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. 

August 3, 2014

The Moments We Stand: Silence Breaks Book 1

A few years ago, long before I started this blog, I had a dream. I was standing on the edge of a cliff with a book in my hand. I threw it over the edge of the cliff and into the ocean.

I didn't know then, but have been blessed to learn that my journey of healing was going to be filled with the opportunity to create that book for myself.  A symbolic tangible work of art that symbolizes all of the pain that my family went through, and the peace we have come to find.

I finally received the first copy of my book and can't wait to one day drive it to the cliff in my dream. I am humbled to continue this journey of healing and appreciate all of the love and support I have received.

For anyone who wants a copy of our stories on the blog in paper back or ebook form, here is a link to the book options.

Amazon (paperback and ebook version):

The Moments We Stand: Silence Breaks: Book 1

It is also available for a Nook on Barnes and Noble (ebook only):

Nook: The Moments We Stand: Silence Breaks Book 1

July 26, 2014


I remember being pregnant with my twins and thinking I had it all figured out. I had a birth plan all written, and I pretty much knew exactly how my birthing experience would be. I had been on bed rest for contractions for months, and thought for sure that being induced would not be a decision I would have to come to. We had spent months fighting to keep them inside, so I figured they would just crawl out when the time came. Boy was I so wrong.

Thirty seven weeks was our golden number. When that week came my doctor was in shock that we made it that long. He took me off bed rest and told me to get out on the streets and walk my heart out. I probably walked forty miles in a few days. I was determined to get those babies out naturally. I continued to have endless contractions in my journeys on the streets, but every time I would go back into the office he would check me and I hadn’t even dilated at all.

By the end of the week, and with no progression my doctor scheduled my induction. Both babies were head down and I kept my fingers crossed that my natural birth plan I had fought so hard for would be carried out, despite my set back of being induced. I was frustrated as the next day rolled around and my scheduled induction was up. I walked in the hospital, a little deflated that the first bullet point in my designed birth plan would not be happening for me.

It was early evening and my doctor began the process. He said it could be fast, but most likely I would see slow progression throughout the night. The next morning came and went, still no babies. My contractions were consistent, but barely any progression still in my dilation. My desire to continue my natural birth plan kept me hanging on with no drugs other than the Pitocin to create stronger contractions. They would up the Pitocin every few hours in a hope to see more progression. The pain was almost unbearable by early afternoon. Every time the nurse or doctor would check me they found I had progressed very little. Nurses would beg me to get an epidural or take some pain meds, but my stubborn nature kept me driving to keep up the fight for my natural birth.

By evening I was in so much pain that tears would roll down my face every time I had a contraction. The Pitocin was turned up so high that my contractions were only about a half of a minute apart, so I had little breathing time in between. There came a point when baby B began to panic. Every time a contraction would start, her heartbeat would plummet. It was like the contractions were causing her to go into a panic attack. Her heart rate would drop dramatically and then would become very sporadic through out the whole contraction.

My doctor finally came into check the baby and me. After finding out that I was only at a three he started to get serious, “Ash . . . I know that you have written out this idea of how today was supposed to go, and we have laughed and called you the iron cervix for the last few months . . . but this isn’t working. I know you are against an epidural, but I really feel like maybe it would help you relax and allow your body to do its job. You have been fighting for this plan, and I don’t want to take it away from you, but I really want to get these babies out without doing a C- section. If baby B doesn’t start handling this labor better, I am going in after her. So you can keep fighting through this the hard way, or we can try to do something different.”

Within minutes my birth plan was gone and the epidural was in place. With the pain taken away I started focusing on my struggling baby. Every contraction seemed to affect her. Every time I saw her monitor waver I chanted in my mind, “Please let her be OK, please let her be ok.”

A half an hour after the epidural was in place I got the urge to push. I told the nurse who almost laughed, “Remember when we just checked you, and you were only a three . . .” Finally I talked her into getting my doctor, and sure enough— I was at a ten. They rushed me to the operating room. Since we were having twins, it was that hospital’s practice to deliver in the OR.

As soon as I began to push baby B’s heartbeat would almost stop. After a few more pushes my doctor started to panic, “We have to get that baby out of there!” He grabbed his tools and suctioned baby A’s head right out. She was beautiful, she had a healthy cry, and she looked perfectly pink—well perfect except for the little red yarmulke that had been left by the suction machine.

