Motherhood + Trauma = Incredible Strength

We wanted to crawl in a hole and sit in the chaos. We wanted to turn off noise and demands and tasks, but we couldn’t! We wanted to give up, run away and turn back time, but all were impossible. We wanted to protect our children from the pain of this new reality and the pain of watching us crumble. We had to be strong when we didn’t feel it.

This is motherhood.

Hard.

Worth it!

I want to thank the women who were involved in this project, including my own mother! (I love you mom! )

Grab a notebook and a tissue, no matter what trauma you are facing there is wisdom in these stories, may the Holy Spirit soften your heart and minister to us through their stories.

2 Part Series

To go back even for just a moment!!!😭

To go back in time if only for a day…

After picking up Chris and Patrick from their trip to Dominican Republic we stayed a while on the coast. There were some tears and the euphoria of missing one another lasted at least 12 hours before squabbles emerged, and things got real with 1 bathroom and 6 people but it was perfect! We attempted to recreate a photo from 2013, I don’t know who came up with this concept, but they are brilliant. I’ve seen them on Facebook and it always captures my heart,I am hoping to start a “thing” looking at the comparison stings a little, a lot! As they grumbled about hot sand, the do we have to do this and we were way past lunch time I did not react to the complaining or grit through my teeth about how this family beach pic WAS Happening!!! Instead, I smiled and soaked it all up because one day they will thank me! Patrick will turn 16 this fall and so that means I have 2 maybe 3 more summers together if the good Lord allows. Time shows no mercy I am starting to feel what I have heard other moms describe.
I looked at this picture from 2013 and I remembered the chaos, the sweet crazy that I would love to step into even for just a day. I would hold tight each of those smaller bodies that would still fit in my lap. Haven was still nursing, there were no cell phone distractions, it was loud and exhausting but life was simpler. The mom in this pic didn’t completely realize how precious time was, even though I knew not to sweat the small stuff, I did! I was also a chronic yeller. I was uptight and when I look at the small faces from 2013 I think about how I saw them as big, especially Patrick, oh how my heart aches to turn back time. I would have wrestled with them instead telling them to knock it off! I without hesitation would have snagged a few more snuggles in my lap!
We really didn’t or shouldn’t have splurged on a week vacation to Corpus/San Antonio but thankful I don’t listen to that voice either anymore! Wether it was financially responsible can shove it because time has no mercy, 5 years was just a blink, poof half a decade, bigger feet, longer legs, and way more opinions! I am so very blessed with this life, my crazy chaos, they have my heart!!! ❤️
There aren’t many things I am grateful for from my accident but I now realize in a very real way that tomorrow is not promised, be present in the moment, it’s ok to be loud and silly, even reckless occasionally!
So completely grateful, the Lord is so faithful!!

I lost a day, but gained a perspective

The first anniversary I was distracted by a kind soul (fellow CADI) who shared my same accident anniversary. We talked and waited for the time to pass from 8:07 pm to 8:08 pm and I realized I was still breathing.

The second anniversary I felt a little more assured on the reality that time keeps moving on. Or forward, we do’n’t “move on” we just move forward. I was also aware that beating my self up each Oct. 4th was justified.

The Lord truly works in mysterious ways and the humor of his teachings I appreciate more and more! A few weeks ago I shared how I realized that this day was exactly 6 weeks away. Patrick has scheduled his own orthodontist appointment and I almost shut down. There is a realization is that this date is personal to me, I remember the date where as for everyone else including my family it’s just another day.

(Que dramatic photo)

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I sent that to a small group of loving people who support me in both love and truth. I finished up a poem I dedicated to David and went into a spiral of negative thinking of all the things I did not do since this time last year. I went to bed worked up about the next day.

Here is the irony I had convinced myself that Thursday was the 4th and had set myself up for sadness. My brain went to great lengths to trick myself, I even had wrong date on lesson plan slides. 🤦🏼‍♀️🤣

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So essentially I “lost” a day somehow. I just in my mind skipped the 3rd and got ahead of myself!

I was set to teach and suddenly I remembered the ortho appointment thinking I had scheduled during class time with nothing in place. I panicked, looked at the calendar and realized wait, “today is Thursday the 3rd.” So I didn’t sleep well, cried, shamed myself, bathing in self loathing. So then sitting in the car staring at the calendar I started laughing out loud at myself! Laughed till I cried, I didn’t know if I should blame my blonde hair or the PTSD brain. I had a chance to enjoy the rest of the day because it was really the 3rd not the 4th.

