Saturday, February 10, 2007

I'm back...

First things, first. Go here if you love Heidi Swapp as much as I do. I made a little book for her with some photos of the two of us together and I just got it in the mail for her. Hopefully it will get to Arizona by Valentine's Day. Oh yeah. I made her Chocolate Chip Cookies today too, and the kids and I ate too much dough and too many cookies. They were very tasty, but Brock says he likes my "bigger" (I make small, thick chocolate chip cookies) cookies better. I'll have to post my recipe soon, and you can have a bake-off in your own kitchen...Swapp vs. Nitty.Gritty. =)
Wow.
I guess there are a lot more people reading blogs on Saturdays than I had previously thought. =) Hi to 'Maggie' and all the rest of you who have chimed in on this one. It's really tough for me. Not in the sense that I feel offended by comments in the least. I don't normally take comments that way. I just always feel so personally 'responsible' for the way people perceive me or how they interpret my posts- even if they are misunderstood or debatable on occasion.
In light of that, I wanted to respond to Maggie's comment. I am glad that she took the time to pour out her heart here. People send me emails all the time, sharing their pain and hurts or links to other's they want me to share my story with too. It is one of the reasons I feel so strongly about 'keeping it real' here on Nitty.Gritty. I don't want people to think that I have had an easy row to hoe, because I feel part of what makes 'my story' different is that it HAS been hard, but it shows, I think, that much more of how AMAZING God is. I hope that makes sense.
I know that many of you 'feel my pain'. Others have lost loved ones and/or children and you can relate to my life on another level. And I don't fault anyone if they can't pretend to know my pain and hurt because they have never had to experience anything close to what I have lived through. That too, is one of the reasons I continue to blog about and share my personal journey in life. I figure if I can pour out my heart and someone can learn from my experiences without actually having to feel what I feel or live through what I do, well then, that is a reason for me to share my soul. Others benefit because of what I have to share- even if it's 'bad'.
However, there's a flipside to that, and it seems this is what the questions are about from Maggie. She's asking me, "How is it possible that you are full of joy and have more happiness than some of the people around me who are going through tough stuff in life too?" {I'm summarizing in my own words here.} It was asked here not too long ago in a little different way, and I tried my best to respond. I'm trying here again today. =)
It's true. I have been very transparent about Teagan's death, the pain we live with because of her death and the result of the rest of my family's injuries. I give Wyndham a shot every night- because of the injuries she sustained. I change her pull-ups and am learning sign language- because she can't go potty herself or speak- at age 6- because of her injuries. I bring her to therapy 3 days a week- because she has ongoing disabilities- because of her injuries. My point is this- EVERY single day there are multiple things I face as a result of our tragedy and I don't think there will ever be a day when that fateful day will not affect me somehow, for the rest of my life.
Through no fault of mine or Chip's, our hearts were broken, our lives were literally shattered to pieces, and our dreams were changed forever from that day on. It gripped me, especially, emotionally for months, as I had and still do on occasion, dreams and nightmares from what happened to me and my family. I picked Teagan up at the scene and laid her down and watched CPR performed on her lifeless body. That alone is enough to haunt me for the rest of my life. That's the truth. The scene of the incident that turned my life upside down is embedded in my mind forever. Or until my memory goes- if that should happen.
I think most of the people who know me or who read this blog understand that those moments and memories shape much of who I am today.
Which is the most difficult thing, or most extraordinary thing to see in my life- depending largely on the faith you possess or your beliefs about eternity, I believe. The happiness and joy you "see" on this blog I believe are real. Very real. I'm not making it up. I don't "fake" pictures of my kids smiling or tell you about the great relationship I have with my husband, Chip- when in fact it really stinks. [I could have him guest-blog again, huh? =)] I try to show my 'everyday life'...pictures of Ava pulling all the clothes out of the closet, paints all over, I even blogged about the time Chip hit a skunk on the freeway. SO, I don't think it's always pretty or 'glamorous'. I've blogged about Wyndham and Chip being in the ER and hospital. I've blogged about Bella's meltdowns at the mall and our friends' home. I feel I paint a fairly realistic picture of my life from day to day.
It's not always rosy. In fact, next to lots of middle and upper-class American people, my life pales in comparison when it comes to 'rosy-factor'. There are millions of people who have it better than I do. And trust me, I used to wish I were someone else...and I'll even admit that in that first year after Teagan's death, there were a lot of days I wished I had been killed alongside her. My life hurt so much, that I wondered if I'd ever feel "whole" again. I sometimes wondered if I would ever feel anything 'good' again. Grief and heartache consumed me, and my future looked bleak. Chip and I had moments when we would wonder how things would ever look 'bright' again...but we had our faith. God gave both of us comfort whenever we thought about Teagan's death. We never wondered about seeing her again. We missed her, yes, but we never doubted that we would see her again. Heaven is real to us, and we have the full assurance that we will spend eternity with her when we die.
