August 31, 2014

Patterns in our soles

This week Kaleeya, Tytus and I were at the pool. The big kids were at school. We were having fun playing in the water and enjoying some one on one time. The pool was empty for a while until another little family showed up. The parents had two young girls and an uncle and grandma with them.  Their kids and mine started to talk to each other. The family was visiting from another state and the girls were six and four. The dad and uncle were in the water with the kids, while the mom and grandma stayed in the shade.  Kaleeya and Tytus got out a few toys to share and they began to play some games together.

Soon Tytus was getting cold and wanted me to come sit on the lounge chairs with him. I left Kaleeya in the shallow end to play with the two sisters. I watched from my chair with Tytus snuggled up close to me.

At one point Kaleeya came over and whispered into my ear, “That dad is very kind.” Then she headed back to into the water. For a second I almost took her comment personal—as if she had just told me that I was not nice. So I became intent with my watching to try to figure out what made him so great.

As I watched, I began to see what made this dad so kind. He was a doormat! His daughters were very bossy and ungrateful for everything he did. He was hopping around like a circus clown trying to make them happy. He was bending over backwards and doing anything they demanded and everything they wanted. “Kind” was an understatement for the patience this man had with his very demanding and degrading daughters.

I could tell Kaleeya was getting sick of being told what to do, and was not impressed with the bossy duo.  Soon she found her way onto my lap. Not long after she sat down, Tytus decided he would take his turn in the ringer—he headed over to play with the girls. I knew he could hold his own, but I started to get a little nervous for him to go into the game of ingratitude that was taking over the pool. This time Kaleeya and I watched from our seat.

I noticed that every time one of the girls would began to get upset, the mom or the grandma would yell something at the dad, saying things like, “Just let her do it!”, “She is talking to you!”, “Listen to her!” As if the dad had no voice, he would just do exactly what the four year old, his mother in law, or his wife was getting mad at him for.

My mind raced back to all the lessons in college psychology classes and books I have read—learning about patterns in a family’s background. I started to overanalyze this young family and the example the grandma and mom had obviously been to these young girls. They had taught them to nitpick and never be grateful for all of the things this father was obviously trying so hard to do for them. It was like the more he tried to show his love—the worse he was treated. I had the diagnosis all mapped out in my mind of all the things they were doing wrong in this scenario. I wanted to sit them down and share my knowledge on how to help their family break the patterns they had passed down from generation to generation, and show them why they needed to change.

Soon the youngest sister was throwing a fit and yelling at Tytus, her uncle, and her dad. She was telling them that they were not passing the ball in the direction that she wanted it passed in their game. The dad and uncle began to apologize to the little four year old, and threw the ball around the circle in the other direction. Soon the ball came to Tytus. He tilted his head to the side, glanced at the four year old, looked over in the opposite direction and threw the ball as hard as he could in the direction she had demanded it could not go.

At first I was proud of my little guy for standing his own with this snotty little ungrateful girl—she had a pattern in her family that obviously needed to be changed. He was showing her exactly what she needed to see. She didn’t rule the world! Not everyone was going to roll over and allow her to be the queen! Somebody was going to have to show her how to break the patterns her mom and grandma had passed down. 

And then it hit me like a ton of bricks—Tytus’ response was learned from the patterns of the bull headed stubburness that were potent in my own family.

My thoughts turned from this imperfect group of people—to my own imperfect crew. I began to think of the many patterns that had streamed through the generations, past and present, and the role that these patterns had played in our own lives.

I sat on that lounge chair with Kaleeya on my lap thinking back over the patterns of my past. Some of my strengths were the qualities that pulled me through some very hard times, but other times those same strengths have been my weaknesses.

I pictured my strong internal drive to have everything pulled together. I have to admit I am a bit of a control freak—but I am not alone in this intense behavior. I come from a long line of control freaks. We like to make sure we know exactly what is going on with each of the eggs in our baskets. We like things to be done the way we like them. We have an opinion about the little things others are doing, and have a tendency to think our way is the easy one.  We like to see ourselves as pretty with it, and on top of things.

So obviously we also have a bad case of denial as well—because when you like to have control over everything—you usually don’t feel like you have control over anything.

