This is what I do, don't try to understand how I do it; I don't really know either

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My First Victim Statement

I wish victim statements were not a thing. I wish I was not an officially registered victim of a crime. I can wish until the cows come home but it changes nothing. Today I wrote my second victim statement because my offender is going to the parole board again and I decided to honor my story by publishing my first victim statement here. Writing a victim statement is a gut wrenching process to put it mildly. I am thinking of all the victims who have to do this process and I am with you.

To the CSC and Parole Board of Canada,

              In July of 1994 I was 15 years of age and living with the Roberts family while my mother was away for an extended period of time. I had known Susan Roberts since she was in high school. She adopted me as her little sister. She supported me, affirmed me and loved me like an older sister would do. She had three beautiful children. That July, Dean Christopher Roberts took all of that way.

I lost the strongest and most positive person in my life. I had a difficult childhood and I struggled with self esteem and suicidal thoughts. Susan Roberts was a light in my life from the day I met her. She was my own personal cheerleader. I knew that no matter what I did, she would always be there for me, to love me and encourage me to move forward. At an incredibly vulnerable time in my life, Dean took away the biggest support I had. I told her things I had never told anyone else before. I trusted her and felt unconditional love in return. When she was gone I was left reeling. I felt empty and alone. It was a dark place that got darker. I didn’t sleep, I barely ate. Every morning I walked to the Safeway to look at the newspapers to learn any new information. The faces of people closest to me were often on the news. I felt hollow. I felt like I was a walking zombie and in a constant state of shock. I felt hopeless and more alone than I had every felt in my life. It was one thing to be alone before I met Susan, but to have someone who loved you, made you feel special and that you were worth something; to know what that felt like and then have that ripped away was like two opposing forces literally pulling at each side of your heart until it tears in two. I was at the bottom of a pit that had no end, no light and no escape.

As Susan’s husband, I trusted Dean. He appeared to be a loving and caring husband and father. He welcomed me to their home and lives. He made us laugh, he changed diapers and Susan loved him deeply. To realize that the man who covenanted to love and protect her, was the one who ended her life and the lives of their two sons while leaving Susan’s son to die in the fire, was a knife that cut to the very core of my soul. It did not seem fathomable that this man who we knew to be gentle and compassionate could commit such atrocities. I could not reconcile these two opposing forces in my young mind, and I know many adults could not either.

We rallied to his defense because this could not be true. As the hearings began and evidence unfolded, the pieces slowly came together that highlighted the path which lead to the conclusion that the man we knew did not exist. Hidden beneath this carefully constructed image was someone known only to few, someone who was capable of lies, plotting and destroying the people who loved him the most in the world.

All trust I ever had was broken. I never could have believed he did this, and yet he did. He fooled almost the entire community so this was not a case of the naivety of youth. This gut wrenching betrayal has stayed with me and brought into my life a mistrust for people. If I was so wrong before, could I be wrong again? I have been afraid of people at times. I have been afraid that people would hurt me physically and emotionally, which has negatively impacted many personal relationships. There are layers to the pain and loss that go deeper than I know exist. This is more than just a loss, there is betrayal, fear anxiety, insecurity and agony.

I miss Susan and the babies every single day of my life. The pain that came from their loss will never go away. It faded some with time, to allow me to continue with life but it will never ever leave. I still cry because I miss them. I have been robbed of Susan being in my life and celebrating all the high moments, but even more important, she would have been there with me through the lows, to encourage and love me. I think of the babies and how old they would be, what grades they would have gotten, what passions they would have pursued. I was robbed of the opportunity to love and support them as they grew through life. I babysat them, fed them, played with them and wanted to be a better person for them to look up to.

I also lost Jonathan. Though he physically survived he has been scarred in ways that will never heal. Had Susan been alive I would have been able to watch him grow in the safety and security of his mother’s care. She chose for him to be born, even though the circumstances were not ideal. Her love for him was fierce. He went to live with another family that had awkward relationships and I lost a closeness and connectedness that we should have had. He was so special to me and how Susan adored him. I was only 15 years old and I knew no one would ever give him to me but he was the person left who tied me the closest to her. He has never known a love that should have been, because Dean took that from us.

Dean was a master of puppets in his own show. He orchestrated the murders in such a way that had he not been trapped in an elaborate plan from the police and confessed, he could likely have gotten away with these crimes with no penalty. He was not remorseful after. He did not care that I brought him his ring that I found, which was a gift from Susan. He had a plan and carried out that plan with forethought, precision and accuracy. Thankfully he was outsmarted and exposed.

