October 30, 2014

Fear with Faith

Tonight after I tucked all the kids in bed Bostyn came running out into the hall. She grabbed on to my hand and pulled me back into the twin’s room. She was a little bit shaky and said, “Mom . . . today at school we watched a video about electricity and how if the power lines are down and you get too close to them it can kill you. Bailey and I are sort of freaking out about it and we can’t go to sleep.”

I sat down on their bed and tucked them back into their covers. I wasn’t sure what to say but within seconds these words came to my mind. I said, “Girls . . . I don’t think Heavenly Father gives us knowledge so we can fear. I believe that knowledge is given to us to keep us safe. Heavenly Father wants you to know about the dangers of power lines . . . not so you can be in fear all night—and not so you can be paralyzed in fear when an emergency happens and a power line is down—He wants you to have this knowledge so you can have faith—faith in yourself that if that tragedy were to come up in your life . . . you would know just what to do. I believe that Satan wants us to obtain knowledge so we can fear. He wants you to stay awake all night fearing your new knowledge. He wants you to be so worried that you don’t sleep all night long; then tomorrow you are so tired you don’t enjoy any part of your day . . . and Halloween is no fun at all. He wants you to panic for the rest of your life so much that when one day you come to a fallen power line you are so scared you don’t know how to use your knowledge to keep yourself safe.  I know that this knowledge about the dangers of power lines feels new and unknown—but I think that Heavenly Father sent it to you as a tool to store in the back of your mind for safe keeping. Your new knowledge isn’t to be used right now, because the only use for it right now does not come from God, it is fear. God wants us to use our faith to store that message of safety so one day if we need to bring it out . . . it will be our faith—not our fear—that will help us remember how to keep ourselves safe.”

I have no idea where those words came from inside of me—because I don’t believe they did. The power in my testimony to my daughters tonight about power lines spoke a million words to my own heart. There are so many moments in the past few years that I have taken knowledge and turned it into fear. Even in the little every day information given to me by another person—I have developed a skill to put my fear into motion from the tiniest of “facts”.

Since Emmett’s death especially, I have spent days—sometimes months—thinking that knowledge would bring me faith enough to find the peace I was seeking. Knowledge in itself is a worthy cause, but when that knowledge is coupled with fear . . . the aftermath can be devastating—sometimes just as powerful as the event in which you wanted to obtain more knowledge about in the first place.

The trial for me was that knowledge. I craved the facts; I needed them to live. I never stopped searching for them—and any day that I would take a break from my search . . . the facts would find me. It was as if we were on a hunt for each other—the facts and me—each of us just a step behind one another. Sometimes it was as simple as a nurse in the ER, after getting stitches in Tytus’ finger, pulling me to the side of the building to tell me of some facts she overheard on the night of the murder. Other times it was a random phone call from an unknown caller giving me a tip. Information poured in constantly—but when it didn’t, I searched for it.

Every eye staring my way in the grocery store, was a potential bearer of the truth that I craved; every pretty girl a threat to the marriage I no longer had . . . and worse a trigger of fear in the marriage I was trying to build. I was like a sponge that was drying up, but nothing seemed to make things right inside. No amount of evidence called in by detectives brought me one ounce of the peace I still longed for.

I wanted to know why Rob took a gun.  I wanted to know what was said that night. I craved to see the note that was written to me, that sat on Rob’s front seat as he shot a series of bullets into my husband. I longed to hear the emails. I desired with all my heart to know of the details of the life Emmett was living, while I was rocking his screaming infant in my arms. I wanted to know why Kandi and Emmett were there that night . . . but mainly I wanted to know why I wasn’t enough. I secretly hoped that the trial would be scattered with proof of all the evidence of why Emmett was not choosing me. That way I could piece together in my mind all that I did wrong—so I could change whatever parts of me had not been good enough for him. I hoped that the trial would give me all the parts of my life I did not know—and that knowledge would save me from ever living any of it again.

