April 17, 2014


I never knew a gun could leave so many holes. Emmett was left with the wounds that Rob’s bullets made in his forehead and heart, but my holes were not as clearly visible. I had holes in my heart that didn’t cause me to lose blood or die, but their penetration had caused me to lose my very sense of life. That gun left holes in my family and an empty space at my table, but it also left holes in my mind that blurred my vision of who I was, and who I wanted to become. Those holes impacted all aspects of my life . . . especially my parenting. 

When I was in seventh grade, I had a rough year. My parents’ divorce had become an excuse, in some ways, for me to lash out. I found myself using it as an excuse for doing some of the things I did, or for getting out of doing things I didn’t want to do. At church, I had a teacher who seemed to hate me. Every chance she got, she called my mom and complained about something I was, or was not doing. The sad part is . . . she was usually right. My behavior warranted complaints and I deserved being disciplined for the way I was acting.

My mom was good at handling these constant complaints. She always managed to find a punishment that fit the crime. She took away privileges that were important to me, and it worked. It helped me admit my shortcomings, instead of making excuses that the teacher was just picking on me. My mother was always very loving in her approach, but she never allowed any of the circumstances in my life to be used as excuses for bad behavior.

One day, I was out in the hall at school working on a project. My group had gone back into the classroom, and I was still out in the hall alone, cleaning up our mess. My church teacher, who was also a substitute teacher at my school, walked by. She didn’t say hello, so I didn’t bother to speak to her either.

That evening, my mom asked me to come into her room. She told me that my teacher had seen me “in trouble” again in the hall. The story she told was elaborated, and for the first time, it was not at all true. I became emotional because I feared losing a privilege for something I hadn’t done. I  looked into my mother’s eyes and said, “Mom, you know . . . I’ve been making some bad choices at school, and at church . . . and almost every story you have ever been told, is true. I accept responsibility for the things I’ve done, and I can see why this teacher is frustrated with the fact that she has to deal with me . . . but Mom, I promise you, this time . . . this time I did nothing wrong, and I would really like you to believe me. I was in the hall doing a group project, and I was not in trouble for anything. This time, she is just picking on me because she hates me . . . and I deserve that . . .  but please believe me, this time I didn’t do anything wrong.”

I know my mom must have prayed hard at that moment, because she didn’t doubt me for a second. She gave me a hug, and I left her room. She didn’t question my story—she just believed me. I’m sure it got so old hearing about all the mistakes I was making. I’m sure that at times, I was a burden for my poor mom, a single mother raising five children. As if she didn’t already have enough on her plate, there I was giving her added challenges.

There are times when we go through trials for our kids, and other times, our children themselves become our trials to bear. Even if we don’t see our children as a burden, it doesn’t take away the fact that their challenges become our own. 

In the months following Emmett’s death, almost everything that could have gone wrong with my children did! One week in particular, I remember Teage walked into his room, and for no particular reason, he broke a bunch of toys and destroyed some books. Bostyn and Bailey pushed a boy down the slide at the park, and his parents yelled at all of us. There was so much anger in Kaleeya that she was biting holes in all of her binkies. I wasn’t ready yet to wean her off of something that gave her comfort, so I had to run to the store multiple times a week to buy more. Tytus was still having allergic reactions to all of the formulas we tried. It felt like the list of problems with each of my children seemed to be getting longer and longer.

I was overwhelmed by the task of raising grieving children, and I was unaware of how to help them. One afternoon, I left Tiffanie with the kids and I got in my car and went on a drive alone. I stewed about all the heavy burdens I felt were destroying me as a parent. The ease and joy I once saw in parenting seemed to be fading, and it scared the crap out of me. How can I parent these children, when those around me are treating me as if my children are freaks? Why do I feel so embarrassed when my children make mistakes, like somehow I am at fault? 

Anytime someone complained about my kids or gave me dirty looks, it almost destroyed my day. I internalized all the perceptions I figured they had about my children and my parenting—or lack thereof. I became so enmeshed in my children’s negative behaviors that I almost didn’t want to take them out in public for fear they would embarrass me, or cause yet another stranger to look down on me as a mother.

