Beyond The Checklist

018 How Christ is Ahead of You, Beside You or Behind You in Your Journey with Karen Krammer


Darla: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Spiritually Minded Women podcast. This is Darla. Thank you for joining me today. We are talking this season all about how you can embrace your journey on the covenant path. And I really wanted to open it up and have other people come on the podcast and share what their journey has looked like. And so today I have a guest for you. Her name is Karen Krammer, and I am so excited to have her on and for you to hear some of her experiences. So Karen, welcome to the podcast. 

Karen: [00:00:57] Well, thank you for having me on, I have to introduce myself, I guess my name is Karen Payne Krammer, and I’m 60 years old last, in December. And I keep thinking, how did I get here? Holy crap. 60 years old is old. Anyway. I have a bunch of kids. Okay. These are the type of kids I have. I have birth children. I have adopted children. I have foster children. I have stepchildren. I have in-laws like children in-laws and I have grandchildren. So I don’t think Disney has created a mom that I’m not. 

Darla: [00:01:32] So you’ve got everything covered there.

Karen: [00:01:35] Yeah. And each one of them has their own specific little story, but anyway, and, I’m also a lifetime member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. And this is my affirmation I say every morning that has helped me on my journey. I am lean. I am strong. I am healthy. I am happy. I am free. I’m a Viking warrior princess and I am unstoppable.

And those, affirmations have helped me heal and move forward from the four D’s of the modern apocalypse, which are disease, death, divorce, and debt. And I’ve gone through all of them, at least once some of them twice or three times. So I’ve had more than my fair share, I think sometimes, but that’s okay. My best friends often say, you’ve always been an overachiever. And I think if we chose our trials in heaven, every trial that came up, you’d say, I’ll do that. I’ll take that one. And that one and that one. And so one of my really good friends says, Oh, I don’t feel sorry for you because you’ve probably brought it on yourself.

Darla: [00:02:46] Well, Karen, you really have experienced a lot in your life. And I I’m grateful that you would come on and be willing to share, you know, just parts of that. And I know that that your story is going to bring hope. And I love that you consider yourself a Viking. You told me earlier that you were a descendant of Scandinavian ancestors. You have that strength and that power. So I’m really excited to dive into this and hear more of what you can share and teach us. So, I know one of the things that you told me, you got married when you were 19, you got married in the temple and you thought you were going to have this happy ever after. And then 25 years later, your marriage ended. So can you tell me a little bit about that? And you know, maybe some of the things that happened before that, what was going on. 

