God’s Limitless Comfort

A few mornings ago I woke up and instantly felt frustration and hurt from the fact that Trae’s mom denied us any material things from Trae. We didn’t even get our copy (she took it and is holding it hostage so-to-speak) of the book that everyone signs when they attended his funeral. I began talking with God and just pouring my heart out to Him in sadness that the only memories we have of him are 1 pair of his shoes, the few pictures we have and the visual memory of the book filled with condolences from friends and family. There are certain times where having those “material” things are so important. That morning I physically hurt when breathing, so much pain from the loss of our son so tragically. God gently reminded me of the “eternal” picture. We are here just a short time on this earth and the eternity He has for us in Heaven is so much greater than anything we have here on earth. It’s natural to enjoy the “material” things in life, however God has brought me to a season where I soak up the memory and the value of “time” more than what I have and/or don’t have. He has softened my heart so much in the last 6 months. The pain of our loss is still there and VERY real and it is a daily process to filter out what is healthy and what is unhealthy in our memories.

We were so blessed to have him for the entire summer before he took his life. For the first year after his death I would constantly replay in my head over and over the negative things, negative words, negative facial expressions that took place in the course of our short time together. During that season is when God really ministered to my heart and showed me areas where I truly needed to surrender to Him and change. In the next year He began to fill my memories with the times we did have fun, laughter, bonding times with Trae and said to me that it was time to let go of the guilt and shame from my shortcomings and faults. God was (and still is) sanctifying my life and there was no longer the need for me to carry tremendous guilt over every little mistake or shortcoming that happened.

In just this past month God has completely redefined who Chris and I are in Him and who we are as ONE. I have a burden to share our story as a blended family because we don’t want anyone else to have the wake up call we had to have. It took losing our son to open our eyes to the truth and reality of how we were choosing to live our lives and raise our children. There were times where it stung and hurt, but when you come to a place of true repentance I think you CRAVE that authenticity from Him and want to be molded, healed and whole in Christ. There isn’t a moment that goes by where I wish Trae were with us, at the same time, the reality and raw humility of what happened in our lives keeps me on my knees at the feet of Jesus. Facing difficulty and change may hurt at times, however, when you completely become dependent on God, lay your LIFE at His feet and allow Him to change you, it is wrapped with an abundance of comfort, grace, mercy AND blessings.

Gratitude and humility get you through the hard times, the difficult times when you think you just can’t take that next breath of air, or that next step.

God displayed His comfort in our lives through Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

This was the scripture He gave us the day we found out Trae had passed and for SEVERAL months after He would use others to share it with us who had no idea God gave us this specific word.

In Him,
Stephanie & Chris

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Process of healing……

I created this blog site to share in our journey of healing after the tragic loss of our son (my stepson) Trae at the fragile age of 13. Many times I have sat down at the computer and my mind was just completely blank with what to say. I sat there in a daze, thinking that this was not real and that we would wake up any moment, also thinking what do I even write about. I’m so thankful in my life that God is so understanding in the “process of healing”. Here I am almost 1 1/2 years later and not completely gripped by guilt. In the summer of 2012 my older two children moved to California with their dad, then we lost Trae shortly after that summer. This wasn’t how I pictured our blended family being. I envisioned us whole and together. I remember pouring my heart out in community group a month or so ago and just saying “how can THIS be fixed? we are broken; Trae will never be with us again, and my older two are doing great (would never want to uproot them from the stability that they have), and here we are with our younger two, broken. What testimony from being a blended family could possibly come from such brokenness?” This is where I’m just in awe of the love God truly has for me as a person (I’m learning how much he loves me as a daughter, however I’m not fully there yet, but better than where I was just a month ago) and His patience with me and the process of healing and wholeness. In the midst of all these emotions, pain and hurt, He has been pouring out His abundant peace into my severly broken heart.

We never took enough pictures of Trae during the few/short times we had him, and oh how I wish we had more. This breaks my heart so much, and we can’t get those times back. In the last weeks of his life (unaware to us) we actually had family pictures taken at the lake in our swimsuits!! I will cherish those pictures FOREVER! Even now as I right this, I hear God saying to me “Here Stephanie, I’m pouring grace over you, receive it, walk in it, accept it”. I’m so unworthy of His grace in my life. I refused to extend grace, love and mercy to those around me, how can I even come before Him and want those things in my life. That is the beauty of who HE is and the reminder that we ALL fall short and are not worthy.

Losing Trae hurt so deep, yet God is showing me that Trae first and foremost belonged to Him. Trae has been healed in Heaven and now God is wanting to heal us here on earth, so we can be complete and whole again. Trae will always be with us, and my older ones will always be with us. I have walked around far to long broken – it affects my family, it affects relationships (destroys friendships sometimes because I am operating out of brokenness), it affects the calling that God has placed on my life as a wife, mother, woman and the ministry He has put in my heart.

