September 17, 2014

The Tempting Road

In the past few weeks I have had the unique experience of hearing hundreds of personal stories of heartbreak and pain. I can tell you one thing—I have never felt so surrounded by support of those who have been where I have—but I also have never felt such a heavy heart for so many people I have never met. A cloud of gloom has surrounded me as I have stepped into the shoes of each and every woman and man who have told me their story.

I have an overwhelming amount of empathy for all the victims who have suffered because of the actions of another person—but for the first time in my life I have an outpouring of empathy for the victims who are suffering because of their own mistakes.

One email I received I will never forget. It started out like this—“I am like Emmett. I have done everything wrong. I have lost everything—and for what? My selfishness has destroyed my family and I hate myself for it. It is too late for me, just like it is for Emmett. There are no apologies that will take away the pain that my choices have caused.”

As I continued to read this heart felt email from a man in pain—my heart hurt for him. Tears fell down my face as I thought of all the men and woman who have stood at the crossroads where Emmett once fought with that powerful temptation to walk down a dark road for “just a minute”.

I don’t think I have ever viewed the world with such a somber heart as I have come to terms with this truth—we are all victims. At times we have all been wronged against a life we set out to live. We have all been down a road we never intended on traveling—yet so many of these diversions in our path have come because of pain we have caused ourselves.

Infidelity is not something anyone plans—yet so many relationships will experience it. So my heart goes out to all of the victims who have suffered watching someone they love give into that temptation . . . but today my heart goes out to all who have become a victim of their own mind—a puppet in the enticement that was orchestrated to make them fall.

No one plans for their life to be one that hurts others. None of us want to fall into the temptations that have plagued our thoughts. We don’t always remember that Satan has a plan of his own—and he will do everything he can to make us believe his lies.

Not one of us is exempt. That moment when our eye catches someone’s gaze or we sense that someone is trying to be flirty. That moment . . . that one moment—is ours. In that very second our mind stops us to question how we will handle our thoughts, and it is there that we must take the power. It is at that crossroad where we decide if we win—or if Satan does.

He wants us to think that because a temptation has entered our mind—we have already failed—and we are not worthy. It isn’t about our worthiness. Every single person will be tempted at some time—with something.

Just because an unhealthy enticement comes to your mind . . . that doesn’t make you a bad person. It is what you do with your thoughts that will determine what road you will take.  Carnal desires come naturally. They do not mean that something is wrong with you. We all have desires to know we are: successful, valued, appreciated, attractive, glamorous, sexy, wanted, and enough. Being accepted and seeking approval is basic human nature. It is where we turn to fill those desires that can lead us astray.

There are so many healthy desires that can, and should, be kept in the relationships they were promised to. Your spouse can meet those cravings and needs your body yearns for. Realistically the excitement and butterflies may not last, but they can be replaced by commitment and respect that can help your love last forever.

If you have felt the temptations of the world—you are not alone.  That is part of our mortal test. We will be tried and tempted—just as Christ was. It is through our resistance to these temptations that we will learn true obedience. We will gain greater faith, empathy, and compassion for those who struggle. We will have a greater perspective when we step in another’s shoes and feel the pain they have felt, as they have been plagued with temptation.

Robert D. Hales taught of Christ’s resistance to temptations when he said, “Then Jesus expressed His commitment to obey, saying, ‘Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.’ Throughout His ministry, ‘He suffered temptations but gave them no heed.’ Indeed, He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.’”

Jesus chose to feel all our pain—including those put upon us by our own choices.

He has been where we have been—even in our strongest temptation. He has felt those deep dark secrets that bring sorrow to our souls. He has felt the temptations that each of us has battled, and He has given us a perfect example of how to resist them. He gave them no heed. That doesn’t mean it was easy—but He knew the resistance to these temptations would be worth it.

He didn’t just know of our personal demons, and deepest temptations—He felt them in his soul. It is His sacrifice that makes it possible for Him to kneel at God’s feet and be our number one advocate. He knows how hard these battles are to overcome—because He has.

I don’t think I truly understood the magnitude of His sacrifices, until I was in a position that I too had to overcome my own difficult battles. I can’t imagine the torment Christ felt enduring our sins and failures. Just as He was tempted—and overcame—we too can follow His example, leaning on His strength to pull us out of the deepest trenches.

No temptation is too great, no darkness too bleak, for us to call upon His help. Those feelings that our mortal bodies crave can be used for good. Cherish the relationships that they were meant for—and those desires will bring you closer to God. We can be stronger than the negative thoughts that pop into our minds. We can overcome any temptation that is leading us away from our true selves.

