The winner of the book giveaway is Tracy Polumbo. Please send me your contact information and I will get your books sent tomorrow. I have a few more copies of L.Jay's book, so I will add it in to the book giveaway for a few more weeks!
September 25, 2014
Every ship that has ever sailed has a captain at the helm. The captain’s first job is to believe in his vessel. He may know of the imperfections it holds, but encourages and finds the beauty in his ship. He knows the job isn’t perfect, but he feels blessed to be given the opportunity to steer such a magnificent unit in the direction it is intended for. Every captain begins their journey with a plan—a map of the course they want their ship to carry them. They continue with faith that the mapped course will be well, wonderful, and as close to their plan as possible. I can imagine the first time a captain lays eyes on the ship—their heart skips a beat. They are so excited to see in person . . . the vision from their dreams.
I was that captain.
I remember the first time I saw it in person. I had studied the pictures online, but in real life it was even more magnificent. As I stepped out of the car it was almost like I heard angels singing Halleluiahs. Their chorus carried on as I walked up the front walkway.
It was the week of Thanksgiving 2009. We had just pulled into town—me with our four kids piled in our minivan, and Emmett in a U-Haul full of our belongings. The minute we pulled up to our new house, my heart skipped a beat. We had made it. The house of my dreams—and it was going to be ours.
(Thanksgiving Day 2009)
For the first time in our marriage we were going to be out of school and making our own money. Emmett had been given the opportunity to spend his last semester doing an Externship for the public defender’s office while he began his career in Bankruptcy Law. We had four amazing kids, and we had each other—and now to top off all of our blessings—we were getting our dream house. All of the goals we had planned for our young family were being checked off of our list . . . one after another.
The closing for our house didn’t come the next day as we thought it would. Luckily my brother Jeff and his family were out of town for the week spending Thanksgiving with Dani’s family. So we bunked up in their house with our U-Haul parked out front.
As the week progressed, we continued getting our closing date moved out. Thanksgiving came and went, and we still did not have the key in our hands. Finally, on Monday, the call came and the papers were ready for us to sign. We were like giddy little schoolgirls as we drove down to the title company. Our first house—it was like a dream.
We walked out of that office like we had won the lottery. We were so proud of our new adventure, and my mind reeled at all of the perfect days that would take place for our little family in that dream house.
Emmett helped me unpack the truck, and then he headed out to catch his plane. He still had finals to take back at Gonzaga, and our delayed closing date left the kids and me alone in our big empty house to begin unpacking.
He was gone for two weeks for his tests—and everything that could have gone wrong did. We got the stomach flu, and our washer and dryer had not arrived yet. Many days I would load up all four kids in the car and heap puked on sheets into the trunk and cart them across town to Emmett’s dad’s house to do wash. He was in Mexico but luckily had sent me his garage code.
The kids were having a heck of a time adjusting to being in a new home. Furniture and appliances were yet to be delivered. It was just a rough couple of weeks all together—but I didn’t even notice. I was still in awe of all the dreams I was watching unfold. I laughed every time we threw up all over ourselves and I began to make a joke about how many gallons of puke I could carry in my car. I was in a fairy tale. One that was full of dirty diapers, and puked on sheets . . . but I was living my dreams. I was the luckiest captain alive.
Many people have told me they didn’t realize how much work being a parent would be until they were thrown into it. I never saw it like that. I knew exactly what each of those commitments entailed, and I still loved every second of them. Now I was doing them in my dream house—with my dream family—life was close to perfect.
I continued to steer my course. I cleaned up scraped knees in that ship's quarters. I changed diapers and got poop (literally) on my face. (For those of you who witnessed that one I am eternally sorry—some things can’t be unseen). In that house I read for hours—chapter books about the adventures of a brother and sister who believe in a magic tree house. I hauled groceries and babies in and out of that front door. I built snowmen in the front yard. I decorated and cleaned and organized. I baked cookies and walked to parks. I taught my babies how to ride their bikes on that street, and to swim in that neighborhood pool. I burned dinners and broke glass cups in the sink . . . but every night I snuggled up close in its safe walls and I smiled. My dream house was proving to be everything I had mapped out for it to become—a haven for my future, and a keeper of my love.