My next step was to praise the Lord for the lesson. If I continue to dread this day, I will ultimately lose a day. The day was not lost and neither is today, the 4th. I paused to think of this day and @8pm tonight I may say a prayer for his family. But I get it! I now believe this mishap was a gift from the Lord, he knew what would speak to my heart! ❤️

Last year on this day I made a post that shared my passion for Safe2Save and their commitment to safe driving. I felt a burning inside me to share the same passion, do everything you can to prevent more senseless deaths with distracted driving awareness. I didn’t know how much that passion would cost me with some friendships (but I trust the Lord in that as well). More that what it cost, I gained. The passion moved me to launch Accidental Hope, podcast dedicated to be a resource for people who have had serious accidents or trauma. 28 episodes strong! I am now speaking and serving with the Safe2Save app, as a Safety  Ambassador which fills my cup to overflow on an innocent person who is not prepared to hear the mission and vision of S2S! 🤣 Sorry not sorry! Another celebration is writing my story with the purpose of sharing hope through the unimaginable curve balls life can throw at us. It is written and I celebrate that not any plans other than finishing a goal!

Philippians 1:6 “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to fruition!” 🙌🏻 Amen my assignment is not complete!

I write all this to say, don’t waste the precious days you have with beating yourself up! No one wins and nothing gained a with that mentality. Honor your future not hold onto the past!

God bless you on the journey!

XOXO

Voices of a CADI, 5 years later ~Cassie

Originally published September 16, 2019

I have been feeling it very heavy on my heart to write a little something. It has been a very long time since I put my thoughts to paper, and I think that has been a good thing for me. The past few days I thought to myself, I kind of wish I had an outlet, another blog page to just put something out there for whoever might need it or just want it. Or maybe it’s just to fully unload it off my chest. Oddly, I received a message from a friend of mine on Saturday. I am blessed to have met her through the internet, to find we share the most inconceivable connection of being a CADI (Cause of accidental death or Injury). Her name is Jennifer Eikenhorst, now an avid blogger and podcast creator of Accidental Hope. She had no idea that the five-year anniversary of our accident was just two days away. I told her that just when I feel God is putting something on my heart, a message from her pops up out of nowhere and makes me think, “maybe I should write that little something.” In turn, she said “you should, and why don’t you post it to my blog as a guest? How fitting is that? So here I am. Writing a little something, 5 years and 42 minutes after the horrific moment that changed my life forever.

It has been quite a journey to reach a milestone like five years. I’ve found myself proud of how far I have come. Astonished that we have made it, that my life is still standing after all of the hell we lived through. Angry that any of this ever had to happen and why to us?  Sad because there isn’t a damn thing I’ve ever been able to do about it, even if I thought in some subconscious way I could make it right. Determined to continue to fight for my life and be light for others in a very dark place. But most of all, hopeful. Hope is something that I have maybe become too much of a realist with. I’ve learned though, that in the worst times of your life, if you do not have hope, you will lose. You might lose anyways. The cards may be stacked against you, and there just might not be a way out. But, no matter what, if you can keep hope alive in your heart, you can keep going. 

In the past five years, I have grieved a lot. I have grieved over the events of what happened September 16, 2014, again and again. On a day like today, it’s reliving each moment as if I’m playing the movie in my head. It’s truly the one time of year no matter how far I’ve come, that I can’t get away from it. I grieved the life I thought I would have and who I used to be. I grieve for Brynn’s family all the time. I see them and they are doing great, they look happy, we can laugh together. But, someone is always missing. And in that moment even if nobody else realizes it, I always will. I lost my dad unexpectedly January 17, 2016. I have grieved him, our kids with him, the life my mom and him had. They would be celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary next month. It’s so hard to not live in anger when you think about these things. Rowyn was just a baby, why did any of this have to happen? And why to us?

But I refuse to live that way. It has taken me a long time to understand that in order to fully move forward I had to focus on the new days. I had to stop chasing what felt like what I needed to be doing and just survive in what was happening around me. I remember thinking, I need to write another book, I need to adopt a child, I need to be doing something more with my life. I need to create something, I need to find a way to be better and do better. Maybe I’ll go back to school, become a counselor, take on trauma cases. At one point, I was even talking about becoming a grief yoga instructor. All of this makes me smile just a little bit because I was desperately seeking a way out of how I felt and what had happened. I could have done all of this, but I could not escape my reality. It never would made a difference. It was my journey, it was all part of the process. 

