2014 Life Verse

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path. Proverbs 3:5-6

Friday, September 30, 2011

Your True Identity

I posted a couple days ago about who I am.  I want to expound on that.  I stated that I am not what people say I am, so let me tell you who God says I am.

I am justified (declared "not guilty" through the sacrifice of Jesus)
I will not experience condemnation
I am set free from the law of sin and death
I am sanctified and made acceptable in Jesus Christ
I am righteous and Holy in Christ
I will be made alive at the resurrection
I am a new creature
I have received God's righteousness.
I am one in Christ with other believers
I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ
I am holy, blameless and covered with God's love
I am adopted as God's child
My sins have been taken away and I am forgiven
I am marked as belonging to God by the Holy Spirit
I have been raised up to sit with Christ in glory
I am a work of art
I have been brought near to God
I can share in the promises of Christ
I can come with freedom and confidence into God's presence
I have been given fullnes in Christ
I am set free from my sinful nature
I will have eternal glory
I am fearfully and wonderfully made
I have been made in God's image
I am a joint heir with Jesus
I have been blood bought
I am blood washed
I am filled with the Holy Spirit
I am the temple of the Holy Spirit
I am loved
I am worthy of God's love
I am useful to God's kingdom
I was the definition of beautiful on the day He created me.
I am creative

I am sure there alot of other definitions of who I am in Christ, but the biggest, most important one to me is that I am loved.  Through all my faults, craziness, and chaos, God loves me right where I am.  But the most promising thing about that is that He loves me enough not to leave me where I am.

My Testimony Part 4

Tim and I began to have problems.  I felt ignored and unloved.  He worked alot of hours and we didn't have alot of time together.  It wasn't a productive environment either for marital relations with my Granny in the next room.  The stress began to take a tole on our marriage.  I got the impression that Tim was falling out of love with me and in love with someone he worked with.  Seeing the two of them interact would have given anyone the same impression.  At the same time, I had been reunited with an old friend from highschool.   This actually occured back in 2003 before we found out about Kierstynne.  I came to the conclusion that my marriage was over so I kicked Tim out on a Friday.  He left and called me the next morning wanting to know if he could come over so we could talk.  I wasn't sure what I really wanted.  My friend from highschool was telling me, overtly, everything that I wanted to hear from my husband.  I didn't realize it at the time, but he wanted me to leave Tim and move in with him and his daughter.    I didn't realize what was going on, but Tim did.  Just like he didn't realize how his interactions with the girl at work seemed to me.  So, talking that Saturday, we came to some conclusions: 1. We still loved each other.  2.  We wanted our marriage to work.  3. We both had to try harder to make it work.  He came home and we began to try and make our marriage better.  It was only a week later when we found out that we were pregnant with Kierstynne.  God works in mysterious ways, doesn't He?
So, we had Kierstynne on May 11, 2004, almost 2 years to the day from when Carl Harris prayed for us.  I had to have a c-section because the doctors were afraid she would be too big because of the diabetes.  I learned one lesson throught the whole c-section proceedure...NEVER will I have an epidural again.  Being at a learning hospital, it is not uncommon to have residence doing the proceedures.  I specifically stated in my birthplan...NO students for the epidural.  My family has a history of back problems and I didn't want to take any chances.  Well, don't you know they sent me a 4th year resident student to put in my epidural.  Ok, the Lord gave me this baby, so he will see me through this proceedure.  3 times.  3 times this student tried to put in the epidural and 3 times he failed.  All three times the needle slipped to the left hitting the nerve sending molton fire down my left leg.  I have never felt such pain.  I was crying and chanting Jesus' name over and over.  The nurse was worried because I was beginning to hyperventilate.  She told the "doctor" that he had to stop.  I was to the point where they were going to have to either knock me out, or cut me open with no anethesia.  I couldn't take anymore.  The student walks out and two minutes later this short, older man walks in...The Doctor.  I looked at him and with pain and anger in my voice said, "And where you 20 minutes ago?"  He just looked at me with an expression of annoyance.  The nurse explained what happened and he told her to ball up her fist, put the flat part of her fist against my belly button and push.  He places his thumb on the spot where the resident had tried, laid the needle against his thumb and said, "Ok, here we go.  You will feel a slight pinch."  I felt nothing.  The needle slid right in like it was sliding into butter.  About 30 seconds later I thought I had peed my pants.  The nurse said I hadn't, that it was the epidural taking effect.  So where was this actual doctor while I was suffering with pain?  Did he just come from the golf course or what?  I know the Bible says that women will have pain during childbirth but that is ridiculous. 

I was wheeled into the OR and strapped down to the table..not a nice feeling.  I don't like being restrained.  They began to retrieve Kierstynne and all you heard was water hitting the floor.  LOL.  It sounded like the bathtub overflowing.  The doctor reached in and when she pulled Kierstynne out, I said to Tim, "Oh, I felt that.  She's out."  The poor anethesiologist went into cardiac arrest.  He thought I was in pain and was going to administer more meds.  I had to explain that I wasn't in pain that it was like a suction type feeling when she came out.  At 12:37 on Tuesday, May 11 I finally had my promised baby girl.  As the doctor held her up over the curtain for me to see she calmly state that I could have pushed her out.  You think?  I knew I could have, but noone would listen to me.

I was stitched up and sent to recovery, getting to hold Kierstynne the whole time.  She was beautiful.  Perfect in every way.  Her APGAR scores were great, she responded to stimuli, and looked just like my baby brother, Jerry.  Ok, so the Ferrell genes are strong.  My family was waiting in the room for us to appear and everyone took turns holding the first child born in my family in 21 years.  It was great.  The only downfall was that it took almost 4 hours for the epidural to wear off and I couldn't feel my legs.  I found out that day what a paralyzed person feels and I didn't like it at all.

After about two hours, the nurse came to take Kierstynne for her first bath and I was taken up to our room.  They brought her back all nice and clean.  I was given the option of letting her stay with me or letting her stay in the nursery.  Not even a hesitation..she was staying with me.  I had waited too long for her and I wasn't letting her out of my sight.  She was so cute.  I held her for hours.  Tim finally got to hold her after he pried her out of my death grip. 

They epidural tube was still in my back so that pain meds could be administered without them having to poke me again.  The IV in my arm had blown so they had to move it to the other arm.  And after a couple of hours, that side blew too.  They moved it to my left hand and that was painful.  I was hooked up to a morphine pump because I had a c-section.  I had a little button to push for a dose.  That evening when the pain management specialist came in, he looked at the machine and was shocked to find that I hadn't pushed the button at all.  He asked me if I was in pain and I told him the truth..No I wasn't.  He didn't believe me and before I could stop him, he pushed the button.  I told him, none too politely either, that I didn't push the button because I didn't need the medicine.  I had prayed the entire pregnancy for Supernatural Childbirth and that's what I was determined to have. 

By Wednesday afternoon, I was tired of being hooked up the monitors and pumps so I asked to have my catheter and epidural to be removed.  The doctor didn't want to because I had essentially had surgery and needed the medicine.  I told her to look at the machine.  One push of the button in over 24 hours.  She couldn't believe it.  I was in no pain.  Even with 17 staples in my stomach I was in no pain.  So, they removed everything.  Freedom never tasted so good.  I got up out of bed and took a shower.  It was great.  No more being tied to something.  Kierstynne was doing great and I felt like the luckiest woman alive.  We had a double room, but I was the only patient in the room.  People were coming to visit and couldn't believe that I wasn't still hooked to the pain meds.  Nope, I was free.  I didn't need morphine because God was all the medicine I needed.  He is my healer.  The best doctor ever.

I had been trying since Kierstynne's birth to breastfeed.  For whatever reason, I wasn't producing any milk so Kierstynne hadn't eaten in 30 hours.  The nurse finally had to give her formula.  I don't know why I wasn't given the blessing of breastfeeding, but I wasn't.  Wednesday evening, the nurse came in and explained that they had to take Kierstynne to the nursery and put her under the Bili lights because she was jaundiced.  From not being able to eat for so long, her body wasn't able to expel the bilirubin.  I felt like a failure.  I cried and cried.  I couldn't believe my perfect baby was sick and being taken away from me.  Now I know that jaundice isn't a big deal and there are far sicker babies, but to me, it was devastating.  I was being seperated from my child.  The nurse informed me that I could come down to the nursery every 3 hours and hold her and feed her.  I was there like clockwork.  Not one minute late.  I was only able to be with her for 20 minutes every 3 hours.  I would hold her, feed her, burp her, change her and then have to put her back into the incubator.  She had these little foam sunglasses that velcroed to the sides of her head.  She laid up in the incubator like she was at the beach suntanning.  Never cried, didn't take a pacifier, just laid there all comfy like.  Tim would come down after work and spend the 20 minutes with her  and then we would walk back to my room.  We would wait the 3 hours then go back down.  All day Thursday she was in the nursery.  I would walk down every three hours to feed her and then would stand beside the incubator just watching my new miracle.  The doctor would come to check on her and was amazed at how dedicated I was.  She told me that if all her high risk patients were like me her job would be so easy.  I followed her every direction and did everything I could to have a healthy baby.  I only gained 11 pounds the entire pregnancy and Kierstynne weighed 9 lbs. 10 oz. of that 11.  The rest was amniotic fluid.  I guess being older helped too.  It wasn't about me, it was all about Kierstynne.