It's the day-to-day living that was tough. I questioned everything...like why should I vaccuum the house? It didn't seem to matter. Why should I put up a Christmas tree? Why should we watch the evening news? Why? Why? Why? I asked a lot of whys.
What I started to see was that although there weren't always answers to those questions, and that pain that overwhelmed my heart, well it hung around from morning til night and never seemed to go away for anything...but what Chip and I did have was a God who was willing to let us cry, and scream and sob our hearts out to Him. He was always there to listen to my pleas, my anguish, my disappointments, and my whys. In all the times I fell to the floor crying out to God or pleading for Him to turn back time and make the nightmare of my life go away, He was always there. In the midst of my suffering, I always felt God. And if I wanted more than just a feeling, both Chip and I could turn to almost any page in our Bible and there seemed to be something written down that comforted us, or spoke to us in just the way we needed it too. It blew me away, time and time again. Our faith was the only thing that made sense to me when life had nothing to offer.
You can imagine then, that after several instances of "feeling God" or "seeing Him work" in our lives, that it began to be easier and easier for me to trust Him with all that we were living through. Very early on after Teagan's death, I simply began to ask God to "give me joy in life again" or "help me to see joy around me". I figured I hurt so badly, that I might as well ask for the one thing I so desperately wanted and needed (and to be honest, I never thought I would feel again)!
Do you see where I am going with all of this? It really is unbelievable. Not only to some people who read it here, at Nitty.Gritty., but to many of my friends, people in the community we lived where our tragedy occurred, and probably most unbelievable to me. I never could have dreamed, 5 years ago, that I could be as full of joy and happiness and contentment as I am in my life today. Never. You could have played a video of my life now to me five years ago and I would have looked at you and asked, "Who is THAT?" Seriously. (Just watch the segment of Chip and I on Oprah in April 2002...I don't even look like the same person...it's true.)
That's a long answer to explain why I am happier than most people around you, Maggie. I have been in the dark valley of life, and quite frankly, I hated it there. I remember one time telling Chip that Teagan's death didn't hurt me as much as being "labeled the 'mom whose daughter was killed in the Old Depot incident' ". I was angry about having to live the rest of my life with this ugly tragedy being the thing that people would remember me for. It was one of those moments when Chip and I started to realize that we didn't have to just let life take over and control who we would become because of our circumstances. It's powerful now, when I see how those thoughts really changed and motivated us and now have totally redefined our lives in many ways.
This 'same power' is not unique to us, or something we are keeping for ourselves. It's one of the things that I wish I could go on the big screen tv in Times Square and yell for the whole world to hear. Sure. There are moments in life that we have no control over...many of them lead us in the darkest valleys of life. It stinks there! It's painful and disgusting even, and the road can be very long- whether it's sexual abuse, drug addiction, financial struggles, divorce, parenting issues, shattered dreams, health concerns, mental disorders, discrimination of any kind- you name it- life has a way of throwing everyone something at sometime. However, I am living proof that there is a God (ONE GOD), who is able to pick people up or carry them out of the hurt that life has thrown at them, and bring them into a 'new life' and change the way they see the future. That is what God has done for me. Where once I wondered why I should even get up and out of bed each day, God has given me joy and hope and purpose. Where I had only pain and sorrow in my soul for the little girl I loved and lost, God has given me comfort and He continues to provide opportunities for me to share her life with others. At the times when I was ready to run from the pain and problems in my marriage, God gave Chip and I a renewed passion for one another, and instead of adding more pain and problems with a divorce, we embraced one another, we chose to stick it out, and in so doing, we have seen our lives blessed with the births of Bella and Ava. When I couldn't see my future past the next painful moment, God gave me a peace that no matter what I would face in the rest of my days, that He would be there to guide and strengthen me.
SO, the happiness and joy you read about and see in the pictures here, I dare say, maybe it's not all real. Much of the joy and happiness in our lives comes straight from God- I guess you could say you are watching a miracle when you read Nitty.Gritty. But that kind of miracle is available to you and to all of your friends. It's one of the reasons I share my faith so openly...I want everyone to be able to have what I have inside and out. God has said that "You will find Me when you seek Me with all your heart". My challenge to you and to anyone who thinks I'm too happy all the time, or "I wish I had what she has"....I challenge you to just ask God to make Himself known to you. Start praying. Start asking for His help. What's the worst thing that can happen? That it might actually work...and then people will think you are just "too happy all the time". It's called faith. I simply try to live mine out- every single day.

