THE SOUND OF DEATH…

When you think of death what is the first thing you think of? Today I associate bells to represent death. The church bells here have a different meaning than what you may be used to. They tell you the time, let you know when service is starting, to celebrate as well as to mourn. “Dobles” is Spanish for doubles and when you hear them, they tell you something significant…A death. Ding. Ding. Dong…a woman. Ding. Ding. Ding. Dong…a man.

            I played with death for so much of my life that I wanted to die. Much of my life I spent addicted to something. Lying, drugs, stealing, relationships; the list goes on. I had never really known true freedom. I spent most of my life living in low-income areas or in the system. I have had times that I’ve had plenty and times I had nothing. In the times that I had nothing I learned how to appreciate the little things I normally take for granted. In the times I had plenty it made it easier to give.

            Death and life are a cycle. They are inevitable beginning and end. So much like the ups and downs of life. Times of trouble will come; however, how will you handle it when it does? A month ago, I was homeless but not hopeless. 6 months ago, I was suing my sister on the Judge Mathis show and it led to a stronger relationship today. I lost the case for pretty much popping off at the mouth as usual. We however had an amazing trip. I also got to ride my first plane. It was amazing.

            Seven years ago, I was a very different person. My criminal record has Council Bluffs Most wanted, conspiracy, manufacturing, intent to deliver, and much more. My final count around four years ago was a 14 page long criminal history. The fact that I can sit here writing these words is a true miracle. I knew times of true darkness. Days I feared myself and dared not look at my reflection when I knew the disgust that awaited. I begged for death.

            The day I got arrested for my second heavy hitter I couldn’t even part with the drugs long enough to go get my stuff from the last home Juan and I would share. We had gone to pick up our stuff with my sister. The drive there I did not know until later I had been praying. I begged whoever was out there to let me die. I had a plan and it my very distorted thinking it made sense.

            Seventeen bottles of various heart suppressing medications in my nightstand and a paper bag full of 100 proof liquor should have done the trick. I couldn’t bear the pain I was causing to everyone I loved. I knew something had to change. The proof was hidden in a sock under my seat. The drugs were completely taking over, and my humanity faded. I was hopeless. Has anyone noticed hopelessness can be the first step to knowing complete hope?

            Before I could ever get home to carry out my master plan: God had His own plans. Jail saved my life. I have never doubted that. I had committed so many atrocious acts against people that there was no way that the consequences would catch up with me. I have not been in trouble in almost four years, which was not easy. Doing things, the wrong way became my first nature. It took that time to take all my mess and make it into a message.

            Jail slowed the world down to a stand- still. Its easy to get distracted by the noise out here. Behind the cement walls with windows barred with steel; time stands still. Every day is the same as the last. I was in a small-town Iowa jail which let me tell you gets very quiet. Especially when you’re the only inmate for long periods of time. Quiet. It became a time to stop talking and start listening.

            Three times death has circled. God had other plans. Maybe your wondering what this has to do with the sound of dobles? I’m getting there. When you have been consumed with the idea that death is an end or a way out of life; life becomes hopeless.  I begged for death; but not the death I thought.

The old way no longer fit in with the life I have been living since that day. Not for lack of trying. True freedom for me came the day I finally surrendered what was. I couldn’t see a future for myself. However; I never stopped dreaming. I dreamt of a life of being able to look at myself in mirror or not having to remember what lie I told to who. I dreamt it, but never believed it was possible for me.

When I look into my eyes today, I don’t see all the masks anymore. I look into my eyes and see life again. A dream I long thought lost. The day I got to Mexico I was reminded how short life truly is. Seven bodies lined the ditch. Hands bound behind their backs. What covered their faces stained with blood from the shots to the head. Two women. Five men. I don’t know their stories or what led to their deaths. Nor is it my place to speak on.

What it does lead me to do is remember how short life is and reflect on what I have done with the time, gifts and resources I have been given. What it does is make me appreciate that in my heart I know this is not the end for me and what is to come is far greater. It leads me to find the beauty in the small things and give grace whenever possible. It leads me to close my eyes as the bells sound and feel the wind hit my face. I have never felt such peace in my life. The sound of death reminds me I am still alive.