One problem with thinking you are the glue that holds everything together—when your world crumbles . . . you will spend a lot of time trying to figure out what it was that you did wrong. It is hard to give up the power, even when things happen out of your control.

I remember at those beginning stages of my marriage to Shawn being plagued with this strength and  weakness of wanting power. I truly believed that if Shawn’s attention wasn’t fully on me, or the things that I thought he should be focusing on—he didn’t love me.  If he didn’t do the thing I suggested he do, he didn’t value me as a person. If he didn't ask my opinion . . . then he didn't care about me as a partner. If he was spending his Saturday washing all of our cars, when I had the expectation that we all went to the park—he must not love me enough to know what I wanted. I felt that he should value my opinion—because in my mind, my ideas were the best. He should read my mind, because if he loved me . . . I wouldn't have to ask. If he cared enough about me, he would just know what he was supposed to do. And since I was so good at pretending that I had it all put together, he should value my very wise opinion. 

Then Shawn had this pattern of believing that if he didn’t give Jordyn his unconditional, undivided attention when she was at our house—she wouldn’t know that she was loved.

At this point in our marriage, we were still far from realizing this pattern of “chase” we would play, and we were too overwhelmed with all that lay ahead to even know where to begin to address it—so we spent a lot of time darting around it and avoiding each other because of it.

In turn, the control freak inside of me began to lose it. I remember one afternoon, after receiving another one of our many “the trial has been postponed again” calls, I was taking Tytus into the doctor for a well check appointment. My pattern of wanting control was at an all time high. The trial date—that had been written in permant marker on my calendar, was not going to happen again; Shawn had spent a whole weekend ignoring me to caress his need to make Jordyn feel like his number one, so he didn’t fear her feeling unloved; and Tytus was having problems with his emotional health and allergic reactions.

My control barometer was in the red zone. I sat in the doctor’s office waiting for our turn, the whole time on the verge of tears. Soon the nurse called us back. We sat quietly in the check up room
—my face was on fire from holding back all of my emotions. Just like many in my family who had gone before me, I tried hard to sweep my emotions under the rug to keep up my perfect front. 

The doctor finally walked into the room. He asked a few questions about Tytus, and did the usual checks. We discussed a few things that we could try for the little guy's reactions and the doctor was about to leave the room. As he reached for the door he turned around, “Ashlee . . . are you . . . are you ok?”

With that permission to share . . . the storm began, I could not keep my tears in any longer, “I  . . . I just can’t do it anymore. They called and changed the date of the trial again, and everything is just so hard . . . I just . . . I think they picked the wrong girl for all of this; I am not strong, not even a little bit. I can’t keep doing this. I feel like I am going crazy. I miss my normal life, where I could just be a mom . . . and do the normal things I once thought I was good at . . . and I just can’t take much more. I try to look like I am strong . . . but I need some help. I don’t know who to ask, or where to turn . . . it is like everyone thinks I am just fine now that I got married . . . like all the sudden I am not broken . . . and I just don’t know how to let go of all the control that I have lost, and I don’t know what I have control over. Everything is just . . . everywhere . . . and I don’t have control over any of it. I couldn’t control Emmett dying, or if he loved me. I can’t control if the trial will ever end . . . or begin for that matter. I am trying to be a wife and mother, but I am just so fractured . . . and I . . . I . . .  I am losing it.”

I am sure he wasn’t expecting all of that when he asked if I was ok. He looked startled and resumed his position in his little rotating seat in front of us—this time I was the patient. “Ashlee, you are doing an amazing job. I know so many people who have been watching you through everything and they tell me about how strong you are, and what a great mom you have been. I can’t imagine all of the stress that is constantly on you through all of this, and the wait . . . I can bet is excruciating. Would it be ok if we had an appointment just for you to see if maybe we can do something to help you through some of this stress?”

Wall of pride . . . NO way, you can’t possibly take medication . . . you have made it this far on your own, you don’t need this. You need to be strong, you need to fight through it. You have control of yourself. You don’t need help. Medication is for the weak, who need help. You are strong . . . you don’t need help . . . you have got this.  The thoughts in my mind tried to talk me out of it, but the peace in my heart knew that he was right. I was going to lose it, and it was ok to get some help.

