Hope In Incredible Loss

When I found out about Kade, when they said the words, “This is not survivable”, I passed out. I don’t remember anything between those anguishing words and being on the hospital floor, a nurse putting a pillow under my head and someone, seemingly far off, asking me if I knew my name. I remember saying, “Well yes, it’s Tracey” then the anguish flooded back in and I remember wishing for unconsciousness again.

Then I started praying and touching my boy. I ran my hands all over him. I uncovered his feet so I could rub them. I finally, at my husband’s insistence, sat in a chair that had been pulled up next to his bed and I laid across his shoulder and stroked the part of his hair that had escaped the bandage engulfing his head.

At this point, I’m sure you’re imagining some sort of hysteria happening. There was none. I talked to God. I silently begged and bargained with God. However, I felt the presence of God so heavy on my heart and I knew in all certainty that Kade was going to leave us. I heard no thunderous voice from Heaven, but the Holy Spirit communicated very clearly with me on this matter. Once God told me that he was taking Kade, I had this supernatural peace that I cannot even hope to explain.

I kept that incredible sense of peace for about two weeks. I kept saying, “This is the craziest thing! I know where Kade is, I know he’s not hurting anymore. He’s whole and perfect.” And I was HAPPY for Kade. He was a tormented person, he had been his whole life. That was over for Kade. He wouldn’t ever suffer again. The peace from that was overwhelming. Kade was peaceful for the first time, probably ever. I have often said, that Kade came out scared and mad and stayed that way. I even said it facetiously at times. To HIM! 🙄😂 But it was a hard truth that we all had to deal with. Kade was always unsettled and he was now settled. And I had this warm blanket of well-being surrounding my heart and soul and I was good.

And then….. the enemy went to work.

It started Halloween night. We were taking the grandchildren around to the trunk-or-treats in town and we passed the graveyard.

Bill had bought a beautiful bench for us to sit on when we visited Kade. We took all of the flowers from the graveyard except those sent by his graduating class. They were school colors, red and white, and the bouquet was huge. It was standing where his headstone would eventually be.

And I looked over, and for the first time, I thought, “My son is dead and that’s where he is buried” 

It knocked the wind out of me. I was sitting in the car with the kids and I didn’t want to spoil the fun the littles were having so I just kept swallowing and breathing.

The following two weeks have been a living hell. The devil went to work in overdrive. I have been in a constant stream of prayer day and night.

I began to cry. I had cried at the beginning, of course. But not like most would imagine. The girls would say to me, “You’re being so calm, it’s scaring us.” I would talk to them about this peace I had and I was so amazed and thankful and quiet in my soul. That seemed to be gone. It left as quickly as it came. At least, that’s what I thought.

I began to have awful thoughts. I began to question if Kade indeed, went to Heaven. I was concentrating wholly on his absence. How horrible the ache of missing him was. Kade and I were very close, as I am with all of my children. But of the three boys, Kade was the one who I talked to every day, several times a day. We talked each morning while he was getting his workday started. We talked about what he was cooking and we FaceTimed in the grocery store so he could plan meals and ask advice on what to get. We FaceTimed when he was cooking, or when his dog, Barlow was being cute. He called me to tell me what he and Elizabeth were planning for the weekend. We talked when he was sick, or happy, or mad, or sad. Our days were intertwined. It has always been like that with us. And what a blessing for me to have now. Except I couldn’t see the blessing, just the inconceivable void that was there now. A black hole of despair had taken over and I was drowning it.

Then guilt set in. I felt guilty that I was having such a horrible time. My peace was gone. The enemy told me if I had more faith, I wouldn’t be this inconsolable. I felt my peace was gone because I didn’t believe enough. I was ashamed of myself for crying all the time, for not wanting to do anything but sleep. Shame or no shame, that’s what I started doing. Napping became an escape from the horrors that faced me when I was awake.

I couldn’t watch tv, or listen to music, or read. I didn’t want to cook or clean. And all of this sounds normal, considering the circumstances and the depression surrounding the loss of a loved one. But I couldn’t see that. I saw failure. My faith had left me, that’s where my hangnail was. I was doing something wrong or I’d still feel that peace-honey that I’d been bathing in.

I finally broke down a few nights ago and trusted Ken with my secrets. The guilty thoughts I’d been shamefully hiding. I sobbed and broke all apart inside. I cried for my horrid thoughts and for the absence of a human whom God had formed inside of me.

Ken lovingly scolded me. He talked to me for probably an hour and I set quietly, except for tearful hiccups that snuck out, and listened.

You see, Ken is in a grossly unique position that, he’s been here before. His brother’s son died in much the same way as Kade, then five months later his other son was taken too. Both of their children, in five months. And Ken spent years putting their pieces back together. It’s this strange mixture of blessing and breaking. Good from bad. He knew what to say and how to say it because he’d been through this horror show before. I have this weird mixture of hating so much that these people I love so much had to endure this kind of agony and a thankfulness that Ken knew how to handle it because he’d had to endure it. I mean, how can you be thankful for something so awful, and maybe that’s not even the word I mean to use. But God knew. It’s just another orchestrated move in the life of Ken and Tracey. The masterful way our Savior works to save us is inconceivable, at best.

It took a few days, but I started questioning the feelings I had been having. I asked myself over and over, does this align with what God says, or is this a lie from the enemy.

I’ve pushed myself to do things I do not want to do. I have watched lessons, daily, from one of several spiritual teachers that I follow. I read their books and worked in their study materials. I had stopped all of that. So I got on my phone yesterday and searched for something to watch. More often than not, God drops something in my lap. If I’m watching it, no matter how recent or not it is, it’s something I need. So, of course, yesterday, God lovingly chose something just for me. It was about grieving and loneliness.

It was such a spiritual eye-opening on grief. The crust on the biscuit is, I’m going to grieve, I am going to feel bone crushing loss and that’s so okay. God designed us to love, and losing love is sad. “Jesus wept”, the shortest verse in the Bible. I’ve heard that my whole life, we learned that as kids in Bible class. Imagine that, though. Fully God. Fully human. He felt the sadness of losing Lazarus all while assuredly knowing He was getting ready to raise Lazarus from the dead. He wept. The key in this story is, He had hope.