We are going to be tempted—not just in our fidelity to each other—but also in everything we are . . . and everything we do. Our temptations might be as simple as having hate in our hearts. Some might be tempted to forgo forgiveness. Some struggle with: addiction, fear, anger, resentment, entitlement, abuse, and deceit.

Temptations are enticements—when put into action they keep us away from our goals. I believe that Satan is the author of all temptations, for he knows if he can get us to sway on the simple things—he might be able to get us to fall for anything. However, I believe that God allows us to feel those enticements because they are the tools we need to gain greater faith in obedience. When we battle our enticements with God by our side—we learn of our need for Him to help us overcome; but when we lose to our temptations—we are given the opportunity to return to Him and seek true repentance for our sins. Either way, though hard to bear, the enticements serve a great purpose for us in developing our faith in our Creator.

Sometimes it is our reactions to another person’s struggle that can help them remember who they are. One morning I walked into Teage’s room to see he had taken snacks from the pantry in the middle of the night and had an all night party. I wanted to scream and yell at him. I wanted to tell him what a stupid decision he had made. I was tempted to swat his butt and make him stay in his room for the rest of the day. I didn’t understand the irrational thoughts he must have had to make him steal food and hide it from me. I was totally out of my mind frustrated.

I stepped outside of his room and said a small prayer that I could know how to handle the situation and stay centered on my goal to help my son learn from this mistake.

As I walked back into his room these were the words that came out of my mouth, “Teage, there is nothing you could ever do that would make me stop loving you.” Now this doesn’t mean we didn’t talk about the consequences and the choices he was expected to make in the future. All that statement meant, to me, was he needed to know that no matter what choices were made—he was loved.

Separating actions from the love we have for someone else is not easy to do, but it is what Heavenly Father does for us. No matter what we have done—the mistakes we have made do not change the love God has for us.

My temptations have never involved a gun. I have not felt the need to seek another person outside of my marriage—but I have been tempted to be less than I am. I fight the enticement to hate those who have hurt me; I struggle to see my own worth. I have doubted my story and feared my chance for happiness was taken from me. I have questioned the goodness of others, and I have forgotten myself. There has even been a day when I have been tempted to smile back when an inappropriate glance has been sent my way; I have been enticed to spend too much time in front of the mirror—or my phone. Some days I have been tempted to just stay in bed; some times I have battled the feeling to hate myself. I have been annoyed with my children; I have been angry with my spouse. In all of these temptations, I have grown closer to God as I have fought my way through them—some successful, some less so.

I have felt the darkness of the world in those moments when my thoughts have wandered from my goals. I have been reassured that there is light—when I steer my thoughts back to Him. In those dark moments when Satan wants my mind and my heart to believe the lies of the world, I have found that I can be stronger than him. I can get on my knees and pray to God that He sends me the help I need to overcome my enticements and not give into Satan’s temptations.

The world can only win if we give temptations a second glance or allow ourselves to be attracted by them. It is not our enticing thoughts that will define who we become. It is the strength we use to control them that will empower us to stand, to show Satan who wears the pants in our relationship with him. He isn’t waiting for us to give him permission—he steps in any time he sees a crack in our armor. He tries to make us believe that those negative thoughts—are just who we are. If he can get us to doubt ourselves because of the thoughts that have entered our mind—he knows that our fall will come naturally.

Enticements are just thoughts; but when we follow these thoughts and put them into action we give into temptation.  We do not have to be perfect—but I can promise you . . . as you take control of your thoughts . . . you will have better control over the decisions you will make.  

So to all the “Emmetts” who feel they have lost their chance to right their wrongs—your time is not done. You have not lost your chance—just as I believe Emmett still has the opportunity where he is now—to right the wrongs of your imperfections. Every day is a fresh start, an opportunity to be better . . . to do better . . . to be more. It is not too late for any of us.

Even if you feel like you have gone too far down the wrong path—it is not too late. Turn to Him even in the pain that you have inflicted upon yourself. Those temptations were real—and the decision to make them was tragic—but those choices do not revoke the love God still has for YOU. I know that God lives, and as His sons and daughters He sees our worth no matter what mistakes we have made. He believes in our dreams and He will do all that He can to bring us back to the light our hearts still long to find.

To all the imperfect sinners of the world—so to every single one of us—we are not alone. We can overcome this world.  Because of Him—even we can find a higher road when we are tempted to settle for the dirt. Because of Him—we can walk away from the deceiving powers of Satan. Because of Him—even on the road to temptation we can find strength to help us overcome. His grace can make us whole. 

September 14, 2014

Book Giveaway

I feel like doing another book giveaway tonight. Head over to The Moments We Stand Instagram for more details.

