Mercies in Disguise

To those of you who follow regularly, you know that I frequently discuss what I have to come to feel is my calling in life after J’s death, or maybe as a result of his death.  I don’t like how that last part sounds though; I don’t like having to lose him in order to attempt to touch lives.  In fact, when I woke up this morning, I’ll be honest, I didn’t even want this to be my calling.  I spoke with a good friend about sometimes praying that this wouldn’t be my calling, that I could have an easier one.  Maybe that seems selfish, but, I’m sharing it with you anyways, because like always, my pity party leads to a blessing. You see, my reason for not wanting this to be my calling is because I want one that only allows me to suffer, and not my sweet little boy. I feel like even though I shouldn’t have to endure this experience, he should have to even less.  And, truthfully, I’ve debate TIME and TIME again about starting this movement and putting myself and my emotions out there.  I debated about whether or not people would believe in this cause, whether they would back me, and whether or not I could really honor our family’s decision to walk the line and be a part of the good in the world.  And, really, for a long time I thought it would be easier to grieve if I didn’t make it so public.  The reality is, the exact opposite is true.

Today, as I was walking through a local craft fair, I began to reminisce about the last year I attended the same fair.

How J and I had watched C’s eyes light up as he witnessed Santa appear by helicopter, as he got to sit on his lap, and walk through the crowded aisles holding our hands and pointing out toys he wanted. I also distinctly remember him wanting a VERY pricey fire truck, and J having to carry a four year old out while he was kicking and screaming about said fire truck, while I got to stand in line and wait for our pictures.  As I watched J carry C out, I remember thinking how lucky I was to have such a wonderful husband who supported me in parenting our child.  And how C was blessed because he had a daddy who required a level of behavior from him that would eventually lead to C becoming a responsible adult, even though at the time C was not appreciative of said behavioral expectations.

As I absent mindedly walked through the aisle of the same fair this year, I couldn’t help but think about how much has changed in one year for us.  And, as I was deep in thought, another officer’s wife came and introduced herself to me.  And while I’m sure she has no idea how much her words meant to me, and how much of a reminder they were, I pray she is reading this tonight.

Just as she began to speak to me, I happened to catch a small phrase of a song that was being sung.  It’s called, “Blessings” by Laura Story.  Here’s the link:

As the officer’s wife was speaking to me, I heard “What if your blessings   come through raindrops? What if your healing comes through tears?” being sung.  And, at first, I really didn’t pay much attention to the song.  I was attempting to focus on our conversation.  As we spoke, she was telling me her own story, her own trials and tribulations, and her own blessings.  And, we talked about the strength it takes to overcome those trials.  Towards the end of the conversation, she told me through teary eyes, that “you have no idea how many people God is allowing you to bless through your loss.”  Honestly, I’m not sure what the rest of the conversation was about, and that isn’t because of lack of interest. It was because I’ve been told time and time again by therapists that the grieving process never ends, but it lessens when acceptance of the event and of your future without your husband finally happens.  I’m by no means proclaiming acceptance today, but before today, I didn’t even entertain that as option in my life.  How does one finally accept such a loss?  I simply thought that this was some “therapist invented word or stage” that was meant to make me feel better in the moment.  Yet, her words struck me, as the first stage of accepting.  We lost J- that will never change. He’ll never come back.  But what is left of my life, my future, that’s where the acceptance begins.  Accepting that we are still here, and because of his loss we can bless other people. I’m not there yet, but I feel like her words planted a small seed.  A much needed one at the time.

As I walked out of the fair, I felt a need to look up the song I had heard such a tiny portion of.  And then, as I read the words to the song. I sat in my car for a long while and simply cried.  While I won’t comment on all of the lyrics, I do want to discuss a few  – the few that provided the affirmation of what the officer’s wife said to me earlier.  It seems paradoxical that I could be blessing people through my own loss.  And, really, I’m not blessing anyone, God is.

“ What if Your blessings come through rain drops? What if Your healing comes through tears?  What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near? What if the trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?”

Maybe those words don’t speak to you, but I pray they do.  I’ve always said that my life could be worse, and believe me, God shows me that frequently by others that I am destined to meet.  A new friend whose son is in a group home because of a childhood illness that left him debilitated.  The anger, the guilt, the responsibility, the sense of failure as mother.  Sometimes, I think what seems like the absolute worst situation, could be worse.  Sometimes what seems like a punishment is actually an act of mercy from an all mighty God. Maybe J’s death isn’t the worst thing that could have possibly been handed to me?  And while that seems impossible to actually believe sometimes, I do feel that we have been spared from worse.

As I immediately downloaded the song, and placed it on repeat, I played it over and over again as I was going on about my errands.  And, each time I heard it, I felt weight being lifted.  No, I didn’t want this to be my calling. I want my husband and C’s daddy back. I didn’t ask for this suffering, but in this suffering, so many blessings have fallen as raindrops. Blessings in our lives and more importantly blessings in other’s lives.  While I’m far from acceptance, the idea seems plausible, if only plausible for brief moments.  I’ve spent what seem like a thousand sleepless nights, where I felt alone.  And, yet I always rise in the morning, and in the quiet moments before C wakes, when I sit and reflect on what I need to accomplish that day, and I pray for the strength to do it, I feel far from alone.  The sleepless nights turn into mornings where I’m reminded of His love for me and His presence near me.