That’s what I lost. I didn’t lose my peace, or my faith or the knowing. I lost hope. I stopped focusing on God and started believing Satan’s lies and got swallowed up in doubt and hopelessness.

My grief isn’t lack of faith, it’s loss. My doubts are lies from an enemy who wants to steal my joy. My loss was lost in hopelessness.

Yesterday I took my hope back. Now look, I still cried a lot yesterday. A lot. But it was grief of Kade being gone. Then I started purposefully thinking about what it will be like when I see him again. I started purposefully thinking about who he is with. I started purposefully focusing on the truth of his healed spirit. Of his whole soul. I am trying to change my focus to one of hope rather than hopelessness.

I feel better. I’m still so sad, unless you’ve gone through something like this, you won’t understand the depths of my sadness. But I’m praying constantly that my sadness doesn’t get rooted in despair. That’s where we get stuck.

I’ve said before, God was preparing me for this. He anointed my soul with the peace that passes all understanding for a while, and I didn’t have to do anything but receive it.

Now it’s time for me to pick up my end again. To build my strength with Him. It’s time to work at it again. It just took a bit of time to get my focus back and get rid of my shame. Thank God, I mean, Thank God, He has prepared me for hearing Him. I’m thankful for all the lessons I’ve had to learn to be able to go through something like this and not want to die too. Because I think all parents have that fleeting thought, some camp there. I’m not going to. I’m going to work as hard on that as I have anything in my life.

God has a purpose for me. He chose to allow this, He chose to take Kade instead of leaving Him. He is a sovereign God, so my faith tells me, He knows what He’s doing. And if I’m faithful, good will come from this. That won’t take away all of my pain, but it will dull it. Amen.

Kadey

I’ve never been a parent with my head in the sand. I was never a parent that blamed others for my children’s shortcomings and stuck-on-stupid moments. In fact, if you will ask my children, they will tell you that any time they were in trouble over something, I considered it ALL of their responsibility, not anyone else’s. I would tell them a thousand times over the years, “I’m not raising them, I’m raising you.” I was never one to tell my kids they couldn’t hang out with someone because they would “get them into trouble”. To me, that was just an excuse for bad behavior waiting to happen.

My children always had a house full of people. I knew things about your children that would have gotten them beat, but I beat them myself and sent them home and welcomed them back the next time. If you doubt any of this, you can ask Dillon Winemiller Allyson Laine Barnes Cody Gates or Max Hibbs. They have all been on the other end of my stick at one time or another. I didn’t ever let my children place blame for anything ignorant they did on anyone else. I made sure they knew, there was only one person they could control, and that was themselves. You are responsible for your own actions.

I also have been a suspicious parent. Much to my children’s consternation. Something would go terrible awry and they would try to blame someone else or get out of it by lying. What they didn’t understand then was, Billy Don Soden and I wrote a book of lies, so they couldn’t fool us very much. Sometimes they got in trouble even when it wasn’t them, my philosophy was, better a safe beating then no beating.


I have always kept a close eye on my children. I still do. If you know me at all, I don’t have to explain this.


I am saying all of this because I want to address a few things about Kade. There is a lot of talk, there always is. But I want him honored not pittied.


Kade was a happy person. I don’t know how many people said, “He always put a smile on my face”

Kade was also volatile. He went from pretty-stinkin-happy to I’m-gonna-kick-your-ass in about two seconds. He had some demons. It’s so hard to fathom, even as I write this, I find it hard to say, but Kade didn’t feel a lot of love. He was always like that, We all loved him so fiercely, he didn’t see it. He was always worried someone one was mad at him. He covered this part of him up with gruff. His heart was too big and he just felt so much all at one time. He didn’t know what to do with it.

Kade also drank too much. This was an issue in our family for a long time. He didn’t drink every day. He didn’t stay drunk from day til dark. But sometimes, he would start drinking and Hyde would take over. It was such an irrational thing, There was no reasoning with him about anything when he reached that point. He was just manic. He rarely got to this point, but it was a ride he couldn’t get off of. When he reached this point, he felt everything the hardest. Sad, mad, sorrow, guilt, shame. It was all so overwhelming to him. This is what kept me up at night. This is what I prayed hardest about. I prayed every day for God to take this demon from him. Kade prayed too. Then he would be ok. He would go on with his life and I kind of waited for the next time to not come.

Kade committed suicide. He did it. There is no getting around that fact at all. No matter how you want to dress it up, Kade killed himself. But Kade would have never done this in his right mind. He was drunk. Blind drunk. The one where there is no reasoning and he is madder than most of you can even hope to comprehend. The kind of drunk where he would feel so much anger that he didn’t know what to do with it. And now he can’t take it back.

Kade wouldn’t have done this to us. He wouldn’t have done it to his brothers, his sisters, his friends. He wouldn’t have put Elizabeth through this for anything. And he NEVER would have done this to me or to Bill. He was worried about me every day of his life. Not a day, not a few hours, went by that Kade didn’t check in and see that I was ok. He never would have done this sober.

But he wasn’t sober.

And here I am, writing this horror show down for the world to see.

Kade wasn’t an unhappy person. I don’t believe for a minute that he was contemplating suicide on any level at any time. He was drunk, irrational, scared of something that wasn’t even happening and decided to be dramatic to provoke a reaction. This is not the reaction he envisioned.

I know my children. I know when they are full of crap. Ask them or one of their friends, they will tell you story after story of crazy Momma T when they did something ignorant. This isn’t something a mental intervention could have stopped. Everyone keeps saying “I wish he would have talked to me”, the thing is, he did talk to you. He told you a big ol’ windy story and laughed and moved on. I don’t think this was preventable on an emotional level. This was an alcohol induced disaster. Kade needed help with drinking. He was an alcoholic. But Kade never would have done this intentionally.

And the thing is, if he had done this intentionally, I almost think I could cope better. If I thought that he was so depressed that he thought being dead was better, I could handle this better. I would know that he wanted this. And that would be so terrible. But this is worse. Because I don’t think in any recess of my heart and soul that this was the outcome he wanted. He would take it back in a minute. An ‘accident’. That word diminish the incredible weight of this. I can’t hardly take that he would be so mad at himself. There is where my struggle is. This is the nightmare for me. This is where the enemy steals all of my peace. Because I know Kade didn’t mean it.

Where there is peace, is in my faith. My kids are so worried about me. My health, my sanity.