Within a few days he had prescribed some anti anxiety pills. I only had to stay on them for a few months, but I don’t know what I would have done without them. That pattern of bull headed “I can do anything on my own” attitude maybe got me through a lot of hard things, but it also hurt me. So many times that I needed help, my stubbornness held me back from getting it.

Even as we speak, I have had a sore tooth all summer long. Instead of just going to the dentist and letting them fix it, I have tried to tough it out. Where has that gotten me—absolutely nowhere! My tooth is still killing me, and I didn’t gain anything from waiting, except a summer full of toothaches.

Why are we so set in our ways? Why do so many of the enticements our ancestors struggled with, do we carry on in ourselves? How many times do we get frustrated with our loved ones for a characteristic they portray—when we ourselves do the same thing?

I laughed the other day at the park when Tytus was ticked off about me letting Kaleeya ride her bike around the whole pond. He dragged his feet and whined the whole way because he wanted to run up and down the hill instead of ride around the trail like we had planned. Where did he get such a stubborn control freak arrogance? . . . well he got it from me!  So I am learning to laugh when my kids do something that I probably did a million times to my own mother. They come in their own package, but some of the things our children do that we see as weak—are just some of the strengths we have passed on. Someday those strengths may pull them through something hard; and other times these weaknesses may hold them back.

Every family has patterns that have been set and carried on for years.  Some of these traits are priceless treasures and amazing characteristics, but many are dark emotionally driven fears. What patterns has your family passed down, that are not worth carrying on? I made a list last night of all the patterns I don’t want in my family anymore. Some I saw in my husband or our children—but most of them I found within myself.

Every family is unique and different. Some families are excellent sweepers. Everything is swept under a rug, where they feel it is safe and will never be revealed. Some families are fakers, they pretend everything is perfect on the outside, and then behind closed doors everything explodes. Some families struggle with addictions. Some families struggle with arrogance and pride. Some become doormats and let others walk all over them. Some families have histories of affairs, or gambling or pornography addictions. Some families are sleeve wearers—they tell everyone everything that is going on in their life and in their mind; and then others hold everything inside.

Now I am making the human race sound like a bunch of sheep—like we are all just followers. I know that not all people follow the patterns of their heritage’s past . . . but I believe that is because somewhere the patterns were broken. I think we all have weaknesses that can be passed or carried on in our beliefs and behaviors, but many have learned to overcome or break these patterns.

Our history is not our destiny.

Just because your dad, your grandpa, and your great grandpa died of an alcohol addiction—it doesn’t mean you will. I believe we have a choice. If alcoholism is in your blood—don’t take a sip. If you have already been sucked in by that addiction—get help out. Maybe your mother beat you every day of your childhood—that doesn’t mean you have to become the same kind of abusive parent. Maybe your dad was a yeller—and you hate that you have followed his lead.  You can stop that pattern in yourself! We are never destined for anything. We may feel that the weaknesses passed on from our parents tempt us to join them—but the only way they win . . . is if we lose.

We can chose to follow in footsteps, or we can pattern our own course.

Every trail that has ever been tread had to begin with one person. Some have called these pioneers—the first to adventure from the normal life they once knew, creating a new path. Being a pioneer doesn’t always take a wagon and some oxen. Being the pioneer of your life can mean breaking patterns that were once followed blindly.

Stop chasing the patterns of crazy that came from generations back. You will never have all the control of the things around you, and you will not always feel like the #1. You may never feel like you have it all pulled together, but you can find hope in yourself as you center your desires on making yourself the best you can be. You may not be able to change anyone else, but you can always make a difference inside of yourself. Sometimes that means asking for help, and other times it means figuring it out on your own. Fighting to change a pattern doesn’t always have to be done alone, but sometimes it is when you make shifts on your own that you will find a true change of heart.

One thing is for sure—patterns of behavior were not all intended to be carried on. They may be the tool that is holding you back from the life you want to have. Just like the walls of the past that get triggered to be built, patterns of the past can be broken and changed.

Examine who you want to become, and what behaviors or patterns are keeping you from those goals. And then make a change. Seek for a power much greater than your own to help you find the answers to change the parts of you that are holding YOU back. It is inside of ourselves that we will find the answers to our role in the world. 