“We pray for wisdom.  Your voice to hear.  We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near.  We doubt Your goodness.  We doubt your love.  As if every promise from Your words is not enough.  And all the while, You hear each desperate plea, and long that we’d have faith to just believe.”

Recently in doubting my calling, I’ve had my fair share of anger.  Mainly anger that C has to endure this.  That he has to suffer, and feel such a void in his life.  And often times in my prayers, I pray that he can just have a normal life.  That more suffering be on me.  And, still, though I pray, I’ve felt anger.  I’ve sometimes doubted the promises that we are given in His word.  And, I try to have the faith to just believe.  To just feel that in the end, this is somehow a blessing in disguise.  I often times tell people that, but believing it, is much different.  Yet, today, the songs the conversation with a fellow officer’s wife, both are proof that there is a greater plan.

A plan that brings honor to our sacrifice.  A plan that hopefully instills more good in the world.  A plan that allows others to change their lives.  A plan that brings honor and glory to our Maker.  The one who time after time after time, affirms for me when I doubt my calling.  The one who reassures me when I feel like I don’t have the strength to do this, or that no one really will believe in what we are doing.  The one who has given me wonderful friends and places on their hearts the exact thing I need to hear in the moment.  The one who allows me to hear today that through my loss I’m touching lives.  Through my strength that comes from Him, I’m receiving blessings through raindrops and passing them on to all of you.

I’m no where near accepting J’s death as a part of my life. I’m not where near accepting that unfortunately we have to suffer.  But today, I’m able to remember how truly awesome our Maker is.  I’m able to remember that even though our lives are almost unbearable at times, we are still comforted by His promises.  And that our faith is at its strongest when we are choosing to believe while kneeling on our knees. Choosing to believe when it seems impossible that we’ll make it through this.  Choosing to believe that even though the grief that comes with losing J won’t ever go away, in the end, eventually, I’ll be able to see its purpose.  That while its purpose may still be in disguise, eventually, it will be revealed to me. And, I can’t help but think that starting this blog, the 31 acts of kindness, each of you and your support are affirmation of that.

Today as I was on my knees and feeling like nothing else could be worse than my life in this moment, I was ever so “gently” reminded by a friend that having faith while on your knees is a choice.  And, it’s not a one-time choice.  It’s a choice we are forced to make frequently.  Tonight, I am thankful for the timing of our God.  For Him bringing the events of today together, and for Him giving me all of you as my support system.

“What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life, is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy?  What if the trials of this life, the rain, the storms, the sleepless nights are Your mercies in disguise?”

Tonight I am thankful for serving a merciful Lord, who is my strength, comfort, and reminder of the greater days to come.  My reminder that even though my life is hard, He is sparing me from much worse.  And tonight dear friends, I’m able to see that and believe it, if only for a moment. Tonight I am thankful for a promise of a life beyond this one. A life I know in my heart J is enjoying, and that someday we will too.  Until then, I pray God keeps affirming to me through all of you, that I have a greater calling on this earth, and that hopefully our sacrifice can become a part of the greater good.

I pray whatever trials and tribulations that are present in your life today, you too can feel Him near.  And that if you find yourself on your knees, that you too make the choice to be faithful, and that you continue to make that choice to believe that sometimes blessings come through raindrops.

Rainbows in the Midst of a Storm!

Wow!  Simply wow!  That’s really all my brain is capable of saying at this point.  You all are simply amazing. Your support, your love, your prayers, your thoughts, your actions – all overwhelmingly amazing.  Yes, I know my nerdy English teacher self should have more accurate adjectives to describe my feelings at this point, but you all simply astound me. 

 

Today was a MUCH needed rainbow in the midst of our storm.  The last week has been one thing after another, and yesterday was our breaking point- both mine and C’s.  We had simply had enough.  Our therapists tell us that our “psyches are done protecting us, and think we can handle the acceptance of our reality.” Well, let me tell you something psyche- we could have used some forewarning!  The reality has set in that our lives are changed forever, and this week that just seemed like too much to bear.  I crashed up against my breaking point NUMEROUS times in the last week, and while I don’t always share in the moment with you all, I do try to be as honest as possible.  To say that the “what if” and the “why” questions haven’t been in my mind lately would be a lie.  And yet I continued to pray.  Yesterday, as I stood in the bathroom of the gym, crying because I simply was done in that moment, I prayed for some kind of rainbow, some reminder that this is my calling. That justice will be served, and that eventually this feeling of being robbed will diminish, if only by a little. I prayed to make this a little more bearable.  I prayed for reminders of my own strength.  But most of all, I prayed that God would continue to surround me with support.

As Wednesday progressed, I began to feel better. I regained my focus on the acts of kindness, and began organizing more.  And then, as I stood in line at Starbucks, working on another act in planning, I received a call from the Defense Attorney’s office.  At first, I’m sure I sounded scared.  A call from them always frightens me because I rarely know what to expect.  But, they delivered potentially good news.  They were going to bring the case back before the grand jury to try to up the charge to murder.  While this essentially still means the same potential amount of years for sentencing, it does however mean that there is a safety net involved. The process is complicated, and I won’t take the time to fully explain it; however, please know this is a WONDERFUL THING!  I was so excited in Starbucks, that I’m sure a few, well probably more than a few, people thought I might have lost my mind. 