Each time the trial date was changed, it was like another million pound load was placed upon my shoulders. I waited like a baby bird left alone in his nest. My mouth gapping wide open, thinking of little more than what awaited me. Craving the facts to piece together the broken pieces inside of me.

One day I got a call much different than any I had received. Mediation. Rob had agreed to try to mediate the case. Mediate—like a no fault divorce? You take your truck, I will take ours . . . and we will call it fair . . .? I wanted to throw up, but I agreed. My desire to have the trial over out weighed my need for every nasty detail.

The days leading up to mediation were heavy.  I could not wait to put a face to his mug shot. To me, he was a mystical creature—maybe like a big green hulk—that had come and destroyed my world. I wondered if he even had a heart—maybe he would look like the tin man, who could feel nothing inside.

I hallucinated almost hourly what the mediation would hold. In my mind, I pictured us ending the day in the same room—me screaming and yelling at Rob all of the things I had been through because of his decision. I hoped my words would be given the floor—regardless of anyone’s feelings. I longed to stand in front of the whole room and show them that this “victim” had a voice.

The day of the mediation came. I awoke to an excitement I had never felt before. I was nervous, but even more I was ready to have my voice heard. I had asked my step dad to accompany me to the courthouse. By the time we reached the parking lot I was shaking. The excitement to explode my emotions was like a bomb waiting to go off. My nerves had set in full force. I wasn’t ready to face Rob, but I could not wait.

We were shown our room. Emmett’s parents were both waiting inside with our attorneys. Rob was in a room down the hall. We waited for what seemed like four years before the mediator came to our room. He began to speak. He said something along the lines of, “Well, I appreciate all of you being here today . . . we hope to come to some sort of resolve by the end of the day. I will be going back and forth between the two rooms in hope that we can come to some sort of bargain that we can mediate this case out on. Once I meet with Rob and his attorneys, I will come back in here and discuss with the victims what they are willing to settle with . . . and we will just go back and forth until we reach an agreement.”

My heart dropped. Isn’t this the day when I am no longer just a victim? Isn’t this my time to let it all out . . . and piece together all that was broken by this man?

I couldn’t stop it. I said, “Sir . . . I appreciate you being here and trying to work with all of us. This case . . . is probably just another day on the job for you, but . . . it is a hard one for us. I need you to know something—we . . . we aren’t just victims. I know that your job is to just listen to facts of the case and settle on words . . . but what about us? We are not just victims. I have a picture with me of five of the little “victims” of this case. Is there a time today when you get to see that, or hear about them? They each have names and stories of how this murder affected their lives. So though I am so grateful that you are here to listen to the facts . . . I just . . . I need you to know that this case is not just about facts and victims. It is about people with names, and testimonies of truths that came after the gun. So please, today as you speak with Rob about the hours that lead up to that gun fire . . . please don’t forget us and everything that has happened to us after it—please don’t forget that we are more than just victims in a crime movie . . . we are people and this has been our real life.”

All eyes were on me. Though I didn’t get to tell my stories, it felt good to have a voice. Rob didn’t end up settling on anything that day. I didn’t even get to see his face . . . but for once since he had pulled that trigger I felt like my voice was heard. Maybe not in the way I had anticipated it would be—but that day I showed myself that I did not have to live in fear. I was not a victim. I was a person. Though I still waited silently to find the answers I craved at the trial, I was not afraid of the person who was inside of me.

Fear. It is like an epidemic. Once it settles in us—it is merely impossible to set it free.

I feared more in those eighteen months—that I waited to break free from the victimhood Rob’s gun had imprisoned me in—then I have in the rest of my entire life combined. Fear robbed me of life. Just like Rob had robbed his victims of the life they once knew, and Emmett of the breath he once took—fear stole my soul from my body every single day.

In one way or another we have all been imprisoned by fear. It drives us to say and do things out of anger. It passively waits silently for us to allow its power to overwhelm our minds. Sometimes in the dark of the night about a truth we have learned—or sometimes in the light of the day about a truth we long to hear.