Is it possible for someone who so callously premeditated these killings to be rehabilitated? Is it ever possible to change? There are no certain answers to those questions, but what I have is the evidence that shows that Dean Roberts knows how to deceive people. He knows how to pretend and to say what you want to hear. He knows how to play by the rules so you think he is a rule abider. The only way to ever know if he has changed, is to release him to the public and see if he ever kills again. That test is a fail from the outset because the risk to society is not worth the chance. Someone else’s life is not worth hoping that he has learned his lesson from killing three people. I do not believe it is safe for the community if he should be released from prison. He only cares about himself – he always has, but he knows how to disguise this with socially acceptable behaviours.

His biological father has told my mother that Dean will get out of jail and will come and find me. At his trial in Nelson I stared him down when he was brought to the courthouse and when he left, which he complained to the judge about. I testified against him to help him be convicted. I am not afraid of him, but I do think he may want to harm me or those closest to me. Because of this, I ask that he not be allowed to contact me or my relatives nor reside in the same area that I do. In the unfortunate event that he be granted release, I request that he not be allowed to reside or travel in the areas of Cranbrook or Nelson.

He has not ever taken responsibility for his actions, yet he did murder three innocent and beautiful people in a vicious manner without regard for anyone or anything. He was determined to live a new life without them as demonstrated by the fact that he tried to poison them and when that didn’t work, he resorted to physical violence. Insurance money was of greater importance to him than human lives. I was there after dinner when they were sick. I thought it was the stomach flu and even still I felt awful for them to be so sick and in pain. I helped clean up and take care of them. He had many opportunities for a conscience to overrule his plan, for some kind of empathy to stop him and yet there was none. He is incredibly intelligent, but intelligence devoid of feeling and compassion gives us this cold and calculating killer.

Can you really expect someone as cold and callous as a man who planned the death of his wife and children to be a valuable contributor to our society? How can I feel safe – how can I feel that anyone is safe if he is not in prison? Why are we putting other people’s lives at risk? Does he have a right to be out of jail? Didn’t they have a right to live? This wasn’t a crime of passion where he needs to learn better anger management. He got what he wanted, and what he wanted was his wife and children dead but he shouldn’t get to be free. He will always place a greater value to what he wants, than anything or anyone else in his life. I am not safe if he is free, and neither is anyone else.

Don’t Save the Best For Last

I am going through the miracles of Jesus in the order that they happened. It’s bringing them to life in a new way. They are not individual stories but this journey of Jesus’ power and compassion. That really hit me today as I realized that miracle number 7 is the miracle Jesus did for Lazarus. Bringing someone back from the dead is seriously significant. It’s always been awe inspiring for me, but I am sure the Carman song, ‘Lazarus Come Forth’ is a contributor. I was a child when that came out and the music reached into my soul and told me that anything is possible.

So today I realize that this miracle is the 7th one but I know there are 37 miracles of Jesus and I thought, wait, Jesus what are you doing?? This is one of your best miracles – you have 30 more to go, don’t give up the goods yet – you always save the best for last! Everyone knows that. Sigh. Jesus isn’t everyone. He didn’t do things the way we think they should and that includes, especially, his miracles. The most important thing that is hard for our minds to grasp is that His miracles were not a show. We encounter performers all day every day, and we are sometimes performers ourselves. Jesus wasn’t performing. He was living his life, doing what he was supposed to do and encountering hurt and needy people on the way. When he encountered them, he healed them. It was about him and the individual. Of course, he knew that others would be radically changed by his work in that one person but that doesn’t change that the work was about that person and not about a performance.

I felt like He was saying directly to me, come and see the work I want to do in you, the work I had started long ago, and I am being faithful until it is complete, and you come home. His work in my life is nothing short of a miracle. It is definitely the dead being brought back to life. It is definitely learning how to see and walk. It is definitely finding health and wholeness. All the miracles that Jesus did in each of these people are the same ones He is doing in me, every single day.

Where I Fit

Everything looks easy from the outside. We can look at someone in an awful job and wonder, ‘Why don’t they quit?’ or an abusive relationship and ask, ‘Why don’t they leave?’ The negative aspects are clear to us and they seem to be enough that it is logical that they should make a change. What we miss is that even when the negatives outweigh the positives there is a fit that has happened which is very hard to release. We are like cookie dough pressed into a mold. There is a lot that holds us in, even if it hurts us. Stepping out of the mold, is stepping into a void. At least in the mold I know how I fit and I am familiar with my surroundings. If I step out, there are no parameters. How will I know my shape and my place? What if I fall flat? What if all that waits for me outside this mold is a new one that’s worse?

