If you had to describe April Daniels in a single word, you’d be hard-pressed to find another that fits her any better.
Defined as the ability to adapt and persevere in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, or significant sources of stress, resilience is an attribute that most of us like to think we have until our feet are put to the fire and we discover what we’re made of. It’s been a little more than a year since her husband, Grammy award-winning songwriter LaShawn Daniels, tragically perished in a traffic accident. During that time, April has had to dig deeper than she could have ever imagined to keep going.
You sort of gain a whole new perspective in adulthood, right?
Yes, exactly, and it’s crazy how you look at things through a different set of eyes once you’ve had experiences and gained a clearer perspective. There was no accountability in my childhood home, God and church were very far and few. We didn’t talk about it. I didn’t grow up in a religious home. I didn’t attend church with my parents. I don’t even know if my father ever stepped foot in a church during my lifetime. He had his ways about him. He spent time in the military, so he was very militant. It was his way or no way, and that was how things had to be done. It was almost as if he was ‘god’ in our home. It was my great-grandmother who instilled in me the importance of having a relationship with God. She taught me to pray before I go to sleep and again when I wake up. It was her that gave me that experience of even knowing about God. But even with that, I still didn’t have a whole lot of Him in my life outside of church on Easter, maybe Mother’s Day, and other significant holidays. Those days when church tended to be a little more packed and more people felt obligated to be there for that specific holiday.
In time, were you able to reconnect with God in your way?
Yes, as I got older I fell into the habit of praying more often. I didn’t have any type of revelation that God is working this out. I don’t think I would have recognized a revelation at that time. But as I matured, I began to understand the importance of a prayer life and recognized the testimonies that were being built on my behalf. The journey stretches you in ways where you have to transition from relying on others to pray you out of circumstances, to praying for yourself. It’s in those places that you transform into becoming a prayer warrior. Then, of course, having the amazing husband I did, who loved God more than he loved himself, added more spiritual value.
What was your first “Wow Moment” with God?
It was like an epiphany moment?
It was three weeks after my oldest son was born. He stopped breathing and was fighting for his life in the hospital. During this time my father and I were estranged due to the bad decisions he made that cost him greatly. These incidents altered my feelings toward him deeply. I had two younger brothers from his second marriage that were forced to grow up without their dad because his decisions had our father in jail for most of their childhood. I was SOOO disappointed by their upbringing compared to my own. My dad’s absence from my brothers triggered me to reflect on my disappointment in the ways he wasn’t there for me as a teenager. I missed out on so many lessons that should have come from a father to his daughter before coming into her own. It was in that place my anger took root and I distanced myself from him. I remember going to the chapel in the hospital and saying, “If I need a miracle, which I do, this is the only place I can get it.” Whenever I wasn’t at my son’s bedside, you could find me in the chapel. I remember praying like, “God, just please save him!” He so clearly answered me, “How can you ask me for a blessing when you don’t even speak to your father?”
It was! I was like, “Wait a minute! Are these voices I’m hearing in my head?” because this was the first time God had spoken to me, and I could hear clearly as I’m talking to you. I said to myself, “Well, okay…” I wasn’t reluctant. I immediately did what I felt He had said to do. I went to the phone to call my father. At this time, he was living in Hawaii, and I said to him, “Dad, I need you to listen without asking a bunch of questions… I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” Instantly, we picked up where we left off and he received me with open arms. I went on to share with him what was going on with my son, his grandson and that was that. Immediately, I saw a shift in my son’s health. From the doctor saying, “We don’t know what’s going on with him. There’s nothing we can do. You might want to prepare for his funeral” to him coming off the ventilator, coming out of his induced coma, and coming out of ICU all after the apology to my father. When he was discharged from the hospital, he was not on any type of medicine and he didn’t have any restrictions. All the doctors recognized this moment and him being a miracle baby. The doctors said to me, “We can’t tell you anything that man or medicine did to make him get better. This is only God.” I don’t care what anyone says, that was my first real-life encounter with God and it showed me the power of obedience. A miracle from God. It was a dual testimony, not only for me but for my son. It just blows my mind at His love for me. It started way before Shawn, and it’s still alive and well after Shawn, and I’m just completely in awe at how He takes care of me.
From there, did you begin to cultivate and solidify your personal relationship with God?
Once we left the hospital, prayer became a part of me. I struggled to find a church home living in Los Angeles. I would go and visit different churches, and they just weren’t doing it for me. That was something I wanted but just couldn’t find at the time. I continued to develop a relationship with God through prayer. All I knew how to do was pray. I was like a little Prayer Warrior after that experience, but I knew it worked. I saw the power of it. So that was something that I continued with. It wasn’t until meeting my husband that my everyday walk was enhanced. You know, with his father being a Bishop, coming from a First family who ate, slept, and woke up in church made me feel like he was spiritually knowledgeable in areas I wasn’t. When I met him and he shared his father’s position with me, at first, I was like, “Whaaaat? Huh? How long are we gonna be in church?” But, in the same breath, I was excited to have this knowledge now accessible to me. Shawn would always joke, “If it wasn’t for me, I don’t know who April would be praying to!” *laughs* And I would tell him, “You gonna have people thinking I was praying to a head of lettuce or something before I met you!” But I must say, it’s true that the woman of God I am today, I owe to my husband.