Appreciate the small things; you’re not promised tomorrow.

Amazing Grace

AMAZING GRACE

                When is the last time you listened to the song “Amazing Grace”? To those who haven’t heard it I would encourage you to go to a quiet place; close your eyes and just listen to the words. Let them sink into the darkest depths inside you and hear these words…

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.

            These words were written in 1779 and still today carry weight in our lives. I want to tell you something not many people know about me: I sing to my grandchildren; which led to dance parties when Grandma cleaned, and Serenity would dance and clean with me. These are the things that I learned to find such joy in. Those small moments that no camera can capture.

            My children and grandchildren have given me that hope that I couldn’t help not singing and dance with them. My Grandchildren amaze me. My children amaze me. Each has their own personality; however, if you look closely enough, we all have little pieces of each other. It’s in the funny faces that Catalina makes that looks exactly like her sisters Adrianna and Danielle. The way she loves elotes like her sister Shavon and how she loves certain shows now because she’s spent time with her brother Sean. Each of them has a place in her heart she carries with her.

            We fight; we make choices others don’t agree with; but that never stops us from coming together again. That time usually comes when we remember what we’ve gotten through together. My children truly amaze me. They all have these beautiful gifts that reassure me they have an amazing plan for their lives. I think I am going to have a bragging moment as a mom for a moment….

Sean sees the good in the world with a completely open heart.

Shavon can write with words that just come together like poetry.

Adrianna has a voice that can melt the coldest of hearts when she sings “Jesus Take the Wheel.”

Danielle has a joy in her that she can get the angriest person to burst out with joyful laughter.

Catalina has a heart that believes in the impossible and holds onto that hope.

Each one equally amazes me.

            A few months ago, I held my granddaughter Lana in my arms and walked her and sang these words. When I would sing this song, they fell right to sleep. My kids have given me crap because I can get them to sleep somehow when no one else can. I have this touch, but more than that I look into their eyes as they fall asleep and can’t help but just smile.

            I smile because each of us has loved these children even when we are at war with each other. My oldest daughter, Shavon was given a living miracle. She has a little boy named Dean. You will never see a little boy that has this smile that just radiates pure joy. I know I use the word joy a lot, but why wouldn’t I? My family gives me hope. & years ago, my life fell apart in a way that I fell saved my life today. I was marking destructive choices; which led to jail. Jail saved my life. In there I met two amazing women: Pat and Barb. My only visitors. I smile today because I know I needed that time to get quiet and start listening.

            Today I live in a place that I get the most peaceful kind of quiet. I have a life that truly represents Amazing Grace. I have a man that I have loved since the moment I saw him. I fell in love with his smile. He has this smile that just lifts me up. He can make me laugh at times I just want to fall apart. In the most awkward moments when I feel like I am going to freeze up in fear his smile says what a million words couldn’t.

Judge Mathis & Chicago

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

God’s grace is sufficient for me, God’s power is made perfect in my weakness.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Redemption