And we stay in our place.

Many movies have scenes where someone has to take a step of faith onto an invisible platform that they are told is there. I am sure it’s in one of the Indiana Jones movies but I know I have seen it more than just there. It’s the best description of people who make big changes. There are no guarantees in life at all but if you don’t change you get familiar with the routine and it’s likely to remain the same. When you step onto the platform and out of the mold you have to admit that there are no guarantees. That is usually too much for most people.

An interesting thing happened to me. I was in the town where I grew up. Lots of good and bad things happened there. I haven’t been there for years and I have now spent more of my life not living there, than living there, but when I needed to get somewhere I could just get in my car and drive there. I could not articulate how to get there at all but I knew by instinct all the right turns. So going back is ingrained into the DNA of our being. If we knew it once we can easily know it again. This makes not only stepping out hard but staying out hard too.

Some people step out and fall flat so others use that as evidence to never step out. This reminds me of Brene Brown quoting Theodore Rosevelt about getting into the ring (if you don’t know the quote please google it because it’s amazing). I have never been someone on the sidelines. It’s just not who I am, but that doesn’t mean these steps are not scary or easy. I have fallen flat but I get back up and keep trying.

If we refuse to give up we will find a new place where we fit. It takes time and effort. It’s trial and error but you will get there. It’s uncomfortable until it’s comfortable, and it is quite possible to be better. You will never know until you take the step.

26 years

She was just here yesterday. I swear she was.

It feels like she was, but I know that’s only in my mind. The calendar says it’s been 26 years but I’m sure it was just yesterday. I can see her. I see her smile and her laugh, I see her frustration and her tears. She had them all. We’re in the living room while she changes diapers. One baby first and then she wrestles the second to the floor and changes him too. She’s in the kitchen cooking diner while I sit at the table and we talk. Shes folding laundry, while we talk. She’s outside on the top stoop of the stairs to the house having a cigarette and picking at the bumps on her arm while we talk. We talked a lot.

We talked about the boy I was dating, our families, her life struggles, my life struggles, and we talked about being abused. She was doing her best to work through the journey that is healing. She had a book beside her bed. The one he lit on fire. I have that book now. It stays beside my bed. It is slightly burned. She got half way through. She underlined and wrote notes in it. They are her words that I have now. The closest I can come to having a conversation with her again. When life is hard I need her the most and when she was alive that’s when she would consistently show up.

Yesterday I came to this in the book:

July 18, 1994 her work was complete.

I am sure when she wrote those words she had no idea how soon that would happen.

So now I work on my journey without her and that’s become part of my journey. Living with grief and loss, fighting for justice, and knowing that she’s with me, but it’s not the same way.

Your Platform

Everyone has a platform. Some are small and some are gigantic. Some have been earned and some have been bequeathed. Your platform may encompass your children, friends, and family or, if you are the CEO of a large company, your platform may reach millions. What are we to do with our platforms?

in 2016, Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem. His intent was not to start a movement but to demonstrate what was in his heart. It took weeks for anyone to even notice, but being noticed wasn’t his goal. When it was noticed, there was serious blowback. There is no question that his actions have hindered his career and millions of dollars in contracts. He chose to honor himself and his values and it came at a cost.

I remember discussing this with a family member. He completely disagreed with Kaepernick and felt that he was doing this action at the wrong time and place, to which I asked what IS the right time and place? Even though Kaepernick didn’t intend to start the movement that he did, which added to ongoing movements in the US and now around the world, he used the platform he had to bring attention to human rights issues in his country.

This movement has exploded all over the world and people are demanding change. It is not creating dividing lines, these were already there, but it is exposing them.  The voices of the people who are tired of systemic racial discrimination of minorities are reaching those with large platforms and they are taking action. Platforms make a difference. People have been campaigning and lobbying for years for the Washington Redskins to change their name. They have now agreed to do so but, as my incredibly smart son pointed out, it is because sponsors (with large platforms and dollars) threatened to pull their contracts if they did not make the change.

The people used their platforms of various sizes to fight for change. The people with larger platforms are using theirs to leverage change. Strongholds are breaking down. I believe this is scripture being lived out: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms,” (1 Peter 4:10). Your platform is a gift, use it to serve others. Use it to fight for those who are suffering under injustice. Use it to elevate others from poverty. Use whatever you have in whatever ways you can, it makes a difference.