Just like I testified to my little girls tonight about the power of God, I have whispered to my own heart many times as I was trapped in the plaguing power of fear—He is there. He does not want fear to destroy us. We cannot be exempt from the power of fear, but we can turn it over to God. We can testify to our broken souls that it is through Him we can find faith.

So on those dark nights when fear is caving in—PRAY. Ask Christ to send his grace. Pray for reassurance that the knowledge of this world can strengthen your faith. We will not fear when we are blessed with faith—faith in God; faith in this world; faith in our future . . . and even more—faith in ourselves.


Faith that even when the scores cannot be settled in a day of words; faith that we cannot control the power lines in our lives—but that we can stand tall where ever we are. Faith did not carry me through the mediation day until I realized that I had no need to fear. That moment when I told a room full of people that I wanted to be seen as more than a victim—that was the second I finally did. I saw my strength, for the first time the way God had seen me all along. And I was standing.



October 22, 2014

Doggy Doggy

In the next few months I am going to be writing about parts of our journey through the murder trial. Those days are still so very raw and emotionally charged that I haven’t quite figured out where to begin—but today I was playing with Kaleeya and Tytus and realized I have not yet introduced another member of our family.


Meet Doggy Doggy.

When Kaleeya was a baby she always acted much older than she was. She started saying, “Momma!” months before any of our other kids did in their development. By the time she was one, she could carry on real conversations like most three year olds. Cognitively she was months and sometimes years advanced for her age— however, she would not walk. As she neared eighteen months, Emmett and I began to worry about her unwillingness to stand up and take her first steps. We asked doctors about it, and they always reassured us that she was smart—and walking would come in her own time. Inside I was panicked thinking there had to be something I was doing wrong—I tried daily to help her walk.

One day Emmett came home with a gift for Kaleeya. It was a small brown dog. She latched onto it right away. She named it “Doggy Doggy”. I am pretty sure Doggy Doggy was the final thing that motivated our little girl to walk—as it was very difficult to cart him around in her hands that were being used to crawl. Within days of receiving Doggy Doggy Kaleeya took her first steps. Doggy Doggy celebrated with us—and I am pretty sure deep down inside Doggy Doggy knew he was the reason she finally learned to walk.

Doggy Doggy became part of the family. Every step Kaleeya would take was accompanied by her canine companion.  They were like two peas in a pod. She learned to run with him in her arms and smiled every step of the way.

Many days Kaleeya made up adventures that she and Doggy would take. She told us all about the imaginary land they lived in. With Doggy Doggy by her side, she could conquer the world. Doggy was her best friend, and in every way her truest confidant. She whispered in Doggy's ears and laughed at his replies. They snuggled up for every nap, and he protected her through each night . . . even the darkest of nights. 

After Emmett died, Doggy Doggy spent a lot of time on the floor with Kaleeya's daddy blanket. She was very bitter toward anything that reminded her of her father—including me. Kaleeya’s anger was taken out on her daddy blanket and biting holes in her binkies—and hurting her toy dog. Sometimes she bit Doggy Doggy’s nose or screamed and yelled at him. I walked into her room, many times, to see her punching Doggy Doggy as hard as she could. She used to throw him across the house and run over and step on his face. She would constantly yell at Doggy at the top of her lungs. Her grieving process was very apparent in the way she interacted with her favorite toy dog.

Her violent behavior toward her innocent stuffed animal startled me at times—and as I had once worried about her inability to take a step, I began to worry about her anger towards her Doggy Doggy—and at Emmett. I doubted myself on every level and my inadequacy in helping her find the peace she needed. We had a few tender moments, but for the most part I felt that I too was being pushed far away from my little girl.

When she finally started letting the memory of Emmett back in, I began to notice Doggy Doggy coming around more and more. Soon, I never saw her without him. Doggy Doggy became the symbol of Emmett in her eyes. After she worked through the anger portion of Emmett's death, she got stuck on hanging on to him. Everywhere we would go, Doggy Doggy came with us—and everyone we met heard about Daddy Emmett and how he had given the toy to her. A stuffed dog became her only connection to her father.