Speaking of LaShawn… What were some of your favorite parts of your marriage to him? What made your marriage so strong and resilient?
You’re gonna have me crying! Good tears though. Good tears! The thing that I miss the most is his covering. The way he loved me unconditionally and the way that he just protected me… not only protected me physically… but my heart and my spirit. When you find a man like that, I don’t care what’s going on in the world, you don’t let him go! He was so adamant about the lessons. And sometimes I would be like, “Okay, I hear you, but God loves me more than you, and He’s gonna take care of me, and I don’t need you to be hammering it over my head how I need to change this and stop being so stubborn…” Or he’d be like, “You just need to stop it!” and I’d be like… “well that person did me wrong and I’m gonna have to wait for the Lord to absolve my heart before I can forgive them.” But those lessons of his… he would not let up. He had a way of making you feel like you were the most important person in the world. The way he poured into me and our sons… priceless. It was those conversations that gave you life lessons but also love at the same time. Just the level of concern and commitment he had towards his family. That is the thing that I miss the most. Those are the things that in our relationship kept us as solid as we were. I know I brought things to the table. Between him and I, we had a balance that kept us spiritually grounded. He had a way of making us feel like we were invincible as a couple. Even though we went through problems, we disagreed, we had heated arguments like the next couple. We weren’t perfect, but our love for one another was.
How old are your sons now?
So we have two 24-year-olds. When I met Shawn I had a son from a previous relationship and so did he. They’re two months apart. Then, together we have a 15-year-old. Omarr is my son I came into the relationship with, who is the oldest, Tahshon is our middle son, who was Shawn’s son when he came into the relationship, and then Jett is our son we had together.
Can you talk about your thoughts and plans on continuing to raise them and how you pray that LaShawn’s legacy continues to shine through them?
I think with them the hardest part as their mother is knowing that there’s a void that will never be filled, regardless if I get married or if I date again. It’s just a void. Nobody will ever be able to fill those shoes. Not that I’m looking for anyone to fill his shoes, let me just make that clear. But the example my husband left behind is the blueprint that they will continue to operate in moving forward. Everything that he needed to instill in them, he did. Anything more than they need, I know that God will provide. I’m continuously blown away at how I see my husband in all three of them. Even my oldest son, who is not Shawn’s biological son, is so much like him. The impact he had on them went so far that it’s just like, wow! The conversations we had with him… we have so many things that we can fall back on. Honestly, I believe Shawn knew that his time was approaching. Too many things have resurfaced and transpired that just won’t allow me to believe anything else. I don’t think this was by chance. I don’t think this was a freak accident. I think this was a time that was appointed by God.
Some people never get to experience in a lifetime the impact my husband left behind. He was a wise man, wise beyond his years. He was an outstanding husband and an excellent father. He was hands-on. He wanted to make sure that his sons would be prepared for life, whether he was in the room or across the country. There’s so much wisdom in them that I know was birthed from Shawn. The way they articulate themselves, how they think, how they respond… It’s just crazy that I often see my husband as if he’s just talking through them. I am not concerned about what it may appear that they don’t have with my husband being gone because I am a firm believer they have everything they need, Shawn made sure of that. However, I am more concerned as a mother raising three African-American males in a world that’s filled with so much hate and what the future looks like.
We find ourselves in this journey often reflecting in a way that keeps Shawn present daily. What I mean by that, our sons know how their father would respond in a situation. They know how their father would respond and what he would say to them. It’s just crazy, they’ll come to me and say, “Mom, this is what’s going on…” and we’ll have a great conversation about whatever it may be. But in addition to that, we’re like, “Dad would say this if he was here.” Like, nothing is foreign to us. It isn’t, and not that we’ve gotten used to Shawn not being here. That’s something that you never get used to, but we are so comfortable in what he left us with. To know how to respond to things, how to react, sort through, to think things out, whether to address or not to address. We just know that he left us as well-oiled machines to be able to navigate through life and then things that may come our way.
What’s your best advice or encouraging words for anyone who may need a comforting message?