Karen: [00:03:31] Well, I can tell you the, I knew the moment my marriage had ended and I was, on my way, I was staying overnight at my brother-in-law’s house and I was on my way to visit my husband who was in a psychiatric jail at that point. And I had received a blessing from my stake president and from my brother-in-law and I woke up in the morning with one word that just kept playing over and over and over in my head. And it was euthanasia, which basically is mercy killing. And I was trying desperately to keep my marriage alive. And then the message was it’s dead. It needs, you need to mercy kill it. So I went for marriage counseling in, the psychiatric prison hospital. And my husband at the time, they asked him how he saw our life going forward. And he said, I’ll never forget. He said anything that goes wrong from here on in will be my fault. I will never have a moments peace. She will never forgive me. And I will spend the rest of my life paying for what I’ve done. And these, marriage counselor looked at me and said, Where do you see your life, your marriage going? And I said, it’s obviously not. So I want to divorce. And at that point, my husband at the time was aghast and in shock that I would ask for a divorce and it’s a testament to how determined I was, because I told him that as long as it didn’t negatively affect our family, I would do my best to keep the family together. And what had happened was we, adopted a little girl out of the foster care system when she was seven. And then a couple of years later, we adopted two more girls that were sisters at the ages of eight and 11. And my husband was a teacher and I’m a teacher. And so we were very well-known in our small little town of like 4,000 people. And, my, the oldest or the gal that we first adopted, was very precocious and very affectionate. Anyway, long story short. She tried to tell me, and I didn’t listen, cause it didn’t make sense to me. And she kept telling me that somebody was coming into her room and was touching her private parts. And, I looked into a lot of different theories because she had come from a rather chaotic background. And as you get older, sometimes you will have retro dreams about things. And so I just kind of dismissed it as that. And then, the next two girls that we adopted, one of them, suddenly became very sullen and would talk to me at school and was in my classes at school. But as soon as I got home, she was angry and went to her room and wouldn’t talk and I couldn’t figure it out. Because happy ever after married to the elders quorum, president didn’t, you don’t even put those things together. And so, on my birthday, I remember I was, they, the social services and the police came to the school and asked if they could speak to me. And I spent four hours with them as they grilled me on these, all these things. And I was in shock. I, I kept saying, no, I don’t know what you’re talking about. And, and then, I went home and, I just went to lay down in the bedroom and my daughter that had just come home off a mission, came into the bedroom and said, what’s the matter mom? And I said, Oh, I’m just really tired. And so my husband came in and he said, what what’s what’s going on? So I told them what had happened. And he looked at me and he said, Oh, okay. Which I thought was an odd sort of reaction. And, my oldest daughter brought me some soup and I had a little bit of soup and I went to sleep cause I was so exhausted. The next morning when, I got up, my husband at the time was up at before seven o’clock and I went into the living room and he was reading the scriptures, which was no, that wasn’t something he did. He read the scriptures with us as a family at night, and then we had our family prayer, but reading on his own wasn’t a normal habit that he had. And, I said, what’s going on? And he was reading the scripture of the millstone around a man’s neck. I, I wish I could quote it verbatim, but, and then he looked at me with tears in his eyes and he said, it’s true. And I was just in shock. I was like, what? And so then he, he said, it again, and this is a week before Christmas. And, long story short, we made it, I made it through Christmas. We went to disciplinary church court, and then he went to court court and got, he pled, he pled guilty and he got sentenced and he was sentenced to four years and he served two and a half. And in the two and a half years that he served my son that saw his dad as his hero went reckless, after all this came out and he ended up dying of an accidental drug and alcohol overdose. And so my sister got married in July. My son died the week later, we had a funeral the week after that. Two weeks later, my daughter got married a week later, my mom died and then a week later we had a funeral for her. So in the period of eight weeks, I had two weddings and two funerals. I felt like I was like a bad comedy rom-com or something, but it was heartbreaking. And so after that is when I asked for a divorce, because obviously it had affected my family and then ended up losing a son over it. So, that was the hardest part of my life because I, I lost my marriage. I lost what I saw as my future. I lost my son. I lost my mom. We had to declare bankruptcy. And, my health was, I was on the edge of cortisone or cortisol all the time. I couldn’t sleep at night. I was waiting for the next shoe to drop, because I was sure there was going to S something else fell apart.

And sure enough, I had other daughters that tried to commit suicide and were in the hospitals off and on. I think, I think we had three or four suicide attempts by different members of, of my children. And, it was chaos. And that the whole time I’m teaching at school. I’m pretending like nothing’s going on because I teach my children in junior high and all their friends are in my classes. So I have to act like nothing’s happening to keep them safe, 

Darla: [00:10:51] But you said it was a small town. So did people know what was going on? And… 

Karen: [00:10:57] He went to jail at the end of April and there were some inmates that knew and, I can’t really comment on how many knew, but I just know that the people of the ward fit into three categories, category one, my, trials were too hard for them to bear cause they saw me and it made them cry and they couldn’t, they couldn’t talk to me cause it was too hard for them, which I get it. It was hard. And the other , group were people that had been sexually abused themselves could not look at me because everything that they saw in me was reflected in their experience, the pain that I wore, my, I I’m really, I’m an open book. When you want to know what emotion I’m feeling, it’s all over my face. So I had to develop that ability to just mask. And it took a while. And then the third were the, the disciples that would just take me under their wing. And thank goodness. There was a, a good portion of those as well. 

Darla: [00:12:04] Yeah. Yeah. So you get to this point where you tell your husband, he is in jail, you’ve been through all of these things. And you tell him that you want a divorce. What happened after that? 

