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Finding Closure – Still Searching.

Last friday was the court date for my best friend’s murderer.

We found out shortly before that he agreed to a plea bargain for life in prison without parol.

After 3 years, at 4:15 pm last friday, Chris plead guilty to 7 counts of
murder, stalking and child cruelty.

I ‘m just now able to publish this post.
I think I just couldn’t wrap my head around all of it.
I really struggled with “how” am I supposed to feel about it.
I’m not sure why I initially felt there was a “correct” way to feel…
but it really bugged me that I couldn’t pin point my emotions.

I went into this thinking it would bring closure.
It would be the first time I would see him and I wasn’t sure what to expect.
I guess I was waiting these past 6 days for that closure to kick in.
I suppose there is an ending on the legal side of it…
But all around, it was a sad day. I was sad for shannon’s family and friends.
And I was sad for Chris and his family.
I don’t think I’m ready to have sympathy for him…but I did feel sad.
Is that possible? who knows. maybe those aren’t even the correct words
to express my emotions but at this point that’s as close as I can get.

Ben, Micah and I drove into Atlanta from Charlotte that morning.
It’s an easy boring straight 4 hour drive and micah was a dream baby.
Give him a fruit pouch and forget that’s the worst idea ever and he is happy.
Our car, car seat and baby smelled fruity fresh.
I held onto the scarf shannon had made me one year for christmas.
I had come across it one day earlier this year when I absolutely needed it.
It was a God moment.
In my purse I had these photos and tissues from my mom.

So thankful for my sister in law who watched Micah so ben wouldn’t have to
worry about taking him in and out of the court room.
Ben was my rock that day.

We got there 30 minutes early.
I had knots in my stomach and felt like I was about to do something
I was going to totally regret.

When we got there, shannon’s step brother was coming out of the courtroom and
after a hug and smile he asked if we wanted to go up with him to the holding
room where his parents were. We went through the maze of hallways
and ended up in a small room where they all were.
Everyone looked on edge, happy but sad..anxious. to see it all really happen.

The DA came in to give them a run down on how things were going to go.
I felt awkward and was excusing myself when they said to stay.
I told them just to tell me what to do! She started going through what would happen.
I’m glad she did, I felt more prepared and was able to work through some of the knots in my throat. She said how she had to run through the basic details of the murder and that we had to be prepared to hear it. and that, looking at me, some of the details might be new. we had to be ready to hear them. She went on with more of how it would go…
but I already was wanting to fill up with tears. I squeezed shannon’s scarf and got through it.

As we made our way down to the court room, Shannon’s dad pulled me aside and
asked if I wanted to know details before I heard it in the court room.
That’s when the first rush of tears came.
Her mom had come over at the same time showing me a photo album our friend made up…
so many of the photos were from my parent’s house when she came up to visit.
I was just in those rooms. everything still looks so much the same.
It just felt like too much and I cried. But at the same time I didn’t want them to comfort me.
They had enough on them. 

I really was anxious to see Chris. to just put my eyes on him.
When we entered the court room and all sat down.. his family on the other side..
He walked in with his two lawyers.
Physically he looked the same to me. hair in a pony tail and a wispy beard.
He did a lot of standing and holding his hands together in front of him.
He also bent forward a lot putting both arms on the table in front of him.
Kind of like what you do when you are in a church pew.
He had his head down and to the left or right a lot.
And there were times he shook his head… it looked like the same motion I found
myself doing when they were reading some of the horrible details or affects on the kids.
You just don’t want to believe it’s real.

The DA ran through a lot of questions with him..and he had to answer yes to each.
Mainly to show he understood the laws, his rights, his decision…etc.

I have to say that I found some comfort in knowing more of the unknown.
I know that I’ll never know the conversation they had.. what he said to her what she
said to him.. why he did it.. what he felt after… but knowing more of the timeline and
the autopsy details gave me some peace…she didn’t suffer long.
But just hearing all of it took me back to those first days.
The details of how defenseless she was and how ruthless the killing was.
My heart broke for her family having to listen to it with her murderer sitting so close.
Just a very weird feeling. like…does he hear what we are hearing?

I found myself holding my breath.
ben had to squeeze my hand and remind me to breathe.
The tears came and I tried so hard to make them silent.
I wanted to just flat out ugly cry. but my ugly cry is too loud.
and the judge had made it clear at the start that if we didn’t think we could handle
it to excuse ourselves. I don’t think he meant crying..but I knew I had to keep it
contained or else I would never get it back.
the whole time I felt like water was being poured over me and I was trying
to hold my breath and catch every last drop, not letting it fall to the floor.