 

I went home, and I prayed some more.  I prayed that somehow this would help erase some of my feelings of being robbed.  In my mind a murder charge is fitting for the crime committed- whether intentional in nature or not. The end result was death. And, I didn’t sleep much, so I just kept praying.  I felt that this rainbow was much needed right now!

 

Today we received a phone call that the grand jury ruled there was enough evidence for a murder charge.  And, I had to wait awhile before I could officially share with all of you.  But, let me say, when I did share,  I was overwhelmed with support.  You all rock!  Thank you for being a vivid part of our rainbow!  Watching as our support system grows of course helps me, but the wonderful part of the support system growing is the awareness we are raising.  How we are standing together as a community, and how together we are attempting to turn a negative into a positive.  Tonight, I as Facebook notifications, text messages, and phone calls were pouring in, I took a moment to re-read my first blog post after J’s death. And a paragraph struck me.  This week I have thought on more than one occasion how I might seriously be losing my mind by creating Pink Behind The Thin Blue Line, and putting myself out in the public more.  I thought that maybe this really wasn’t my calling.  Maybe, I should just grieve silently.  And then, as I was reading the post through a FEW blessings of interruptions J, this paragraph spoke to me:

“ We prayed some more, and we realized that if we don’t fight the battle who will? Giving in because the sacrifice was ‘too difficult’ or ‘too time consuming,’ simply wasn’t an option.  By giving in, we were letting them win.  And that simply wasn’t acceptable in our minds.  So the next day, I ironed his uniforms, he put on his vest, I kissed him goodbye and told him to be safe.  He responded with ‘always.’ And from that day forward, we never doubted his calling or level of sacrifice we had to make in order to ensure he continued his calling.  Being an officer was in his blood, and even though I didn’t know it for quite some time, it was in mine as well.”

 

Well, talk about rainbows!  Tonight, I am thankful for answered prayers for rainbows!  Tonight, I’m thankful for a team of attorneys who fight for J like he is their blood.  I am thankful for friends, family, and complete strangers who are like my family.  I’m thankful for God putting the right words in their minds.  I’m thankful for affirmation of my calling- once more.  I’m thankful for each person who recognizes me in public, even though sometimes that can become overwhelming, and who tell me that they are so proud I’m still fighting.  I’m thankful for reminders of J’s brothers in blue. I’m also thankful for the news of getting to witness one of our special brothers in blue get married and start a family!  Tonight, even though often times I feel like a victim- tonight, even if it is only for a little while, tonight I’m in control.  And you all have played such a LARGE role in that. Tonight, I am thankful for being called to be an officer’s wife.  Few people can do it, and even less answer their call, but those of us who do, are strong women.  We are women who look evil the face, and we stand on our own two feet.  But, thankfully, I do NOT stand alone!  So, thank you for allowing me to view this rainbow tonight, for YOU are the ones that are holding this rainbow up. 

Again,

“Every blessing you pour down I’ll turn back to praise.  When the darkness closes in Lord, still I will say, ‘blessed be the name of the Lord.’” 

31 Acts of Kindness- The Journey Continues While Fullfilling a Dream

Tonight, I am writing with an astonished, grateful, and humble spirit.  Since my last post, C and I have been actively working on our acts of kindness, and I’ve also attending one of the most motivational and inspiring events since J’s death.  In an effort to consolidate, but still update you as much as possible, I plan to write about both in this post.  So, let me walk you through my life since my last post.

 

To start, I was surprised, to say the very least, at the amount of views, reads, clicks, shares, and overall support and encouragement I received about my last post.  I simply thought I was sharing with you our lives; however, you all taught me otherwise.  When I had the dream about creating a service organization or group, I really thought it could never happen. That I would never receive the support I needed, or that the support would eventually fizzle out.  Believe me, I stand before you all humbly corrected. You all are AZAMAZING!  I sincerely thank you for believing in my cause, in J’s memory, in your community, but most of all, thank you for believing in and supporting the sacrifice law enforcement families make daily.

 

After C and I visited the hospital and were truly touched by the level of support and prayers we still receive from the selfless nurses and caretakers, I began to brainstorm about other acts of kindness C and I could do.  It’s all my English teacher nerdy brain could think about!  It’s addicting, in a positive way! I know each of you want to be a part of this journey, so here we go!

 

Act 2:

We donated books to C’s school.  In an effort to keep our personal lives as personal as possible, I will tell you that his teacher, Mrs. N is more than deserving of this honor. I have watched as my math and science brained child began to foster a love for reading.  He began to believe in his own ability, and he now constantly tries to sound out words. Today, he received a sticker for “taking his time on his sight words.” Might I add, this is our first sticker for this!  As a teacher, I know how important it is to offer parental support to our teachers.  To remind them of their importance, and to continue to encourage them.  She teaches my baby like he is her own, and for that and so much more, we are truly grateful.  It seemed fitting that I continue to try to evoke a love of reading in all of C’s classmates!