This morning I read that Kenny Stills, a wide receiver for the NFL’s Houston Texans was arrested along with other protestors who are demanding justice. The shirt he is wearing in his mug shot says it all:

stills

I am very curious to see what will happen from here. There are large implications. If his charges get dismissed will the 87 other people who were arrested also have their charges dismissed? Will his arrest increase the pressure on the judiciaries and finally bring action in this case? How much blowback will Still’s get, because you know there will be.

Using your platform will cost you. It is worth the price.

I will leave you with a photo of Michael Collins on his platform. He’s there in the middle. His platform cost him his life but won Ireland the freedom she has now.  Erin go Bragh!

michael collins

Grace for her

Every day is a new day. Some are harder and some are better.

Even if my book were not to be published (which it will be) this is such an important process. I wrote in my last post about how helpful it is to get things from the inside out and that is so true. I can imagine my story in the skin of someone else and I can have empathy for her.

I hold myself to such a high standard that I have very little grace when I make mistakes or am struggling. I see all the ways I don’t measure up and unfurl them on banners in my mind. They cast doubt on my big dreams and ambitions. They threaten to undermine the truths I have worked so hard to uncover who I am.

When I look at people who have not experienced trauma I have no problem feeling compassion for them, and so much more for those who have lived events that shattered their security. I am one of those people. I have experienced multiple trauma but I find the grace jar empty when it comes time to pour it out for myself. Writing my story has put together a skeleton, muscle, tissue and tendon on a beautiful young girl. I can see why she would make all the mistakes she did and why some things are harder for her. I can see that the measurement I use for others is a balance unfairly tipped when it comes to myself.

She deserves just as much grace as given to others.

She deserves the same encouragement given to others.

She deserves the respect given to others.

She deserves as much love as given to others.

She deserves all those things from me first and then from others as well. And whether it feels like it or not, that’s the standard I am going to live by because she is worth it.

girl silhouette

 

Writing the Good and the Bad

Some say the hardest part of writing is the writing. Many coaches advise to just put pen to paper and write – even if it’s just one word. That’s where you start. It’s why I didn’t tell anyone I was writing a book until I had written over half of it. Sitting for hours with my laptop and tears was cathartic. I have poured my heart into these pages. It’s probably why journaling is such a good idea. I do not like to write in a journal because I can not be consistent. I write what I write when I write it – check the dates on my blog for verification haha. I also prefer to write in stories or to someone.

The important part of writing is to get things that are stored inside of you onto the outside. This brings some freedom. You can then take the next step of holding them in your hands and evaluate. Was this really what I thought it was? Did I make more of it than I should have? How bad did this hurt me? What part is my fault? What can I learn from this?

When I started writing I felt these stories had to get out. It felt painful and good to get them out. It was part of the healing process itself. I started with the pain. I wrote about all the bad things. It was good in that it gave a reality to things that sometimes are easier to pretend are memories from a movie or book but not really my life. Getting them out validated me and my experiences that yes, these things really did happen. Some people made some really poor choices and I carry scars.

The next step is to write the happy things and this is more of a challenge than I thought. Writing the happy things does not invalidate the painful ones. It shows that people are human. I was in the bath 20 years ago when it occurred to me that people are not either good and bad, they are a mix of both. We grow up with stories of good guys and bad guys. You need to fit into one of those categories. Someone can be good but act poorly. This includes me! That evening soak in the tub found me wrestling in my head with a difficult relationship I had with a family member and trying to reconcile how she could be nice to others and even sometimes nice to me but other times a complete jerk. This multi-dimentional thinking changed my world.

Characters in stories are good or bad but a memoir is a real story with real people who are more than one dimensional. Writing happy memories about someone doesn’t mean they didn’t do the bad things, it means they are human. It’s still ok for me to write about my pain and its even more ok to write about the positive memories. So as I continue to write any happy memory that I can think of, I do so to honor the people that were in my life as being human. I don’t need to villainize people from my past. They are people who made mistakes. Rory’s Feek’s memoir also reminded me that hurt people hurt people. It is often out of woundedness that people make poor decisions.

What if we looked at people as being wounded instead of being villains? Can we be more compassionate? Can we help each other with our own areas of woundedness and together find healing?

writing

Lump Me In

What an incredible time to be alive. There are so many challenges, tension, conflict, and issues that have simmered beneath the surface and have reached a boiling point. That may not seem like a positive thing but I see it as opportunities. When conflict is hidden or left unaddressed then nothing changes. The desperate reality that many people face is being brought into the light. This reality is hard to accept or understand for those who have not experienced it. It makes us uncomfortable and that’s exactly how we should feel. If we see suffering and are comfortable with it then there is something wrong with us.

