Finding the Strength

As the days pass, it’s hard. Very hard. We loved Will and Bailee so much. We miss them. But we have hope.

by Brenna Smidt

I don’t think we ever thought of not going to the National Finals Rodeo last year. As my husband, Caleb, explained in his story “Winning and Loss,” it was a difficult time for us. We had just lost my brother, Will, and his new wife, Bailee. Life came crumbling down and everything stopped, yet in reality everything kept going. We had to pick back up. A few days after the funerals, I gave birth to our daughter, Myla. I had to be there for her and for my husband. I guess you don’t know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.

My family.... We’re so close, and our bond is through God and love. A lot of love. Those two run so deep through all of us. We’re always there for each other.

We want this to be a story about how good God is. It’s not about our strength or how “inspiring” we are. Nothing like that. Us getting through this is truly the power of the Lord. We are imperfect people who have fallen at the feet of Jesus in desperation and been filled with his strength.

I know I can speak on behalf of Caleb and my family as well. God knew long ago this was going to happen, and our choice as far as how to continue on from it can either be representative of Him or our flesh. In our hearts, the only choice was to press on. Our purpose here on this earth is to glorify God, aside from everything—our jobs, our passions, everything. Sometimes God allows bad things to happen, not because He isn’t good—He is—but to bring so much more good through the bad. We don’t know why, but there is a reason, and if the only reason is for God to be glorified, then so be it.

Heavy Heart

Before we ever left for the Finals, God laid on my heart that I needed to speak at the cowboy church in Las Vegas, the one led by Corey Ross and his wife, Jamie. I battled the feeling for a while. I don’t do public speaking. That’s totally not me. No, I thought, there’s no way I can do that. Just being there at the Finals with my grief and our three-week old baby felt like enough.

At the NFR, things got kick-started right off the bat when Caleb won the first round. That was one of the most overwhelming feelings of blessedness. Those angels were just pouring down, as if to say, You’re in the right place. You’re doing the right thing. You got this! We’re gonna be with you the whole time here.

Since I had baby Myla with me, we stayed in the room a lot. We’d go to the rodeo and come back to the room. That first Saturday I stayed in all day. I spent most of that day in the Word and a book I was reading, just feeling a sense of peace and God’s presence. Those days don’t seem to happen too often now with two babies, so I relished it. What was weird was I woke up that morning hearing, You know it’s Saturday. Church is tomorrow. We better get to work.

The book I was reading is called Through the Eyes of a Lion about a young pastor, Levi Lusko, who lost his four-year-old daughter to an asthma attack. She died on the kitchen counter a few days before Christmas. He writes about having to preach the Christmas sermon and how he and his family got through the unimaginable tragedy. Reading that reminded me so much of our reality. It was everything I was living through.

His book led me to 2 Corinthians, chapter 5. The passage talks about how we live in an earthly tent and how one day it will be destroyed and we will get an eternal house in Heaven not built by human hands. God intended that our time here would be limited. It’s not a bad thing to leave this earth, even though it’s sad for those left behind. And that we should be reconciled to God and be relentless for His kingdom while we are still here. It’s horrible, but it almost takes a tragedy like the one we experienced to focus us back to our meaning. This is what it’s all about, I thought.

Caleb and I both rodeoed in college. That’s where we met Corey and Jamie, who put on church services at the college rodeos. They’re like family to us. But up to this point, I had never said anything to them about this feeling of needing to speak at their service. Later that Saturday, I texted them and said, I need to talk tomorrow, and I think God just showed me exactly what I need to say.

photo courtesy of Brenna Byler Smidt

photo courtesy of Brenna Byler Smidt

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Finding My Voice

I woke up on Sunday morning so nervous. When I got to the service, a hundred people or so had gathered. I was still nervous walking to the front of the group and introducing myself, but then it was like God took over. I took a step back and He stepped up. He spoke right through me, because I’m not even sure what I said.

I don’t want to pretend we weren’t hurting and sad and struggling, because we were. We still are. We’re human. Being at the NFR was a rollercoaster of emotions. I battled thoughts of anger and sadness. And at the end, when Caleb came out on top, I felt like we were standing victorious with Jesus and our angels. I shake just remembering it, how close I felt to God and Heaven.

I believe wholeheartedly that God aligned everything. All of the events that have taken place were planned, and we were just supposed to walk in it. Everything—the wedding, the accident, Caleb making the Finals, us being there to support him with our healthy new baby, Myla, me speaking at the cowboy church, Caleb dominating in the first round despite all that had happened and then ultimately winning his second calf-roping world title.

We fall away from that with the busyness of life. It’s important to remember to live in the moment and love big every single day, because our time here is up to our Creator, and Heaven is closer than we think.

As the days pass, it’s hard. Very hard. We loved Will and Bailee so much. We miss them. But we have hope.

If there’s one thing I want to say, it’s that God is real. Just know Him.

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