When I was at the hospital with Kade, while we were waiting on Mid America to get there, I prayed….. God has been preparing me for this. I knew he was preparing me for something. My relationship has changed with him on such an incredible level in the last five years, I thought he wanted me to write a book. I mean, that’s what I thought my testimony was going to be. Imagine my surprise as I sit here today. I’m kinda pissed actually. I just wanted the book adventure, and I got this instead. But what that tells me is, His grace is sufficient for me. I talked to Kade, I held his hand and laid my head on his chest and listened to his heart. I got to hold him and love him and talk to him until I had said all the things. I told him I wasn’t mad. I told him I would be happy and I wouldn’t let this destroy me. I told him it was okay. So I will be okay. Because that’s how I will honor him. And I have been thanking God so much for letting me have that opportunity. So many don’t. What a gift that was.

Jesus loves me, this I know.

I know Kade is at peace. I know that he isn’t hurting. I know that he is sitting somewhere on a river bank that looks a whole lot like the bottoms. He is sitting there with Sam and Tyler, Hunter and Austin. They are all trying to get him to nail his lip to that board and he’s telling them that he’s pretty sure that’s not allowed in Heaven, then he grins and says, “Man, you’re so burnt, go find a freaking nail”

He’s okay now. I don’t have to worry anymore, I can’t tell you how calm my soul is. I think the kids think I’m all quiet and scary and I might be planning something crazy like stealing his body and putting it on a skateboard to drag around behind me. I mean, I am still Tracey. But I’m not in denial. I’m not repressing or compressing. He’s whole and I will see him again. And I can’t wait. I will miss him with every breath I take. My quietness is peace, not plotting.

I know I worship a sovereign God and he has allowed this for a purpose. I am just continually looking for a purpose. So far, his purpose has been to save lives through organ donation. Someone got the call this weekend that changed their world. They get to live. They were able to use all of his organs, his eyes and tissue and his long bones. Wendi, the most amazing woman who has been taking care of Kade and I at Mid America, has been keeping me posted about who he’s helping. I cannot tell you how incredible that feels. I have such happy moments. Good out of bad.

If you or your loved ones have a substance abuse problem, reach out to them. No, wait, that’s not enough. Smack them. With something really hard. Don’t hold back. Don’t make excuses for them or let them make excuses to you. Address it head on. And trust me, we all did. If it ends as badly for you as it did for us, get on your knees. Mine are worn out. But you’ll be ok, So will they. Kade is ok.

And if you aren’t an organ donor, become one. God has allowed helping others to be such a balm to my soul. I just wish I could explain this peace to you. You always hear, “Peace that passes understanding”…I sang it all my life, now I’m wading in it. Thank God. Thank you God.

I thank God for every minute I got to spend with him and I pray it’s not too long before I see him again. I love my son. Everyone else did too. He was okay most of the time. I would give anything to hear him explain this one. I’d get my paint stick out and paddle his ass.

I love you Kadey.

Sydney’s Shoes

………for the girls

Once upon a time there was a little girl, her name was Sydney Claire. She had hair the color of corn silk and eyes the color of a chocolate bar. Her smile was quick and bright and everyone was drawn to her. She loved her family, she loved playing on her farm, she loved big dogs…….and she loved shoes. Especially pink ones.

Every time Sydney went to the store with her Momma, if she was really good, she would get a surprise. She always chose shoes. Her Momma would say, “Sydney Claire! You can have anything in this store you want! Why do you want another pair of shoes?!” Sydney would pout, the only time she ever pouted, until Momma would say okay, and they would go to the isle in the store where they kept her favorite thing.

Sydney loved shoes with little heels the best. She loved the sound they made. She would run through the house and they would make a clamor that drove her two big brothers crazy! She called them her ‘clackin’ shoes because that’s what they said when she walked around!

“Clack! Clack! Clack!” and she would giggle

“Momma! When I grow up, I’m gonna have a hundred, million shoes”

Her Daddy laughed, “Sydney Clair, you have a hundred million shoes right now!”

Sydney loved going to school. She loved her teachers and her classroom and her friends. She loved doing her schoolwork, it made her feel like such a big girl to get all of her answers right. If she got all of her answers right, she got a surprise! Do you know what that surprise usually was?! Shoes! Today was Friday! Friday is the day she got her paper from her teacher telling her scores for the week. Sydney happened to know she had all A’s this week. A trip to the store and a new pair of shoes would definitely be happening today!

Momma picked her up and Sydney pulled her special paper out of her pink backpack and handed it to Momma.

“I got all A’s! Can we go to the shoe store?!”

Momma smiled extra big and said, “If you are sure it’s shoes you want.” Sydney grinned back and held her hand up high. Momma high-fived her and off they went.

They went to every shoe store in the mall. They went to every shoe store in town, They went to every shoe store in the next town. Sydney Clair couldn’t find ONE PAIR of shoes she didn’t already have. They looked for a size bigger, even a size smaller. NO SHOES!

Sydney Clair was the saddest she had ever been.

Momma told her she would get her anything else in the whole store she wanted. She showed her dolls and blocks and books. Sydney just shook her head and the left the store, her little corn silk ponytail waving goodbye as they walked to the car.

As she was buckling up her seat belt, something caught Sydney Claire’s attention! It was a new store!! Right there in front of them! And it had SHOES in the window!

“Oh please Momma! They will have a pair of shoes I don’t have, I just know it!” Sighing, Momma unbuckled her seat belt, picked up her purse “Come on and let’s have a see.” and they got back out of the car.

With a sunny smile on her face, Sydney grabbed hold of Momma’s hand and pulled her into the new store. Sydney couldn’t believe it! There were so many SHOES. This was a new store full of just shoes!! Sydney giggled and squealed and told Momma to “Hurry UP!!”

Up and down the isles they went, Sydney picking shoes up and putting them back down. She just couldn’t decide. There were so many!

And then….

Sydney Claire turned the corner onto the next isle and stopped really quickly. Her eyes got really big and her grin got really bigger!

She pointed her finger and looked up at Momma and said, “Can I please have these shoes Momma?”

Momma looked up and saw what Sydney was pointing at.

On a little glittery display stand, sat a pair of pink shoes. Pink running shoes. They had pink sparkles on the soles and butterflies on the sides and pink shoelaces with white polka dots. But that’s not all they had. They had a tiny, shiny, pair of wings on the back.