BOOK DONATION

Act 3:

Raising a generous young man was a goal of our parenting team even before C’s birth.  And, anytime we can encourage any of C’s friends to have that same spirit, we jump on that chance.  C and one of his friends were schooled in “How to Become a Gentleman 101.” These young boys opened doors for people at Crackerbarrel and Tamolly’s.  We watched as our young boys learned about manners, welcomed diversity, and exhibited overall generosity.  The boys told people to “have a good night,” and to “enjoy their dinner.”  While it only lasted about 20 minutes, remember we are working with 5 year old attention spans here, I can assure you that this mother’s heart was simply a melted mess at the end of that 20 minutes.  I’m always amazed at C’s sincerity and kindness.  And while some of that is fostered by parenting, a great deal of that is inherited.  It is a blessing to watch your son impact people’s lives on what seems like such a small level; however, I know this act and others like it, are just the start of a lifetime of service and therefore fulfillment in C’s life.

door opening

Act 4:

Given the events of our lives in the past 5 months, sometimes C and I just need to get away.  Last Saturday was one of those days.  It had officially been 5 months since J’s death, and while that seems surreal to me that is has been 5 months, it also seems surreal that it has ONLY been 5 months.  Here we go with the paradoxes again!  However, C wanted to visit the Air Force base in Shreveport.  J loved anything flight related, especially when it involved the military, and C is just like his daddy.  After we spent a few hours reading every sign imaginable about airplanes, we went shopping.  C wanted to “Build a bear.” While there, I noticed a sign for Toys for Tots.  C was more than excited and willing to get to build two animals.  He “breathed life” into both of them.  And then he wanted to pray for the child who would receive the bunny he built.  He prayed that it would bring the kid happiness.  Again, this resulted in a mother’s melted heart.

toys for tos

Act 5:

While I would love to involve C in every one of the acts, it’s nearly impossible considering his school schedule; therefore, sometimes I have to act alone.  Afterwards, he and I always talk about how I felt while fulfilling the act.  Two of my dearest and possibly oldest (of course meaning years of friendship, not biological age) friends are due to receive some very important and exciting news in the coming weeks.  They have worked extremely hard at earning the honor of a National Board Certified teacher.  For those of you who aren’t in the education world, let’s just say, they might as well be earning two Master’s degrees for the amount of hours, work, and reflection they have put into earning this recognition.  J knew both of these women, and thought highly of each of them.  These ladies have been with me since our nerdy days as English majors at Henderson, and while I would LOVE to be there in person when they receive what I’m sure will be positive news, the reality is I simply can’t.  So, today, J and I were there in spirit when the florist delivered them good luck flowers.  I’ve tried really hard to touch as many lives as possible in our community by our acts, but sometimes, our dearest friends need to be reminded just how special they are!  Thank you for investing in our future generations by furthering your own education, comfort zones, and abilities as teachers! Love you beautiful ladies!

good luck flowers

Act 6:

C’s school has been discussing the meaning of Thanksgiving and being thankful.  And, while this holiday season will most definitely be difficult, it is still not an excuse for us to forget to give thanks.  Today, we donated food to a local food bank.  C and I discussed how we have a responsibility and expectation from God to take care of those who need it, just as our community overwhelmingly supported us in our time of need.  We talked about returning the blessing.  After I donated the food, C and I talked about how nice it will be for other families to get to have a wonderful Thanksgiving meal just like we are going to.  C was excited because I bought sweet peas.  He said, “that’s one of daddy’s favorites. I bet he eats that in heaven for Thanksgiving.”  Again…my heart melts.

thanksgiving food

Act 7:

We created a thank you package for our local mail carrier.  C was more than excited to try to fit the package into the mailbox.  Let’s just remember that I’m an English teacher, not an Engineering major.  I picked the items because they were cute, not because they would fit into a mailbox.  Luckily, God granted me an engineering minded son.  He made it work, and the cute bag was only slightly crinkled.  He reminded me, that the cute bag wasn’t the important part. And, here I stand corrected. He, my 5 year old, is right.  The bag isn’t the important part.

mail carrier

Act 8:

Today, one of my dreams came true.  Today, because of Texarkana Funeral Home, I got the chance to begin investing in the education of our future generations, and therefore investing in our community as well.  As a teacher, I have invested in the education of our future generations for years.  However, today, I was privileged to be able to take my outreach one step further.  This morning when I walked into Texarkana College, I was overwhelmed at the level of community, department, school, and overall support our cause received.  As the President of Texarkana College spoke about J’s legacy, and our vision for the scholarship, it was difficult to control my emotions.  This morning felt like a dream to me.  I’ve wanted this for so long, and it is finally coming true.  Again, I’m surprised by all of the support we have received.  Texarkana Funeral Home donated 6,000 dollars to start the fund, and before 3:30 today, we had another 3,500 dollars donated.  This additional amount includes donations made by the local Police Association, the Texarkana College President himself, and the President of the Texarkana College Board of Directors.  I am writing this post tonight truly humbled that all of these people would believe and back my dream.  That they would understand the need to support young people who are embarking on a criminal justice related field.  I am excited that The Pink Behind The Thin Blue Line is able to spread the word about the amount of courage it takes for each of these young men and women to announce their intent to be employed in the criminal justice field.  Often times this decision results in alienation of many of their friends and family members, and as a teacher and officer’s wife, I am more than happy to continue to encourage them to pursue this field.  I am impressed at their courage and dedication.  They are being taught by a man who truly believes in the ability of his students and in the life of service they are intending to lead. The education field needs more people like Stephen Gass – teachers who truly believe in the ability of their students to change the world, and who willingly give of themselves to ensure that their students have the tools they need in order to help our community.

scholarship

Throughout the presentation and reception numerous people thanked me for choosing the criminal justice program at Texarkana College; however, given J’s dedication to his community and his own life of service, I couldn’t think of a better place to invest! Today, as so many people gathered to officially begin this scholarship, I know that J is beyond proud of the work WE are doing.  I’m not alone in all of this.  You all, the community, my dearest friends, my family, and my colleagues, you are my cheering section.  You are who believe in me, and you are who encouraged me to fulfill this dream.