Doggy Doggy has had many plastic surgeries and reconstructive work done. He is a quilt! He has lost his arms—and even his tail a few times—but we have always managed to patch him back together. He has seen many states and traveled on all of our family trips. Doggy Doggy has met thousands of people and even spent a few days with me at the murder trial.  His fur is so thin it almost feels like it is going to disintegrate in your hand.

Kaleeya still sometimes whispers in Doggy Doggy’s ear. I have always wondered what secrets he keeps inside. I have had times that I wished I could be her Doggy Doggy. That she would have let me in, in all those moments when he was the only one who could get close. Doggy Doggy is very wise and has always been there to comfort her, listen, and forgive. In all my days wondering how I could be there for her—Doggy Doggy has been.

We worry about our children—how will they ever make it through the loads they are asked to bear, in all the struggles they have to face. I have watched Shawn struggle with the guilt of divorce and how it has, and will, affect Jordyn. I have watched our other kids struggle through the death of their parent. I never thought, when I brought my children into the world—that there would ever be a pain too great for me to fix for them. I always thought I would be super mom and have all the answers for every thing that would come their way.

I wish I could say I have been able to Band-Aid all of my children’s pain with my awesomeness—but I have not. I have given them love, I have been by their sides . . . but sometimes I have not been the ear they have needed to work through their pain. Sometimes it has been a kind neighbor whose inspiration has helped my children find answers to their struggles; other times it has been a grandma who has come with the words they needed to hear. Many days Shawn has been able to counsel them in ways they could not hear from me. Therapists have given them hope and inspiration; and the kids have each been there for each other on different occasions.

If I have learned anything in the last three and half years since Emmett died, it is that I cannot do everything on my own. I need help! I need others to lift me, and I need to allow my children to be strengthened by more than just me. A lesson that started with a little brown dog has helped me see—sometimes I am not enough . . . and that is ok.

The Indians used to say that it takes a village to raise a child. Three years ago, I would have said that belief is crazy. I truly believed that there weren't any battles I could not fight on my own. Today, as far as I can see, there have been parts of my village that have saved us. There are friends and family who have carried our burdens for us in ways we could not have done alone. There have been strangers who have sent notes in words we needed to hear. And there have been Doggy Doggy’s who have been there when no one else could reach us.

I have had many Doggy Doggy’s in my life. The kind of friend who I can let out my frustrations, share my secrets, and even scream to when my nightmares have turned into reality. Not all friends are true, but when you find that one—who is willing to take a beating for you when you have nothing left inside . . . don’t ever let them go.

To all the Doggy Doggy’s of the world—thank you for listening to screams and still seeing love and hope. To all the trodden down supporters who probably question their own willingness to take the beatings of someone else’s child—you are my hero. We parents can’t do everything on our own. So thank you for joining the village and helping us raise our imperfect children through imperfect lives. Thank you for believing in us broken souls who are still searching for peace. Thank you for not giving up, or running away, when our anger has been directed to you—and letting us in when all we needed was someone to love us. We are all just children searching for safety—hoping for a village that can love us no matter who, or where, we have been.

We do not have to do this life alone. Many Doggy Doggy’s are sent just for us, right when we need them the most. God knows where we are, and what we need . . . this I know. Because of Christ and His grace even when we are not enough, we will be sent the compensation we need to make up the difference. Maybe I wasn’t what helped my little girl be brave enough to take her first steps, and maybe she hasn’t always turned to me in her pain . . . but He was always there. Maybe I haven’t always heard the painful heartfelt sobs my baby whispered into Doggy Doggy’s ear . . . but Christ did. He knows our pain; He hears even the deepest, most quiet, hidden hurt buried inside each one of us.

Doggy Doggy thank you for being there for my little girl when she took those first bright steps—and standing by her side as she has walked through the darkness. Maybe you really are just a little stuffed dog . . . but because of you, Kaleeya has found hope in this world. Hope I could not give her—but always prayed she would find.


