February 1, 2014

Give up

One night, I went to talk to Teage as he was getting ready to go to sleep. He was sitting on the bed with a photobook in his hands. He had that look on his face, and I knew it was going to one of those conversations again. Teage was staring at a photo of Emmett holding him on the day he was born. He was gazing at it . . .  longingly. I could tell Teage was not going to open up so I said, “Hey Dude . . . you doing okay?”

“Mom, did he really die . . . or did he just leave us?” I could feel my knees go weak. “Teage, yeah . . . he really died. You were there with me buddy . . . you saw the box we buried him in. Remember? You decided to go into the playroom during the funeral? That was . . . he . . . yes son . . . he really died.”

“Mom, that wasn’t Dad . . . that was a box. It could have been anything inside there. Did you just make that up . . . to make us feel better that our dad didn’t want us anymore? Its okay if you tell me. I’ve thought a lot about this, and I need to know what is real. You wouldn’t let us see in the box . . . and everybody was acting so strange. I don’t understand if that was real, or if he just ran off with Kandi and left me here.”

My heart wanted to drop into my feet. How on earth could this little boy have so much anger and so much sadness that he would fabricate this scenario in his four-year-old mind?

“Teage, I know Daddy was having a hard time, and I know you went out a few times with him and Kandi. I can’t imagine how that made you feel, or what that makes you think about now, but I can tell you one thing, I wasn’t going to give up on him. And he still needs you to believe in him now. He loves you. And regardless of the choices he made before he died . . . we loved him too. I’ve tried my best to tell you all that you need to know, and I promise I didn’t make up his death to try to help you—or even me—feel better about him not being here. It is okay to be mad, or sad. You can talk to me about any of the emotions this stuff stirs up in you. I’ve been feeling really angry too, and sometimes I don’t know what to do with my anger. It’s scary when it’s inside of me, and I hope you know that we can do whatever it takes to help you get it out too.”

He burst into tears. “Mom, it isn’t fair! It isn’t fair . . . it isn’t fair that he died. I told you . . . my dreams were real. When he left on his trip . . . and I kept waking up screaming because he died. You said everything was going to be okay, Mom! You promised he would come back . . . but He IS NOT coming BACK! I told you my dreams were real. It wasn’t a dream, Mom. It was real . . . but this time he isn’t coming back to us. Why didn’t you believe me? My dreams were real. It isn’t fair. I miss him, Mom. Why does this have to be real? Why did he have to leave me? It hurts so bad in my heart. I can’t breath at night. Why did he have to leave us? He just gave up . . . he didn’t HAVE to die. Why did he let himself die, Mom? He should have protected himself . . . he should have run away . . . he shouldn’t have given up on living.”

I enveloped him in my arms like a newborn baby. I could feel his whole body shaking. His heart was beating faster than I had ever felt. I looked down at the photograph lying on his bed. What a wonderful day that had been . . . the day Teage had come into the world. Emmett had never looked more proud: he finally had a son. They were best friends from the very first time they looked into each others’ eyes. Emmett had big dreams for our little boy. He wanted him to be a jock. He wanted him to be friends with everyone. He wanted him to be a confident little man. He wanted him to have the perfect life . . . and now here we were . . .

We cried and rocked for a while. We talked about death. Teage told me some of his thoughts about why we die. We talked about where we go after we die. We cried about everything in the past we didn’t understand . . . and we talked about how to keep on living. We rocked and rocked . . . and as I watched him . . . his anger turned into sadness . . . and then he was finally calm.

“I’m sorry I yelled at you, Mom. I know that none of this is your fault. I love you so much, and I am so happy that you are here with me now.”

I had been missing my sweet little boy. “Son, I love you more than words can say. I never meant for you to go through so much pain. It’s okay to yell at me sometimes if it helps it get out of your head. I have been missing you so much. I’ve missed your smile, and your laugh . . . but I will never give up on you because you are mine forever.”

It was a difficult ordeal to watch the baby I had rocked just a few years earlier have to think like a man. He had been carrying the weight of a million bricks on his back. I could see it in his face every time he tried to smile. That smile was no longer the “happy boy” grin he used to have. His eyes were always heavy . . . thoughts always seemed to be churning around inside his mind. And sometimes, he would look at me like he didn’t know who to trust. He was just a little kid and yet . . . he was now the man of the house. He always had such wisdom and knowledge about things I needed to know.

Why did Emmett give up? Why do any of us give up? As far as death goes . . . we all are going to be there someday, no matter how hard we try to fight it. Emmett didn’t have a chance to prevent his death . . . and now, he no longer had the choice to fight to keep his family . . . or to give up. We will never know for sure if he would have chosen us . . . and that hurts.

