. One afternoon, I left Tiffanie with the kids and I got in my car and went on a drive alone. I stewed about all the heavy burdens I felt were destroying me as a parent. The ease and joy I once saw in parenting seemed to be fading, and it scared the crap out of me. How can I parent these children, when those around me are treating me as if my children are freaks? Why do I feel so embarrassed when my children make mistakes, like somehow I am at fault? 

Anytime someone complained about my kids or gave me dirty looks, it almost destroyed my day. I internalized all the perceptions I figured they had about my children and my parenting—or lack thereof. I became so enmeshed in my children’s negative behaviors that I almost didn’t want to take them out in public for fear they would embarrass me, or cause yet another stranger to look down on me as a mother.

As I continued to fret about the week’s negative events, I drove and drove, with no purpose or final destination in mind. I continued to brood over memories and talk out loud about how obnoxious the kids had been all week, and how pissed off I was that I no longer had any control over them. I was humiliated because I felt like I was failing to raise my children properly . . . and others were seeing all my shortcomings.

I turned down a street, and right in front of me was a park I knew well. I hadn’t paid attention to where I had been driving because I had been so wrapped up in my own pity-party. As I drove slowly past the park, I could almost picture my little family sitting on a blanket having a picnic there. That was one of the good memories I hadn’t thought of in some time. Emmett had met us there after work one summer day for a picnic dinner. I was pregnant with Tytus. Abbey and Alex, who were dating at the time, where also there with us. It was a perfect evening spent eating, laughing, and playing with the kids at the park.

Instantly, I snapped out of my feelings of embarrassment and anger over the children, and I just missed Emmett. I missed his smell. I missed his kisses, I missed the feeling of having a complete family, eating dinner at the park. I missed having someone to talk to when I needed to find answers for the kids’ struggles. 

I began to talk to him as if he were in the car, “Em, I can’t do this with out you. I don’t want to do this alone. We were supposed to work together, and grow old together. Why do I have to be here alone, trying to figure out how to help our children? Why did you have to leave me . . . Why wasn’t I enough for you?  Why can’t you come back and take care of me and our babies? You promised me you would take care of us . . . Emmett . . .”

Suddenly, the sorrow I felt because I missed him was transformed into a wave of anger against him, and because of my inadequate parenting. I began to scream, “Emmett . . . WHY WASN’T I ENOUGH for YOU? Why did you leave me here alone? WHY do I have to do all the dirty work because of your freaking mess? These kids are so hurt, they are crazy, they are almost an embarrassment to me! They can’t function in society. I don’t know how to help them, and it’s all because you are not here. It’s because you are dead. WHY did you LEAVE us?  Why didn’t you fight for us, Emmett? I hate you, you know that? …Yeah, I don’t miss you at all, because . . . because I HATE YOU! So there. Now you know, I don’t miss you, Emmett. I hate you for leaving this mess for me. I hate you for leaving me alone. I hate that I miss you so badly my soul hurts. I hate that a “bad guy” came and destroyed our family. I hate that it was Kandi holding you when you took your last breath. I hate that you left me . . . I was begging you to stay, but you left me all alone. And now, I am still alone. You never came back to me. You said you were just going to run to Walgreens. I waited for you all night long . . . I called you. Why didn’t you answer your phone? Wasn’t I worth answering your DAMN phone for? I worked so hard to make you happy . . . I would have gone to the ends of the earth to see you smile. I hate you for that, too! You had me, I was right there waiting for you . . . and you couldn’t even see me. I was right there. I was . . . I miss you Emmett. I miss your smile. I miss making you your stupid eggs. I miss your toothpaste all over the counter, and your wet towel on my side of the bed. I miss your stinky socks all over our room. I HATE you for doing this to me, but I . . . I still need you. I still want you . . . I still love you. What am I supposed to do now? The kids have asked me a million times what they are supposed to do without you, so now I pose that question to you as your wife: What am I supposed to do without you? How can I help our children fill the holes that are left in their hearts, and how will I ever fill mine?”

My contradictory words came out like the floodgates had just opened. I missed him so badly that it hurt, but I was also so broken because of his actions, I didn’t know for sure where to even begin: with anger or with love. 

It wasn’t just Rob’s or Emmett’s fault that my children were having issues, it was my fault as well. Never before in their lives, had I been embarrassed about their imperfections. I had spent years laughing when they made mistakes, and loving them through them. Now, all they could see of me, was that I was ashamed of them. I was trying so hard to fill my own holes, I was overwhelmed with the thought that I had to help them patch their own holes. I was not being the mom they deserved. I was allowing others’ views of my kids determine how I saw them.

They had to learn to forgive and move forward, but the principal way they were going to be able to do that was . . . by watching me. I had to show them how to let go, and I was not being the example they needed.

Forgiveness. Such a simple word, and yet its meaning is so strong. This past week, as I sat in church and listened to others speak of the lessons they had learned about forgiveness in their lives, I was humbled to my knees. Tears would not stop flowing as I thought of all the heartache I have read about over the past few months in messages sent to me by unfamiliar names who wanted to share with me their own stories of pain. I have felt humbled to be the ears to which some silent hearts have turned to share their deepest pain.