Finally around 5p on Friday, we were able to go home.  Even being over nine pounds, she looked so little in her carseat.  I couldn't wait to get my baby home.  My mother picked us up at the hospital and took us home to Granny's.  My dad, aunts and uncles were all there.  Tim's family had decided to wait until the weekend to come down so they were there too.  It was nice to see everyone holding her and loving on her.  I had to take her back to the hospital Saturday morning for another bili blood test, and the test came back normal.  Thank You God.  Kierstynne's poor little heels were black and blue from all the blood test.  But she was a trooper.  She never cried when they poked her.  After leaving the hospital, we stopped at the mall.  Yes, 4 days after giving birth through c-section I was at the mall walking around.  Two weeks later I went back to have the staples removed and the doctor was astonished to find that I was completely healed.  Supernatural Childbirth remember. 

Life was sweet.  I had my baby, my husband and I was complete.  Kierstynne began to have a problem soon after we got her home.  After eating, she would scream and pull her legs up to her chest.  I took her to our pediatrican and he thought she was allergic to the formula.  We changed her formula and hoped for the best.  Five formulas and four weeks later and nothing had changed.  She still screamed after eating.  She couldn't poop either.  I had to use suppositories to help her be able to go to the bathroom.  Finally, after having all she could take, Granny told me to go to the grocery store, get a gallon of whole milk and a box of old fashioned slow cook oatmeal.  I did and she made Kierstynne an old fashioned formula.  We would cook the oatmeal in extra water, strain it and pour it into the milk.  Guess what..She began to use the bathroom by herself and stopped screaming.  I couldn't believe it.  Come to find out, her body couldn't handle the iron in the formula.  Her body made enough and didn't need all the extra that was in prepackaged formula.  She thrived with the homemade formula.  I was so relieved that it was something simple as not needing iron.

Life fell into a great routine.  Kierstynne slept in the bassinette by my bed until she was four months old.  I didn't want her to be in the other room away from me.  So, I would awaken in the middle of the night and just watch her sleep.  Kierstynne was a great sleeper.  At about a month old she would take her last bottle at 11pm and sleep until 7 am.  I was so blessed.  I would sleep with my hand on her back.  Yes, her back.  She never would sleep on her back so we propped her up in between two blankets on her side, but she always managed to roll onto her stomach in the middle of the night.  She is still a stomach sleeper just like her father.

In January of 2005, we made the decision to move back to PA.  Granny was doing great and we felt that it was time.  So, in March of 2005 we moved back to Dupont PA.  Now, this whole time I thought I was doing very well.  I was still taking my depression meds and felt that I was functioning very well.  Little did I know that a few years later I would crack.

Life was ok.  We moved from Dupont back to Ransom to a little apartment beside the Post Office.  In August of 2006, Tim's grandmother approached us about buying her house.  We talked about it and decided to do it.  The deal was that instead of having to go through a bank for a mortgage, the house would remain in her name until she died and we would pay her rent in the apartment.  Each month, the rent payment would come off of the money for the purchase of the house.  What a blessing.  Our credit wasn't that good so we were able to avoid the hassle of trying to get a decent mortgage.  We began to move Gram out and move us in towards the end of August.  By the middle of September both moves were complete.  I love living where I live.  It's quiet, noone bothers you and it's secluded.  The only noise is what comes from the paper mill.  We have one neighbor and Tim grew up with both the husband and wife.  It's nice too because Kierstynne can just walk up the hill at the back of the yard and be at Grandma Mary Kay's, which she does quite often.  It's a fabulous snow sledding hill too.

Sometime in the next couple of years, I realized that all the junk from my past was seeping into my everyday life.   I was thinking of Jimmy more and more.  I began to dread the Christmas holidays.  I didn't find joy in anything.  But, I kept up my facade.  Inside I was shrivaling up, but outside I pretended that all was right with the world.  I didn't want to go anywhere, do anything, and every little thing got on my nerves.  I didn't want to go to church and had to make myself get up on Sundays to make sure Kierstynne was in church.  I stopped reading the Word.  Life became a chore.  I didn't know how much more I could take.

For two years, beginning in 2008, I suffered with these feelings.  I didn't tell anyone though.  The doctor upped my dosage of Celexa thinking that might help.  It did. For awhile.  I was still participating in things at church, but the joy and happiness wasn't there.  I had put up a wall that had become so high even I couldn't see over it.  I wore a mask all the time.  Noone was going to hurt me.  I was tough.  I was in control.  I tried counseling, but that didn't get me anywhere.  Everyone knew my story so why rehash it.  

Having to grow up fast matured me.  All the feelings of abandonment, being unloved and unwanted, and cast aside had caused me to go into self preservation mode.  I had developed a personality that protected me from pain.  Top that with losing Jimmy, then my grandfather I was pretty good at pretending nothing bothered me.  My outlook was "What you see is what you get and if you don't like me there's door.  Don't let the door knob hit ya where the good Lord split ya."  That was how I treated people.  Hold them at arms length, don't let them in and they can't hurt you.  I had very little self esteem.  My view of myself was very twisted.  I felt unworthy of true friendship because I knew I couldn't be what others wanted me to be.  I tried for years to be perfect.  Everything had to be perfect which led to a bad case of OCD and perfectionism.  

When I was a child, I wanted to be loved and noticed so bad that I would go from one extreme to the other.  I would be the perfect, helpful, can do nothing wrong child.  When that didn't give me the attention I so desperately craved I went to the other extreme.  I became the bad kid.  I would do things to deliberately get in trouble.  I figured that if I was getting in trouble at least I was shown attention.   How whacked is that?  

Those thoughts carried over into my adulthood.  I didn't know how to function on a mature, logical level.  That little girl who was so stunted in her maturity effected my every thought process.  The way I viewed the world was very circular.  I was at the center and everything revolved around me.  There were holes in my heart that needed to be filled.  I wanted to be happy.  I wanted to be normal.  How was I supposed to raise my child to be a happy, healthy, well rounded person when I was so broken.

Our church would have Carl Harris back usually every year.  And every time he would come, I would ask to be prayed over.  I knew in my head that God could fix me.  I just didn't know how.  Everytime Carl would pray over me, things would get better for a while, then I would slip back into the old Emily.  This cycle went on for years.  My wall kept getting higher and my emotions kept sinking lower.  My mask felt permanently attatched.  

During this time, Tim and I desperately wanted another child.  We tried and three times we miscarried.  The last time being April of 2009.  This time, the doctor did a D&C and we found out that the baby was a boy and had what is called Trisamy 21.  He would have only lived to about age 10, then we would have had to bury him.  Looking back on it, I thank God for His grace.  I couldn't have handled having to bury my child.  But after three miscarriages, I felt empty.  I couldn't understand why God wouldn't give us another baby.  Why was I being punished.  I wanted nothing more than to be a mom again.  Kierstynne would pray nightly for a new brother or sister.  Listening to her say her prayers nightly would break my heart.  She would beg God to let me get pregnant.

In 2010 I began talking to my pastor's wife.  I began to open up and explain some of my feelings.  I hated my life.  I felt like I didn't really know how to love.  Even my child that I had waited so long for didn't have all my love because I don't think I knew how to love anymore.  I was empty.

I began to use shopping as therapy.  I would go into Wal-mart and spend hundreds of dollars with no thought to how our bills were going to be paid.  It wasn't even the stuff.  It was the spending money on things I thought would make me happy.  I knew our family life was suffering but I didn't care.  Our checking account was overdrawn every pay period, so Tim was basically working for nothing.  Our bills weren't getting paid on time.  Everything was late.  I would pay just enough to keep the utilities on so that I would have money to spend.  I would take Kierstynne out to eat at least 3 times a week.  Looking back on it, I have no idea where all that money went.  I have nothing to show for it.

We have exhausted all our options.  We borrowed money from Tim's parents, his grandmother got us a loan, and we took money out of the 401K.  There  are no other options.  Our checking account is still overdrawn.  Our bills are still behind.  But, I haven't been shopping, except to spend $75 at the grocery store last Saturday.  Let me explain why.