Sydney stood still and quiet, waiting on Momma to find her size. She held her breath until Momma plucked the box, with her size inside, off the shelf and handed it to Sydney. She sat down on the little bench, with a lavender cushion, made for trying on special shoes and slipped the running shoes onto her sweet toes. They were perfect. They were different. And Sydney knew they were the most special shoes she had ever seen.

“Sydney, are you sure you want THESE shoes? They aren’t like any shoes you have. They don’t show your pretty pink toe polish and they won’t clack when you walk down the hall. They don’t have a little heel to make you a little taller and you have to tie these shoes, and you don’t know how to do that yet.”

Sydney Claire looked up at her Momma with her big chocolate brown eyes and said,

“But Momma, they have wings.”

So from then on, instead of clacking everywhere , Sydney began to run everywhere. She ran up and down the hall and instead of her two brothers fussing about the noise her clacking shoes made, they fussed about her going so fast that it blew their homework papers off the desks in their rooms.

When Sydney got a little bigger, she started running outside in the yard, she would run with her dogs and the cows and the chickens. Then she started running with the horses, and she BEAT them!!

The funny thing was, the shoes never got too small. They grew right with Sydney’s pretty little feet. And as she grew and the pink shoes grew….

so did the wings.

Sydney wore those shoes everywhere she went. Momma would ask her all the time if she wanted new shoes! Sydney would shake her head and say, “No Momma, these shoes are special, God told me they were.” and off she would go running again, grinning and smiling and waiting. She didn’t know on what exactly, but Sydney knew that one day something amazing was going to happen to her and her pink shoes with wings.

One summer day, when school was done for the year, Sydney was outside running with her dogs and horses and cows and chickens. Suddenly she could hear her Momma calling, “Here kitty kitty kitty! Oh please come down, you’re much too high!”

Sydney ran over to where Momma was standing under their mimosa tree. She was talking to a little red kitten. She had an open can of tuna, holding it up into the air, hoping the kitten would come down when it smelled the stinky fish!

“Oh Sydney Claire! This poor kitty is up in the tree and can’t get down! She will fall and hurt herself and I am so afraid!”

As Sydney stood there next to her Momma, looking up at that poor little kitten…

wondering….

pondering….

suddenly…….

Sydney’s feet tingled.

She wiggled her toes and her feet tingled again.

Startled, she looked down at her pretty pink shoes and her wings were FLUTTERING!! Sydney could feel the hum of the little wings in her pretty pink toes and she knew right then that she was going to get that kitty and how she was going to do it!

She scooted over under the tree, right under the little red kitty who was looking down at her and just crying “Meow, meow, meow”. Sydney patted Momma on the arm and said, “I’ll get her Momma!” and just like that up Sydney Claire went!

Momma dropped the can of tuna and opened her mouth to say something but she didn’t know what to say! She couldn’t believe it! Sydney was FLYING! Momma could see the little wings on Sydney’s shoes fluttering so fast! She could hardly keep from shouting! Instead, she sat down hard on her bottom and shut her mouth with a clap.

Sydney and her winged shoes floated straight up into the tree and Sydney reached out and pulled the tiny red kitty out of the branch of the mimosa tree and down they went.

Smiling, she handed the kitty to her Momma and laughed, “There!! All safe! I’ll bet she wanted to smell the pink mimosa flowers and got stuck”

Momma just sat there staring at Sydney, she didn’t even know what to say! Suddenly her two brothers came running out of the house! They had seen Sydney fly up into the tree to get the kitten and they were jumping up and down and hollering! Sydney and Momma joined them! No one could believe what had just happened. No one except Sydney Claire. She always knew those pretty pink shoes, with the sparkles and the butterflies and the polka dot laces and the shiny wings were going to help her do amazing things.

And they did. Sydney Claire saved animals in trees and a little boy stuck on a roof and she helped her daddy get the hay in the very top of the barn where the ladder wouldn’t reach. Pretty soon, people from all over were calling Sydney on her sparkly pink phone and asking her and her shoes for help.

One day, a woman called from far away. She needed Sydney’s help in the most awful way. It had rained and rained and rained some more. The woman’s house was floating along in the water and no one could get to it! All her things were in it! No one could help her get any of it out! Only Sydney and her shoes with wings could help her. Sydney ran and found her Momma and Daddy and told them about the woman’s phone call.

“But Sydney, you’ll have to go so far to help! How long will you be gone?”

Sydney smiled and said, “Maybe a while Momma, but I will be okay. People need my help and God made these shoes just for me. If I didn’t use them to help the people God sent to me, what would happen to them?”

Momma and Daddy knew Sydney was right. People needed her. God put her here to help, so that’s what she had to do.

Sydney’s momma filled her pink backpack with snacks and drinks. She added her shaggy stuffed doggy and her blankie with the silky edges so Sydney would feel like home no matter where she traveled. Sydney slipped her arms in the straps and shrugged it on. She hugged her Momma and Daddy and her two brothers and bent down to make sure her polka dot laces were just tight enough.

“You be careful Sydney Claire, we are so proud of you!” Her Momma was a little sad but she knew Sydney was going on such a big adventure! Momma knew that God would keep Sydney tucked right up close to Him.

Sydney Claire ran down the driveway and down the road, the dust from the gravel kicking up behind her and she went faster and faster. The horses in the pasture ran along beside her, trying to keep up with her until started to rise. Up and up she went, higher and higher! Higher than anyone had ever seen her go. She turned her head around and waved to her family and to her animals and to her farm. She was so excited about all the things she was going to see and do. She was on her way to something wonderful!

If you ever see someone up in the sky, someone with a corn silk ponytail, chocolate eyes and sparkly pink shoes, don’t be alarmed, it’s Sydney Claire, and she’s off to help someone. Maybe you.

Molly

Belle is 18 now. Newly eighteen. When she was 6, her father and I separated. After twenty four years, our family was irrevocably broken. I didn’t pray with much faith back then. However, Belle was inconsolable most of the time and I needed a miracle, so I asked for a Shih tzu.

Often when adults play out a drama in their lives, we forget how hard it is on our littles. My older children were relieved, if not outright happy, that I had finally decided that we had had enough. The four older kids were all in their teens and twenties and they just wanted the madness to stop.