September 8, 2014

Perfectly Imperfect

After Emmett died, and even after I married Shawn, I remember spending hours trying to change myself. I didn’t feel good enough to leave my room without my make-up on, or my hair done. I didn’t like to look people in the eyes, for fear they would see all the broken pieces I had inside of me. I wore high heels everywhere I went. Even on a morning adventure to the park with all the kids, I would get dressed up and waddle around in my fancy shoes.

Why? I didn’t know it at the time, but looking back it is all so simple. I was scared to be me. I was frightened that the minute I relaxed and walked around as me, people would see why Emmett chose her.

I wasn’t enough for Emmett then, I was scared to not be enough for Shawn, and I had come to not be enough for myself. My fear of inadequacy in my marriage didn’t just build a wall of protection around me; it gave me a false sense of who I felt I was supposed to be.

Shawn spent many days begging me to just stick on some jeans, tennis shoes and a t-shirt—but I could not do it. I didn’t want to feel inadequate in anyway. I didn’t want to give anyone a reason to talk about why I wasn’t enough, and I especially didn’t want to be put in a situation where I felt like I didn’t measure up.

It was like I lived in this imaginary world—where everyone was looking down on me and laughing at all of my imperfections. The accusations that had been sent my way didn’t just flash across my computer screen, or enter in my ear—they pierced my heart.  I read them over and over, and recited them to myself as if they were gospel. If you had been a better wife . . . Emmett would still be here. If you would have given him all that he needed, he wouldn’t have gone looking for it somewhere else. If you were enough for him, he wouldn’t have turned to her. It is your fault Emmett died.

Though I had the perfect knowledge that I was not there when he died, and I did not pull that trigger, those lies posed as truths inside of me—and they burned holes in my soul. I spent much time pretending that they did not hurt, but the more they lay hidden . . . the deeper they reached.

Instead of working on digging up my own pain, I spent much of my time trying to help my children heal. One afternoon on a quest to find a grief therapy group for the kids—I came across one for me. After I hung up the phone I almost laughed at the thought. What would a grief therapy group do for me? I don’t need anyone else to tell me how hard death is to face in reality.  I have already faced the fact that Emmett had died, and he was gone. I was beyond the need to talk about my grief. I quickly forgot about the grief group and carried on with my day.

A few days passed and the grief group kept popping into my mind. One night before turning out the lights for bed, Shawn said, “Hey, you ok?  You seem very deep in thought.”

I finally shared my thoughts. I said, “So I have been looking for a grief group for the kids to go to—I think it will help them work through some more of the stuff that counseling hasn’t done—and I . . . I didn’t find them a group, but the number I called was . . . it’s a grief group for adults. It is a six-week course, and it starts tomorrow. I don’t want to talk about my stuff, and I don’t want to go . . . but I can’t stop thinking about it. Maybe I should go . . . so I can help people in the group. ”

Shawn grabbed my hand. “You should go, Ash. What do you have to lose? I mean, just because we are married doesn’t mean that it has just gone away.  You walk around like everything is perfect, but I can see sometimes that you are still hurting inside. If you want to go, I support you. I think you could help people in the group . . . but I think it might be good for you.”

When morning came the next day I was so nervous my stomach was churning. I said goodbye to my family and got in the car. As I drove I could feel my tears on the verge of breaking. My first thought was that I didn’t want to mess up my mascara. I didn’t want to ruin this group’s first impression of me. No! I was going to drive alone in the car without my pain. I didn’t want to think about Emmett’s death. I wasn’t going to ponder what I was going to have to say at the trial; I wasn’t going to rehearse what I would say if I walked into the grief group and Kandi was there. I was going to be strong and not show any of these emotions. 

I was afraid to cry in fear that it would mess up my makeup, but most importantly I didn’t want to let anyone in. I decided as I drove that I was going to be stronger than ever. The past was in the past. I was a warrior, and I was going to this grief group so I could help all the sad people in it who were not as strong as me.

I pulled up to the address the woman had given me over the phone. As I stepped out of the car a wave of the past rushed over me. I knew this place well. Emmett’s step mom Denise—who had died a few weeks before Teage was born—had her funeral here.  A funeral home? Really? My new grief group was going to take place every week in a funeral home? Why did it have to be a memory from my past? How was I going to be able to help people if I was busy thinking about my own pain?

I tried hard to push that hard memory out of my mind as I pushed down the even larger lump in my throat. I was not here to cry, I was here to help others. Just like the many other times I had tried to lie to myself about my emotions, my face burned with all of those I was trying to hide.

