Tomorrow, I will do better.

“Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it… yet.”

― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Growing up, my mom would speak these words to me, providing the comfort and encouragement I needed to let the heartache of that day fall away and turn towards the hope of a fresh start in the morning. Curling up on the couch and watching the Anne of Green Gables movies with my mom was a favorite past time of ours. So when my mom spoke these words over me, it wasn’t just the motherly reassurance I received, but in those moments I could literally hear Anne’s voice and feel the hope and inspiration that I felt every time I watched the movies.

Whether it was the mistakes I personally made that caused heartache, or the pain inflicted from others, the hope of morning, a clean slate, the sun rising again making all things new once more was, and still is of great comfort. I think it is safe to assume that the majority of people would gladly welcome the offer of a new day, or a second chance when they themself are to blame for the heartache of their present day.

The other day, Garrett had made a pretty poor choice out of anger and lost some technology privileges as a result. The pleading that resulted was intense. “Mom, please give me another chance! I am SOOOOOO sorry. Please, Please forgive me!”

Side note- Finding a child’s “currency” when it comes to consequences is priceless. However, our hope is to not only discipline using cause and effect but helping our kids to understand how the heart is involved as well. With developmental delays due to hearing loss and social weaknesses due to ASD and ADHD, teaching this has felt impossible at times. So when Garrett’s grief went beyond the loss of his ipad to grief over how he hurt me, I felt like we struck gold. As we cuddled at bedtime that evening, without prompting from me, He apologized again and told me that tomorrow was going to be a better day.

Garrett’s excitement for NYE fireworks!

On a similar note, Jackson was having a particularly challenging afternoon the following day. After enough exhaustion, I got down on my knees, hands on his shoulders, guided his eyes to mine and said, “Jackson, it is OK to feel frustrated, but it is NOT ok to hit or yell at Mommy.” His reply was, “OK Mom, Tomorrow I will try again.”

I laughed at his reply and said, “Jackson, you can try again RIGHT NOW!”

Jackson is tired of hearing the word, “no.” (haha)

It seems the hope for a better tomorrow begins at a young age. The idea of second chances that come with “tomorrow” is so full of hope and promise. Maybe this is why the “New Year” brings so much excitement and anticipation for goals to be set and yesterday’s to be washed away.

There is something sacred about the first few pages of a notebook, or a brand new planner unmarked and uncreased. Something so magical about the quiet of a new day, drinking a warm cup of coffee in solitude. Could I even go as far as to say there is something sacred about a house after you just finished cleaning and everything is in it’s rightful place? When nothing is out of order, the air smells clean and/or scented and the house is quiet and empty, except for you-admiring the work your hands have done and enjoying it’s newness.

I think it is innate for us to desire the purity of newness, or something being “made new.”

My boys.

In the Bible it says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” Genesis 1:1-31

God stood back and reflected on what He made. Something new and untouched. And what was before is noted as well, “darkness,” “without form,” “void.”

When I step back to enjoy the results of a clean house, a new planner, or a new day- the peace I feel is tangible because I remember what the chaos before felt like. I know the peace is momentary. I know that the pages will be written on, or bent or torn. I know the house will be dirtied and things left out on the floor, and the day will move beyond that “just woke up- first cup of coffee moment.” But the peace, for a moment, erases the darkness or void from the “pages before.”

May we all have Jackson’s energy.

There are so many pages I wish could be erased. Pages where my sin is plain for all to see. Pages filled with regret, or shame. There are moments that I hope my children will never remember. Moments where I lost my patience, and reacted adding anger to the chaos instead of providing comfort that their little hearts so desperately needed.

There are pages of heartache that I wish never to read again. The ones that your brain reads on replay without your permission of past trauma or grief.

Sometimes I think we can become so overcome by our pages of late that we begin to dread the pages of tomorrow. Assuming that we know exactly what they hold, and if our assumptions are correct, it will just be a continuation of our yesterday and one that we do not want to repeat. We can go through seasons where it feels as if life is a single day of misery stuck on repeat and we fear going to bed because we know that it will begin again all too soon.

Maybe that’s why so many people stay up long into the night binge-watching shows on Netflix. We try to keep a good feeling or experience going as long as we can because for a moment, it feels like we actually have control and are not just at the mercy of our circumstances.

I find it interesting that in Matthew 6:34 He says “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” I completely agree that each day has enough trouble of it’s own, yet I am not sure I have lived one day without worrying about tomorrow. Sometimes the tomorrow I worry about is the one that is actually 24 hours away. Often though, it is the far off tomorrows that worry me the most.

I worry about the tomorrow’s for my children. Am I providing enough love and grace, yet also enough wisdom and discipline? How soon will Jackson lose his vision? Will Garrett grow up mentally and spiritually secure? Will he believe in the good in himself that we see or will he become jaded by the struggles and consequences that often result and go hand in hand with some of his ADHD/ASD behaviors? Will Gracelyn resent us or feel bitter because being the sibling of two younger brothers with extra needs can take such a toll? Will our marriage remain strong and will we remain steadfast in the midst of all of life’s challenges?

Our sweet Gracelyn, I’m thinking God lead us to her name for a reason.

Or even worries as simple as, “Lord-am I gonna make it through this day? This hour? This minute?”

As heavy-hearted as I might be at the end of a day, I cannot imagine going to sleep without the ability to talk to my Heavenly Father. In the evening I can say it all in prayer. I can praise Him because I know deep in my heart He is good no matter what. I can ask for forgiveness for all the ways I bent to my flesh that day. I can cry out for things to be different, for strength or comfort for myself or for others. And I can ask for His blessing over my tomorrow.

And when I awake, I can give thanks for a new day. For the sun rising again. For a fresh start. Even when I don’t feel it, often the act of giving thanks inspires hopes and strengthens faith. Lamentations 3:21-23 says, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” When it is hard to believe that hope is possible, I can recall on His faithfulness that I KNOW I have experienced. I can remember the daily grief after we returned from overseas, unsettled, displaced, unsure of what was to come. Each day felt like we were no closer to getting answers on the future for our family. I can reflect on that season from where I stand now, a place where so many of those unanswered prayers during that time are now answered.

Proof of an actual weekend away!

Isaiah 42:16 says, “And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.” He has done this time and time again and we MUST practice remembrance or we we fall prey to despair and bitterness.

I remember a day when I felt like I would never be able to exercise again. Now I am in the best shape of my life.

I remember a day when I wondered if Jackson would ever speak with ease, and now he speaks full sentences.

I remember a day when I felt so hopeless in my ability to care for both Garrett and Jackson, now they both have an incredible professional care team to support us.

I remember the day when I felt like I would never overcome my fear of moving overseas, and we lived overseas for almost a year!

I remember a day when I felt like I would never sleep through the night again, now our firstborn is 10 years old and we have 3 children who sleep through the night.

I think it is important to practice remembrance. To recall the grief and the sorrow of our yesterday’s so that we can celebrate the blessing of our todays and tomorrows. This process seems natural at the start of a new year, or on our birthday. Because the newness seems more tangible. A brand new year-2022. A brand new age- 39. But imagine if we could embrace a brand new day the same way.

Because He made “Day” and “Night” ON PURPOSE.

“And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” Genesis 1:1-31

The Bible is filled with verses about light. Scriptures full of how Jesus is the light and whoever believes in Him, lives in the light. Verses about how HE is the light to our path, and HIS light erases the darkness. Every new day is new light shining and removing all that was dark.

God is the God of second chances. His mercies are new every morning. He has made a way for us to be made new, to become a new creation. On this side of heaven we will sin, and He knows this, and provides us with new mercies every day. He does not want us held captive to yesterday, And HIS promise of salvation is eternal.

May we embrace this new year, this new month, this new day, heck-even this new hour, with hearts full of hope and the belief that joy can be restored. May we believe that this season of sorrow or grief will not last forever, and there is a day coming where our hearts will feel light once more. May we believe in the possibility of achieving this year, what has felt impossible. May we reach for those goals we once held so high but have since discarded out of fatigue from not reaching them yet.

May we find hope in the God that hears every cry, knows your every day, and has never left nor forsaken you.

May we find hope in tomorrow once more!

All the Feelings

As we all know, kids have so many different emotions that often shift from one to the next in a matter of minutes, if not seconds! The other day, after numerous requests, Jackson asked if the time had finally arrived for our family to go mini-golfing as promised. Upon receiving his long-awaited yes, he shouted with glee and a giant smile took over his face. But within seconds, tears started to fill his eyes unexpectedly. He said, “Mom, I’m so happy, why am I sad?”

This particular moment reminded me of when Gracelyn was a toddler and had a similar experience. At the time she was our only child and spent most of her time with me at home. So whenever Adam would get home from work, he would enter the house and make a great gesture of open arms ready to embrace her. I would bring her to the door and say with great excitement (for not only her-but myself as well) “Daddy’s home!”

To our surprise, her response was very different than we imagined. At first, she would run to the door with excitement and joy, but as soon as that initial moment passed, she would revert to a strange sadness, and then emit a sudden “No” followed by a stomp off. It took us some time to realize that she did not mean to reject Daddy, nor disappoint. She was simply overcome with emotions. ALL of the emotions in fact, and her little brain did not know how to process, prioritize nor what to do with “All the feelings.”

Jackson’s sweet celebration and relief after waiting 6 long weeks to earn the sportsmanship medal!

