“I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind: I am like a broken vessel.”

-Psalm 31:12

 

“God, are you about done with me yet? I can’t take it anymore!”

Sitting on the floor of my bedroom in my PJs in the late afternoon on a warm Saturday in June of 2020, I leaned back heavily on my red chair like it was a lifeline. All day I had been sitting there trying to find some kind of strength to get up, get dressed, eat something, or act like a responsible adult. All I could do was think about how much I hated myself and my life. How could my life be this pathetic at 50 years old? Who even is Charlotte Abigail Briar? I felt lost and confused at my current emptiness. After all, I had been through and how hard I had tried to make it a good life for myself and my children I should be in a better situation. 

 

Journal Entry: “How long do I have to be patient? How many heartaches, pain, struggles, setbacks… How can I be surrounded by family and still feel lonely?”

 

My personal life… well, that was a total mess. There were so many things going wrong, but the biggest thing that troubled me was that for the third time, I was once again single, after another temple marriage ended in divorce.

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we believe that if a couple is married in the temple, they are sealed not just until death but for time and all eternity. Growing up, I thought that a temple marriage had some kind of magical power that would keep a marriage together and solid. If you are sealed in the temple for time and all eternity, you will be happy. Period. That’s what I thought my entire life growing up. I found that to be absolutely not true! Just being sealed in the temple was not enough.

Financially I was skint. I was glad my car was paid for because we could soon be homeless. I felt guilty calling myself an entrepreneur and had started sending out my resume. 

I felt like a complete failure. I had been abused, used, lied to, manipulated, and simply couldn’t find anyone worth dating. My self-esteem was in the toilet, and it had been flushed!

My youngest, Kate and Tara, teenage daughters who still lived with me, were not at home that day. I was sobbing right out loud. It was one of those deep, gut-wrenching sobs that you feel way down in your bones. It may or may not have been possible that the people who lived on either side of the townhome where I lived could hear my cries. I really didn’t care. Sitting with my head in my hands for the longest time, I ugly cried. I could feel every part of me, inside and out, screaming in physical, emotional, and spiritual pain. I had no idea how to manage a future alone and financially broken. How did I get myself into this situation?

Fear and anger had taken over my heart for the last few months, well, years, actually. Every time someone said to me, “God won’t give you more than you can handle” I felt like punching them in the face! Seriously!

How dare they? What did they know about being tested beyond what a person can handle? Obviously, they hadn’t had the trials I had. Indeed, they didn’t have them one right after the other with no reprieve in between. How could they say that I’m not being given more than I can handle? I barely had time to recover from each trial before the next one came. I was burned out. Tired! EXHAUSTED! 

 

Journal Entry: “I know what God wants and expects of me, but I don’t feel strong enough, worthy enough, or capable of doing it. Yet, He still, even in my weakness, continues to bless me.”

 

Truly God had blessed me. I knew that He had a plan for me, but knowing that didn’t make my trials easier. Eventually, these trials would help me become more than I was and it would help me serve the purpose God had given me. I knew that. But, most of the time that knowledge fed my anger and strengthened my fear instead of giving me peace.

There were times when I had a trial and wondered why it had happened, then I would hear a voice say, “This is for your experience.” That made me want to scream even louder! I’m done!

The divine assignment I thought God had given me felt like a slap in the face. I tried to keep myself from shouting back, “I don’t want the assignment you’re giving me! I don’t want the blessings! Take it all back and just let me live my life in peace… just for a little while! Give me a break! If I don’t deserve a break now, when will the tides turn? When will I finally be strong enough to fulfill my purpose? When/how will I graduate from this learning phase? Will it come in this lifetime or in the hereafter? If in the hereafter, please take me now!”

I was tired of the refiner’s fire! I felt like Jonah when he jumped into the whale to avoid God. God had shown me my purpose, and I didn’t want it because it was too big. Too hard. It required me to put myself out there to be painfully criticized and at the same time to save and support those I was to serve. I was afraid of the purpose God had shown me, and I was running from it. That’s probably how I had gotten to this point in my life where giving up seemed like a viable option. I had been running for some time. Frantically running. It felt like I was being chased by something terrifying. When we run haphazardly we often make stupid mistakes and rush into things we shouldn’t. We don’t take time to slow down and listen…. I was no exception. 

Doing things the hard way is the way I learn best, and it seems I have a lot of lessons to learn! I’m just stubborn that way. Forgive me as I pause here and apologize to my children, many of whom inherited this lovely trait from me. I’m so very sorry! Learning the hard way is soooo hard! Stop it! Learn the easy way from now on! 

Even though I knew I was a daughter of God and that he had a plan for me, I still felt I had been getting more than my fair share of trials, especially for the last 30 years. My entire life, no matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried to do what was right, stay close to my Savior and live the life He wanted me to, I was still failing. Where was this grace everyone spoke of? I certainly wasn’t feeling it.

On this particular day, I was in the deepest darkest place I had ever been in. Reaching the bottom, or under the bottom, as I felt at that time, I was done! I had nothing left! This was my breaking day! I felt more than broken. My heart and soul were shattered!

 

Journal Entry: “Bad day. Need light to survive. The tunnel seems too black and long.”

 

So, I looked up to the ceiling from the floor of the townhome I was renting, imagining Heavenly Father there. With an angry, broken heart, I screamed, “Are you about done with me yet? I can’t take it anymore! You’ve given me more than I can handle! I’m done!”

As I cried tears I didn’t know I had left, somehow a feeling of warmth and strength started to fill my soul. Totally exhausted, I laid down on the floor in a puddle, trying to gain control of my breathing and regain the ability to reason.

When I eventually stopped crying, I pulled myself up and picked up my computer to do what I had set out to do hours earlier. Delete all of my dating accounts and move on with my life…. alone. Kate and Tara would both be moving out within three years and I would genuinely be alone. I was determined to be all alone for the next 50 years of my life, no matter how lonely it would be.

I don’t know what I expected to happen, but I certainly didn’t expect everything that happened over the next 6 months. Little did I know that my life was finally going to start to make sense, and my prayers, through my childish screams, would eventually begin to be answered. Blessings were coming that I had never had the voice, or even the desire, to express for fear they would never come true.

 So many times, I had hit what I thought was the very bottom, and this was no different. Little did I know, as painful as it would be, my life was about to change course. I was about to leave the darkness of my comfort zone, such as it was, behind for a new life in the light. 

 

* * * * * * * * * * 

 

Comfort zones are like ruts in the road. Once you’re in one, it’s hard to get out. It’s also easy to fall back into one if you ever do get out. And it can be painful! Some comfort zones can be as damaging as a deep rut in the road. Even if it’s a good one, staying in a comfort zone can be detrimental because it can prevent growth. Indeed, the bad ones need to be left behind as quickly as possible. 

My comfort zone for the 30 years before my breaking day had been like living in the middle of a terrible storm with no lighthouse in sight. Actually, a better description would be like a deep, dark dungeon with not even a spark of light where the prison doors were all locked. It seemed like the prison doors didn’t even have keyholes. Or even keys to go in them; much less being able to find them in the darkness. Frequently when I would go through a trial, I felt like I was in a Get Smart movie where prison doors were slamming one right after the other behind me and in front of me. 

 

Journal Entry: “I keep praying things will work out. I’m sure they will. I just wish I knew when and how. I feel like I’m going to explode half the time. The other half of the time, I am exploding and frantic on the inside…. maybe on the outside too…. Heavenly Father says He won’t give us more than we can bear. I know that to be true. Sometimes we are pushed so hard it feels like we can’t. Knowing that He won’t give us more helps me realize that I can survive this too.”

 

I’ve always had faith. But I also needed hope and a desire for something different for faith to work. Overwhelming fear had taken over many years before crushing my need for anything except survival; leaving me feeling hopeless. My thought process, I know now, had become illogical due to changes in my brain from trauma. 

My life proves that what Dallin H. Oaks said is true. He says,

 

Desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our actions. The desires we act on determine our changing, our achieving, and our becoming.

 

There were things that I desired on my breaking day that kept me from giving up on my survival efforts. Starting with my desire to have a relationship with my Heavenly Father and teach my children the gospel. Other desires included keeping food on the table for the children, never being homeless, keeping my family together even without a husband/father in the home, protecting my children, keeping them in school, working with them so they could have a better life than mine, attempting to show them strength even while feeling only weakness, and mostly the desire not to give in to the blackness. 

These desires and priorities were essential and necessary. However, I was lacking things that could have made all the difference. I was “in the weeds,” as they say. Or “I couldn’t see the forest through the trees.” I was only looking at my trials and everything that I did not have. I couldn’t see what I did have right in front of me. This is a place many of us find ourselves in, especially if we are alone or have gone through difficult trials or abuse. 

Years ago, I had a flash of what I thought was my future. However extraordinary this future looked to me, it also terrified me. I found myself running from it for a long time. It felt too big and too hard to reach from where I was starting. It would require more effort than I thought I had. Putting myself out there for criticism, the world would see some of my most private moments and those of my family as well. It could hurt some people that I loved, including my children; even though they encouraged me to do it. It also meant that I had many more difficult days ahead. 

In this flash of what I thought could be my future, I saw my family intact and happy. Well.… at least my children and me. We were surrounded by the love of our Savior and of each other. It also showed me helping single women, women who have been abused, and others to find their way through sharing my experiences. The women’s faces showed their gratitude and the inspiration they felt through my experiences. They had hope and a real desire for something better. There was a complete understanding of fulfillment in me that I had served the divine purpose God had given me. 

Having a husband I loved and who supported me standing next to me would have made the future much better. But, every time I looked, I didn’t see one. How could God expect me to create this future? Especially alone!? I didn’t feel worthy or strong enough, to say the least! How could my traumatic, broken life ever help anyone else? I figured it must have been my imagination.

However, the desire to help women never left my heart. Nor did the desire to have a relationship with a man who could be a partner and help carry the load. It felt utterly unreachable. My desire to survive affected my priorities, choices, and actions. Instead, my focus was on keeping my head above water and keeping my family safe. I couldn’t find a way to change and achieve the divine assignment to become what God wanted me to become.

 

Journal Entry: “I don’t remember what it’s like to sleep. I don’t know how long I can keep this up. Things are starting to fall apart. There is no one to catch me when I fall. I’m so tired! I don’t remember how to be anything else. I’ve lost control of everything.”

 

I heard a song on the radio once that said,

 

Impossible is not a word. It’s just an excuse for someone not to try.2

 

I wondered if William Scott or Scott A Krippaehne, who wrote the song, had ever been in a situation like mine? Driving down the dark road that night, frustration overwhelmed me as I looked at the darkest places of my life. While in the darkness, ‘impossible’ was what it felt like! At the time, I thought it was rude of someone to say such a thing. 

Looking closer to find a way to explain just how impossible everything had been, I was surprised to see that it wasn’t really impossible. What made me feel like it was impossible had first been my lack of HOPE. Secondly, I had to find a new way to look at my life and find the possible in my impossible situation. 

John H. Groberg once said,

 

There is always hope. No matter how dismal things appear, no matter how problem-prone we seem to be, there is always hope no matter what reversals and setbacks we suffer. Hope is the thing that keeps us going.3

 

He then goes on to say that defining hope can be difficult,

 

It’s like trying to define faith or love… As near as I can tell, hope is light. It is the light within us that pierces the darkness of doubt and discouragement and taps into the light (hope) of all creation – even the Savior.3 

 

Recently while learning about hope, I wondered why my past had a distinct lack of it. There are vast sections of my life where, at the moment, I felt that there was no hope or light to be found. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say, and in fact, this shows me that there was always light and hope. I think I had always thought that hope and light meant answers and solutions, of which I couldn’t see any. I expected that there would be some kind of miracle to scoop me out of my situation and put me in a different one, which had never happened. It meant that I would always be able to fix things and that someday there would be a total end to my misery and trials, which was a pipe dream. My understanding of hope had been totally wrong.

Hope was in my life when I played a game with my children, hugged them, called my parents or other family members, talked to a friend, took a shower, made my bed, saw the bright blue sky, felt my hands touching, my nose smelling, my legs walking…. Hope was all around me without me even recognizing it!

To help them through depression or negativity, I gave my children hope when I asked them to tell me one thing they are grateful for. Sometimes it took them a few minutes, but they could always find something, like being able to breathe or to look into my eyes and know I loved them. These little things will bring us hope and light every day. We just have to look for it. Sometimes it’s just a spark of hope. But, a spark can turn a mountain into a burning inferno!

There is at least one thing that will always bring us light and hope and a desire for something better. That is prayer! God is always there! I promise you! Even when screaming at him from the floor of a townhome in anger. Even then, He wants to hear from you. 

However much pain I felt on my breaking day, deep down.. very deep down… I knew He would hear me. I knew that He knew the answers that I couldn’t see. I had forgotten that I am a daughter of God and He is watching over me! 

 

Journal Entry: “Have I ever been content? Perfectly happy with myself and my life? I don’t remember a time… ever… where I thought I was completely, totally, happy, and content. Lame!”

 

He always answers our prayers… He just does it when it’s best for us and when we are ready. It’s not always when we want it. When our prayers are answered, we learn with certainty why God did things the way He did.

 

At those times when you wonder if there is any reason to hope, when you wonder if anyone cares – or if anyone should care – I invite you to ask God what He thinks of you – what He really thinks of you.4

 

I’m grateful for His timing and His love for helping me be the person I needed to be to receive His blessings, particularly on my breaking day. Through this book, God’s timing is shown to be perfect and precise. If it wasn’t for his timing, none of this would have happened.

I wanted to feel hope on my breaking day! I was tired of the darkness! Little did I know that by the end of the night hope would start with a phone call and a milkshake.