You don’t know God is faithful until you trust Him more than you trust yourself. And if you are always trying to be the one in the driver’s seat, because for some reason you think you can control the outcome, the situation, the deal, the movement, the purpose… you can’t! None of us can. I had to step out of everything I knew, that I can control, or that I could contribute to, and just really fall in the arms of God. It wasn’t until I was completely able to release everything that I could see His faithfulness in everything. When my husband passed away, I didn’t have the strength to try and control anything, and when I say “control,” I just mean keeping it together, trying to be the matriarch, and be strong. It was like, I was really at a dead end. What do you do? How do you recover? What’s next? What am I supposed to do? You know, it was so many questions, but I knew for me… the example again that my husband was… it was imperative that I show my sons, and that I show myself, and that I showed those who are watching the promise of God. How good He is. How faithful He is. Even at one of the most tragic times of our life, we can still praise Him. Still, give Him the glory. Still trust Him. Still keep Him at the head and not at the foot. Continue to rest in His arms. Continue to allow Him to open and close doors. Whatever that may be! Giving Him full control.
Because patience is a virtue…
Yes! A lot of people need to see results quicker than the speed that God moves, but God’s timing is always perfect. I would never, ever try to navigate through anything without Him. I don’t ever want to try and delegate anything without Him. I don’t ever want to try to force the speed of what I think should be happening in the room for me than the time God allows. If you don’t allow yourself to become one with Him, you will never see His greatness on the magnitude that He wants you to see it. Sometimes there are days I feel like, ‘God, I ain’t got it in me…’ but the more I lean towards Him, I find that those days are amazing. I wake up feeling so depleted and just like, ‘Today will be a day I want to stay in the bed. I’m not getting up today. I’m just going to stay in bed all day long and He’s like, “No, you’re not!” Whether it’s through His Word that I read every morning. Whether it’s through a phone call I receive with a gang of inspiration that I needed on the other line. Whether I turn on the TV and there’s a message right there for me… He’s always gonna give you signs. It’s just a matter of will you catch them or will you miss them? And I think that depends on your posture. If I’m not making time for God, then oh, yeah, I’m for sure gonna miss a lot of things He presents in my path for me to correct. But if I know that I’m dedicating time and I’m building a relationship with Him and I’m trying to grow as one with Him, then I’m gonna see every little sign He gives me. Because my faith is centered on Him and not the distractions of the world.
Do you have a favorite quote, affirmation, or Bible verse that you frequently find yourself going back to?
Yes, I do! Jeremiah 1:5. What’s crazy is that it used to be a different Scripture, but as you grow, as you go through life, things change. There’s a song I heard recently that made me remember this Bible verse. It was Tasha Page-Lockhart’s “Why Not Me?” and when I heard it, I was like, ‘Whoa! Why not me?’ You know what I mean? Everyone always thinks we’re supposed to have this amazing life with no twists and turns and no storms and it’s like why not? Why should God give you a pass? What makes you different? And honestly, this whole season has allowed me to appreciate the storms even more because it means He trusts me enough to weather it. And so, when I reflect on Jeremiah 1:5 and just knowing that before He even made me, He knew who I was. He knew that I had special work to do and He chose me to do this special work. God knows I wouldn’t have wanted it if asked, but that’s why He never asked, right?
But just the fact that there is a responsibility with everything that we go through. Some of us drop the ball. I’ve dropped the ball a million times in the past. But I will not drop the ball on this because this is important not only for me and my salvation but for those that are walking through it and for those that don’t even know they’re about to. That morning was the last thing that I would’ve thought I would’ve been dealing with. The same day I went to take my real estate exam? And it’s crazy that on that exam, it’s two parts, and I missed the state portion. I passed the national but missed the state, so technically I failed. But I look back on it and have to think that God was even intentional on that. I knew everything to pass that exam. Who passes the largest part but fails the smallest part? But could you imagine that date being associated with my license date? The same date that my husband went on to be with the Lord? Everything happens for a reason, and I just try not to dissect the “why?” but trust the Maker in His selection of me to be the one to walk it out. He’s been too faithful for me to feel like this was anything but God. He continues to allow me to feel my husband’s presence daily. And so knowing how my husband referred to God and loved God, made God the foundation of our marriage and our home… it would be so disrespectful of me to now questioning God. So part of his legacy is continuing to hold the banner to let people know just how good God is. That He can turn every situation around and if He doesn’t turn the situation around to your expectancy, just know that greatness still is in it. It just didn’t work out how you wanted it to work out. That wasn’t the plan. So I’m just grateful for what He gives me daily. How He inspires me. How He allows my eyes to see things from another perspective and just to continue to allow me to grow with Him.
Can you tell us a bit about what to expect from your upcoming book?
I am so excited to tell my story. It takes those who have been following me and my husband on the journey down to the very beginning of who April was before Shawn.
We have always been advocates of transparency and just really walking through the Journey. I want to continue to inspire and encourage women. If hearing my story can do that, then it’s all worth it. I’m looking to release it at the top of 2021, so stay tuned!
Lastly, what’s something about you that most people would be surprised to know… it can be something funny.
I can’t believe I’m telling y’all this… When I get sleepy my one eye gets crooked. I’m not making that up. My husband would always say when it got late, “Baby, go to bed. Your eyes are crooked.” That’s a true story. He would call me “Lil Biggie” when I would get sleepy.