Not sweet Bellicious. She just wanted her daddy to come home. She didn’t understand and how do you explain that? Without saying, telling, dredging up all the things that will hurt her even more?

I was trying to balance my pain and her hurt. My anger. The older kids anger and hurt.

My guilt. I had made him leave, after all.

I was trying to balance careful words against rooted bitterness. Sometimes words failed and we just cried together. Our lives has crumbled apart and while the rest of us were trying to find our footing, it seemed our baby couldn’t find purchase at all.


So I prayed for a Shih tzu.

Mother came for the I weekend and I told her I thought a puppy was in order. Something Belly could mother. Something to cuddle with at night, when she missed her daddy the most. Something she was responsible for and something to demand her time. Something to occupy her heart as it was so terribly broken.


When I was young, we had the sweetest little dogs. Over the years, three in all. A lap dog, in the truest sense. That’s what they were bred for. Chinese royalty chose this sweeping mop of a dog to be their most loyal companion. And that’s what I wanted for Belle. A baby for the baby.

I didn’t have to search very long, God was already on it. A microwave prayer this time! It was cooking up quickly.


I was friends with a girl on Facebook that was a dog groomer. I really didn’t even know her that well, a friend of a friend I had met a couple of times. She put a post on her page about a little black and white puppy that needed a new home. She posted a picture with a description. A Shit tzu. Two years old and potty trained. She had the cutest little face. I grabbed my phone and sent a message and held my breath while I waited for her response. I let out a big ‘ol whoop when I got her answer.


And that’s how we got Molly. We made arrangements to meet her family in the parking lot of the convenience store to pick her up. She had been newly groomed and she was wearing a pink collar and leash. There were children with her. A boy and a girl. The girl, older, never got out of the car. The boy, probably about four, was crying and asking his mom to please not give his dog away. It was awful.

A mournful little boy watching a smiling little girl.

Sacrifice and blessing.


That little black and white puff of hair changed our whole outlook. She was a bit ornery and loved nothing more than to just lay on Belle’s lap. She slept with Belle. She ate what Belle ate. When Belle took her bath a night, Molly laid on the pink rug next to the tub. They watched Fancy Nancy and Old Yeller and ate popcorn. Belle pushed her in the stroller and on the swing set in the back yard. Molly rode with us to take Belle to school and to pick her up. They shared Happy Meals and blue ice cream from the drug store. They became best friends and it soothed Belle’s soul. Molly became a part of our family.

That was twelve years ago. Molly has been in Belle’s lap for all the heartbreaks over the years. Boys who broke her heart, girls who broke her spirit, the horror of losing a best friend in a house fire…. Molly was there to soak up the tears for it all. She has been our constant in all the changes for all these years.


Molly started getting sick about a year ago. She developed a mass. Because of her advanced age, we decided to let nature take its course. We had no idea she would hang on as long as she did. God was giving me time to adjust. She’s become more my dog in the last couple of years. The older kids have moved out and on. Belle, wrapped up in being a teenager, doesn’t spend time with her like she used to. So Molly attached herself to me. She still demands to be cuddled and hugged and loved. She’s been good company for me. If you know me at all, you know how I feel about all of my dogs, but Molly holds a place very dear. God sent her when he knew she would heal.


I left Molly in the living room on the recliner asleep when I went to bed last night. I’ve been out of town and I couldn’t believe how much worse she had gotten in the four days I’d been gone. I got home and called the vet. I made the appointment to put her out of the misery she was obviously in. I gave her a bath, fed her a hot dog and laid her in my lap while Mother and I watched Hamilton. When it was over and time for bed, she was comfortable and calm so I went to bed and left her to sleep.


We have a couple of oddball dogs that we call ‘special’. They are peculiar in so many ways. One of them is a bluetick coonhound mix named Tallulah. She put the weird in weirdo. We baby these two clowns to the point of therapy. Everything freaks them out so we deal with them a lot. Tallulah woke me up at 2:30 this morning. She is perfectly capable of jumping up on the bed but she was standing up at my side, scratching at me. I scolded her and told her to get up on the bed and knock it off. She wouldn’t. She continued to have a breakdown for a few minutes while I woke the rest of the way up. Coming out of my fog, I realized she was pretty agitated. I flipped the light on and swung my legs over the side of the bed. She pawed at me again and I got up and followed. She led me into the living room, periodically turning to see if I was still coming. She stopped when she got to Molly, who was no longer asleep. I could tell she was having a difficult time, so I took her to the enclosed porch, which is her favorite place in the house. We sat down and watched the lights reflecting on the lake. I’m not sure who was comforting who.

Molly left us this morning. She was here during some of the most difficult times in our lives. She has left a big hole. I prayed for her without an understanding of how important to us she would become. But God knew. He knew what we needed even when we didn’t. Isn’t that the way it always is? I believe all dogs go to Heaven. She’s up there with Scout this morning,, filling him in on what the kids and I have been up to. She was a blessing. Our home won’t ever be the same.

RIP Molly Grace Soden, you were a good dog.

Least Mentality

“At least I’m not……”

How many of your children have said that?
How many husbands or wives?
How many students?

“At least I’m not acting like Karen”
“At least I’m not doing drugs”
“At least I’m not pregnant”
“At least I’m not …….”

Or

“At least I’m passing”
“At least I’m trying”
“At least I showed up for work”
“At least i don’t …..”

Why is our bar set at “least”

Whenever I confront my children with less than ideal behavior, I get an answer like this.

An example,

Me: Don’t talk to me in that disrespectful manner!
Kid: At least I didn’t run over you with a car!

🙄

It’s always the absolute worse case scenario.

Why does a compare and contrast between your bad behavior and someone with horrible behavior make your behavior acceptable?

Even worse….

A parent saying in connection to a child’s decisions, choices or attitudes,

“At least they aren’t doing something worse”
“At least she/he isn’t with someone worse”
“At least they aren’t flunking out”
“At least they didn’t….”

I don’t want “least” behavior. I want “most” behavior.

I want you to be the most you can be, not the least to get by.

I want the most for you not just what we can throw together.

I want excellence from you and for you.

The “least” mentality is an excuse for bad behavior, poor choices and disrespect.

There’s no nobility, no integrity, no pride, no peace, no comfort in “least” mentality.