In August of this year, our church put on an event called Gospel Fest.  August 27 it was.  That day was followed by our tent revival.  Guess who the evangelist was...yep.. that's right.. Carl Harris.  Sunday and Monday, Carl began preaching about having a close encounter of the God kind.  He began to explain that we have to take a step of faith in order for God to work through us.  Something began to happen in my life beginning Sunday morning, I just didn't know it yet.  Tuesday night, under the tent, God and I had a meeting.  After the service, it was prayer time.  Carl invited anyone who needed prayer to come forward.  My feet flew to the front.  I didn't know exactly what I needed prayer for, but I knew I needed it.  As Carl began to pray, he looked at me and said something to the effect of.."Your life has been so chaotic that the only way you have been able to survive is to control everything.  In order to make some semblance of normalcy in the midst of all the chaos, you felt the need to have your hand on everything.  God says that all the chaos in your life has been for a purpose.  He has led you all these years, through all the situations to bring you right to this point and now it's time to let go completely and let Him fix it."  Do you have any idea how shocked I was?  I always felt like God was overlooking me.  Noone had ever prophecied over me like that.  God had never given anyone a word of knowledge for me like that.  I began to shake all over and tears were streaming down my face.  Carl continued to pray, laying his hand on my forehead.  I couldn't stop shaking or crying.  I felt a heat radiating down from my head.  I knew God was doing a new thing.  I knew that I knew that I knew that God knew exactly where I was and how I was feeling.  I tried to stop the shaking and Carl said not too.  That too many people tried to stop the anointing by trying to stop what was happening.  I stood in the Presence of the Lord for about 30 minutes just letting His love flow over me.

Wednesday night, we went to another tent meeting.  After the service, people where going up for prayer and as I sat in my chair praying for them, I began to hysterically cry.  I mean full blown snottin', sobbin' crying.  Then, out of nowhere came hysterical laughter.  I thought I was loosing my mind.  I was laughing and crying at the same time and had no idea why.  I had no intentions of going up for prayer again, but found myself going to the altar.  Carl looks at me and says, "Back for round 2?"  I told him what was happening and asked him why it was happening.  He told me to quit analyzing everything and just let God do a work.  He prayed over me again.  After everything was over, I walked up to him and explained that I wasn't trying to analyze what was happening, I just really wanted to know.  He explained that because God was pulling so much junk out of my life that if He didn't give me the Joy of the Lord during the process that I would have been on the ground writhing in physical pain.  So, to keep me from experiencing the pain, God gave me joy at the same time.  OK.  That I understood.  Remember, I had so much Bible knowledge in my head that I could understand that.  But the problem was that over the years, nothing had connected to my heart.  So all that knowledge of Scripture and God's promises were alway for someone else..never for me.  The connection between my head and my heart had never found their way to each other.  Thursday and Friday night's meeting were phenomenal.  Friday night, we had a time of refreshing.  I had a chance to sit in God's presence and just crawl up in Jesus' lap and sit there.  Nothing needed to be said.  I just worshipped the Lord.  I didn't ask for anything, I didn't express my needs, I just sat in His lap loving on Him and letting Him love on me.  For those of you who have never experienced this, let me tell you, you need to do it.  You need to just sit still in the presence of the Lord and let Him love on you.

Well, our one week tent revival ended up turning into 4 weeks.  God was moving in such a way that people were getting healed and set free of things that had been plaguing them for years.  Backs were healed, legs were healed, emotions were healed, bondages broken and lives restored.  I have had a problem with my back ever since I received the epidural to have Kierstynne, so I went up for prayer.  I said to Carl, "Please pray for this old decrepid body."  He looked at me and said, "You are such a drama queen."  Me?  A drama queen?  No, maybe a diva, but not a drama queen.  He prayed for my back and I went home.  That night, I began thinking of what Carl said.  How could he call me a drama queen.  I wasn't a drama queen.  I started to feel offended.

The next week, after one of the services, I had a chance to sit and talk to Carl.  I told him that I began to become offended at what he called me and his answer was, "I know that",  I asked him how he knew that and he said that he said that to me for a reason.  We had an hour long talk.  It was amazing.  He explained to me that by calling me a drama queen, he wanted to reveal something to me.  He asked me what I would have done if he had called me that a year ago.  I told him that I would have become very offened and wouldn't have come back to church.  The point was to show me what God had been doing in my life.  In a matter of days, God had matured that little lost girl inside me a lifetime of growth.  She was no longer stunted.  She is now able to function normally.  He told me that God was working in my life in ways that I would never be able to imagine.   My life was going to change, my outlook on life it's self was changing.  That connection from head knowledge to heart knowledge was finally plugged in.  How amazing is our God.

As I sit here writing, I look back on what God did during those four weeks.  God healed my hurts.  My heart is full of joy.  I don't feel abandoned, alone, unworthy, unloved, cast aside, useless.  I have the Joy of the Lord and I have learned that my joy is not contingent on my happiness.  Happiness is an emotion and emotions change.  My joy is based on the knowledge of God's goodness, grace and mercy.  I can find joy in the midst of the trial.  My inner child is now an inner adult.  She is able to deal with life in a mature, logical, sane way.  I have discovered that life isn't about me.  My life is about my Lord.  Will I still have troubles?  You betcha.  The Word says that when you walk through the flood water that God will be there with you.  Not if you walk through them, but when you walk through them.  As of right now, our checking account is still overdrawn, our bills are still behind, but, I know that God is changing me.  I know that I don't have to spend money to be happy.  Is the desire to spend money still within me?  Yes.  Some days it is stronger than others.  What is my response?  I don't do it.  I stay at home.  I ask the Lord to help me.  I have to take the first step if I expect God to bless me.  God will make a way where there doesn't seem to be one. 

I look forward to my life now.  I am excited about going to church.  I want to read my Bible.  I enjoy teaching Kierstynne about the Bible.  I am even going to teach Children's Church in November.  I await with expectation to see what God is going to do next.  I have begun jounaling again and I love it.  God told Carl that we would have another child.  He let me know what God said, so now we wait.  I am just hoping it doesn't take two more years...I will be 41 when that child is born if He does wait two years.  In my flesh, I don't want to wait that long.  But, God's timing is perfect.  He is never early, but He is never late either.

My Testimony Part 3

Ok.  We are going to fast forward through the years to 2001.  Being raised by my grandparents, I was very close to my granddaddy.  He was my friend, my buddy, the man I looked up to.  He taught me to drive.  He taught me how to plant crops, harvest them, milk cows, feed chickens and collect their eggs, slop the hogs and butcher them for meat.  He taught me to laugh, and to find humor in everything.  I loved him more than I had loved anyone.  He was always a big, strapping farmer.  That was his nickname among his chronies, Farmer.  Noone called him Walter.  His family, pre Granny family, called him Baldy.  I have no idea where that came from.  He was a WWII veteran of the Air Force.  He worked long hours in the potash mines in New Mexico.  He ran heavy equipment for years.  My granddaddy could take two nails and a couple pieces of wood and make a fort.  He couldn't read or write very well, but that didn't stop him.  I never knew he couldn't read when I was a child because he would always help me with my reading.  He had a way of getting me to read to him without letting on that he couldn't read the book.  He rarely went to church because he said it was full of hypocrites and he could talk to God right there from his Lazyboy.  He could cook the best stew you ever ate.  My granddaddy was amazing.

When he was diagnosed with Colon Cancer, I was devastated.  I had already lost my husband, my step father, and my mother's dad.  I didn't want to lose Granddaddy too.  He waited too long to go to the doctor.  He hid all his symptoms from everyone.  By the time he finally told Granny, it was too late.  Stage 4.  Chemo helped for a little while.   It is very painful to watch a big, strong man shrivel up to about 135 pounds.  Living here in PA, I didn't have to watch him go through all the sickness.  I missed the really painful parts. 

I remember our last Christmas together.  Granddaddy thought everyone should get something even if it was a pencil wrapped up in shiny paper.  Noone should have to go without a present on Christmas.  He was all smiles on Christmas Day.  We took lots of family pics that year.  Granddaddy didn't have the energy to stay up long, so we would go visit with him while he laid in his bed.  He loved to listen to gospel music.  He would go back in his room and tune the tv to a station that was playing gospel music and would just lay in his bed and hum along.

In February of 2001, I was working as an assistant manager at Papa John's Pizza in Wilkes-Barre.  I had gone to work that Friday, just like always.  Around 4 pm, Tim shows up at work.  It was odd because he very rarely came to the shop.  He asked me if I could leave.  I had no idea what was going on.  He told me I needed to call my Aunt Linda in Va.  I went into the office and placed the long distance phone call.  The news was devastating.  Granddaddy wasn't expected to last through the weekend and if I wanted to see him, I needed to come down now.  I slipped to the floor, tears flowing down my cheeks.  I had just talked to him on Wednesday.  He sounded like his usual cheery self.  Aunt Linda explained that Granddaddy ate his last meal Thursday morning and slipped into a coma that afternoon.  He was on liquid morphine for the pain now.

I called my manager in tears and explained the situation.  I left with Tim and went home to pack.  I was so out of it, I didn't even pack Tim any shirts.  My mother in law came over and gave me one of my father in law's anxiety pills to help calm me down.  Little did I know at that time it would knock me out so that I slept almost the entire ride down.  I view that now as a blessing.  I think I would have drove Tim nuts during the 7 hour ride. 

We were supposed to move into our new house that weekend.  We had bought a trailer and were so excited because it was ours.  I had been painting and cleaning for two weeks.  I was so hyped about moving in.  That would have to be put on the back burner now.  My car was in Wilkes-Barre, but my mother in law assured me that my father in law would go and pick it up for me.  So, with everything handled, we left for VA.