28 comments:

Janna said...

Amen! :)

Very well said. I can relate, in some ways, to the words you spoke. It is hard to explain how God can carry you out of the ashes and make you whole again... but I think you did it very eloquently. I mean, how do you explain to someone that your worst nightmare actually held blessings in disguise? It sounds crazy but God can do just that. It sounds impossible... it sounds illogical... but God can do anything! He gives profound peace and comfort in the midst of unimaginable devastation and heartbreak... and through such things, people are changed forever. It's the refining process... it hurts like crazy but there is incomparable beauty and wisdom that emerges on the other side. And because of Jesus, we have hope in every storm. That's where the everlasting joy comes from! :)

God bless you and your family Jody...

Nancy Peacock said...

Hi Jody,
I said in the comments of your earlier post that you would have a "grace-filled answer" for Maggie. Thanks for the wisdom, grace and godliness found in your reply. Yay God!!

Jamie said...

Jody-
I being one of those people who *feels your pain* as the mom of 2 kids passed, love your answer.I also understand the poster's question.People ask me all the time how I do it, how I lived. The year Tyler and Hunter died, we had 9 funerlas in my family in 6 months, with 4 of them being young young people. It was hard, it was so hard I thought I would never get up and out again. But you do what you have to do, and you realize, there are other people that need you, other kids who need a mom, etc. I'll tell you honestly, had I not found out I was pregnant within 2 weeks of Tyler dying, I would have killed myself. I know that in my heart for a fact. You often see layouts of mine about how she saved me, and to some that seems corny, or artificial or contrived, but the truth is, SHE saved my life. And I know that. And I want her to know that when she grows older. It's almost 7 years later and some days I don't want to get out of bed, some days the pain is unbearable, but I keep it to myself, cause you know what? If you were on this blog talking about how sad you were, people would be all over you about *wallowing in self pity* or the need to *get over it*, afterall, thats what caused my divorce, the need to get over something I will never get over. So you gon on, blog your strength, and set an outstanding example for all of us suffering tragedies like you... Much love to you

Kristy said...

When we shine for Him then people sit up and take notice.Jody you are truly a light in the darkness.Shine on!!

Vicki said...

Jody...I love reading your blog and appreciate the time you took to answer that anonymous poster's comments. Although, I really think you don't owe anyone an explanation. It's your life. It's your blog. But, it just shows the kind, caring person that you are to spend the time to write such a detailed response.

God works miracle, and that is hard for some people to understand that if they do not have the same relationship with Him. Thank you for letting others hear how He has worked in your life.

Also, I just wanted to say that I've been reading for quite some time and have never gotten the feeling that you gloss over real life in any way. In fact, what draws me to your blog is how real you can be at times. Thank you for that.

Heather said...

i'm only responding to the Heidi Swapp thing right now-
i made her choc chip cookies yesterday too! LOL! however- i did't reaslize until later that i had veg. oil crisco and so they have a random odd taste... however they are the best color and shape choc chip cookies i've ever made- so i'm looking forward to making them for real!

you DO look a lot like her. she's my fav too as a scrapbooker. i was shocked to hear she's pregnant again... ahhh LOVELY! i love her style, her look, and her products- so fun to find a mutual fan!
heather
www.xanga.com/hippmama

Erin H. said...

Jody,

What a well stated comment to the comment presented to you. Not sure I would have justified an answer as well thought out and stated as you, but I too understand where both comments came from. I have been questioning alot about God lately and it's good to see miracles really do come true. Take care!

Anonymous said...

Jody,

You are so filled with grace and kindness and that you always say is through God. And I think that is were all happiness is. Our God doesn't want us to be sad He wants us to live a life of Joy for Him. And in doing so you Give Him the Glory. Keep being who you are and don't worry about what others say. As you can see from all the positive posts that you touch so many people everyday. It is good to see that people can go through loss and tough times in life and still have joy. Like you said it didn't come right away but it came in time. There is a season for everything.
GOd Bless you
Lora Buettgen
elbuettgen@fuse.net

Sherri P said...

Eloquent, and inspiring, as always Jody. Your response was waaaaay better than mine yesterday! That's why I keep coming back! You keep is so real!

MaggiePie said...