He is there—maybe all you can see with your eye is the remnants of a little stuffed dog. . . but you are not alone. He has felt your pain, and counted each one of those tears that have hit your pillow. Just like Doggy Doggy—He wishes more than anything He could just take away the pain of your struggles— but instead He stands by your side to strengthen you through them. Because of Him, Kaleeya can feel joy. Because of Him, she has the potential to live all of her dreams. Life has not always been easy for my little girl, but I know that each day has been blessed with something great. That greatness has not always been given to her by me; for Kaleeya greatness has been found many days in a little best friend named Doggy Doggy.

Life is too short to not share it with each other. Through the good days and the bad don't forget what matters. Not everyone can find a Doggy Doggy . . . but we can chose to be one. Watch for the sad puppy eyes that are waiting for you to stand by their side and wipe their tears. Be somebody else's angel. Lift the broken hearts who are waiting for a friend. Bring light to someone's darkness. It is in that moment when Christ's love is felt through you . . . you will remember it too. 

To all the Doggy Doggy's in my life . . . thank you for loving me even when I didn't. Thank you for helping me remember who has never forgotten, and will never abandon us. Because of Him . . . even I can learn to walk through the darkness with a purpose . . . a bright hope that my life is not in vain. A hope that He has heard even my silent pleadings and has answered my prayers by sending me you. I didn't plan on life being so hard, but I have learned to see there is a greater plan. Sometimes in it God sends us great miracles . . . and other times merely a Doggy Dog to lead the way out of the shadows. 



October 15, 2014

Winner

The winner of the giveaway is @lynziloo15 on Instagram. Get me your info and I will get these sent out in the morning! Congrats!

October 14, 2014

Double Book Giveaway Take 2

The hustle and bustle of summer finally feels like it is coming to an end, and I am kind of excited to feel a chill in the air. I am going to be spending more time in doors working on book 2 and journaling on the blog, but today I want to do another book giveaway. Please leave a comment on the blog, ON FACEBOOK, or ON INSTAGRAM to be considered for these two books.




I will pick the winner tomorrow night and mail them out first thing Thursday morning. Happy Tuesday night!

October 6, 2014

Changed

I don’t think we will ever fully comprehend the impact someone will have on our lives until they are gone. It has been said that no one really hears your voice until you no longer have one. Many artists don’t sell their masterpieces until after they have passed away; many noblemen are not considered smart in the flesh. I think that this is partly due to our human imperfections. When a person dies, most of the time they are remembered for the good that they brought to this world. Why is this true? Why do we wait until someone is gone before we see him or her for who they were?

I believe the day-to-day tasks we all carry, in some ways block our views of each other. It is hard to see the little things we do right for one another, when the things that are done wrong seem so huge. We remember the past sins and imperfections when looking into someone’s eye. We remember any pain they have caused us, and we fester the hate that has boiled for them in a moment of a heated battle.

When a person is no longer there to look us in the eye, it seems it is then we start to remember the things that were much more deep than face value. When we are left in our despair—when someone passes away or walks away—that is when we have to face the parts of them we could not see. 

I had been through the loss of my first marriage, with the pain of losing the good times—but even worse . . . with a knowledge of all of the bad. I was constantly fighting to remember the wonderful parts of life through the hate that had become the center of my gravity.

For me, my second marriage—full of walls and triggers—was a tangible circumstance that gave me the opportunity to try to look for the good in the moment. It was easy to see what was hard, and overwhelming to feel the weight of our challenges. With the fear of the past, I was often blinded by it in finding hope in the future. It was a lot easier to see the fault in my situation than to look for the good.

One weekend my extended family had a reunion. Shawn still had not met many of my cousins, so I was excited to take him for the first time. For weeks we talked about it and anticipated getting out of dodge. We left as the sun came up. It was our first real trip as our new family.

Shawn and I couldn’t stop talking the whole way there. While the kids focused on their movies and snacks—we focused on each other. We laughed about the funny things the kids were doing and marveled how much they had already grown. We cried as we reminisced about the roads that led us to become the family we now knew.