We got there around midnight Friday, February 16, 2001.  I went straight into my Granddaddy's room and fell on my knees at the side of the bed.  Laying my head on his frail chest, I began to cry.  Oh, Granddaddy, I thought, I am so sorry you are so sick.  You shouldn't have to suffer like this.  Tim came in a few minutes later and knelt beside me and took my Granddaddy's hand.  He had already watched his grandfather die from ALS and he knew how hard it was.

I decided to sit up that night and just talk to him.  I wanted to spend as much time as possible with him.  He had to have morphine drops put inbetween is cheek and gum every 2 hours to keep him comfortable.   I thought to myself, "What kind of existance is this for my Granddaddy.  He doesn't deserve to suffer like this."  I really didn't want him to go, but I didn't want him to stay like this either.  So, I began to pray for God to take him home.  I knew that he was saved and would be spending eternity without cancer with the Lord.  I talked to him about life with him as a child.  I told him how much he meant to me.  I told him how much I loved him.  I thanked him for all that he had done for me.  I just sat in the chair beside his bed holding his hand talking about nothing in particular.

Around 5:30 am February 17, 2001, I told Granddaddy to go home.  I told him that Granny would be taken care of.  I told him that I had Tim and that he was  a good man and would take care of me.  I let him know that it was ok to let go  of this life and move on the his new one.    I sat with until about 6:30am and then left to go into the kitchen where my dad and my granny were having coffee.  Tim  was still sleeping.  It had been a long night and I was tired.  My dad went back and sat with him for about 15 minutes.  When he came back into the kitchen, I went back again.  As I entered his room, I could hear what they call the death rattle.  If you have never heard it, it's horrible.  For those of you who have heard it, you know what I mean.  Once you hear it, you never forget the sound.  I knew the end was near.  I reached out, grabbed his hand, brought it to my lips and kissed that weathered hand that had seen so much.  I told him once again to go home.  I left the room.

At 7am, my dad went into the room and I heard him begin to cry.  I knew that Granddaddy had gone to be with Jesus.  I began to cry again.  I looked over at Granny and she knew too.  I went into the bedroom where Tim was sleeping and woke him up.  He was as emotional as we all were.  We all took turns telling Granddaddy our last goodbyes. 

Now I had lost my husband, my step father, and both my grandfathers in less that a 36 month period.  I felt lost.  All of the old feelings came bubbling up.  I felt abandoned and alone.  Our family began to arrive and the house began to fill.  People really have no idea what to say at times like these.  Sometimes silence is really golden.

My brother finally arrived and for the first time in about 4 years, I got high.  Standing on my granny's porch waiting for the undertaker to arrive, I smoked a joint with my brother.  He said I needed to relax, needed to destress.  I guess maybe I did.  I was afraid of all the old issues with the PTSD coming to a head.  As I stood on the porch looking out at the swing where Granddaddy would sit, I swear I saw him.  He walked over towards the swing, turned around and smiled at me.  He looked great.  Perfectly healthy.  Now, some people will probably say it was because I was high, but I know what I saw.  It was Granddaddy.

Granddaddy wanted to be cremated so we didn't have a viewing.  I called off work for the next week, as did Tim, so that we could be there with my family.   We had a memorial service later on that week and for the second time in 36 months we were buring someone is the middle of winter in frozen ground.   It was a beautiful service.  My cousin Laura's husband made a marble box to place Granddaddy's ashes in.  It was absolutely beautiful.  Granddaddy would have been proud.

We came home after a week to discover that Tim's family had all pitched in and moved us while we were in VA.  What a suprise to come home and find my kitchen put together, our bedroom already set up and the house ready to be lived in.  What a blessing.  Even during the midst of darkenss, a light managed to show through.

Life once again settled into a routine.  Tim and I were trying desperately for a child.  We both wanted  a baby.  The doctor diagnosed me as having Poly Cyctic Ovarian Syndrome and told us it would be next to impossible to have a child.  My depression kicked in again and my doctor put me back on depression meds.  There was such a whole in my heart from not being able to conceive that I thought my heart would break.  During this time, we had switched churches and were now attending Mill City Assembly of God.   I had been going to a Pentecostal church when I lived in VA but this was alot different for Tim, who had been raised Methodist.  I loved it, but it took him a little getting used to.  He acclimated just fine.

In 2002, Evangelist Carl Harris came to MCAOG.  I decided to go up for prayer.  I wanted him to pray for Tim and I to have a baby.  I explained to him that the doctors had said I couldn't have a baby.  He prayed over us and then told us that it takes about 2 years for couples he has prayed for to have a baby.  That at the 2 year mark either the baby has been born or is getting ready to be born.  Ok.  I could accept that.  I began jounaling every night, thanking God in advance for giving us a child.  

As the months went by and no baby appeared, my depression began to worsen.  Then, my sister in law told us she was pregnant.  I was so shattered.  She had always said she didn't want children and neither did my brother in law.  She had been adamant about that fact.  So, I was heart set on giving my inlaws their first grandchild.  The night we found out that she was pregnant, I laid in bed sobbing.  Tim layed with his arms around me and tried to soothe me.  It didn't help.  It seemed that noone understood my pain.  Again.  I felt alone with my pain.  Noone to talk to, because everyone I knew had children.  I felt overlooked by God.  I couldn't understand why He wouldn't allow two people who would be great parents to have a child when He allowed these teenagers to get pregnant at the drop of a hat, or women whom He knew were going to kill their children to have them.  I was angry and frustrated all over again with God.

About a month later, my sister in law lost the baby.  As angry as I had been because she was pregnant, I was heartsick that she lost the baby.  I couldn't imagine how hard that was for her.  Thankfully she decided to try again a few months later and this time she carried the baby to full term and gave us a beautiful niece.  She even asked me to help her with the baby shower so that I wouldn't feel left out.  It was painful but joyful all at the same time.

In July of 2002 we found out that my grandmother had Vascular Disease.  She was going to lose her leg to the disease.  My family asked me to move down and live with her again and take care of her.  I was promised $500 per month to be her caregiver.  So, Tim quit his job, we sold everything except personal things and moved from a 3 bedroom, 2 bath trailer to one bedroom.  I went down in August and he followed in November.  Difficult wouldn't even begin to explain the life we were about to embark on.  

Tim got a job at Subway and I was Granny's caregiver.   Being promised a monthly paycheck, I figured we would be ok with Tim working at Subway until he could find something that paid more.  Well, I was lied to.  Noone wanted to pay me a dime because they thought it was my responsibility to take care of her.  Her children all had families and jobs and didn't have time to take care of her.  So, Tim and I began to try to survive on $7.25 per hour.  We couldn't apply for financial aid because we lived with Granny and none of the utlities were in our names.  Talk about stressful.  Being used and taken for granted was commonplace in my family, so I just dealt with it.  

In August of 2003, Hurrican Isabelle came through Virginia.  It knocked out the power to thousands and thousands of homes, took out phone lines, contaminated the water supply and many people lost everything.  We were blessed.  All we lost was our phone and lights.  We had to use up the food in the freezer before it went bad, so I was cooking on the grill and storing things in the cooler.  9 days we were without power.  It was the first hurricane that I had actually ever been in.  

In October of 2003, I took Granny, who was now in a Jazzy, to the grocery store.  We were walking down the isles acting a fool when we came around the corner to the meat counter.  I immediately ran for the bathroom.  When I came back, Granny looked at me and asked, "Are you pregnant?"  I looked at her like she had just fallen off the turnip truck and told her she needed a new crack dealer.  She knew what the doctors had said and I couldn't believe she would ask me that.  I told her no I wasn't and she looked at me and said yes you are.  Before we got out of the grocery store 2 other people had asked me the same thing.  We drove home and I was car sick the whole way.  Granny had a podiatrists appointment that afternoon, so my Aunt Nancy decided to ride with us.  I was so car sick that I had to pull over 3 times.  Nancy looks at me and asks, "Are you pregnant?"  What was it with all these old ladies and asking me if I was pregnant?  I knew I wasn't and told them all so.  Nancy told me I had better stop at the drugstore on the way home and get a home pregnancy test.  Yeah, ok.  I did, just to prove them wrong.  I bought one that had two tests in it, thinking two test would be enough to prove to them I wasn't pregnant. 

I went home, went into the bathroom, took the test and nothing.  The test was bad.  Not even a line in the control window.  I called my mother in law because she has this weird knack of having baby dreams whenever someone she knows is pregnant.  She said she hadn't had any dreams since the middle of August.  I told her what Granny and Nancy were saying and she told me to wait until the morning and take the other test.  So I did.