Well, Jody. Just read your little snippet, and I can see where you are coming from. It's just that right now, if I put my life on a scale, it seems that the negatives would WAY outway the positives.

I, frankly, have a hard time with God. I don't pray to him or feel obligated to ask him for anything in the least. Many times, as a child, I asked for his help to help me get through the tough situations at home. I feel my prayers went unanswered for about 12 years. The whole bible comfuses me as well. I've read it over and over, and I cannot seem to make sense of anything. If we are made in God's likeness, then does that make God human?

Why are we dust, and to dust we shall return? See what I mean? I guess my brain is more scientific than religious. You do have it tough, and I guess we don't always see that, because of your "good" entries.

If you would like, feel free to email me at MaggiePie46@yahoo.com. Until then, I guess I will just lurk around your blog occasionally.

Beth said...

Your grace shines through in your response, and you are a blessing to so many. Thank you for the window to your experience. May God continue to bless you every day with love.

Anonymous said...

indirectly related to subject matter of this post:

I just wanted to recommend a good book :
90 Minutes in Heaven by Ron Piper

Even though, through faith, we know heaven exists- here is a person whom God allowed to come back to share his incredible experience with us. I liked listening to it on cd.

Anonymous said...

Maggie....I e-mailed you (and I bet others did as well). God loves all of us, despite whether we know or love Him or not. He desires a relationship with us, but it's "sin" that separates us from that relationship.
Another good book is More Than A Carpenter by Josh McDowell. But the John Piper one would be good as well.
I think you are desiring to KNOW this God otherwise you wouldn't have begun this dialogue here. I know there are many, Jody included, who are people of faith who would love to answer your questions and to help you in that.
I have a dear friend who was sexually molested as a child by her dad and today she is walking with God and with a story that offers the HOPE you're looking for. There are other's in this life as well.
I'm having a moment here but there's an actress...she was in The Summer of '42 (movie) years ago who has an amazing story. It could be similar to yours actually. I heard her interviewed recently and this is how I thought of her. Google the movie and you will probably get her name and she has a website that you can go to as well. I know she too would be happy to dialogue with you. Well I won't monopolize Jody's space here..but maybe there are others who can benefit as well. Blessings to you Maggie!!

Anonymous said...

You can also got to 1-800-KNOWHIM for help as well

Suezi said...

Well done Jodi!!! You certainly have the gift of words!!! You use them beautifully!!

Krista said...

All I can say is you have a beautiful way with words and you will be an inspiration for many parents even though some of us do not know your pain . Thank you so much for sharing your story. When you seek God, he will bring joy into your life and he is very evident in yours.

patterns of ink said...

Man on the hall!
That's what we used to yell in on non-co-ed dorms in college during the weeks when guys were hauling storage barrels in the dorms. I understand that Nitty-Gritty is rightly a place Chip's friends don't hang around, but I do drop by on occasion and wanted to say something.
Because my wife and I live near Jody, and because my wife is one of Wyndham’s teachers who has the privilege of working with her three times a week, and because circumstances have brought my wife and I to Jody's door unannounced...and because she invites people in no matter what…let me tell you… What you see is what you get with Jody.
I can see why Maggie or someone new to Nitty –Gritty may think it’s sugar-coated or too good to be true. Sure it's up-beat, and hopeful and bright and photogenic.
That's because blogging is a cathartic activity. Jody is an extremely creative and talented person. If she were a potter, I’d tell her to turn some mugs and her final touch before “firing” them would be to take a stylus and etch a line on the inside of the cup—right at the halfway mark. On the outside, she could put. “It’s not a question of half full or half empty…it’s knowing the One who fills the cup.” That's really what it's about Maggie (and I commend you for your candid question and follow up--read the archives. The broken pieces Jody mentions are a puzzle and I'm hoping the picture comes through over time for you).
Jody, we can all imagine there must be days and circumstances that you and Chip face that are not so photogenic—we all have those days—but frankly…they are none of our business. So keep it real (as you do), but I for one am glad this is a blog and not a "tell all."
Man gone! Hall Clear!

Anonymous said...

Patterns...Man On The Hall...what a way with words you have as well!! I liked how you said "The One Who Fills The Cup"!!!! To "know" Him is to love Him...the Cup Filler!
Maggie, I think you will work it out o.k. because you are seeking. He always finds those who seek! :-)
You will have a glorious story yourself to tell one day Maggie! You will share how you were broken and put back together and His scars are what helped heal your wounds! We're all links in a chain and Jody, and Patterns, and others on this bolg/comment/thing are links and we're all reaching out to you as Jesus with skin on. Just take hold Maggie.....
Jody, you are the best! Keep up with your blogging and being yourself and sharing your life so that others will....
I just had a picture of us all one day having a cup of (fill in the blank with your favorite~tea or coffee dring) with the Cup Filler!:-)

Webgrl said...

your faith is beautiful.
thank you for sharing

hugs

teresa said...

very well said jody! Grace covers all our insecurities and others'.

