LOVE

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Every single person is born with the exact same innate ability, none of us are exempt from this gift.  We are all given it in abundance and all parents especially reap the great benefits and rewards of this gift given at our birth.

The gift we are all given is that of UNCONDITIONAL LOVE!  Children joyfully share this gift with all they come in contact with.  Even as small children, when nurtured, this gift grows abundantly and limitless, when not nurtured, this gift dies quickly.

A small child is able to do what few if any adults can do, they separate the deed from the doer.  If a child doesn’t like the meal prepared for them they will refuse to eat it, it does not impact their love for their mother or father preparing that meal.  A child does not base their love, nor withhold their love based upon a parents status, employment, education, wealth, physical appearance, nor any other reason.

A child simply loves, without conditions.

Sadly as we grow we lose this ability to love unconditionally.  We replace unconditional love with that of unconditional judgement.  We apply conditions to those we love based largely upon what we want them to be.  Many times as adults we stop loving another person because they will not be or do what we desire them to be.

This conditional love is in direct conflict and opposition to the true nature of love we are born with.

We can learn much from children, learning to love as a child loves will improve every relationship in our lives.

There is No Tomorrow – A Fathers Heartache Part 12

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Oh how I have missed having my children with me.  These past couple of weeks without being able to see them due to the Thanksgiving holiday was difficult for us.  It is frustrating to think anyone would keep their child away from a parent, yet that is the unfortunate reality that my children and I face.  It was 14 days since my last 4 hour visit, and I only had 4 hours to spend with them last night, 4 hours to last us another week.

These nights are about what the kids want to do.  Interestingly enough they all wanted to go spend some time in our home.  My wife was working late, so it was the 4 of us at home.  Alexa and Londyn wanted to play together as they missed each other so much.  The girls quickly took off to the bedrooms to laugh and giggle, followed much later my a game of hide and seek with all of them.  My son Bridger wanted to shoot on his nerf hoop in his room, so we shot around for a little while, while our baby Bella chased everyone in the house in her walker.

The house was full of noise and laughter.  A far cry from the normal silence we face when the oldest 3 are away with the other parent.  I hunger for those moments of sweet music as the children laugh and play together.  My home is meant to have the sound of little feet as they pitter patter across the hardwood, the giggles and the joy that comes from them when they are together.    I treasure these moments in time as they are fleeting for us.  Our children are growing so fast and these few opportunities go by so fast as I try to hold onto them and stay in the moment.

As our night was coming to an end last night, Bridger asked me about this blog.  I suggested he write a story and draw a picture for it that we could post.   He loves to write and draw, yet thinks he isn’t very good at it.  As the eternal optimist and wanting to encourage him to chase his dreams, i posted his story last night to show him that people would read it and like it.   Thank you for proving me right.

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I was once told by someone dear to me, whom is married to his first wife and has raised their kids in a traditional family that I spend more one on one time with my kids than they do.  This saddened me to think that could even be possible.  I yearn for time with my children and live for these moments when I get to see them.  I have spent my life wanting to be a great father and do the best I can with very limited opportunity.  I truly live for these moments.

Over the years as I have pondered these comments, I wonder if the reason that was said was due to the fact that I give my children the attention they need when I have them with me.  We pray, we play, we cry, we laugh and we love one another and spending time together,  Maybe its because we don’t get the time we would otherwise have that we spend every possible minute together.  Maybe others take for granted that time that we do not as a result of our limited time together.  Maye our time together becomes more important because we don’t have tomorrow to ride bikes, play and laugh.  We can’t procrastinate the time we spend together as a family whereas others might put things off because they can where we can’t.  Maybe by putting things off, they never get to it?  I have never fully understood his words, nor how it is even possible.  I can only guess.   I have learned over the years to always find joy in the journey.

