Happy 6th Birthday Kenna Bear!
I have been reflecting a-lot on what is the purpose of my life. I have lots of "purposes" but what is MY purpose, my one "thing" that only I can do in this life and nobody else? I don't think I would reflect so strongly on this question if it wasn't for McKenna.
Honestly, I have a lot of good things going for me, it would be easy to look around and think "nailed it"! I am a graduated doctor, I have a full time job that I love, financially stable, very happily married, 4 kids, live in the most beautiful state I know, active, athletic, good friends, church goer, loving family.... if it wasn't for her, I don't know if I would ask myself, "but what else?".
McKenna has been gone for 4 years now. You would think that I would have this CRYSTAL CLEAR answer on why she died and what does it all mean but I don't. I truly believe there is a crystal clear answer (I did not always feel that way), I just think I haven't found it yet. It's waiting for me to do something... but what is that something?
The last few months have been a lot of these questions rotating around in my head over and over again and then it finally dawned on me, I have to start ACTIVELY doing something if I want to figure it out. But where do I start? How does this work? How do you find purpose if you have no clue? I started to get frustrated with these questions and decided the first thing I would do is stop beating myself up and accept I am not perfect! Negative reinforcement is the way I love to treat myself and it doesn't even work! All it does is make me feel worse. So I threw away the "guilt card" and told myself from this point on, talk to yourself with kindness. (Easier said then done, but it is getting easier.)
Secondly, I turned more faithfully to the Lord. General Conference was coming up (this was in October) so the hubby and I decided to fast and pray for "What do you want us to do with our futures and what is our purpose?". (BIG LOADED QUESTION! I KNOW!) But I am tired of wasting time so I figured I might as well just jump right in.
General conference came and it was AMAZING! It nailed so many things on the head for me and gave me a great place to start on why it is important to ACTIVELY PURSUE ANSWERS!
Then we had a church women's conference, also amazing, also very specific to my question. At this meeting you could pick what classes you wanted to go too, low and behold every class I picked had to do with purpose or finding your '"thing". It was at this point that I started thinking to myself, "Wow, how odd that I fasted for answers on finding myself and then I hear all these great lessons on how to do it. Weird!" I then felt a soft nudge telling me to ponder on what I said a little bit more. Did I really believe it was a coincidence? "Umm.... yes? I think so? The Lord doesn't directly talk or answer my prayers like that. Who am I? I'm no one, why would He go out of his way to do that?" But then I felt that nudge again, not really an answer but more of a "dig deeper into that statement". So I thought about it again, did I truly believe, by some random luck, that I happened to pray for answers of purpose and future then attend 2 separate events that answered this specific question??? "Maybe... or maybe I am over thinking this. Trying to turn this into something it is not. I am no one unique, I am no one so special that the Lord would single me out like that. No way.... but... is it possible that I could be? Why is it I believe everyone has a purpose and are special in the eyes of God but not me? I really do believe we all have our own unique purposes, our own amazing stories, our own "thing", but why not me? Do I really believe that everyone is special except me? Do I really value myself so lowly that I would deny my own destiny just simply from not believing? Maybe I am special, maybe I truly am one of a kind, maybe I am worth a God answering a prayer." Then for a moment I felt this weird sensation while I was in the classroom, I felt like all the lights had just slightly dimmed except the light over me had brightened, as if God himself had put a spotlight on me and was saying "I see you, I see them too, but I see you as well."
It was at that time I felt inspired to make some kind of active goal to better myself and more clearly find my purpose. If I was really going to do this, then I needed to treat it like anything else I try to accomplish in my life. I needed to set goals, make plans, write it down, say it out loud, make it official. Make check list and specific activities that would uplift and inspire me to push myself further, to push myself from better to best. I had to make goals to be more like the person I want to become. You can't pray it to death, you can't keep hoping that one day you will wake up and somehow your the person you always hoped you would be. You have to do something!
I was on a spiritual high after that. I felt the spirit so strongly that I almost felt electric! I told my husband that I wanted to do some type of 1 year challenge but I didn't even know what that meant or what it would look like. It sounded over-whelming to be honest and I felt doubts like maybe I would never be able to accomplish such a thing but I shook it off and just thought "baby steps, one step at a time".
I was feeling so good and so confident, I was special, I was going to make a difference, I was going to find my purpose, and... I was pregnant! Zach and I had been trying for the past few months to have another child. I worried that it would be difficult. The last (and only) time I actively tried to have a baby was McKenna and that took us a year! I did not want to go through that again but here I was only a few months later and found out I was pregnant! Life was AMAZING and I was high on everything now (except drugs! haha) I decided to keep it a secret since I found out so early but almost spilled the beans with every person I talked too, I could hardly contain my joy. A few days past and another church conference was coming up. I was prepared, I got a baby sitter in advance (which I never do) and I knew I was going to get some more answers about the next few steps to find myself. I was pumped!