I will share more often!
In Him,
Stephanie

Loss of a Child: Teen suicide (wow, this ended up being longer than I planned)

SchumakerFamily

Raising Kids: Teen suicide signs often go unnoticed | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona.

One real quick thing about giving posessions away – Trae did this. He gave Alaura his favorite IPOD because he said he was getting a new one.. He never got a new one :/

The following signs may mean someone is at risk for suicide. The risk of suicide is greater if a behavior is new or has increased and if it seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. If you or someone you know exhibits any of these signs, seek help as soon as possible by calling the Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves.

Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online or buying a gun

Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.

Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.

Talking about being a burden to others.

Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.

Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.

Sleeping too little or too much.

Withdrawing or isolating themselves.

Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.

Displaying extreme mood swings.

While I was watchig this video, I was thinking about our summer with Trae and what signs we missed and/or didn’t see. I haven’t found any articles yet (although I’m sure there are some out there, I just need to research more) that talk about those situations where there are really NO visible signs. This video is good information, however it talks more about warning signs, so it is beneficial. I really want to help bring awareness to those families where there are possibly no signs of suicide, and if there are, they are very very minute/minimal.

Generally you expect that your children will go through difficult times when faced with challenges related to school, adjustments in life, divorce, separation, blended families, etc – I think in my personal experience I allowed that reality to be “too” common, thinking that it is what it is, and it is something my kids will just have to walk through. I wasn’t truly aware of what impact I had in my childrens lives. Yes, they would face difficulties in school, witness children bullying others, see kids having boyfriends at too young of an age – however we can help our children in how to cope with life and train them how deal with lifes challenges. Just something to share as a side note: I recently attended a seminar that my Aunt Shelly does. She is a WAIT trainer (waiting for intimacy until married) and travels all around the country talking with teens and parents of teens about life and ways to overcome the temptations and the struggles. She shared about specific situations and just normal general things that our kids will face. One thing that really stuck in my heart was when she was sharing about when kids will say “but mom or dad you did this or that when you were a kid and you turned out fine”. Yes that is true and we have the priviledge to share with our children that WE made our choices and we are here to help/guide them to make theirs. Instead of just saying “because I said so”, we can connect with our children on a more personal level and help them understand. For some families/parents this comes natural, it didn’t for me. I’m like a sponge right now soaking up all I can (under God’s authority and discernment) to be a better parent for my children.

Okay so back to what I was sharing.. I love the Scripture Proverbs 22:6 (ESV) “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it”. WOW that is powerful!! I am responsible for what I know and what God has done in my life; because of this I am changing almost every aspect of my parenting. I’ve always been a “softy” when it came to discipline and boundaries. Believe me when I say it is NOT easy to retrain bad habits!!!! There are a few ladies in my life that I have always admired for being AMAZING parents (Merinda, Chrystal, Shaun, Michelle) and I am striving to become a better parent as well. I wanted to be friends, and while you CAN be loving/caring to your children, while they are growing up, they need a parent (Chris is so much better at this than I am), not necessarily a friend. I remember my Aunt saying “They will like you when they are 30, but more than they realize, they need a parent, guidance, discipline and training in their lives”.

Our summer with Trae was overall a great one. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary at all. He was happy, smiled all the time, (every picture we have of him he is smiling and looks truly happy) loved spending time with the girls, played video games, music, what normal (I think) 13 year olds do on summer break. Life completely changed for us when we got the call shortly before 9am on September 26, 2012 that Trae was dead – we didn’t know any details other than he had taken his own life – I can’t even begin to express in words all the thoughts that were going through our minds. Life completely stopped for us and it was like we were living a nightmare in a dream, only it wasn’t a dream. Here’s some bullet points of what thoughts and realizations that I’ve had since that tragic morning:

*WHY!?!?

*Complete failure as a stepmom/parent – 2 days after Trae’s tragic death the police found the suicide note in his room (having to go through your childs room is so deeply painful!!! We had just a few short days to pick out what clothes we wanted him to wear – heart renching) In the note he had shared stuff that you wouldn’t really think was reason to take your own life, but I guess the combination of them all combined was clearly too much for him. The part that hurt the most was when he said that he felt like nobody understood who he was and that he had all this family but felt completely alone. To this day, this hurts deep within my heart.