Magical Meals – A Fathers Heartache part 11

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The unlikely moments of school lunch are often the anchor to my children that keep us connected.  As many who have read this series knows that except in the most extreme circumstances, my ex does not allow my children to call me.  I am relegated to my one 4 hour visit per week and every other weekend, with exception to the scattered holidays we get together.  My time with my children becomes limited and often times painful for us as we are apart.  School lunch allows me the moments with my children to make up some of our lost time.  I travel 25 minutes from my office to their school as often as possible to spend 10 minutes with each of them sitting at the lunch table with them and all of their friends.  These moments are what I refer to as the magical lunch moments in our life.  Simple and short opportunities for my children and I to laugh and talk about school and what is happening.  Our time together seems to go quickly, yet these brief moments in time help secure our bond together. I live for the smiles I get from their shining faces when they see me standing in the doorway to the cafeteria waiting for them. They never know for certain what days I can break away from the office to have this time with them so it is always a surprise.

Over these long lonely years of missing my children, I have needed to search for the magical moments when I can make a difference for them in their lives, when I can show them how much I love and adore them.  Our school lunches together has been one of these magical moments I search for.  I learn so much about them as I sit and laugh with their friends at the table as we eat, they open up and tell me everything that is happening, they feel secure and safe, just like home.  I discover the games they play on the playground with their friends and how they treat others as well as how the kids at school treat my children.  I learn about the homework, the books they are reading and any issues with school and their sports.   I treasure these moments with them and the opportunity to connect.

Our mealtimes have become some of the most amazing opportunities to connect with one another as we sit around tables talking with one another.  My wife and I have found that our children thrive at the dinner table together. We talk honestly and openly about the things that are happening in our lives and it is an opportunity for our children, where they feel safe and secure in our home, to relax and truly open up to us.  The other day while sitting at dinner together, my dear wife asked Bridger and Londyn what they liked most about coming to our home, with no hesitation whatsoever Bridger responds, “this is family.”  WOW!  The emotions I felt as I tightened my grip on my wife’s hand under the table were overwhelming.  Finally!  I received the confirmation that what we have been doing has been the right thing and we were making the impact we have been striving so hard for all these years!

These opportunities to connect with my children have provided anchors to my soul to help me through some of the dark times when they are away.  This connection is what gets us through times like we enter now, as over the next month we will only have two 4 hours visits, 8 hours in 30 days of time together as a result of the holiday and weekend schedule and the conflict created with the holiday happening on my regularly scheduled weekend.  It is times like this when our school lunches become ever more magical, precious and all important.   The times that will anchor our souls as one.

Look to the Light, and Live!

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We each experience pain and heartache in our life.  These pains can become deep emotional scars that paralyze us from experiencing the joys that are to be found in this life.  Finding joy in the journey can be difficult when the pains and wounds are so deep that despair almost seems inevitable.  These wounds can become chains binding us from feeling anything but sorrow and despair.

Many times these pains come from those we have allowed into our lives, to be part of our life and to share our journey with. It can be from death to disagreements to rejection, anything,  that create this intense pain, sorrow and loss.  Sometimes they are family members, spouses, children, neighbors, friends and even our church leaders.  Whoever they may be, many times this heartache burns deep within our souls and left unattended can crush our ability and desire to press forward.  These sorrows for many create the inability to trust another, to open themselves up to another, to love again or let anyone close.  It affects current and future relationships.  The ghosts of the past haunt the individuals present and future happiness, becoming victims again to the already overwhelming sadness and heartache, thus creating a vicious cycle of sorrow.

One of my favorite speakers/authors Jack Christensen taught me a lesson that has never left me in his talk/book “Healing the Wounded Soul.”  Jack explains that many of our wounds need to be healed from the inside out.  He also explains that many people react through outward behaviors based upon deep emotional wounds.

It was upon listening to his talk that I was able to finally look deep inside of me in an attempt to discover what my wounds were and as I pondered this, I allowed the Atonement of Jesus Christ to work within me to identify the wounds that were causing my sorrow and to begin the healing process. I never fully understood nor comprehended how these wounds, hidden from not only everyone else, but from myself for years had impacted my life.  The freedom that entered my life upon conquering these wounds and allowing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to heal me from the inside out has been life changing. Not only has it allowed me to find true love with my beloved wife, it has also changed my eyes and how I view others who are hurting and manifesting that through their outward behaviors.   I see others differently than ever before.