 

  1. Dallin H. Oaks Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Desire; April 2011 General Conference; https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2011/04/desire?lang=eng/
  2. http://www.kutless.com
  3. John H. Groberg of the Seventy; There is Always Hope; June 3, 1984; BYU Devotional; https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/john-h-groberg/there-is-always-hope/
  4. Kevin J Worthen, President of BYU University; The Process and Power of Hope; BYU Devotional; September 8, 2020; https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/kevin-j-worthen/process-power-hope/

 

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“And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.”

-Deuteronomy 31:8

 

Dating and marriage were failures to add to my ever-growing list of defeats. While deleting all of my dating accounts, I felt a strange feeling of peace. Although, the sense of peace was laced with loneliness. 

The day before my breaking day, I met with Bishop Chase. (I will be eternally thankful for Bishop Chase’s role in my life.) On my way out of his office, I said, “Bishop, I’m done dating. There aren’t any good men left. They are all liars and only want one thing from me. I’m done.” He smiled gently at me and said in his Spanish accent, “Sister Briar, there is a man who is looking for you, and when he finds you, he will take you to the temple.” I laughed as I walked home with every intention of deleting all of my dating site accounts. I would stop dating and focus only on my children, my businesses, and someday my grandchildren. Nothing else would occupy my mind. I was going to learn to be okay with being alone for the rest of my life and try to find joy and happiness in what I had left.

 

Journal Entry: “Yesterday I got a blessing from my dad. He said that Heavenly Father loves me and that He is aware of me and my circumstances. He wants me to weigh the pros and cons of every decision and then decide. After that, He will then help me know if it is right.”

 

Going back more than a year before my visit with Bishop Chase, at my parent’s house in North Carolina, I wrote a list of the pros and cons of dating again. The list of pros for dating was longer than the list of cons for not dating. The final pro was added after I was asked, “Are you ready to be alone for the rest of your life?” This hit me like ice water being thrown in my face. I didn’t want to be alone for the rest of my life! I still had a long life to live, and it seemed a tragedy to be alone until I left this world. I wanted someone to go to church with, talk to, hold hands with, go on a mission with, laugh with, watch movies with… I didn’t want to be alone! I added that to my pros list and put it away, having decided not to be alone. That meant dating!

Since then, I had been through a few good dating experiences. But it was the horrible ones that had made me ultimately change my mind. Walking home from my visit with Bishop Chase I asked myself the same question, “Are you prepared to be alone the rest of your life?” The answer came quickly, “Yes!” I didn’t need to consult the list. I was ready! 

If I could just put my desire not to be alone in that filing cabinet in the dark recesses of my mind I could lock it away and push past the pain. Anytime I felt alone, I would do some big project on my business or spend time with my kids until the feeling passed. It was obvious! I would be alone, and that was the final decision. 

 

Journal Entry: “As of today, I am working two jobs, taking care of the children and the house, paying the bills, shopping, making meals, etc. I have about had it! I am so tired! I just want to crawl in a hole and give up. I need spiritual, physical, and emotional strength, and I don’t get any! I am at a dead end with nowhere to go.”

 

Wiping away my tears I found a new resolve to finish deleting all of my dating site accounts. I even canceled the one that was still paid. It was nice to have my mind off of my loneliness. With every site that was canceled, I felt lighter and stronger. This warm feeling was confirmation that my decision to give up dating was right. Finally on the right path, it was time to find a way to make it work on my own. 

Just as I thought I had deleted every account, another site that I hadn’t even thought about or been on in months came to mind. My profile had been turned off the previous year so it wouldn’t be seen, and no one could message me. When I logged in to delete the account it was reactivated. No one had viewed my profile, and there were no new messages. While looking for where to cancel my account a message popped up that said, “Thanks.” 

“Huh? Thanks for what? Who is this person?”

Looking at the message closer, I saw that he had sent me a winky face just a few seconds before. The system sent him a message back saying, “Thanks for reaching out. If I’m interested, I’ll message you back.” 

“Funny… I didn’t type that! I didn’t even see the winky face,”

Looking at previous messages in my inbox, including the few other winks I had gotten over the last few minutes, none of them had an autoresponder message. Weird… but okay, at least I knew why he had said, “Thanks!”

Even though I had not paid, men could now see my profile, and if they had a paid account, they could message me. I looked to see when and how many times he had looked at my profile. Nothing. He wasn’t on the list of men who had looked as far back as three months before I had turned off my account last year.

His profile name was Drake. Not some weird thing like “Man of Your Dreams” or “Ford Truck Stud” or “Blue Eyed Guy.” I have no idea if these are actual profile names, but this is kind of what I remember seeing most men using as their usernames. The majority of people on these sites didn’t put their real names, so I wondered if this was his.

 

Journal Entry: “I miss having someone around who can hug me, cuddle with me, listen to me, hold me, and all that other loving stuff that makes life easier and better ….”

 

To be perfectly honest, he didn’t look that cute in his photos. I certainly wouldn’t have clicked on his photo…. if I had been looking for someone in the first place. He specifically stated that he was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, had a temple recommend, and was looking for someone with the same values. He was very strict about that. He was in the military. He was a widower who had been married for 29 years and had five children with two left at home. I also learned that he liked chick flicks, the mountains, and hiking. 

I’m not sure why I decided to message him back, but I did. In my message, I asked if he knew any of my family. Several of my family members had all worked on the camp where he worked at one time or another. Almost everyone who worked there knew them. He said he didn’t. “Humm….” I thought, “Okay… strange, but okay.”

At this point, Drake had a few things going against him. This would have been a hard sell even if I had been looking for a date. 

First, I was done dating and had no intention of going out with anyone. Walking away from the dating world, I was literally moments away from deleting this account. 

Second, he was military and I didn’t want any part of that. He could turn out to be quite bossy and strict. I mean…. I’m used to being my own boss! I didn’t need another person thinking they were in charge of me or my life. Worse, I couldn’t take being abandoned again if he ended up deployed. On top of that, I like men who are goofy, sarcastic, and fun to be around. That wasn’t my experience with a lot of military men.

Third, dating widowers is just too hard. They either hated their wife who had passed, or they still loved her and couldn’t let go. There was no way I could marry a man who had been happily married for that long. If he was a good man, he still loved his wife, and I didn’t want to share. I needed more love than that. I wanted someone who would love me and only me. 

Fourth, it looked like he had lived a fairytale life. I was damaged, and I didn’t think he could handle my past. As a matter of fact, I was sure it would scare him off faster than a lemon will pucker your lips.

 

Journal Entry: “I want to be with someone I can talk to about anything. Someone who will interact in the conversation. Someone who is patient, kind, understanding, interested, and thinks I am the best person for him!”

 

We chatted a bit back and forth on the site, and he quickly asked for my phone number so we could text. Wow! I was surprised. I expected him to be a bit reserved and slow to connect like all of the other men. I figured we could text while I deleted my account. And that’s precisely what I did. After taking a few pictures of his profile, since I knew I wouldn’t have access later, I deleted my account. I was still very serious about being done with dating.

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

So many things brought me to my breaking day. Three failed marriages and horrible dating experiences made me never want to date or get married again. My heart had been broken so many times I didn’t think it would ever heal. Along with my grieving heart, I battled depression and anxiety for many years. I couldn’t seem to get a hold of life as the trials and struggles seemed never-ending! On my breaking day, everything had built up so much that I knew if I didn’t find a way to make permanent changes, I wouldn’t make it another year. 

 

Journal Entry: “I cannot explain to anyone who has never been in this situation how lonely I am. I’m surrounded by my children all the time, and they are everywhere. I love them, but at night, when they are all asleep, it is almost unbearable. Last night my heart physically hurt.”

 

Like everyone else, my childhood shaped my perspective of God, life, the world, and relationships. Being naive far longer than most people kept me in a happier place. It helped keep bad things out of my mind and prevented them from overtaking me or my thoughts. 

My childhood was primarily happy, but something inside of me struggled. I always felt like I had to fight for everything in my life, from being loved to getting what I thought I needed or wanted. There was a darkness in me that I tried my best to stuff down so no one could see it. At the same time, I wanted someone to know it was there intuitively and help me get rid of it. It seemed that every time something started going my way, there would come a point where things would take a turn for the worse. My entire life has followed this pattern. Peace and joy would start to fill my heart, or at least I thought that was what was happening, then out of nowhere, it would all be taken away. I would be left to start all over again.

 

Journal Entry: “My life is nothing like I wanted it to be. I am striving to change that! I want so much to be righteous and happy!”

 

When I was younger, I loved running and could run forever. When I run, I get into my head and don’t think about anything specific. Running is like mediation. By the time I was a Junior in High School, I was pretty good. The 1600 and 3200 meters were my races of choice. I finished 11th in State my Freshman year and moved to 2nd in State by my Junior year, by a fraction of a second. I was winning both races in almost every track meet through the season by a pretty decent margin. Colleges reached out to offer scholarships if my Senior year went well. 

The 1988 Olympics were the year I would graduate high school. Boy! It would be amazing to run in the Olympics someday! When the track season ended my Junior year, I decided to train myself through to the next season. The only way I could think to make that happen was to run all summer and through the winter. Then I would be in the best shape ever when track season came around my senior year. This was my ticket to a great life! Hopefully, I would earn a full-ride scholarship to college then go on to run in the Olympics!

Six days a week, all summer and into the fall, I ran long and hard. During that summer, I competed in and won a few 10K races. By late October, with it getting colder, I got sick. I was coughing all day and all night, and it continued to get worse. My parents took me to a doctor who determined that I had developed asthma. It took another few months to stop the coughing, and by then I had lost weight and was very weak. 

About the end of January, I was finally well enough to go back to school. Getting in shape for cross country season was my goal. Running was just about all I could think about. The first day meant bringing my massive stack of textbooks back with me. I was super excited to finally be back and nervous since I hadn’t seen anyone for months. 

Leaning back to grab my huge pile of books, I put one foot out of the back door of the 4-door Escort to use as leverage. Suddenly, I felt the car start to move! My father thought I had already gotten out of the car, so he started going. He stopped when my mother and I both started screaming. My foot was pulled under the back tire. Students who saw it happen were horrified, and so were we. The damage was done. My heel had been crushed, and my shoe was torn off, along with layers of skin. Devastated, I knew I wouldn’t be able to run again any time soon. My father felt terrible. But, just like when I was dealing with asthma, he took great care of me. 

By the end of February, I could smell track in the air! Anyone who runs track will tell you that there is a smell in the air right before the season begins. As soon as I could walk on my foot, I got out on the track and started walking. It only took one lap to realize that I wasn’t going to bounce back the way I had hoped. By the time track season started in March, I could barely walk a couple of laps without coughing up a lung, much less try to race. I missed the entire season. 

 

Journal Entry: “I watched the opening ceremonies for the summer Olympics tonight. Boy, what an event in Atlanta, Georgia! Just to watch it on TV was cool. What would it actually be like to be there? What a thrill it would be to be able to go! I can’t believe that at the age of 26, all hope for my ever being able to do something like that is lost. There is almost nothing I can do to become a gold medalist in the Olympics now. I guess I will just enjoy watching them. I don’t know how to put into words the way I feel today. If only… If only… If only…”

 

To make matters worse, I had lost my scholarship offers to college. I wondered if God would ever help me get out of that small town. I wanted more than what I saw around me, but I really had no idea how to get it without the help of scholarships and college. 

There have been countless times when I have almost reached a goal only to find that it wasn’t the right goal, I didn’t have the resources to complete it, someone stood in my way, or I simply wasn’t talented, good enough, or strong enough to finish. 

There is one thing that I could rely on, and that was crying! I’m very good at crying. Anyone who knows me knows that I cry effortlessly. During one of my more difficult divorces, I swear I cried almost constantly. So, I decided that I was done crying. It had to stop! It was interfering with my regular, everyday life. The energy it took was all-consuming, and I needed a break. Determined not to cry anymore, I fought against the sting of my eyes and the tightness in my throat. After a few months of stuffing down my emotions, it got easier and easier, and the crying finally stopped. I didn’t realize that by refusing to cry I would also stop feeling…. anything. The numbness, at first, was comforting. It replaced the pain. 

 

Journal Entry: “I am an emotional person. A few months ago, I decided I wouldn’t cry anymore. I thought I wouldn’t cry so much if I detached myself from life. I got tired of being known as a person who cries a lot. I’ve gotten good at not crying. I know how to immediately stop it before it comes.

I had not noticed until today that by suppressing my emotions and stepping back from my feelings, I have actually hardened my heart. When I read the scriptures about the wicked people hardening their hearts, I imagined something different. 

I know the church is true. I have a testimony. I know Heavenly Father hears and answers our prayers. I know all of these things unwaveringly. But, I have not let myself feel them simply because I don’t want to cry.

When we went to the temple dedication, I found myself not listening closely to the talks and trying not to feel the spirit, just so I wouldn’t cry. I actually pushed away Heavenly Father’s spirit!

As I reflect on this personal revelation, since I know the church is true, I thought it would be okay to push back the spirit just long enough to keep from crying. I did it again today during church. That’s when I realized my mistake!

I desperately want the spirit to return to me. I still don’t want to cry, but I want the spirit more than I don’t want to cry. It’s time to let it back in. 

I can understand why people in the Book of Mormon allowed their hearts to harden. They suffered war, death, and loss. They wanted to stop feeling the pain, just like I had.

I have become casual in my study, prayers, dedication, and living. It’s time to change that! I will trade in my hardened heart for a new soft one that feels the spirit fully, even though it will make me cry. What a silly thing! Crying.… or lack of it…. hardened my heart.”