As I continued to fret about the week’s negative events, I drove and drove, with no purpose or final destination in mind. I continued to brood over memories and talk out loud about how obnoxious the kids had been all week, and how pissed off I was that I no longer had any control over them. I was humiliated because I felt like I was failing to raise my children properly . . . and others were seeing all my shortcomings.

I turned down a street, and right in front of me was a park I knew well. I hadn’t paid attention to where I had been driving because I had been so wrapped up in my own pity-party. As I drove slowly past the park, I could almost picture my little family sitting on a blanket having a picnic there. That was one of the good memories I hadn’t thought of in some time. Emmett had met us there after work one summer day for a picnic dinner. I was pregnant with Tytus. Abbey and Alex, who were dating at the time, where also there with us. It was a perfect evening spent eating, laughing, and playing with the kids at the park.

Instantly, I snapped out of my feelings of embarrassment and anger over the children, and I just missed Emmett. I missed his smell. I missed his kisses, I missed the feeling of having a complete family, eating dinner at the park. I missed having someone to talk to when I needed to find answers for the kids’ struggles. 

I began to talk to him as if he were in the car, “Em, I can’t do this with out you. I don’t want to do this alone. We were supposed to work together, and grow old together. Why do I have to be here alone, trying to figure out how to help our children? Why did you have to leave me . . . Why wasn’t I enough for you?  Why can’t you come back and take care of me and our babies? You promised me you would take care of us . . . Emmett . . .”

Suddenly, the sorrow I felt because I missed him was transformed into a wave of anger against him, and because of my inadequate parenting. I began to scream, “Emmett . . . WHY WASN’T I ENOUGH for YOU? Why did you leave me here alone? WHY do I have to do all the dirty work because of your freaking mess? These kids are so hurt, they are crazy, they are almost an embarrassment to me! They can’t function in society. I don’t know how to help them, and it’s all because you are not here. It’s because you are dead. WHY did you LEAVE us?  Why didn’t you fight for us, Emmett? I hate you, you know that? …Yeah, I don’t miss you at all, because . . . because I HATE YOU! So there. Now you know, I don’t miss you, Emmett. I hate you for leaving this mess for me. I hate you for leaving me alone. I hate that I miss you so badly my soul hurts. I hate that a “bad guy” came and destroyed our family. I hate that it was Kandi holding you when you took your last breath. I hate that you left me . . . I was begging you to stay, but you left me all alone. And now, I am still alone. You never came back to me. You said you were just going to run to Walgreens. I waited for you all night long . . . I called you. Why didn’t you answer your phone? Wasn’t I worth answering your DAMN phone for? I worked so hard to make you happy . . . I would have gone to the ends of the earth to see you smile. I hate you for that, too! You had me, I was right there waiting for you . . . and you couldn’t even see me. I was right there. I was . . . I miss you Emmett. I miss your smile. I miss making you your stupid eggs. I miss your toothpaste all over the counter, and your wet towel on my side of the bed. I miss your stinky socks all over our room. I HATE you for doing this to me, but I . . . I still need you. I still want you . . . I still love you. What am I supposed to do now? The kids have asked me a million times what they are supposed to do without you, so now I pose that question to you as your wife: What am I supposed to do without you? How can I help our children fill the holes that are left in their hearts, and how will I ever fill mine?”

My contradictory words came out like the floodgates had just opened. I missed him so badly that it hurt, but I was also so broken because of his actions, I didn’t know for sure where to even begin: with anger or with love. 

It wasn’t just Rob’s or Emmett’s fault that my children were having issues, it was my fault as well. Never before in their lives, had I been embarrassed about their imperfections. I had spent years laughing when they made mistakes, and loving them through them. Now, all they could see of me, was that I was ashamed of them. I was trying so hard to fill my own holes, I was overwhelmed with the thought that I had to help them patch their own holes. I was not being the mom they deserved. I was allowing others’ views of my kids determine how I saw them.

They had to learn to forgive and move forward, but the principal way they were going to be able to do that was . . . by watching me. I had to show them how to let go, and I was not being the example they needed.