 

For those of you who frequently read my posts, you know I have discussed J’s wish for me not to ever lose my life if he were to ever lose his.  Today, in the lobby of Texarkana College, and later on in a conversation with two amazing ladies who serve daily as TTPD officers, I once again received validation that I have indeed not lost my life.  That I am healing myself by investing in our community and its future generations.  And most importantly, that I am teaching our son to do the same.

Sometimes a life of service can leave a person feeling lonely, as if no one notices his or her contribution. But a person who is truly dedicated to service pushes through those dark days and continues his/her whether or not he/she has validation to do so because they are CHOOSING to serve.  C and I would continue to CHOOSE to serve even without your validation and support because it is how we walk our own thin blue line; however, I must tell you Texarkana, you sure know how to make a girl believe in her dreams.  And you are such a vital part of keeping J’s memory alive!

 

A special thanks to Texarkana College for allowing me to continue my dream of investing in our community and for allowing me to keep J’s memory alive.  As well as a special thanks to Texarkana Funeral Home for not only donating the money to start the scholarship fund, but also for selflessly donating J’s funeral and services.  I know that neither the college nor the funeral home expects to be formally thanked for their contributions in honor J’s sacrifice, but they are most deserving!  People ask me all the time why I have chosen to stay here, tonight my support group, you have read many of the reasons!  We are home!

 

If you would like to donate to the Officer Jason Sprague Memorial Scholarship, please contact  the Texarkana College Foundation at 903-823-3125.  Please feel free to view the following stories written about today.  Just remember I write well, but interview horribly on camera!

http://www.ktbs.com/story/24003612/scholarship-named-in-honor-of-fallen-police-officer

http://www.ktxk.org/stories.html

https://www.texarkanacollege.edu/blog/2013/11/18/scholarship-fund-established-in-honor-of-fallen-officer-jason-sprague/

Also, many of you are anxiously awaiting information on how to help our efforts with The Pink Behind The Thin Blue Line.  I am currently reading tax laws, and looking for a meeting place.  Until then, I encourage you and your family to find your own acts of kindness to fulfill!

Raising A Young Boy into A Generous Man- 31 Acts of Kindness

When J was in the hospital, and I was alone in the room with him, I had more than a few moments of time to think about what my life would be like if he were to pass.  More importantly, how would I raise a boy into a man?  I’ve touched on this topic before in previous posts. I didn’t want to have these thoughts, and I tried to push them away, but frequently I was unsuccessful.  After J passed, I felt cheated. I felt that I had entered a marriage and chose to have a child by him because he was my partner in raising our son into a man, and now here I was without my partner.  In the hospital room, in J’s final moments, I made a promise to him that I would make this negative into a positive, and that I would somehow find the courage and ability to raise our son into a generous, caring, and selfless man.

Sometime during the week after J passed, it’s all still a blur, I had a very distinct dream.  I dreamed about starting this blog.  I dreamed about the name, the concept, the message behind it. I dreamed about many of you who are reading this blog today, and I also dreamed about the many more I could reach by sharing my story, as painful as that sometimes is.  I also dreamed about turning the idea of The Pink Behind The Thin Blue Line into a community service organization.  I woke up in the middle of the night, and I felt a calling placed upon my heart.  An urging that had been there in some capacity since the knock on my door in the early morning of June 14th.  A calling that there was a message to be shared from J’s death, and there were tasks to be completed in order to continue to walk our thin blue line and be a part of the good that still exists within the world.  But, as you can imagine and I have frequently shared on here, task after task, after task kept getting added to my list.  And I simply kept pushing God’s calling for me out of my mind.  Until, I simply couldn’t ignore it any longer.

And so, I started blogging.  And then, for awhile, that seemed like enough. It calmed down the urging in my heart, but it didn’t fully erase it.  About 2 weeks ago, I had another dream, and in that dream, I was able to bless so many people through community service, and community outreach programs.  And in my dream, I remember feeling content, and I distinctly remember J smiling down on me.  I recall waking up feeling that this was how I was to continue to walk that thin blue line that we signed up for so many years before.  And, so I began the process of creating a non-profit organization called “The Pink Behind The Thin Blue Line.”  It’s no where near ready yet, but I know in my heart, this is my calling.  This organization is the start of how I’m going to overcome this storm, and how I’m going to raise C into a generous and selfless man – just like his daddy.  And the beauty is, I’m not doing it alone.

While the organization is no where near ready to launch, that doesn’t mean our selfless and sharing should have to wait.  J would have turned 31 at the end of this month.  And tonight, as C and I were talking over dinner. We discussed a book he had read in school.  It is something to do with filling other people’s buckets.  In other words doing things for others fills their bucket and it also in turn fills your own.  As any 5 year old would be, he was a little confused by the concept.  So, I decided to demonstrate it for him.