 

Crying is how I feel all emotions, from love to anger and everything in between. Hardening my heart affected my spirit, my relationships, and especially, my relationship with Heavenly Father. So, instead of pushing it down, I let it come, and I cried! My children noticed, and I apologized to them. But, they said, “It’s okay, mom. Crying is part of who you are. Just let it out.” And, I did! It felt so good and so freeing! Unlike most things in my life, this one was pretty easy. Once I cried that first time, my heart was softened, allowing emotion back in. 

 

Journal Entry: “I felt the spirit there… I can feel it as it comes in and out of my heart. I can tell when I deserve to feel it. I can feel my heart opening up to it. I am trying to feel and listen. I am hearing and feeling things that scare me and make me sad as I realize the mistakes that I have made. I want to feel it. I don’t care if I cry or when or where. I want to feel the total burning in my entire body. I believe in the gospel. I can’t believe that I pushed the spirit away for so long.” 

 

I felt an immense change while my heart was hard, and I decided I would never let that happen again. No longer holding back, I cry anywhere, anytime, anyplace. Plus, I quit caring about how it affects other people because it helps me feel. Through crying, I feel everything! 

If there is an end to the number of tears that a human can produce, I will be the first one to know.

 

Continue Reading…

Start at the beginning of the story

 

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

-Philippians 4:13

 

Drake, which did turn out to be his real name, asked me if he could call after a few texts. The first thing out of his mouth when I answered was, “You have an accent! I love it!” After spending May, June, and July the previous year in North Carolina, I brought my accent back with me. This was a normal reaction and I was used to it. Apparently, southern accents are charming and cute? I tell everyone that it’s my “first” language, and when I go home it follows me back. My children have let me know that whenever I was angry, it would come back then as well. 

We talked for a few minutes, then he said, “Want to go get a milkshake?” He was moving pretty fast! Typically, that’s how I liked it anyway because then you know that who you’re talking to is really the person they say they are. Too often, I had shown up only to find that the man I thought I was meeting was actually very different from who they said they were. Sometimes they even looked very different from their photos on the site.

Knowing that there was no way it would go anywhere, but realizing it would be nice to get out of the house after pouting and crying all day… I thought, “What the heck! This will get me off the floor and finally dressed for the day. It will be my last date. The bonus is I’ll get a free milkshake out of it! Woohoo! I mean, a girl needs a milkshake when she’s depressed, right?”

“When? Where?” I asked.

“How about in an hour at Chili’s?” He replied.

What? An hour? I hadn’t even showered, and I was a hot mess. Oh well…. it didn’t matter anyway…. I really didn’t expect it to be more than just one date. 

“You bet,” I said. “I’ll see you there.”

Sitting right there on the floor for the next 10 minutes I waited for my daughter to get home. I told her I needed the car. She said that she had wanted to go hang out with her friend. I told her that was fine, but asked if she could drop me off at Chili’s and come back and get me in an hour? She agreed.

 

Journal Entry: “Bad day. Stuff is catching up to me. Life is so hard, and all of the balls have dropped. I don’t know how to pick them up.” 

 

The jeans, pink v-neck t-shirt, and flip-flops didn’t look super cute, but I didn’t really care. Pulling into the Chili’s parking lot an hour later, I saw Drake standing there with his arms folded, looking very military-like. He had on a nice black polo shirt, cool jeans, and stylish shoes. Boy, oh boy, did he look good in person! Flat top and all, Drake was very well put together. Phew boy! Very nice to look at! That would make the evening much more bearable. For a few seconds, I felt kind of bad that I was dressed so casually because he looked so well put together…. but only for a few seconds.

He saw me through the car window as we drove by and smiled, so I knew it was him. I decided right then that I had to tell him he needed to change his profile photo on the site because he was much better looking in person.

Drake looked so nervous! He tensed up when I tried to give him a quick hug. Oh boy! He was so stiff that it was like hugging a rock, and not just because he had amazing muscles…. He went downright rigid head to toe. He gently patted my back with one hand, and I thought, “Oh man! He either still misses his wife, he’s not even close to being ready to date, he doesn’t like hugs, or he doesn’t like me.” All of these things were huge red flags for me. He immediately refolded his arms across his chest when I quickly pulled back. I could tell he was uncomfortable. 

After the usual introductions, he let me know that Chili’s had a 45-minute wait. He asked if I would mind riding with him to Culver’s just down the street. I had the feeling he was a pretty good guy, so what the heck. “Sure, let’s go.” Walking to his truck, he said, “My truck is super dirty. Sorry, we went dirt biking earlier, and so there is a lot of dust.” 

He had a big white Chevy truck which brought up the question of, “What kind of truck do you like?” This had actually been a reason several of the guys I dated didn’t like me! I like Dodge, and when they heard that, they didn’t want to date me if they weren’t a Dodge guy. Crazy! But, seriously, I was ghosted after this question in the past. No lie! To his credit, when I said I liked Dodge, Drake agreed that Dodge made a good truck. My family owned a few Chevy’s so I admitted they weren’t too bad either. 

“First test passed… he won’t get rid of me because I liked a different truck.” Wait.… What!? Rolling my eyes at myself and thought, “Where on earth did that come from? There is no test here. This is just a free milkshake! Right?”

 

Journal Entry: “There are so many negative things going on with me right now that I feel like a huge boulder is on my chest.”

 

I texted my daughter and told her to still come to pick me up in an hour but that we would be at Culver’s. A few minutes later, we got our milkshakes and found a place to sit in the back corner. There were no extensive COVID restrictions yet, so the restaurant was packed. Almost every table was full. It was so cold! I was glad we wouldn’t be there very long.

Small talk got us through the first 20 or 30 minutes of the date. Questions like, Where do you live? What do you like to do? How many kids do you have? How old are they? What do you want to do in the future? Drake turned out to be very easy to talk to. He held a good conversation so it wasn’t just me or him doing all of the talking; it was a two-way conversation. Questions were asked, stories were told, and the conversation flowed. It turned out we had a lot in common. We both love the mountains and hiking, and our families were our lifeblood. It didn’t take long to realize that he was way out of my league.

After a while, I noticed that Drake wasn’t looking me in the eyes. He was watching my mouth, which felt weird. Did I have something in my teeth? “Why are you looking at my mouth? My eyes are up here, soldier,” I said. He laughed and said that I had the most beautiful mouth, and he loved to watch me talk. 

 

Drake Journal Entry: “I found her on an online dating site, and she had the most amazing smile.”

 

Waving his hands as he talked, I noticed that he was still wearing his wedding ring. At the same time, he saw the ring too. He apologized asking if I wanted him to take it off. I said, “No. Why should you take it off? You were married for 29 years, and you’re still married since you were sealed in the temple. That love doesn’t just go away. Why take it off? If any girl you date tells you that you should take it off, then you shouldn’t date them.”

For some reason, I felt the need to tell him what to do and expect while dating. There were some real weirdos in the dating world! He needed to tread carefully if he didn’t want to get hurt. It would be terrible if he ended up in a relationship different than the one he had with his wife. In a way, I believed he was naive when it came to living outside of his fairytale marriage. Yes, he had been blessed. And if he wasn’t careful, he could end up on the dark side of fairytales. That would be tragic! Drake was so charming and had such a loving heart. He had no idea what happened in some marriages.

 

Journal Entry: “Two of the things I’ve always wanted in a man is for him to want to be better every day and to chase me as hard as I chase him. Do I deserve an amazing future?”

 

The dark side of fairytales was a familiar place to me. Drake was telling me about a light side I didn’t know existed in real life. It seemed somewhat unbelievable and certainly impossible to achieve.

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

Several years before my breaking day, I was in a deep dark place, not as deep as my breaking day but pretty close. Gloom had taken over and made it hard to do just about everything. During this challenging, bleak time, I would tell my children, “There’s a dementor in front of the light at the end of my tunnel!” 

 

Journal Entry: “Contention will never be an ally of progress. There is so much contention in our home! Talking back, mood swings, fighting, and yelling. What can I do? What would Heavenly Father have me do?”

 

For those who may not be as big of Harry Potter fans as I am; A dementor is a soulless creature that gradually deprives humans of their happiness and intelligence. Basically, they suck the joy out of a person leaving them totally empty, unable to find even a mustard seed’s worth of hope. Trying to go toward the light at the end of my dark tunnel sucked out all of my hope, peace, happiness, and light. My brain would go blank and I would shrivel up full of fear in the emptiness, leaving me unable to think logically.

 

Journal Entry: “Maybe this is the way Heavenly Father is helping me become more humble. I am disappointed that He had to do it this way and that I couldn’t do it myself.”

 

Several years before my breaking day, I was feeling particularly close to the dementors. They were doing their thing, and winning! My mentor called and asked if I wanted to chat. “I had a feeling I needed to call you,” he said in his usual cheerful voice. It was late in the afternoon, and I was still in my PJs. This seems to be a trending pattern when I’m depressed. The shades were closed in the bedroom where I was still in bed, and it was as dark as night. Things had gotten so bad that I hadn’t showered, probably in a few days. It had happened so slowly I didn’t really realize how bad it had gotten until I considered the prospect of speaking with someone who knew me so well. There was no way I could lie to him. I’m pretty easy to read even without seeing my face. I didn’t even know what had compelled me to answer the phone. At that moment, I wished I hadn’t! But, I will eternally be grateful I did.

 

TRUTH BE TOLD
AJ Pruis and Matthew West

Lie number one you’re supposed to have it all together
And when they ask how you’re doing
Just smile and tell them, “Never better”

Lie number 2 everybody’s life is perfect except your
So keep your messes and your wounds
And your secrets safe with you behind closed door

Truth be told
The truth is rarely told, now
I say I’m fine, yeah I’m fine oh I’m fine, hey I’m fine but I’m not I’m broken
And when it’s out of control I say it’s under control but it’s not And you know it
I don’t know why it’s so hard to admit it 

When being honest is the only way to fix it
There’s no failure, no fall
There’s no sin you don’t already know
So let the truth be told

 

After hearing my voice, he wanted to FaceTime so he could see me while we talked. I told him, “No,” and that I wasn’t presentable enough to be seen. I was worn out mentally, spiritually, and physically. After insisting, saying that he felt strongly that we needed to talk face to face, I told him to give me a few minutes. I pulled my hair into a ponytail, changed my shirt, opened the shades, made the bed, sat at my computer desk, and tried to find the gumption to put on a pleasant face. This was going to be difficult. As soon as he saw my face his countenance changed. “What’s going on?” He asked. 

Since he had mainly been a business mentor, I spoke about my businesses, hoping that would be all he wanted to talk about. My businesses were not doing great, and I was struggling financially. The businesses had started being a drain on me because they weren’t fulfilling. This made it harder to do the work, much less marketing. There needed to be some changes to keep moving forward, and I knew what I needed to do. Still, it would be challenging in my mental state, and time-consuming. The work would include me being on social media daily, and throwing together some sales funnels. The most challenging part would be going back out to speak at events or putting on my own events. Speaking to women business owners and trying to encourage them would make me feel like a failure and a hypocrite.

He started asking about how I was doing personally. Stalling, I told him what was going on with my five children, who were due home from school in the next hour or so. The more questions he asked, and the more I talked, the easier it got to let things slip that things were not going well. It was like he could read my mind, as usual, because he was asking all the wrong questions. The ones that I did not want to answer. It was probably all over my face how things were really going, and he wasn’t going to stop until he got answers. It was painful mentally and physically to continue the conversation.

 

Journal Entry: “I feel empty. I haven’t been feeling right in months. I am in survival mode. Just trying to make it day by day, or most days, minute by minute. It’s almost like feeling nothing. But somewhere inside something keeps me going, so nothing isn’t the right word. I give all I have every day. Just when I feel like I have done all I can and I cannot do anymore somewhere deep, deep inside of me, I find a way to keep going. I take the children to their activities, clean the house, and feed the children. I continue to help my friend with her needs because she can’t do it herself, but mostly because I love her. Honestly, she does more for me than I do for her. The only answer I can find is that Heavenly Father gives me what I need when I need it. Otherwise, I would just sit down and stop.”

 

Obviously, my depression and daily panic attacks were a big problem. It had become hard for me to do anything but the basics in business and life. I don’t think I was even doing that much. For the first time ever, I said out loud what had been happening at home. I told him things that my family and friends didn’t even know. After I cried and vented he changed my perspective forever with one simple statement. 

“It sounds to me like you feel like you are in prison.” 

He put perfectly put into words what I had been feeling for the last three years. That one word, PRISON, described precisely how every cell in my body felt. The prison doors were locked, everything was dark, and I was in the depths of despair. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t do anything about it. My entire body and spirit screamed out in pain and agony. Physically weak I fell to the floor.

The verbal, emotional, and mental abuse was getting close to physical abuse. A few days before this call, Cooper was being particularly rude. He was yelling at me when my daughter came into the room and stood next to me. In her young mind, she was probably hoping that having her in the room would calm him down, or give me support, or maybe a little of both. I was impressed with her bravery because I was afraid too. I had been hoping for the storm to pass, but as she stood next to me, he suddenly looked at her with what can only be described as evil in his eyes saying, “What’s wrong with you? Are you afraid?! I’ll show you what it’s like to be afraid!” Then he lunged at her with his hands coming up as if to grab her.

Everyone always wonders what they will do in a situation like this, and now I know. I jumped between my daughter and Cooper, put my hand on his chest, and pushed him back as I yelled at him, “STOP!” I had never yelled at him before, so it was surprisingly effective. He stopped and walked out of the house. I told her that I would keep her safe no matter what. For the first time since we had been married, I didn’t justify his actions. Being married to Cooper was terrifying at times, and this was one of the biggest reasons I was currently in such a difficult place. 