*I couldn’t stop thinking about how in his most desparate time of need, I had just gotten home 3 hours earlier and was SLEEPING. I can tell you that guilt took place in my being immediately!! We’ve shared with some people the details of what happened. It wasn’t until we arrived (3 hours after the call) that we were told what happened, and it wasn’t until the next day when we were sitting in a room at the police station that we were told the full details of what happened and how he was found. Shortly after 7:30 on that Wednesday morning, Trae had snuck out of his home, went to his favorite park just a block away, went to his favorite tree, set his cell phone on the bench next to him, then shot himself in the head. Tragic, absolutely tragic. To come to a place where you feel your only “out” is suicide, as a parent how can you not feel that you desperately failed.

*Then the “What-ifs”: What if we hadn’t gotten on to him over the summer about behavior; what if we had spent more quality time as a family; what if we had SEEN the signs and could have stopped it; what if we had been more of a friend. I promise you I questioned every day and thing that happened over the summer. I was afraid after this to discipline our other children. I needed them to know that I loved them so very much and I didn’t want the same thing to happen. The “what-ifs” and the overwhelming thoughts/feelings that we had failed as parents and that any change from now on was too late or wouldn’t matter because it wouldn’t bring Trae back, was VERY difficult to carry.

*Video games: oh my!! Has this been a HUGE eye opener for me. I’m reminded of what my Pastor shared in church today – God gives us pleasures and enjoyment for us to enjoy. Those things aren’t bad, however if we aren’t careful with what we allow in our lives, it can lead us down a path that is not healthy and causes us to sin. Trae played a LOT of shooting games, and not to say that caused him to take his life, but how many times do you seen in those games that you can shoot people, or be shot, and get right back up – even when you are killed in the games, you get a “restart”. We like to play mario and the Wii with oWe ur kids, however my mindset now is no shooting games, and I’m much more aware of what is being allowed into their lives that can influence them in stronger ways.

*I believe now, (being that I am able to look back in more detail of the summer) that Trae had already had his mind made up when he came. He hid it SO well, and I believe it was because he didn’t want anyone to change his mind. For a 13yr old, he had to carry far more than he ever should have. He should have just been able to be a kid, with normal chores, normal boundaries, normal responsibities and normal 13 year old things. We fell VERY short in his life for not being there for him like we should have, and sadly when we did change that for the summer, it WAS too late. We had talked with him a lot that summer about family, how school was, if he was happy, etc. The only thing he expressed (I guess I really shouldn’t say “only”) was that rarely he was picked on, but more that he protected kids from being picked on – which you don’t see as a bad thing. He had changed a LOT in his style of clothing and his looks. His hair was a bit longer and he wouldn’t go anywhere if it wasn’t flat ironed. He always had to look nice and smell good – see that’s not a bad thing either, although it did seem extreme at times. His mom is very strict in that aspect, so we figured it was just part of who he was because he was brought up that way. Again, nothing that seemed worth taking your life over. We had asked him at one time if he wanted to live with us because we were concerned with things he had shared with us that was happening with his mom. He told us though that he’d come live with us next year (so that would have been summer this year) because he needed to be back home and not abandon his mom. This is the one thing that DID stand out to me. His feeling of obligation to have to go back to help take care of his mom and his siblings, and now looking back I believe that was a sure sign that he had already made his decision that he was going to take his own life.

*Forgiveness – I have to admit this is one I am overcoming!! It is something I had to do MANY MANY times a day, and now I’ve progressed to once very few weeks that I have to sit at the feet of Jesus and pray for a change of heart. You see, Trae’s mom is the one who had the guns and bullets in the home and she couldn’t remember what cabinets (if any of them) were locked or not. Granted when a person has made up their mind that they are going to take their own life, they WILL find a way!! Trae was very smart. I tell myself that he didn’t realize the gravity of what he was doing and that he would not come back from what he had done. There is comfort in knowing that he is with our Almighty Jesus which is the best place to be, although we miss him so much and hurt for him daily. To top this off, she decided to sue us for money that is definitely not due her. So this added to the anger and bitterness I was feeling towards her afterwards. During the week of the funeral we comforted each other, she seemed truly genuine and then completely blind-sided us. This is something we are still in the midst off, so it’s not over, however I know that I know that I KNOW God has this in His hands, and whatever the outcome He will provide and take care of us. The truth WILL set us free in the mighty name of Jesus!!! I personally think it’s easy to forgive when you never have to deal with the person or see them.. but what about when they are someone you have to see regularly, or that will be a part of your life forever!? I truly feel this is where TRUE forgiveness through God’s grace and strength is able to shine and change your hearts from the inside out. I have walked this and still am walking this out and I am thankful and give all glory and praise to my heavenly Father for loving me so much to help me in my deepest pain to forgive and PRAY for Trae’s mom – not out of obligation but out of complete mercy and grace that God has graciously extended to me. When I would say that she doesn’t deserve my prayers and that she should end up in hell (can I be real with you, because I know that I’m not the only person in this world that has been hurt so deeply that you feel that for someone), deep down I knew that was not in line with how God would have me to feel or be. His grace has changed me deep down and now I sincerely pray that somehow God would be able to wrap His arms around her and that the blinders she has on would be removed and she would be able to spend eternity in heaven with Him and with her son.