Chicago

10/2/2018

Have you ever had a moment where you just feel different? Like somethings shifted inside caused by a defining moment. I am sitting here finally writing because of that shift inside me. Recently I filed a lawsuit against my nephew and my sister for a car her son had damaged. He was a few months shy of being a legal adult which left my sister liable. This happened over 16 months ago. My sister helped my daughter Danielle to all her physical therapy appts, so I could sleep in the day and she would take me at 11 at night to work my overnight job. She helped me in the ways she could, but she couldn’t and shouldn’t have had to do it because she wasn’t the one responsible. The person responsible has never made it right. Over this time, I could feel something deep inside me changing in ways that no longer who I was. I was getting bitter and angrier by the day and I didn’t want to let that continue. I filed the lawsuit and as I filled out paperwork I had to fight down vomit and control my shaking to write. I felt such disgust with myself but deep inside I felt like I was supposed to. Times gone on and a TV Judge Show in Chicago contacts us and after a lot of hesitation we both agreed. Sara and I would go on the show and my prayer was this was a way to resolve the problem without making her pay for something her son had done. If my case won, the show would pay what she owes. I got to Chicago earlier that day and as I sat in that empty hotel room completely overwhelmed by all the huge buildings and so many people all moving so fast I prayed. I then asked my sister to go hang out and check out Navy Pier. I had a blast with her. We saw some cool stuff, we talked, and I caught so many new Pokémon. It was win in my eyes. We went to our own hotels and didn’t see each other till court. My sister never wanted me to lose. She wanted me to be able to have a car again and she knows she can’t afford to pay me either. We both just wanted closure. That Judge was so unprofessional and treated us both with no respect at all. He made jokes and told stories about Omaha having homeless after me explaining being in a homeless shelter. He then treated my sister with just horrific ignorance making jokes about slurring words which she never one time did. It was horrific. He never looked at one piece of evidence nor did he let either of finish speaking and slammed the gavel and dismissed the case. I was told by the producer I had a solid case several times and trusted that to dismiss my case in a real court here. I just wanted it over, peace in my family and be able to get to work reliably everyday without having to stand in the dark at 5am on one of worst streets in Omaha to get to work on time. I wanted to be there for things like my kids’ soccer games. I wanted my daughter to be successful in her job and not have to take buses at 11pm to North Omaha by herself. Be there when my grandchildren were born. That Judge cared more about the reaction he got from the audience and the jokes he made when his bailiff took his phone out to calculate what 7×77 was when I explained that I forgave my nephew because if Jesus could forgive someone like me then I can forgive him for wrecking my car. After the show I was told the producer would talk to his boss and get back to me. Rushed out of their wardrobe car and rushed to a car to take me to the airport. I should be livid right now. Well not going to lie kind of pissed. However, there’s something bigger in there that shifted. I didn’t get to replace a vehicle or have the money to move back to Lincoln, but I got something priceless instead. I got to hang out with my little sister in a way that never in our lives have we been able to. No matter how anyone else would see it the way I see it whatever the enemy means for bad God can and will use for good. It brought some healing where division was winning out.