I got up the next morning, went into the bathroom, peed on the stick and went to set it on the counter.  I hadn't even pulled up my britches and there on the test stick were two blue lines.  WHAT!!!  I picked up the box to double check the reading...one line not pregnant, two lines pregnant.  NO WAY!!!  I took the test stick into the kitchen where Granny was and asked her what she saw.  She replies.."Two lines..What does that mean?"  I told her that meant she was going to be a great grandmother.  She whoops and starts turning circles with her Jazzy in the middle of the kitchen floor.  I called my mother in law back and told her and she started crying.  I called my mom and she dropped the phone.  Then I thought, "Hey wait, I haven't told Tim yet."   I called him and told him to make sure he came straight home from work that I had something to talk to him about.  When I told him, he didn't believe me.  I showed him the test stick and he still didn't believe me.  I made an appointment with the WIC office for the following Tuesday.  I went in, peed in a cup, then the lady stuck me in a room.  About 15 minutes later she came in and said, "Well, you are going to have a baby."  I was so happy I thought my heart was going to explode out of my chest.

I had to go to a high risk OBGYN because of my diabetes, age and weight.  I followed the doctors instructions to a T.  My mother went with me to the first ultrasound.  I had one at my first appointment because I wasn't sure when I got pregnant because of the PCOS and my cycles weren't regular.  I was 9 weeks.  So, I got pregnant during the power outage from Hurricane Isabelle.  Imagine that.  I wanted to name my daughter, if I had a girl, Ysabella Gianna which means God's gift.  If I had a son, I had no idea.  I just knew the baby was going to be a girl.  Tim and I fought for 6 months over her name.  Yep, we were having a girl, just like I said.  He wanted to name her Kierstynne Mykayla (the spelling is mine).  I didn't want that name.  I didn't have a clue what it meant.  One day, we decided to stop at a bookstore and I just happen to walk by a display that had baby name books on it.  I picked one up, looked up the names and found out that Kierstynne Mykayla means Beautiful Gift from God.  Well, as you know, we now have a 7 year old Kierstynne Mykayla.

I have to end this post now as my eyes are crossing.  Stay tuned for part 4. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

God's Grace and Mercy

As I sat here writing the second half of my testimony I thought about all that I had endured.  For some it isn't alot for they have been through far worse.  For others, they can't imagine the devestation.  But in truth, it has been my journey.  It is only by the Grace of God that I survived.  God's grace is defined as Him not giving us what we truly deserve.  His grace is given, it can't be earned for we are not worthy of it.  God loved me even back when I didn't love Him.  For that, I warrant punishment.  But, He chose to give me grace.  He chose to forgive me for turning away.  While going through my experience has been difficult, without God's grace it would have been unbearable.  I thank God for His grace.  It is new every morning as is His mercy.  Mercy is defined as giving us what we don't deserve.  What I truly deserve is life in hell.  What  I deserve is punishment for my sins.  But God!!!  God is His infinite love for me has chosen to show me mercy.  

In His mercy and grace, He kept me from having to identify Jimmy's body.  In His mercy and grace, He allowed to me get my voice back.  In His grace and mercy, He has given me second chances.  Through His grace and mercy I have learned to trust in Him.  Through His grace and mercy I have become a survivor. 

When Jesus was on that Old Rugged Cross, He looked through the years and saw me and loved me anyway.  He knows my failings, my issues, my idiosynchrises, my faults, and my incompleteness.  He has numbered the very hairs on my head.  He knew me before I was formed and placed in my mother's womb.  He knew every step I would take along my journey and has walked right with me the whole way.

I have learned to be thankful for grace and mercy.  I have learned to be full of grace and mercy for others because of the grace and mercy God has shown me.

My Testimony Part 2

Ok.  Where was I..oh yes.. I met a man online.  At this point, I still had no voice, and was living with Granny taking care of her.  It was right around the first of March, 1999.  I was still faithfully attending church and had made some close friends.  My closest friend at that time, Margaret, had lost her husband to cancer the same day I buried mine.  We had alot in common.  I was able to talk to her in ways I hadn't been able to talk with anyone else. 

Over the course of the next few months, the man I met online, Tim, and I began a friendship.  We talked about everything under the sun.  We liked the same things..music, tv, sports, food, etc.  We came from two totally different backgrounds though.  But, they say opposites attract, right?  Our friendship grew and became stronger.  I had explained the entire situation to Tim throughout our many chats.  He knew all about my PTSD, my loss of voice, the investigation, the trial, my stint in Tuckers.  It didn't matter to him.  He knew what we had the sentencing faze coming up soon.

I had no intentions, and I mean NO intentions of falling in love again.  I didn't want to.  I was totally enjoying talking to people online and living in my little, self-made, safe cocoon.  Well, lo and behold, God had other plans.  Tim and I did fall in love.  Online no less.  We had the same ideas about marriage, children, religion, money, etc, and our friendship was going great, so it I guess is was logical to take the next step.

In the meantime, I am still dealing with court.  Because we had a bench trial, meaning that only the judge heard the case and not a jury, the death penalty had been taken off the table.  Now, if it had been completely up to me, I would have given both of them the death penalty.  Yes, I believe in the death penalty.  I believe if you take someone's life, your life should be taken in the same manner.  The Bible clearly states an eye for an eye.  But, to be fair, it also says that "Vengence is mine, saith the Lord."  But, the Bible also tells us that we are to abide by the laws of the land.  So, I had to abide by the laws set forth by Chesterfield County Courts. 

Because we had a bench trial, I was not required to stand up in court and say anything.  I had the option of writing a Victim Impact Statement.  That is the option I chose.  In this 5 page letter to the judge, I explained exactly what Jimmy's death had done to my life.  I wrote about being a happily married woman when I went to bed on December 30, 1997 and waking up 8 hours later a widow.  I explained to the judge how it felt to have to be institutionalized for 9 days because I had a phsycotic break.  I let him know how my heart felt like it had been ripped out of my chest, stomped on, put in a blender, poured back into my chest and was expected to function correctly.  I explained to him the lonliness, aloneness, despondancy, and heartbreak I was feeling.  I told him how it felt to know that I wouldn't grow old with the man I had married and how I would never be able to look into my child's face and see Jimmy.  I let the judge know how angry I was that all my options to a future had been taken away because two people decided to play God.  I had to explain the financial impact Jimmy's death had caused.  I wasn't able to work because I couldn't focus, talk, concentrate, or stand to be around people.  I explained the fear that comes with PTSD.  I explained the depression and anxiety that comes along with it too.  I was grateful that I didn't have to stand up in court and read this letter.  It was for the judge's eyes only.  And I would hope that it had an impact on his sentencing choices.

Chesterfield County Court system has a program called Victim/Witness Advocacy.  They assigned me a case worker and her first idea was for me to attend a support group.  Ok...logically I knew that others had been through the same thing, but my feelings were mine and I wasn't sure I was ready to share my experience with a bunch of strangers.  I did take her advice though, and went to a meeting.  Big mistake.  I was the only widow there.  Everyone else had lost a child to homicide.  No one had a clue how I felt.  I sat there listening to everyone talk about how painful it is to hold your dying child in your arms, or to have to go identify your child's body at the morgue.  I couldn't relate even one iota.  I didn't have any children.  Jason and Michael took that option away from me when they shot my husband.  I never went back to that or any other group.  I guess, in theory, it's a good idea.  But if you are going to send someone to a group session, you need to make sure that there will be someone who has been through the same thing.  I have often times thought of approaching the Victim/Witness Advocacy program and volunteering to counsel widows of homicide , but haven't felt led to do so.

Sentencing was scheduled for  late 1999.  I had decided to move up here to Pennsylvania to be with Tim and in November of 1999 I did just that.  We moved into a little house across the yard from his parents.  Now, I know what you are thinking..."Are you crazy?  Moving that close to your mother in law."  My mother in law is the most amazing woman ever.  I couldn't have hand picked a better one.  She is like a biological mom to me.  She and I have a wonderful relationship.  I would go over every afternoon around 3 and have coffee with her.  We would talk and talk and talk.  In the past 12 years she has been a lifeline.

We received our letter in the mail about sentencing the first part of November.  They postponed it until early 2000.  The Victim/Witness program paid for our hotel, and reimbursed us for the gas that it took to come down for sentencing.  As I sat in the courtroom again, nervous, all the old memories assailed me.  I felt myself becoming overwhelmed with emotion.  I began to feel as if I was going to hyperventilate.  Tim, the sweet man that he is, asked me if I needed to go out and get some air or water.  He took hold of my hand and began to rhythmically rub the top.  That was the most calming thing he could have done.  As we waited for our case to be called, I looked around the room and saw Jason's and Michael's families.  Because of all this drama, there had been a huge rift develop in my mother's relationship with my step father's family.  They wouldn't speak to her.  They just couldn't believe that their sweet Jason would ever do anything this horrible.  They even bailed him out of jail twice during the past two years.  His sister put up her house with the bails bondsman to get him out.   

The stress of the situation had led to the death of my step father in January of 1999.  He was so torn between my mother and I and his family that he didn't know which end was up.  He had some major health problems, but the stress is what killed him.  He told my mom before he died that he didn't know where to sit in the courtroom for the trial because if he sat with my mom his family would be hurt and if he sat with his family my mom would be hurt.  Thank God that he didn't have to make that decision because God, in His infinite mercy, chose to take Larry home before the trial began.

