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Visions of Heaven: Part I

On January 20, 2006 my sister Misty (28), her step-daughter Michelle (13), and her daughters Trista (9) and Larissa (6) were travelling from their home in Driftpile to Slave Lake for a shopping trip. At about 5:20 pm a man named Raymond Yellowknee collided with their car while attempting to flee police in a stolen vehicle. He was drunk and high, and had just been released from prison earlier that day. The only one to survive the accident was Larissa. She was transported to Edmonton with critical injuries where she passed away the following day surrounded by her family.

We were always close, my sister Misty and I, and on the night she died, I felt it. I knew something terrible had happened, but I didn’t know what. At that time I was a single mom in university and I had no idea how my life was about to change.

It was a winter evening in 2006, January 20 to be exact. A typical Friday. Earlier that day I sent the kids off to school, dropped off my dry cleaning, and went home to study. I decided to go out for supper that night because the youth group we attended was going swimming and I wanted to make it more of a special evening for the kids, as well as easier on me. Every detail seems burned into my brain. It was 4:55 pm. I went out to start the car and I was yelling at the kids to get their stuff together for the pool now so I didn’t have to come back home between supper and youth group. I had received a phone call that ran later than I intended so I was a little behind as we left for the restaurant, The Burger Baron. We arrived at 5:20. I found a parking space, shut off the car, and herded Chris, 12, and Rebecca, 9 out the door. We were parked in an angle parking lot adjacent to the restaurant with a driveway between it and the side door. On the way in I went around the passenger side to retrieve something and then headed across the drive to the restaurant. I was still ahead of Rebecca and when I looked back there was a vehicle coming towards us and in the second I looked back, I felt it. This horrible feeling I will never forget. The only way I can describe it is I felt like somehow my very soul was ripped violently from my body. I was nauseated, shaking, scared. I overreacted and yelled at my daughter Rebecca to get out of the way of the vehicle coming. I scared her, but then she became upset with me for yelling at her. How could I describe to her what had happened? I couldn’t as I didn’t even understand it myself.

We sat down and the kids ordered. The nauseated feeling wasn’t abating so I didn’t feel like eating. I just read my textbook while the kids ate. I felt strange, adrift, and anxious. I decided that I would skip the swimming and read while the kids were in the pool. I realized that I had forgotten one important textbook at home, so I ended up going back to the house for it after we left the restaurant. I entered the house to retrieve my textbook, picked it up off the table, glanced at the clock (it was 6:45), and hurried out the door. In what I can only call divine intervention I missed a 6:50 phone call from Renée (Misty’s sister-in-law), who called to tell me about the accident.

At the pool I tried to read, but I wasn’t gaining a lot of ground because everyone kept asking me to come join them in the pool. My friend Jordan knew something was wrong. He asked repeatedly, but I just kept telling him I was ok, and I needed to study. I was still feeling really off and I had no explanation for it. Truthfully, I just wanted to go home, but I couldn’t do that to my kids since they were looking forward to youth group all week. After swimming everyone was going to the cave, as we called it. Our church was the basement of the old post office building in High Prairie, where we lived, and the youth took it over every Friday evening for youth group.

When we arrived everyone was in such a good mood that I began to feel a bit better. I decided I was hungry after all. I wanted to call The Pizza Factory for take-out, but somehow my fingers dialed The Burger Baron instead. My friend Hanan answered the call. As soon as she recognized my voice, she started acting strangely, and said, “Oh, you want to talk to Kyla?” and then pretty much just dropped the phone before I could answer. Kyla is my cousin and she also worked there at that time. When Kyla answered I said, “Hi Kyla”. She interrupted me, crying, and said,, “You didn’t hear?” In another instance of what can only be called divine intervention my parents came down the hallway at that moment opened the door and stopped my conversation. I could tell something was terribly wrong because both my parents were crying. I dropped the phone (I’m sorry Kyla, I don’t think I ever said sorry for that) and waited for my parents to tell me what was wrong.