 Emmett didn’t know his lie would be discovered. I think he honestly thought he could have it all. He thought he could keep our wonderful life together as a family, while still keeping his secrets. And maybe he could have. I wasn’t going to let him go. I had no plans to ever give up on him. Even if he had told me everything, I was prepared to be on his team. All he had to do was tell me. That didn’t mean it wasn’t going to suck, hurt, and rip out my heart, but I had planned on fighting through it for him.

When we got married, we knew it wouldn’t be perfect . . . no marriage is. But we promised each other we’d hold hands through it all. When we met, I knew instantly that we could make it work. We had each been through the divorces of our own parents, and we had decided to work our butts off to push through our own struggles.

Everyone makes mistakes. Some are life-changing, and others may never make a difference. At some time or another, each of us will be on the side where we are the one in the wrong. If we are willing to love others through their crap . . . hopefully, they will be there for us when we have a royal screw-up.

The world needs more people who are willing to forgive, repent, and accept their roles. We need to be humble enough to accept forgiveness and move forward in love. Emmett knew I wasn’t going to leave. I told him on the day he died I wasn’t going to give up on us. But what kept him from telling me the truth? Pride? Fear? Embarrassment? Addiction?

We all have something that holds us back at times, something we constantly put above the relationships in our lives. Adultery. Sex. Food. Cars. Internet. Shopping. Gaming. Work. Friends. Alcohol. Drugs. Pornography. Habits. Exercise. Cell phone. Sleep. … It can be just about anything. Some of us may have control over these powerful urges . . . but some of us may have already lost the lives we once lived because of our inability to fight off our impulsive passions. Whatever it is for you . . . its power is real. It constantly nags at you during every quiet moment . . . and especially during the loud times in life . . . begging you to put it above all else. Coaxing you to come and join it . . . and step away from reality.

On occasion, checking-out from life is important: date night with your spouse, girls’ night with your roommates, football games with the guys. But what I am speaking of are those addictions that drive you to abandon your relationships and only focus on THEM. They are powerful tools of deception that keep you from being the person you want to be.

Whatever it is for you, let it go. Find help . . . beg for it. Let in the people who are all around you. Let them help you find answers for your addictions. Let go of your pride. Let go of your excuses. And plead with God for the courage to fight their drive . . . before you have no life left.

Find freedom from your addiction to pornography. Let go of the alcohol that puts walls around you and has prevented you from being the type of parent you want to be. Take control of the food that has prevented you from having the healthy body you deserve. Say no to the credit card that calls out to you every second from inside your wallet. Get off your cell phone, and go smooch your husband who just walked in the door from a long day at work. Turn off the football game, and go hold your crying baby so your wife can sit down for a minute of her day. Tell your addiction that you are in charge today, and you be the one to decide if it has a place in your life.

God gives us restrictions because He loves us. He asks us to be responsible for the things we do and say. He wants to empower us by teaching us how to keep all of our strength and not turn it over to the things that attempt to control us. When we follow His counsel, we are free to chose for ourselves and not be enslaved by those addictions that hold us back. Everything suffers when we let our addictions have the power: relationships, work, family, home.

What “hobbies” are you putting over relationships? What “passions” are taking over the passion in your marriage? What “need” is driving you away from your children? Something has got to give. Fight for the things worth fighting for and give up those things that add no value to your life. Find balance. Find freedom. Build stable homes. Build them on a foundation that begins with you and God . . . and you will never be sorry. He wants you to flourish in your relationships. That is the most important work you are here to do, and everything else is just a distraction to try to get you to forget the real reasons you are here.

We only have the power to change ourselves . . . but when someone around us is struggling . . . the most powerful tool we have is our love. When Christ sees us struggling, He never stops loving us. Sometimes, He steps back and lets us figure things out . . .  but His love is always there when we are ready for it. To be Christ-like, we must learn to have that same type of love. As we see others struggling with addictions . . . we too can support them with our love. That may not mean that we bail them out, or pay their debts . . . but that we let them know they have our prayers and that we love them regardless of their current behavior. We can learn that their worth is not connected to their performance . . . and neither is our love for them. As we pray to find ways to be there for them, we will find answers  as to what we can do to support them through their trials.

Each of us has those moments when we stare in the face of someone else’s choice that impacts our lives. Those moments may even cause us to give up on ourselves. They may make us want to give up on that person. And in some cases . . . that will be the answer. No one else will know the answer for what is right for you in your own particular situation . . . and when those moments come, we must turn to our Heavenly Father. He knows where we have been and He has a destination He wants us to reach. Sometimes, the answer will be to “Be still.” Other times, Heavenly Father might inspire us to move on.