Karen: [00:12:17] I got a divorce, six weeks later, amazingly, it was, it was rather quick because I’d already been separated and they had, in Canada, you have to be separated a year before you can apply, but because he would have been in jail, they waived that. And, anyway, they, and I had been separated from him for two and a half years cause he’d been in jail. And, anyway, so, I had emotionally separated myself from him because as, and I read a book Codependent No More, because I had become so codependent by taking over everything in the marriage and everything as a parent. And I was just doing everything because he abdicated so much right down to, he took a stress and sick leave and I did all his lesson planning for him on top of my lesson planning. It was like crazy. I was really crazy.  But I was, I guess I was just trying desperately to hold everything together.  So I got divorced and then. I also have adult ADHD and I’ve had ADHD my whole life, even as a child, which explains why my mom always told me that you have to go away and quit talking to me. My mom was a lovely, she was a psych nurse actually. So she should have, she should have recognized that this daughter of hers was just intense , which I’m sure she did. I wouldn’t let her alone.  But. I I’ve always been very driven while, I just, after my son passed away, I decided to take my master’s at school. So I started a master’s program, a month after my son passed away, which tells you kind of how crazy I am, but I needed something to really focus on and I’m good at school. So I decided that would be a good distractor. And, then I decided that, I told my best friend, by this time, next year, I’m going to be married. I’m not going to spend burn daylight and spent the rest of my life, waiting for happy ever after I’m getting my happy ever after. Thank you very much, which I always, teased my husband, I picked him out of a Sears catalog, but it wasn’t, it was LDS mingles or something. And he happened to be in the same town I’m in. And, we met up and took our kids to, dollar cinemas as our first date. And, we dated for another six months and then got engaged and by that time next year I was, I was married. And, he’s been a really good man. We’ve had our ups and downs because if you want to take the first five years of marriage and put it into five months, That’s kind of the speed that it kind of went emotionally and his baggage from his ex-wife was huge. So we both had this huge amount of baggage that we had to learn how to shed together and then come together. And it took a couple of years, but not, I wouldn’t say we’re happy ever after, because I know now that that’s just, that’s not always the truth. You make your happy every day and you hope that you can make it last ever after the two of you put in the work. 

Darla: [00:15:32] Good point. So I would be curious to know, as you look back on all of these things that you’ve experienced, like Karen, I think you’ve experienced more than most people ever do in a lifetime, you know, already, what are some of the lessons that you feel like you’ve learned from the things that you’ve gone through?

Karen: [00:15:50] Well, the next thing I wanted to mention was I had a second son that passed away as well, and he was a severe arthritic and has colitis. I also have another daughter that has arthritis and she’s pretty severe too. They’ve had knuckle replacements and joint fusions and, and my mom has that as well or had that. We lost him just two years or three years after we lost his brother. And, he was, his brother was using my son’s pain pills in conjunction with alcohol. And he didn’t realize that it was going to be as catastrophic as it was. And so my second son had such severe feelings of guilt. He felt like he had caused his older brother to die. And, I’m getting to the point here, I promise. The most destructive emotion is shame. And I learned that as a parent or as a person on the planet, anything was shame as the intention behind it is going to destroy the person you’re working with. So if you ever use shame-based parenting, or if you are using shame in your marriage to make somebody feel bad, it’s going to destroy them and destroy them spiritually. And so that was one of the big lessons for me. Another lesson was I read a, well actually somebody gave me a talk, just left it on the seat of my, of my van at church. And it was called Family Crucibles. It was by Jeff Hill in a BYU address,  education talk. And he talked about the family crucibles that can destroy a family or bring them together. And there was 26 to them or something and I’d had like 20 of them. It’s ridiculous. But he talked about how I can do hard things is one lesson. And the second one is there are tender mercies every day and you have to look for them. And the third one is things take time. And so those three things have been over and over again. I can do hard things when you’re picking out caskets and doing your son’s hair. And shaving your other son’s face, so he looks nice for the funeral. I can do hard things and there are tender mercies every day. You just have to look for them. And sometimes they don’t seem like a tender mercy. Sometimes they seem like a trial, but if you flip them around and look at them from the Savior’s point of view, they’re actually a tender mercy because they’re helping you grow and things take time. You can’t speed up, you can speed up healing by focusing on the Savior, but you can’t speed up chaos. It has to settle. And my brother-in-law’s said truth is like a, driftwood, in a raging river, it, it gets swallowed up sometimes and it gets kicked out, but eventually it’ll come up onto the beach and it’ll be there for all to see what the truth is. So you don’t focus on telling your story or telling the truth as you see it. Things take time and eventually the truth will be there. You don’t have to push the truth of the story because if I wanted to be a victim, Oh, and that’s the big one, no victim. I’m not a victim and I will get better. I will not get bitter because victim is poison. If you ever feel like you’re a victim or want to be a victim or treated like a victim, it made me physically ill. Cause everybody’s like, Oh, poor Karen. No, no, no.  no victim. Thank you. 

Darla: [00:19:28] Yeah. One of the things that you had mentioned when you applied to be on the podcast, something that really struck me was that you said that you have learned the power of forgiveness in seeing my ex-husband through the eyes of the Savior.

Karen: [00:19:42] Oh, forgiving him has been a process. It it’s not something you do once it’s not a once and done. Yeah. 