Understanding women who can’t walk away from an abusive husband suddenly made sense…. If that’s possible. Well, at least now, I have learned why. It’s about power and control. Threats of any kind, aka domestic violence, destroy families from the inside. When women who love their husbands are abused it can take years to realize it, and even longer to be brave enough to take action.

Things were stressful, to say the least. Feeling I had no control over my life, I could barely keep afloat. Other people’s choices and decisions were altering my path. Fighting back felt impossible. The ebb and flow of life tossed me around like a paper bag in the wind. When it came to my children, however, like jumping between Cooper and my daughter, I would fight with everything I had. But, taking care of myself wasn’t on my list of things to do. I had lost the strength to overcome my own shortcomings.

 

Journal Entry: “If no one needed me, would I keep going? Maybe not, to be honest. There isn’t much I do for myself. Who am I really? What does God expect me to do or accomplish? What is my daily purpose? When I die, what will I have done that will please my God, my Savior, my family, myself? My relationship with my Heavenly Father is more important than ever. This is what I focus on daily. So, why do I feel so empty?”

 

After what seemed like a very long time of crying uncontrollably, I told my mentor, “Yes! I AM in prison, and I don’t know where to find the key to get out!” This feeling was too familiar and I wanted to know how to put a stop to it. I wanted out of the deep dark dungeon!

The next few words out of his mouth were just as life-altering. They seemed so simple yet they were so powerful too! The next four words gave me the key to open the first prison door and let in a tiny bit of light.

“What are your options?”

The chains around my mind and heart fall away. It was like someone turned on a light switch and put a magical key in my hand! That key unlocked the first prison door that held me captive. As the door to my prison swung open I saw the path! Like a yellow brick road, it showed me the way. The dementors vanished. The light was so bright! I instantly knew everything I needed to do to get out and all of the resources I had available to help me. It was all right there in front of me. All I had to do was take action! 

Once I got off the phone, I called my parents and told them what had been going on for the last few years. Before I could even ask, my father said, “Come home.” I knew I wasn’t alone. I had options! I felt strength return to my mind, body, and spirit in the form of hope. 

There was strength in my decision. I knew I could start over because I had done it before. Full of hope for the first time in a long time, I did what I needed to recuperate and set the plan in action.

 

Continue Reading…

Start at the beginning of the story

“…the trying of your faith worketh patience.”

-James 1:3

 

Drake told me about his incredible 29-year marriage to the woman of his dreams, Lindsay. Cancer had taken her life a few months before her 50th birthday. She had been an excellent baker and stayed home with their children. When they were older she worked a little to get out of the house. Drake was an amazing father and husband. His life had been almost exactly the opposite of mine.

 

Journal Entry: “Today, I’m feeling clear about things and so powerless to make them happen. How can I be strong enough to achieve what is best for my family? I am lost and found all at the same time.”

 

We talked about our children and families. We both have five children, and they are all about the same ages. My youngest and his youngest are only 6 weeks apart in age and would soon be Juniors in High School. My second to youngest was preparing to move out within the next month or two. His second to youngest was getting ready to go on a mission for our church in a few months. We were practically empty nesters since they were all gone most of the time. 

Both of us knew no matter what, if any of our children asked us not to date or be married, we would end a relationship. Our families had been through a lot, and our children’s well-being was the top priority.

 

Drake Journal Entry: “I love this gospel and how our Father in Heaven sees fit to help us in all the things.”

 

We talked about our membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and how that was the main focus of our lives. Drake had a strong testimony of the gospel that was unwavering and comforting. We shared faith-building stories from our past. I even told him, “I see dead people,” and laughed. He laughed with me, and we talked about spiritual gifts. “I don’t really see dead people,” I explained, “It’s more like I see and hear spirits through my spirit.” Then I told him a few of my experiences with relatives from the other side of the veil. 

 

Drake Journal Entry: “One thing you must know about Charlotte is that she sees spirits.”

 

We both believe that spiritual gifts are blessings and abilities given by God to help us serve our purpose here on earth. As a matter of fact, while we were having this discussion, I knew Drake was wondering if I could sense Lindsay there with us. I couldn’t, which seemed weird to me.

We talked about our past dating experiences. I told Drake about the men who had told me they were members of our church only to find out they didn’t live the gospel principles. Several of them had angry feelings toward the church, so they didn’t even go. 

He told me about the crazy phone calls he had with a few girls. That’s when I found out this was his very first in-person date in 30 years! 

“Wait… what?!” After my initial shock went away, I reminded myself that it was just one date. “Deep breath and relax!”

My daughter and her friend came by to pick me up, but I gave them some money to get dinner and told them to come back in another hour. We had an excellent conversation, and he had lifted my spirits after a long, hard, emotional day. Why end it so soon? Besides, the milkshakes were fantastic, and we hadn’t finished yet.

Based on what he had told me, he had only heard of lives like mine in the movies; and he didn’t even watch movies like that. Of course, I didn’t tell him details of my past, but I did cover a few of the more difficult things. It was amazing that Drake listened…. really listened, and was incredibly sympathetic. Too bad this was going to be our first and last date. Hopefully, he wouldn’t feel bad about not calling me again…. Once it all sunk in. 

 

Journal Entry: “My life has been hard, but I’m getting stronger every day. It can only get better! Heavenly Father has blessed me greatly and continues to for unknown reasons.”

 

Drake told me about the kind of woman he wanted to marry and that he had every intention of getting married again. “That’s why I’m dating. I’m looking for someone that I can quickly build a relationship with. A woman who has peace in her life and knows how to be happy.” He was also looking for someone who could be okay with the fact that he had been married to Lindsay for 30 years, sealed to her for time and all eternity, and that he would love her forever. 

Yup… I wasn’t what Drake was looking for. Phew! I’ll just help break him into the dating world. I have to admit by this time, though, I was starting to wish I was the kind of woman he would be interested in. If he turned out to be as great as he was leading me to believe.… well.… there was no way he could deal with my life.… I tried to push these thoughts to the very back of my mind as the night went on.

“Remember…. you’re done dating!”

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

It had taken a long time, but by the time I met Drake, I had found my own voice. No matter what anyone else thought I was the one in charge of my life. My choices were mine, my problems were mine, and my future was mine. No one else. No one to blame or decide for me. It was time to stop worrying about other people’s perceptions of me. Either they liked me for who I was, or they didn’t. Either one was fine. Trying to act like someone else or being what others expected was an awful feeling. 

For far too long I had been totally misunderstood and not very well-liked. In an attempt to fit in, I would say what I thought other people expected me to say. Following their lead, listening to how and what they talked about, I would try to participate in the same manner. This was disingenuous to who I was inside, so of course, I failed miserably. 

Cooper didn’t help matters much. He would glare at me if I said anything or even when I stayed quiet. I couldn’t win with him. If he didn’t criticize me right there in front of everyone, he would do it when we got home. That left me even more confused about how to “act.” (Keyword… “act” and I’m a terrible actress!) Always worrying about being considered lazy, uncaring, selfish, or totally egocentric I attempted to be everything for everyone. Thus losing myself in the process.

 

Journal Entry: “I long for feelings of spirituality. I feel like I am drifting through worldly currents.

Today I prayed for humility, and I got it. I prayed for forgiveness and continue to pray for it because I’m so far from where I should be. I pray daily for the ability to think before I speak. To slow down and listen. To keep my mouth shut so nothing comes out that will be offensive or hurtful.”

 

One day I got a letter that basically said something like, “What is wrong with you? Do you pray, and if so, are you listening? You are rude, disrespectful, judgmental, and unaware of what is happening around you. You are not well-liked and never have been. You need to make changes.” Well…. that explains the feelings I remember having while reading the long letter anyway. I didn’t keep it, for obvious reasons. I wouldn’t quote it exactly even if I had anyway. I read it every day for at least a month before realizing the damage it was doing to my soul. 

The letter shocked me. Reading it broke my spirit. Just that morning, I had prayed for humility to be more Christlike. Don’t ever pray for humility! It will come in the form of cruel self-reflection, internal punishment, judgment, physical pain, and whatever else is necessary. At least that’s been my experience. I was trying to do my best, but instead, it was backfiring! Big-time! My head was spinning!

Reading the letter was like degrading myself every day, so I finally stopped. It was time to change! Once again, someone had told me what they thought of me, and however nonconstructive and hurtful, it made me want to adapt. It felt impossible! The continual, harsh self-loathing threw me into a familiar depression, losing myself even more.

 

Journal Entry: “Cooper says I am rude and bossy and that I take over conversations. He said I ‘have diarrhea of the mouth.’ Someone else told me that people don’t like me and never have. They said that I say offensive things.

I’ve been made aware of one situation that I continue to regret. Still, I didn’t realize it was something that was constantly happening. I wish I knew what I said or did to cause this reaction. I wish I knew! I’ve always tried to be, say, and do what everyone expects of me, but I’m failing. I feel so hated. I am sad to know that is how I am perceived, yet I have no idea how to change.

I need to talk less and be careful when speaking, even at home. Instead of blaming others for my actions and problems, I will look inside myself and change. I feel lost.”

 

The next few months were tough as I tried to stay neutral about everything. I even tried to keep quiet and not share my thoughts, including not answering with specific answers. I further attempted to please everyone and specifically not to judge. I still judged myself constantly, as always. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t think clearly. I was so used to my faulty thinking that I didn’t know what to do. I finally learned many years later in counseling that my brain didn’t work right because of trauma. 

Years later, that letter still haunted me. I awoke one morning realizing that I had been sick next to the bed. I went to the bathroom, washed my face, and got a rag to clean up the floor. It was weird that I didn’t even remember being sick the night before. Confusion turned to reality when I saw pills in the sick by the bed! The night before came flooding back to my mind as I heard the door open and my children’s joyful, laughing voices calling, “Mom! We’re Home!” 

The day before, they had all left with their fathers for the night. I was alone in the house, so I went to my room and cried long and hard. I hurt physically, spiritually, and emotionally so severely that I couldn’t rest or stop crying. The pain was so intense I wondered how I was even still alive. How was I going to take care of my children? They already got the worst of me due to my personally being so lost and weak. How could I protect them from the trauma of another divorce? Would I be alone the rest of my life? Who would want someone like me anyway? What had I done to deserve to be left alone and raise my children in a broken home?

Wanting the pain to go away for a little while I sought sleep desperately. Completely drained of everything, I hadn’t slept in months. I took two narcotic pain pills that I had leftover from dental surgery to alleviate the physical pain. Then I also took two sleeping pills to help me sleep. Laying down I waited for oblivion to take away the excruciating pain.

Looking at the half dissolved pills by the bed, I realized that taking them could have killed me! I immediately thanked Heavenly Father that my children would find me alive, not seemingly asleep…. yet not breathing…. having left them…. by accidental overdose. Everyone would have assumed I had done it on purpose. My children would not only have a broken home but also no mother to protect and love them. I could have inadvertently caused them even more pain than any divorce would. On that day, comprehension settled in. My heart had stopped beating leaving me feeling “mostly dead” like Wesley in Princess Bride

Later that night, I sat on the couch holding my children as close as I could get them. They watched a movie and I did some deep soul searching. What I saw wasn’t what I had expected. I found emptiness. I had been trying to be what everyone else wanted for so long that I, Charlotte Marie Briar, ceased to exist! 

The shock of this reality created a spark of hope as small…. no….  smaller than a mustard seed. That was all I needed. It was time to find myself and be strong for my children. I was not going to abandon them! I would live for them until I could live for myself. 

 

Journal Entry: “Right now, my life is horrible! My heart is low, and I am confused and feel totally helpless. I have no idea what is going on.”

 

The day I almost took my own life changed something inside me. I started making decisions based on what I wanted, not what everyone else thought was best. However, fear and boundaries were still a daily struggle. I needed light! My own light. It was time to dig deep and build strength, goodness, focus, and clarity from the new hope I felt. An even more significant challenge was loving myself, not to mention loving others and allowing myself to be loved. I simply didn’t feel lovable.

Resolving to make this change I had another realization…. there were few resources available that I was aware of. That’s when I made a promise to myself. “If I get out of this, I will help other women in their struggle.” But I needed to fix myself first!

 

Journal Entry: “I was complaining, as usual lately, to Cooper about the kids yelling all the time. He said, ‘They do what they see. You yell at them, so why wouldn’t they yell at each other.’ That was like a slap in the face! Did I really yell at the kids all the time? If so, that has to stop!”

 

Over time, I was able to restart my heart, repair my holes, and refill my bucket. The tiny bit of hope I started with grew into fearlessness, desire, bravery, and strength. No one would ever take away my heartbeat again. Being me would have to be good enough for everyone in my life from that point on!

Reading through my journals has been an eye-opener. It hurt me deeply to read about the weaknesses I know I have and those pointed out by others. Hurting someone in any way was never my intention. My heart aches as I am reminded of the pain I caused. Seeking redemption through the Atonement, I beg for forgiveness and strive to improve every day. 

Until recently, I didn’t really realize how what I said came across. All it took was one patient and kind person to explain one thing to me which changed my perspective. It helped me recognize how the tone of voice I use and the quickness in my replies have been felt by others. My counselor helped me see that I always feel a need to be right and often act like I know everything. This, he says, comes from trauma and manipulation.  However, it is my fault, and I am glad to finally be aware of what I need to do to change.

We can’t see ourselves from the perspective of others unless they constructively tell us. Criticizing and manipulation is mental abuse and will not get a person to see themselves differently. It’s a great way to hurt their feelings, but it won’t help them change. Putting someone down, making them feel bad, humiliating them, playing mind games, making them feel guilty, or telling them they are crazy is abuse in the form of power and control. (If you need help, contact the National Center of Domestic and Sexual Violence. www.ncdsv.org)

Good communication is essential and needs to be practiced. I’ve learned that I’ve been bad at it my entire life. I’m genuinely grateful for the person who took a few minutes to explain their perspective to me in a way that helped me instead of tearing me down. 