At a time in my life when I didn’t have any answers . . . Heavenly Father asked me to “Be still.” Then, when all the truths were finally laid out before me . . . He needed me to move on. I don’t know that I will ever understand why it happened this way, but it did. He asked me to have faith. He asked me to believe that He loved me. But most importantly, He asked me to love. He needed me to love Emmett, even when he wasn’t worthy of my love. He has asked me to love my kids through some tough days . . .  and oh how I wish I could say I have done it all perfectly. But I haven’t . . . not even a little bit. But I have tried my best . . . and I have asked for His help. And guess what? Even though I have made a million mistakes . . . He hasn’t given up on ME.

No matter where you are . . . He still loves you. Turn to Him when it’s too hard. Beg Him for answers when you feel there are none. Seek His counsel when you are not getting it from anyone else. Strive to be Christ-like in all you do and say. Find Christ-like qualities in everyone you meet. When we find a way to cherish each other . . . to support and love each other and never give up the fight . . . we will find that Christ will never let us go. He is not going to give up on you . . . so quit giving up on yourself. You are His forever.


Anonymous said...

Such powerful, motivating words, Ashlee. Every day I look to your blog for the motivation I need. God bless you, and thank you for helping me.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing your blogs. You have a powerful gift of words and expressing them. Your ability of insight into what you have pushed thru and the guidance for each of us to improve and to stand and face things has strengthened me.Thank You

Anonymous said...

I just love your blog so much. I know what it's like to be married to someone with an addiction and watch them fight it every day. Sometimes I have felt that I'm crazy to stick it out--you have reminded me that I'm not. We could all use a little more love and forgiveness. Anyway, I hope you know how much you are helping others through their struggles by telling your story.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this post and the words you wrote. I came across your blog from a suggestion from a friend. Heavenly Father is so aware of what happens to each of his children. My niece is four years old so when I reading what your four year was going through I thought of my niece and how close she is sometimes to the veil. I lost a nephew who would've been five this last year so I know my niece and other nephew are being watched over by their brother. You and your family members are being watched over by your husband and angels on this Earth or passed on. Keep being an inspiration and example to many people.

Lesa Pollock said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. Your spirit radiates in your posts and helps all of us appreciate everyone In our lives. It also makes me fight harder to be more Christ like and show love to everyone around me. Thank you Ashlee.

Ashlee said...

Once again... Thanks for sharing!! You are amazing and filled with wisdom and great advice! I look forward to reading your posts!! You should publish a book!

Anonymous said...

You really should write a book! You have talent in capturing emotion and describing it as well. You are amazing and I'm so sorry you've had to go through all that you have, but you are strong and such an inspiration to so many!

Anonymous said...

Oh thank you for this. My husband has an addiction and I sometimes forget the love the sinner but not the sin. Its often hard to separate the two. Thank you for your testimony and love!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Ashlee for sharing your story and your faith so selflessly and honestly with us. Your words communicate kindness and a gentle spirit. Somewhere along the way, I have given up on faith and hope. My heart has been hardened by life. When I first started reading your blog, I thought judgmentally that you must be so naive for still believing in, staying with & loving a man that was treating you that way. As you continued sharing your thoughts and feelings, I started realizing that is how we are supposed to love. It was easier to judge than to realize that I need to reexamine my love for my own husband and family. They aren't perfect, things happen, but they're worth fighting for and loving. I think now that I'm the naive one. There is healing going on here in our home, and I think that it's because your words are opening my heart to a different way of thinking. Your words have a truth to them that have broken through my hard heart.

When people talk about Satan, it never made much sense to me in a literal sense. The way that you explain how these thoughts that go through our heads, the fears that we have and the darkness inside of us that we can choose or fight- it's making sense to me for the first time. The way that you explain how God speaks to us, I believe is true as well. I've just never hear it put that way with the church that I grew up in. I'm starting to believe again that there's more than just this life. Reading the other comments, you're touching so many of us that you don't even know. Please don't stop writing!

Anonymous said...

For anyone with a loved one struggling with a pornography addiction: After twelve years of marriage I found out my seemingly perfect husband had been struggling with a pornography addiction weekly for eleven years.
Although there have been so many hard moments for me because of it, he is the one that has suffered most in his loneliness.
Through a lot of counseling we were able to learn how addictions like this are often a mismanagement of emotions and that the real solution for so many is to learn how to have healthy connections with others so as to sever the need for the addiction. I highly recommend the classes/therapists who work with the program called life star. Don't struggle through this one on your own. Complete healing now will make for a much happier tomorrow. Life star includes the partner in the process, validating the emotions that you feel and allows you BOTH to heal and learn new and healthy ways of connecting.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your words and for sharing your life with all of us! Finding your blog has been LIFE changing for me! I have made life altering decisions that I new were wrong but didn't know how to get my self out of what I was doing.. You have given me hope, faith, and the desire to change!

Miss Crys said...

Your words bring so much hope and peace into my heart. Please keep writing. You have a gift with pulling people out of their sorrow and into the love of Christ.

Sarah said...

This was a heartbreaking but fantastic post. Thank you.

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