“If you really want to understand the social world, if you really want to understand yourself and others, and, beyond that, if you really want to overcome many of the obstacles that prevent you from living your fullest, richest life, you need to understand the influence of the subliminal world that is hidden within each of us.” (pg.189)
Decide Now: The Good Life or The Best Life 

Maybe your walls were built with the patterns from the examples before you, but you can be the pioneer to a new pattern of life. Our heritage of weakness doesn’t have to be what we become. Turn to God to make those weaknesses become strong. He has promised that his grace can heal even our weaknesses, and they can become our strengths.

Believe in Him as your soles find new paths from the ones you once followed before.  Take His hand, and let Him help you remember the worth of your soul . . . for you are great in the sight of God, and even your path matters to Him.

August 25, 2014

Book Giveaway winner

Well, just like last week I have been sitting at my computer bawling like a baby as I read through all the comments and stories everyone has shared . . . wishing I could send every single one of you a book. So this week I called my little sister in California to pick todays winner.

Todays book will be going to Kami McFarlane! Contact me and let me know where you would like me to send your book tomorrow.

Thank you for everyone who has been participating in these book giveaways. I can feel the love you have for each other and it is something special. Congratulations Kami.

August 24, 2014

Book Giveaway

Last weeks giveaway on Facebook was a great experience for me, so I have decided to do another book giveaway on the blog this time, to include those of you who do not have Facebook.  Please leave a comment below (you don't have to leave names or details) if you or someone you know could benefit from our story. I will pick a comment tomorrow night and send out the book on Tuesday morning. Thanks again for all the support. Can't wait to see where I get to send to next.

(If you have trouble leaving a comment here, feel free to go to the blogs Facebook page or Instagram at TheMomentsWeStand and leave your message there to be entered in the drawing)

August 18, 2014

Crack the Walls

During the second week of Bostyn’s hospitalization for her eye infection, she was moved to a different floor. I began to notice that no matter what time of day or night—every time I would walk through the hall to go see her, I would hear a baby screaming in a nearby room. After a few days, I decided to go and ask the nurses if there was anything I could do for the crying baby.

At first, the nurse was very resistant to even talk about the crying child on the other side of the door, but after a few minutes of my persistence, she opened up. “You know, that poor little baby is dying. I can’t give you any details about her condition . . . but it has been the saddest thing I have ever had to watch as a nurse. Her parents are mad at God. They don’t understand why they are being punished, and since they know they are losing her, they hardly come to see her anymore. There is only so much time we can spend with her, and so she cries for her parents all day and all night.”

As I walked to Bostyn’s room, I wondered how a parent could get to that point. How could you remove yourself so far from your suffering child’s pain as to let your own emotions become more important than hers? I decided they had to be surrounded by walls or some sort of barrier that somehow prevented them from seeing their child’s needs. Somewhere along their journey, they had built an imaginary protection to shield themselves from the pain of losing her. Walls of fear or hate. Even at a time when their little baby needed them the most, they had allowed their emotions or their pride to keep them from her. It seemed that somewhere inside of themselves, they truly believed they were punishing God for their trial—but the only one suffering was their already terminally ill baby girl.

Each person who has ever lived has had a completely different experience in life. Some have found ways to trust their world, and others have been given every reason to never let anyone in. In my experiences of suffering intense pain—I have learned to build walls: walls of protection to keep myself safe, walls of hate to keep my heart from getting broken again, and walls of fear to keep all the scary parts of the world out.

People begin building walls around themselves anytime a negative experience teaches them to fear or hate the world. Our physical bodies, mental cognition, and emotional capabilities all play into the building of our “walls.” When we find ourselves in a state of crisis, our physical bodies automatically go into “fight or flight” mode. Our mental state is heightened and everything we feel or see is intensified. Every emotion is more powerful, and every pain is more excruciating. In that split second when all of the powers that make up our existence are on overload, our brains work together with our emotions to build walls of protection around us to ensure that the experience is never duplicated. Our physical bodies react to prevent us from ever again taking the same steps that led us to that pivotal moment of extreme stress.

It is during those times—when our emotional, mental, and physical selves come together to build walls to shield us from future pain—that we learn to block things out. We learn to shut things down, or run from the present to ensure the past is not duplicating itself. Our bodies prepare themselves to fight or to take flight.