Anonymous said...

Very well said. I found a saying recently. I am not sure who it is by. But here it is. "Faith is the ability to hold on until the answer comes." I have this sitting on my desk so I can see it everyday.
Susan

Cara said...

i appreciate the time that you jodi, and some others here, have taken to thoughtfully respond to maggie's comment.
i have read a lot of comments here saying things like "you shouldn't be so worried about people's comments" . . . "you aren't obligated to respond" . . . but really, i must disagree. i bet we have all be in a place of desperation and if somebody hadn't taken the time to "respond" to us, we might be living a very different life.
i am pretty certain that it is our call, especially those of us who are christ-followers, TO RESPOND and take the time to hear those who are hurting - even when they stir things up a little bit.

as far as this being "jodi's blog" . . . unless i am totally off here, it seems like jodi has made it very very clear that this is a ministry, not just a blog. people are going to have questions. they are going to feel stirred up and confused. they might even feel angry. a lot of people felt angry when they heard christ's message when he was on earth. the truth stirs people up. always has.

i think it just makes me sad when i read comments like "back off, this is jodi's blog! if you don't like it, don't read it!" in one breath . . . and then statements about god's love and grace in the same comment. confusing.

Anonymous said...

" I'm not making it up. I don't "fake" pictures of my kids smiling or tell you about the great relationship I have with my husband, Chip- when in fact it really stinks."

Jody....you didn't really mean the latter comment, did you?

Becky R. said...

Dear Maggie,

Perhaps you should not ask God to answer your prayers. In my experience, I have found that I cannot ask God for specific things. He is not Santa Claus. I ask God for strength. Somedays I have repeated the Serentity prayer over and over to get through the day. It must be working, because I am still here, and people tell me that I am strong. Good Luck.

Dear Jody,
Rock on sister!

B

Anonymous said...

To anonymous who just asked the question about "in fact it really stinks" quote. Jody was saying she doesn't portray her family as being very happy when they really aren't...what she is saying is her pictures are not posed or fake in anyway...they are the really thing...her family is very happy.

Kari said...

Jody -

I have been reading your blog for awhile now (I'm a lurker! :o)) and appreciate your openness and honesty about everything in your life. You are such a wonderful example of what a Christian woman should be and I hope someday I can be as great of a mom, wife, friend and person as you are! Thanks!

Kari

House of Big Cheese said...

I think you are an inspiration to us all. You give me hope.

Evan said...

Hey, Jody,

This is your Uncle Evan (and your Aunt Betty), from Canada. I must admit, Betty reads your blog quite regularly, and I must confess, this is the first time I have sat down to read your thoughts and the responses of others (Sorry!!). But, I must admit I couldn't be "prouder" (I know that isn't a word) of you (and Chip) as I am today. I loved your response concerning the "cheery" attitude you have in your daily life today! It was well worded and "seasoned with love". You go girl (that was from Betty)!! In spite of the initial pain of that tragic day and your continual hardships from the aftermath of that event to this day, you both chose to put your faith and trust in God. Living life is about choices! As someone has said, "When bad things happen to us in our lives, we can choose to let those things make us bitter or better!!" You two chose the latter. PTL! We, who are related to you, can attest to the fact that you didn't arrive at that joy you have today easily. It was a process; it took time. I think sometimes we confuse "joy" with "happiness". Happiness is usually tied closely to our current circumstances (ex. enough money, nice home, nice car, good job, healthy bodies, etc.). The joy that God promises, if we choose to ask Him for it, transcends our circumstances (ex. unemployed, poor, poor health, broken family, etc.). God didn't promise us that life would make us "happy" all the time, but He did say that we can "consider it all joy" (choose joy) when we find ourselves in rough, painful, unfair or unjust circumstances or situations in our lives. From those painful "baby steps" of choosing joy right after that awful day to the giant steps you both are taking now, the testimony of your choices towards joy from that tragic day forward are an inspiration to anyone who knows you or reads your life story. God has made something beautiful out of your tragic loss and continuing life struggles. Keep on keeping on! We love you both, and your awesome, adorable kids!!!