My intention in sharing stories about Cooper is not to hurt him or make a laundry list of things I feel he did to contribute to my complicated life. All of my experiences made me who I am and I wouldn’t change a thing! My hope is that they will help at least one person not feel alone and find hope.

As they say, there are two sides to every story. I’m sure Cooper could also say that he feels I have hurt him. I am aware of this and pray regularly for forgiveness and a change of heart for us both. Since I can’t see myself through his eyes, I’m not sure what he may feel that I have done. After reviewing the last 15 years of my journals, I can imagine what some of them are as I admit I wasn’t always at my best.

Forgiving Cooper has been very freeing! It’s not something I did just once. I’ve had to repeatedly and continually forgive as memories return or new experiences cause anger or pain. At first, it was hard, but as time went by, it became easier. I pray someday Cooper will find it in his heart to forgive me as I have forgiven him. I genuinely have compassion for him and pray he will find joy and happiness in his life.

 

Continue reading…

Start at the beginning of the story

 

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven”

-Ecclesiastes 3:1

 

Noticing a picture of Drake’s wife, Lindsay, on his phone, I asked him how long it had been since she passed. [Insert sound of exploding bombshell here!] Unable to hide my shock, my jaw dropped and my eyes bugged out, when he said that his wife had passed away less than 2 months before! 

There was no way he was ready to be dating, in my opinion! Nope. Not going to happen. And I told him as much too. I asked why he was dating so soon. Drake assured me that he and Lindsay had talked about it for years and that he felt ready. 

 

Drake Journal Entry: “I decided to get back to life and find someone with whom I could share the rest of my earthly life.”

 

He told me about Lindsay’s battle with cancer and their struggle. Through those four years, they had talked several times about what should happen if she passed. She made it very clear that she wanted him to remarry. I could tell she loved him very much, knew him well, and wanted him to be happy. 

Drake told me about the glorious times they had together and how incredible she was. There were polar differences between my difficult, failed marriages and their amazing, eternal marriage. Listening to Drake share his experiences with Lindsay, I found myself wondering how they had done it and what had gone wrong in my marriages. I listened intently to see if I could find the answer.

Telling Drake about my life would show him that I wasn’t the kind of girl he was looking for. So, right there with the milkshake, I told him about all three of my failed marriages with the short version of why I thought they had ended in divorce and my about my three businesses that were struggling. I told him that I had decided to quit dating, after this date, and would never get married again. Also that I had started the process to change my last name back to my maiden name and would never change it again. Add to that the experiences with spirits on the other side of the veil I had already shared…. There is no way this would ever go anywhere because we wanted different things and had completely different life expectations. 

 

Journal Entry: “I have come closer to my Heavenly Father, and my testimony has grown. I believe this has been out of total desperation as I have slowly felt my life drifting away.”

 

While sharing stories of my past, he never flinched…. or took his eyes off my mouth. Couldn’t he see that I was almost exactly the opposite of what he was looking for? Quite possibly, he should have freaked out and thrown his hands in the air while running out of the restaurant screaming; leaving me with no ride home. I fully expected my past would scare him so much that he wouldn’t date again for a very long time. There was no way he could fall for me, so he might as well just know it all. Then we could go our separate ways, and neither of us would ever look back except to say, “Well, the ice cream and conversation was good anyway. It was a great first and last date!” 

Another hour or so passed, and as we wrapped up the essential overall stories of our lives, the sun started to set. It was an enjoyable, easy conversation because I knew I could just relax and totally be myself, and Drake was engaging and shared some amazing experiences. My daughter and her friend once again came back to pick me up. But, we were still deep in conversation. We could have talked all night long, and we almost did.

I jokingly mentioned that Drake could take me home and we could watch a movie. I did need to get back home anyway since my other daughter had a blind date coming over and I didn’t want her to be there alone. Maybe Drake could come, and if the kid turned out to be a loser, Drake could use his drill sergeant voice or give him “the look” to get the kid to leave. At least for once, I wouldn’t be alone to meet my daughter’s date.

To my surprise, he agreed almost before I finished what I was saying. I was totally joking and fully expected him to say there was no way he would come over. He would drop me off, and that would be that. He didn’t strike me as the kind of person to go home with a woman on the first date! But, he did.

When we arrived, my daughter was sitting on the couch. Her date hadn’t arrived yet. We picked a movie and hunkered down on the couch to watch. About half an hour into the show, her date showed up. Yep, he was pretty much a loser. But it was nice to have a man there to shake his hand firmly and let him know, non verbally of course, that if he got out of line in the slightest he would be in a world of hurt.

Pretty soon, the living room started getting cold, so I stood up and said, “I’m cold. I’m going to grab a blanket. Does anyone else want one?” We had a stack of blankets in the room because it was the lower level and was cold most of the time.

That’s when Drake says, “You should hold my hand. I’m hot!”

My daughter and I looked at each other and broke out laughing so hard we could barely breathe! He sat there with his hand still in the air, looking from me to my daughter and back with a look of confusion on his face. A few seconds later, he got it and he tried to back peddle, “No! No! No! That’s not what I mean! I mean, my body temperature is hot, not that I am hot!” It was pretty obvious that he was super embarrassed. It was hilarious!

Grabbing a blanket I sat down and held Drake’s hand. It was hot! His body temperature was probably 20 degrees above mine. I warmed up very quickly and noticed that he was shaking like a teenage boy on his first date. It cracked me up! 

 

Journal Entry: “I don’t know my own heart. I’ve been in love so many times that I feel numb to it.”

 

I was totally myself with Drake. I didn’t care because I figured it was our only date anyway. Drake was happy and laid back. I was sure he couldn’t really always be “that” happy, but it turned out to be a fantastic evening, and a lot of it had to do with the light I saw in his eyes. 

Holding Drake’s hand felt so right. Our hands fit perfectly together, and it felt so good having someone like him sitting next to me. He was so respectful, more respectful than most of the other men I had dated. He was fun to talk to, and he had a lot of his own captivating experiences. We seemed to have the same sense of humor, and it had been a wonderful evening.

With every minute that went by, I began to feel a little sad that I wouldn’t see him again. I wished someone like that could have loved someone like me a long time ago! Then I wouldn’t have been where I was that day, alone with three divorces behind me.

When the movie was over and the kid was gone, I walked Drake outside. We both had our hands in our pockets as we stood looking at each other on the porch. After the failed hug at the beginning of the date I wasn’t about to try to hug him again and he was definitely not the kind of guy who would kiss a girl goodnight on a first date. That was okay with me. There was no way I wanted to be the first woman he kissed after his wife’s passing. Plus, I thought he wasn’t into me anyway. He could get his first kiss with another woman, making him one step closer to being ready to date again. Someday…. but I knew it wouldn’t be me.

It was interesting that I didn’t feel his wife with us on our date. In the past, whenever I dated a man who had a wife on the other side, I could feel her spirit there, and it was very awkward. I had been feeling so many spirits around every person I met recently that I fully expected to feel Lindsay. But she was very clearly not around.

Watching him walk away, I thought, “Sweet guy! I’ll never hear from him again.” He had a great body and I did like to watch him walk. At least my last date was a good one with a great guy! A guy who was almost everything I had ever wanted in a man. Too bad I was done dating.

 

Journal Entry: “I need someone I can rely on and lift me for a change. Someone who is willing to take care of me!”

 

That night as I went over the date in my mind, I considered what Drake had had with Lindsay for the last 30 years. Our lives had been so different. Drake had a good love story to tell. A love story that I had never experienced myself. A fairytale love story that you only hear about in books or movies. I had always dreamt of living a love story but had failed at it three times. I wasn’t about to make a fourth!

I missed him already. Holding his “hot” hand that night was still on my mind as I fell asleep…. Curled up in my red chair.

 

* * * * * * * * * *

 

A short six hours earlier, I had leaned on that same chair, crying as I screamed at God, “Are you done with me yet!” Oh, how different things were now. My spirit had been lifted! I felt peace in my decisions for my new future.

My red chair had been a comfort to me for several years. A few months before I had left for North Carolina, I had purchased it at a discount store. I didn’t really like the color when I first saw it, but my daughters talked me into sitting in it. It was a $900 chair on sale for $200, and money was tight. After sitting in the chair, I felt compelled to go back and get it for a few days. Finally, I did, and it barely fit in the back of my CRV. 

Once I got it back to the house, I realized it fit perfectly in the corner of my room. I set up a small table and lamp next to it and sat in it every morning to study my scriptures. Whenever things got hard, I found that I could sit in the chair and feel some kind of peace there that I couldn’t explain. I read in a book once that furniture can feel, and it certainly felt like that was true when I was sitting in my chair. 

It was tough to leave it in Utah when we left for the summer. We had left it at my daughter’s house, and she said she even felt sad when she had to give it back. The first thing I wanted to move into our townhome was my red chair.

When I think of all I had been through in the past, I would often wish I had it earlier. I wonder how it could have helped when I went through some of my other difficult times. If it was helping this much during my darkest time, my breaking day, could it have helped before? 

On my breaking day, I felt like there was no hope at all. I had felt the unlockable prison doors many times long before, but I had survived those days, even without it. Sitting in my red chair felt like a warm hug to my soul.

 

Journal Entry: “I know Cooper is going through something, and I realize that part of that is probably my fault. He should be able to come to me so we can work things out. Help each other. We should be best friends, but we aren’t. He won’t talk to me or even look at me. I can tell he is annoyed with me and disappointed in all I am and do or not do. I feel lost. I am confused, sad, angry, worried, disappointed, tired, humble, weak, low, broken… I feel like I am the only one in this relationship most of the time. I am very selfish, I guess, because I want to talk and spend time together. I just don’t know how to deal with everything…. I will keep doing all I can and pray for help.”

 

Imagine two people walking hand in hand across a vast field through mud that comes up over their knees. If they hold hands, lift each other and help each other, they will make it across the field. It won’t be easy, but they can do it. However, if one of them sits down in the mud and won’t help, they will never get anywhere. The one person still pulling cannot lift the other and carry them through. If both people are pulling, pushing, lifting, communicating, supporting, working, and trying hard together, they will make it across the field. That is what marriage should be like. Somehow, I believed Drake and Lindsay had accomplished crossing that wide field together and were more in love than before they started. It seemed like a miracle to me!

That’s not what my marriages had been like. Sometimes I wondered which one of us was the one in the mud or if, at times, we were both in the mud. There is no question I wasn’t perfect in my marriages. However, I can say that I desperately wanted all of my marriages to work, and I worked hard at it. 

The lessons I learned through the years changed me over and over. During and after every marriage, I took a good long look at myself to see where I had gone wrong. It has always been my intention to have a solid marriage, no matter how imperfect, that would last for eternity.

Just because we were sealed in the temple didn’t mean that it would all be rainbows and unicorns. I knew that. I also knew if we had both been willing to work, have patience, love, communicate, forgive, and have a common goal, none of my marriages would have ended in divorce. I wasn’t the best version of myself, I admit. Maybe I expected too much and wanted something different from life than Cooper did. In the end, we did not have the same goals for our future. We were very much unevenly yoked and struggled with communication regularly. I tried everything I could think of. In the end, however, there was no way to save any of the marriages.

There are definitely things that I could and should have done differently throughout my entire life. First off, I know that yelling at my first husband was a colossal mistake. I beg his forgiveness and pray he can forgive me for the pain this may have caused him. There was no excuse, and I never yelled at my other husbands. Outside of an emergency, there is never a good reason to yell at or disrespect a spouse in any way. I learned that lesson the hard way. 

Cooper could be very intimidating both mentally and physically. As the years went on, I learned a healthy respect for Cooper. Most call it fear. I have often wondered if I deserved this treatment and what I could have done differently to have changed it. I would have given anything to bring back the fun we had before getting married. He had been so very different when we were dating. Intimidation or manipulation should not be a part of any healthy relationship. Still, it happens more than a lot of people realize.

 

Journal Entry: “Life is a roller coaster! Just when you think it will slow down or even stop, the floor is pulled out from under you. I am so confused each day. One minute I think everything will work out, and the next minute, I don’t feel that I will ever stop falling.”

 

One night my eyes flew open as I woke from a deep sleep. I was suddenly afraid for my life, my heart pounding. The first thing I saw was the clenched fists of a big man, and I could hear his quick, anxious breathing shaking uncontrollably. I looked up and leaned back to get away. That’s when I saw it was Cooper. His dark eyes stared down at me, and his jaw was clenched tightly. Everything about him exuded complete anger, and it was terrifying! At that moment, I was afraid that this was it; he would hurt me physically this time. Before I could tell if he was asleep or awake, I gasped. He suddenly took a deep breath, his eyes softened, his hands unclenched and hung limply by his side. “I’m sorry,” he said sadly and walked into the bathroom with his head hanging down.

Sleeping never came easily to me and continued to get harder as the years passed. The ability to fall and stay asleep became even more elusive when Cooper started texting or calling me 200+ times all night long and sometimes during the day. He would ask me where I was, what I was doing, accuse me of being with another man, tell me I was a horrible person, and threaten me in many ways. After a few weeks, I stopped answering his texts and phone calls. All he wanted from me was to tell him everything was okay and that he was loved. He was acting very paranoid. Trying to keep him calm and help him feel safe in our relationship had become all-consuming and depressing. I couldn’t do it anymore. 

It wasn’t my job to make him happy. Everyone is responsible for their own happiness! I decided that I needed to focus on keeping my own head above water.

Long-term manipulation by making someone afraid, putting them down, threatening them, or making them feel guilty, is emotional and mental abuse. Again, it’s about having power and control over another person. It is sometimes more challenging to deal with than physical abuse. Marriage is a partnership.