It’s a strange sensation to handle- feeling more than one emotion simultaneously. We are all familiar with the phrase “happy tears” to describe tears that accompany joy of some kind, but sometimes that experience of feeling both incredible joy and intense grief at the same time can feel too big for one heart to manage. However strange, or uncomfortable it may be, I know that it is not isolated to our home or family members. I have witnessed friends and family members juggle this emotional experience as well as often hear this theme of emotional dichotomy in most songs on the radio. Most recently, in this Christmas season, I have heard this experience mentioned in the lyrics for the majority of Christmas songs that are current today, as well as the traditional songs that have graced this season for decades.


“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is one song that I heard the other day and couldn’t help but hear and feel ‘All the Feelings’ as it played over the car radio. More than once the song makes mention of Christmas being a time where your troubles are out of sight or miles away; that Christmas is a time where things return to the “way it was.” Families gather and experience love and joy, but those reunions bring memories of the “way things were.”

Whether these lyrics are relatable for you, I think it’s fair to say that it is hard to experience that “Merry Little Christmas” feeling without recalling in your heart and bones the grief that our “troubles” left behind. The two co-exist it seems.

Experiencing the joy of my 8 year-old still inviting me to come to school functions! Gingerbread House day!

For some, the joy of Christmas time may be easy to experience. For others, the holiday season can be a reminder of all that is lost. But for most, Christmas time brings both feelings of joyful anticipation and grief. The season has a way of amplifying what is lost while simultaneously making your heart realize and appreciate those around you more than normal. Plainly put, I think Christmas time brings a more clear lens on life that includes the very real emotional dichotomy that exists.

Dichotomies like overwhelming grief when receiving news that a loved one has terminal cancer, but then experiencing incredible gratitude for the sweetness of time spent together as a result.

Or the heartache that can overtake you when receiving an intense diagnosis for your child and then the wonder upon the wisdom and clarity that the news brings; enabling you to not only better understand your child and more accurately meet their needs, but an increase in love for them that you never thought possible.

I can imagine the majority of people experience “High highs and Low lows” during the other 11 months of the year as well, but at Christmas time- whether you are in a season of high OR low, you feel them both and they are both amplified.

Jackson with an “unexpected” sad face getting his photo taken in the mouth of a shark!

“High highs and Low lows” has become a common phrase we have used this year when others have asked how our family is doing. And to be honest, I have been tempted to view life through the lens of dread, fearing hope because I have gotten so used to the “other shoe dropping.” It can feel as if it would be easier to protect yourself from the pain and disappointment that the unexpected can bring if you forego hope and choose to live jaded, skeptical, sarcastic and cynical. It appears too risky to choose hopefulness.

Hope is kind of like a balloon that wants to fly high in the sky and float. Hope says, I don’t know what I will encounter, but right now- I feel joy and I WANT TO embrace it and move forward. Hope knows that fear is real and the unexpected might happen, but even in the face of that risk it chooses to be brave in order to embrace joy.

Fear is like the weight that keeps the balloon from flying away, keeping hope locked in the ground. Fear tells you to give up, stop trying, stop “fighting the good fight” and let sorrow win.

I had been struggling with this internal battle, feeling like I should “let my balloon fly” but wanting to keep it tethered for fear of future heartache. And then one day, in the midst of carrying the weight of it all…

The heaviness and intensity of having 2 boys with special needs,

The reality of a loved one’s suffering and limited time,

The consistent financial tension that living on a one-income ministry salary can bring,

and add to that ANYTHING ELSE UNEXPECTED that we just do not feel any margin for..

… I cried out to the Lord in surrender.

I cried out completely overcome with it all, feeling as if there was no rest in sight and completely devoid of hope.

And in His great mercy, HE answered and I saw our “High highs and Low lows from a new perspective.

One of our recent trips to visit Gramma, treasuring these visits and these views.

I had been battling the great weight of those lows that just kept piling up. I had felt angry and frustrated that as soon as I would experience a “win” of some kind, be it good news, positive feedback or especially a day with no phone calls from the school, like clockwork- something bad would happen within hours, sometimes even minutes of embracing joy.

But HE answered the prayers of my heart and reminded me that my struggle was not unseen by my God.

He gave me eyes to see and I finally saw HIM above everything else.

I saw that,

HE KEPT showing up.
For every victory that was overcast by another trial, ANOTHER VICTORY WOULD COME.
HE never stopped bringing joy.
HE never stopped providing.
He never stopped healing.
He never withheld recovery.
We were never forsaken.

The “High highs” are proof that God keeps showing up. As much as pain keeps coming, so does HE. He even tells us this in John 16:33, “In this world you will have pain, fear not- I have overcome the world.” We are reminded of this in the book of Revelation. As believers in Christ, we KNOW how this story ends. And it’s not on a low.

The magic of bubbles and sunsets and an incredible big sister who is always ready to blow the bubbles.

For the people of Israel, the birth of Jesus came after a record of lows that beats any complaint I have ever had or heard of. 400 years between the last prophet and Jesus’ birth. Often referred to as the “Silent years” – the people of Israel experienced great loss, suffering and displacement. I think the song “O Come, O come, Emmanuel”, A Christian hymn for Advent and Christmas explains it so well:

“O come, O come Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.”

Emmanuel means “God is with us.”

A mourning Israel in captivity struggled to remain steadfast in their faith.
Prayers were lifted in desperation for the Lord to save His people. Yet in some scripture and in this hymn, great sorrow is expressed and yet followed by words like “Rejoice!”
The people of Israel did not pretend when they spoke to their God. They trusted HIM with their true feelings, but continued to show him Honor and Praise and continued to offer their Faith believing that HIS promises are true. Promises they clung to like in Isaiah 9:6 , “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Promises confirmed and prayers answered in in Luke 2:11 such as,

“Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

Every time the story of the birth of Jesus is told, it holds a sense of mystery, wonder, peace and hope. The story involves people ranging from shepherds to Kings, from carpenters to Wise Men, from Babies to Angels. It is a story for every person. And I believe the magic of Christmas is the Christ child.

I saw a quote the other day that truly stuck with me and encouraged me to embrace the season of Advent. It said, “It has never been a mother’s job to make childhood so magical that your children don’t see their great need for Jesus too. Our children do not need a perfect holiday; they need a perfect Savior. Every unmet expectation, every holiday frustration, every tear or argument is a chance to show our children the reason we needed our hearts to be rescued.” Katie Blackburn, Risen Motherhood.

I confess, I have always celebrated the magic of Christmas in all of its ways. I am honestly not sure when I will tell my kids the truth about Santa or their Elf on the Shelf. I adore Christmas movies, and stories, and twinkling lights. But I also adore sharing with my children the idea that maybe Santa brings Gifts to everyone around the world to invite them into the celebration that is the birth of Jesus, the birth of the Savior, who is for ALL peoples.

How the Elves were found on December 22, 2021- morning after all 3 of our kids went down with the stomach bug.

In Ecclesiastes it says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

I think that the reason every individual and people as a whole can feel the dichotomy of joy and grief, and can experience these emotions magnified during Christmas, is because God set eternity in the hearts of men. He left a mark in all of us. A mark that reminds us that there is something more than this world can offer. A mark that provides us with a sense of mystery and wonder when contemplating the birth of Christ. A mark that deep down tells us that we are HIS creation. And as our Creator, HE blessed us with the ability to be cognizant of Him and to feel drawn to the hope of His existence, His Sovereignty, and His Savior.

Advent, the season leading up to Christmas is a season of joyful anticipation. Advent in Latin means “Coming,” referring to the coming of our Savior. I can imagine the birth of Jesus, the arrival of our Savior was a time of joy unimaginable. But that joy came from a place of answered prayer, after great suffering and years and years of feeling abandoned. The joy and grief go hand in hand. Grief amplifies Joy, and Joy gives hope in the ability to endure grief once more, if it should come.

A common Advent scripture, Lamentations 3:22-24 says, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.”

I pray this verse could be your anthem in times of grief and your song in times of Joy. And I pray you experience the wonder, mystery and hope that is Christmas, the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ, who WILL come again, and make all things new.

Merry Christmas, Blessings, and Happy New Year!

Phone calls & field trips.

“Hello?”

“Hi Mrs. Braucher this is the school nurse, Garrett is complaining of a stomach ache, can you come pick him up?”

For weeks, this exact phone dialogue was on repeat. After the first couple phone calls, as any “good mama” would, I picked him up and kept my eye on him throughout the afternoon. It’s amazing how fast kids can recover from a stomach ache once they’re home watching TV and requesting snacks, am I right?

But as any “smart mama” would (this is where I would insert the sarcastic laughing emoji) I could see through the facade. As consistent as the “stomach aches” became, the one consistent truth that remained- Garrett wanted out.

School has never been easy. In fact, if I could homeschool him (and I have tried twice now) I would. Ever since Pre-K, while Garrett was physically in school, we would receive a phone call for one reason or another, and when we picked him up- we would receive the dreaded “report.” Failure to stay in his seat, failure to follow directions, failure to keep his hands to himself, failure to wait his turn, speaks out of turn and the list goes on and on. Most littles one struggle with these same issues when they are learning to attend school. I would tell myself and others would tell me as well, “He’s just a boy being a boy, “He’ll grow out of it.”

When the same issues stick around grade after grade, and the reports evolve, any “smart mom” would begin to wonder, right? The reports got a bit more interesting though…

“Mrs. Braucher, Garrett cut his classmates hair.”

“Mrs. Braucher, Garrett peed in the grass during recess.”

“Mrs. Braucher, Garrett won’t stop kissing the girls.”

“Mrs. Braucher, does Garrett have a lunch account? He continues to get school lunches and claims they can ‘put it on his tab.'”

And over the years the phone calls started to get more impressive….

“Mrs. Braucher, Garrett has a lady bug stuck in his ear.”