Forgiveness. Such a simple word, and yet its meaning is so strong. This past week, as I sat in church and listened to others speak of the lessons they had learned about forgiveness in their lives, I was humbled to my knees. Tears would not stop flowing as I thought of all the heartache I have read about over the past few months in messages sent to me by unfamiliar names who wanted to share with me their own stories of pain. I have felt humbled to be the ears to which some silent hearts have turned to share their deepest pain.

Why do we hurt each other? The thoughts of tender voices who cry in the night, all alone, break my heart. My eyes have wet my pillow on many nights these past few months, as I have prayed for some of my brothers and sisters whom I will probably never meet.

This world is huge. Each of us has our own story, but the darkness that tries to destroy hope, and the fear that causes us to live in pain . . . is in us all.

Forgiveness is the answer to that pain, but what most of us want to know is . . . HOW? What my children needed to SEE was HOW.

One afternoon, I heard the kids upstairs screaming that the toilet was overflowing. As I ran upstairs, huffing and puffing as I skipped steps, I angrily thought about all the times I had pleaded with my children to stop using so much toilet paper. When I reached the cresting toilet bowl, the kids were staring at it, horrified at the nastiness floating around inside. I let them have it! I repeated the demands I had been spewing for weeks. “Why can’t you guys stop using so much toilet paper! Doesn’t anyone ever listen to me?” They all scattered, leaving me alone to let out my anger on the toilet.

I grabbed the plunger and began forcing it into the water over and over again, all the while emitting angry words about everyone using too much toilet paper. I worked for about five minutes, but the clog would not budge. I continued to abuse the toilet with the plunger and my words. Still, nothing happened.

All of the sudden I stopped. I held the plunger over the toilet and watched the nasty water drip down into the full bowl. I realized how stupid it was that I was grunting out my anger onto a porcelain toilet bowl, and I was humbled to realize I was going about it all in the wrong way. I said a quick prayer in my mind, “Heavenly Father, I am sorry for the way I have gone about this challenge. I cannot get this toilet to work, and I really need Thy help. I’m not plunging this toilet for fun. I’m not doing it for myself. In fact, I really wish I didn’t have to do it at all. It is disgusting, I am ticked off, and I have to figure out how to fix this. I’m not doing it for me, I’m not even plunging this toilet for my children . . . I am doing it for Thee.”

I pushed the plunger back into the water, and within three seconds the bowl drained. It was so simple, and yet, such an eye opening moment. That toilet didn’t matter to anyone . . . including my children. They didn’t care if they used too much toilet paper, because I was the one who would be there to clean up their mess! There wasn’t a person on the planet who gave a crap (no pun intended) about that toilet in my upstairs bathroom. At that moment, I didn’t even care what happened to that toilet. For all I cared, we didn’t even need it anymore. I was trying so hard to make it obey ME, but as soon as I found purpose in what I was doing, the real reason I needed to plunge that toilet . . . it flushed. 

That plugged toilet was a learning-lesson for me. Its imperfections—though they were inconvenient for others—didn’t really matter to them. And so it was with my children. Their imperfections didn’t really matter to other people—only to myself. I had to stop worrying about what anyone thought.

Other people are going to put you down about how you are raising your children. They may even call and tell you about all the things your little ones are doing wrong. What really matters is not what others think, but the way your love can help your children through their hard times. As hard as it feels for you as the outsider to have them struggle, try to remember how hard it is for them. Our children already know they are not perfect. They are reminded of that fact by others, and they also discover their own weaknesses by themselves.

The only way we will find the right answers for them personally is through Heavenly Father. In the same way I couldn’t get that toilet to work properly on my own, we cannot properly mold our children without the help of God. The minute I included Him in my plunging, the problems I faced were solved. We may hear stories and think that our kid's are just like someone else's, but the answers we need for each one of them are unique. Sometimes the only “self-help” we can receive will not come from a book, or from a phone conversation with a friend. No, the answers we are seeking may only come through heartfelt prayer.

All of these responsibilities weigh us down at times. They feel as though they are heavy burdens and immense trials. Due dates loom, and children complain. Teachers share concerns, and coaches degrade. Cars need cleaning, and laundry takes over every empty space in our homes. The list of hard things will never end. Heavenly Father didn’t ask us to complete all the hard things we have to do in one day. He never said that He only sees our worth when our children are perfect, when no one is disapproving, and our houses are clean. He has asked us to take on these responsibilities, and do our best. He has pleaded with us, as we pray for his counsel, to do ALL things for Him. With that request, He promises that if we ask . . . He will send us help.

