Take Upon Me

I love you Bailey

This weekend I was taught some new lessons that I want to share. On Friday Bailey and Bostyn picked out some cookbooks at the public library. They spent most of the day making menus of the things they wanted to cook. They were anxiously asking all day Saturday to make some of the recipes on their lists. I finally agreed.

Saturday evening the two were eagerly cooking away. They were acting so big and were having the time of their life. I was trying to let them lead the way and do most of the things they could on their own. They were chopping up vegetables and making salsa, browning meat, and measuring out rice. Each step was organized and they worked together for what to do next. It was fun seeing them team up in the kitchen and act so grown up.

At one point Bailey went to take off the lid to our food ninja.  Instead of just unhooking the power button unit she pulled up the entire lid, and power top, and the blades. Since the lid and blades were still engaged with the power source, the machine thought it was still connected to the base.  When she went to put it down the power button hit the countertop and the blades powered up in full force—shredding both of her hands. 

(Warning: graphic pictures of her hands below)

It was like a crime scene from a movie. Blood was literally shooting all over the white cabinets and floor; every child in our house was screaming at the top of their lungs. She lost a lot a blood; most of which was all over the dinner they had been working on and the hard wood floor extending from the front door to the back bedroom.

The only thing I remember before going into a state of shock was looking down at her hands and seeing half of her finger hanging by some skin.  I could see through the blood the palms of her hands. They resembled a sliced open uncooked steak. Shawn grabbed some towels and within seconds they were out the door. He rushed her to the hospital while the other kids and I stared around at the blood stained kitchen. 

Five seconds. Literally in the blink of an eye our house went from a peaceful, sweet, safe haven of imagination—to a traumatic war zone none of us will ever forget. As Teage and Bostyn and I wiped our tears and scrubbed up Bailey’s blood off of the walls and floor, I felt a huge wave of humility rush through me. Somewhere on my journey of writing about the pain in my past, I think I have secretly hoped that we had it all behind us. We already lived through the rough patches, right? We shouldn’t have to go through any more pain, or physical anguish. I have gotten on this blog to document the stories of the past, almost in hopes that it meant the hard times were all behind us.

Well I am here today, humbled, to report they are not. We have not been exempt from cuts and bruises, and broken hearts. Bailey ended up needing about 45 stitches between the two of her hands. Both of the palms of her hands were ripped open. Her left pointer finger had a tendon and vein that were sliced through—hence the spewing of blood everywhere. And her right thumb is cut up. 

Bailey cut 3Bailey cut 2

She is so wrapped up in bandages that she cannot feed herself or do any of the usual things she has always been able to do on her own. For the first few days, every time we would unwrap her hands, everyone would burst in tears—staring at the mess on her hands, and the pain in her eyes.  Sunday she spent all day in mourning for a life she felt she had lost. She has been very emotional and in so much pain. 

Yesterday I was doing laundry when Bailey walked in with tears in her eyes. What she said to me I will always remember, “Mom . . . I don’t want to be like this. I wish I could run away from it. I don’t want to feel this pain anymore . . . but I have been thinking about some things as I have sat on the couch while everyone does everything for me. Remember on Saturday morning when you and me were talking about how all the kids in our family have something they struggle with—like math or reading—and I said I didn’t really struggle with any of that. I asked you to tell me what things you have seen me struggle with.  You told me that because I was so smart at a lot of things . . . you saw my need to find empathy for others in their struggles. I think I understand that now. I didn’t know before how to see what other’s felt, because I had never felt it. I have never understood Tytus’ food allergies, or Teage having a hard time with reading because those things haven’t been hard for ME. Not being able to use my hands the last few days has given me a chance to think a lot about what others go through. I have thought about people in wheelchairs, and those that are blind. This has been really hard, but I think I am starting to see what you were talking about when you said I needed to find more empathy for others.  Bostyn has done everything for me. She has cared about me more than she has for herself. She has brushed my teeth, and fed me food, and really cared about my pain. She said on the way to the hospital you and her listened to When you believe and you both cried for me. I have never in my life felt more close to seeing how others feel in their struggles. I think I even know a little bit about what Jesus went through when they put the nails through his hands . . . and I hurt for Him. Just like I didn’t deserve this pain in my hands, neither did He. But because He felt that pain, He knows exactly what I am feeling right now.”