Now here I am, raising two amazing young boys, ages 9 and 5.  They are both uniquely smart. Funny is an understatement, and resilient. Because they walked this road with us. My oldest, Easton, will likely always be my protector. He worries about me when I don’t think he should be. He is intuitive to when I’m having a bad day, and he hugs me often. He feels the presence of September I think. Even if he doesn’t realize it, it’s forever in his heart too. He was there and he knows what happened. Logan is a comedian without trying to be. Some have said he could make us rich with his own YouTube channel. I do not doubt it. But for now, he is a happy 5 year old who is completely clueless to the nightmare that transpired when he was just 10 months old. My Husband Aaron has become the strongest man I know. He has endured this with me, watched me, lost me, and grieved our old life. Together, we have rebuilt our new life quite literally from the ground up. We moved into a 5th wheel trailer for 22 months with our two kids and a dog. That is a book in itself let me tell ya. We sold almost everything we owned, and started completely over. It was the best thing we could have ever done. Our marriage had been tried and tested, but after living in what we called, “the box”, there is nothing that can take us down now. During that time, we were having our home built. I was able to go back to work 40 hours a week, and I eventually applied for a promotion back to my old position, and I got it. We moved into our new house June 14th 2018. If I had to say, I’d propose that things are as close to life 5 years ago as they could be. Never will they be on the inside, but from the outside looking in, we might look like those people again. 

I keep many things at arm’s length now. I have boundaries set all over the spectrum, and I don’t even realize I’m setting them. I’ve gotten so good at self-preservation and protecting the energy that I do have in order to keep it healthy for my family. I read less, I never go to church anymore (which I don’t feel good about), we do sports 6 days a week, and I do my best to still have healthy meals for my family, exercise, and all the other duties as a mom. I love to laugh and share inside jokes with my family. I worry about far more things than I can control. I drink less than I used to, but it’s probably still too much, I enjoy a camel light when I want one, and try not to take things too seriously. 

But guess what? That is the honest truth of where I’m at, and I am super proud to be here.

~Cassie 9/16/19

More information about Raise for Rowyn

In six weeks I have an appointment

Originally published Aug. 25, 2019

Did you know Orthodontists schedule appointments six-weeks out now instead of monthly (at least ours does).  For a little over a year we trek up the highway to the best deal I could find to invest a small fortune on my oldest son’s confidence smile. As he feels grown now (17th birthday is around the corner) He goes back there and I hang in the lobby scrolling Facebook checking emails and working on lesson planning or podcast dreaming. When he is finished I am normally summoned to make the next 6 week appointment.  As a teacher I think of six weeks in terms of grades are due, chunks of units that need to be covered in order to pace the learning…but this upcoming six weeks appointment made me hit the pause button. How could it have come so soon? It took my breath away, inside chaos momentarily rose up like a volcano of emotions. Patrick emerged from the hall with appointment card proudly in hand. New blue bands adorned his grill and he confidently started to stroll on past me.  “You made your appointment by yourself?”  For a second that realization stung but I smiled at his pride but then he handed the little reminder embossed card and he had no idea the floodgate that opened. It wasn’t the reality that my “baby” is able and should be on his way to becoming more independent. (However under a couple layers that pain sits there too!)

10/04 9:30 a.m.

It is the day that changed many lives and it’s six weeks away until we reach the third anniversary of the accident. I secretly made promises to David  myself about what this year would look like. I talked with God about dreams and hopes of helping people. I challenged myself to take action some of the things I have thought about like starting a podcast and committing to it until the Lord opens another door. Other goals like getting healthier I fell short but emotionally I think I am healthier so that counts and I will make smaller goals this time around. It is easier to focus on one or two goals at a time. The me before the accident could have a cluttered dream board working all at the same time, not now.

I smiled at Patrick and inside I wanted to cry. I thought about going to change it but then I would have to explain why. As true Ennegram 6 I have thought about Chris taking him that day and I have negotiated an inner pep talk  a dozen times that it’s fine. I am fine. The 4th of October is fine.

I will more than likely go about what appears to be a “normal” day but it isn’t. It will be a significant Friday for our family for a couple of reasons.  We will welcome a new member to our family that weekend and privately manage another anniversary. Three years ago it was an ordinary Tuesday turned tragic.

Some CADIs (Causing Accidental Death or Injury) honor the lost in an outward way, some don’t believe in celebrating the most painful day of their lives. Both decisions are right. It is deeply personal, however no CADI forgets. I knew what I wanted to do this year the day after last year.  I hope I make him proud, I live life to honor the life that was lost. I hope I make my family proud despite minor setbacks and some things that will never be the same.