Darla: [00:19:49] What does that look like for you to forgive your, your ex-husband and to lean on the Savior? 

Karen: [00:19:55] Yeah, he wasn’t totally wrong when he said everything that went wrong after that was going to be his fault, because there’s been a lot that has gone wrong and his, his actions have of course contributed to it, but that’s his cross to bear. That’s not mine. I don’t have the right to judge, nor do I have the authority, nor did I have the stewardship to judge. It’s not my job. And thank goodness it isn’t because I would be a poor judge sometimes because the emotion can take over from you. And there has been times when I have been indignant and angry and just so many things. And I’ve read this quote and there’s two quotes. Number one is the largest sorts of anger is unmet expectations. I had a lot of them. I had all kinds of expectations that were, yeah, worse than unmet and another scripture or another, it was in a conference talk or I dunno if it’s conference because it August.

In August Ensign somewhere. So it says, the heart cannot feel true joy until it has been hollowed out by sorrow. And so that one has really been my, my motto is that everything that’s happening, I have joy on the other end, the sorrow is going to be there, of course. And the depth of the sorrow also equals the depth of the joy, but when it came to my ex-husband and still, still, happening, I had to turn it over to the Savior and just say, and Heavenly Father and just say, he’s your child. And, you know, what he needs and you know, you know, him inside and out, I don’t. And I will leave it to you and just give me a glimpse of what you see in through your eyes so that I can let it go. And, I got the glimpse and I was able to see him without all the stuff that he did added on himself, all the chains he added on himself. And I got to sort of see him unfettered and, I believe he’s a lovely soul and a kind man and a good man that got caught up in the chains of pornography and addiction. And that’s where the bottom of it lied, is in pornography. That’s where it started with him at age 12. So obviously he had been fighting something for a very long time that largely stays quiet in our church because it’s the hidden sin you don’t have to, and it’s so available and you don’t have to have any signs. But my daughter that came home after mission, when she got home, she said to me, she looked at me and she goes, what is the matter with Dad? I said, I don’t know. I ask him all the time. And she’s like, he’s a dead head, which was our expression for, we use it in conjunction with being gamers where you lose the spirit and you become that zombie. And she’s like, he’s really a dead head. I said, I know. And he had a dark look about his face and just really. If you could imagine what an evil presence on the face of someone good looks like that’s, that’s what he looked like. And so it was, I had to take that evil off and look at the good look at the good underneath and realize the Lord and our Heavenly Father both have a plan for his life as well. And that there’s still time left for him to do what he needs to do. 

Darla: [00:23:24] I think that is a really important message. And kind of what I’m hearing from hearing you talk about this is that that forgiveness was not like a one-time thing. It’s a process. It takes time, like you said before. But I think it’s remarkable that you’re able to look at him and see him as the Savior sees him.

Karen: [00:23:42] Well, I hope I can see a little, a little glimpse of a many way. I don’t know if i can totally, but I’m trying. 

Darla: [00:23:48] Right. And I think, I think that’s, that’s a really good clue for all of us to look at other people and to be able to pull back, I really liked the imagery that you use, you know, to pull that back and to see their soul and who they really are. I think that must have been just so difficult for you, but it sounds like the Savior was really there for you. 

Karen: [00:24:09] It’s interesting because as I was growing up, I was a good kid. Like I did all the right things and graduated seminary and, I never did anything wrong, so to speak. I was just a straight arrow kind of kid. Even though I was rambunctious, a little loud and kind of obnoxious, but, I didn’t really ever feel like I needed to use the Savior’s Atonement. And that’s just shows my spiritual immaturity as I felt like, Oh, I got this I’m good. But as I was going through my trial, I got to know the depth of the Savior’s gift to us. And, I read the Infinite Atonement, which is a beautiful book. He heals our souls when we are broken and we are hurting and we are, cause He’s been through everything that we’ve been through that we’re going through. And so it’s not just for repentance is also for binding up the wounds of those that are broken and I’ve felt very much supported in being broken by the Savior where I’d never used the Atonement like I did. Like I was needing to, after my trial. And I had to learn how to forgive a lot of people. There was just a lot of people that made judgements and said really not kind things. And family members that couldn’t support me. And it was just, it was a really rough time because, for whatever reasons they had, like I said, my trial was too hard for them and, I probably didn’t bear it very well. And I probably was a walking wreck that people would cross the street cause they could see how much pain I was in. So I’m not blaming them at all. I find myself from time to time when I see somebody going through a lot, wondering if I have the capabilities to support them and  I can always find them. But for people that haven’t been through extreme trials, it’s hard. It’s hard to not put your own frailties in front of that. 