That moment when you see before your eyes the pure tender truths that only a daughter of God can teach you. 

photo-6

Empathy. We know Jesus Christ has it for us . . . but how many of us have been given the opportunity to feel it for Him? I don’t think I will ever look at the scars on my little girl’s hands without thinking about a Savior who took on similar scars for me. 

We are not alone in our struggles, and this week I didn’t just write about a past pain when I felt alone—I watched my daughter live in pain. A trial I could not take from her in any way. I am starting to wonder if after our conversation on Saturday morning she went up to her room and prayed to receive more empathy for others, a lesson not easily learned by watching another suffer. 

Not all of us will be given scars in our palms to help us remember the sacrifice that Jesus Christ has made for us personally, but we are all given trials. Each person on the earth will go through pain—maybe not always physical, but we will go through some sort of suffering. 

The grace of God isn’t fully comprehended until we are able to use it to help us overcome our trials, and peace from our pain. We can read about another person’s experience finding empathy for the suffering of others—even Jesus’s pain in his hands as they nailed him to the cross, but it isn’t until we are in our own suffering that we fully comprehend the magnificence of His sacrifice. It is through our own physical and emotional pain that we can come to have empathy for our Brother who willingly suffered for us. 

Jesus Christ chose to take upon him all of our pain. He did it willingly because he wanted to know exactly what we were going through. I know that with that empathy He is much more equipped to kneel at God’s feet and plead for the forgiveness we need. He has felt each pain and therefore knows of our suffering when our actions fail us.

I can almost picture him—on the dark days when I have failed as a parent—begging God to forgive me. I can hear him telling of the pain that was in my heart on a day, just weeks after Emmett was shot, when the kids were trying to let Tiffanie and me sleep in. They went into the pantry and got out their own cereal, only to drop a bowl and set off the alarm. I imagine Christ telling Heavenly Father of the fear that was coursing through my veins as I ran out to the kitchen—thinking I was going to find Rob in my house—but instead my panic caused me to yell at my kids and their spilled milk. The fear in my screams wasn’t about the dropped bowl, or the alarm ringing through the house—it was about everything that alarm could have meant. It was about a fear much greater than a spilled bowl of cereal. 

 I can almost see Christ, as He knelt at the feet of God explaining my mistake, with tears in his eyes—pleading for Him to forgive me. And just as Jesus had empathy for those who drove the nails into His hands, I know that He feels the same for us as He pleas, “Father, forgive them . . . for they know not what they do.”

I love you.

I know that because Jesus chose to feel our pain, instead of receive revelations of them . . . He is our greatest advocate. Without feeling my pain, Christ could never describe my actions so perfectly. Without knowing my fear, He too would only want to condemn me for my mistakes. 

I pray that each of us may take the little moments—the times when we want to scream WHY ME?—to better understand the suffering of others. That we may find empathy for the One who has felt them all, and be a little more grateful for all the blessings He has given to us.  And as He takes upon Himself our pains, let us try to understand the sacrifice that it was, even for such as Him.  He didn’t do it because it was easy—He took upon himself our pains because He knew that He would be able to save us, when we alone were not enough. 

His suffering was not in vain . . . and our pain doesn’t have to be either. Turn to Him when the load you are carrying gets to be too much to bear. He will take upon Himself the scars that you may never see.

The scars of my pains will forever be a reminder of the suffering He did for me. As I take upon me His name, my suffering will always bring me closer to the eternal being He is creating me to be. 

Questions to Ponder:

1. What can your pain teach you? What can it teach your children?

2. How can your scars be a reminder of healing instead of pain?

Ashlee Birk is the Author of the blog and book series entitled The Moments We Stand.  In them she tells of her personal journey of healing and seeking peace after the murder of her husband Emmett.  Through her trials she has learned the importance of a personal relationship with her Father in Heaven. She has found light in the darkest of moments—and she has found hope when she thought it was lost.  She has come to find that the grace of Christ is powerful—not only in sin—but also in forgiveness and carrying you through some of your darkest moments.

Ashlee is remarried and resides in Idaho with her husband Shawn and their blended family of six children. They work hard every day to continue their journey of peace and finding the joy in life. Ashlee believes that every day is a gift—and in each one, she has learned to stand.

The Moments We Stand

spouse murdered 11/2011

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