It’s funny and not funny that life throws these “little” reminders my way, of all the days in which the calendar could fall it didn’t choose that randomly.

I am learning to welcome the shock, process it, and continue moving forward. I may hobble but I am not stuck. Praise the Lord for that, I don’t take healing for granted I am so completely grateful!

XOXO,

Jenn

The Truth Will Set You Free

Courage is the most important of all virtues, because without courage, you cannot practice any of the other virtues consistently.” ~Maya Angelou

Maya is one of the greatest souls to ever walk this earth, I had the privilege to see her read poetry in Dallas many years ago. I giddy in a packed room listening to every lingering word that she spoke. She had a presence about her and a different pace in how she articulated that set her apart. In her lifetime she shared many amazing and painful events in her life. Her transparency is only one aspect of her tremendous courage. I can’t begin to imagine the tasks she tackled and triumphed personally and professionally. For damn certain she was called, equipped and she did it scared!

I know why the caged bird sings…

When you are locked in your head and trapped inside yourself you feel like a caged bird. I didn’t know how good it would feel to release my truth into the world until I did it. I was terrified but I realized letting in free nothing had power anymore. No one could hurt me worse than I felt and so I literally had nothing to lose.

I responded to a project found on Accidental Impacts for a journalist from The New Yorker. Out of the thousands that could have been chosen, Alice Gregory selected a few for her research. From the floor of my closet I spilled my heartbreak, regret and bad words to a complete stranger. When I gave every detail, fear and frustration about “the accident” I felt a weight was lifted. I felt slightly freer.

Followed by crazy anxiety that maybe my details crossed a line or perhaps this would become a big mess, but to this day I do not regret sharing my truth with the world and being a small voice of an emerging community calling out from the shadows of guilt and shame.

Went and picked up this copy for $10 that was later ruined by spilled coffee

Link to the full article here.

Link to episode where I follow up with Alice. Episode Season 1 Episode 18.

The second crazy thing I did that started this whole crazy ride was another project, a new podcast concept called “What Was That Like.”

Again I did something I have never done before and I was so very scared to show my wounds to the world because at that time they weren’t scars. I had not even felt the reality of the first anniversary. But keeping it in was also destroying me, so I did it scared.

Graphic credit Scott Johnson

I didn’t realize that speaking out would help me find a community that has blessed my life incredibly. I am thankful for every sacred story shared with me and the pain that bonds us. I care deeply for complete strangers from all over the world. I am grateful. Humbled. These “projects” were catalysts for a calling God was calling out in me.

Hebrews 13:21

May he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen

Mulling Over Moral Injury

When someone puts words to your feelings there is instant relief. It identifies the “thing” you struggled to communicate yet it is as real tears you cry to express it. I felt this when David Peters explained moral injury. From a clinical view I feel it was almost text book.

The phrase moral compass describes the innate pull to know right from wrong and choose right. I feel confident, not arrogant for saying I had and have a moral compass. Not perfect but I tend to navigate towards what is “right.” I also try to apologize and take responsibility when I have wronged someone.

The accident left me feeling like I was no longer a good person, my soul, my spirit injured…moral injury. Thankfully with God’s grace this is not a stamp marked across my forehead yet it lingers. God’s word says that I am not marked by my sin or experiences, it does not define me, or you.

Here are some of my take-a-ways with talking to David.