If you are overwhelmed with the heavy burdens of daily life, give them all to the Lord. He knows the list never ends, and He has seen that the trials get heavy. I have looked at my life when I tried to carry my load alone, and it’s a joke. I drove around in my car overwhelmed with the messes I had yet to clean up, and I splattered poop all over the bathroom trying to fix things on my own. In the moments, when I transferred the burdens of my responsibilities from my own hands into the hands of my Savior, He picked them up and helped me find the way. 

He may not literally grab the plunger out of your hand, but He will send you the light to know how to use it.

Sometimes when life feels the heaviest, we are too bent over from its weight to see the light shining at the end of the tunnel. Today, I feel impressed to challenge us all to look for the good. Maybe you are lying in a hospital bed with a heart condition, maybe you are alone in an apartment full of emptiness, maybe you are buried deep in laundry and your babies are screaming, and you . . . are just trying to remember who you are. Wherever you are today, I want you to find reasons to smile.

Right now, as I sit at this computer, I can see a picture of my children. They are all at school right now, or taking naps in their beds, but they are the first priority on my list. They make me smile with the funny things they say and the happy voices they spread throughout our home.

I can see a few piles of their misplaced toys, and I am thankful for the sweetness they bring to my children’s imaginations. I am thankful that I have the ability to teach them the responsibility of hard work. 

I can see a sink full of dirty dishes, and I am so thankful I have enough food to feed my family. I am thankful for the clean water that pours into my cup at the simple turn of a tap. I am thankful for my dishwasher, because I have no idea on earth how I could keep those dishes clean without it.

I can see a pile of bills. How thankful I am to have electricity and heat to keep my house warm in the winter and cool in the summer. I am thankful for a cell phone that helps me communicate with my loved ones. I am thankful for warm showers, and garbage days. All of the blessings, that come from the bills I pay. 

I can see a gash in my table made when one of my children took a fork and imprinted thirty little indents in it that will probably remain there forever. I am so thankful that I have healthy children who enjoy spending time with me. I am thankful for their creative minds that have brought me many works of art . . . some not so convenient . . . yet quite creative, like the artful patterns made in the wood of my table.

That table may look like it needs to be replaced. My windows sure as heck need to be washed, and my dishes are rarely clean . . . but how amazing is it to be surrounded by so much beauty? My children are not mine . . . they are on loan to me by Heavenly Father. The bills sitting on the counter are His. I am just His steward as I take care of the responsibilities He has blessed me with.

Parenting, dating, school, work . . . wherever you are . . . ask for Christ’s hand to enrich the little moments when you stand with a plunger in your hand, unable to find the answers as to how to solve the riddle.

It is my prayer that we can be the putty that fills the holes made by others in our children—and the holes in all our relationships—and that we can let Christ choose the pieces we use to build the foundation of who we are, so that He can fill the holes inside of us.

We can be the constant in others’ lives to help them see their roles; we can be the love that holds them together when others try to bring them down. And we can put our faith in them when they need the benefit of the doubt.

Many eyes have whispered a million words to my heart, and many voices have pierced my soul when my children have made mistakes. Let them watch; let them talk. Pray for the guidance to be the stability your child needs. Others may cause you to believe that the people in your life are burdens . . . but you have the power to find the good. 

Sometimes we are in the wrong. Let us teach our little ones to take responsibility for their own actions and not to use others as the excuse for why they are being “picked on.” Then other times, when they really are working hard and trying their best, let us remember to believe in them, even when others do not. My mom believing in me was empowering as she let me walk away without punishing me. Her silence spoke stronger to my soul than any words she could have scolded into me. I knew she believed in me. She had drilled and drilled me that I had to own up to the role I played in the scenarios of my life. And this time, I had played a role I could be proud of . . . and she trusted me. 

It’s okay that our children aren’t the star athletes. It’s okay that they are sometimes less than mediocre. Luckily, they were not sent here to be perfect for us. Just as Christ loves us with all of our shortcomings, we must see the worth of our loved ones . . . even when they are covered in holes. Christ never said it would be perfect, He only promised that it would be worth it. 