And, in explaining and demonstrating selflessness and acts of kindness, an idea occurred to me.  What better way to start our path to a generous young man and also begin our quest as The Pink Behind The Thin Blue Line, than to perform acts of kindness in J’s honor.  So, I typed out a letter.  And we embarked on our trip to Target.  I love that store! 🙂

On the way we discussed how daddy would have turned 31 this month, and how we are going to perform 31 acts of kindness for others in the next few weeks.  Naturally, he was a little apprehensive, and when I explained what our first act would be, he was even more apprehensive.  The 28 plus hours we spent in the hospital, were indescribable to you; however, the care that J received, the compassion from the nurses, and the overall love we were given, was what made the situation remotely bearable. And although I didn’t allow C in the ICU, it was important for him to meet the nurses who cared for his daddy.  As you might imagine, he has a lot of questions about why his daddy had to die.  And, so I explained that our first act of kindness as The Pink Behind The Thin Blue Line, would be to visit those nurses, and take them some snacks.  I explained that they tried their hardest to help J, and that we should be appreciative of their dedication.  C agreed, although he was more than apprehensive to go to the hospital again.  We  visited Target, and we prayed together in the parking lot of the hospital.

We prayed for strength and bravery to face our fears, and we also prayed for the people we were about to meet for what is the first time after J’s death.  I thought I would be more afraid, more apprehensive, and have nothing to say when we finally made it back there.  It took a LOT of convincing for them to even allow C to the doors of the ICU, and rightly so.  They were doing their jobs.  So, our snack totes in hand, we walked into the surgical ICU.    We hugged each of the nurses who played such a vital role in giving us those precious few hours with J.  They talked about how they had prayed for us daily, and I talked about how I prayed for them.  They said, ” You shouldn’t even be thinking about us so soon after losing your husband.” And my response was, this is exactly what I’m being called to do.  We explained our 31 acts of kindness, and how important it was for them to be first.  And because they were so busy, we didn’t stay long.  But, those moments, those smiles, those tears, those “I wish I could have done more’s…”  Those moments of sheer appreciation and gratitude on their part and on mine for all that they did, were my affirmation that this is the path I was chosen for.  This is the opportunity where I get to use this strength that so many of you say I have, but this time, I get to use it for something I want to.  This is my calling, and I’m so blessed each of you are a part of it!

The nurses were extremely busy tonight and so we didn't ask to take a picture with them.  So instead you get a picture with lights that were extremely bright; however, I'm sure you'll all be so kind to look past that ;)

The nurses were extremely busy tonight and so we didn’t ask to take a picture with them. So instead you get a picture with lights that were extremely bright; however, I’m sure you’ll all be so kind to look past that 😉

As we were leaving the ICU floor, we saw another nurse that spent probably the most time of any with J.  She got to meet C for the first time, and again affirmation.  The last time I spoke to her, I couldn’t even verbalize my thoughts, but today, because I was starting the path of my calling, today, I really got to thank her.  And, for C to witness that moment, in fact for him to witness all of those moments, was priceless.  This my friends is how we, J’s spirit and I, are turning a boy into a generous man.

When we made it to the car, my young 5 year old little boy, starts singing, “Every storm runs out of rain.” I didn’t even know he knew that song.  And he told me, “does this mean our storm is running out of rain?”  As if I needed anymore affirmation tonight.  God is good my friends, and I pray that this is just the spark of the generous spirit within my young boy.  Tonight, I know J is smiling, and I know that because we can’t seem to stop.

And, none of this is to brag. I don’t need affirmation that what I’m doing is the right thing.  What I need, is help from you.  I can’t do this alone. And so in the weeks and months to come, I plan to organize events, and I’ll need your help.  While I doubt I’ll be able to blog daily about our acts of kindness.  I do intend to update you as frequently as possible.  And, in the mean time, I challenge you to do perform some acts of kindness on your own.  Change another person’s life tomorrow.  And when you do so, remember J – remember a guy who chose to walk that line daily, who chose to be an active part of the good in the world.  And while you are busy changing other’s lives, watch your own change as well.  Our world needs to turn around the entitled generation, and we need to instead raise kids into generous and selfless adults.  Ones that understand the paradox of sacrifice.  The beauty and the pain in it.  But that the beauty will always win out, if you only allow it.

If you would like to become a part of the efforts of The Pink Behind The Thin Blue Line, please email me at ssprague02@gmail.com.  As soon as more events are planned, I’ll be more than happy to give you a job :)!  Until then, please pay it forward, and remember J’s sacrifice while doing so.  And continue to allow the beauty of sacrifice to win out over the pain!

Veterans- Personification of Sacrifice

Anything I write will pale in comparison to a veteran’s willingness to sacrifice. I’ll never be satisfied with the end result of this blog. It will never be enough to thank those who made my ability to write this blog a realistic freedom. But, a failure to write anything because I don’t feel it does justice to their level of sacrifice, just isn’t right. So, tonight it’s not about my family’s sacrifice. Tonight, it’s about those who paved the road and continue to clear it again and again, so that we all can continue to be free.

veterans day

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

                                                    -Thomas Jefferson

As a teacher, I’ve often used this quote.  I’ve utilized it in a variety of ways- to discuss hypocrisy, to lead a discussion on sacrifice, to establish a pre-reading conversation on the book, The Things They Carried, and many more ways.  It’s actually one of my favorite quotes.  Its simplicity speaks volumes.