  1. The first thing was his name. I won’t over-spiritualize this but David was the name of the man I was in an accident with. I vowed to the Lord I would not fear that name every time I hear or speak the name David but instead I would pray for his children. So secretly the whole time I was also thinking of them during this podcast recording.
  2. It amazes me that through this painful experience God has made connections with complete strangers. How a teacher from Central Texas can have common ground with a retired Army Chaplain who has served our country overseas and yet there were several instances of true understanding behind actions and thoughts. (Connection to song, hating our cars, triggers, taking chances that would be “fair” if something happened to us like cosmic law)
  3. Crushed- it is a strong word. Crushed in spirit. Crushed dreams. Crushed identity. When we crush something you might feel it is destroyed but not through a biblical lens. The crushing of grapes is a transition that leads to wine. In my humble opinion wine is the best part of grapes. I am glad that this was brought up, take time to meditate on this topic. Here are some additional verses: 2 Cor 4:8, Proverbs 15:4, Proverbs 13:12, and James 1:2-4
  4. Speaking of grapes, let’s talk communion. When your heart is heavy, this practice always comforts and puts things in perspective. David said during his time of disconnect and anger with God he could still be fully present and connect with this sacred practice. Unknowingly, my interviewee had no idea that I too am fond of the breaking of bread and drinking the cup. I am always moved by this remembrance of what Christ did for me, for all. Often I weep as I pray over my wafer and tiny cup of juice. This was the first thing Chris and I did as husband and wife. A precious memory. If you feel burdened by your past or current state I urge you to grab a cracker and splash of juice. Give thanks for what Christ did for you on the cross, ask for forgiveness and cleansing. Ask for renewing of your mind and praise Him for bearing the burden of sin. Thank him for his love. You will be changed.
  5. Silence. This is something I take part of more after the accident. Before I did not enjoy silence in fact it made me nervous and I would fill up space with awkward or irrelevant noise, humming, conversation, anything to fill the silence. Now I need it to recharge. It gives me time to sort out thoughts. I am often over-stimulated with just the daily grind. What struck me is that both my first guest Dr. John Knox ( the Chaplain who helped me immediately after and during the recovery) also talked about the ministry of silence. David referenced the book of Revelation 8:1-5 where heaven was silent before Jesus return. The calm before the storm. The enormity of what will happen when Satan is defeated. The preparation.  Silence really is golden. If you struggle with silence as I did before my accident I challenge you to reflect on why, embrace it, make peace with it and take emotional inventory of how you feel afterwards.

Since the editing process I have listened to the episodes again and not for any vain reason but to really hear and absorb all that we can learn from one another. What stood out for you?

Please check out my friend and fellow CADIs book, Christ Walk Crushed: A 40-Day Journey Toward Reconciliation. If you missed the podcast here are links to the series.

XOXO,

Jenn

Overcoming P.T.S.D. and Unresolved Trauma Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

My Why, the Bridge Between Heartbreak & Healing

The why I had an accident involving fatality will drive you bananas! I would say the questions of which there are no answers can drive you [email protected]!#* crazy!🙊 There isn’t a good “why” so I focus on “what now?”

The why I share openly my heart and experience, that list is simple.

LOVE ❤️ Link to Inaugural Episode

I love God who created me, who hears me, who goes before me and weaves a tapestry of life I am blessed to journey! That does not exclude the bad, ugly and heartbroken events on this journey. I share how my hope in Jesus and belief that my sins are forgiven because of work on the cross by my Savior. I share His love because it is for all and covers all.

I love my family and friends who challenge me and support me despite my flaws! Documenting my feelings is a place I can keep my thoughts so that people love me can walk this journey with me.

I also share so those that have traveled this awfully lonely path do not feel alone. I have a deep empathy and reservoir of love to give those that are hurting, those that walk this road as an accidental killer (CADI).

“Meet me on the bridge from heartbreak of the soul and path to healing” `Unknown

Waco, TX

I think a lot on the topics of love and grief. Sometimes I feel they are polar opposites but yet they are connected. We grieve because we love.

***Change in subject 🤪

I have always been drawn to the life of Moses. Possibly because Katy and Haven always wanted to hear “the baby Moses” story from their children’s bible. Over and over again.

There is connection there, he was raised in unique circumstances.

He was an accidental killer

He was timid but obedient

***another change in subject stay with me***🤣

When we were in Washington DC at the Bible Museum ( worth the visit I promise!)  there is an interactive walk through of Moses life. So moving, very well done!

I had an ah-ha moment.

What broke Pharaoh’s spirit…grief. What gave Moses the courage to do and say and act as he did…love for God and God’s People!

Moses saw his community (Jews) hurting and it stirred him driven by love. He also made mistakes driven by that same powerful emotion. 🔥

I get stirred up for my people, but it’s driven by love. I make mistakes but it’s rooted in that same place. There is so much value in community! When you have a support system treasure it! Protect it! Be willing to part the seas, trudge mountains and wander deserts for it! 🙌🏻

Dear CADI,

You are loved! You are worthy of love, BIG love, you have a chance to change your world! You have experienced earth-shattering pain and still breathing. Your healing is a gift! 🙌🏻 The acceptance of this means love wins, the accident did not defeat you!!You have overcome, so walk in that light not worried of what the world thinks of you because you know you are a survivor! Now find your why and live it to the best of your ability! Let questions that can’t be answered fall off your weary shoulders, embrace healing and go spread some love!

Love big and boldly!

xoxo,

jenn