The relationships in our lives are no different. They will not be perfect, but when we desire our part to be better . . . we can pray for His love to guide us in the roles that WE play. 

As children we have a different job to do. Mothers and fathers will not always do everything right. Hopefully, our children can still love us when we fall short as their parents. Even parents fail. We react poorly to a situation; sometimes we even hurt those that we love. Physically and emotionally we get stretched to our max . . . and in those moments, sometimes we don't respond with love. All the while, our young children still love us . . . because we are their parents. Their love is not contingent on our perfection.

How dare I feel sorry for myself for raising “broken” children, when I myself was just that. Heavenly Father never saw me as a burden or trial He was merely trying to overcome. He saw me as his daughter, no matter how messed up my actions seemed to Him, or to the onlookers who went to Him with the problems they were having with me. 

Emmett’s children had holes in their hearts because of their father’s death, but as Heavenly Father’s children . . . we can become whole because of Christ’s willingness to die on the cross for us. Death is the ultimate teacher. It teaches us about who we want to be; its lessons ring through the lives of those it impacts. But death can also be the ultimate healer. Christ’s death was not in vain, as Emmett’s seemed to be. Our brother Jesus died so that all the holes that have been shot through our lives . . . can be made whole. Even the wounds unseen, discreet holes, left by a gun.

He was resurrected so that we can one day live again . . . complete and whole from the sins of this world. All wrongs can be made right, and all debts can be paid. He may have died on the cross for us . . . but the thing we can never forget is: He lives again, and so can we. 

Easter message

Grateful in any circumstances


Haylee said...

Ashlee I have followed your blog since you started it. I am so impressed with you and your ability to share your story. This post tonight was just what I needed to hear. I love each and everyone of your posts. My dad was killed in an accident, and although different from your situation there are so many similarities in our tragedies and your blog has helped to start to heal my heart! You are fantastic!

Anonymous said...

My husband of twenty years left me and my two young sons tonight. It's amazing how broken and empty a person can feel. Thank you for the reminder that we can be whole someday, even if our current lives have been shattered into a million pieces and all seems lost.

Anonymous said...

Ashlee, you always post just what I need! Thanks so much for putting yourself out there and for giving so much of your precious time to lift us up! You have made a huge impact on how I look at my life and family! I am for sure a better person, and especially wife and mother because of what you share on here. Thank you!

Unknown said...

I so needed to read this tonight! Thank you for your inspiring words. You truly have a gift.

Unknown said...

Beautiful message. Thank you for sharing your struggles, imperfections and the beautiful lessons you have learned through Christ's healing.Your words and insight are a gift to many.

Janessa Couch said...

Absolutely beautiful reminder! You are amazing and such a good writer.

Claire said...

I am up late with a sick child. Thank you for reminding me it is a blessing to be a mother and comfort and care for my child.

Unknown said...

Ashlee, I too have been following your blog. You articulate your struggle so beautifully and I find I have lived through so many of the same feelings (although never articulated). Twenty years ago I felt very similar holes when my husband left me to be with his best friends wife. I too was so broken and shattered that I couldn't be the parent I needed to be for my children and struggled for several years to find myself. I can identify with so much of what you write about because I was there and felt the same. As I read many of the comments on your blog, it very apparent that there are others like us - each with our own situation. Thank you dear Ashlee for being willing to bare your soul and pain. It is providing healing not only for yourself but also for your readers. You are a blessing!

Sara said...

Love this post;-) Heck, I love all your posts! Thank you so much for reminding us what's important! I know everyone keeps saying this, but you need to write a book! You are a fabulous writer:-) Thanks for sharing your journey!

Jennie Nelson said...

thanks so much for this post!!! I am so thankful that He died for us so we can live again and so we can repent and become better. It is hard being a mom, and I am so thankful that kids are so quick to forgive.
Thanks for reminding me to find something to be happy about today...I am going to start doing that daily! you are amazing!

Lisa said...