And that is where our triggers come into play. If we have had an experience that has caused us to build a wall, and something happens that threatens to duplicate that past experience—triggers fire and our subconscious takes us back to the fight or flight mechanism that occurred during the original situation. Sometimes it is obvious when these walls were built, and other times, we have no clue why or when we constructed them in the first place.

As I faced the task of trying to build a new family at the same time as waiting for a murder trial, it seemed as if I was surrounded by an imaginary structure of walls. It was obvious how some of those walls were built, but I don’t know that I will ever know for sure why others were erected.

However, one thing is for sure—for every reason I found to dig my deep hole of despair and build my massive walls, my family gave me a reason to climb out of the hole and break down the walls. It seemed that on all those days our blended-family misunderstandings occurred, they caused us to build new walls. But after every dark day, we began experiencing simple moments of love and hope, and the purity of those emotions helped us break down our newly-constructed walls.

Then just when I thought I had it all figured out, it seemed as if I’d get thrown a curve ball, or learn a new fact about the criminal case that would drill a new hole inside of me and create a new pain. From where I stood . . . my life seemed complete, and yet—I did not feel whole. But despite my walls of protection, Shawn continued to pull me up on the really dark days.

One afternoon, after I had received a difficult phone call from the detectives telling me about a disturbing piece of information they’d found on Emmett’s computer, I was really struggling.  Walls of fear were shooting up all around me, and as the afternoon progressed, I could feel the darkness of the facts I’d been told surround me. Receiving new information about Emmett’s past didn’t change anything—but it still threatened my ability to move forward with faith toward the future.

Shawn came home early from work that day and told us all to load up into the car. The thought crossed my mind to just go get in bed and send everyone else with him, but I got in and buckled my seatbelt. Nobody knew where we were going. The kids laughed and joked as we drove. I was silent in the front seat, still surrounded by my gloom. I could hear the kids begging Shawn to tell them where we were headed, but he held firm and kept our destination a surprise. I remained quiet, rehearsing the past in my mind, trying to figure out where it had all gone wrong in an effort to prevent any future tragedies.  

Soon the car came to a halt as we pulled up to the most beat up bowling alley I’d ever seen. Shawn looked over at me and said, “Here we are! This is what we ALL need today.”

It didn’t look very promising, but we all piled out of the car. Shawn grabbed Ty’s car seat and I plopped Kaleeya onto my hip. Hand in hand, the big kids marched inside, and with delight, they bowled their little hearts out and laughed their heads off. The kids were so excited to be together playing as a family that it was as if that little run down bowling alley were Disneyland.

At one point, I sat on the bench and just watched. The smiles on their faces and the spirit in their giggles began to break down the wall of fear that had been building up around me all day. The earlier phone conversation began to fade from my mind as I watched my family members smile in joy. At that moment, tears rolled down my face, but they were tears of gratitude. I smiled as I saw my crew come together and laugh. I was grateful for a husband who knew how to play, even when everything around me told me to fight . . . or flee. Shawn knew how to smile and help us step away from the heavy parts of our life. He helped me see that even though I was surrounded by walls, we could break them down together.

For every hole that had been drilled into my heart, I had to find a new way to keep it beating—and sometimes the best medicine was love and laughter.

Despite my irrational internal belief that our life together couldn’t really begin until after the trial, Shawn was determined to start new traditions. I remember our first New Year’s Eve together as if it were yesterday. He had all these grand ideas of what the night would be like. He carried each child’s mattress down the stairs and pulled ours off of our bed, then positioned them around the living room floor for a “camp out.” At first, it just seemed like a ridiculous amount of work and a great big mess, but as the night went on—I began to see the wisdom in his plan. We laughed together until midnight as the New Year began.

I remember holding Shawn’s hand under our blanket and actually experiencing a glimpse of being whole. I remember kissing each child on his or her cheek that night, praying with all my heart that the New Year would bring us peace. My only New Year’s Resolution was to not have any more change. I wished for normalcy to come my way, where the only cares I had were what to make for lunch and what movie to see on date night. I hoped for a year of pure, sweet, tender moments that could remind me over and over again of what I was fighting so hard for.