So now, sitting in the courtroom, with Jason's and Michael's family looking at me like I had three heads, it was time for sentencing.  Jason's was first.  When he walked out of the prisoner holding cell in his beautiful bright orange jumpsuit, handcuffed and chained, my heart dropped.  I knew he was going to be there, but seeing him was something totally different.  He sat in front of us at the defense table.  I felt the need to jump the wall and beat him to a pulp.  Even though I had Tim, the wounds were still very raw.  Seeing him was like slashing them open again and pouring in salt.  I could still invision the ideas I had for torture for him.  It wasn't pretty.  As I set there, trying to get a grip on my runaway emotions, he turns and looks at me.  Nothing..no emotion, no regret, no compassion, no remorse.  Evil.  That is the only way to describe the eyes that looked at me from the defense table that day.  Pure evil. 

As the judge began, tears began to flow down my face.  The judge, doing his job, slowly rehashed every charge that Jason had incurred.  Capital Murder, Brandishing a Firearm in public, Committing murder with a deadly weapon, theft of personal belongings, leaving the scene of a crime,  failure to report a crime, and a host of others.  Before the judge sentenced him, Jason was given the chance to speak any last words.  Did I want him to turn around and look at me and say sorry?  Did I expect him too?  Did I want to hear the lies?  NO and YES.  I felt angry because he didn't and angry because he had the audacity to.  But in the end, he chose not to say anything.  The judge sentenced him to life in prison with no chance of parole plus 55 years to be served consecutively.  You could feel the air being sucked out of the room.  The wails that went up from his family was deafening.  They had hoped, as I guess I would have had the situation been reversed, that the judge would have compassion and leniency.  Jason's lawyers had spoken their last statements right before the judge gave his verdict.  Compassion, they asked for, so that Jason could have a chance to see his daughter grow up.  What about compassion for Jimmy so he could have had a chance for children to watch grow up.  A light at the end of the tunnel the lawyer said.  Jimmy has no light at the end of his tunnel.  Be merciful to Jason, the victim of an abusive stepfather and a mother who died of cancer.  What about the lack of mercy he showed to my husband.  No, the judge decided fairly.  He metered out the correct punishment for the crime.

Next, Michael Lee Sammons, your turn.  Same charges, but to a lesser extent.  The judge didn't believe that Michael was the mastermind.  He gave him the benefit of the doubt although the judge did say that he didn't believe all of his testimony.  Michael, too, had a child and was expecting another at the time of sentencing.    The judge sentenced him to life with the possibility of parole.  So, he can go up for parole when he is 78. 

Now, let me explain a few things.  Jason was 19 and Michael was 18 when they killed my husband.  Both were into drinking and drugging.  Both had hard childhoods.  Jason was married with a beautiful daughter, Michael was engaged with a beautiful son and one on the way.  Not even legal to purchase alcohol, they both made a decision that forever impacted many people's lives. 

Many times I have thought about requesting a sit down, face to face with Jason.   What would I say to him?  Would I want the answers he would give?  Would he tell me the truth?   Would I really want him to?   As of yet, I haven't done it.  I don't think I ever will.  I have come to a place in my life where I am ok with it.

So, in my next post, I will fast forward a few years and continue my testimony.

Thanks for accompanying me on my journey,

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My Goals for this blog

My goals for this blog are to write daily about my walk with God and to post pictures and information on projects that I am doing.  I hope that some of the posts that I write will bless you and cause you to think about your own walk with God.

My Testimony Part 1

I was saved as a child, around the age of 6.  I was raised by my Grandmother, who was a God fearing woman, and taken to church every time the door was open.  I was raise Southern Baptist.  For those of you who don't know what that is, let me tell you.  We were not allowed to do anything but eat, sleep, go to school, and go to church.  Basically that is what it boiled down to.  There was a little more, but that is the gist of it.  We were steeped in tradition and religion.  I didn't know any better, so I would say that it was ok.

I was told many conflicting stories as a child and teenager.  Some stories said my mother didn't want me, others say she did.  My dad was a truck driver, so I didn't see a whole lot of him.    Some of the stories said that my aunt wanted to adopt me, but my dad said no.  Others say that isn't true.  Regardless of the real truth, my reality was that of a child who was unloved, unwanted, and pushed aside.  When you see yourself in this way, it is your truth.  I will never know the real truth behind all these stories, but it's ok.

As I grew up, I was picked on ruthlessly because of my weight.  I have always been big and yes, I have tried every diet known to man.  Nothing has worked for me.  But, it's ok.  I love me.  People, thought, didn't always love me.  They judged me before they knew me.  I wanted to be loved so bad.  We are born with that need ingrained.  God put it there so that we would turn to Him for that love, but as a teen I didn't realize that.  So, I looked for love in all the wrong places as the old country song goes.  Looking for love in all the wrong places.  Looking for love in all the wrong faces. That was me.  I always thought that to get a boy to like you, you had to sleep with him.  Little did I know that sex was the quickest way to get a boy to leave.

So, when sex didn't work, I drank.  I let alcohol be my love.  If I had all the money back that I have spent on booze over the years of my life, I would not have a carpayment, a mortgage, or have to worry about my bills.  I went from drinking to drugging.  Always looking for something to fill up the hollow spot.  I know that it was because my Granny was praying for me and by the grace of God that I didn't die at an early age.  I tortured my body unmercifully.

Move ahead a few years to age 23.  I was working at Pizza Hut as a manager and had just been transferred to a new location.  I walk in to the store my first day and I see this guy, with his back to me, making pizza.  I thought to myself..."I'm going to marry that boy.."  Crazy right...well, that's what popped into my head.  I went on to meet with the manager of the store and a few minutes later, the guy walks back into the office and introduces himself.  I was stunned by his beautiful blue eyes.  I couldn't look away, much less breathe.  I can only imagine what he thought that day.  As time went on, began a friendship.  He was so much fun to hang out with and we laughed all the time.  But, there was one problem...he had a girlfriend.  Well, being the go getter that I am, I bided my time and lo and behold, they eventually broke up.  Our friendship had deepened greatly and I can't say that I was disappointed.

One night, after watching a movie, Jimmy looked at me and asked me to be his girlfriend.  I was flying higher than drug had ever made me, but I had to play it cool.  I told him I would think about it.  Yeah, like there was any thinking involved.  I left for work without giving him an answer and he called me about 5 minutes after I got to work.  He wanted and answer and my reply was.."Yeah, I guess we can give it a go.."  When in my heart I was screaming, "YES, YES, YES...Do you even have to ask?".  Well, that was in September of 1996.  We moved into our first house together in November of 1996 and got married in my mother's backyard April 19, 1997.  It was the best day of my life.

You see, Jimmy loved me.  Really loved me.  It didn't matter what I looked like, how much money I had or didn't have, what kind of car I drove...He loved ME.  The real me.  We had an idealic life.  We both worked, him for UPS and me for Pizza Hut.  I later left the Hut and went to work for a convience store as a manager.  Life was good.  We worked at trying to have a baby, but unfortunately, it didn't happen.  Our life was just about perfect. 

We moved to an apartment in July of 1997 and although it was small, it was perfect for us.  We settled into a routine and enjoyed being married.  We had a gathering for Thanksgiving that year and I cooked my first Thanksgiving meal.  It turned out really good.  Then, Christmas rolled around.  We did our shopping, set up our little tree, and visited family.  December 25, 1997..We had left my Granny's house and I was exhausted.  Jimmy wanted to go looking at lights.  I didn't.  I wanted to go home, change into my pjs and relax.  Jimmy pleaded with me to go and I gave in.  We walked around some of the neighborhoods and stood in awe at some of the lights.  Hand in hand we walked down the street laughing.  It was a great way to end Christmas night.  Jimmy and I went back to work the next day and life began to fall back into place. 

December 30, 1997 started as any normal day.  I got up for work, at breakfast, kissed Jimmy goodbye and left.  Came home from work, cooked dinner, and we watched tv together.  Around 11 pm, we went to bed.  I know this is going to be a little weird to read, but the sex was nothing like I had ever experienced.  I don't know if subconciously I knew it would be the last time, or what, but it was amazing.  I couldn't get close enough to him.  I felt like I wanted to crawl inside him.  Later, he tells me that he needs to go up to UPS to pick up his check.  I tried my best to talk him out of it.  I told him that we didn't need it, that we could wait.  All our bills are paid and we don't  need it.  He went anyway.  I went to bed, leaving the tv on. Jimmy was supposed to turn the tv off when he got back because he wasn't going to be gone but an hour or so. 