And, as a high school teacher, I quite frequently discuss my students’ plans for the future.  Many of my students want to join the military.  And, sometimes they tell me, “people don’t understand my motives.  They tell me, ‘why would you want to intentionally put yourself in harm’s way?'” And often times, my students can’t verbally express their calling.  They can’t put into words why they feel they should enlist.  Some join because they feel it’s their only option.  Others join because they “need to grow up, and have a better life.”  And then, on a rare occasion, I have students who are enlisting for a far different reason.  In these students, you can see their calling in their eyes.  You can hear it in their voice.  And before we go farther, please understand that I am in no way saying one reason for enlistment is better or more noble than the others.  Anyone willing to enlist is in my definition the personification of sacrifice.

But today, I want to share with you a story of one of my AP students from last year.  A young man who has inspired me, and is wise beyond his years.  A young man who has had military running through his blood since I have known him.  A young man who understands the nature of a sacrifice on a level few people twice his age could. In fact, he hasn’t even been given the opportunity yet to sacrifice for his country, but I can assure you he gets the motive of sacrifice.  He told me that he was enlisting for his 17th birthday present to himself.  I hope that the conversation he and I had will inspire you to be so willing to sacrifice in your life – even if it’s on a much smaller level.

I’m going to quote his conversation verbatim, (please remember he is a high school student):

“I just don’t understand…everybody asks me why I want to [enlist in the Marines], and I can’t give them an [exact] answer.  It’s not a matter of what I want. It’s just something I feel like I have to do for myself.  I don’t want to sign a piece of paper knowing I could be signing my life away. And I don’t look forward to all of the sacrifices I’m going to have to make, but nothing pushes me away from it either.  If anything, it pulls me in more.  It makes me want to do it even more.  I honestly don’t understand how people can live with themselves without making sacrifices.  In my eyes sacrifice builds character. If I’m not willing to sacrifice what I have for something I believe in, then I am too caught up in material things and I’m being selfish. The people that others are losing their lives for are no different than you and I.  I would expect others to sacrifice what they have for me.  And it would be pretty hypocritical of me not to do the same for them.  If people would realize the sacrifices that others make for them and choose to make the sacrifices for someone else, the world would be so much different.  Now I know there’s no way that will ever happen, but that’s just the philosophy I live by.  I’m only one person, and I can only do so much, but if I can do just enough to inspire someone else to live their life that way, then I feel like I have done my job.”

What could I possibly add to that? In fact, anything else I have to say fails in comparison to his comments.  This young man, hasn’t even had a chance to become a veteran yet, but he, and each and every veteran, are the personification of sacrifice.

I loved his honesty with the statement, ” I don’t look forward to all of the sacrifices I’m going to have to make.”  That statement right there is why he and all of our veterans are the personification of sacrifice.  The mere definition of sacrifice implies giving up something of value to a person; it implies hardship or loss on the part of a person.  And often times it requires the same difficulty and loss on the people around the person choosing to sacrifice.  Yet, sacrifice is vital to the progress of our country.  The ability and willingness to sacrifice is what separates those who want to become a better person from those who are willing to remain stagnant.

Yet, despite the loss, the difficulty, and the hardships, our veterans and those who are enlisting today, choose to invest in our country and the well being of its citizens with each enlistement, service, or tour. Each requires sacrifice.  Their enlistment writes a check to this country that we can’t ever repay them for. Yet, they still are willing. Thank you, even though the words are small, my heartfelt feelings are much larger. Thank you to all of my friends, family, students, and those who enlist, and I’ll never know your name. Thank you for being the personification of sacrifice.

And so, I end with the thought, what would our city, our state, and idealistically our country be like if more people were willing to sacrifice, even on a much smaller level.  Willing to go without something, or to go out of their way for someone else?  My vision for The Pink Behind the Thin Blue Line is just that.  Random acts of kindness and organized ones as well, that require small sacrifices on our part, but leave the world in a better place.  While we can’t all be the personification of sacrifice that our veterans are, we can still leave an impact upon the world with our own small sacrifices.  To all who have served, a thank you isn’t enough, but please know that we hope to honor your sacrifices by being willing to sacrifice of our time, money, and resources to continue to invest in our country in our own way.

Look for more information on The Pink Behind the Thin Blue Line organization, its events, and the sacrifices we are currently planning.  For more information about upcoming events, please visit my Facebook page, The Pink Behind The Thin Blue Line.  If I were more tech savy, I could link it, and I’ll work on that for you.

Humanity exists in the paradoxes

When teaching AP language each year, my students always seem to struggle with truly grasping the definition of a paradox. And, to be completely honest, I generally quote them the definition, two ideas that seem contradicting at first but when further examined make sense. I give them an example, for instance, beautiful mistakes. We discuss, and we move on. And, even though I’m a die hard analysis nerd, I really never gave the idea of a paradox much thought.