Some different groups and movements are rising to demand change. These movements stand for many things. I am watching the reaction of the evangelical Christian community. I am watching them upset about the human rights violations but afraid to take a stand or position themselves too near a movement because they don’t fully align with every value of the movement. They are concerned that people may confuse them as someone that they are not or holding values that they don’t. They are more worried about how others perceive them, than they are about demanding justice. I know a guy who didn’t care about that, and it was significant.

Jesus talked with sinners. He associated, ate with, spent time with, and built relationships with people who were looked down on by the religious community of His day. We often forget the cultural context that Jesus lived in and the way He lived his life. He was not afraid to be painted with the same brush as the outcasts, so why are we? Also in the New Testament, God told Peter to have a sleepover with Gentiles – this was not done! God had a huge calling for Peter and he had to get over his cultural bias and lose the image management that often comes with religion.

I have had pictures taken and publicly posted of myself and the Prime Minister of Canada, the President of Kenya, and the king of porn Ron Jeremy. I want to get to know people because they are people. We are likely going to have things we agree on and disagree on (Ron Jeremy likes worship music so I partly agree with him on that). Christians need to worry less about being misunderstood and put that effort into justice. People are going to misunderstand you no matter how much image management you do so, to quote a Disney movie I still have never seen, let it go.

Is it more important that people completely understand you or that other people stop dying? You can view me any way you want to as long as my actions are making a positive difference in the lives of other people. I am in progress, but I find myself less afraid of being misunderstood the more confident I am in myself and who I am in Christ. So lump me in with any group you choose and you are probably partly right but regardless, I will take my stand with the hurting, suffering, and vulnerable because I am more worried about them than your perception of me.

Our Storytelling

I used to write a lot. Growing up I wrote poems, short stories, fiction, non-fiction. Writing was this creative outlet. Putting pen to paper was akin to me as a potter sitting at the wheel and molding the clay with each turn. Words are my paint that I use to portray the picture of what’s in my heart. Writing my story has been a cathartic experience of bringing the darkness to light. Telling my truth validates the things that I have experienced. These events really did happen.

My editor has me reading a book called Shimmering Images by Lisa Dale Norton. She has instructed thousands of people on how to write. I love this process of learning how to be a better writer. It’s like watching each piece of pottery get better every time you make a new one. She talks about the ancient stories that were passed down through generations. These stories help us see we are not alone – they connect us. “This is how we create the mysterious bonds that connect us as couples, as lovers, as friends, as family members, and as participants in community or a nation.” When we share our stories with authenticity and invite the readers “into the private world of our experience, the result is intimate and transcendent.”

I have been reading a lot of stories. I feel connected to the people who tell them and it makes me feel less alone. That’s helpful in a time when we have to be socially distant. When people read my story I hope they will feel connected to me. Some people will relate to different aspects of my experiences. Some people may have had similar chapters in their story and others may connect based on the feelings they can relate to.

Many of the stories I have read are difficult journeys of people from Africa who have overcome the most unfathomable life circumstances. Many of them talk about life before their difficulties began and the storytelling that would happen in their communities. I imagine the children and adults gathered together to listen. I believe many indigenous communities also have these traditions. It’s a beautiful thing when we come, not only to learn from each other but about each other.

We need that now more than ever.

Tea Masala

This morning I made tea masala for the first time. Two years ago I traveled through six different countries in Africa for five weeks. I constantly drank tea masala. When I booked that trip I had no idea that it was the beginning of a new journey for me but it was a fitting place to start that journey.

Wanje Latte

 

In some indigenous cultures children are not given a name at birth. Their name is given as their character develops. Though that seems strange to me in many ways because that is not the culture I know, I think it is beautiful. Names mean things.

I was given a Kenyan name and I feel like the past two years have been a process of owning that name. Exploring its heights and depths. What are it’s limits and strengths. The world will give us lots of names. Some we take and put on to see if they fit. We look in the mirror and we keep the garment on, positive or not. Some we can look at on the hanger and know they are not for us.

The more you know who you are, the more you know what doesn’t fit you.

I remember as a teen “liking” everything that my boyfriend liked because I had no idea who I truly was. As you discover who you originally were, by digging under the layers of whats been put on you and you did not know to take off,  you start to explore your place in the world. This is me, so how do I fit with the rest of you?

My journey, from birth through self-discovery, has taken me to this place and I am now in process of putting some of it to print. I am working with an editor for the purpose of publishing a memoir. Our stories are powerful. Our stories can help each other. That includes my story.

I’ll keep you posted…