“At least they aren’t cheating on me”
“At least they aren’t hitting me”
“At least I have a job”
“At least I’m not THAT mean”
“At least I’m doing it now”
“At least….”

At best, you stay where you are
At worst, you plunge downward
There is no upward thinking with “at least” thinking

Every decision has a consequence
What’s the consequence for “least”

God didn’t put me here, in my circumstances, to be the “least” for Him

His plans for me are far beyond what I’ll ever comprehend

The devil lies. He is the least. That’s what the enemy wants for me.

I want my bar to be “most”

Pray for “most” mentality

I want to shine

Until about a year and a half ago, I’d never felt true peace.

I’d never felt true joy

I’d had joyful moments in my life. I’d been happy.

But that’s not what I mean. I mean, just the calmest, settled feeling that things are okay.

It’s work feeling like that. It’s something I have to choose every day. Every morning.

I have an alarm set for each morning that says “Wake up! Something wonderful is going to happen today!”

It’s a daily reminder to choose to anticipate good things.

And the devil tries to steal it every day.

Waking up and thinking about everything you’ve done wrong. Like in my whole life! A flash drive of screw ups.

But….God

If you can’t wake up in the next morning and know that the mistakes you made the day before are forgiven and erased, you can’t have true joy.

You can’t do that alone

You think you can….because the enemy lies

1 Peter 5:8
Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour

He whispers of your faults and failures constantly.

We were made to seek our creator. That’s why there is an emptiness and longing. We need Him to be whole. We need Him to know we are completely forgiven, washed clean, the blemishes gone. We can start fresh.

All that shame and regret are from the enemy.

John 10:10
The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy

The second part of that verse is

I have come so that you may live your life to the fullest

Newness comes from God. He’s the only way you can feel that true joy in your life. The peace that passes all understanding. I heard that my whole life and had no idea how to attain that. It was lyrics in a song that I mindlessly sang in church.

Then I started having a relationship with God. I wanted to feel differently. At first that was my only objective. To feel better. Emotionally, physically, mentally. I was drowning.

It took almost two years of studying, listening, reading, talking….

And all of that over and over again.

For the rest of my life.

But…..It’s not a to-do list now. It’s a hunger that can’t be satisfied now. It’s a thirst for more and more and more.

I’m not there completely. No one ever is.

But I’m so much better. So much stronger. I’m able to tell my children now all the things. All the things that matter. The only things.

I still wake up beating myself up occasionally. I still cuss and fuss occasionally. I’m working on it.

With Him.

That’s the difference you see. That’s the only way being okay works. You have to sit next to Him no matter what. Knowing. Knowing that if His answer is what you want or what you don’t want, it has to be ok. Because in the end, Him.

You’ve tried it on your own for so long. Trying. But with no help. And the help is strength. You pray for strength in your battle. The battle doesn’t go away but you now have the strength to get through it. And after you’re through with that battle, you gather up what’s left and help someone else.

I was on a merry go round of garbage. I stepped off. I step back on once in a while but I can step back off and regain my footing much quicker now.

You can step off too. No more going around the same mountain over and over again.

Healing. Joy. Peace. That’s what I’m after.

And to shine. So bright that you can’t help but ask why.

That’s my New Year’s Resolution this year

To Shine

Being a family

I have seen so many posts this Christmas where families are at odds over children and Christmas visits. Mothers and fathers spending Christmas alone because it wasn’t ‘their year’.

Ex -husbands and ex- wives being ugly and selfish, for whatever reason. No one is to blame and everyone is to blame, depending on what side you’re on. Parents talking about the other parent in horrible, inflammatory ways in front of the children. Saying things your kids will never forget you said.

Children in the middle. Missing the absent parent, kids torn when they see their parent upset because they are left behind on what’s supposed to be a holiday centered around peace and love.

I know that there are situations that things like this can’t be helped. I also know people are small. I’ve seen it so much this Christmas. Post after post about it.

I’ve been divorced since 2009. I was married 25 years and share five generous, loving children with this man. I loved him a long time. I loved him when we divorced. I’ve been hurt, mad, sad, fed up, ticked off and so aggravated I could smack my head into the wall over this man. And that was AFTER the divorce.

And I happen to know he has felt the same way about me.

We have continued to have our quarrels. We have said dreadful things to each other out of anger. And on my part, I’ve regretted every single one.

In all those years, all those holidays, graduations, the birth of our grandchildren, we have held it together for our children. I’ve sat at birthday parties struggling to hold back tears because of a friction between us and no one ever knew anything was wrong.

There have been times in our divorce-relationship that I have been incredibly hurt by something and still demanded my children respect their father. And I happen to know he has done the same.

We aren’t perfect, not anywhere near. Our marriage and divorce were full of hurt and chaos for us and our children. But we managed to be good to each other when the times called for it.

There hasn’t been a time where either of us have excluded one another from any significant, or insignificant, occasion in our children’s lives. We’ve sat together at ballgames, taken pictures together at graduations and cried and hugged when our grandkids were born.

Because the truth is, we have to do this together for them. They didn’t make the decision to break up our family, we did. So we have to stand by each other in the hard times and the easy times. For them.

I thank God all the time for being able to handle this. I thank God Bill can handle this. And I thank God that I have a husband who embraces my open heart towards someone who will always be a part of my life.

It’s not easy. That doesn’t matter. What matters is, at Karter’s birthday party in February, Bill and I will be there together. We will laugh about the ornery kid Kyler was and how Karter is so much like him. We can tell stories about the kids and reminisce and be thankful for the family we have together.

Be bigger than you have to be. Be forgiving, even if your situation is horrible. Being angry only hurts you and your children. And if you’re one of the unlucky ones who tries all the time and gets knocked down every time, God’s grace is sufficient. God is also a just God. So if He’s allowing it, He will bring good from it.

Peas and crackers, it’s a mouse

Okay…so I am an animal lover in a BIG FAT WAY. We have eight dogs. Only because we found homes for two others, we used to have ten. People dump their dogs off in our little cove on the lake. There is a private boat ramp that affords sneaky prigs the chance to throw scrawny, unkempt animals out of their Dodge darts before heading back home to eat the raccoon they killed that used to live under their porch. So we pick them up, dust them off and fall in love with them. We try to find homes for them…some stay.