When there was manipulation, I would find myself changing my actions accordingly. Once while Cooper was out of town, I missed him, so I put on one of his t-shirts. When he got home, he asked, “Why are you wearing my t-shirt?” With a smile and walking toward him in hopes of a hug, since I hadn’t seen him in a few days, I told him it was because I missed him and it smelled like him. His reply as he stepped back and turned to walk away from me was, “Well, that’s my t-shirt.” Shocked, I promised myself that I would never wear one of his t-shirts again. He never again wore that t-shirt, probably to make a point. Little things like that stuck in my head and changed how I acted and who I was inside.

Another time I told Cooper about some exciting news about a friend we both knew who had found out she was expecting a baby. Seeming upset with me, he complained, “Why would you tell me something like that?” So, I made a note in my mind that he didn’t want to hear about friends expecting babies. The next time we had a friend who was expecting, I didn’t say anything to Cooper about it. A few days later, he complained and asked me why I hadn’t told him the news. It was confusing.

 

Journal Entry: “I don’t know how to explain it. Cooper makes me feel inadequate and dumb. He makes little condescending remarks here and there and talks to me like I’m a child. He just came in and turned off the light, shaking the bed excessively all while huffing and puffing to get me to go to bed because he thinks it’s my bedtime too. I’ve moved to the bathroom to finish writing.

He frustrates me and hurts me. I probably do the same. I will work on my anger and humility and try to live up to his expectations.”

 

I never knew how to act around Cooper the entire time we were married. I wanted to just be myself, but who I was seemed to annoy him more and more every day. We would go out with friends or to an event, and he would look at me after I spoke with a look of, “Would you just shut up! Why are you even talking?” He would also ignore me and blatantly flirt with other women in the room. He would then criticize me for things that I had said or done on the way home. More times than not, he would censure me right in front of everyone instead of waiting until we left. It got to the point where I would speak very little and only when spoken to, but that drew his criticism as well. I was always wrong no matter what I did. 

Humiliating me in front of people seemed like a fun project for Cooper. One Sunday, during a time change, before all we had was digital clocks, I woke up and went around the house changing all of the clocks as Cooper quietly watched me. Then I got the kids up and started getting them ready for church. About an hour before church started, Cooper walked out the door without saying a word. I figured he just had a meeting or something. I finished getting the kids ready, and we headed out. When we walked into the church, there were quite a few people in the foyer. Cooper was there too so I started walking toward him. He pointed at me and laughed loudly as he said, “She changed all of the clocks after I had already done it! She can’t even get the time right.” He laughed as others laughed while looking at me with pity and embarrassment, unsure how to react. I could see on their faces that they were humiliated for me. I would have turned around and walked out, but I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction. I humored him and laughed to cover my embarrassment while walking past him. 

 

Journal Entry: “I woke up at 4:45 this morning and couldn’t go back to sleep. The feelings in my heart were so painful I thought I would explode. Like so many nights, I felt that screaming might be the only thing that would take away the pain. I’m not sure anything can.”

 

While these situations may seem minor issues on their own, they happened regularly, adding up to me becoming a totally different person. Making decisions based on how I thought Cooper would react and worried that I was always doing something wrong. 

Unsure if I should keep trying to be what he expected of me, which seemed impossible, or just letting it go and being myself was a constant internal battle. I was willing to do whatever it took to save my marriage. I became self-conscious everywhere I went and in every situation, whether Cooper was there or not. I’m sure that I seemed like a mental case to some people as I tried to be what everyone wanted me to be all the time. Of course, that’s not the way anyone should ever be. Acting is only for a stage and the movies. Always trying to please others, especially Cooper, made my depression deeper and darker. Still, I kept shoving it down so I could keep going. 

My experience with men, including while dating, proved to me that men, and I’m sure women as well, often put up a front at first. This may be a natural thing for all people, but after years of being what other people wanted me to be, I was over it!

 

Continue Reading…

Start at the beginning of the story

 

“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant… Now there are diversities of gifts but the same spirit.” 

1 Corinthians 12:1,4

The morning after our first date, I got a call from Drake at 6:30 am. I didn’t expect to hear from him again at all, much less the very next day! I figured he had heard about my crazy life, and he would decide never to contact me again. To be honest, I didn’t think he could handle my life at all. So, I was stunned to hear from him. 

He asked me if he could come over that morning on his way to work to say hello. How cute was that?! When he came by at 7:30 am, he asked if I wanted to go for a walk with him after he got off. I had a great time talking to him the night before, so I thought, “Sure, a walk will be nice.” Then he will for sure know there is no way we are even in the same league. Plus, my daughters would not be home, so it would be a relief not to be alone in my thoughts. 

Drake came by and picked me up at about 3:00 pm, and we went for a walk down the Jordan River path. It was scorching hot, and we both wished we had brought water with us. There weren’t very many people out because of the heat on that Sunday afternoon, so we found ourselves alone for a good two hours, maybe a little more.

Drake Journal Entry: “Well, I found someone. Her name is Charlotte. We met up for ice cream and spent 5 hours talking.”

As we walked, he told me about Lindsay’s superb ability to bake, especially pies, and all of her outstanding skills in the kitchen. She loved to eat as much as she loved to cook and she worked out hard to keep her amazing figure. He told me about her beauty inside and out. She had been a great mother and an incredible wife. There was a lot to learn as he shared story after story of family events where she had planned and cooked for everything. Lindsay was kind, enjoyed serving those around her, and loved everyone. She had a quiet yet snarky, sarcastic personality and her laugh was infectious. He said she always looked for the good in everyone she met and helped him be less judgmental. There were tales of the girl’s camps she had been on, neighborhood parties she planned, and family trips to Hawaii that were her favorite.

On their first date, at a dance, when he was introduced to her he thought she was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen and he fell head over heels. While they danced he sang in her ear and she fell for him too. Only three months later he had asked her to marry him, before going away to basic training and military school. He was gone for 5 months, and she waited. They got married 2 weeks after he got back.

His favorite things about Lindsay was that she was so fun to be with and she made him laugh. She made him feel like the best husband in the world and made him a better man. They would be driving down the road and when she saw a police car she would holler, “It’s the fuzz!” And they would laugh. Her spontaneity kept him on his toes and he loved how she would plan everything or just drop everything and say, “Let’s go!” She brought true joy to his life and it showed. 

One day Drake came home and asked Lindsay what she was doing for the weekend. “Not much,” she said. “Pack your bags!” He said. “We are going to the beach!” She put her hands on her hips and said, “Beaches are nothing to joke about Drake. This is serious business.” Her sister came over to watch the kids and they went away for the weekend. They had a blast!

Lindsay loved loud music when she was cleaning or when they were just in the car going to the grocery store. Her favorite band was Little River Band, and just about all rock bands like Journey, Foreigner, Asia, all of the 80’s bands. 

Drake was obviously kind, loving, fun, and excited about life. He knew everything that would make Lindsay happy because she told him. More importantly, he paid attention and did those things. He wanted to be better for God, himself, and for her every day. He said it was his job in life to add to her happiness, and it was one of his favorite things to do.

Lindsay was incredible at caring for their children, home, and so many necessary things. Drake supported them in every way a good husband and father should. Together with Lindsay, they lived a content and peaceful life for the most part. Working together they raised five independent, kind children who are all uniquely different and immensely loved by both Drake and Lindsay. 

Journal Entry: “I am 6 months older than Lindsay. Their love was a very different love than I have ever felt.”

Four years earlier Lindsay had gotten cancer and lost eyesight in one of her eyes in the battle. For years they thought she had beat it but then pain in her stomach took them back to the doctor. While in the cancer institute a few weeks before she passed, Lindsay tried to help pick out a wife for Drake. “Hey, honey! See that girl over there running? That’s the kind of girl you need to find. A runner.” He told her he didn’t want to think or talk about anything like that. She said, “I still have one good eye, and I’m going to help you find a honey before I die.” 

Months of pain in her stomach were the results of cancer returning and raging through her entire body. After extensive tests, they were told there was nothing to be done. Drake took her home and lovingly cared for her day and night until she passed a few short weeks later. Every one of those days were long and grueling for the entire family. They spent as much time with her as they could for as long as they could. It was one of the most excruciatingly painful times in their lives when she died. 

Life wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t perfect, but they lived a fairytale type of life. Learning to communicate and support each other their marriage became easier and easier, and they worked out a flow together. They knew each other’s love language, which helped them know what the other wanted and needed to be happy. They were open and completely honest with each other, having all of the hard discussions, listening to each other, and learning from each other. Making the necessary individual adjustments they grew together and become an unstoppable team. They put God first and each other very closely right after Him, creating a marriage for the books.

The stories about Lindsay and their life together were not shared with a feeling of missing and longing that was expected; it was with a desire to help me understand Drake and to know Lindsay. There was no question that he missed her and loved her deeply. He wasn’t telling me these things to brag about her or put her on a pedestal. He wasn’t telling me these things because he wanted to replace what he had with Lindsay. He told me because he wanted me to know her. He was talking about his life, and she was a huge part of it. They had been together for more than half of their lives. 

It was crushing for him to lose the love of his life in such a tragic way! He shed just a few simple tears as he spoke of how much his life had changed in the last few months. There was an impressive peace and calmness that he had regarding her passing and his future. It came from their preparation together and knowing where she was. She had important work to do on the other side and she made it very clear what she expected Drake to do when she was gone. 

They had dealt with her death together, in a special way, with the time they had after her final devastating diagnosis. Preparations were made, questions were asked and answered, and they shared the eternal hope and knowledge of being together again in the eternities. She had even gone the extra mile to ensure that Drake knew how to take care of the things she used to take care of, like the finances and things around the house. She had prepared him the very best she could for his next phase of life without her. 

Drake said he wished he had the gift to see spirits on the other side of the veil so he could see Lindsay. It was an honor and delightful to listen to him talk about Lindsay and their magical life. 

Drake Journal Entry: “I know Lindsay is super happy where she is. She’s home and has proved herself worthy of greater things. Missing her excessively will only keep her from her duties on the other side.”

With all of this information, I wondered if he just might be ready to date. But, I was surprised that I still didn’t feel Lindsay’s spirit as we talked. Usually, by this time, I would have felt something. “Well, yep… he’s a terrific guy and a wonderful catch! Lindsay was one lucky girl! Whoever he marries down the road will be very lucky as well. And boy! Will she have to be some kind of special to deserve such an incredible man like Drake,” I thought to myself.

Throughout the entire walk, I noticed a sense of hope and joy about him that I did not experience around other people. He was remarkable in some kind of way, and I wondered why. What made his life so different? Could he really be that happy all the time? What had he done right that gave him such hope and joy?

I didn’t think there was any way he could ever fall for a girl like me. Not with my trials and background. Not with my baggage and problems. I was broken. I had way too far to go to get to the point where I could ever consider getting into a relationship…. if I ever could. And, he didn’t seem like the kind to want to wait around once he found the one for him. Plus… I kept reminding myself… I was off the market. I wasn’t going to let myself fall for him no matter how incredible he was.

I briefly shared some of the stories of my life with him, much fewer than he shared with me because I wanted to know more about Lindsay and he enjoyed telling me about her. He listened intently and asked questions when he needed clarification while respecting my privacy. I was surprised at how well he listened and still didn’t seem shocked by my past.

He asked to hold my hand as we walked and I agreed. It was nice to be close to someone knowing that he didn’t want, need, or expect anything from me. We were just spending time together getting to know each other. It was enjoyable and relaxing…. And hot! Almost 100 with no wind at all!

Journal Entry: “I don’t want to be alone the rest of my life. I want someone to love!”

Close to the end of our walk, we both realized that we needed a drink to cool off. Drake wanted to take me to his house, but I knew that his children were there, and that wouldn’t work for me at all. It was way too soon for that, in my opinion. I suggested that he come to my house for a drink and maybe something to eat. 

We went to my house and found that the meat I had planned to cook had gone bad, so I didn’t have anything to make. Remembering how great of a cook Lindsay had been, I felt totally embarrassed. But, mostly I thought it was ironic and funny. I was pleased to see that he thought it was funny too, and that he didn’t judge me for not being as adept in the kitchen as Lindsay had been. We ended up having tortillas and cheese, and at least we were out of the heat!

Leaving Drake sitting at the kitchen table I got up to put the dishes in the dishwasher. When I was done, I turned around and leaned my back on the counter to face him as we talked.

The night before he said he was for sure looking for a wife. Since he knew I wasn’t looking for a husband, I knew I had to let him down easily. It would be difficult, but the sooner, the better before either of us started having feelings. It was time I told him that I thought he was amazing and a great catch, but that I simply didn’t see us being any more than friends. 

* * * * * * * * * *

When I was a teenager, we had a discussion in Sunday School about Spiritual Gifts. By the time I was 49, I had lived a complicated life and still had not figured out what any of my spiritual gifts were, or if I even had any. Over the years, I had wondered, “Do I not love the Lord enough? Am I not living the commandments? Have I not been faithful enough to have been given at least one spiritual gift? What kept me from finding them if I did have any?” 

In December of 2018, my older brother, Archer, passed away. He was only three months away from turning 51. Visiting him a little while before he passed, I knew that would be the last time I would see him alive. He was very sick and had been for a long time. When Archer was younger, before his terrible life choices changed him, he had helped me through many hard things. His passing left a hole in my heart.

He always had a book in his back pocket when we were kids. Usually Dickens’s “Tale of Two Cities” or one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” books. Archer had been an avid reader, and he knew the scriptures so well he could quote them or tell you where to find specific passages. 