“Mrs. Braucher, Garrett says that he was stung by a bee, a wasp, and a hornet simultaneously.”

This sweet boy of ours makes me laugh and smile greater than I ever could have imagined, yet at the same time makes me want to shout his name like the names Alvin the Chipmunk and Dennis the Menace have been shouted before.

There was one phone call in particular though that required some intervention. The day the school nurse called and said, “Mrs. Braucher, Garrett said that he has a dairy allergy and that he had chocolate milk for lunch and he needs to see a doctor immediately.”

This kid.

If you have a child like Garrett, a witty, clever, brilliant child that can manipulate like the best of them, never let them know things you are not certain of yourself. They may just use it as ammunition.

We had speculated a possible gluten and dairy sensitivity over the years. But we didn’t know for certain. In fact, we had removed dairy from my diet as a nursing mother, and gluten from his diet twice already. I also was not a stranger to the notion that these “food allergies” can be deemed the culprit cause of ADHD, Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder and the like. But we were also in the midst of discerning if Garrett was battling an anxiety disorder along with his ADHD. He was already taking ADHD medicine and I hesitated to place him on a second medicine, so navigating the root cause of these “stomach aches” as potentially a food allergy was the next step.

Unfortunately, the pediatrician required bloodwork in order to confirm this theory. For me personally, I will consider everything, and will pray and discern what I feel the Lord is leading me to do for my children. Somewhat easy for me to say, however getting THE CHILD in question [with anxiety] to get bloodwork done is a whole other basket.

See, for Garrett, over the past couple of years we discovered it is necessary to make “field trips” to certain doctor’s appointments. This is our best chance at success. And success in this case equals “going through with” the appointment and not say, exiting the building and running down the street. Which HAS happened. Thus, our hope is by the 2nd visit, he will go through with the appointment. So we had our “field trip” for the blood work and surprisingly it went well!

So, when Garrett told the nurse that he ingested dairy and it was time to see the doctor, I decided to capitalize on his request and took him straight from school to the lab. Always better when he thinks it’s HIS idea.

I wish I could say our “field trip” prepared us for victory. But ultimately, what happened during the bloodwork was not a complete surprise. I think deep down I knew it would happen, but I was so hopeful. Maybe that’s why it hurt so much when it happened the way it did. Garrett was able to get through the check-in process, the waiting room, and sitting in the lab chair. They even were able to demonstrate tying the band around his arm to locate a vein. Once the blood work process began, that’s when the fight kicked in. He screamed, lashed out, head-butt and bit. He did anything to anyone out of defense.

I know that these reactions are not isolated to a child with special needs. Getting a shot or blood work can be scary and painful for any child, and even adult! But I think the difference is, when it was over, no hug or embrace, no sticker, lolly-pop or words of encouragement was going to help him recover. The anxiety, the pain, the adrenaline and the inability to self-regulate took over and he continued to physically and verbally take it out on me. I knew his fear and anxiety had turned to anger, and I was the scapegoat. I could see that his nurses were in shock (even though I gave them forewarning) and one of them even began to yell at him. I could see that they wanted to teach him a lesson and protect me. And I appreciated their concern. trust me, I do not condone this behavior. But knowing what I know about him and the needs that he has, this was all so much more than a boy being disrespectful. And this was not the first time I was the recipient of this verbal backlash. Hence, why we take these “field trips” or “practice runs.” But regardless, no level of prior experience, or special needs education and comprehension can remove the pain I felt. It took everything I had to get both of us out of that building.

Once we made it outside, he refused to get into the car and hid behind a column for about 10 minutes. I let him while I just cried. As hurt as I was, I could only imagine all of the emotions he was battling. I could see it on his face. Fear, anger, shame, confusion. FIGHT AND FLIGHT at it’s finest. When we got into the car, we both cried for a solid 15 minutes. It was one of the first times that I experienced his geniuine remorse. Even though, about an hour later he was fine. I saw remorse nonetheless. Something that most of the time, he had lacked and brought us concern. He even asked me if he could keep the bandage on his arm and wear it at school to show his classmates of his bravery.

Part of me wanted him to do so. He needed to be able to celebrate victories if he was going to be able to do it again! But I kept battling the question, was it really a victory? He seemed to feel so. But I wasn’t fine. I was grieving.

I still am.

In fact, I am not just grieving the struggle and heartache that can come with some of these experiences of being a parent of a child with special needs. I am battling shame and loneliness as well.

See, I actually wrote everything that you have just read in this blog post, over 3 months ago.

This particular doctor’s visit happened in June of 2021.

Today is October 4, 2021.

I tried to sit down several times in the past few months in an attempt to finish this blog.

Then I settled on the idea of writing something unrelated to special needs because I have felt so broken and messy in this part of my life. I doubted that I had the wisdom or right to write on such a topic.

Navigating the topic or the life with a “special needs child” or a child with “extra needs” or a child with “more” can feel so overwhelming. I have one son with an obvious need. He now has 2 cochlear implants and is progressing amazingly in his therapy and at his special school for children with hearing loss. I am so grateful for all the growth and celebration we have experienced this past year with and for Jackson.

But my sweet Garrett. My incredibly bright, witty, charismatic, Garrett has struggles that are not as visible and can often be mistaken for bad behaviors and bad parenting. We have have watched him grow from this adorable curly haired 4 year old boy with the greatest “Garrett-ism’s” and no fear/no filter personality, to a now 8 year old boy with the same quirks, but the fearlessness has more clearly presented itself as a struggle with impulsivity, and the “no filter” has brought on concerns of autism spectrum disorder.

We have been through so many evaluations, received a new diagnosis every year, have trial and error-ed our way through prescription medicines and dietary changes. We have struggled with shame, frustration, failure, and loneliness in this arena. And when I say we, I mean all of us. Not just us parents, but his siblings, and he himself have struggled with the impact that a social/mental/learning disorder can have on all facets of life.

It is so easy to misunderstood and it can be quite isolating when all most people see is the ” behaviors” that your child exhibits without the full understanding of where they come from. It can feel hurtful when instead of validation, as a parent you are offered correction after correction with a pinch of judgement and a splash of failure. And so for me- It can also be tempting to think- “I’ll wait until we get through this season, or until we have the next evaluation, or until we make headway in therapy or until I have it all figured out before I even consider that I have anything worth sharing with the world.”

If I continue to “wait until”, I will be waiting forever.

So today I will write.

Not for the mere purpose of “airing my dirty laundry” or to drop a “Dear Diary, I had the worst day ever” type of post into the google-sphere. But because I feel compelled to share about my journey with anxiety and with parenting children with extra needs. Back in June, I was not finished processing my experience and emotions from that particular doctor’s visit. I even struggled with this nagging voice in my ear that was telling me I have no right or authority to share on the topic of parenting children with special needs. A condemning voice whispering that I have no right at all to share about life’s trials because “it could always be worse.” Maybe that voice was the enemy, intending to prevent me from being transparent with others. Because sometimes the greatest encouragement can be simply reading someone elses’ words and connecting with them, realizing you are not alone. But the enemy wants us to feel alone. He wants us to always doubt God’s presence or goodness. So he capitalizes on our struggles and whispers lies to keep us held down by the weight of our pain.

I also hesitated to share my experience because I respect the fact that I am sharing about a real person, who one day will be an adult himself. One day in the future, if he reads these stories, I want him to ultimately see how “human” I am, how very much I love him and will never stop, and how very big our God is.

So today, in the middle of the mess, in the thick of the dysfunction, in the heat of the troubles-I am going to write to remember.

I am writing to remember that life has been messy and hard, but never once has God been absent. I want to infuse it in my brain. I want my children to know it. I want other moms to believe it and to take inventory on their past experiences with a new set of glasses. Not the rose-colored ones, but not the tinted ones either.

When I draw near to Christ, I have eyes to see and ears to hear. I am able to look back and see how he has prepared me for such a time as this.

I look back on the day that we received the news that Jackson has Usher’s Syndrome. I reflect on the various diagnoses that Garrett has collected over the years. And I continue to process the recent news that all of his challenges explain how he too, like so many amazing children before him, hold a special place on the Autism Spectrum. I remember all of the feelings. I still experience them now. Sadness, pain, worry, confusion, anxiety, guilt, grief. Some days can be so heavy with life’s challenges that it feels like you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other to keep going. It can feel like if you stop moving, the waves will overcome you.

But I have committed with my heart to remember that with Jesus, they won’t. With Jesus, the waves may keep coming, but HE is still greater than the waves.

With Jesus, I continue to be guided towards relationship with HIM and to prioritize self-care. You see, God chose me to be the mama for these kids. I may have to remind myself every day, but He did. And he did not choose me without promising to equip me. By the power of His word and the power of the Holy Spirit guiding me into specific friendships, specific doctors and therapists, special grants and scholarships, I continue to keep going.

He will never leave me or forsake me. This is true for Garrett, Jackson, Gracelyn and Adam.

This is true for all of God’s children.

This is true for you mama.

You are not alone. You were chosen to be his mom or her mom.

God WILL carry you and strengthen you, and be the parent when you are bone-dry.

His promises are forever.

“For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13-14

I am FOR you.

We are FOR each other.

I still remember the first time I heard this, the first time I tangibly felt and received this message of hope and truth. It was during a moment when my husband and I were discussing our kids. One of those tense moments, when both parents are sharing their concerns, and stresses and desperately searching for validation from one another. Sometimes this kind of sharing can come off sort of defensive, as if you are trying to make certain your spouse knows that you have nothing left.

When I reflect on this moment we had, one of countless many, it was not that we were competing against one another to win a battle over who was more burnt out, or who had been working harder. Rather, we were both simply crying out to one another, seeking connection and validation. My husband was wise enough to discern what needed to be said next.