In my heart I knew, but the words coming from my mother’s mouth were unbelievable. She said there was an accident. Misty and the girls were going to Slave Lake, someone hit them, and killed Misty, Michelle, and Trista instantly. Larissa survived and she is being flown to Edmonton. Time stopped. The awful sick feeling returned and began screaming. I screamed over and over and over again and began throwing every object in the kitchen that I could. I sank to the floor and I have no idea how  or when I got up again. The kids at the youth group must have been so freaked out. I have no idea how my kids found out or how they even got to my parents’ house afterward. I lost it, and I haven’t found it from that day to this one.

Johnny O’Rourke, my brother from another mother, and the son of Pastor Pat and his wife Elaine, gathered me up and put me in my car. We sat there in the back alley that was the entrance to the church for a long, long while. He kept swearing, and telling me to just let out my anger. He knew about heartache. If there was ever a perfect person for that moment, it was him. He lost his own brother the year before, and his sister 18 years earlier.

There were a lot of people at my parents’ house when we got there. I sat in numb silence and accepted the hugs and coffee that people offered me. I sat there for hours on the couch, numb in disbelief, drinking coffee and trying not think at all. Finally, at about 2:30 am I got up and turned to make my way over to the kitchen to get another coffee, when the entire kitchen disappeared, almost as if someone drew a curtain back from a window and I could see into Heaven, and there she was…Misty, standing in a field of high waving wheat. Michelle and Trista were on either side of her. It looked like a bright summer day. It was daytime, but with a light I have never seen and cannot fully explain. The sun didn’t seem to be the source of this light; it was just there. Every molecule seemed to be infused with it and it just was. The girls had the most beautiful expressions on their faces, but I couldn’t see Misty’s face. Just her shoulders down. Trista was grabbing her arm and yanking on it as she jumped up and down. They were all looking off in the distance at something I couldn’t see. They were all so excited. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but I could feel their excitement. It was only seconds really, and it was over.

I stood there, stunned, awed by what I had just witnessed. I stumbled a little, and  I can’t remember who caught me, but they asked if I was ok. I said I was, but I wasn’t. I was overwhelmed by what I saw. It was the reality of Heaven. It was so real and close that I could reach out and touch it that night. Suddenly, I knew I needed to get to Larissa! I told my parents that I was leaving to Edmonton right then. I needed to go. I needed to be with her, little Rissy, only 6, laying in a hospital bed all alone. I suddenly couldn’t stand it and even the thought of driving past the accident scene to get to Edmonton wasn’t enough to deter me. My parents’ pleas for me to wait until morning stopped me. They wanted to go too, and they needed me to drive. So, I pulled out their couch in the living room, put the kids to bed, and waited for morning to come in the arm chair that only the week before I cuddled Larissa as we watched Peter Pan.

I Have Seen Angels, Part II

It was a dark time in my life. My husband and I were having problems and in desperation we moved three hours away to a new city.

We moved into our new place on December 1, 2004. I began a new semester at the college in January and the children settled in at Avondale elementary. It was a lot more expensive to live there than we were used to, but we seemed to be doing ok. I didn’t know it at the time, but he had already been seeing someone else before we even moved. Apparently the plan was to move me and the kids there, ditch us after a few weeks, and move back to his hometown to be with his new girlfriend.

Anyway, the second week of January my husband’s aunt committed suicide and he was devastated. We both felt guilty for leaving such a short time before that happened. He wanted to go back home to the funeral alone, and I said I understood. What could I do? What I didn’t understand was why he insisted I did not tell the children that their favourite great-aunt had passed away. He was gone more than a week. It was bitterly cold out. and with no vehicle it was really hard to get the kids and I to school. We were running out of money and the bills were coming due when he finally returned home. He was different. Cold. Distant. It was bleak, and about to get a whole lot worse.

He wasn’t there more than two or three days when we had a huge fight. He frightened me so badly that I left with the kids to a motel for the night. The next morning he was gone. He called from his cell to tell me he needed some time to “think”, so he was going back home to his mother’s place. He never returned.