When Archer was a teenager, he made a choice that he felt he could never be forgiven for. After that, he just gave up even trying. He was drinking, smoking, and living a very different lifestyle than we had grown up living. He got angry with God and lost his desire to change. It broke all of our hearts seeing him go down that dangerous slope from which he never recovered. Even though he had fallen away from the church long ago, and he had made some choices that made his life very arduous, he still held a special place in my heart.

Journal Entry: “I was told in a blessing recently that my Heavenly Father feels a great love for me and that I have a great purpose that is divine.”

The day he passed away, I was doing dishes when suddenly I heard Archer singing, “Kung Fu Fighting,” as if he was standing right behind me. Surprised at how real it sounded, I instinctively jerked around to see if he was there. At that moment, I could feel his spirit, along with the spirit of my sister, Anne, who had passed away when she was a baby, right behind me. Archer still looked very much like he did the last time I saw him except that his hair was short, and he was standing tall as if his back injury had healed. They both had goofy smiles on their faces, and Archer was laughing. He used to sing that song all the time, and he knew it drove me crazy, so he thought it was funny that he startled me. 

Journal Entry: “Archer passed away today. He is in heaven with Anne. I’m still praying for him. I miss him! I’m so glad I got to see him before he passed, and he let me serve him.”

The day I saw Archer, and Anne was the day I knew that what I had always thought was me making up things was really happening. Still keeping this primarily to myself, I started paying attention. It seemed to me there were spirits everywhere! It became overwhelming for a while until I learned how to block them out. 

The way I explain it is that when my spirit sees and hears people on the other side of the veil, my spirit translates it into a physical experience. I don’t actually see anything with my physical eyes. Although I think that would be amazing! Especially the day my brother passed away. Oh, how I wished I could have seen him with my physical eyes! I miss him every day!

Over the years, I have had vivid, recurring dreams about my older sister, Anne. Some of my siblings tell me that they had the exact same dream. We were in a large, green grassy field surrounded by a forest. There was a bench right in the middle, and she was there waiting for me. She stood up and opened her arms to hug me as I walked to her. She had darker blonde hair about shoulder length. It was straight except at the ends where it was curled under a little. She had the biggest smile! She was wearing a green shirt and brown pants. In my dreams, we would sit and talk. When I woke up, I couldn’t remember what we talked about but I always felt better.

On the day that my brother passed, and throughout the following year, I felt Archer and Anne often. I watched as Archer seemed to heal spiritually, and I saw a physical change in him as well. I was going through a tough time, so having them around gave me strength and comfort. It was also good for me to know, and especially to share with my parents who didn’t feel spirits, that Archer was progressing and he was with Anne. 

Journal Entry: “Last night I had a dream about Archer. Our family was in the Salt Lake City temple walking to the waiting room down a wide hallway when we saw Archer walking the other way. We called him to come with us. He looked like he did in high school so young and handsome. He had short hair and was healthy and happy. Turning to us and smiling his beautiful smile, he continued walking the other way as if he knew something we didn’t know.”

Wanting to know more, I went to speak with someone I trusted entirely about what was happening. So far, it almost felt more like a curse than a blessing, because I could feel so many spirits around me all the time. My mind had become so noisy that it was hard to focus. I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t making any of this up and that what I was experiencing wasn’t coming from the wrong source. More than anything, I didn’t want to be deceived. 

We had a very long, detailed talk that was essential to my progression with this gift. He helped me understand that this was a gift, not a curse, and how to learn more about it. He helped me know how to manage it and tell if it was me, Satan, or the real thing. Having this spiritual gift himself, he knew exactly how to guide me. It changed my perspective totally.

Since then, I have been studying spiritual gifts, praying about them, and trying to learn as much as I can about how they work and what their purpose is in my life. The most important thing I have learned is that these experiences can easily be misinterpreted if they are not managed by staying close to my Heavenly Father. Having continual faith and staying close to the Holy Ghost is critical.

My experiences with spirits on the other side of the veil are extraordinary and come with great responsibility. I do not take this lightly. It was a great relief when I was told that this gift is only to be used with family and in very unique situations as directed by the Holy Ghost. I have been told several times that I should be a medium, but I personally don’t believe that is what the gift is for. Once I realized this and verbalized it, many spirits that had been following me, wanting me to share their message, left. This was confirmation to me, and I assume to them as well, that their message wasn’t one I was supposed to share.

Journal Entry: “I had the most incredible blessing! I was told that my potential and abilities are great. I was blessed to find my purpose! I was told that I radiate light wherever I go and if I keep this light and remember it I will have joy!”

My great-grandmother is my guardian angel and I feel her with me when I need her the most. One day I was telling my mother about her and that’s when my mother told me to look at a photo. Until then, I didn’t know it was my great-grandmother. It has been an honor to know that she takes the time to watch out for me. 

There have been many personal, miraculous, and incredible experiences that have blessed my life. Over time I have learned that spirits from the other side are very near, and they do communicate with us. If a spirit from another family speaks to me, I know I need to be very careful. This is a spiritual gift that I have come to love and value. It has truly blessed my life and also many of my family members. 

I have no control over when it happens but when it does I pay close attention and consider it a sacred experience. Some experiences, I’ve come to understand, are meant to be shared so those who listen, especially with their hearts, can learn. The Holy Ghost helps me know when to share and what to share. There are some that have not only changed my life but will change the lives of those who hear them. Some will believe and some will not believe. Those who chose not to believe need not listen.

 

Continue Reading….

Start at the beginning of the story

 

“…all children are alike unto me; wherefore, I love little children with a perfect love; and they are all alike and partakers of salvation.” 

Moroni 8:17

Turning around after putting the dishes in the dishwasher, suddenly off to my left, I saw Lindsay. At first, it startled me because I had not felt her spirit since meeting Drake so I didn’t expect to ever see her. He had a photo of her face on his phone, but that was all I knew about what she looked like. She looked very similar to the photo, including the smirk on her face and soft curly shoulder-length hair. She was standing just about a foot or two behind Drake off his right shoulder. She had something in her hands that I thought was a white cloth or blanket with something in it. Both hands were under whatever it was that she was holding. I believe she was dressed in white, but mostly I remember that she was holding something white.

At first, she was looking at me intently with that smirk, like, “Hey there, Charlotte. I need your attention, please.” She would also look over at Drake, smile a sweet smile, and shake her head, like he was saying something funny to her. 

There was a man on her right, just a few feet behind her. He was tall with dark hair, a sharp jawline, and dark eyes. He was wearing a white shirt, black vest, and black pants. They looked like clothes back from the late 40s or 50s. He had a very memorable face, and I knew if I ever saw a picture of him, which was unlikely, I would recognize him.

The wall of my kitchen behind Lindsay and the man seemed to fade away. Instead, I could see far past where they were standing. It was covered by a flowing veil, so I couldn’t see anything perfectly. There were a few people and I could hear a hum of chatter and feel a rushing of emotions. A few adults and children in white were hurrying around while others appeared to be waiting and watching, curious about what was happening in my kitchen. 

I stood there looking into Drake’s eyes and yet seeing this scene simultaneously. Seeing and hearing Lindsay with my spirit, she was very clearly giving me a message. As quickly as someone switched on a light in the darkness, her message filled my mind. I understood it all completely as it was a very pure form of communication. 

“Here we go!” I thought. He will freak out when I tell him what is happening and what I am experiencing. He will think I am trying to manipulate him or that I am lying, and he will leave. But, the message was so intriguing that I had to tell him and find out the answers to the questions. 

At that time, I had still been wondering if my gift was real, but I knew without a doubt that this experience was happening right then. So, why not just tell him? I mean, I was just going to tell him that he was a great guy and all, but I didn’t think it was going to work out anyway. So, what did I have to lose? Quickly pondering if I should tell him, my curiosity got the better of me.

“Was Lindsay taller than you?” I asked. (Since he was sitting I couldn’t tell for sure, but she seemed very tall to me.) Drake said that she was almost exactly his same height, but she had scoliosis, so she was just a little shorter than he was. He said that with a perfect spirit, she would most likely be slightly taller or even his same height.

Taking a deep breath, I said, “Lindsay’s here now, and she is about your same height or a little taller. She wants me to tell you something.” He said okay, so I plowed forward. “She says to stop asking her if I’m the one. She says she won’t answer that for you. Lindsay said that she told you she trusted you to make your own decision, and she would leave it up to you to choose.” 

Drake Journal Entry: “She stops and tells me that Lindsay was there and she was trying to communicate with me. It didn’t feel weird at all. In fact, I started to cry.”

He looked down and got a little teary-eyed. He didn’t reply for a bit while he got his emotions under control. So, I asked, “Does that make sense?” 

Looking up at me from his chair he asked, “She did? She said those exact words?” When I confirmed again that she had, he said, “Yes, it does make sense. I was just asking her that exact question. She told me those exact words many times before she passed. That she wouldn’t tell me who to marry. That she trusted me to make my own decision, and she would leave it up to me.” 

So I asked him, in as light of a tone as possible, “What the heck? Why are you asking if I’m the one on our second date? You don’t even know me!” and I laughed nervously, waiting to hear the answer.

The surprising thing was that he didn’t get up and run out of the house. He just sat there staring at me. He believed me, and I had confirmation that what I had heard and seen was real. This really was Lindsay. 

Drake Journal Entry: “Lindsay told her that she was happy and that when I was ready, I was to continue forward.”

It was so crazy! I hadn’t been imagined things! Also, it explained why she had not shown up before then. Lindsay knew that she wanted Drake to decide on his own and she had told him she wouldn’t interfere. 

I asked Drake about the man with her and described him. He said he didn’t know who it could be. For a good long while, I couldn’t get that man out of my mind. 

Then something even more extraordinary happened! Lindsay shared something with me that would change my perspective of a relationship with Drake, and the possibilities of a future that I could never have imagined. It gave me understanding and changed my heart completely. 

In one split second, I learned a lifetime of knowledge. It was a kind of unearthly clarity of expression that I cannot explain. There were no physical words that could have expressed what I suddenly knew and saw from the past, present, and future… all simultaneously. I knew it was true, and I knew I could never forget or deny it. 

This “knowing,” as I like to call it, was only for me right at that moment. Lindsay told me not to tell Drake any of this yet, which I didn’t, but that I would know when to share it with him at a later time. Plus, I needed time to digest such a powerful message. A tiny seed of hope, peace, and joy was planted inside of me all at once and it stopped me from telling Drake goodbye that day. It was almost as if I had left my body for that one split second. My spirit was filled to the brim with incredible loving knowledge.

Lindsay showed me what it was like to be loved by Drake. She showed me a speed version of their life. I instantly knew what his love felt like from her perspective, starting from the day they fell in love until now and going into eternity. There was a perfect understanding of how she felt as he carefully and tenderly protected her and took care of her and their children. She loved him with her whole heart. He was the man of her dreams. She missed him, and she knew it was only a short time before they would be together again for eternity. There was an everlasting feeling in her heart of love, security, and safety from him that filled her soul, even now. Her love for each of her children was also expressed in such a way that words cannot describe. It was real, complete, and continued growing every day. She showed me how she watches over them, and how she is there for them when they need her.

Drake Journal Entry: “Could I be so lucky to be married to Lindsay and have an amazing love for 30 years and then find another wonderful woman that likes to do all things that I do!?”

It was a surreal experience when she next showed me Drake’s heart and how he felt about her right at that moment. Yes, he was sad that she was gone. But, he knew certainty beyond worldly description why she had to leave, where she was now, and the work she had to do on the other side of the veil. He knew what she wanted because he knew her so well and they had talked about it so many times; she didn’t want him to be alone for the rest of his earthly life. 

Drake knew without hesitation that his love for Lindsay was eternal, and he was at peace with her life and death. There were no words that could have explained the pure feelings I felt in his heart right then. He knew she had done all she needed to do here on earth, and she didn’t need to prove anything else. He still felt her love for him and knew without a doubt that their love would continue to grow forever.

Then she showed me the love he was developing for me. She showed me what it would be like in the future, and how it would grow and develop into the eternal, loving peace that I had always wanted. The true joy that she had experienced with him was very different, and yet the same, as the joy I could feel with him. It was a love that would never end and would continue to expand every moment of every day forever into eternity, just as theirs would.

The love he was beginning to develop for me was surprising, to say the least! He had only known me for less than 24 hours, yet he seemed to have known me for much longer than that. What I saw in his heart was familiarity. How could that be? How did he have such strong feelings for me so early? I felt behind in my feelings. Had he known me before yesterday? Why was he asking if I was the one? Why did I feel such peace and calm in his heart surrounding his growing feelings for me…. a stranger? It made no sense.

It was incredible to then feel overpowering love from Lindsay’s spirit to mine! It was pure, and there was no jealousy. No envy. No hesitation. She loved me deeply as a sister. Yet, it felt even more profound than the love of a sister somehow. It was different from anything I had experienced. 

She loved me for how much I loved her before we came to earth, which was an ethereal feeling! I could tell that she knew me…. everything there was to know. She loved me for the trials I had lived through that had brought me to this point in my life and for all I had learned because of them. There was love there for… what I had done for her! That made no sense to me. Had I known her before? How did she know me so well? Could she see my heart as I could see hers? These questions, and many more, flowed through my mind while everything was being shown to me.

Going even deeper into her own heart, I felt her love for me expand because of the love I would develop for Drake. She loved me for how I would care for him for the rest of my life, and together with her into eternity. She loved me for my acceptance of the ability, that she had just given me, to encourage Drake to continue growing his love for her, even as my love for him grew.

She loved me with an eternal love that cannot be expressed here on earth. She loved me for how I would help her children, and my own, come together to make a tremendous, eternal family. She loved me for the experiences in my past that would help me help her children find their way in the world. She loved me for how her children would eventually come to be my friends and allow me to take part in their lives. She loved me for how I would care for her grandchildren. It was all so incredible!