He placed his hands on my shoulders and with a bit of firm pressure he said, “I am for you. We are FOR each other.” I knew in that moment he was offering affirmation. He affirmed that he could see how hard I was going, and he connected that he knew exactly how I felt. I could sense his eyes saying, “We are both weary, but let’s remember and let’s promise that we are FOR EACH OTHER.”

12 years ago.

This phrase has been spoken many times since that first time. And every time it speaks life and creates connection. I can imagine like most, our family’s life and all that it entails often looks like a tangled mess of electrical cords that results from two many devices plugging into to the same power source, overlapping, and overwhelming one another. On a daily basis we are juggling the needs of our 3 children and our own. Most of our discussions end up being completed via email and text message because the noise level in our house is close to impossible to overcome. Decisions need to be made daily on who is taking which child to speech therapy, to occupational therapy, to school, to gymnastics, or to the doctor. Then debriefs need to be held, on what strategies need to be implemented at home after said appointments; to help our boys build on what they are learning and generalize it to the home and other contexts.

Most weeks, there is urgent need to discuss a school or social situation that went awry and how we can better support our boys to be more successful the next time. I fully believe that every child regardless of ability is growing and learning how to participate in this world at their own levels and in their own ways. However, in our experience, when there is a disability involved, navigating raising a child can become confusing and complex. Many disabilities are not isolated, impacting only the one “said” area of development. Whatever it is, whatever form it takes, the disability or disorder impacts all of their senses. How they take in and process the environment around them, and how they interact with others socially is greatly challenged. For a parent of a child with special needs, impairments in areas such as executive functioning, self-control and emotional-regulation caused by a Syndrome or Disorder can result in social interactions that make you hold your breath, never knowing how it will turn out.

Just a normal day with these 2 goof-balls.

But like most parents, regardless if the child is neuro-typical or neuro-diverse, your hope is to protect them from heartache, rejection and consequence. Your goal is to provide them the tools they need to recognize their weaknesses and work to overcome them on their own. We don’t want our children to live in a bubble, never experiencing the challenge of working through mistakes and overcoming adversities. But when we know that there are elements of their mental and physical wiring that are limited, we have to be “extra” present and involved. We have to serve like training wheels on a bicycle. We have to be that buffer until they gain the ability and confidence to do what “most” people can without assistance or intervention.

Parenting a child with “extra” needs is often an all-encompassing job. The management and discussion of their needs can be overwhelming. The temptation to beat yourself up for not ALWAYS parenting with “therapy” skills is constant. It is easy to condemn yourself for getting irritated or impatient, momentarily forgetting that their disability is constant. And it takes ongoing awareness to control the amount of time spent sharing these thoughts, battles, schedules and strategies with your spouse.

It takes conscious thought and awareness to recognize when my neuro-diverse childs’ needs have become a monopoly and my neuro-typical childs’ needs are being passed over. Parenting is a juggling act, no matter how many children you have, and regardless of abilities or needs. All any parent hopes for at the end of the day is that they loved their child well and that they themself can have a moment to breathe.

Our incredible 9-year old daughter.

I am so grateful for the ways that my husband and I work together as partners and as teammates to keep our family boat afloat and moving forward. But if we all talk about is logistics, it becomes easy to forget about each other. It becomes easy to stop “seeing” one another. And for the health of our marriage, it is imperative to balance what we say to one another, and to never stop “seeing” each other.

I will never forget something I learned during a therapy session with my counselor years back. I had just been officially diagnosed with anxiety and started taking medicine. We were discussing how anxiety can look different in each person. He offered me a visual that has always stuck with me. For me, anxiety is like an “object” hovering over my face. The stress from whatever the trigger was has become so all encompassing that I can barely see what’s in front of me. I can hear all the voices, and sounds but cannot differentiate enough to attend to who or what is talking. I may have a little peripheral vision, but I have become clouded and unable to “see” the person in front of me. I can only feel that something is not OK and my flesh wants to “fight or flight.”

I have learned to identify and sense the tension in my body and the tightness in my chest. I have learned to recognize my feelings and to validate them, yet also my ability to “take control.” I can imagine as if I am grabbing the “mass” (aka-anxiety) from over my face, removing it and placing it down on the seat next to me. I am then free to truly see the person in front of me with clarity. I can see others for who they are and not see them through anxiety’s threatening filter. Once anxiety has been safely placed to the side, I am more abIe to see and hear my husband, or my child, or whoever it may be, sharing their weary heart. I can better identify that the anxiety is a side effect of pain, hidden somewhere, trying to be eased. Practicing this exercise has helped to avoid the all too common tendency for people to unconsciously “bleed” on one another. We are all susceptible to pain. We are all hurting from something. We all want the pain to subside and have our own ideas of how to absolve it. When we stop seeing the humanity in one another, others, especially those with differing opinions, challenging behaviors and attitudes simply become an unconscious threat to our own ability to keep the peace, and avoid pain.

Imagine if we all could promise to never stop seeing the humanity in one another. To never let fear rob us of clarity. Imagine if we as people could truly believe that we are all “FOR each other.”

Be still, my heart.

My prayer and hope is that deep down this is true. That all people, at the base of their soul have a heart for others. That regardless of ethnicity, gender, political party, vaccination status or anything else that divides, we all want to be loved and offer love. But because of pain and fear, we just forget how.

So in my own small way, I am trying to pass on a love that is unconditional within my family. Modeled after the love of Jesus, who while crucified on a cross, sentenced there by an angry mob said, “Father, forgive them, For they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

I still can’t imagine what it was like to offer that kind of grace and mercy. But I believe that He was able to do so because HE trusted in the Father. He trusted his life into the hands of God and trusted in His plan, even though He had to face such great suffering and death. Hebrews 12:2 reminds us that, “For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” The following verse says, “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

When I meditate on the life and death of Christ, I am compelled to cling to Hebrews 12:1-2, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders, and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” And I store in my heart the truth of Romans 8:31, that “If God is for us, who can be against us?” I am in awe that we have a God whose love is unconditional and who is FOR us. I am so grateful that my husband started this phrase for our family. And I am blessed to be able to extend the same love and grace to my children.

On one particular day, I was able to offer this love to my son. I was waiting for him as he was getting off the school bus. As he descended the steps, another student immediately followed after him, racing to get to me first. This child wanted to make sure I knew that my son had teased him. On this particular day, I had a sense that the other child was not completely innocent. And if I’m honest, I was getting fatigued by this after school routine repeating itself day after day. I briefly acknowledged the other child’s complaint and began walking my son home.

I remember looking at my son while we were walking, and I could tell he was getting himself ready for another “talk.” This time, I looked at him and I said, “I need you to know, I am on your side buddy.”

He looked surprised and even a little confused. And then he said, “No, you’re not,” and he hung his head.

At that point, I stopped walking and placed my hands on his shoulders and told him, “Whether you made a mistake or not, I am for you. I am on your side. Whether I need to teach you what you did wrong, whether there is a consequence, or whether the other kid started it, YOU are MY son. I am here for YOU. I am FOR you.”

And that was all we said that day.

Getting out of my own way: Part 2

The days following the decision to no longer pursue a business with Young Living passed by with plenty of distractions. COVID for one. Yup, I had it. And if there is anything you do not want to do when you have the coronavirus, it’s post on social media. I imagined that people wouldn’t even want to click on a post if I had shared one for fear of infection….I mean-isn’t that what the news said anyway? Just kidding.

But once that month of life was over, and we had the freedom to leave our home, it was time for Jackson’s second cochlear implant surgery! What timing, right? Regardless of the stress of it all, we were very excited for Jackson to receive his next implant and all the growth that was to come. During this time, I shared a lot about his surgery, his healing and the day when they turned the implant on!

But inside I was heavy hearted. COVID quarantine isolated me in more ways than one. March and April were trying months for our family. Our middle son was struggling. We had been treating his ADHD with medicine and social skills therapy, yet school was becoming a nightmare. The stress he was experiencing in life was creating stomach aches, frequent calls to come home from school, and requests to sleep with me every night. The pediatrician was concerned about Celiac and the Specialist was concerned about Anxiety. We were just worried in general.

Sometimes it feels as if the waves never stop crashing. One minute you get wrecked from a wave, finally begin to come up for air and catch your breath, and the next wave swallows you up.

My mind was consumed with Jackson’s healing, Garrett’s struggles, as well as preparing for his upcoming 504 meeting with his public school. I have learned that it is not uncommon for parents to get consumed with the needs of their child. I have also learned that this is not always OK. I know that life has seasons, ebbs and flows and periods of time where our focus shifts from one area to another. But if I was going to be of any worth for my children, I needed to take care of myself as well.

Early into 2021 I knew that I needed to commit to taking better care of my health. Wine and ice cream had become close friends that needed the boot. Nothing like the anniversary of a pandemic to reflect on what types of habits you have developed. In fact, there are several times throughout a year that offer the potential for a fresh start. The New year is an obvious one, the start to a new school year another, the beginning of a new job, moving to a new town, or a new home, the end of an era, the beginning of one….. you get the picture.

When we moved from New York, out of my parents house and back into our old home in Florida, I took this as an opportunity to start developing some new patterns and routines. I committed to a pelvic floor therapy program called MUTU and experienced great healing, mobility and strength that I had been lacking for years postpartum.