At one point Shannon’s mom, dad and step mother were able to give a statement
to the judge. Most of their words were to describe to the judge who shannon was…
Lots of memories and details about the beautiful person she was.
These stories brought lots of tears to all of us in the courtroom.
When they talked about some of the memories that I was a part of…
It was like we were back there.
It was especially hard hearing the affect this tragedy had on shannon’s children.
Just heart breaking experiences and conversations.

Shannon’s mom shared about how Shannon had finally recently “met the love of her life.”
and the night before had spinned around her mom’s kitchen just so
happy from a fun night with him and friends. How she said,
“mom, I was the prettiest girl in the room!”
It made my heart just want to burst. Because she was able to have that moment,
of realizing how amazing she was again. She was free. She was whole.
That was something he couldn’t take from her.
Her babies were baptized..and she saw her worth and beauty!

You will never see me share, until I am told it’s appropriate, current photos of shannon’s kids.
We want to keep them as safe and private as possible.

At one point the judge asked all of Shannon’s friends and family to stand.

The DA had told us before in the holding room, that Chris’ lawyer said he was not going to make a statement.
But, when the time came, Chris said he wanted to say something.
He pulled out of his pocket a white piece of paper and read
a bible verse, Psalm 23: “the Lord is my shepherd…..”

The DA listed the counts against Chris…and he had to respond to each one.
He only hesitated at one..I don’t remember which it was.
And can’t assume to know why he hesitated. I would like to think
it’s because of the gravity of the crime that was hitting him,
and not that he wanted to back out of his plea.

He never looked over at us. Just at his parents the few times he
turned around when sitting or leaving.

The judge never hammered down his gavel like I pictured always happened in a court room.
too much tv for me I guess.
But the judge accepted his plea and said some kind words to all of us.
It seriously felt like we should have been in a movie.
It didn’t seem real.
I remember at one point looking around and going…how did we get here?
I felt like I could just close my eyes tight enough and
open them we would be in another time.

It was just a sad day. all around.
Happy to have this earthly justice. But there is no profound sense of peace.
just lots of sadness right now.
I’m not angry.. so I suppose that’s something. I’m glad that her family
doesn’t have to go to another courthouse or the suspense of the pending court dates.

A blog reader messaged me earlier this week…. she had gone through a
cross and losing someone she loves.. she told me how she is like a cup now.
that you come to a point where you can keep filling up day to day but then
something will happen and you will overflow. and that’s that hard day. I feel like a
cup right now. Some days you are ok and you are just filling up but getting through.
but then you hit that point where you overflow and need to cry…
and then you are ready to be filled again.

Thank you for all the prayers for us there that day.
They were felt.
I felt a grace in the room, that her parents were able to stay so strong.

Please continue to pray for Shannon’s children and family.
And all of us who miss her every day.
Shannon’s wish was granted, that her children be safe from him.

I’m putting my faith in God right now and loving on my family.
Praying He will help heal my heart and help me to forgive and not be filled with regret.
I still struggle regularly thinking about how shannon would have loved this, or we would have done this.
I know I should be grateful for that last voicemail she left me..
But in my mind I just wish it would have actually come through on
my phone BEFORE instead of after she was taken from us.
I wish that that trip to meet in charlotte with our kiddos would have actually happened…
just weeks away. I hold onto that still. And I hold onto a lot of regret for not being present
in atlanta. Not being there enough. I know that it is useless to burden my heart like that,
but I’m just not there yet to let it go. praying for that peace.
I know it’ll come.
I just have to give it up to Him. 
We love and miss you so shannon.

Arby’s. Tears. and a moment of Peace in my Grief.

I would like to think that if Shannon was alive today,
we would be doing this in front of our kids and making them laugh.

Today I went through the Arby’s drive thru.
You might think it’s weird…
but it makes me think of Shannon.
I’ve only gone a few times since she was killed.
It’s been almost two and a half years..but I still have the hardest time typing out “killed.”
A part of me finds it easier to write lost or taken. But the truth is.. she was killed…
 by an act of Domestic Violence. And sadly, it is the reality of our world, that so many face this.
Almost every time I turn on the news there is a story covering domestic violence.
They might not use those words…
but thattt is the situation they are describing!