A few days before the conference I went over to a friends house who I had spilled the beans too (so weak) earlier that day. Zach and I were greeted with congratulations and I quickly ran off to use the restroom. To my surprise there was blood. I felt nervous and confused, I had never miscarriage before and wasn't sure what was going on, I tried not to over react, I tried to give it time, but one week later it was confirmed that I had my very first miscarriage.
It was an easy miscarriage compared to the stories I have heard. Honestly, if we weren't actively trying and checking for a baby, I probably would have thought it was an oddly late period. There was no excessive pain, just cramping, and in a weeks time, it was over. At least the physical part was.
Why! Things were going so good! I was high on life and electric with the spirit! W-H-Y!
It was now time for the conference and I didn't want to go, I kept saying things to myself like "Don't go and don't feel bad about it! Anyone in your shoes would skip! You deserve a break! Don't go and remember your not allowed to guilt yourself anymore. DON'T GO!" As I started to feel more justified in these thoughts I felt that nudge again. The question once again entered my mind, "Am I really special?" Yes, I am not turning off that idea, even if I am not, from this point on I am saying I am special, mind over matter! "So, if you are special, someone who is truly unique and the "chosen one" of whatever your purpose is, do you think that someone might actively try and stop you from reaching that potential (outside of yourself of course)?"
The thought scared me, I don't think Satan made me have a miscarriage but I do believe that he saw a golden opportunity for me to sink below the ground again and bury my potential under the dirt. What if Satan was actively trying to get me to miss my goals, what if this meeting was important and I just let him talk me out of it. I mean worst case scenario is the meeting wasn't something special specifically for me, it was still a church meeting and would probably leave me feeling better then what I was right now. Is it possible that I am so special that Satan and God would actually fight over me? Who am I? I am no one. Who would fight for me? Who would fight for some random girl? Who was I that outside sources would go out of their way to reach me? To push and nudge, to shape into what they knew I could or would not be?
I went to the meeting and it was special. I was CLEARLY inspired on how to pursue my one year challenge. Instead of thinking of it as a 365 day challenge (which made me feel very overwhelmed) I thought of it as a monthly challenge. Breaking it into 12 months with a "theme" for each month and then weekly goals on how to better understand that theme.
February: The importance of Scriptures
Week 1: Look up 4 talks, scriptures, or stories from church magazine on Scriptures and split it into 4 weeks. Study and read one each week. - Fast for help with your scripture reading - help to know how/what to read and the desire to read - Find a scripture to memorize for the month.
Week 2: Read materials for the week and recite scripture. - Double your reading time for one week and recite memorized scripture.
Week 3: Read materials for the week and recite scripture. - Read the scriptures with your children every night and bare your testimony to them at the end of the week on the importance of reading and how it has effected your life.
Week 4: Read materials for the week and recite scripture. - Find a scripture challenge you would like to follow (like on pinterest, etc) and do it!
April is my favorite (I chose this challenge specifically for McKenna's anniversary):
April: I love to see the temple
Week 1: same - except now on Temples - Fast for help to understand the importance of the temple and the desire to go more often. - Go once a week this month
Week 2: Take the family to the temple and have a picnic for McKenna's anniversary. Plan activities that would be appropriate for the temple (maybe a scavenger hunt?) and spend quality time with the family. Share and express you love with them. Focus on eternal families.
Week 3: Go to the temple and have a specific prayer in your heart of something that is going on at that time. (Maybe something about McKenna?)
Week 4: Go to the temple with your spouse, invite someone to come with you.
I know it can seem very technical and even too much but I think it works perfectly for me. I am a check list kind of girl. I like having goals and then marking those goals off when I finish them. I don't do well with the idea of "winging it" or "figuring it out" because then I just settle for mediocrity but because I always enjoy a little competition, specific challenges push me to be better. The same tactics have made me a better athlete, chiropractor, wife and mother. How can it not work the same spiritually? Isn't is exciting? I am going to find my purpose in one year! Which is great because by then I will be 30 and I think that would be an AWESOME birthday present to myself.
I am so tired of not knowing what my "thing" is. It feels like such a waste of precious time. You know what I have had THE MOST guilt about since McKenna's death, not changing. You always see in the movies how people go through this hard core life changing event and it changes everything about them but that's not real life and most people DON'T do that! It's why I had to turn off the guilt "switch"! It was making me feel so bad for not changing that I couldn't move. I felt so unworthy and I covered it up with my job, hobbies, and even my family! I didn't realize it but deep inside it was making me feel like I was just another face in the crowd, that I was not special at all.