Shawn had such a light in his eyes, one I didn’t always notice when I was surrounded by the mundane tasks of parenting and housework. I just watched him as we laughed and drove. I remember a few times getting teared up for the amazing amount of love I felt for him. It wasn’t just the marital connection that I could feel that day—it was as if I could feel our souls starting to see each other in a way they never had before.

When we pulled up to the reunion my heart was racing as I anticipated introducing Shawn to some of the amazing family members he had never met. I could tell he was nervous and a little overwhelmed with the huge amount of extended family surrounding him. He was welcoming and loving as everyone surrounded him and stared at the new man in our family.

A few weeks before the reunion my mom asked my girls and me to sing with my little sister Abbey and my cousin Tiffanie. We had practiced many times and I felt confident that I could keep my emotions at bay while we sang.

After pictures and dinner the program began; our song was at the end of everything. The minute the music began, my thoughts fell back in time—Taylor, Grandma, and Tiffanie and I were at Wicked—hearing the song For Good, and for the first time since Emmett was killed I was remembering him and the good times we had. In that moment, I thought I was singing this song for him. The whys began to race through me and I could feel the past pulling me back. My whole body hurt with each note I sang. Why did he have to die? Why didn’t I get to finish that part of my story? I began to feel my panic attacking.


I looked out in the audience to find my babies—all I could see were two blue eyes looking back at me. Shawn was smiling from ear to ear. A wave of peace filled my soul—I wasn’t here to sing this song for Emmett  . . . these words were for Shawn.

My heart felt full as I sang the words that had once given me hope for my past, in a time when I had none. Emmett had come into my life and changed me, but Shawn was the owner of the blue eyes that were watching me. He was there as I was figuring out what parts of me were still worth living for. He was holding my hand through all of the heartache I was still fighting to overcome. He was the one I was waking up to every morning—not Emmett. We were not replacements of a void that was lost . . . we loved each other. In that moment as tears rolled down my cheeks—with my heart open for all to see—I knew that one day I was going to figure out how to give Shawn all of me.  One day, I would not be a broken version of myself and I could be everything he deserved. I knew it was going to take time . . . but he was worth it. I did not know what life held for us, but I knew without a doubt—because I knew Shawn . . . I had been changed for good.

As my thoughts shifted to Shawn, that song became one of hope for the future. I was no longer singing the lonely duet of time gone by—I was professing my love to the man who was standing by my side and loving me . . . for me.

Sometimes we look back—and other days we look ahead. That weekend I had so many moments that I knew I was right where I belonged. It didn’t have to make sense; I didn’t have to have all the answers of the past . . . because I was surrounded by the future—I was surrounded by love.  

Life is hard. Period. It was hard losing Emmett, and a life I thought I could control. It was hard being a widowed single mother, left by a man who was murdered for sleeping with his paralegal. It was hard being newly remarried and trying to navigate through all my pain to find trust and love again. It is hard being a parent, and some days I question my worthiness to do the job right. It is hard reliving the past, on a journey I would have never chosen for myself . . . but it is right where I am supposed to be.

I never knew I could be married to my best friend. I never knew that teamwork was possible even through rocky roads. Shawn and I have seen our fair share of mistakes and heartache, but we have been blessed to stand a little taller despite them. He has shown me that repentance and forgiveness are possible in marriage. We have learned a lot about unconditional love.

Look around you. Everyone you meet is going to change you for good . . . some for the better. Don’t forget to see the little glimpses of hope that are sent to remind you to keep putting one foot in front of the other. It will be hard. It will not always make sense . . . but life—life will change you. Some things we will never know WHY, but as we let go of our fears and make room for faith—we will be shown HOW.

Maybe most of what we say won’t be remembered until we are gone, but that doesn’t mean we stop trying. Be that friend; be that wife and mother; be that husband and father . . . that will change people for good. What they will remember is that you lived, you loved, and you made every day count. Tomorrow might seem far away, but once today is over . . . it is all we have got. Not all yesterdays are worth remembering, so make today one you will never forget. 

 
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