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Defining Moments

Defining moments. Life is full of them. They come at moments of true joy…however they also come through real pain. Most people don’t know I am not in Nebraska anymore. I honestly try not to share too much of the real things in my life. I have been so scared of my story for so long that I became a prisoner in my own skin; not at all how life is intended to live. Three weeks ago I had a defining moment that led me here; writing this from Mexico.
To tell you what led me here I need to take you a further back……
Seven months ago I started getting sick. What started as headaches and what felt like the flu grew from there. In the last 7 months I have trouble seeing some days, vomiting, The feeling of being stabbed from inside me head, trouble breathing, shaking, memory loss, speech problems….the list goes on. I thought I was just crazy. I sit here with every reason if I chose to complain; but I really try not to. I am grateful for what is happening because I sit here with joy and a faith that is unbreakable- come hell or high water I know who sits on the throne.
So these symptoms led to a chain of events that changed EVERYTHING. I was a single mom in Omaha, working a full time job, paying my bills (the best I could), keeping food in the house, rebuilt relationships and made new ones. I tried my best to be the “good Christian” that in the end made me feel like more of a mess. I made too much to qualify anymore for Medicaid. I could not afford health care and survive and even sought wise counsel on not having health insurance. I lived in a neighborhood I loved in North Omaha that despite the days that it felt like a literal warzone; I absolutely loved it.
So what does that all have to do with this? It was a perfect storm of mess to make into a message……
Three weeks and several specialists led to the words…”It’s in your brain.” I was referred to an Oculoplastic Surgery and Neuro-Ophthalmology specialist. The pressure of something pushing out from inside my head makes it hard to get air through my nose. This led me to an ENT that learned that I have 2 very significant allergies to molds that infested my home and the air I breathed there. This led to increased risks. The ENT did a CAT scan and found Nasal septal deviation and hypertrophy of nasal turbinates but clear sinuses. I am supposed to start immunotherapy for my allergies but that was the least of his concerns.
Next came the Ophthalmologist I saw for the episodes of blindness and pressure pushing on the back of my eyes. That led to the next clue when she found some kind of mass behind my right eye that was flat but definitely there. My primary care has done several bloods tests and, MRI with contrast (DYE injected by an IV to light up different parts of your brain) and a chest X-Ray of the chest. After the MRI we started several heavy duty rounds of antibiotics and treated me as though they were migraines to rule things out. My MRI showed a small of T2/flair hyper intensity in the right frontal subcortical white matter. I even saw the dentist to rule out any other causes likes infection or abscesses.
Medication after medication was prescribed all to rule out causes nobody could help me understand. One specialist after another but no closer to answers. Each one costing more than the last. This specialist was going to do things like ultrasound of the eye and possibly a biopsy. Now it is very important you understand that to do this biopsy they would have had to move the eye out of the way which meant taking it out of my head. I could not afford to be sick. I tried to keep working full time but the sicker I got the less I could work.
Two months it was discovered my house was unlivable and I was evicted by the city February 1, 2019 for imminent danger. My living conditions were making me sicker day by day. What happened with my house saved my life in so many ways. I lost everything and sit here today with a smile. I give you the medical background because throughout the last 7 months I have ben looked down on and treated differently by people who truly did not understand or believe me. I did not want to believe me.
Three weeks ago after getting the collaborated referral to this new specialist by everyone I had seen so far I embraced my defining moment that came through a diagnosis…and lack of one. All anyone could tell me was there was something in my head that pushes out so badly that it has shifted my whole nose out of place and even causes lumps some days. There are days where I cannot open my eyes because the stabbing pain is unbearable. There are days I pour tears and pray for air. I would not wish what I feel on my worst enemy.
I left on a bus that took days across a border that I had only seen on television and read about. I came to a different country to save my life. I have only told you about the physical health….mental health was even worse. I had become depressed and isolated. I felt like giving up so many times. I couldn’t figure out how though so I just kept going and praying.
In a time where there is so much debate over walls and politics God made a way here. I was going to get sick no matter what. This was inevitable. I truly believe that God can heal anything and I also believe if He chooses not to He has His reasons. He has already brought so much healing already. Since getting here I eat healthier and more active. I garden in the mornings, ride bikes to the store, and pray more. I am spiritually preparing for what is still to come.
I saw an eye specialist here 4 days ago who amazing and received thorough care was for 500 pesos. I learned that an MRI here is $200 versus $2,611 in the United States. My eyes are perfectly healthy which is great news; however that means we now know it is either in front of my brain or in my brain. He is getting all my records from the others and sending everything to a friend of his that specializes in this kind of thing (at no extra cost). He gave me his personal email for records and spent over an hour examining and explaining to Juan and Catalina. He even showed them my eye after being completely dilated on a camera to help explain. We are going to be repeating the MRI and he said worst case scenario a spinal tap.
I am speaking out now is to fight the fear that kept me a prisoner for so long. We all have stories that have the power to cause ripple effects. I am proud of my story….it is a story of true grace.