That is until one of the three am conversations I so frequently have with friends. Quite often in my blogs, I refer to my paradoxical emotions. My battles between what my intellect says and what my heart feels. My existence in the gray areas of life, and my desire for more black and white. The desire for my feelings to make sense, be justified, at least in my own mind. But then, other times, I take pleasure in the gray, the emotions that seem contradictory but actually make sense. To feel anger which leads me to want to forgive. To grieve but instantaneously feel joy at a forgotten memory. To be blinded by the bad in the world, which leads to the amplification of the good. To want to forget the bad memories, but to need to remember them because they are a measurement of how far I’ve come. Constant tug and pull. Never traveling in a straight line, but zigzaging my way through a maze; backtracking down paths that I thought I’d conquered, only to relive then again. Feeling an emotion, and then immediately its opposite. Which one is real? Which is fake? How do you distinguish?

I struggle with my inability to distinguish because it, at least in my mind, is labeled as failure. Again, intellectually it’s silly, emotionally, it’s real. Surprise-paradox number five thousand and three, all within the last four and a half months. The back and forth, up and down, crying, happy, livid, forgiving – it’s exhausting. Often times it’s debilitating.

But as exhausting and debilitating it often times is, it’s how I know I’m making progress. Thankfully, few people in my life truly understand how I feel. And as alone as that often times makes me feel, it makes me happy too. I’d never wish this upon anyone.

Humanity, progress, reflection, exist in paradoxes. Recently I watched a movie, and it began with this quote:

“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him.”

You can imagine why this paradox bothered me so much. And, I began to reflect on the most difficult paradoxical emotion I’ve encountered. One I’ve failed to conquer, but frequently revisit. Losing J in such a violent way, shook my belief in humanity. Actually, it erased it for a short period of time. It actually made me seriously consider giving up teaching all together. What could I possibly do to change humanity, if hundreds of people drove off that night to save themselves -not my husband? I created a lot of enemies in my mind during the days I spent despising most humans. And, I thought of countless ways I could inflict as much pain on my enemies, as they did on me. I’d be lying if I said I never thought about the pleasure I might feel if they could just feel an ounce of the pain I feel daily. I wanted, needed to, had to find a way to defeat them.

But, I couldn’t. They didn’t give me any means by which to defeat them. In order to defeat someone, you have to be in their head, understand them, predict their moves. And, even at my worst, I just couldn’t bring myself to go there. So at least I thought…

Despite what I wanted to feel, I felt remorse for even thinking of vindication. And, over the past months I’ve tried to come to terms with never receiving an apology, and at the same time not wanting one as well. Sometimes I want to think humanity has lost all hope because it’s easier than accepting an apology I’ll never get. It’s easier than forcing myself to become a better person. But in that lies the ultimate paradox of it all…. I am defeating the enemy because I get the motive. I understand why I haven’t received an apology. Reflecting and becoming a better person isn’t for the faint at heart. It’s why so many people remain stagnant. And, I feel in some ways for the enemy, even at the same time I’m experiencing anger. I feel for the stagnant… And while this pull and tug drives me insane, it motivates me as well. It’s what keeps me walking the line J walked daily. It’s what keeps me from only thinking about sticking my toes into the black, but never crossing over. It’s what makes me empathetic….an emotion that requires humility and reflection.

I know you all probably think I’m insane for admitting to feeling for the enemy, especially when my last post didn’t reflect that at all. I debated on sharing this feeling at all because I thought you’d think I was crazy. But, my paradoxes are what make me human, and they are what cause me to grow. They are what keep me from vindication because they are my vindication. They are what encourage me to continue to teach because they are how I’ll make a difference in the world. More young people need to be taught to embrace the paradoxes in our lives, and to use them to come out on the good side.

Paradoxes are a representation of the good and the bad-how each are reliant upon one another for existence. How could we praise our Savior if we didn’t have a firm grasp of the evils He is saving us from? Not saying one must intentionally experience sin in order to appreciate His glory. But, when we do slip up, it makes us all the more glad that He understands and is merciful. He is why I can even begin to entertain the idea of understanding my enemy’s motives…

So, while my paradoxical emotions drive me insane, they are also my reminder of the person God is preparing me to become. And my reminder of the importance of recognizing them so that I can continue to walk the line with my head held high. They are what allow me to bless others in the midst of my storm….

And while I am far from able to forgive, our even truly understand, I’ll just embrace my paradoxes. I’ll ride out the conflicting emotions, and I’ll pray that each time I gain strength and more mercy and grace, so that I’ll slowly become the person He has destined for me to be.

Maybe you disagree with my feelings. Maybe you think I should be angry, our that in some way I’m betraying J by attempting to understand my enemy, or attempting to start the process of forgiveness. If so, please know you are entitled to your opinions, but you don’t live my life. I can’t continue to be angry; it eats away my being, and it causes me to never grow as a person. Being angry at him requires me to take off my teaching hat, and agree there’s bad in the world and there is nothing I can do about it. In my opinion in doing so I would not only be betraying the cause for which my husband sacrificed his life, but I would be betraying the person God created me to be. You can’t truly be a teacher and agree to give into the bad in the world. Those two can’t exist with in the same person. So, despite being robbed of the love of my life, an amazing daddy to my child, and so much more, I’m choosing to at least entertain the idea of forgiveness. Forgiveness is about me-my emotional well-being, not his. Forgiveness doesn’t justify his actions; it just allows me to be freed of SOME of the burdens he’s placed upon me. So, while you may disagree, please don’t think I’m in any way betraying J, instead, I’m attempting to be a better person, so that I can raise our child to be the man his daddy was, and so that I can become the woman who can continue to bring honor to my husband’s sacrifice, my family’s, and the families of so many others who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.