Why do we hurt each other? The thoughts of tender voices who cry in the night, all alone, break my heart. My eyes have wet my pillow on many nights these past few months, as I have prayed for some of my brothers and sisters whom I will probably never meet.

This world is huge. Each of us has our own story, but the darkness that tries to destroy hope, and the fear that causes us to live in pain . . . is in us all.

Forgiveness is the answer to that pain, but what most of us want to know is . . . HOW? What my children needed to SEE was HOW.

One afternoon, I heard the kids upstairs screaming that the toilet was overflowing. As I ran upstairs, huffing and puffing as I skipped steps, I angrily thought about all the times I had pleaded with my children to stop using so much toilet paper. When I reached the cresting toilet bowl, the kids were staring at it, horrified at the nastiness floating around inside. I let them have it! I repeated the demands I had been spewing for weeks. “Why can’t you guys stop using so much toilet paper! Doesn’t anyone ever listen to me?” They all scattered, leaving me alone to let out my anger on the toilet.

I grabbed the plunger and began forcing it into the water over and over again, all the while emitting angry words about everyone using too much toilet paper. I worked for about five minutes, but the clog would not budge. I continued to abuse the toilet with the plunger and my words. Still, nothing happened.

All of the sudden I stopped. I held the plunger over the toilet and watched the nasty water drip down into the full bowl. I realized how stupid it was that I was grunting out my anger onto a porcelain toilet bowl, and I was humbled to realize I was going about it all in the wrong way. I said a quick prayer in my mind, “Heavenly Father, I am sorry for the way I have gone about this challenge. I cannot get this toilet to work, and I really need Thy help. I’m not plunging this toilet for fun. I’m not doing it for myself. In fact, I really wish I didn’t have to do it at all. It is disgusting, I am ticked off, and I have to figure out how to fix this. I’m not doing it for me, I’m not even plunging this toilet for my children . . . I am doing it for Thee.”

I pushed the plunger back into the water, and within three seconds the bowl drained. It was so simple, and yet, such an eye opening moment. That toilet didn’t matter to anyone . . . including my children. They didn’t care if they used too much toilet paper, because I was the one who would be there to clean up their mess! There wasn’t a person on the planet who gave a crap (no pun intended) about that toilet in my upstairs bathroom. At that moment, I didn’t even care what happened to that toilet. For all I cared, we didn’t even need it anymore. I was trying so hard to make it obey ME, but as soon as I found purpose in what I was doing, the real reason I needed to plunge that toilet . . . it flushed. 

That plugged toilet was a learning-lesson for me. Its imperfections—though they were inconvenient for others—didn’t really matter to them. And so it was with my children. Their imperfections didn’t really matter to other people—only to myself. I had to stop worrying about what anyone thought.

Other people are going to put you down about how you are raising your children. They may even call and tell you about all the things your little ones are doing wrong. What really matters is not what others think, but the way your love can help your children through their hard times. As hard as it feels for you as the outsider to have them struggle, try to remember how hard it is for them. Our children already know they are not perfect. They are reminded of that fact by others, and they also discover their own weaknesses by themselves.

The only way we will find the right answers for them personally is through Heavenly Father. In the same way I couldn’t get that toilet to work properly on my own, we cannot properly mold our children without the help of God. The minute I included Him in my plunging, the problems I faced were solved. We may hear stories and think that our kid's are just like someone else's, but the answers we need for each one of them are unique. Sometimes the only “self-help” we can receive will not come from a book, or from a phone conversation with a friend. No, the answers we are seeking may only come through heartfelt prayer.

All of these responsibilities weigh us down at times. They feel as though they are heavy burdens and immense trials. Due dates loom, and children complain. Teachers share concerns, and coaches degrade. Cars need cleaning, and laundry takes over every empty space in our homes. The list of hard things will never end. Heavenly Father didn’t ask us to complete all the hard things we have to do in one day. He never said that He only sees our worth when our children are perfect, when no one is disapproving, and our houses are clean. He has asked us to take on these responsibilities, and do our best. He has pleaded with us, as we pray for his counsel, to do ALL things for Him. With that request, He promises that if we ask . . . He will send us help.

If you are overwhelmed with the heavy burdens of daily life, give them all to the Lord. He knows the list never ends, and He has seen that the trials get heavy. I have looked at my life when I tried to carry my load alone, and it’s a joke. I drove around in my car overwhelmed with the messes I had yet to clean up, and I splattered poop all over the bathroom trying to fix things on my own. In the moments, when I transferred the burdens of my responsibilities from my own hands into the hands of my Savior, He picked them up and helped me find the way. 

He may not literally grab the plunger out of your hand, but He will send you the light to know how to use it.