So there I was. Alone in a city with two children who were depending on me. I had no car, no job, and we had no choice but to survive on my student allowance.

I was pretty depressed, as anyone would be, but I tried hard to make that time in my children’s lives more bearable. I tried to turn our heartbreak into an adventure. I bought food my husband was allergic to. We watched movies he disapproved of. I listened to my music and danced around the house with my kids. We slept out in the living room like it was a camp-out.

Then there were the bad days. The days I would send them off to school, skip class for myself, and curl up with coffee and sad music. Those were the days of Yahoo’s Launchcast Plus radio stations in every imaginable genre. I would listen to the Christian station and pray for God to be with me, to give me strength to go on, to get through this. All of my dreams seemed a million miles away and I felt broken. Slowly, as I began reading the Word and drawing close to God, I felt Him draw closer to me. I felt His presence. I felt safe and comforted.

On one evening, as I was laying on the futon we used for a bed, with the children sleeping beside me, I felt particularly alone. I had the TV on, but I wasn’t paying attention to it. While I was staring ahead something happened that I will do my best to try to explain. It’s like a curtain was drawn back and I could “see” into somewhere else, and that somewhere was Heaven. The most amazing part of it was I was fully awake and I could see the edges of my television stand and the wall around the space I was looking into. In this place I saw someone I  knew was an Angel. He was dressed in white, dazzling white, with gold accents. His hair was golden and he had the most serene smile on his face. I felt instantly peaceful, and filled with such incredibly sweet joy that I can’t even compare it to anything I’ve felt before, or since.

The Angel was holding a silver platter. On the platter was a bakery store picture perfect loaf of bread and a silver pitcher of beautiful ruby red wine. He then knelt before me and placed the platter in front of me, and just as instantly as this vision appeared, it was gone, and the television came back into focus again.

I was bewildered, almost second guessing, but no, I knew what I saw. I wasn’t sleeping (the very thought was laughable since I had bad insomnia since my husband had left us). The next day I was talking to someone on the phone trying to decipher what it might have meant, when my son (who I didn’t even realize was listening) said, “Mom, that’s Communion”. As soon as he said that it became clear to me, and I began to cry. I knew God was with me, and my children, and He would care for us.

Courage

217I am brave,

but not strong.

I am merely too tired

to carry on…

this way.

“What way?”

Heavily burdened

and laden down.

I’m letting it fall

to the ground.

I’m walking away;

I won’t look back.

Feet, carry me

away from the past.

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Recovery From Anorexia is Possible!

I am adding this post to my “positive” blog because recovery is a Good thing. It means you have grown. You are not where you used to be.

This is the first time I am writing about being a recovering anorexic. In times past I could never really even talk about it, never mind write about it in cyberspace and put it out there for the world to see! Even as I type this, knowing I am sizes bigger than I used to be, I STILL feel like simultaneously denying I was truly anorexic, and struggling with the urge to starve the extra pounds away. It’s so easy to do, so hard to resist, but I have been resisting for about eight years now. Yay me!

As with all writing, it never really turns out how you hoped it would, it just sort of takes on a life of its own. In my head it seemed so easy, but the reality is much harder. I want to say that it’s all good now. I want to say that I am better, and though I haven’t truly relapsed in eight years, I still know it’s a daily struggle. That’s the thing! People think that once you start living your life in a healthy way that the feelings and urges somehow magically disappear, but that is so far from the truth of it!