And boy did I fight! I fought every day to find myself. I prayed every hour not to hate. I cried every night for the answers I still yearned to hear. But more and more, I also prayed for the ability to laugh. I yearned for the power to smile. I fought for the desire that once came naturally—to love. I begged God for the sparkle I used to have in my eye to one day shine brighter than it ever had before.  I begged every night to one day feel whole again, and to have the walls that had come to block my view crumble.

Although my fight to obtain these blessings seemed to never cease, I began to see more of the little glimmers of sunshine as they came into view. I tried hard to let the fun parts of life into my heart. I searched for reasons to smile, even when my heart was breaking.

Walls. Each of us has built them—but building them is not the hard part. The challenge comes when we must break them down. A country is built one city at a time; a city is built street by street; a street is built one house at a time; a house is built wall by wall. Just like a house is built with walls to protect what is inside, we too build walls around us: walls of protection, but also walls of fear, and walls of hate. Some of these walls are necessary for us to progress in life, and yet . . . most of them hold us back from where we really want to be.

All the days of our lives, we will either be building or breaking down these imaginary—and yet very real—barriers. It will be a constant cycle of progression. Some days, pieces of the bricks will fall, and on other days, new bricks will form.

Walls are a protective mechanism to help your soul feel safe, but they can also stop you from truly giving and receiving love. Whatever emotion has created the foundation of your walls, love can crack each brick: loving those around you, loving those who have hurt you, and most importantly loving yourself. As those walls get broken down, piece by piece, you will begin to feel the love of those who believe in you. You will begin to see your worth in this world, and you will be able to feel the love that God has for you. Every day of your life, you can have the gift to see your worth.

I have always wondered what it will be like to grow old and look back on my life. What bricks will I have willingly built around myself, and what walls will I have fought my way through? What will I wish I had done differently, and what will I be glad I didn’t forget?

If you were on your deathbed at this very moment, what would you regret? I don’t think that before dying, many people would wish they had spent more time at work. Most would probably not wish they had taken another trip or made more money to buy another car. I doubt our last words would be about not having built a bigger house or about the boat we never had.

I think most of our regrets will be about our relationships. We will remember the times we failed our loved ones, failed to teach them truth, failed to be there when they needed us, failed to show them they played a part in helping us through some of our hard times, and failed to forgive them for any pains they may have caused us. But I think even more, we will regret the times we failed—or refused—to say we were sorry. We will regret the moments others needed us, but we did not let them in, and the times when the walls we’d built around ourselves prevented us from being who we wanted to be. It’s the relationships in our lives that we will look back upon and wish we could do over—not the “stuff” we did or did not have. We will wish we would have let our loved ones in, and not pushed people away.

We build walls to keep ourselves safe. Abuse or neglect create foundations on which many people construct walls so as to never let anyone get close to them ever again. Physical pain and emotional abuse generate barriers that remain with victims as they try to find a way to survive with the shields they have erected to block out the world. With such walls surrounding us—we are not able to live life to the fullest.

Fear doesn’t have to shut you down. When you have those moments when the walls you’ve built seem to shut everyone else out—pray to your God that He can help you break them down. Ask for His hand to guide you to the freedom you seek from your past.

Forgiveness is the answer to broken hearts. Love is the power that can break down your walls of darkness. Maybe love doesn't change your son’s negative behaviors, but at least, he still knows you care. Maybe finding happiness does not mean your husband comes back to life, or leaves his mistress to come home. Maybe your mother never turns from her selfish ways that made her abandon you during a time of need. Maybe forgiveness doesn't save your marriage, but it can save your soul. Maybe hope doesn't save your baby dying in a hospital bed, but at least her last breaths were spent in your arms.

Sometimes our relationships are part of our test. The loss of a loved one, and their pain bring us times of doubt in ourselves and in God. I believe it is all part of our test—to see where our hearts belong. Is our love for God only apparent when our lives are perfect, or is our faith in Him unconditional, and not based upon what we’ve been given or where we are in life?

We don’t have to shut each other out. We don’t have to flee or fight our way out of our pain. There is a gift given to all of us that can break down those walls. Love, hope, and faith are the foundations upon which our lives can be built. Through the grace of God, all wrongs can be made right. All of our relationships can grow, and all of our walls of fear and hate can erode.