He searched for baby B’s head, “I feel a hand . . . and a foot . . .” My heart dropped—TRIPLETS? “She has flipped . . . I am going in after her.” And he did, clear to his elbow! He grabbed her by the feet and yanked her out. She was as dark as a blueberry. My heart stopped as I held my breath to hear her cry . . . Silence. The nurse could tell I was not breathing well and handed me an oxygen mask. I tried to stay calm as I could hear them flopping her around and trying to get her to breathe. As more time passed I could feel the tension in the air—something was wrong with our baby. I pulled the mask away from my face and screamed, “What is happening . . . she hasn’t made a sound . . . is she ok . . . please, somebody tell me what is going on!”

For what seemed like an hour no one said a word and all the nurses and the doctors were gathered around our baby. I felt like I was in a dream as my heart cried out, “Heavenly Father, please, help this baby girl. Please help her keep up the fight and make it through.” I sat frozen with my head in my hands. Every things seemed to be in slow motion. All the nurses scrambling—no one looking me in the eye.

And then it came . . . the loudest baby scream I had ever heard. It was as if she was answering my prayer, “Mommy, I am not only here . . . I am a warrior, I wasn’t going to give up that easy. I am a fighter!!!” The sound every mother waits for.  They rushed the twins off to the NICU while I caught my breath.

As the doctor was getting me ready to head back to my room, he found something interesting. He held up the placenta, which was the last thing on earth I wanted to look at in that moment. He looked puzzled and walked over to where I could get a better look. He said, I have never seen anything quite like this before. Both babies umbilical cords are connected in different places, but baby B’s cord was barely even hooked on to this sac. Can you see where baby A’s cord wrapped around the whole right side of the sack? That is what it normally looks like.  I have read about this many times, but never seen it so dramatic. I have no idea how that second little twin of yours even got any nutrients, let alone lived. Usually when it is this disproportioned, one twin ends up getting all the growth and the other one doesn’t make it. You are so lucky, obviously that little girl is a fighter.”

She was a fighter—just ten minutes into her life and we had learned a lot about our little twin . . . Bostyn. She wasn't going to give up. 

Fast-forward a few years. Emmett is in law school at Gonzaga. Bostyn is four years old. We were at church one Sunday afternoon and Bostyn comes into my class crying with blood running down her eye. I took her into the bathroom and cleaned her up a little bit. A few nurses who attended our church took a look at her and suggest I take her to the little 24 hour clinic close by. I took her in, they threw some glue in her cut and sent us home. Easy enough.

That night Bostyn woke up screaming. I tiptoed in and reminded her that her eye was just sore from her cut. She went back to sleep for a few more hours. At 1:00 a.m. she was screaming again. This time I flip on the light and run over to her bed. Her eye was the size of a baseball and totally swollen shut. Emmett ran her into the hospital, which was an hour away.

For the first few days they treated her for a MRSA staph infection. By the second night Emmett and I were sitting in the room watching the infection spread like wildfire down her neck, and over to other eye. By this time she couldn’t move her head and could barely see out of her only open eye. Doctors kept reassuring us that it would start to go down, but as the evening turned to night we all started to panic. Doctors began coming in to schedule surgery for the next morning to start to drain her neck and try to get rid of all the infection.

I remember at one point stepping out in the hall and pacing the floor. My baby, who had an identical twin sister, was going to have scars all over her neck and face, or worse . . . they weren’t going to stop the infection and she wasn't going to live. I felt worthless— I was right there, and I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t save my little girl. I paced the hall for twenty minutes searching for an answer inside of my mind. Nothing came.

In my pacing, I came to a dark hallway where the lights had been turned down. I rounded the corner out of plain view, and lost it. I burst into hysterical tears.  Through my sobs I prayed harder than I had ever prayed in my life, “Please. The infection is spreading through her body. They are not finding answers and I feel helpless, there has to be something that can be done to save this little girl. I need an answer, and I can’t sit here any longer. Please send us someone who can save her.”