I sat down with my arms folded. I glanced around the room. It was filled with sad faces, many who had been on the earth many more years than I had. Each person had a story, and you could see it written all over his or her face. My heart raced as my soul could feel all of the pain that filled the room.

The session began. The discussion leader asked us to go around the room and introduce ourselves and tell a little about why we were there. As each person spoke and the spotlight got closer and closer to me I began to rehearse in my mind what I was willing to share.

And then my turn came. I began. “My name is Ashlee. I . . . I was made a widow last year in March and I have five kids. I am remarried now and have a new daughter.” I bent my knees to take my seat.

Then my heart took over. “I . . . My husband was killed . . . because he was cheating on me. I . . . my heart still hurts. I try to pretend that everything is perfect. I try to tell myself that it didn’t break me, but I am drowning. I . . . just want to feel normal again. I want to remember how to feel, and how to love. I . . . just . . . I am trying to figure out how to make my life right, but it is just so hard. The trial hasn’t even begun and . . . some days it is all I can think about. I just don’t understand any of it. Why . . . did he have to die? Why did that gun have to fire? I . . . just don’t understand. I am here, because I don’t know what I am doing. I am trying to figure out how to be enough for a man again, but really I just want to know how to be enough for myself. My husband wasn’t just killed . . . he was murdered by a mistresses angry husband. He didn’t want me. He was choosing someone else. But what hurts the most is the fact that I still wanted him. I still wanted our life. He wasn’t the perfect husband. He wasn’t always the perfect father, and he was making a really big mistake. But he was OURS. He was the man who I devoted my life to, and he was taken from me before I got to do that. I had a perfect plan . . . and it was going to be . . . perfect. So now I just want to know how to let that go, so hopefully someday I can breath again. I want to perfectly love again. I want to be the girl I was before he died, but I don’t know how. I miss him, I miss the perfect life I had . . . but most importantly I miss me.”

And there it was. I was not perfect. For the first time since Emmett died I was standing in front of a group of strangers telling them how imperfect my life was. I wasn’t pretending to be something or someone else. I was just me.  

What is perfection? My view of this word has changed in the last few years. It started as a glimpse of a life I thought I had. Then it changed to an image I thought I must be. That week I came to see perfection in a whole new way.

Once my heart poured itself out to this group of strangers I knew I wasn’t just there to teach—I was there to learn.

Perfection is sitting for hours in a room full of elderly widows learning about love. They poured their souls about a life they once had. They cried tears for the perfect days they shared and the imperfect partner they had loved; they opened up their hearts about the dreams they had watched come true.

As I sat in that perfect moment, in that perfect room, I felt a glimpse of hope. I had so much that had been taken from me, but all of my dreams could still come true. Though my life with Emmett was over, my story was not complete. Though my perfect dreams had once felt shattered, I could still learn to live a new one.

Perfection feels like the only dream we should want to obtain. But what if perfection is happening right now? What if—even through the imperfect past and the imperfect days we now live—we are living the perfect life we were always meant to?

Our days will be hard. They will not be perfect. Our makeup may smudge with the tears of our pain; some days we might not ever make it out of our pajamas . . . but life is so much more than what we once thought would make it perfect.

Life is about love. Love is about family. And families are not perfect. Some days we may lose; others we may win—but in the end all that will remain are all the things that make us imperfect. High heels are not what make us whole; and makeup doesn’t change who we are.  To truly find your worth you have to search for it inside.

You will find it when you least expect it. Your worth in God’s eyes will not be found in a box; it will not carry a price tag. It will be a radiant light that permeates from inside of you.

It hurts to feel that you do not measure up, it is scary to wonder if you are enough. Before you wait around for someone else to build your sense of who you are—Find it in yourself. 

There is One who has always seen your perfection through your flaws. God’s grace can be found in the little moments that are there to remind you that even though you are not perfect, and even though your path has been rocky—you are perfect to Him.  

You are perfectly imperfect, just the way you are.

September 3, 2014

Ticket Giveaway

I have the privilege of speaking at a conference on October 11th in Midway Utah. It is a conference for women enduring the effects of a loved one's pornography/sexual addiction and/or infidelity. It is a powerful organization that is making such a difference in these woman's lives. I am so excited to be a part of it this year.

Last week after I was so touched by the emails and comments given by so many of you for the book giveaway, I felt inspired to ask Jacy at The Togetherness Project if she would let me do a giveaway for some tickets instead of a book giveaway this week.

If you or someone you know could benefit from this conference please send me an email (See the details in the attached picture).  Since this is a sensitive subject we didn't want anyone to feel like they had to leave a comment on why they want to attend.

Go to Togetherness Project for more information on the conference.

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.

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