Overcoming those negative urges with positivity is possible. I don’t mean phony “just believe in yourself” fluff. I mean nitty gritty, serious, objective, and realistic positivity. Changing your life begins with changing your mindset. Changing your mindset starts with what you think, and that fuels how you react, and then what you do. For example: thoughts like “I am worth living for”, or “My body ALLOWS me to live on this planet so I MUST take care of it” are what got me through the worst. After my daughter was born in 2011 I also added thoughts like, “My body carried life. It carried a miracle, so it deserves to be celebrated!”. In struggling with body image after carrying a child I would grit my teeth and tell myself “Your body is never going to look the same again, but that is FINE because your different, your life is different, and the focus needs to be too.” When it got really bad I would tell myself, “This child is innocent, she NEVER needs to hear the hellish word ‘fat’ unless it’s referring to butter in a recipe!” and “This child needs a mother, she deserves a mother that cares about her enough to focus on HER and forget about your hang-ups forever”. See? Nitty gritty.

I haven’t touched a scale since I almost relapsed in 2006. I just never get on one. I cannot. As soon as I started focusing on numbers I started spiralling downward again. I wasn’t even aware I was going that far down until I stepped on a scale and sat down and cried when I saw I was 118 lbs. That doesn’t sound too bad until you consider my bottom weight is supposed to be between 125-135 lbs. It meant I was past that point. That point that says I can handle this. I am ok. It was about that time that I met my husband. Be it fate or destiny he happened to be trained as a chef and dietician! It was his influence and constant, I want to say nagging, but it was more like, “oh you’re feeling off? Here I’ll make you some pie” that got me eating again. Really, truly eating the things I had not allowed myself to since childhood. I spent some time seriously angry with him for making me eat, and more importantly (to me at the time) for cooking or baking me such yummy things that I felt I could not resist. Maybe some of it had to do with feeling safe, something I didn’t have the luxury of feeling during the previous 20 or so odd years. Whatever it was I began to eat.

As I began to explore the world of culinary delights once more I was conscious of the need to stay active. Did I exercise? Yes, I did. I had a liquor store at the time and keeping in shape for all of the heavy lifting was necessary, so I exercised, but not manically like I did before. You know the drill: Starve-run-starve-run. Anyway, that was out of the question as I actually needed muscles for all of the heavy lifting at the store. I want to say it was all fine, but as soon as I began eating “normally” I gained. The pounds stayed, even with the exercise. Therein lies the true struggle of a recovering anorexic and the “secret” to recovery that I didn’t hear of until I began to actually recover. Your body has been abused. There is no easy way to say that. Once you begin eating it freaks out and doesn’t trust you anymore. It believes you will starve again so it needs to outsmart you and pack on those pounds in anticipation of the lean times it believes are just around the corner. It is a true do-or-die moment. You need to push past this if you are going to succeed.

I don’t want to be long, boring, or preachy so I want to end here. Before I do, I would also like to mention one other thing. Part of my recovery got really messy for me because I was anaemic for five years. In addition to this it has left me with lingering effects like a Vitamin B12 deficiency. I receive injections of B12 because my body cannot process it properly from food or vitamin supplements. I am not sure why and every doctor I have talked to seems convinced they do not relate, but I know as sure as I am writing this they do and that is why I am including it. I have added a couple of links here and here so you can read the medical jumbo about anaemia and B12 deficiency. I know it may not apply to everyone, but it took me long years of being tired and not knowing why, and then more years of painstaking research. I do not want to see someone else struggle with this part of recovery.

Good luck to you, and don’t be afraid of the hard parts would be a more appropriate encouragement. There are self-help groups, websites, blogs, and call in lines if you are anti-social like me, and just get out a pen and a pad of paper if you do not feel like talking about it, but whatever method you choose, DO NOT keep those destructive thoughts and feelings to yourself! Get them out into the open where the shadows don’t seem so dark, and the boogeyman is not so scary. I hope you make it. You CAN make it.

Accepting and Celebrating Who You Are

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I have spent most of my adult life feeling guilty for not conforming to societal norms. I tried to mould myself into what most would call a normal, productive adult lifestyle, but no matter how hard I tried I would end up miserable.