*Fear gripped me!! Bryanna and Aaron will be out for the summer and that brought another level of “what-ifs”! What if we fail again and they go back and the same thing repeats itself. Thankfully through the love and support of our church family we have been able to overcome fear and speak LIFE into our family and most importantly CHANGE our lives completely around!!!! I know we cannot bring Trae back, in the loss of him, he has brought our family closer together. What was recently divided has now become whole. The cost was TOO high though!!!!! way TOO high!

The encouragement is this: No matter how low you are in life or what tragedies you have faced or sins you have done, it is NEVER too late for God to change you!!! When you fall in love with Jesus – whole heartedly, his grace will transform your life. Absolutely NOTHING is too impossible or out of His character to change your life. He paid it all at the cross for us!! None of us deserve his grace or eternity with Him, that is a gift to us for how much He loves us!!!! I pray that we all fall deeply in love with Jesus so that we can be a light in this darken world. Our lives are being renewed, restored and changed for HIS glory to bring hope to those around us who are in need of the One true savior and in need of His grace, mercy and unconditional love.

Final thoughts:

Make sure your kids KNOW that they are NOT alone and that they are loved!! Spend time with them, we get one chance to raise them, so let’s make it count. Never ignore the signs that I shared above!! Even if they think it is silly or embarrassing, it is important for our children to know that they are not alone and that NOTHING is worth taking your life over. I’ve had this talk continually with Bryanna and Aaron and helping them know that when you do something like Trae did, you most likely won’t get a second change. We don’t want to be pushy with our kids, so prayer and guidance from the Holy Spirit will help you in how to deal with what challenges may come your way.

I pray to God that we NEVER have to face tragedy like this again, and to be honest I do get scared because we are walking this out, and I don’t want God to think that this is something that we can continually face child after child. I have a lot of growth still in the area of deep trust in Him, and this Scripture brings me comfort: Romans 8:28-29 (ESV) “And we know that for those who love God ALL things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose”.

I hope this has brought some clarity and comfort for those facing difficult times and struggling.

In Him,

Stephanie ❤

Small steps forward

About a week ago Chris & I decided to unfreeze our membership at Club USA. For me this was extremely difficult because during the time Trae was with us, (and even before that) I was at the gym everyday. I was attending college, so I was using the daycare there, and then while Trae was with us during the summer, I’d go ever so often to just work out and have some quiet time. When I first stepped back into the gym, a flood of memories overwhelmed me. The realization of how much our lives had changed and would never be the same again hit me pretty hard. There are some days where I feel a lot of guilt for taking those steps in moving forward, because Trae couldn’t. About month ago we took the girls to the park in our complex, where Trae took them every day during the summer. We went swimming almost every day as well. Anyways, it felt really empty for me. I hadn’t been able to take them to the park for about 5 months after his suicide. I took them today and took this picture – it still doesn’t feel complete without him there and it’s odd. I will share in a separate post about what our experience was during the summer, because I’ve had people ask me about any signs, and if we could have prevented this tragedy. Today this is just something that was on my heart, as we have begun to adapt to our “new” normal, and there are so many memories of Trae, it still feels unreal at times.

 

park

 

 

Our Family

Starting this blog/website is something that has been on my heart for a few months now. I’ve been praying about this and decided to step out in faith and begin to allow God to use my family and I to share our story in hopes that we can help bring awareness about suicide and also bring comfort to those who are going through or have gone through suicided loss or any type of loss of a child. Hopefully we can help others find the reason to live…HOPE..ultimately that reason is JESUS!!My name is Stephanie. Chris & I have been married 7 years. We are a blended family – that in and of itself was very challenging for us, as we pretty much did everything backwards!! Together we have 5 children; Bryanna (15) and Aaron (13) are my children from a previous marriage; Trae (13) is Chris’s son from a previous marriage – he is our son who committed suicide September 2012; together we have Alaura (6) and Kara (3). There is a lot of growth and challenges that come from being a blended family, and in time I will share more with you all. This is just a brief description to help you get to know our family better. I’m excited about all God is going to do in and through us to reach out and minister to other families. Most of my postings will be as God leads, and things that I’m walking through now and things that I have walked through. I pray that all who read my blog will be blessed and encouraged, and knowing that we serve an awesome God who loves us more than we could ever imagine!

In Him,
Stephanie