I am a bird lover. I adore my little squirrels. I have feeders for both in the front yard. At Christmas time, I splurged and got them special food so they would know there really is a Santa Clause. Sometimes I just walk around the neighborhood and yell out “Come to my house, you don’t have to struggle in life! I’ll feed you! I’ll leave you strings and sparkly things to feather your nest with!”

I sit down by the lake and wait on my birds. Herons, egrets, hawks, a bald eagle or two, those funky buzzards and if the world is in perfect order….pelicans.

I leave bowls of food in random places for cats with no homes. There was a possum family under my porch and my dogs were chasing one of the little ones. They were grounded to the house for the duration of the possum family’s stay.

I love animals.

I even love mice.

Kendall had several pet mice when he was little. They don’t scare me…they can startle me. Especially when one runs across the top of my feet.

I have lived here for six and a half years. We have caught two mice. Two. In SIX years.

And then this year….ELEVEN so far!! My husband thinks it’s because all the other animals I feed put out the word that I was a sucker for a furry face.

Unfortunately, there are little mouse bb’s all over my house. I mean, not any more, I cleaned it all up. BUT, I have to keep cleaning it up.

Ten mice ago, my husband put his foot down and said we had to catch some mice.

I tearfully agreed on several conditions.

1. I didn’t have to clear out the traps.

2. I didn’t want to see it. Hear about it. Talk about it. Nothing!

3. If we caught one and he wasn’t at home or asleep, I could stay in another room until he was available to dispose of it.

4. I am allowed to cry for the mice.

So……

Everything was going as planned. For us, not the mice. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly. It was being handled. Horribly, in my opinion, but handled none the less.

Until today.

I decided to make a cup of hot tea. My throat has been a bit peckish and I needed some nice hot tea and honey. I walked over to the stove to put the kettle on and……there was a mouse on the trap.

I lost my mind and ran out of the kitchen hollering, stirring the dogs into a barking frenzy. Shushing the dogs and trying not to completely flip out, I decided I would just suffer through, tea-less…………And then it made a sound. Not a good sound. A bad sound…..

Holy crap. It was alive. Stuck. Suffering. CRAP! What was I going to do now?

I paced the kitchen and dining room floors for several minutes. What was I going to do??? I couldn’t leave it there! It was crying. I was crying. A frigging mouse was stuck to what amounted to a giant maxi pad. Trying not to vomit, I made the decision to end the poor thing’s misery. There was no hope for him. His whole body was super-glued to a sheet pan of death.

I gingerly picked the little guy up, soothingly telling him that I was eternally sorry for this precarious situation I was a party to and I swore on my mother’s grave that no other mouse would suffer in this way, His torture would not be in vain. Saint Sorrel of Mouseisi. A martyr for all vermin everywhere. (My Mom’s not dead, btw, but I was hysterical)

Although I am being a bit flippant, I am seriously upset about this. To me, this is no different than if I would have found a kitten stuck to this death trap. NO MORE.

I gingerly brought him over to the trash can, him making squeaky little noises of distress. I am not even kidding. By this time I am full out Scarlet O’Hara bawling.

I have to do something with him now. I decided the quickest way to end his anguish is to just step on him. So I lay the trap down on my hard wood kitchen floor and mash the Fraggle Rock out of him. I am trying not to throw up, I have snot running down my face and I am hiccuping because I have been crying so hard.

I stand there a moment and try to regain my composure. Sighing, I reach down to pick the trap up so I can do away with it. I actually thought about burying him, but it’s seventeen degrees outside and the ground is frozen solid. And what does it matter now?? I have ended his life, his soul is gone. So into the trash he goes.

The trap is stuck.

It is stuck to my floor.

The whole thing.

It’s like someone duck-taped this atrocious contraption to my floor. I pick and prod at it. Sobbing again. I finally get hold of each corner and start to peel it up off of my hardwood. I can see the mouse, the sound that this is making….. I am trying not to pass out. I am right by our basement stairs! If I fall out, down I go. With a gut wrenching yank, I get the trap up. Most of it. The poor mouse is up but there are bits of sticky trap stuck to my floor. Martha Stewart would pass out if she could see this.

This has been a traumatic day for me. I am exhausted. I had such high hopes for today. Then I murdered an innocent creature. I have no words. I mean, except for all of these I just typed out. I am spent. I have no intention of even getting out of my pajamas today. I have picked up all the other sticky traps in the house and thrown them in with the graveyard that my trash can has become.

If you have mice, be kind.

Oh no…..

I can hear him…..

Or is this the Tell Tale Heart?

I may be going mad…….

squeak

Scaredy Cats

It’s storming. Not a bad storm, just a nice gentle rain with some thunder. However, my dogs act as if we are in the middle of a volcanic, tornadic, hurricane-like, weather event of monumental proportion. We have given them doggy Xanax and they have gone to bed with Dad, rooted under the safety net of my chenille bedspread.

I heard them praying while I was fixing their medicine…they asked for forgiveness for chasing the pregnant cat. They said they were sorry for pooping right in front of the door because they were afraid they would get struck by lightening if they went outside. They also thanked God that the thunder and lightening couldn’t get them in the house while asking to be able to trust Mom and Dad more when it came to life and death situations.

The chill pill has kicked in now, they are tranquillized into a deep slumber that will hopefully outlast the ‘storm’. People make fun of me because of the deep, abiding love I have for my animals. I tell anyone who dares to roll their eyes or makes a tsk sound in my direction, these are just people with fur. Their feelings are as important as mine. My mom always said, “If you’re scared, you’re scared. There’s no talking your way out of it.” Well the same goes for dogs.

Seriously though, if your dog is unnerved by thunder and lightening, don’t be one of those people. Buy a thunder coat, get some doggy Xanax or just sit and hold them tightly and croon in their ears. Be a good human, be kind and caring to your dogs. They love you.

I’ll let you know if these two survive…

My Gift

I’ve been having a hard time for a while. Mentally and physically. There is no need to go into all of the particulars, it doesn’t affect this post at all. Having said that, keep reading, God is good and I am going to tell you about it.