(Read here to learn more about MUTU…http://heatherbraucher.com/2021/01/15/the-core/)

At the start of 2021 I really want to to commit to do the Whole 30 program, but I had failed that before and felt so overwhelmed by the program again that I decided not to go through with it. Instead I committed to exercise more regularly and track my macros. Simple, yet effective. For a short time. As I shared in the beginning, that’s when life came barreling back in trying to convince me to give up on any self care routine. Covid, quarantine, cochlear implant surgery, children’s school troubles, anxiety, celiac…… the list goes on and on.

So here I was, realizing that my plans had gotten a bit derailed, but I didn’t want to give up. I had repeatedly seen posts on social media about a program called the Faster Way to Fat Loss. I remembered a close friend of mine had done the program so I decided to reach out to her about it. She shared the benefits she had been experiencing from participating in the program and connected me to her coach.

I did some more research on my own and felt extremely drawn to the program layout. It wasn’t JUST workout routines, or JUST meal plans, it was all of it! For $199 I would receive a coach, an accountability group, and a 6 week experience where I would learn about whole food nutrition, intermittent fasting, carb cycling as well as receive incredible daily workouts all provided via app and Facebook. That was a whole lot of ALL that I was looking for, in ONE place.

I shared with my husband that I had been following this program- The Faster Way to Fat Loss (FWTFL), it’s CEO Amanda Tress and other friends doing the program all on social media and I really felt pulled to give it a try.

Then I realized, it was happening again! Social media was making a play in my life. The kind of play you are supposed to avoid, right? I was buying into something that was being sold on social media. AHHHHHHH!!!! Run!!!!!

Well friends, I am SO glad that I bought into this one. In my 6 week experience with the Faster Way to Fat Loss, I learned SO much about whole food nutrition, and how to transform the way I eat and the best part- I learned it in a non-threatening, non-budget crushing, slow and progressive way! I began tracking my macros and understanding the important balance of these nutrients. The guidance from the program and my coach exposed some of the myths I had so readily believed regarding the nutrition content of my regular diet. The accountability was a game changer. There is nothing like having to track and report your food/macros to your coach and other fellow program members to keep you honest! And the workouts!!!! Oh my goodness the workouts. I am in love with the workouts. The trainers are excellent, the routines and strategies are brilliant and the support presented in each workout via low impact options, modifications, and variety of modalities (tubing, dumbbells, home, gym) sets each person up for success.

This last part was so significant for me. My brain wants to train like I did when I played college field hockey, but for so long I have felt trapped in this rehab, physical therapy, limited-ability mindset and structure. So long in fact, that it has been years since I have experienced progress. Yes, I have prevented relapse and injury with this method over the years, but after my pelvic floor therapy program- I really felt like my body was ready for more. Over the years I developed a motto of “Success is not in the outcome, it is in the attempt.” This way of thinking has given me the freedom to try and fail, to celebrate small wins and not give up when things do not turn out the way that I had hoped.

(To hear more about my motto and fitness story, read here) http://heatherbraucher.com/2020/07/07/the-mirage-of-arriving/

So imagine my joy when I learned that one of the mottos of this program is Progress not Perfection. Ever since I joined the FWTFL program, I have felt healthier, stronger and more motivated to set goals. I have lost 2 inches and am beginning to see body composition changes! It feels as if a little of my former self is being unearthed. I am remembering what it was like when I was a trainer, working with adults and athletes, helping them work to reach their goals. A passion that once was has reignited. An ability that I thought I would never have again, has returned.

Because of my experience in this program and the encouragement of others, I have decided to become a Coach for the FWTFL program. I am currently studying to pass my certification exam and hope to be able to offer and coach my first week community round in August. This job opportunity offers the ability to bring in an income, which I am praying turns out to be fruitful for our family and allows us the ability to support others in ministry as we have been supported by others in ministry all these years. But this job opportunity feels like it will offer so much more.

Click here to learn more about the Faster Way to Fat Loss program https://www.fasterwaycoach.com/community#HeatherBraucher

Click here to Join my August round! https://forms.gle/Rfqty8k5GcLiQgzh7

There are countless moments in life that I find myself asking the Lord if everything will truly end up ok. I pray for deliverance, wisdom, answers, patience and trust. It is easy to remember all the hard stuff. My brain doesn’t need help with that. But it takes mental training to recall all of the good stuff. This is some of the good stuff.

The Lord has brought me to and through many places, callings, challenges, and hopes. I am grateful for this one, and can’t wait to see what happens.

Isaiah 61.

Getting out of my own way.

How many times have you been annoyed by a recent fad? Or tired of seeing everyone jump on the bandwagon; confident that the latest trend will be short lived, until the next latest and greatest gains the attention of the masses? Have you ever found yourself feeling a little proud for not “buying in” yet at the same time, wondering how SO MANY people are all sharing positive experiences about the same thing?

It’s tricky. As people, we innately share what we love. We naturally share with others what has worked for us! Sometimes our thoughts, opinions and experiences are requested. A lot of the time however, it is unsolicited. Before social media, advice and recommendations were more sought after, and then delivered by others we know and trust, or books, internet searches and professionals etc…

In the age of social media, anyone and everyone can share their two cents. We scroll through our feeds in an effort to connect with others, and often instead we read about the latest news (unsure if it is factual), the latest trend (unsure how long it will last) and the latest business opportunity (unsure if it is worthy to be trusted.)

This is not news to anyone. We all know this is what we will be exposed to on social media. There is a lot of garbage content, a lot of frustrating posts and a lot of opportunity for confrontation. But that’s not just social media. That’s life. Content, be it good or bad, fruitful or damaging, positive or negative, true or false is everywhere.

So how do we filter all the content? And how we manage the content that we contribute? Because let’s be honest, none of us our innocent when it comes to sharing content. If you are on social media, at some point in time, I’d wager that you shared your opinion, your like, your best selfie or latest cute kid pic. And why do we do this? I still believe it has to do with connection.

As humans we were created for connection, for relationships. When we post, share, like, comment- we experience something. It could be joy, or laughter, validation or impact, justice or freedom.

Before we moved overseas, I was not on social media as much as I am now. Instead, I used to journal. Writing down my thoughts, questions, prayers, and experiences was like therapy. Yet, in the thick of young motherhood, I stopped journalling. Even though I had all these experiences, all these feelings, all this content that I wanted to document, process and share, I just didn’t have the same freedom of time. I think that is when I began getting more involved with social media. Being either pregnant or breastfeeding over the course of 7 years provides less time to physically write, but a lot of time to scroll.

Mamas, you feel me?

Social media made a way for connection in those endless nursing sessions, or sleepless nights. I enjoyed reading positive content and feeling connected with others, but I wanted to be sense of encouragement for others too. So when I experienced freedom and encouragement from a book, or scripture verse or sermon, I felt compelled to share it. When I experienced a sleep training victory, or a moment of pure joy with the kids- sharing about it made it eternal and potentially valuable for someone else. And when I began experiencing such an incredibly positive impact with the use of Young Living Essential Oils, I wanted others to experience the same positive impact in their lives!

(To read more about the impact of essential oils, click on the photo below or link here) http://heatherbraucher.com/2020/06/03/mommy-ing-with-anxiety-and-oils/

When we moved overseas, social media proved helpful for maintaining connection but the time zone difference made it a bit more challenging. So I started writing a blog and sharing it on social media because it was a great way for me to capture our experiences as a family overseas as well as an efficient way to give more than one person an update on how we were doing at the same time. The connection I began to experience was life breathing! Being so far from everyone I knew and loved, not knowing many people at all, including the local language as well as living in another time zone, created a thirst in me for connection.

(Check out that first blog by clicking on the photo below or the link here!) http://heatherbraucher.com/2019/04/12/the-journey-begins/

When we moved back to the states, our life was in such an unpredictable state. And the pandemic only added to that. For us, and I believe for many, social media enabled connection during a time when we people were literally forced to be physically distant. I began sharing more and more about essential oils and started a business with Young Living. And I loved it!

BUT.

I realized, I had become THAT person. The type that was sharing on social media about a recent fad that I had bought into, that everyone was annoyed by. I was the one offering unsolicited advice, making cheesy videos, memes and …….(gasp)…….working for an MLM…….(gulp)…….selling something.

AND even worse……… I LOVED IT.

Let me clarify. I loved sharing with others what was life breathing for me, in an effort to bring life to others. I had hoped that I would become one of those social media unicorns with a solid team of others sharing the business, changing lives, and helping to support my family financially.

From a business perspective, it did not take off as I had hoped. But I loved every single minute of running a Young Living business. I loved making cheesy videos, and memes and making creative content to share. I loved exploring the social media platforms and all of the fun, creative tools you could use to share your message or your content. I loved being a part of something, a community of other like-minded individuals who supported one another and encouraged each other to continue working to make a positive impact on the world around us. In a way, running a virtual Young Living Business during a pandemic, 3 months after moving back to the states, in a completely uncertain season of life was such a blessing. I am so glad that I got out of my own way, and gave it a try, despite the stigma that can come with running a business such as this.

(To see more cheesy photos or join my YL group on FB, click the photo below.)

In March, 2 years after I started, I made the decision to stop pursuing Young Living as a business. I love essential oils, and will continue to share and connect anyone with these incredible products, but I was discerning in prayer that this season was coming to an end. I did not know what would be next and I did battle discouragement, and a sense of sadness because I really did enjoy it. As a mama of 3 young kids, 2 with “extra” needs, this was my outlet. This was the thing that was just mine. This was the way that I could potentially bring in an income and help support my family, and also help others. I grieved that it was ending. I worried. The dynamics of our family and the needs of our children require me to be at home. The medical expenses that acquire from caring for two children with “extra” or “special” needs is significant. But I could feel the Lord pressing upon my heart, “Trust me.”