As I whispered in my mind my final AMEN, words began popping into my head. I almost ran down the hall. I wasn’t sure where I was going, but I knew exactly what I was going to say. I finally made it to the nurses station and with a power not of my own I began shouting out demands and pointing at people, “You are going to call the infectious disease specialist . . . You are going to go order this test to make sure this infection has been properly diagnosed . . .” I don’t remember much more of what I ordered that room full of nurses to do, but I do remember by the next morning many specialists had entered her room, prescriptions were changed, and Bostyn could move her neck and see out of her good eye. She didn’t have to have the surgeries or have draining tubes inserted.

That day I fought . . . for my daughter’s life. I fought for a power to send someone to help save her, and I was given the words to command the right people to come our way.

Sometimes we fight for a purpose, and sometimes we fight for a fear.

About three months after we got married Shawn and I had our first big fight. He came to me one Sunday morning and said he was going to go to the drag strip to race his jeep while we were at church. The minute those words left his mouth here is how my mind worked: He obviously doesn’t care about me; He is willing to break a commitment he made to me about what we would spend our Sundays doing; He doesn’t care about my feelings; He doesn’t care about the example he is giving my kids; If he can be easily swayed on our simple commitments to each other then one day some girl will talk him into walking out on our big commitments; He will leave us; He will cheat on me; Then he will be murdered in a dark parking lot for sleeping with another man’s wife.

Boom, boom, boom . . . Within a fraction of a second the scenario my mind created was flaring red flags through my entire body. He can’t possibly choose a choice I don’t agree with, or else he doesn’t care about US. He can’t use Sunday for racing his jeep, or he is not going to be a good dad.  He is going to abandon us. My kids deserve a perfect example in every way; we don’t deserve THIS. I guess he didn’t want to marry me in the first place. If he can’t even keep his word on something as simple as how we will spend our Sundays, he is never going to make it.

By the time he walked out the door to leave I was like a volcano spewing with all the fear of my past, and the imagined pain in my future.

I ran out into the garage and like an idiot rattled off every fear that had crossed my mind, “Shawn . . . I thought you were the kind of father that would give these kids a good example . . . I thought you were going put their need to see a good husband above your stupid ideas like white trash drag racing. If you can’t even give up a simple thing like what Sunday activities you would rather do than go to church, maybe MY kids and I deserve better than this.”  My eyes burned with all the fear that was driving my words. Did he even love me? Did he really want to be their dad? In that moment I could not detach his desire to make his own decision about how he would spend his time that day, from his willingness to love my kids and me.

As he should have, after getting berated by his crazy wife, he left. I watched him drive away and I felt like a piece of me died again. My mind went back in time to Emmett telling me he was going to leave and run to Walgreens. I could almost feel my soul scream, “Don’t go . . . please . . . something is wrong. Please just stay here with me.” I could feel the toxic shock of fear wave through my entire being. Emmett had left when I felt he should stay—and he died. How could Shawn do this to me again? Was he ever going to come back? Was today going to be the day when some normal, healthy, not broken girl would come and show him all that he was missing? Or would it be the day when deceit would come his way and drive him to his death? 

The thoughts that overtook my power seemed as real as the car that had just sped away. How could he say he loved me if he didn't even want me to be a part of his decisions? If he couldn’t see how important it was to me for him to go to church with us, why would he not chose my choice? How could he come back and be a father now if he wasn’t perfect in everything he did, or in the promises that he had made? If he was going to disappoint us, maybe it would just be easier to walk away. If I wasn’t worth making good decisions and fighting for, maybe we were done.

My fear of losing him was trying to get me to believe I no longer wanted or needed him. I truly thought we would get divorced that day—either because of my unwillingness to accept his personal choices and imperfections; or because of his unwillingness to include me in his decisions and follow the simple commitments we had promised each other.

He was only gone forty-five minutes. He later told me that he drove to the racetrack, determined to show me that he could do what ever he wanted without “asking permission”. He said as he pulled up to the track he sat in his silent car for a half an hour struggling with the internal battle of what to choose. He too felt the overwhelming feeling to just give up that day. To stop fighting for what we had been building, and stop trying to carry such a heavy load that had been placed upon us.

By the time he walked in the door we were both a heated mess of fear.  We battled all afternoon back and forth. I was determined to show him that his stupid choices could ruin our family some day; and he was determined to show me that he had to be able to make his own choices and still be loved regardless of if they were perfect or not.

We both had very valid strong points, but this day neither of us could look through our own pain to see the other’s fear.