As we struggle in life and deal with past wounds, as well as the current ones, if we look to our Savior and allow Him to enter our life, He can heal us from the inside out, the way we are meant to heal and thus eliminating the scars that come when we try to heal ourselves from the outside in.  We can find the inner peace and joy in our lives that can never be taken from us.  We can prevent our past from damaging our dreams for the future.  We can reclaim our lives and find joy in the journey as we look to the light, and live.

TENDER MERCIES – A Fathers Heartache part 10

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I have never seen my children on the first day of school.  I don’t know what that is like to see the excitement of the first day of school, their new teachers, classroom and friends.  Most often I am unable to find out how the first day of school went for almost a week, when they come to visit.  They aren’t allowed to phone, the only time I find out sooner are those occasions when I can get to the school for lunch with them.

I seldom get the opportunity to take my kids to school, maybe two or three times a year I get this treat to pray with them in the morning before school and wish them a good day as they head off to class.  Most people take these moments with their children granted as a regular occurrence, for me these are tender mercies and opportunities to experience a wonderful time with my children.

Today was such a rare wonderful opportunity to experience this moment in time with them.  This morning was extra special as I was able to wake them and get them ready for school, take them, pray with them and see them off. Today,  I got the extra special treat of picking them up from school on the same day.  Days like this are rare, I treasure them and realize the blessing that they are.  These moments with my children are what keep me pressing forward everyday.  I try not to focus on the issues my ex creates in her controlling nature and enjoy the moments that are mine.

My children attend a school with a year round track schedule and today was the first day back to school from being off track for the past 3 weeks.  With Veterans day this year falling as my holiday I was able to spend the weekend, an extra weekend with them and take them to school today.  As I watched their excitement and nervousness at going back to school after this break, I reflected upon this day and the similarities it must have to an actual first day of a new school year.

I have missed out on many opportunities, ones that I will never be able to get back with my children, today was a gift from God, an opportunity to experience ever so slightly something I have yearned to experience with my children for a lifetime.  Although today wasn’t an actual first day of school, I am grateful to have this opportunity to have as close to one as I have ever experienced.

I OFTEN SIT IN SILENCE, I OFTEN SIT ALONE – A Fathers Heartache Part 9

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Last night was my sons annual football banquet.  Each year I put together a highlight video for the boys and their families to watch, each boy is given a copy as a memento of the season.  Last night was no exception and after hours of preparation the video was again ready to go and copies made for each boy.

I arrived at the restaurant early to make certain that everything was ready to go and that video would play on their televisions. Once this was finished I anxiously waited for my boy to arrive.  I hadn’t seen him in days and was excited for the opportunity to talk with him.  I quietly sat and  waited about twenty minutes for him to arrive. 

Suddenly I felt him place his arms around my shoulders as he hugged me and said hi dad, I love you.  My heart swelled momentarily until I heard his mother sternly inform him that he couldn’t sit with me and had to sit with her.  I watched a sadness appear on his face as he gave me another quick hug, whispered I love you and went to sit near his mother.   As I surveyed the room, I noticed that the other boys were all sitting together in the center tables, my dear boy was sitting head down next to his mother as he quietly obeyed her demands.

I sat there, my heart aching for my boy as he humbly and dutifully did as he was instructed, all the while watching the other boys laugh and play.  I was grateful to see his mothers friend arrive nearly 30 minutes later when she finally allowed him to sit with his friends, so she could have her moment to “talk”. 

Alone I sat at my table, watching my boy both quietly sitting next to his mother and also as he laughed with his friends. I fought the tears and anger at the way his mother controlled him.  I thought to myself how much I would have loved  to have been able to sit with him, yet this was his night to be with his friends, it wasn’t about what I wanted, it should have been about what he wanted, this was his night for him and his team.