As I drove towards ben’s work to treat him with a surprise lunch delivery…
the smell of the curly fries made me flash back to high school days in atlanta…
When we would go to XLT (praise and worship night) at a local Catholic High School.
They would have music, a talk and adoration. It was a weekly thing we all went to.
We would all hang out there for a bit then get in our cars to head to brusters across the street.
It was usually a big group of us. Toni or shannon would usually end up getting a piggy back ride from someone. I remember cramming onto this one bench and the boys would be goofing off making us laugh.
Their was an arby’s next to the
ice cream place..and sometimes we would leave the group and run over for the
curly fries and milk shakes.

The smell made me remember.
Shannon’s curly hair and her pea coat. our matching american eagle jeans!
The scarves she made all of us girls one year,
How we sang in the cars dashboard confessional!
Being silly and just..joyful.

My heart sunk.
It was too close. It felt too familiar.
A second later I felt overwhelmed and partially
regretting the decision to get curly fries…
And I cried.
A song came on k love.

“Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death.
Come awake! Come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave!

Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with Him again
Come awake! Come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave.”
-Matt Maher, Christ is Risen

All I know is that after I heard that song…
I felt peace in my heart that God has already won
 He has conquered death.
We can be together with Him again.
I wiped my tears and had a moment where I felt
like my heart had been heard.
So… next time you’re thinking arby’s,
think that. ;) God has already won.

Peace for all of you missing someone.
SPEAK OUT AND GET HELP! or HELP someone else.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE

To read all posts related to Shannon you can click here.
Please share her story..donate if you can.
If you have been touched by her story and would like to 
visit her Memorial Page you can visit here

Please Pray for peace in our world 
and for all those affected by Domestic Violence.

Mommy has an Angel Book Reveal! – Website + Pre-Order Launch

My heart feels like it’s about to burst.
I am so excited… proud.. hopeful.. in shock..that my dream of
‘Mommy has an Angel – A Children’s Book for Grieving Mothers,’
Actually came to life! With the support of so many of you…
and your prayers and your kind words…
this project of a Children’s book to bring comfort
to grieving mothers has become a reality.
I am so excited to reveal the website I created for the book!
Please visit Mommy Has an and watch the video I filmed
to share my heart and my desire for this book and how it came to be.
You can Pre-Order starting today. Copies will be shipped November 1st!
I wish I video taped the moment I showed my girls the drawings
with their characters come to life in the book…Sophia was like what?!?
I’m on the cover of a book?!? ;)
It seriously melted my heart. 

You can also see more of the artwork for the book…
and learn about my amazing Illustrators!!
(love them. love love love them.)

Please share the site among your friends and get the word out.
I already have a long list of mamas that I want to send this
too the second the finished books arrive at my door step.
I’m sure you know mamas that would find
comfort in reading this book to their children as well!

The first copy is going to the parents of my shannon.
So they can read it to her little ones and know that natalie
wrote it about their beautiful mommy.
I didn’t want to put her name in it..because I wanted the focus to be
on anyone’s angel….that when a mom reads this book she can
picture her own angel in heaven.
There are little details throughout the book that are my “secret”
connection to shannon.. a rose on every page. My girls love finding
repeated things on I thought that would be a
special touch for me...and a fun touch for the kids!
The pink sunset is what reminds me of shannon the most.
There have been many occasions I have been feeling sad and
overwhelmed with the complicated phases of grief…and I would
suddenly see the pink sunset and it would make me feel connected to her.
Seeing the pink clouds in the book makes me SOO HAPPY.
Like my heart just.. I can’t even explain it. It’s like something you
envisioned and this connection you feel with someone you don’t know
anymore…it makes you feel close again.
And I needed that. And I hope that moms who feel this same way we
find that connection in this book with their loved one they lost.

When we die we do not become angels. I know that.
But this book is not about the is about the simple words of
my children who picture Shannon in heaven and talk about her with such
simplicity and trust in God’s plan..that I don’t mind if they have their
theology all messed up…They healed my heart with their words.
And sometimes when you are grieving…
simple words from a child can heal you in your brokenness
more than you ever thought they could.
I can’t wait to reveal more of the book to you…
and share some of the words.
I think you are going to love it!
Please share! All of the hard working on this project will be worth
it if this book can help heal hearts of mothers who
have felt grief like I have felt.

I wanted to have pre-orders begin now so that when I order
the books I can order a big batch to make sure you
have them for the holidays. Night time..and the holidays/big
occasions can always be hard on those grieving.
I can’t wait to read this to my girls at night!
And think of shannon. and think about the other moms out there
reading it and feeling a little bit of a connection with their
loved one and with me and my family.
I need to stop this post before I start sobbing… ::emotional:: ;)
Excited to be connected with you as we heal together!!

Visit Mommy Has an to watch the video
we filmed in my kitchen :) I wanted to share the heart behind the book.