Darla: [00:26:17] And I think that that’s part of walking, the covenant path is learning how to help other people that are beside you. We all make mistakes and so it’s good to have people that will forgive us and help us to learn and grow. And I can see that in your story of how you’ve learned to be able to do that and to be able to help other people. 

Karen: [00:26:34] And growing is painful. 

Darla: [00:26:36] Yes, it is very painful. 

Karen: [00:26:39] Yeah. So my son in grade nine went through three shoe sizes in three months. So I kept buying him these basketball shoes. I buy him a set of basketball shoes, two weeks later, he’s saying, mom, my toes are bleeding and I’d be like, they can’t be bleeding. I just bought them for you. Two weeks later, mom, my toes are bleeding. He went from like a size eight to a size 11 in like three months. It was ridiculous. But growing quickly is that same sort of pain. Cause you have to leave something behind, you have to decide what you’re going to give up so you can grow and  it forces you to make a decision about the gospel. And I remember going to church was the hardest part of my life. I would go and I would sit behind people and a husband would put his arm around his wife and it would just choke me to the core. And it was the hardest part of my life. And for a long time, it really was. And I just kept going anyway. I had a stake president that said to me, Sister, you have so many trials. I have people that have way less than you that have quit coming to church. Why do you keep coming? And I’m like, Damn pioneer stock, I guess, it’s more determined than smart.

Darla: [00:27:53] It’s in your blood. What would you say to someone who is maybe in a situation like yours and they don’t want to come? You know, what kept you going? What would you say to that person to keep coming? 

Karen: [00:28:03] I had a covenant. I had made a covenant and my promises are very important to me. And, I’m not judging people who don’t go cause I, I truly understand the pain that happens for some people and how they can’t face their pain and church is where they have to face it. And I understand that that’s bitter and hard and heartbreaking. My covenants mean a lot to me and they kept me going when my willpower was gone. And I had kids in junior high at home, and I didn’t want to set that example for them. I wanted them to see their mom get up and go to church, even though she’s in pain. And even though things are hard. I didn’t want them to ever see that I had made an excuse for not going. 

Darla: [00:28:50] I love that answer, that covenants is what kept you coming and there’s power in those covenants. And I can see that in your story for sure. Well, Karen, this has been so great. I appreciate that you would share your experiences. And I know that there will be someone out there that will relate to them and that you will bring them some hope and some light in their life. But I do have one final question for you, and that is how have you seen and felt the Savior in your journey on the covenant path? 

Karen: [00:29:19] He’s ahead of me forging the path. He’s beside me holding my hand. He’s behind me catching me when I fall. Whenever I need Him, He’s either ahead of me beside me or behind me.

Darla: [00:29:35] He’s always there. I love that. Thank you for sharing that. And I do want to point people to you if they want to learn more about you and what you share, I know you told me before that you have a group on Facebook where you help people who are dealing with loss, where can people go and find you if, if they would like to learn more?

Karen: [00:29:53] Well, it’s just anybody who has experienced loss of a loved one. And, it’s called Resilient Warriors because we are all warriors and resilience is a, it’s a life skill that we need to learn to manage through extreme stress. So it’s under Resilient Warriors on Facebook, or you can just come and chat with me, Karen Payne Kramer.

Darla: [00:30:16] We can link that up your Facebook group up in the show notes as well, so they can go there to find it. Karen, thank you so much for being here and for being willing to share part of your journey on the covenant path. 

Karen: [00:30:27] Well, thank you for giving me a little bit of a platform. I just I’m really grateful for the opportunity to tell my story and I really hope it helps somebody and gives them the support they need in a difficult time.

Darla: [00:30:41] I know that it will. Thank you.

Here are this week’s journal questions. When I asked Karen the question I ask every guest at the end “How have you seen and felt the Savior in your journey on the covenant path?” she replied by saying, “He’s ahead of me forging the path. He’s beside me holding my hand. He’s behind me catching me when I fall. Whenever I need him, He’s either ahead of me beside me or behind me.” 

Think about Karen’s words describing her experience.  How has the Savior been there for you? 

Think about and journal your responses to these questions. When has Jesus been ahead of you forging the path? 

When has Jesus been beside you holding your hand? 

When has Jesus been behind you catching your fall?