I woke up on December 31, 1997 to the phone ringing.  The tv was still on.  Jimmy was no where to be found.    My brother was on the phone wanted to know where my husband was.  Jimmy was supposed to go over to his house and put a started on my 1977 Camaro.  I told him Jimmy wasn't home and that I would call him back.  Not too worried yet, I called my mom, who worked at the Waffle House, to see if maybe he was up there.  She said no, and I remember telling her, "I am going to kill him.  He has stayed out all night long in my new car."  We had just gotten a 1997 Ford Escort LX.  Mom told me to calm down and call the hospitals just to see if he had been in an accident.  I did, and no he hadn't.  It was about 9:30 am by this time.  I decided to call the nonemergency number to the Chesterfield County Police Department to see if maybe he had been arrested.  When the officer answered, I explained the situation...."My husband went to pick up  his check last night and didn't come home which was totally not like him.  We were newlyweds and he always called.  I have already called his family and friends and noone has seen him.  Can you tell me if he has been arrested?".  The officer asked me his name and what kind of car he was driving.  I did.  There was a brief silence and then I was asked for the license plate number.  I gave it, and after a pause, the officer says, "We are going to put out a missing persons report and the detectives will be at your home shortly."  Now, if I had been in my right mind, I would have realized that missing persons reports are not filed for 48 hours on an adult.  But, I wasn't in my right mind.  I was furious!  

About 20 minutes later there was a knock at the door.  I, in my pjs, opened the door and there stood two Chesterfield County Detectives, Detective Ruth Baker, and Detective Steve Smith.  I invited them in and we sat in the living room.  There was a tension in the air that you could have cut with a knife.    Detective Baker asked me if I had any recent pictures of Jimmy and if he had any birthmarks.  Still not putting two and two together, I pulled out a picture that we had taken Christmas morning and told him about the mole on the bottom of his right foot.  Detective Smith took the picture outside where, I didn't know it at the time, there were police officers waiting for it.  Detective Baker came over and sat next to me on the couch and asked if there was anyone I could call who could be at my home quickly.  I said yes and asked why.  The door opened and in walked Detective Smith with the Chesterfield County Police Chaplain.  I knew right then that Jimmy was dead.  I looked from the chaplain to Detective Baker and she said, "We  have found Jimmy and he is deceased."  Tears began to stream down my face.  I picked up the phone, called my mom and said, "He's dead."  That's it.  That's all I said to her.  She dropped the phone and almost hit the floor.  She later told me that she looked at her boss and said, "I'm out of here...they found Jimmy and he's dead."  She left Waffle House and made the 30 minute drive to my house in 10 minutes.  She ran every red light, stop sign and was speeding.  I remember her telling me later that if a cop had got behind her, he would have had to follow her to my house because she wasn't stopping.

The rest of the day was pretty much a blur.  My mom walked in and knelt down in front of me and gave me a Valium.  I remember her calling my brother and my dad and my Granny.  My dad lived in Chesapeak, Va, which was a two hour drive.  He said he made it in 45 minutes and smoked two packs of cigarettes on the way.  My brother and Jimmy's uncle got to the house and the police wanted someone to identify the body.  I wanted to go, but noone would let me.  My brother and Jimmy's uncle went and yes, it was my sweet, loving husband that was dead in the backseat of our new car.

The next few days were the worst of my life.  I was lost and alone in a crowd of people.  The depression was terrible.  I couldn't understand what I had done to make God that mad at me that He would take my husband.  I was so mad at God.  I was mad at whoever had taken Jimmy's life, I was mad at people I didn't even know.  The anger was building up and I had no way to let it out.

Going to the funeral home was an experience in itself.  Our funeral director was very patient, but I guess that's his job.  I had to pick out a vault, and a casket.  I knew we didn't have a lot of money, so I tried to be frugal while trying to make sure Jimmy had a nice funeral.  I picked out a silver casket with cream lining.  Not too frufru but nice.  The funeral director went over all the costs associated with a funeral, helped me write Jimmy's obituary for the paper, and helped me plan the viewing.

Because he was killed on a holiday, New Year's Eve, there wasn't a medical examiner on duty so we had to wait 5 days to have Jimmy's viewing and funeral.  That is unexcusable.  There should always be a medical examiner on duty.  Having to punish the family by waiting isn't nice.  It's hard enough on the family to have to bury their loved one, but to wait an extra amount of time is torture. 

So, the morning of the viewing, the immediate family, me, was allowed to come one hour early.  When I got to the furneral home, the funeral director explained to me that Jimmy's face was covered with a veil because of the damage done to his face.  The medical examiner had to break his jaw to remove the bullet for evidence and the mortician had to do some extra work to make Jimmy presentable.  I lost it.  I told that funeral director that he was my husband and I would move the veil because I wanted to see him and kiss him goodbye.  He then explained that it was a see thru veil put in place to keep everyone from touching his face.  Because of the extra work having to be done on him, too much touching could have caused his jaw to fall.  Not a pretty picture that would have been.  So, I finally got up the guts to walk into the viewing room.  My dad was with me.  I stood at the doorway and it looked like 500 miles from there to the casket.  It seemed like the more steps I took, the farther away he got.  About half way up to the casket, my knees buckled and I remember telling my dad that the person in the casket wasn't Jimmy.  They had made a mistake.  That wasn't him.  With tears flowing from his eyes, my dad assured me it was Jimmy and placed his hand on the small of my back to keep me moving forward.  When I finally made it up to the casket, all I could think was they had his hair combed wrong.  It wasn't right.   He didn't look like the Jimmy I married.  He didn't look like the husband that I fell in love with.  I cried and cried.  I wanted to crawl in the casket with him.  I didn't want to be left behind. 

The funeral director came in about 15 minutes later to ask if everything was to my liking.  I turned around, looking him in the eyes, and said, "No.  Nothing is to my liking.  Nothing about this is to my liking.  His hair is wrong.  His lips are wrong.  He doesn't even look like my husband."    I had seen dead people before and most of the time they look pretty much like they did in life.  Jimmy didn't.  The funeral director explained to me that because of all the damage the bullets had done, they did the best they could to make him look like himself.  They had comb his hair differently to cover the bullet hole in his temple.  They did the best they could, but to a grieving wife, nothing would have been good enough.  The viewing went on all day.  I couldn't tell you who was there and who wasn't.  Mom's valium had taken over and I was just a spectator.  Looking back, I wish I hadn't taken them.  I should have dealt with it then and maybe I wouldn't have had such a hard time later.  But hindsight is 20/20 right?

The funeral, what I can remember of it was nice.  My mom read a poem that was in my grandfather's daily devotional for December 31.  It talked about how when you get to the edge of the cliff that you have to take the next step because either God will be there to catch you or He will give you wings to fly.  I had our song played..Truly, Madly, Deeply.. a couple of others spoke, but I couldn't tell you who.

We buried James Michael Lambrecht on January 5, 1998 in Amelia, VA. at the Mattox Cemetary.  My aunt, Linda, gave me a burial plot to place him in.  At 25, what did I know about preparing for the future.  We hadn't gotten that far.  That was something you did when you were older.  Who expects to bury their husband at 21?  I don't remember a whole lot about the funeral, but I do remember throwing a red rose and a handful of dirt into the hole after they lowered the casket.  My brother was one of Jimmy's pallbearers, as was his uncle, my best friend's husband, and a couple of Jimmy's friends.

The next step was buying a headstone.  Something else I knew nothing about.  Social Security gives you a $255  death benefit.  So, that's what I had to buy a headstone with.  Little did I know exactly how costly they were.  My best friend, Wendy, had a friend who did headstones for a living.  He agreed to do Jimmy's for the $255.  What a blessing.   It has two Jeff Gordon #24 race cars in each corner because that was his favorite driver.  

Jimmy had life insurance through UPS, but we had never gotten around to changing the beneficiary on the policy.  Again, what did we know at 21 and 24?  His mother was still listed, and yes, she got all the money.  $27,000 because it was a double endimity policy.  Meaning that because homicide is considered an accident, the amount of the policy doubled.  Now, if I had been in her situation, I couldn't have kept the money with a clear consious, but I guess money makes people do strange things.  So, I told the funeral home to send her the bill.  I didn't have the money to pay it, she got the life insurance, so she could pay it.  When you work for UPS, you have the option of joining the union.  Jimmy did.  The union had a small $1,000 life insurance policy on him and she tried to get that too.  She called the union office, said she was my sister and that I was moving out to California to be with her and could they make out the check to her so that she could cash it for me.  The union rep that she spoke to knew Jimmy and I personally and knew that I wasn't moving and didn't have a sister that lived in California.  He called me and told me what was going on and I couldn't believe it.  She got $27,000 and wanted more.  Well, she didn't get it.  I did.

My car was released from the police impound and taken over to the shop the police deal with to be fixed.  My insurance had a $500 deductible.  The car, in all actually, should have been scrapped.  The front driver's side window was shot out, the driver's side mirror was broken, the passenger side window was broken, the back driver's side window was broken, the back seat had to be completely replaced because of all the blood.  The front seats had to be replaced, the carpeting and headliner all had to be replaced.  When I got the car back, the whole inside was brand new.  When the shop owner found out why the car was there, he agreed to fix everything for what the insurance check amounted too.  He didn't charge me the $500 deductible.  My uncle Len drove the car home from the shop for me.  He took me over to the dealership where we had bought it in October of 1997.  3 months we had the car.  We explained the situation and even after hearing what had transpired, the dealership wouldn't trade cars with me because they said I owed more than it was worth.  So, there my little car sat, in the driveway, for 6 months.