Not all days will be bright, but there is light in each one. Before you build a wall to keep the darkness out, make sure it doesn’t block you from the light. Break the bricks that are forming around you, crumble the towers that are keeping everyone out, and crack the walls of fear that stop you from smiling. Yesterday might have taught you to shut out the world, but today is the day to break through those barriers so the light can be seen.

August 13, 2014

Take upon Me

So much of this blog I have spent telling stories of the past. I have had to rummage through old journals and memories; I have done my best to recall exact conversations and the feelings I felt during each of them. It has not been easy to relive these moments, but it has been so healing for me as I have. This weekend I was taught some new lessons that I want to share. It doesn’t follow in the order of our healing, but has really touched my heart.

On Friday Bailey and Bostyn picked out some cookbooks at the public library. They spent most of the day making menus of the things they wanted to cook. They were anxiously asking all day Saturday to make some of the recipes on their lists. I finally agreed.

Saturday evening the two were eagerly cooking away. They were acting so big and were having the time of their life. I was trying to let them lead the way and do most of the things they could on their own. They were chopping up vegetables and making salsa, browning meat, and measuring out rice. Each step was organized and they worked together for what to do next. It was fun seeing them team up in the kitchen and act so grown up.

At one point Bailey went to take off the lid to our food ninja.  Instead of just unhooking the power button unit she pulled up the entire lid, and power top, and the blades. Since the lid and blades were still engaged with the power source, the machine thought it was still connected to the base.  When she went to put it down the power button hit the countertop and the blades powered up in full force—shredding both of her hands.
(Warning: graphic pictures of her hands below)
It was like a crime scene from a movie. Blood was literally shooting all over the white cabinets and floor; every child in our house was screaming at the top of their lungs. She lost a lot a blood; most of which was all over the dinner they had been working on and the hard wood floor extending from the front door to the back bedroom.

The only thing I remember before going into a state of shock was looking down at her hands and seeing half of her finger hanging by some skin.  I could see through the blood the palms of her hands. They resembled a sliced open uncooked steak. Shawn grabbed some towels and within seconds they were out the door. He rushed her to the hospital while the other kids and I stared around at the blood stained kitchen.

Five seconds. Literally in the blink of an eye our house went from a peaceful, sweet, safe haven of imagination—to a traumatic war zone none of us will ever forget. As Teage and Bostyn and I wiped our tears and scrubbed up Bailey’s blood off of the walls and floor, I felt a huge wave of humility rush through me. Somewhere on my journey of writing about the pain in my past, I think I have secretly hoped that we had it all behind us. We already lived through the rough patches, right? We shouldn’t have to go through any more pain, or physical anguish. I have gotten on this blog to document the stories of the past, almost in hopes that it meant the hard times were all behind us.

Well I am here today, humbled, to report they are not. We have not been exempt from cuts and bruises, and broken hearts. Bailey ended up needing about 45 stitches between the two of her hands. Both of the palms of her hands were ripped open. Her left pointer finger had a tendon and vein that were sliced through—hence the spewing of blood everywhere. And her right thumb is cut up. 

She is so wrapped up in bandages that she cannot feed herself or do any of the usual things she has always been able to do on her own. For the first few days, every time we would unwrap her hands, everyone would burst in tears—staring at the mess on her hands, and the pain in her eyes.  Sunday she spent all day in mourning for a life she felt she had lost. She has been very emotional and in so much pain. 