The crazy cycle is a wonderful definition of what we were in. My fear of living the past over again urged me to try to push Shawn into making all the right decisions— for me. His fear of feeling mothered and control caused him to want to make his own decisions— just to make sure he still could.

I don’t know about other blended families— but for ours when a major argument would happen, it seemed our natural reaction would be to walk away. We both had felt like we had been through enough in our first marriage, that this was supposed to be our easy one . . . right? Any heated fight we would have, even about simple things, would somehow end with one or the other of us thinking or saying that maybe we made the wrong decision to marry each other. Maybe we would be better off alone.

It was like no matter how many good days came our way, the minute contention showed up on our doorstep we would want to abandon any of the hard work we had made in our marriage. It seemed we would just give up the fight and walk away.

At times, blending two families is difficult. You both come into the marriage with fears from the past. Whether divorce or death— your past has been hard, and therefore your new marriage has many challenges right from the beginning. Fears are powerful especially in new families that have come from a broken past. The power of your pain can ignite at any given moment. For us in the first few years . . . it happened often.

Sometimes the strength of passion can help us overcome and fight through; but other times the weakness of passion can hold us back and hinder us in our progression.

Shawn and I have come a long way since that day, but we haven’t stopped fighting. But now, more often than not . . . we fight on the same team. We are passionate about our family, we fall victim of fears, but a few things have changed . . .

One day our crazy cycle was in full force. The kids were all downstairs and we were up in our bonus room going back and forth over something about parenting. It was going nowhere fast, and neither of us was willing to compromise our stand. All of the sudden Shawn said, “Ash . . . stop. Get on your knees.” We knelt down together and Shawn offered the sweetest prayer. He asked that the dark feeling in our home could leave and that we could see each other’s point of view.

By the end of the prayer I felt a peace surround us. We stood up and threw our arms around each other. He looked at me and said, “What were we fighting about again?” I replied with tears in my eyes, “ I have no idea . . . but whatever just happened there . . . was amazing. You are worth fighting for, I don’t want to fight with you anymore, but I want to fight for you. We are not perfect people, but I don’t want anyone else. This blending family stuff is hard. I never even had a clue how much extra work it would be to try to make our families come together . . . but I chose you. I chose us. I will fight for us!”

I wish I could say that that magic moment has cured us of the urge to nitpick the way we parent each other’s kids, or the way we baby our own . . . it hasn’t! I wish I could say that at times we both don’t want to run away and that we are the perfect blended family—we aren’t. But the prayer on my knees with my husband was a powerful reminder that God can help us even when we can’t see what things are worth fighting for.

We are all fighters in one way or another. Some are fighting for their lives; others are fighting for their country. Then there are some of us who are fighting for a cause we don't even know. Sometimes we forget what we we are fighting about, and other times will never forget the fight that got us through our battle.

We were born to be fighters. Just like my daughter Bostyn who fought her way into this world, we all have the desire to win and succeed. But what if we are fighting for the wrong cause? What if all the fighting we are doing alone is only getting us farther away from what we really want?

Every good fight starts with a drive, a powerful force of motivation: Fighting for your little girl in a hospital bed; fighting your own battle with cancer. Some fight their way out of addiction or depression. Some are fighting their way through an imperfect relationship. Sometimes the victor will have to walk away and not look back, and other times the win may come as they have to hold on— even when they can’t remember why they are there. 

No matter who we are, we will have to fight a good fight. Every good fight ends with love; every bad fight ends with hate. Fighting as a team will get us a lot farther than fighting alone.

Sometimes our fight can change the world, and other times our fight will merely save ourselves. There is a battle raging in each one of us, a fight for good and a pull of evil. Not every fight is worth dying for, not every motivation a good cause. Not every fight will be viewed; some battles are never seen with the human eye. We are all warriors from the battles we have won. We are all soldiers when we battle with grace. We all have the power to be our own captain and know when it is time to just let go of a fight that can never be won, or pilot ourselves to a battle worth saving.  

Don’t lose yourself by fighting a fight of destruction. Some battles only rage because of a fear of losing. If it were easy, it wouldn’t make us grow. Life is going to be full of battles, good and bad. Whatever fights you are hanging on to, make sure they will bring you up. Fight for the battles that are worth winning, and let go of the battles that are worth losing.  Fight for a cause you will never lose. You are not fighting alone.

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