“My advice to you is to soften into the discomfort. Accept it. Know that it’s gifting you growth, fuel and grit. Whatever it may be that you’re claiming this year as your desire and dream. I wish you the comfort within the discomfort. The stillness within the unease. The softening within the stretch. And mostly, I wish you the match that lights and revives the fire to keep you going. Because you can. Keep going.”- Victoria Erickson
We have all had one of those events in life that changed our course forever. The kind that really test your faith, your patience, your resilience and your character as well as those that open up doors you never knew were even there. If you haven’t…. you will. It’s only a matter of time.
There are small moments that test you but you quickly regroup and bounce back. Then there are those moments that are life altering, where from that point forward you are keenly aware that life will never be the same again. Often times it’s easy to get lost in the disappointment or the pain of these moments. To feel sorry for yourself and fall into that pit of anger, denial, resentment and despair. What I’ve learned over the past 10 years is that these moments ARE what define your character and your life. They are what whittle your weaknesses to mold a strong, bold, wise new you and to open doors that you never knew were available to you.
In 2007, Jeff and I were newlyweds living in Galveston, Texas. I was in grad school at University of Texas Medical Branch and he was fresh off deployment, out of the military and looking for a new career. He applied and went through the many hoops you must jump through to get on with the DPS, as a highway patrolman. Ultimately this did not work out and it was devastating news. We had zero income and little to no plan in regards to Jeff’s future. It was a hard blow and I remember vividly crying and praying to God asking, “Why and where were we supposed to go from here? What does our future hold?”
Fast forward to 2011. We were living on a ranch in Hamilton. I had just graduated from grad school, finally working and earning an income. My commute was 50 miles one way and his hours on the ranch were 24/7. We had a beautiful baby girl in February of 2011 so we really started wondering if this was the life we wanted to settle into. The commute was brutal, ranching was an amazing life but I could tell Jeff was not fulfilled in that position.
In November 2011, I got a call that would change my life forever. My cousin Scott had been killed in a car accident leaving behind his wife and 18 month old daughter. I had never experienced this type of loss in my life. I had gone through the passing of all four of my grandparents and while painful, this sudden and tragic loss was life altering. I was devastated, confused, and totally unsure of how to handle such a loss, specifically as a new mother. Life changes when you become a mother… I can’t explain it but it was so painful experiencing not only his death but the ripple effects afterwards. One month after his loss, Jeff and I decided that we needed a change.
Waco was my hometown, all of our friends lived here, Jeff felt a sense of belonging and ultimately we decided to move back to Waco and create a home here. I found a job and we moved with the idea that Jeff would work for my families business at least until he figured out something else. We bought a house and settled in to our new life in Robinson. Law enforcement seemed like a logical career choice once again coming out of the military so Jeff again applied to a local police department. I could not get over the nagging feeling, that while valiant and very well respected, I didn’t feel like that was where Jeff was meant to be. Jeff made it to the final rounds of the cut but ultimately on the final day the PD called to inform us that they would not be hiring a new officer after all. This felt like another door slammed shut in our faces. It seemed as though every time Jeff pursued a career, he was promptly denied. We were angry, confused, and again unsure of why this happened and exactly what our future held. There were many prayers that he would find something to fulfill his passion. A career that would allow him to be proud of the work he did, and to be satisfied.
January 25th, 2013 we welcomed our second baby girl, Leighton Caroline. Our family joined us at the hospital to welcome its newest member. We made promises that they would all come back in a week or two when we were home and settled in to actually get to spend some time with her. A week later, February 2, 2013 we again, got a call that would changes our lives forever.
Jeff’s brother had been murdered. I can’t even begin to tell you the emotions that came with that phone call. (That night is another story all together.) Our lives were forever changed in that brief moment. For the following 6 months to a year Jeff practically took on the career of filling in for and taking care of his brothers affairs, all while attempting to continue to make income for our family. He worked two other jobs, and spent time traveling to speaking engagements, events, etc. We created a foundation and began hosting a benefit in honor of Chris and his memory. Events, new people, new opportunities, amazing friends but all in the shadow of grief and loss.
Now looking back, there IS a straight a narrow path that I could have never predicted. God had a complete plan laid out. He could see an ending that I could not. I get emotional just thinking about how perfect his plan was for us. Had Jeff gotten on with the DPS, we would not have been able to move back to Waco after the loss of Scott. His untimely passing was the catalyst for our move back to Waco. Had we not moved back to Waco, we would not have had the family, friends and overwhelming support of the Waco community when Chris was taken from us. I am honestly not sure our family could have survived his loss without such an amazing support system. Had Jeff gotten on with the local PD, he would not have had the freedom to really step in and participate in everything that he was called to do after Chris’ loss. Had Chris not been taken too early, we would never have met all the amazing people we know now. We would have missed the opportunity to be involved in our foundation, the veteran community and the heartfelt patriotism there. We would not have the opportunity to raise our girls in this environment that is so important to us. We are different people because of the circumstances we survived.
I am not saying that I would not take Scott or Chris back in a heartbeat. We are broken and their absence will forever leave a hole in our hearts and lives but in the resentment, the anger, the denial, the why’s… I really look back and see the meaning for our loss and our lives. I really learned that despite what happens, true faith that it will happen the way it’s supposed to and complete confidence that I am being held and guided by a higher being is the ultimate comfort.
You never know what a new year will bring. Great joy, abundant blessings or heartache, loss and grief. Either way, your heart and your character are being molded. Your future and your journey are already written and you can have faith going forward that you are exactly who you are supposed to be and you are living the life and traveling the journey that you are supposed to be on. Cherish every person you meet because they are placed in your path for a reason. Embrace every moment that makes your heart swell with pride and brings tears to your eyes from pure joy. But also embrace the moments that you fall, deep and dark. Those moments you fall on your knees and pray because you are not strong enough to stand. God WILL put you through more than you can handle, because it’s at that moment that you truly concede and give Him your trust. I’ve been in that place, I’ve knelt and cried and put my head in his lap and said, “You have to carry me now. I can’t go any farther.” He does. He carries you out. Have faith and trust in THAT going into the new year.