Sometimes when life feels the heaviest, we are too bent over from its weight to see the light shining at the end of the tunnel. Today, I feel impressed to challenge us all to look for the good. Maybe you are lying in a hospital bed with a heart condition, maybe you are alone in an apartment full of emptiness, maybe you are buried deep in laundry and your babies are screaming, and you . . . are just trying to remember who you are. Wherever you are today, I want you to find reasons to smile.

Right now, as I sit at this computer, I can see a picture of my children. They are all at school right now, or taking naps in their beds, but they are the first priority on my list. They make me smile with the funny things they say and the happy voices they spread throughout our home.

I can see a few piles of their misplaced toys, and I am thankful for the sweetness they bring to my children’s imaginations. I am thankful that I have the ability to teach them the responsibility of hard work. 

I can see a sink full of dirty dishes, and I am so thankful I have enough food to feed my family. I am thankful for the clean water that pours into my cup at the simple turn of a tap. I am thankful for my dishwasher, because I have no idea on earth how I could keep those dishes clean without it.

I can see a pile of bills. How thankful I am to have electricity and heat to keep my house warm in the winter and cool in the summer. I am thankful for a cell phone that helps me communicate with my loved ones. I am thankful for warm showers, and garbage days. All of the blessings, that come from the bills I pay. 

I can see a gash in my table made when one of my children took a fork and imprinted thirty little indents in it that will probably remain there forever. I am so thankful that I have healthy children who enjoy spending time with me. I am thankful for their creative minds that have brought me many works of art . . . some not so convenient . . . yet quite creative, like the artful patterns made in the wood of my table.

That table may look like it needs to be replaced. My windows sure as heck need to be washed, and my dishes are rarely clean . . . but how amazing is it to be surrounded by so much beauty? My children are not mine . . . they are on loan to me by Heavenly Father. The bills sitting on the counter are His. I am just His steward as I take care of the responsibilities He has blessed me with.

Parenting, dating, school, work . . . wherever you are . . . ask for Christ’s hand to enrich the little moments when you stand with a plunger in your hand, unable to find the answers as to how to solve the riddle.

It is my prayer that we can be the putty that fills the holes made by others in our children—and the holes in all our relationships—and that we can let Christ choose the pieces we use to build the foundation of who we are, so that He can fill the holes inside of us.

We can be the constant in others’ lives to help them see their roles; we can be the love that holds them together when others try to bring them down. And we can put our faith in them when they need the benefit of the doubt.

Many eyes have whispered a million words to my heart, and many voices have pierced my soul when my children have made mistakes. Let them watch; let them talk. Pray for the guidance to be the stability your child needs. Others may cause you to believe that the people in your life are burdens . . . but you have the power to find the good. 

Sometimes we are in the wrong. Let us teach our little ones to take responsibility for their own actions and not to use others as the excuse for why they are being “picked on.” Then other times, when they really are working hard and trying their best, let us remember to believe in them, even when others do not. My mom believing in me was empowering as she let me walk away without punishing me. Her silence spoke stronger to my soul than any words she could have scolded into me. I knew she believed in me. She had drilled and drilled me that I had to own up to the role I played in the scenarios of my life. And this time, I had played a role I could be proud of . . . and she trusted me. 

It’s okay that our children aren’t the star athletes. It’s okay that they are sometimes less than mediocre. Luckily, they were not sent here to be perfect for us. Just as Christ loves us with all of our shortcomings, we must see the worth of our loved ones . . . even when they are covered in holes. Christ never said it would be perfect, He only promised that it would be worth it. 

The relationships in our lives are no different. They will not be perfect, but when we desire our part to be better . . . we can pray for His love to guide us in the roles that WE play. 

As children we have a different job to do. Mothers and fathers will not always do everything right. Hopefully, our children can still love us when we fall short as their parents. Even parents fail. We react poorly to a situation; sometimes we even hurt those that we love. Physically and emotionally we get stretched to our max . . . and in those moments, sometimes we don't respond with love. All the while, our young children still love us . . . because we are their parents. Their love is not contingent on our perfection.

How dare I feel sorry for myself for raising “broken” children, when I myself was just that. Heavenly Father never saw me as a burden or trial He was merely trying to overcome. He saw me as his daughter, no matter how messed up my actions seemed to Him, or to the onlookers who went to Him with the problems they were having with me. 

Emmett’s children had holes in their hearts because of their father’s death, but as Heavenly Father’s children . . . we can become whole because of Christ’s willingness to die on the cross for us. Death is the ultimate teacher. It teaches us about who we want to be; its lessons ring through the lives of those it impacts. But death can also be the ultimate healer. Christ’s death was not in vain, as Emmett’s seemed to be. Our brother Jesus died so that all the holes that have been shot through our lives . . . can be made whole. Even the wounds unseen, discreet holes, left by a gun.


He was resurrected so that we can one day live again . . . complete and whole from the sins of this world. All wrongs can be made right, and all debts can be paid. He may have died on the cross for us . . . but the thing we can never forget is: He lives again, and so can we. 




Easter message

Grateful in any circumstances

 
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