(To read more about life as a parent of special needs children, click the photo below or the link here.) http://heatherbraucher.com/2020/05/13/mothers-day/

I anticipated a long season of wait. A long season of unknown. But sometimes the Lord works fast. Especially when we are listening. What HE had in store for me next, I NEVER would have guessed.

Find out what in my next blog!

Fatigue doesn’t care, but I do.

The room was pitch black, minus the dull glow from the star stickers on the ceiling above Garrett’s bed. The sound of pouring rain coming from the white noise app on the ipad was at max volume, but it still couldn’t drown out the tapping and clicking noises that each child was creating as they waited for sleep to wash over them. Every “tap” and “click” felt like nails on a chalkboard as my stomach tensed at their sound, over and over again. At this point, my mind and body were convinced that one more request, excuse or interruption to the bedtime efforts meant this day would never end.

This wasn’t a new experience. In fact, it was typical. So in all reality my brain knew that the boys would inevitably fall asleep and the day too would come to its end. But fatigue- be it emotional, physical or mental, did not care what my brain “should” know to be true. Fatigue doesn’t care how much I actually love these kiddos and cherish the cuddles. Fatigue pays no mind to the fact that once they fall asleep, my heart will leap a little as I peek at their peaceful faces. No. Fatigue only wants to hijack the brain with feelings of desperation.

So as I stare at the stars on the ceiling, and try to remain perfectly still in hopes that Jackson will forget I am there and fall asleep, my fatigue-hijacked mind keeps anticipating the glass of wine and TV show that lies ahead. Or alternatively (depending on the type of day I had) my body aches for the incredible feeling of a shower and crawling under the covers of my own bed that feels like the finish line I have been racing to cross for decades.

Then, it happens. Stillness and slow breathing. They are asleep! I made it! After what felt like an eternity, I am finally alone and can rest. No more requests, whining, begging, arguing, serving, running, redirecting, cleaning, mediating and just pain loudness. I have a couple solid hours to myself, if I can keep my eyes open. But then, upon finally making it to the shower, instead of basking in my solitude, my brain immediately reflects and condemns. I begin to ask myself questions like, “Did bedtime really take over an hour? Why does it take them so long to fall asleep? Why do I have to be there? Will they ever grow out of this? Was I even nice to be around? Why am I so angry? Why can’t I just be patient, and enduring?” And I pray, “Lord, help them not remember me like this, exhausted, irritable and quick-tempered.”

I remember the first couple years of motherhood, a veteran mom told me, “You are going to make mistakes as a parent, it is impossible not to. But thank God we can ask for HIS mercy to wash our mistakes away and HIS grace to fill in the gap.” She encouraged me not to sit in self-condemnation, but instead bring it all to the Lord. So every night, sometimes every day, every hour, every moment, I bring it all to the Lord. Because I am frustrated. I am exhausted. I am weary. I am tired of making the same mistakes, I am tired of how hard it is. I want to be stronger, more patient, more disciplined now. Because every moment that I am not, is another opportunity to blame myself for the misbehaviors of my children. Because that’s what I am tempted to do, all day long. Blame myself.

In the early years, it was less of my own and more of others playing the blaming and shaming game. The all too often, ever present answer to a mama’s cry for help was, “Oh, you JUST need to sleep train….you JUST need to breastfeed… you need to bottle feed so someone else can feed them…you need to expect immediate obedience with a happy heart on the first try… you need to spank… you need to stop letting them control you…you need to get rid of gluten and dairy… you need to get rid of TV and devices…YOU need to… you NEED to… you need TO…. and the list goes on and on.

I’m not sure if the “mom wars” are still as active now, if mama’s have become more supportive of each other’s varying styles, or if I have gotten better at tuning them out, but my battle these days are more of my own condemnation than the condemnation of others. For so many years, I tried to avoid making mistakes. I wouldn’t make decisions, or actions without doing my research to ensure that the success rate was high. I couldn’t offer myself the grace necessary to make a mistake and learn from it. It was too costly, so I had to make sure to get it right the first time.

That is, until a series of life-altering events happened that showed me just how little control I have. In Fall 2012, our firstborn ate her first peanut butter and jelly sandwich the day after her first birthday only to discover she had a life threatening peanut allergy. In Fall 2016 at age 33, I found out that all these years I had an undiagnosed anxiety disorder. And again in 2018 when our youngest son was 3, we learned that he had bilateral sensorineural hearing loss caused by a genetic syndrome called Usher’s Syndrome. And again, in 2019 at the age of 6 when we learned that our middle son had significant ADHD and Anxiety that required medication. Those are a lot of things to find out down the road. A lot of information received later than I would have liked. When you do not have all the information necessary to make all the right choices, you are given a lot of opportunity to make mistakes and get it wrong.

Let’s be honest, in life do we ever have all of the necessary information to make all the right choices? No. But we can do our best with what we have and never stop learning. We can be humble and offer ourselves the grace to face our mistakes so that we can grow. And if as an adult- I am still learning to do this, how much more can I offer this to my children who have much less years of mistakes to learn from.

Here I am, 38 and still making some of the same mistakes. Still struggling not to condemn myself.

Our middle son has been facing many struggles as a result of his disorders. The decision of whether or not to add anxiety medicine in addition to his ADHD medicine was a difficult decision to make. We had all of the necessary data to suggest that this was the next best move.

But I couldn’t get past myself.

And all the voices and all of the questions that have raced through my head before, came flooding back.

“Are you really going to put him on another medicine? He’s only 7.” … “Why don’t you strip his diet of all gluten and dairy?”… “Maybe he’s just a boy being a boy and you are not disciplining him enough?” … “Maybe you need to increase your anxiety medicine before you put him on another one.”… “Why can’t you just homeschool him?”… “Maybe all of his behaviors and struggles are because you are too weak.” …

So many voices. My own, and others.

Sometimes it feels as if the voices can consume me. Very similar to the actual noise in our household. It can be so loud, so overwhelming. When you have a 5- year old who is hard-of-hearing and still learning how to moderate his voice, and a 7-year old with ADHD who has one volume level- loud. And also a 9-year old who unfortunately learned that in order to be heard she has to push through and talk over the noise, and 2 parents who sometimes have to do the same in order to communicate who is picking the kids up from school, it feels like I am a thermometer about to burst. You know the cartoon thermometer? I can feel the red liquid rising quickly to the top of me about to burst, and I literally have to take myself to the front porch, shut the door and the noise behind me and breathe….or else.

So much noise, so many voices. I find myself preferring silence whenever I get the chance. When I go for a walk, a run, a bike ride or even in the car, I choose the quiet. I have to seek out the quiet. Not just to give my ears a rest. I desperately need to hear HIS voice. In the quiet, I can pray and ask for HIS voice to speak to me what is true. And I am reminded of what I know to be true about HIM, about myself, and about my circumstances. I am reminded that we waited until the doctor said it was OK to introduce peanut butter. I am reminded that we had Jackson in speech therapy for 2 years before they diagnosed his hearing loss. I am reminded that we sought council and nurtured Garrett’s sensory processing disorder as best as we could and even removed gluten from his diet before we went the medicinal route. I remember how we use essential oils to support our minds and body in a natural way. I remember that we tried many different ADHD medicines, and had him tested for celiac as we discerned his need for anxiety medication. And I remember how we have prayed every step of the way.

And in the silence, after they have fallen asleep, after I have snuggled with each of them and endured their restlessness and repetitive “clicks” and “taps”, I am reminded that I am FOR them. I love them so stinkin’ much.

I am frustrated, exhausted and weary BECAUSE I love them so stinkin’ much. I am frustrated and exhausted and weary BECAUSE I make mistakes, and I am not gonna stop trying to be better. I am frustrated and exhausted and weary BECAUSE they keep making mistakes, and often drive me nuts, but I am not gonna stop trying to help them grow. And I am frustrated, exhausted and weary because I have 3 children under the age of 9, two who are neuro- diverse, and motherhood in general is hard! To quote my mom, “It is the hardest job you’ll ever love.”

I had to remind my son the other day, “I am for you. You are MY son, and I am on YOUR side.” I said it with a bit of intensity because it had been one-too many tattle-tales from the same child. One who is quick to blame Garrett, and never takes responsibility for their part. I had had enough. I respectfully acknowledged the complaint, addressed the behavior and what needs to stop or start. But after, when it was just us, I made sure he knew I was for him.

And I will make sure to offer myself the same reassurance. Because my God is always with me, and He is always for me. He gives me the grace to forgive myself, and the strength to try again. He sees me. He knows my struggle. He sees my children, and He knows all of our weaknesses. And when the voices in my head start chiming, whether it be from others, or my own, I will remember- “If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” Romans 8:31. And all of Romans 8 for that matter because this entire passage of scripture reminds us that there is no condemnation for those who belong to Jesus Christ. It reminds us that Jesus frees us from the power of sin, and His Holy Spirit affirms who we are as children of God. That HE helps us in our weakness and helps us to pray and that NOTHING can separate us from HIS love. And when I am feeling hopeless, and do not have the strength to try again, I can remember HIS perfect love for us and how many times he stood back up with that cross on his back- for us. And there is no amount of fatigue that God’s love can’t conquer.

Hope

How powerful are the moments when all of our senses leap with incredible awe and joy? Have you had one of these moments recently? Or maybe it has been so long since that you can hardly remember what that feels like.

Yesterday, our 5 year old son told us he was ready to take the training wheels off of his bike. We had tried this a couple times before, but in the end had to replace the training wheels until a later date. This time, I could see it in his eyes and I too had a feeling, he was ready.

But the moment of watching him get on that bike and ride off into the sun, the feeling of complete joy and awe that washed over me; I wasn’t ready for that. The cheer that bellowed from my heart for his victory was so great, yet also so unexpected.