Defining moments. Life is full of them. They come at moments of true joy…however they also come through real pain. Most people don’t know I am not in Nebraska anymore. I honestly try not to share too much of the real things in my life. I have been so scared of my story for so long that I became a prisoner in my own skin; not at all how life is intended to live. Three weeks ago I had a defining moment that led me here; writing this from Mexico.
To tell you what led me here I need to take you a further back……
Seven months ago I started getting sick. What started as headaches and what felt like the flu grew from there. In the last 7 months I have trouble seeing some days, vomiting, The feeling of being stabbed from inside me head, trouble breathing, shaking, memory loss, speech problems….the list goes on. I thought I was just crazy. I sit here with every reason if I chose to complain; but I really try not to. I am grateful for what is happening because I sit here with joy and a faith that is unbreakable- come hell or high water I know who sits on the throne.
So these symptoms led to a chain of events that changed EVERYTHING. I was a single mom in Omaha, working a full time job, paying my bills (the best I could), keeping food in the house, rebuilt relationships and made new ones. I tried my best to be the “good Christian” that in the end made me feel like more of a mess. I made too much to qualify anymore for Medicaid. I could not afford health care and survive and even sought wise counsel on not having health insurance. I lived in a neighborhood I loved in North Omaha that despite the days that it felt like a literal warzone; I absolutely loved it.
So what does that all have to do with this? It was a perfect storm of mess to make into a message……
Three weeks and several specialists led to the words…”It’s in your brain.” I was referred to an Oculoplastic Surgery and Neuro-Ophthalmology specialist. The pressure of something pushing out from inside my head makes it hard to get air through my nose. This led me to an ENT that learned that I have 2 very significant allergies to molds that infested my home and the air I breathed there. This led to increased risks. The ENT did a CAT scan and found Nasal septal deviation and hypertrophy of nasal turbinates but clear sinuses. I am supposed to start immunotherapy for my allergies but that was the least of his concerns.
Next came the Ophthalmologist I saw for the episodes of blindness and pressure pushing on the back of my eyes. That led to the next clue when she found some kind of mass behind my right eye that was flat but definitely there. My primary care has done several bloods tests and, MRI with contrast (DYE injected by an IV to light up different parts of your brain) and a chest X-Ray of the chest. After the MRI we started several heavy duty rounds of antibiotics and treated me as though they were migraines to rule things out. My MRI showed a small of T2/flair hyper intensity in the right frontal subcortical white matter. I even saw the dentist to rule out any other causes likes infection or abscesses.
Medication after medication was prescribed all to rule out causes nobody could help me understand. One specialist after another but no closer to answers. Each one costing more than the last. This specialist was going to do things like ultrasound of the eye and possibly a biopsy. Now it is very important you understand that to do this biopsy they would have had to move the eye out of the way which meant taking it out of my head. I could not afford to be sick. I tried to keep working full time but the sicker I got the less I could work.
Two months it was discovered my house was unlivable and I was evicted by the city February 1, 2019 for imminent danger. My living conditions were making me sicker day by day. What happened with my house saved my life in so many ways. I lost everything and sit here today with a smile. I give you the medical background because throughout the last 7 months I have ben looked down on and treated differently by people who truly did not understand or believe me. I did not want to believe me.
Three weeks ago after getting the collaborated referral to this new specialist by everyone I had seen so far I embraced my defining moment that came through a diagnosis…and lack of one. All anyone could tell me was there was something in my head that pushes out so badly that it has shifted my whole nose out of place and even causes lumps some days. There are days where I cannot open my eyes because the stabbing pain is unbearable. There are days I pour tears and pray for air. I would not wish what I feel on my worst enemy.
I left on a bus that took days across a border that I had only seen on television and read about. I came to a different country to save my life. I have only told you about the physical health….mental health was even worse. I had become depressed and isolated. I felt like giving up so many times. I couldn’t figure out how though so I just kept going and praying.
In a time where there is so much debate over walls and politics God made a way here. I was going to get sick no matter what. This was inevitable. I truly believe that God can heal anything and I also believe if He chooses not to He has His reasons. He has already brought so much healing already. Since getting here I eat healthier and more active. I garden in the mornings, ride bikes to the store, and pray more. I am spiritually preparing for what is still to come.
I saw an eye specialist here 4 days ago who amazing and received thorough care was for 500 pesos. I learned that an MRI here is $200 versus $2,611 in the United States. My eyes are perfectly healthy which is great news; however that means we now know it is either in front of my brain or in my brain. He is getting all my records from the others and sending everything to a friend of his that specializes in this kind of thing (at no extra cost). He gave me his personal email for records and spent over an hour examining and explaining to Juan and Catalina. He even showed them my eye after being completely dilated on a camera to help explain. We are going to be repeating the MRI and he said worst case scenario a spinal tap.
I am speaking out now is to fight the fear that kept me a prisoner for so long. We all have stories that have the power to cause ripple effects. I am proud of my story….it is a story of true grace.