Yesterday I was doing laundry when Bailey walked in with tears in her eyes. What she said to me I will always remember, “Mom . . . I don’t want to be like this. I wish I could run away from it. I don’t want to feel this pain anymore . . . but I have been thinking about some things as I have sat on the couch while everyone does everything for me. Remember on Saturday morning when you and me were talking about how all the kids in our family have something they struggle with—like math or reading—and I said I didn’t really struggle with any of that. I asked you to tell me what things you have seen me struggle with.  You told me that because I was so smart at a lot of things . . . you saw my need to find empathy for others in their struggles. I think I understand that now. I didn’t know before how to see what other’s felt, because I had never felt it. I have never understood Tytus’ food allergies, or Teage having a hard time with reading because those things haven’t been hard for ME. Not being able to use my hands the last few days has given me a chance to think a lot about what others go through. I have thought about people in wheelchairs, and those that are blind. This has been really hard, but I think I am starting to see what you were talking about when you said I needed to find more empathy for others.  Bostyn has done everything for me. She has cared about me more than she has for herself. She has brushed my teeth, and fed me food, and really cared about my pain. She said on the way to the hospital you and her listened to When you believe and you both cried for me. I have never in my life felt more close to seeing how others feel in their struggles. I think I even know a little bit about what Jesus went through when they put the nails through his hands . . . and I hurt for Him. Just like I didn’t deserve this pain in my hands, neither did He. But because He felt that pain, He knows exactly what I am feeling right now.”

That moment when you see before your eyes the pure tender truths that only a daughter of God can teach you.

Empathy. We know Jesus Christ has it for us . . . but how many of us have been given the opportunity to feel it for Him? I don’t think I will ever look at the scars on my little girl’s hands without thinking about a Savior who took on similar scars for me.

We are not alone in our struggles, and this week I didn’t just write about a past pain when I felt alone—I watched my daughter live in pain. A trial I could not take from her in any way. I am starting to wonder if after our conversation on Saturday morning she went up to her room and prayed to receive more empathy for others, a lesson not easily learned by watching another suffer.

Not all of us will be given scars in our palms to help us remember the sacrifice that Jesus Christ has made for us personally, but we are all given trials. Each person on the earth will go through pain—maybe not always physical, but we will go through some sort of suffering.

The grace of God isn’t fully comprehended until we are able to use it to help us overcome our trials, and peace from our pain. We can read about another person’s experience finding empathy for the suffering of others—even Jesus’s pain in his hands as they nailed him to the cross, but it isn’t until we are in our own suffering that we fully comprehend the magnificence of His sacrifice. It is through our own physical and emotional pain that we can come to have empathy for our Brother who willingly suffered for us.

 Jesus Christ chose to take upon him all of our pain. He did it willingly because he wanted to know exactly what we were going through. I know that with that empathy He is much more equipped to kneel at God’s feet and plead for the forgiveness we need. He has felt each pain and therefore knows of our suffering when our actions fail us.

I can almost picture him—on the dark days when I have failed as a parent—begging God to forgive me. I can hear him telling of the pain that was in my heart on a day, just weeks after Emmett was shot, when the kids were trying to let Tiffanie and me sleep in. They went into the pantry and got out their own cereal, only to drop a bowl and set off the alarm. I imagine Christ telling Heavenly Father of the fear that was coursing through my veins as I ran out to the kitchen—thinking I was going to find Rob in my house—but instead my panic caused me to yell at my kids and their spilled milk. The fear in my screams wasn’t about the dropped bowl, or the alarm ringing through the house—it was about everything that alarm could have meant. It was about a fear much greater than a spilled bowl of cereal.

 I can almost see Christ, as He knelt at the feet of God explaining my mistake, with tears in his eyes—pleading for Him to forgive me. And just as Jesus had empathy for those who drove the nails into His hands, I know that He feels the same for us as He pleas, “Father, forgive them . . . for they know not what they do.”

I know that because Jesus chose to feel our pain, instead of receive revelations of them . . . He is our greatest advocate. Without feeling my pain, Christ could never describe my actions so perfectly. Without knowing my fear, He too would only want to condemn me for my mistakes.

I pray that each of us may take the little moments—the times when we want to scream WHY ME?—to better understand the suffering of others. That we may find empathy for the One who has felt them all, and be a little more grateful for all the blessings He has given to us.  And as He takes upon Himself our pains, let us try to understand the sacrifice that it was, even for such as Him.  He didn’t do it because it was easy—He took upon himself our pains because He knew that He would be able to save us, when we alone were not enough.

His suffering was not in vain . . . and our pain doesn’t have to be either. Turn to Him when the load you are carrying gets to be too much to bear. He will take upon Himself the scars that you may never see.

The scars of my pains will forever be a reminder of the suffering He did for me. As I take upon me His name, my suffering will always bring me closer to the eternal being He is creating me to be. 

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