To be honest, the experience took my breath away. Complete awe and joy.

How could I expect anything less? I witnessed my 5 year old son reach a goal, experience victory over fear, and enough balance to get the job done. This milestone is huge for all children! But for Jackson, with a diagnosis of Ushers Syndrome, and the placement of a cochlear implant, balance has always been in question. In fact, so many things were, are and remain in question for Jackson. With progressive hearing loss, the concern of whether he can hear us has been in constant question. With Usher’s syndrome, the potential for future vision impediment, loss and possible blindness leaves us in the dark.

And if I can be transparent…..the past few years we have battled several seasons of feeling in the dark. In 2017, after a decade of praying, wrestling and discerning….we felt the peace in our hearts to pursue the longing and fulfill the leading to move and serve overseas. The day of our flight to visit our future country, Adam and the kids were in a serious car accident that left Gracelyn in the hospital for a few days requiring surgery on her face. The following months felt dark with sorrow, grief and fear.

In times like this, the temptation to doubt God, choose anger and submit to fear is powerful. Prayer, counsel, healing and the “peace that passes all understanding” lead us back to continue what we began and rebook our trip. And it was incredible. We returned back to the US with the choice between two states in India. Our leading towards one of the two was confirmed. We were excited and anxious, yet hopeful. When you make a decision to move your young family of 5 overseas, it is no small feat. But when that decision gets challenged again and again, darkness seeps in once more.

The option to move to the city of choice was not possible for various reasons. I often shouted in my mind, “Lord! What are you doing?” Doubt, anger and depression set in once more. Resisting these feelings was much harder the second time around. Yet one day, I found myself able, to sit in peace. I believe I sat in the peace that our Great Creator, our Sovereign Lord, the one who sent his Son to live and die so that all may know God and have living and eternal hope, MUST know something I do not. HE must have closed that door for a reason. He has a greater view than I. And HE is worthy to be trusted.

So when we felt the confirmation to choose the other state in India to move to, and the hope of what was to come washed over us once more, you can probably guess how we felt when the month we were supposed to depart, we found out that our youngest had bilateral hearing loss and required hearing aids.

And when the week before our flight to depart the US, we found out that he has a genetic disorder called Usher’s Syndrome, you can imagine the grief, confusion and utter despair that we ensued.

So how then did we still go? How then with so much pain behind us, and grief and uncertainty ahead of us, did we still move to India? And why do I keep revisiting these experiences and sharing them on my blog in different ways again and again? I think back to the incredible history of the Israelites and how many times they were reminded to remember. In Exodus 13:3 it is written, “Remember this day, the day you came out of Egypt….” In Deuteronomy 4:9 Moses says, “But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren.” I can’t stop remembering and I can’t stop learning from these past few years. And I wish I could let you feel what I felt. It is hard to put into words when you feel peace to walk into the unknown.

There were a handful of tangible things that provided us comfort in moving to India even though we were only just beginning to identify what our son Jackson’s needs would entail. The most powerful factors however, were the past experiences we had of walking with the Lord that included trusting HIM with our tomorrow’s and seeing how HE never left us in our yesterday’s. I believe these to be the ingredients of hope.

When I look at our nation today, hope seems to be hard to experience. We are a people being flooded by fear. Constant fear robs us of the ability to trust. We live our lives daily, waiting for the “other shoe to drop.” Our brains and bodies are skilled at retaining memories of trauma. And on the contrary, we require intentional study and the practice of mindfulness to retain and extract memories of joy. I believe it is the experiences that involve the most senses that are easiest to extract. This explains why when we smell a familiar scent in the air, it often brings us back to a very tangible memory.

One of our first meals upon moving to India. The same restaurant and the sae

So when Jackson rode that bike, I shouted, and lifted my hands in the air and ran after him. The more I engaged all of my senses in the celebration, the more I couldn’t stop! I was encompassed by the feelings of great joy and thanksgiving. These are the moments I do not want to forget. These are the fibers of hope.

When we returned to the US, after only 9 months of living overseas, heartbroken, exhausted, confused and worried, the moment I saw my parents for the first time I could not stop crying. My intense tears held inside every emotion possible. I was grateful, to be actually physically hugging them. I was grieving, over how far away we felt from one another. I was resting in their arms, as a daughter who needed her Mom and Dad. I was exhausted from carrying the fears and experiencing the struggle of watching Jackson’s hearing decline and realizing that in order to get him the care he so desperately needed, returning to the US was imminent. I remember every detail of that reunion as if it still resides in my 5 senses right now. It was an experience involving both extreme joy AND extreme sorrow.

The months to come brought both joy and sorrow as well. We experienced more darkness and uncertainty every passing month. The expedited move back to the states, the choice to move to N.Y instead of returning to Florida, did not exactly fulfill the immediate need, getting Jackson cochlear implants. We were at the mercy of the U.S medical system and a worldwide pandemic. The very system that we knew would provide the care that Jackson needed, although has always been hindered by scheduling and insurance was now rightfully preoccupied with a pandemic. Little did we know In December, upon arriving after our rushed exit from India, that Jackson would not receive his cochlear implant until September 2020. Little did we know that his surgery, our next home and place of employment would not be in N.Y, but Florida. That almost one year later we would return back to the same townhome and the same job that we left when we moved overseas. So many months of grieving over what was, anxious over what was to come, and waiting for God to reveal the answer.

I took walks in our neighborhood when we returned to Florida, remembering the walks I use to take before we moved. Each time, I asked myself, “God, did we really go? Did we really move to India, or was that my imagination?” Some days, it felt like I needed to check the pictures for proof. Some days, I was angry. Shouting, “Lord-it took me so long to be ready to go! Why would you finally give me peace, and desire to move overseas and leave everything I know, with my 3 young children….only to send me back no less than a year and in hurry and angst?”

Then, I hear this still, small, voice speak to my heart, reminding me that every day, every year, every moment is but a thread in the tapestry of my life that HE is weaving.

I have experienced heartache, we all have. In so many different forms. But OH THE AWE I have experienced too. To hear my son speak and communicate with words upon receiving hearing aids and now cochlear implant. To witness the resilience of my children. To see the incredible growth in my spouse. To hold the Faith in Jesus, that I always prayed I would have. I am in awe of how HE has worked in ALL things for my good.

I always thought moving overseas was going to be my greatest challenge. Little did I know, that God was using the journey of my heart to trust HIM completely with my life and the life of my husband and children. Little did I know that HE would use India to prepare my heart and mind for all that was and is to come.

When I was younger, hope came easy. In fact I couldn’t understand a cynical point of view.

When I became an adult, it was easy to become cynical.

When I became a mom, I thought there was no other choice.

Life can appear to hand out mountain after mountain, disappointment after disappointment, heartbreak after heartbreak.

Becoming jaded does not take much effort.

Becoming hopeful….. that is the real challenge.

Becoming hopeful…..that is a gift.

I have become hopeful once again. I am experiencing hope because I can recall on HIS faithfulness. I have hope because of HIS promises.

I do not have hope because life is easy and everything works out.

I have hope In HE who overcame death. I have hope in HE who promises life eternal, free from suffering. I have hope in the God who has never left my side.

I am finally ready to say goodbye to India. For now. In HIS perfect timing (however refining the wait may be) God has revealed what’s next. In a few days, we will officially become Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA ) staff once more, but this time, here in Orlando. I can’t wait to share all that HE does next.

— Grateful to be a servant of the MOST HIGH

1 Peter 1:3-9

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

THE CORE

I remember looking in the mirror one day at my postpartum body. Jackson, our youngest was about 3 years old at the time and I thought- “Seriously? How do I still look like I am 3 months pregnant?”

Fast forward to now, I have a 9, 7 and 5 year old and I am finally starting to see that post-partum “baby bump” lessen in appearance and lessen it’s impact on my self esteem. The “round ligament pain” that has endured since I was pregnant with our first in 2011, has FINALLY begun to diminish. For those of you who have experienced round ligament pain, you can celebrate with me when I tell you I can finally sit straight up from lying down instead of having to roll on my side first.

Why do I share about this very specific and for some, very personal detail? Well, it is January 2021 and I just completed a 12-week program called Mutu. A program that I randomly heard about from a complete stranger while temporarily living in Thailand a year and a half ago. It’s amazing how sometimes, you can get personal, immediately with a new friend. All you need is the right time and the right place. At this moment in time I was thirsty for connection. We happened to be staying at a housing complex for expats that was filled with families just like ours. There were so many moms in one room, all fighting the same meal time battles in the communal dining hall. So many moms in one room, that had moved to another country with their young children and knew exactly how I felt. I just wanted to get to know every single one of them, hear their story, ask them how they are and ask them how they do it! How do they care for themself, their family, live cross-culturally and still laugh and smile.

In this particular conversation with my new mom friend, we navigated through many topics, but settled in on the topic of Diastasis Recti. If you are reading this and have no idea what that means, that is totally OK. If those words are flashing bright in recognition to you, then I say, “Cheers!” I am so glad to commiserate with you. Google searches will pull up information telling us that Diastasis Recti is the partial or complete separation of the rectus abdominis and is common during and following pregnancy.For some, the separation may heal on it’s own, others may require therapy or surgery. The experience that goes along with it varies between moms as well. The reason that this topic connected my new mom friend and I is because we both had it. We both experienced the “bulge” that can result (aka the appearance of a “3 month baby bump”), the annoying questions from others asking us if we were pregnant, (when we definitely were not) and the unwanted pain and weakness that can result.

The difference between this mom and I was that she was standing in a place then, that I finally am now.