I think if anyone was to ask "Do you think Shannon has self-esteem issues?" they would say "No, definitely not!". I am not someone who hates myself, or tares myself down... at least not intentionally. I am loved and respected by friends and family. All of this stuff I am talking about was internal, this was a battle of the heart and the spirit. I use to be so ashamed when McKenna died, when my OWN CHILD DROWNED, I barely changed at all. I thought I would somehow magically turn into Mother Theresa and yet here I was, changed in very small ways, but outside of that, had nothing to show for it. I couldn't handle it. It would make me so sad I would just turn myself off, pretend like I wasn't really feeling that guilt and shame, put it in a "time out" and save it for a day when I really felt like being hard on myself. But not anymore, I am not doing this to pat myself on the back or even to prove myself wrong. My quest is CRYSTAL CLEAR, I just want to find my purpose and knock it out of the park. I want to move on to the next step in my life, I want to be better then what I am! Not that who I am isn't good but can I be better? Absolutely! I want to see McKenna at the end of this race and look into her eyes knowing that she was the one who nudged me to do something I didn't think I could do, and I did it. I did more then just listen or thought about it, I followed through.
This past weekend was her birthday and we did a lot of stuff to honor her since it fell on a weekend. On Friday we went to a movie with just Dominic, Zach, and I because he is older and really the only one who remembers her. Of course we went and saw the "Justice League" and there was a scene that just made me lose it. *SPOILER ALERT* There is a scene when superman comes back to life and he takes off with Louis Lane. They are standing in a field quietly, she looks over at him and says "You wouldn't have been proud of me, I wasn't strong after you died" he looks at her with confusion, as if he couldn't even fathom the idea of being disappointed in her and they hug. I have felt that same fear. I have felt the worry of "You wouldn't be proud of me, I wasn't strong" and it's terrible! But I realized that McKenna is now perfect, and unlike me, this messy and confused human, she see's all of me. She see's my potential, the desires of my heart, my love for her, and there is NO WAY she could be disappointed! Having that pressure off of me makes me feel so much less guarded and so much more willing to take risk. It allows me to try giant one year projects that might fail and honestly accept it's ok becuase I can always try again. I am so happy to have that weight off of me. I am so glad that I can try over and over again. I feel younger, I feel her close by, and I feel the Lord's love. I am going to figure this life out to the best of my ability, and I am not going to settle for anything less.
I love you McKenna, thank you for always bringing out the best in me.
I look forward the adventures you have planned.
Love always, Mom
P.S. I really miss you.
Ok now for the details of McKenna's birthday WEEKEND!
It started with this masterpiece given to us by our BFF's in Texas.
She purposely ordered it where McKenna would look her age and I love it SO MUCH!
She knows how hard family photos are for me so she got someone to make us the perfect picture!
Isn't it beautiful!
Here it is life size! It's huge! (30x40)
The "reveal" of when we saw the painting for the first time... it was emotional!
She also made us home made cookies!
6 ballons for her 6th birthday.
And a little plack with McKenna's motto:
"You will always keep us looking up"
We we're also surprised by someone doing this to our house:
Funny part is, I am really sure we walked out on the middle of them doing it but somehow totally missed it at the same time. I say that because I saw the big "M" and was like "aww", took a picture of it, and then I saw a mini-van I don't normally see but totally ignored the obvious sign. The Lord was looking out for whoever this sweet family was! I am still trying to figure out who it is!
Our Kenna flowers: these are from her daddy
And these are from our good friends from church
(they bought her roses last year too, they are so awesome!)
Leslie's gift to us:
It's called "Guardian Angel"
Our little Mckenna watching over our next baby to come?
It looks like a boy! (Yes, I really want another boy!)
Perfect gift and perfect timing with the miscarriage. I love it.
FIrst we released balloons in Estes:
Then the part I'm really excited to share!
This year we decided to go "star gazing" for McKenna's birthday
so we could feel closer to her in the Heavens. I was worried this was not my best idea since the kids are so young and it's freezing right now in Colorado but we ended up getting the most amazing connection through our friends neighbor!
This man made his own "Observatory"! He keeps it in his front yard and it is free to the public!
Our friend called him and told him our situation so he made special arrangments just to meet with us and show us some things he thought we would really appreciate, and we ABSOLUTELY DID!
It was a fantastic situation for us, we are so blessed!
So, here is a picture of the outside of his observatory!
The first thing he showed us was a star called "Bernards Star"
He picked this one specifically because it is exactly 6 light years away from us.
Translation: it started showing it's light to the world 6 years ago,
AKA: The year McKenna was born.
He had a ton of facts about that I wish I could've written down but I rememer one of them was about it is the fastest moving stars in our galaxy!
He also showed us a star called "Fomalhaut" meaning "the loneliest star"
I got a little choked up on this one because I think we can all relate to this bright shining star, we can all feel a little lonely sometimes but we still shine bright for others to see.
You can see this one in the sky without a telescope.
He also showed us Neptune, Uranus, and a few other stars then gave us a personal tour of our galaxy outside with his fancy laser that reaches into the sky forever, literally, you could see it in space for a second if you were there! (This was Dom's favorite part of course!)
I let the kids completely make their own cake!
They cooked it, baked it, and decorated it!
The ONLY thing I did was write "Happy Birthday" on the side
Zoe did the icing, I was super impressed!
6 Candles of course!