Over the last few years, I've been asked "how do you keep a smile on your face with all you've been through" or "can you teach me how to just "let go and let God" when I'm caught in a storm?". I can probably answer the first question better than I can answer that second one. The first one is simple...at least in my mind. My faith and by God's grace. I've had some amazing prayer warriors too but I know Who was in charge through it all. I wish I had some simple formula or solution to give you all about how to be strong or how to let go.
"I'm strong because being strong is all I've ever known." Kimberly Hackett
This, however, is a learned thing. It took me a really long time to learn how to do this. And it took me at one of my darkest times with no where else left to turn or no where to get answers. It took me lying in bed broken beyond all measure with tears flowing and crying so hard I could barely catch my breath, that I surrendered it all. I told God "You're going to have to do something. You're going to have to take control. I don't know what else to do and I can't do this anymore." And I closed my eyes and went to sleep that night, waking up the next morning to the most comforting peace and knowing it was all going to be okay. I don't know how to tell y'all to do that except you have to trust in your faith in God and know His grace is bigger than anything you can imagine. The other question or comment I hear the most is "you are one of the strongest people we've ever met" or "how are you strong through all this crap you've gone through?". I've had to give that one some thought. That one also stems from my faith and God's grace. But in all honesty, strong is all I've ever known. I was raised to be strong. Not by choice. By necessity. I grew up in a mentally abusive home. I had just turned 11 when my older brother had an accident which caused a cerebral hemorrhage. He wasn't supposed to live through the night according to the brain surgeons but that was 1985...he's still here and as fiery as his little sister is. That's two of my moms kids who've beat all odds stacked against them and told they wouldn't live through the night. What can I say, we are fighters. But from that day of him getting sick, that little girl had to learn how to be strong. My mom was never the same. My brother become her world. Her world literally revolved around him. I remember having to be the one to call 911 when he'd have a seizure because she would just go to pieces. He had years of therapy. I got myself a little volunteer job as a candy striper at the Veterans hospital while he did therapy.
I became very independent at the age of 11.
My daddy was my rock and thankfully, he was a strong person as well and taught me that no matter what, we would get through it....no...matter...what. "Kimmy, it will all be okay." How I'd love to hear that sweet voice say that to me still. Since then, I've gone through a very rocky marriage that included drugs, painful miscarriages, two rough pregnancies but getting some absolutely beautiful baby boys into this world, post partum depression, watching my 28 day old son have to have stomach surgery to save his life, multiple hospital stays, multiple surgeries, facial parlysis, partial facial reanimation surgery to regain function that had a 50/50 shot of working, surviving septic shock after multiple organs had started shutting down, hearing the doctor say she's dying and telling my family I probably wouldn't live through the night, I've lost some friendships and I've had to distance myself from family members because of some absolutely brutal comments and attitudes towards me and my family. All very painful.
The past two years through a new curve ball at me. Doctors were finally able to put fingers on what was wrong with me all these years thankfully and my health has been improving the past several months.
But last year sent me spiraling down into a dark hole. The end of July I lost a best friend to suicide. That morning my sweet friend Nancy took me by the hand off to myself to tell me he had shot himself still resignates in my mind. I had the normal feelings I think anyone would have. How could I not know? Why didn't I see he was struggling? Guilt and hurt. It shook me pretty hard. 3 weeks later, I got a call from my mom who was crying so hard I couldn't make out what she was saying. I woke up that morning with such a sick gut feeling. I knew something was wrong but nothing could've prepared me for what she was about to tell me. The call came in 40 minutes after I woke up. She finally gets out "Jaime's dead. She was killed in a car accident this morning." My little sister was gone. Of course the strong in me kicked in because my mom was obviously broken down. I calmly told her to stop crying, it would be okay. I really don't remember what else I said but when I hung up, I just stared at the wall in disbelief. Why? God I was already so broken hearted over my friend Charles. Why now is Jaime gone? How am I supposed to handle this? Rattled was an understatement. But I held myself together the best I could. Crying when I needed to. Seeking God's grace and to keep me strong through this.