I have only been able to read half of this post because I have to run off to work-- but I will be back to finish. I want to thank you for being a source of encouragement. I appreciate your honesty and being willing to share the pains. It helps so many of us on our own difficult and heartbreaking journeys. Bless you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. your writings are very Inspirational. many people are touched by the spirit your post contain . All I can say is thank you.

Leslie said...

Ashlee, thank you so much for this post. Tears are running down my face as I read your post. I have been struggle with my son and feeling so embarrassed by what others might think. He struggles with a mood disorder that have been such a challenge for him and our family. Your words have lifted my spirit because I have truly felt alone. Thank you for reminding me to turn to my Savior and give this heavy load to him. I have carried it for the past three years by myself and I needed your words today more than ever. You have been a light in my darkness today.

Anonymous said...

Ashlee, I have been following your blog and love to read your entries. Your words are full of testimony. Thank you for sharing your knowledge of the Savior!

Anonymous said...

I have never met you but when I heard the song, Gethsemane, that our ward's Primary children will be singing as part of Easter Sunday services I immediately thought of your precious family. Happy Easter! Enjoy this link to the song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xckoDevHXxE

Kriss said...

Thank you for sharing and "opening" my eyes!! This is just what I needed!!1 Thank you! Thank you!

Melissa said...

What an awesome post to read!! I challenged some people to smile wherever they were today. Thanks so much for your posts!!

Melissa said...

What an awesome post to read!! I challenged some people to smile wherever they were today. Thanks so much for your posts!!

Unknown said...

Ashlee, I have read a ton of things in my 65 years on this earth. However, u have a world of wisdom. I am touched by your words and your understanding of the reason we are here. April 10, 2014
Buried Deep, is filled with gems. Something stopped me and made me reflex and so agree with you.. " Our bodies were not made to be storehouses for pain. Our bodies were built to be the receptacles of beauty and light. When we hold in our pain . . . it hurts. It doesn’t feel at home, because it was never meant to reside inside of us.
This mortal journey we are on is more than just a road full of painful bumps, it is a rollercoaster of excruciating exhaustion and fear. It is a river of whitewater rapids that can toss us back and forth. We were each sent to earth with a body. That body is a gift to serve as a vessel for our spirit as it navigates the bumps and feels the pains of mortality. Our end goal is not merely to see how much pain we can store inside and take back to heaven with us, but to see how much of the pain we can overcome . . . how many of the mountains we can cross without harboring the pain all the rocks create under our feet. We have to learn to let go if we want to return back to God. Those pains that are still a part of us when we die will not be left here with our mortal bodies. If we haven’t let them go, our spirits will hold onto them. That is why this earthly life is the time for us to learn to live and let go".....wow..pretty powerful... I posted your blog on my Facebook.....thanks for your soul searching words.....u go girl.... <3 Veronica

Anonymous said...

Hang in there. Someone is praying for you.

Anonymous said...


Molly said...

I find this song encouraging: Britt Nicole- The Sun is Rising. Love to your family.

Anonymous said...

Please post more often!

Kristen said...

Tonight as I was reading your blog I felt prompted to come back to this post that I hadn't finished after being interrupted a few days ago while reading. After finishing I know exactly why I was prompted. You said several things that spoke right to my heart during a time I need to hear them most! Thank you for this blog! Your strength and faith amaze me! I admire you so much and continue to look forward to reading about the rest of your journey! <3

Kristin Rasmussen said...

My heart breaks for you. I hope you will have peace

Anonymous said...

Thank you for reminding me how precious my baby is. She has felt like a burden and a trial as I deal with severe depression, marital struggles, and loneliness as a stay at home mom. It touched me to read the line about how they are on loan from Heavey Father and how much He loves them and us. I will hug her a little more and enjoy her a little more after this reminder. Thank you.

cre8ivesky said...

This is perhaps my favorite post yet. Thanks so much for being so wonderful at sharing- I pray I don't soon forget these words and my thoughts as I've read! Wishing you happiness :)

Anonymous said...

from one who also has felt very 'broken' your blog touches my soul. It is like many of the things you say, I 'feel within my heart' as only one who has been there can, like you say, 'we all have our story, each has a different reasons for the holes we feel within'. I have never been able to put it into words, thank you for putting it into words for me.

Post a Comment

Blog Design By: Sherbet Blossom Designs