But somewhere a long the way . . . that house became everything it never should have been. The darkness that grew in its walls—in just one night—became more black than the night sky. The fear that penetrated my dreams while I tossed and turned in my ship, threatened the peace that it had once promised me. All of the sudden, a house that once seemed to be my “Captain’s dream ship” began to be a reminder of all the wrong turns that were taken despite my happiness inside of it.
Shawn had stepped in, and taken a spot in that ship that had already been walked all over. He started to feel as if he were a replacement. He felt threatened by a distant glorified memory of the past. He walked around inside the walls of a dream he wasn’t always a part of. We talked many times about starting over somewhere else, but the thought of leaving my ship felt like another abandonment I did not feel prepared to face. So we stayed—many days both of us on autopilot to avoid the feelings of inadequacy we didn’t want to acknowledge, or the abandonment we did not want to face.
(Our First Christmas)
Almost every night, after Emmett had died, I had horrible dreams. They usually rattled me up, but some nights were more debilitating than others. Each dream was very vivid, and usually always ended in the same way—with someone I loved dead.
One night I had another nightmare, but this time it was a mix of both of the worlds I had tried to cram into one ship. In my dream Shawn and Emmett were both there in our house. They were staring at each other, almost as if they wanted to fight one another. They began talking very angrily and then started screaming at the top of their lungs. All of the sudden there was a gunshot—but this time they were shooting each other. Rob wasn’t the one with the gun . . . they were. And by the end of the dream, they were both dead on my living room floor.
My eyes jolted open and I was in a state of shock. Panic shook through every part of my body. My heart felt as if I were having a heart attack. I moved my hand toward the other side of the bed. Someone was laying next to me. Who? Emmett? Did none of that really happen? What was real? Emmett . . . he . . . is dead? . . . That can’t be real. Emmett can’t be gone. But . . . what about Shawn, where is Shawn? I need Shawn. My mind raced through all of the bad dreams—and all of the living nightmares that had played out in that very house.
The panic attack lasted a few hours as I tried to figure out, in the darkness, what parts of my horrors were real—and which parts were just dreams. Many hours passed before any sort of reality could settle in my heart. I never went back to sleep—just stared into the darkness trying to piece together the past.
By the time everyone else in my house woke up, I had a plan. We were getting out of that house! I couldn’t wake up from another nightmare in the same place where all the pain had struck me.
That afternoon we drove around to try to find a new place to live. It didn’t have to be a dream house—just a house. One where the kids didn’t have to change schools, but there were enough bedrooms and a back yard. Just a house—one that didn’t hold any memories from our past. A house—that when I woke up from my nightmares—I was somewhere different then the place where they came true.
We turned onto a road I knew well, and there it was—a sign. I had just been visiting there a few days before. I called my friend and said, “Hey, you have a sign in your front yard . . . you selling your house? Can we come look at it?”
That night we made an offer, and closed a few weeks later. As we packed up our belongings, to move to the new house, I had so much hate in my heart. I whispered to its walls of all the things it didn’t do for me. I screamed from the top of my lungs—when I went back alone to clean—of all the HELL that it had put me through. I blamed my house for all the unknowns I still hoped to hear—like it had been hiding the truths from me.
I wasn’t sad—I was relieved to leave it behind and move on to a new ship. I didn’t need my dream ship to smile, and it had proven it wasn’t going to bring the happiness I felt it had promised me. We thought about keeping it as a rental, but I didn’t want to step foot inside it ever again. So we threw a For Sale sign in the front yard, and walked away.
One day I got a call that an offer had been made and I needed to go into the Title company to sign the house over to the new owner. Again with hate in my heart, I robotically signed all the papers with “good riddance” under my breath, and headed out to the parking lot.
I got in the car to drive home. I was flooded with the memories of the first time I had signed papers on that house. Tears started to well up in my eyes. My heart began to feel heavy the closer and closer I got to my new home. And then the panic hit. My ship had sunk. I remember saying a pleading prayer to God that day. “What was so wrong with my plan? What was it in my plan that didn’t work? I had it all figured out. Why wasn’t the course I mapped out enough? Why couldn’t the dreams I had written so long ago . . . be the ones that I lived?” No answers came to settle my heart.
I felt like the captain of the Titanic that day. I can picture him watching as his dream ship went into the water. I bet he played—in his own mind—all the memories he had leading up to the moment when he was made the Captain of it. His pride and dignity sunk before the ship went under. He knew in that moment that he was not in control. He saw first hand that no matter how much love and honor he put into his dream . . . it still sunk.