I do not run a conventional household. Yes, I love staying up late and sleeping late. I get as much sleep as you do, just at different times. I used to struggle all throughout my school career. I would be extremely tired throughout the morning, and would perk up near the end of the day. I was called lazy, rebellious, and just plain weird by almost everyone. I would read late into the night and my most productive homework hours were the middle of the night for everyone else. Coffee was my friend pretty early in life. After the internet became a normal part of life I would seek out those nocturnal types on Yahoo! Chat Rooms (remember those?) and even talk to people from around the world who were up during “normal” daylight hours. After so many years of feeling guilty for all the late mornings and opting to miss breakfast for more sleep I woke up (late) one day and had an epiphany; I do not have to feel guilty or apologize for being different anymore. I am who I am and I need to accept me, just the way I am.

On that note I found a couple of articles that explore this further. The first explains that it is an actual disorder called delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS). Not Everyone’s Internal Clock is Set For 9-5

The second article is mostly fun, with a little bit of science mixed in. It describes how the most intelligent of us tend to stay up later and sleep later. Night Owls and Early Risers Have Different Brain Structures

Hooray! One more reason to celebrate me!

Loving Our Children

Being a good parent is so much more that feeding your kids, clothing them, or even making them independent, successful or happy. We are called to “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it”  Proverbs 22:6 NKJV. I saw this posted on Facebook today and I knew that somewhere someone is struggling to provide for their children all of the “things” they didn’t have as a child. There is a gift you can give them far better than that. It is the love of God, the salvation message of Jesus Christ, and the hope of Heaven. This is far better than any “thing” I can provide. Here are a few resources I have found to start you off in praying for your child.

http://kirkcameron.com/four-things-pray-children/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=facebook

http://www.toshowthemjesus.com/2012/teach-me-jesus-thursdays-praying-for-our-children/

http://csahm.com/christian-parenting/prayer-for-our-children/

Real Love

Last night my husband kissed me and drove off. It was his last shift before two days off. He is a truck driver. He told me he would call in the morning before driving home (about an hour away). He didn’t make it there.
About five minutes after he left home he merged onto the highway and saw lights coming at him. He tried to swerve, but the vehicle swerved into his path again. He pulled over as far as he could and just managed to avoid being hit. He knew the person was trying to hit him, and he also knew that if the person managed to hit him, they would both die from the impact as he had no trailer attached to the truck at the time. The other vehicle kept on and swerved down the off-ramp.
My husband took the next exit and followed the highway until he came to the place where the vehicle exited. He found horror there. The guy had hit the guardrail, but didn’t die. He was hurt, but he got out of his vehicle. A car with an older lady had stopped, and another with a young man. The older woman was screaming when my husband drove up because the man had doused himself in something and lit himself on fire! The man was drunk and was trying to commit suicide. He ran into the brush, and that started smoking too. There is no stop-drop-and roll when you use an accelerant, so it burned him too badly to really help, but the other two people and my husband tried to help him. The lady called the paramedics and another person stopped traffic until the police and paramedics came.
The young man and older woman climbed up to the road and left the burned man there. All they did was stop when the car crashed. They left him for whatever reason.
My husband stayed with him, pulled off his hat and stroked his hair and talked very gently to him as they waited. My husband had compassion, and extended grace to the man as he lay dying. My husband asked him why he drove into an oncoming lane. It was then the dying man realized he could have killed my husband and he apologized. My husband accepted his apology and tried to talk to him about God. The man was so upset that his family and God had rejected him and that he just wanted to die, but my husband stayed and told him God forgives, if you only believe!! He wasn’t angry at the man for almost killing him, for he looked past all of the mess to see a hurting person and he tried to help him and point him to God.
My husband is upstairs resting after the trauma. I hope he can heal from it in time, but for now he needs prayers. You see, as Christians, this is what we are called to do! To Love.

Micah 6:8
He has shown you, O man, what is good; what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
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**UPDATE**

The man is alive, we have no idea how, but he is. He could also use your prayers as if he ultimately survives it will be a long road to recovery.  My husband is seeing a grief counsellor tomorrow provided by his company. The other people who were at the scene are being taken care of by Victim’s Services.