I often sit in silence.  I often sit alone.  The numbness from the continual hurt at watching my kids many times from a distance pierces my soul.  I hunger for the days when they can express their love for me, their dad, without fear of the reaction from their mother.  My only hope and prayer is that one day my children will come to grasp the magnitude of my love and devotion for them, even if at times it is from a distance created by others…

SMALL MOMENTS AND THE GRANDEST OF MEMORIES – A Fathers Heartache part 8

I finally had the most wonderful and  AMAZING time with my children on Halloween.   I have waited 8 years for this moment to come, when Halloween would fall on my day for a visit.  In years past I would attend … Continue reading

A BLESSED WEEK – A Fathers Heartache part 7

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The school that my children attend is year round.  They are on a track schedule where they are out of school for 3 weeks and then go back for 12 weeks and then off again.  During the 3 weeks from school, I am able to spend time with them for one week during each off track cycle.   I look forward with great anticipation for this golden moment in time.  This is a time for my children and I to reconnect, a time when we can let our walls down and strengthen our relationship.

Last week was one of those precious moments in time that I treasure above everything else.

I left the office at noon everyday last week in an effort to maximize every single second I could with my dear children.  We went to the movies, the arcade, the ballpark.  We carved our pumpkins and went for hikes.  We laughed and we cried together.  It is in these tender moments of mercy that I am able to have with my children that keep me energized and capable of continuing on during the difficult times in between.

My children were able to participate in the primary program on Sunday. I fought the tears as I watched them sing and give their little parts during the program.  It was the first time I had ever been able to see them in a primary program, I savored the moment watching them.  During dinner Sunday night, my dear wife asked the kids what they liked most about spending this week with us, the answer that my son gave me brought tears to my eyes as he replied, “our family and being part of it.” Words are incapable of expressing what I felt at that moment.

Sunday night, as I sat on the couch with Londyn laying in one arm and Bridger laying on the other, we reflected together on the fun times we had during the week.  I was able to tell both of them how deeply I love them and how grateful I am to be their dad.  We cried together as we felt the realization that our week together was coming to a close.  We took courage and strength in knowing this would be a short week apart as the coming Halloween and weekend would be spent together, our first Halloween that had fallen on a night with dad.

As I dropped them off early Monday morning, on my way to work, I thanked my Father in Heaven for the time I was able to spend with them.  I pondered the coming silence I knew would take place without the phone calls and communication.  I looked forward to the coming weekend and holding them in my arms again.

I live for these moments with my children.  I yearn to be a full time dad to them, to tuck them in each night and to hug and kiss them each day.  It is through the weeks like we just shared that I know I am making a difference in their lives, and they in mine.

MY PRINCESS WITH A HEART OF GOLD AND A BROKEN WING – A Fathers Heartache part 6

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My dear sweet little girl turns 9 next month.  She was only 20 months old when my ex left.  Over the years this precious little girl has experienced tremendous turmoil in her life.  The man that my ex left with turned out to be very abusive physically and emotionally, not only to my ex but to my children.  My kids would tell me stories of his abuse, how they would hide together under the bed every time this man became angry, which apparently happened a lot.

When my kids were little, I used to be frustrated at finally getting to spend time with them and they would crash!  Within 20 minutes of my getting them they would be fast asleep.  This happened nearly every single time for two plus years.  I longed to play with them and to be able to spend quality time, yet each time they would come over they would spend the vast majority of our time together sleeping.  I would normally sit on the couch holding both of them, one in each arm for hours as they peacefully slept.  This was difficult for me to have my time with them spent sleeping.

I spoke with a friend who is a psychologist to express my feelings about this.   She informed me that my kids were falling asleep so quickly because they felt peaceful and safe with me.   Their lives were in such disarray and turmoil that they were exhausted when they came with me, the peace they felt allowed them to relax and fall asleep.  She told me that they needed this time desperately.  I was relieved to know why, yet heartbroken to think that they would be living this way with their mom.

My daughter was being potty trained at the time that my ex left and married him, as you can imagine, all the changes and turmoil led to many accidents for her.  Bridger expressed their fear to me again one night and told me how Londyn had been spanked hard bare bottom for having an accident and how Wade had yelled and yelled at her until she was too scared to even move.

I confronted them on their doorstep that night regarding this, I had called the police and met them at the house.   The police simply told me it was a civil matter and I needed to go to court again to resolve this issue.  Again I headed into the courtroom to protect my children from this abuse.  The judges ruling was appalling.  Since it was not her mother abusing her she would not change the custody and I was reprimanded for getting the police involved.