Drake and Lindsay’s life together was something to be envied and written about in a fairytale. But, having seen the full scope of their experience, I knew there would never be a fairytale good enough to match their true love story…. Until she showed me that mine and Drake’s real-life story would be a fairytale too. Knowing that Drake was supposed to be here for me now, she supported us and encouraged us to build a relationship together. The plan had been decided before we even came to earth. Drake, Lindsay, and I would have something special, and many people needed to know that what we would have is possible and wonderful.

Their life had been easier and more simple than mine for many eternal reasons, some of which she showed me. She knew that what she showed me gave me a glimpse of something incredible and that it would be impossible for me to continue without this perfect knowledge. At that moment I knew what was possible with Drake…. if I let him, and Lindsay, into my heart and life.

Journal Entry: “I have felt her and her love for him. I feel his love for her. Wow! It’s amazing to me that such strong love exists. I see it in my parents, so I know it is possible, but to feel it like I do with them… to be in the middle of it but not feel any jealousy.”

Lindsay went one step further to show me the day Drake and I would be sealed in the temple for time and all eternity. We were kneeling across the altar, all dressed in white. I could only see Drake, the sealer, two witnesses.… and Lindsay. The chairs behind Drake were all empty. I remember thinking that it would be possible that no one would be at our sealing due to COVID, so that made sense. She was standing to the left of Drake in front of the sealer and witnesses. She had her right hand on his shoulder. 

Seeing this scene, I wondered if he would ever be able to see her, at least on that day in the temple. As I thought that, she instantly told me that he wouldn’t ever see her because it would be too hard for him. It would break him and take him into a deep depression from which he may never come out. Even though he is strong and is dealing with things very well, it would make his life almost unbearable if he were to see her again on this earth. However, she would be with him when he needed her.

This complete knowledge was planted in my heart and spirit so entirely that it still feels like it happened just yesterday. Feeling it perfectly through my soul, I was changed forever. They are very different kinds of love. The love Lindsay has for Drake. Drake’s love for Lindsay. His love for me (if I allowed myself to be loved by him). The love I could develop for Drake. The love she has for me. And the love I’ve always had for her that had been in my spirit from the beginning. They are individual, yet perfectly intertwined. 

Even after having this experience, I could still feel overwhelming fear and terror at ever getting into another relationship, much less a marriage. Not just because of what I had been through, but also what it had put my children through. Perfect knowledge of the past, present, and future still may not be enough to overcome the deepest ruts of fear left in my soul.

* * * * * * * * * *

I had been told when I was 14 that I could never have children, but I had always hoped they were wrong. After a miscarriage and a few years of taking fertility pills, I finally got pregnant with my first child. I went into early labor at about 20 weeks, halfway through. Then I spent the rest of the pregnancy in and out of the hospital and on bed rest. At 32 weeks, I had spent a week in the hospital when they said the baby was in distress and they needed to take me for a c-section. Born at 3 lbs 2 oz and 17 inches long, my son wasn’t breathing at first. Luckily I was asleep while they revived him. Watching the video of that day still makes me hold my breath! 

It wasn’t easy, but I managed to have five exceptional children. They became my world! Getting them here was challenging for me in many ways. I spent months on bed rest and in a lot of pain from a broken pubic bone, early labor, back pain, and/or morning sickness that lasted well into my 2nd trimester. By the time they allowed me to deliver my children, they came super fast. They were anxious to get here, I guess! They are such a sweet blessing to me, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything! I am so proud of each of them. My children make me want to be better every day. 

Journal Entry: “I have to find a way to give all of my children what they need. I will always be their constant. I will never leave.”

I love them unconditionally. What does that mean to me? It means I love them totally and completely without reservation. They have been a constant in my life, and I pray they always will be. Unconditional love doesn’t mean that I love their decisions, some of the choices they make, or the things they do. Those are separate things from loving them.

Even though they had different fathers, my children were treated and acted like full siblings. No one can tell that they have different fathers when they are together. There were never any steps or half in our home. This was something I was adamant about. The sound of “half-sister” or “step-brother” seemed to me like half of a relationship. It was important to me that my children, and any siblings they may have from either parent, know they were loved completely in our home. Even Cooper’s children from a different marriage were considered full siblings to my children. They were all welcome in my home no matter who their parents were. 

I hate seeing what divorce did to my children! Each time I went through a divorce or marriage, they had to go through it too. And it changed their lives. Protecting them as much as I could became a mission for me from the very start. Not getting married a fourth time seemed the best way at the time to protect them. They had to grow up really fast, being the children of not just one, but three divorces. The good thing was that it brought them closer together as siblings and as a family.

The best advice I was ever given was never to criticize Cooper in front of my children, never use the children to try to hurt Cooper, and always support their relationship with their father. This advice was given to me very early in my first divorce. I will always be grateful to the neighbor who suggested this and told me about her experience. Her parent’s divorce made her life extremely challenging, even as an adult.  Because of her parents fighting and putting her in the middle of their battle, she had no relationship with either parent. I did not want that to happen to me or my children! 

Her experience taught me to allow my children to decide their relationship with both their father and me, separately and on their own terms. Even when parents are married, children need to have a separate relationship with each parent. It only makes sense that children of divorce do the same thing. 

My children lived with me and had visitation with their father. None of us are perfect, but I sincerely did my very best not to interfere or talk badly about their father. I saw no reason to put them in the middle of our problems. It wasn’t their business to know or understand why their father and I got divorced. But, it was extremely important for them to know that it was not, in any way, their fault. Encouraging and supporting their relationship with their father, I believe helped them know that was true.

Children are smart! They know what is going on even though we try to protect them. They figure out all on their own, without being told, the true nature of the people in their lives. It’s part of growing up for everyone. 

Even now that my children are adults, I encourage them to stay in touch with their father, especially on holidays and when special things happen in their lives. They know he loves them in his own way. When it comes to their father, they know they don’t have to respect or agree with his choices, but they always need to respect him as their father. This is important in any relationship they are in, including with me, each other, and anyone else significant in their lives.

While I was remarried the children had to live with my husband, who was not their father. It was vital during these times for them to understand that my husband was to be respected as my husband and that he did not, nor ever would, replace their father. Their father’s love didn’t change for them when we got divorced, nor did mine. 

Visitation was an ongoing struggle. Cooper often wanted to change the schedule, and when possible, I accommodated him. However, it became a regular request which caused issues for us both. Sometimes, he would just show up at the door and ask to take the children. When the children were very young, I felt it was best to stick to the regular schedule and not change it unless it was for something really important. It was also the best thing for the children to be on a routine. Plus, I planned family events around the visitation schedule. Cooper didn’t seem to understand these things were best for the children. He thought it was me trying to keep the children from seeing him, which wasn’t true. 

Journal Entry: “As a parent, there should be some things that I know and do to help my children. It is up to Cooper and me to teach them about the gospel, all things spiritual, and about being a child of God. We are also supposed to teach them everything they need to know to live in this world safely and with joy. There are others involved too, but parents are mainly responsible along with our Heavenly Father’s help. 

I love my children! I want them to be obedient, kind, loving, and responsible. I want them to always feel loved. 

Our Father in Heaven loves us. He doesn’t yell, scream, or spank. He is humble, patient, and forgiving. He is always merciful. Why can’t I be? I know God wants me to be. He expects it of me and has told me I am capable. 

It will show in my behavior when I am failing miserably.”

When the children were young, they had to take everything with them. At first, I would pack everything they needed, expecting Cooper to bring it all back when he brought the children home. That didn’t work out. So then we tried having some things at Coopers and some stuff at my home. I thought this would also help the kids feel more at home in both places and make it so they didn’t have to pack as much. That didn’t work out either when Cooper would keep anything extra they brought with them and never return anything after being asked several times. This was very frustrating because I didn’t have much money, and replacing things was expensive. Having things get lost between both homes was very hard on the children.

It was Cooper’s and my responsibility to make this as easy on the kids as possible. We both could and should have done better! I think all parents can look back and see that they could have done things better. We aren’t perfect, and children don’t come with manuals. However, we can learn from the experiences of others and make an effort to improve.

The older the children got, especially in their teenage years, the more they wanted to choose to go with Cooper or not. Being responsible for their own stuff at both houses made things a little easier. But, as they got older projects, church activities, school activities, homework, friends, attitudes, and other things became an issue. Finding a balance between encouraging them to go and feeling like I shouldn’t force them, was the new challenge. 

In my opinion, once a child is old enough to decide, they should be allowed to choose, and parents should respect that without bringing their own baggage into the discussion. Don’t parents that are married try to do that? It’s my belief that divorced parents should too. For me, the children were more important than mine and Cooper’s frustration with each other. I feel that a child should not be a legal issue caused by their parents’ problems! Allowing children to determine how to spend their time, when possible, should be a parent’s priority. Especially in divorce! Children of divorce need more of our time and attention, especially when they feel vulnerable or lost. 

Journal Entry: “I am trying so hard to be a good mother. Being a mother is much harder than I ever dreamt it would be. I am amazed at how much I learn each day I spend with my children. Am I here to teach them or vice versa? 

Liam was walking from school in a snowstorm the other day. He said, ‘I heard you calling me telling me to walk a different way.’ As it turns out, I had gone down the wrong street by accident, and there he was! 

If Liam had not listened and walked the way he usually did, we would have missed each other. Who knows what kind of panic that would have caused us both! I’m so grateful to have a child who listens when it’s important!”

Cooper and I agreed before our divorce that we would both raise our children the same way we had been raising them while we were married. Meaning we would talk to each other about the children, not let the children play us against each other, and have the same rules at both houses that we had in our home before the divorce. That was a pipe dream I guess because it didn’t happen. Cooper had his own rules at his house. They even went to different churches each week for a while until they stopped going altogether. I never allowed alcohol in my home before or after the divorce, but there was alcohol in Cooper’s house. The kids quickly realized they could get away with just about anything when they were there. Sometimes they would go just because they had restrictions at home like bedtimes, movies, chores, internet use, phone restrictions, and especially consequences for actions, etc.

When dealing with children and divorce, there are many things to be concerned about. There are so many legal rules that have to be followed. Differences in opinion make rules harder to live by. The priority should always be on what the children need. We have to follow the rules set forth by law in a visitation schedule and divorce decree. However, if parents can put their own issues aside and do what’s best for the children, wouldn’t that be better? The problem… it takes two! Both parents must have the children’s interests forefront of their minds always. They must be willing to do whatever it takes to help the children…. in all the ways!

Life with me was totally different than life with Cooper. Through all three divorces, I tried to keep things constant in my home. I moved a few times, but Cooper moved a lot which was very difficult on the children. He even moved out of state or out of the country, making it harder for the children. While living with me, our religion and house rules remained constant from the first divorce. Children need some kind of structure, especially when they are young. When parents are divorced, structure often goes out the window, at least for one parent, if not both.

Journal Entry: “Cooper asked what kind of turkey I wanted for Thanksgiving. I explained not to worry about it; I would cook it. He then said, ‘You!? You haven’t graduated from chicken 101 yet! This is a $17 turkey. If you mess it up, that wouldn’t be good. After you spend $20 on spices and things, we will have lost $40 and still not have a turkey.”

Cooper would criticize me, manipulate the children, or even talk about parenting things the children didn’t need to hear. Even married parents talk about issues regarding the care and concerns of their children, finances, scheduling, certainly relationship things, etc. in private.  As I said, children are smart and they learned as they got older what was true and what was manipulation. 

Manipulating a spouse, children, or anyone for that matter, is never okay! Saying something like, “Well, I bought you that birthday gift you wanted, so don’t you think you should do something for me?” This is emotional abuse. Period. 

When this happened, the children would ask me what to do because they felt hurt and confused. Trying to explain manipulation without putting Cooper down was hard, but it got easier the more times I did it. I would say things like, “Your father loves you and wants to spend time with you. That’s all he’s trying to say. It’s up to you whether you chose to do something even though a gift was purchased.” Sometimes I wonder if I did the right thing, but I wanted to learn not to be manipulated to protect them. Children learn from their parents and I didn’t want them to learn to become manipulators themselves.

The children wanted to tell Cooper about their schedules or reasons for doing something different than what he wanted, but he wouldn’t believe them. This caused contention not just between Cooper and myself but also between him and the children too. They would often ask me why Cooper did certain things, and I did my best to explain without putting him down. “Your father just does things differently than I do, but he does love you. He’s doing the best he can. Talk to him and let him know how you feel.” This was a go-to for me many times when the children were frustrated. 

I did my best not to come between the children and their father, even when they asked me to call him and tell them how they felt about something. When they were older I would encourage them to talk to him first, and then if they needed help I would be there for them. We talked about ways they could discuss things with their father which helped them become better communicators as adults. 

Journal Entry: “I love them all so much! It breaks my heart to see them having such a hard time.”

My children know they can talk to me about anything, and I will do my very best not to get mad. They have told me many things that I thought was too much information, but I am glad they know they could talk to me about anything. When I did stupid things in the past, and even now, they call me out and talk to me about it. Before the children (now as adults especially) start to tell me something, I ask them if they just want me to listen or if they want my advice. If they just want me to listen, I bite my tongue until it bleeds if I have to. 

The most important thing for me has always been to protect my children the best I could from my choices and decisions. Now that they are older and living their own lives, we talk about things that happened, and I regularly ask their forgiveness because I was far from perfect. I’m grateful for their patience with me through some of the darkest times in my life!

We worked through a lot of difficulties but we also had a lot of fun, and still do. My main desire throughout everything was to keep my children together. We are very blessed that we accomplished that together.

 

MORE TO COME!

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