2 months to the day after Jaime died, I got another phone call that I had been dreading. My daddy had been very sick for a while and was on hospice. I was sick with a nasty upper viral infection. The chaplain on the other end of the phone asked me was I alone and if I had someone to come be with me among some other questions. I calmly told him I knew why he was calling me and he could go ahead and tell me what he needed to tell me. I knew what I was about to hear. "Your daddy just passed. And I'm very sorry. I'm here with him and your mom. Your sister is on her way here." I thanked him and told him to please keep an eye on my mom. I hung up and sat down in the floor. Shaken? Rattled? Not this time. I was beyond broken. I did my dad's funeral arrangements by phone and email all while sick as could be. I drove myself 8 hours back home to TN still sick the next day. I spent most of the time of my dad's visitation lying in the floor at the funeral home bathroom sick throwing up and coughing. It was torture. My sweet and amazing friend Jessica and my boys stood "watch" outside the bathroom in case they had to rush in to carry me to the emergency room. Seeing my daddy's flag draped casket and hearing those final taps played were grueling. I lost 3 people that I loved beyond anything in 12 weeks time. Why? I knew I was strong but God, I'm not that strong.
But I Kimmied up and I made myself be strong. Darkness set in though. But not total despair. I was sick with that viral infection for 3 months, losing my voice completely for 8 weeks. Being sick and stressed that bad is not a good combination. But I continued to seek God in all of it. There were days that I would have to go hide in the bathroom at work, sit in the floor and cry because the pain was unbearable. I could feel depression creeping in. My heart just hurt. It physically ached so bad. Every single day. I was at church one morning when my friend Charles little boy Caleb who I just love, came running across the parking lot at full speed and jumped in my arms hugging me telling me he loved me. But as he stood there telling me about what all he had been into and his music he had been doing, I just looked at him. I could see Charles shining through and his love for music too. For the first time in months, my heart didn't hurt quite as bad that morning.
I was drafting this blog post and thinking about some current storms I'm weathering when a friend sent me a video to watch. I could not have asked for a better analogy. "A man and his daughter were leaving an event. Usually the man drove, but he asked the daughter to drive. While they were driving it began to storm really hard. She got scared and wanted to pull over. The dad told her no to keep going. As they were driving, lots of other cars and trucks were pulling off the road because it was so bad. She kept asking should she pull over but the dad said no, keep going. They made it out of the storm for miles and finally bright sunlight shone through and the storm cleared up. The dad said "now pull over". The daughter pulled off the road. He asked her what did she see. She said she saw that no matter how bad the storm, you have to keep going. He said yes, that's correct. Then he said turned around and look behind us, what do you see? She said I see the storm behind us. He asked where are all the other cars that pulled over. She said they are still stuck in that storm. She then said she understood the lesson he was teaching her. You have to keep going, keep driving. Pulling over in the storm will just make the storm last longer and you'll be stuck in it." Exactly! Sometimes those storms last a long time. Some may not last very long at all. Regardless, you have to keep driving through them. I'm not saying it's easy but to answer that last question I always get asked, "strong is just what I know". I do know that my faith in God and His grace has sustained me through all of everything. When strong is all you've ever known, sometimes it just comes more natural for some. But even the strong can be completely broken inside. You just never know who is fighting a battle but has gotten good at hiding the pain. I have mastered smiling when I'm dying inside. You may see a strong girl standing there when all I see in the mirror is someone who feels broken beyond repair. There is no shame in being broken. BEING BROKEN IS HOW THE LIGHT SHINES THROUGH! I promise you are stronger than you think too. It's within you. But if I can teach you just one thing about letting go/letting God, being strong, or how to just keeping smiling is to just remember you have to keep driving through that storm and brokenness, not let it consume you and listen to my dad's words of it will be okay!
"Everything will be okay." ~my daddy