Needless the say my children have experienced much pain and heartache over the years as a result of the many men my ex has brought in and out of their lives.  This has created, especially for my precious little girl, an emotional distance from people.  I see the walls she has built to protect her tender little heart.  I see glimpses of hope in  her eyes as time goes by, especially during the times when she is with us for longer than a weekend.  Those few opportunities each year that they get to spend more than 2 days in a row in our home seem to open her up where she can express her love.

Londyn is my Angel With Broken Wings.  My heart aches each time I see her struggle to say I love you to anyone.  Her heart is so incredibly large, she is the first one in the family to help others.  She shows her love through her actions each and everyday of her life, yet the emotional sharing and connections she struggles with deeply as a result of what she has experienced.

We try so hard to carefully help her take down her walls.  My wife and I focus on her needs as they relate to feeling unconditionally the love and acceptance and safety in our home.  As she gets older, she is able to more effectively express her thoughts which have led to a greater opportunity for those moments when she will share her feelings.   I make certain that the days when Bridger has practice and Londyn does not have cheer when they are with me that time is sacred time for Londyn and I.  We have our regular daddy daughter time when it is all about her and her needs.   I wish deeply that I could have more opportunities to spend one on one time with her.

A couple of times each month I will have lunch with her at school.  Each time I walk into the school cafeteria her eyes will light up and she scoots over to make room for me at the table with her friends.  It warms my heart with each opportunity to sit at the table with her and her friends as they talk about school and their recess plans.  The hugs in school when I leave are getting stronger and stronger.  She will whisper in my ear each time I love you daddy, thank you!  I pray that these little things that I am able to do will help to heal her broken wings.

I dream of the day when I can see my little girl soar.  When her tender heart has healed enough to be able to fly on her own.  When sharing her feelings and emotions with those she loves comes naturally.  In the meantime, I watch her put on a brave smile everyday as she tries to conquer the world, while knowing how much her tender heart aches.  She is a Princess, with a heart of gold and a broken wing.

THE DAILY HEARTACHE – A Fathers Heartache part 5

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The hole in my heart never leaves.  I feel its presence with each heartbeat.  I feel the pain with each breath I take.

There isn’t a single day when my heart doesn’t ache from missing my children.  Each morning as I drive to work my thoughts are on them.  I wonder what outfit they wore to school.  I wonder how they did on yesterdays test.  I wonder how they slept.  I worry that they didn’t eat breakfast. I wonder how practice went, how Londyn is doing with her cheer classes and how football is going for Bridger.

These thoughts race through my mind complicated by the lack of communication I am able to have with them.  Sometimes they will sneak me a text message from their ipod when their mom isn’t looking just to say I love you dad!  I live for those precious little messages and moments in life when they aren’t with me.  While I drive, my mind stays focused on them, I fight the urge to cry as I long to see them, to hear their voices and talk with them, to see their smiles and feel their hugs.

I yearn for the time when my children can spend time with me without the shadow of the issues we are forced to deal with from others.  I see the sorrow in their own eyes with each goodbye, as they too know that the communication and contact will be vacant from their lives until our next visit.  I know all too well the pain that I feel daily, I see that same pain in my children’s precious tender hearts with each hug and kiss goodbye.  We hold on just a little longer and little tighter each time we part.

I worry what this does to my children.  I get angry that someone would hurt their children in this manner.  I get angry that by her choices to leave our family and run away with another man that my dear children are forced to suffer and hurt.  My heart explodes in sorrow each time I think about the life that has been forced upon them by her actions.

Then I take a deep breath and slowly let it out.  I regain my composure and put on my happy face for the day.  Time to work.  I take a few moments to look at the blessings I do have in my life.  I have amazing children, including sweet Alexa,  whom I love deeply and they love me.  I have the most wonderful and amazing wife possible, who’s unquestionable love and devotion to our family and myself provides deep rooted anchors in my soul for me to weather the heartache.  I have a beautiful, kind loving mother who never fails me and 5 brothers who will always be there.

I realize daily that I have been surrounded by loved ones to strengthen me so that I in turn can be strong for my dear children.  I only pray that they can borrow my strength so that their tender little hearts aren’t shattered.