I woke up today and it’s grey out. It has been unseasonably warm here in Northeast Arkansas. Balmy, if you will. However, it’s been drizzly, hazy and colorless. The air is heavy, wet even, though it’s not raining. This kind of day magnifies the melancholy mood that smothers me these past days. As I fixed my coffee this morning, I did it through tears and prayer. I prayed that something good would happen today. Something that would propel me out of this somber climate. God heard me and answered me. Wait, I know he always hears me. I know he always answers me. This was so loud though. Silent in it’s descent, boisterous in the stirring of my faith.

I placed my coffee cup on the corner of my desk and went to adjust the volume on the television and something caught my eye. Just a white flutter, really. I have lost most of my peripheral vision, I see mostly straight on. But for just a second, a shadow of snowy calm peeked into my view. I spun around and there they were.

Our lake is a man-made lake that covers 645 acres. It was originally to be a part of the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program until the Small Watershed Act was passed which allowed for construction of bodies of water to  benefit fish and wildlife development. The lake was constructed to be a water source for the Lake Charles State Park for seven months a year. In October, the lake is drained to flood the Shirey Bay-Rainey Brake Wildlife Management Area, which is managed by the Arkansas Game and Fish. The purpose of this is so that duck hunters have a place to hunt successfully. Well, successfully for the hunter, the birds have a somewhat different take on this. What’s normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.

Our house sits in a little cove on the opposite end of the lake from the State Park. The park sponsors bass tournaments and local fishermen frequent the lake each summer. During this time of year, the boats are scarce as there isn’t a lot of water in the lake. What remains is shallow. Because the land was wooded when construction began, there are trees and brush that scatter the floor of the lake. Motoring a boat through a maze of timber both fallen and still standing takes a special skill. Even if you are very familiar with the lake. Right now, where the water is usually clapping against the bank, you can walk out two hundred feet before you ever reach the water. This isn’t something we usually take advantage of. The ground is marshy and in some spots, almost quicksand like. Our hounds love it! They tramp around in the muck, wading in and out of the water to take a winter swim. Coming back to the house covered in mud, they are crest-fallen when I get the hose out to spray them off.

Because the lake is so low and the sky is so grey, I don’t pay much attention to the happenings on our lake this time of year. So imagine my surprise when I suddenly saw such an awe inspiring gift this dreary February morning.

Pelicans. At least a forty of them. I have seen them on the lake a few times before, usually in a group no larger than four or five. They were floating on the skirt hem of the lake. Bouncing up against the shallow waves that the blustery day created. They were so quiet. At first I thought they were snow geese. My eyesight, the distance my eyesight had to adjust to and the time of year all lent to this assumption. I soon realized these weren’t geese.

Pelicans are huge! The first time I saw one on the lake I was flabbergasted by it. There were only two and they were getting ready to take flight when we came upon them in our flat-bottomed boat. As they unfolded their wings and started to skip across the lake, we were showered with the spray from the water as their feet quickly paddled, bobbing and weaving, propelling their selves into the air. I immediately thought of Orville from the Disney movie The Rescuers. I was sort of expecting one of them to adjust their goggles. I remember the laugh that sprang out of my mouth before I could catch myself, I was trying to be quiet as to not startle them. Well, that didn’t work. My excitement was enormous. I had never seen anything like them. Their beaks were a foot long and the color of a traffic cone. Their necks stretched out in such a comical way. And their wing span, oh my goodness. I had no idea they were so immense! As I watched their colossal departure, I was mesmerized. Ken and I just sat there laughing. It was a sight to see.

My excitement was unmistakable and my dogs immediately knew that an adventure was afoot! Now, I have too many dogs. Of that, I am fully willing to own. I also do not seem to have any control of the hoard I have amassed. They run around willy-nilly and yip and yap, creating chaos continually. Today, however, there was no way they were going to spoil the gift that was waiting for me at the length of my back yard. I screeched for Heidi, a friend of Belle’s staying the weekend, “Look!Grab the camera!” I snatched the four-wheeler key off the wooden board that hangs by our front door and out the door Heidi and I went, scolding and pushing dogs back so that they wouldn’t impede my race to the lake’s edge.

Now, I am not very good on our four-wheeler. We had an older one for several years and I could handle it pretty well. It was a green behemoth that had no power steering and sort of lumbered along. Then my husband decided to buy a new one. The new one is FAST and very powerful. It has power steering. You think that sounds like a good thing. (insert eye-roll here). It just makes it feel like I am about to tip it over all the time. It has taken well over a year for me to adjust to my not-so-superior driving skills on this particular ATV. However, I am tenacious. I hopped on this cherry red beast and Heidi slipped behind me. I thrust my camera out to her, warned her not to drop it and I started the engine. Off we went, soaring across the yard and towards the lake. We bounced and careened over the yard, through the line of pine trees and around the bonfire leavings. Heidi let out a piercing little shriek and we both giggled and held on tighter, her to me and me to the handle bars. I was having fun! I slowed down a bit when I drew up to the shore of the lake. I tried not to disturb the flock. They were floating and bobbing away from the bank and I was quickly losing any hope of capturing pictures of them. I stood atop the seat of my little rocket and started snapping. They were moving rapidly down and out, away from me. They weren’t swimming or navigating with any purpose, they were just gliding along and letting the wind move them about. Unfortunately, the direction they were moving was away from me.

My eyesight has deteriorated substantially in the last two years. For someone who loves nothing more than an afternoon with her camera, this have been something I mourn. I can still use the auto-focus but any manual attempts just end up being a blur. I attempted to use my larger lens anyway. Try or die. The outcome was a blunder, but I am going to share them with you anyway. I want you to grasp the beauty of the moment. I cannot tell you how this lifted me up. It was a spiritual moment for me. I have not one doubt that God set those pelicans on my muddy, shallow lake for me. I love birds. I envy their ability to soar away from scary things, drifting peacefully along. I love their songs. I am jubilant when I find a nest hidden in my yard. I creep slowly about their home, waiting on the birth of something new. I mean, my name is Birdie….

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God knows this. Of course he does, he made me this way. I prayed for something happy, something to lift my spirit and to make my heart glad. I got exactly what I prayed for. I have come to know God differently in the past year. I lean on him as he has asked me to. I have come to know that he wants be to be joyful in my every day life, no matter what is going on. He also knows that the flesh makes that hard sometimes. Our flesh gets in the way. So on a day when I was feeling overwhelmed with life, I asked God for something beautiful to make me smile. He delivered. He always will.