I moved out of my apartment and back in with my Grandmother.  My depression had gotten worse.  I was scared to go to sleep.  Everytime I would fall asleep, I would awaken at 3 am because that is what time Jimmy used to get home from  UPS.  I would lie awake and wait to hear the car door shut.  I didn't want to go anywhere, or do anything.  Nothing made me happy.  My life was full of despair.  Remember, I was mad at God because He took my husband, so I couldn't even turn to Him.  Noone understood me.  Noone in my family had been a widow at 24 before.  How do you explain to people how you feel when they have no idea?  I just wanted someone to listen to me.  I didn't want to hear that time would heal me, that I would get over it.  That it would get better.  No..I just wanted to talk about Jimmy.  I just wanted someone to listen.  My grandmother was so worried about me that she made a doctor's appointment.  The doctor put me on Prozac.  Things didn't get better, in fact, they got worse.  The dosage wasn't right on my medicine so instead of bringing me out of my depression, it took me deeper in.  I felt like I had bugs crawling under my skin.  I would walk around and around the house thinking of ways to kill people.  It was truly a scary time.  I went back to the doctor and told him that if he didn't take me off this medicine that I was going to kill someone or myself.  He changed me from Prozac to Effexor.  It worked for a while, but we had to keep upping my dosage.

I decided to go into hiding at a friend's apartment.  I stayed there for 3 months.  It didn't help.  I don't think I got dressed the whole three months but for maybe a handful of times.  I didn't care.  I wasn't interested in anything.  Most times I didn't even care enough to shower or eat.  My depression was getting worse.

Finally, my grandmother decided to come and get me and take me home.  She didn't know exactly what to do with me or for me.  She decided to surprise me one Saturday morning at take me up to our local beauty shop and get my nails done for me.  Not something I did on a regular basis, but she thought it might help.  When we got there, a woman was sitting next to the table where I was sitting.  She said she had gotten her nails done the day before, but God had told her that morning that she needed to go back.  I looked at with a "Yeah, ok..." expression.  She just started talking about nothing inparticular and all of a sudden, tears started rolling down my face.  I poured out my whole story to this woman I had never met.  She didn't try to stop me, or give me advice.  She did something noone else had done.  She just listened.  She sat there in that beauty shop listening to a depressed, half pychotic woman pour her heart out.  She didn't wrinkle up her face in disgust, she didn't get up and leave.  She just simply sat there and listened. 

After I was finished, she told me her name was Donna and she invited me to come to her church.  I told her thanks but no thanks.  God doesn't love me and I ain't too happy with Him right now.  She said I should think about it and if I decided to come, she would sit with me and introduce me to some of the other members.  I had no intentions of going.  I thanked her for listening to me and I left.

The next morning, Sunday, I woke up at 7 am and could not go back to sleep.  I got up, puttered around the house, and decided what the heck..I might as well go.  Maybe God will give me an answer to why He took my husband.  I drove myself to Donna's church, Bethesda Church of God.  When I walked through the doors, there was an overwhelming sense of peace.  It was strange.  I had never felt that at any church.  I felt like I had come home.  Later, I found out that Bethesda means Healing.  Yep.  It was to become a healing place for me.  I saw Donna and when she saw me, her eyes filled with tears.  True to her promise, she sat with me and after church introduced me to some people who were to become my very close friends.  I began attending regularly and slowing came to understand that God didn't take Jimmy from me.  His job here on earth had been fulfilled and it was an unfortunate accident that took Jimmy away.  Not God.  I was able to release all that pent up anger and began a relationship with God.  That is something I never knew about either, but that's for another post.

All this time, Chesterfield Police had been working very hard on Jimmy's case.  They had found the culprits and it turned out to be my step father's nephew, Jason Gregory, and one of his friends, Michael Sammons.  Now, it is bad enough to have your husband murdered, but to find out that it was at the hands of one of your extended family members.. Give me a break.  When asked why they did what they did, the only explanation they provided was.."We wanted to see what it would be like to kill someone."  What kind of sick, twisted person thinks that way?  Alot of technical, judical stuff went on in the year after his death, but I won't bore you with that.  Just know that two weeks after they killed Jimmy, they went into one of the churches in the area and did $50,000 worth of damage to the church while taking pictures of themselves doing it.  Dumb right?  One of them cut themselves on something so their DNA was all over the church.  They turned the crosses upside down, broke stained glass windows, and quite a few other things.  They were finally arrested for good around July of 1998. 

February 22, 1999 was the first day of trial.  I had to testify.  They asked me a lot of questions and I gave honest, truthful answers.  The Commonwealth Attorney had me seated in the courtroom behind his table.  We had to listed to Jason's taped confession.  It was like listening to someone sit and read the newspaper.  No expression, no fluctuation in his voice.  As he told what he did to my husband, it was like he was reading off of a script.  I learned that Jimmy had been driving out of our apartment complex when Jason flagged him down.  They wanted to know if Jimmy had any pot.  Yes, my husband smoked.  Jimmy told them yeah, but he had to run to UPS first and would get it for them when he got back.  They offered to ride with him to keep him company and Jimmy said sure.  Sometime on the ride, with Jason in the front seat and Michael in the back, Michael pulled a gun on Jimmy and told him to do exactly what he was told to do.  Michael swears that Jason had a gun pointed on him.  Anyway, to make a long story short, they had Jimmy drive up a gravel road back to where the old Boy Scout Camp used to be.  Michael fired the first shot and it missed but took out the window and the mirror.  Jimmy, thinking he had been shot from outside the car, got out, went around to the passenger side, got in the backseat and begged them to take him home to me so that I could take him to the hospital.  Jimmy had no idea that the person shooting at him had been in the car.  Jason walked around to the door and shot him twice at point blank range in the head.  They stole his wallet but left my purse with a $20 bill lying in the top of it alone.  Go figure.  As Jimmy lay in the backseat dying, he pulled my leather trench coat up on the seat and hugged it.  The detectives later told me that his head was lying on the coat and he was hugging it.  So, trying to comfort me, they told me that his last thoughts had been of me.

After listening to the confession, the medical examiner had her turn.  The Commonwealth Attorney thought he had me in a spot where I wouldn't be able to see the pictures that the medical examiner had to show the court.  Well, I did see them.  When I looked up and saw my darling husband laying on the silver autopsy table covered in blood, I lost it.  I remember throwing my jacket in my mother's lap and saying, "I'm going to be sick."  I ran out of the courtroom and to the bathroom.  I got sick and that's all I remember. 

Eight hours later I become aware of my surroundings and I knew something was wrong.  The last I remembered, I was in the courthouse bathroom throwing up and now I am in this strange smelling room with lots of tables and bars on the windows.  I had been transported to the ER when Detective Baker found me passed out on the bathroom floor.  I didn't have any congnative response in the ER.  My mother and Detective Baker explained to the ER Physician what had happened and he diagnosed me as having PTSD and said that I was in a severe form of shock.  The lights were on but noone was home.  My mom said she called my name and when I looked at her, my eyes were completely vacant.  She said it was the eeriest thing she has ever experienced.  So, not trusting me on my own, the ER doctor sent me to Tucker's Pavillion, a phychiatric hospital.  I was sent to the crisis unit because I couldn't communicate.  I don't remember too much about that first night except that I slept alot.  The doctor assigned to my case explained to me that my brain had suffered a traumatic injury.  Seeing the pictures in court caused me to realize that the last year of my life had not been a dream.   It was the same thing as a car hitting a brick wall at 90.  That's basically what my brain did.  It crashed.  The doctor explained that I had been living in a dream world for the past year and the shock of seeing those pictures made me enter reality at warp speed and I couldn't handle it.  My brain proceeded to cut off my vocal chords as a self preservation mechanism.  So, not only was I depressed and in a strange place, I couldn't express myself verbally.  Add on more depression. 

I spent 7 days in the crisis unit at Tucker's.  It wasn't a nice experience so I will spare you the details.  They transferred me to the "normal unit" and I was allowed to be with others.  I was put in the crisis unit for two reasons.  I couldn't communicate and they had me on suicide watch.  After being moved to another unit, it wasn't so bad.  I lost 27 pounds while there..so I guess there was an upside..:).

I went home two days later.  After 9 days in Tucker's I was ready to go home.  I still couldn't talk, but I was happy to be out.  I was able to whisper slightly, but it took too much energy, so I just wrote down what I wanted to say.  I found out that the trial was over and while I had been in the hospital, my grandmother had fallen ill to a strep infection that had settled in her blood.  Because I couldn't talk, I couldn't work, so I was elected by process of elimination to take care of my grandmother.  So I did.

The daily grind of taking care of Granny wasn't so bad.  She had physcial therapy to learn to walk again, but she did very well.  She said she felt bad that I had to stay there and take care of her all the time so she bought me a computer.  My first computer.  It was great.  I could chat, play games, find friends.    I still didn't have a voice, but it was great to be able to communicate with others.  I met lots of people online.  Even had a couple long distance relationships.  But then, one night, I met this guy who changed my life. 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my testimony.