The captain of Titanic didn’t get to safety to watch his dream ship sink—he went down with it. He gave up his ability to ever sail again, when the thought of losing his dream was too much to take. He saw that sinking ship as a failure of his own doing—and he didn’t allow himself to look to the future for a new dream. He died inside of a sinking ship—his dream ship took his life.
We don’t always get to plan for the icebergs in our lives. We don’t always get to choose to steer our ship around them. Sometimes it is too dark to see them coming, and other times we have too much light in our eyes to see the dangerous waters for what they really are. Sometimes our dreams are going to hit icebergs. We are going to be slammed into the currents and our ships may even sink, but that doesn’t mean we stop being the best damn captain we always wanted to be.
I didn’t ever think as I turned that key for the very first time, that I was opening up the door to a sinkable ship that would hit an iceberg. I thought for sure that my voyage was going to continue to be blessed with smooth waters.
Signing over the papers to my dream ship was a big day for me. It was a symbolic reminder of the failure that dream had become, but unlike the captain of the Titanic who went down as his dream sank to the bottom of the ocean floor—I am still sailing. I am still pioneering this thing we all call life. I am still hitting icebergs and catching waves. Sometimes those waves have been a small rollercoaster, and other times I have wiped out. There have even been days when I have questioned why I didn’t just sink along with it.
Life isn’t about the ships—it is about sailing them through the storms. The captain of the Titanic didn’t have to go down just because his dream seemed to be over. Maybe your dream house turns out to be the pinnacle of your fall—or maybe your iceberg was just the turn you needed to find a different course.
The loss of our dreams is not the end of our hope. Find hope in the fact that when God closes a door—He will always open a window. It maybe a different view than you had planned—but you still will get to watch as your life unfolds.
Don’t go down with your sinking ships. Businesses are going to fail; marriages are going to end; and we are going to lose the people we love—but we don’t have to lose ourselves. The dreams that end give us an opportunity to find the next one waiting around the corner. There are no endings in this life that are eternal—only beginnings to new dreams.
(Tytus learning to walk in the driveway)
You are the captain of your destiny; you hold the wheel . . . but God steers the course. Don’t let your fear of your sinking ship stop you from walking away when it falls. Don’t go down without a fight. You are the dream—the ship was just trying to take all the credit. It is you that made that ship one out of a dream.
The Titanic was never designed to hit an iceberg—but we came to earth knowing we would. We were never promised that all we would sail were smooth waters—but we still chose to come down as determined Captains piloting ourselves through the waves.
Stand tall in the storms that are trying to take you down. Your life is more important than the seemingly failed dreams. Dreams were never meant to be written—they are made to be lived. If your ships have sunk, and you are wondering why you should continue to sail—just remember that a new ship is waiting for you. You may not be able to see it from the bottom of the ocean, but something great is waiting for you. It might look different than the life that hit an iceberg—it may be far from the map you tried to plan—but you still have the ability to captain a new course.
Stand tall, you are not alone. We are all captains, and each one of us has—or will someday—lose a dream ship. Don’t let your fear of losing your dreams stop you from living them. There isn’t a perfect course—only imperfect captains hoping they will never give up the fight . . . to keep sailing.
(Shawn's first time putting up the lights)
(Sisters playing in the front yard)
(Snuggles with Ty in the front yard watching a water fight)
(First snow of the year in the old house)
September 24, 2014
If anyone knows me personally, they know I am not a huge reader. Ironic I know. Ever since I was in my last few semesters of college (with twins at home and pregnant with Teage) reading became a chore that I have not quite figured out how to look at differently. So when I do read, I make it count. I want to walk away feeling uplifted and inspired to be better.
This week I will be sending out a double dose of uplifting reading to the lucky winner of the book giveaway bonus.
L.Jay has donated a few copies of his newest book Decide Now The Good Life or The Best Life, to be part of our weekly giveaways for a few weeks! I was blessed to read over some of the chapters of this book in it's final preparations for publishing. I promise you will not be disappointed if you are the winner of this book. It will not only change the way you think, it will change your life.
Please leave a comment below (or on Facebook or Instagram) if you or someone you know would like to be the owner of these two books. I will pick a winner tomorrow night and mail them out first thing Friday morning.
Posted by Ashlee and Shawn at 8:01 PM
September 17, 2014
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.