Post-mutu.

She shared with me about how frustrated she had become trying to bring herself through pelvic floor exercises on her own, scrolling youtube videos. The Mutu System came to her attention after accepting the fact that pelvic floor therapy with a professional was just too expensive. I never forgot our conversation and wrote down the name Mutu in my notes on my phone.

I was all too familiar with how expensive therapy was and how frustrating finding the right routines on youtube could be. It took me 3 years after our youngest was born to finally be fed up with the pain and the weakness that resulted from pregnancy and talk to my doctor about it. I told her that I was struggling with round ligament pain, that I was tired of looking pregnant and was frustrated with my inability to make progress in any workout regimen. Any strength exercise I attempted caused flare ups in my back, and I just felt as if my core could not handle the efforts I was making. My history of back pain did not help matters either.

Prior to being pregnant with our first back in 2011, I experienced roughly a decade of severe chronic back pain that stretched from my neck to my tailbone. Over the course of that decade, despite the intervention of physical therapists, chiropractors, and injections, I began to lose more and more mobility and core strength. And I was a former college athlete and current fitness trainer! The pain was so controlling that I became afraid to move. It wasn’t until I began medically treating my anxiety in 2018 that my body was willing to “try.” It was as if my anxiety was literally trapped inside my muscles, waiting for them to flex and spill over into spasm. Without proper core strength my muscles were not firing appropriately either. There was so much compensation happening, that nothing was working as it should.

So there I was, at the doctor-admitting once again that I needed some help, (just like when I finally sought out a doctor’s input about my anxiety.) At the end of the visit, she told me that it was very important that I begin pelvic floor therapy. The following week I had started seeing a specialist and for $100 a visit I learned just how weak my core and my pelvic floor was and how out of whack everything was functioning. A phenomenal therapist and a great experience, but who can afford that??? So of course, I took what I learned and tried to apply it on my own.

I think I lasted about 3 weeks doing those exercises on my own.

Why is it so hard to ask for help? To admit it when we cannot progress further on our own! Or why is it that sometimes we finally ask for help, and then when we get it- we act is if the mere act of asking for/receiving help means we are fixed when in reality, the transaction is just the beginning.

Well, I guess I can be grateful for that initial transaction because once I knew the truth (that I had an extremely weak core and that without addressing it I would be subject to pain, weakness and inability) I knew that I would have to prioritize healing. I made the decision to do just that this past Fall.

I remembered the mom friend and her recommendation of Mutu. The note was even still in my notes on my phone. I committed to the 12 week program and am so grateful for all that I have learned, the ways that my core has healed, the ways that my body has changed, but most importantly- the knowledge and discipline that I gained.

There’s nothing like a “core” repair program to create incredible parallels to life in general.

The Mutu program and each exercise maintains a focus on learning how and when to inhale and exhale, relax and engage the core. However simple it sounds, without it, I would not have learned that I was never truly relaxing my core. Somehow, my body had gotten into a motor pattern where my core was trying to remain flexed constantly……and was exhausted in the process! Imagine a bicep muscle always flexed. When it comes time that the arm needs the bicep to flex to move, it may not be able to. This was my core. Operating incorrectly, inefficiently, causing pain and weakness. What was even more mind-blowing to me, was that I had always thought I truly DID know how to engage my core the CORRECT way.

Imagine going all this time, thinking you had been doing something correctly, only to find out you were doing the exact opposite? And with something so important, so central to the operation of the entire body. Finding out that I was never letting my core relax and the damage that it was causing my body was eye-opening, liberating and healing.

But before the healing was pain, wasted efforts, lack of progress, misguided direction. Sometimes it takes all the yuck to bring us to our knees. Sometimes it takes humility to admit our ways are not working. To confess that we need help. To try another way.

I wanted to exercise the way I used to in college. I wanted to be able to sweat, burn a lot of calories and see results fast. Choosing a corrective exercise program was an investment of time and patience. Deep down I knew that going this route, choosing to do it the slow and steady WAY (not the way I had always known) would lead to healing. But over the years I tricked myself into believing that I could figure it out on my own. I could have it all. I could be careful and attend to my weak core but still do the things that made me feel like I had a “good workout.” But my body was literally crumbling under the effort. Every part of the body is important, but I am pretty sure when it comes to the core, it should be done right.

Isn’t it the same with our hearts, our minds and our souls? I wonder how many people out there in the world are truly aware of what their heart needs. I can imagine most people believe they know, based on their feelings. “My heart needs affection, my mind needs numbing, my soul needs…. to not be discussed because it is taboo.”

Our culture spends significant time gaining knowledge of the latest clean-eating diet, the most current exercise fad, the latest season of a hit TV series and of course, politics. We feed our mental/emotional “core” with whatever we “feel” we need. But how fleeting feelings can be. How quickly they can change. We fill ourselves up with the cheap and temporary, the fleeting and superficial. We feast on “the bread of distraction.”

What if we were to feast on the bread that does not change, no matter the political climate, no matter the era, no matter the chaos. If what we eat and how we train our body has such significant impacts on our lives, doesn’t what we read, watch, listen to or say?

I was reminded the other day about the story of the Samaritan woman. I cannot summarize it and do it justice, so instead please read the story….soak it up.

Jesus talks with a Samaritan Woman (John 4:4-26)

“Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a]) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

If there was ever a time to be humble, ever an age to stop and seek, now is that time.

When I look for an example of humility, I look no further than the one who “humbled himself by becoming obedient to death-even death on a cross.” Phillipians 2:8

The one “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.” Phil2:6-7

The one who said, “Do nothing out of vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Phil 2:3

My heart aches for our nation. My heart aches daily for those who suffer, for those who grieve. We will not find the solace we are looking for from this world, from whatever president we have, whatever political party is in control. There is only One who can provide that peace.

May we find Him, when we stop and consider that we do not know it all, that we are not without sin, that we have not done it all right.

On the other side.



When you look at this photo, what do you see first?

Do you see the sunset? The light reflecting on the patch of grass, perhaps. For me, I see the fence.

I was taking a walk around our neighborhood the other day. As I passed this particular spot, the sun’s rays began to set on the fence and the apartment complex behind it. I couldn’t help but stop and watch. The thought racing through my head was, “Wow, you finally arrived on the other side of the fence.”

See, we stayed in those apartments just 4 months ago. 4 months ago we broke pandemic logic and flew our family of 5 to Florida. We left NY for 10 days so that we could FINALLY get our son his much needed cochlear implant evaluation. I say finally because 5 months prior to that visit, we did the “hurry up and wait” dance. 5 months prior, we responded to the only information that God was giving us at the time, with a quick and obedient reroute to the U.S.

Our 3 month/3 country, Visa-forced departure from India had us travel worn and discouraged. Although weary, the Lord guided us with wisdom and mercy to recognize Jackson’s rapidly declining hearing loss and his need for intervention. In a small amount of time, HE rerouted us from a planned month-long trip to Nepal, to an unplanned, unhosted, and undetermined length of time trip to Malaysia. In the span of one week HE paved the way for us to book a too early, unexpected return trip to India (with only 4 remaining in country days left on our visa) and enabled us to sell our entire house of furniture and book flights to the U.S.

Adam and I have always said, when God works, HE works fast.

HE worked fast back in 2015 when he revealed that our family was moving to Florida. The news gave us 6 weeks to raise full financial support for a new position Adam was receiving. 6 weeks to find a home in Florida, and oh yea, get there before my 8 month pregnant self was ready to burst. As impossible as it felt, The Lord provided.

HE always worked fast, when the time was right. But those quick moves were often preluded by seasons of wait. Long, heavy-hearted wait. For my husband, he waited roughly 10 years to move overseas. The desire, the will and the readiness was placed on his heart by the Lord early. But he trusted and waited patiently for the same tug on my heart.

When we moved to India, it was not without obstacles. For many on the outside looking in, it could have appeared as if there was enough roadblocks deterring us from moving, we should have gotten the hint. Like a survey trip to India that was rescheduled twice, first for a visa issue and second for a major family car accident hours before the flight. And heart-breaking changes to the location we intended to move to, major health diagnoses revealed for the boys and of course, one week before moving day receiving the news that Jackson’s hearing loss is the result of a genetic disorder known as Usher’s Syndrome.

Yes. MANY have felt as if we refused to the see the detour signs. But to this day, after all of the heartache, after all the let down we have no regrets. Despite the anticipated 3-year move to India turned to 6 months, and the exhausting forced 3- month travel. Despite the overwhelming attempts to receive medical care for Jackson in foreign cultures, and the hurry up and get to the US for treatment only to be greeted by a pandemic/holding pattern for 8 months, we have no regrets.

No regrets does not mean that we have not had doubts. Oh, we have had doubts. We have spent endless nights these past years praying and hashing out details. We have spent hours clarifying what we know to be true, asking the Lord to reveal any sin in our hearts that may keeping us from HIS good and perfect will, seeking counsel and waiting. Even so, we have no regrets. Every step of the way, we promised to discern what The Lord has asked of our family, and prayed for the strength and wisdom to be obedient. We have walked through the doors that he has lead us through. Even after all we have been through, we believe we have done what the Lord asked of us. One day, in heaven, I am anxious to see the whole picture and how it all worked together for HIS good. Because that’s what HE promises us right? “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

So now, here we are back in the same townhome we lived in before we left for India. Sometimes when I take the same familiar walk through our neighborhood, I have to remind myself that we actually went, that it all actually happened. As I look at this fence, I remember exactly what it felt like to be back on the other side. I remember how hopeful we were to finally be there and preparing for Jackson to have the cochlear evaluation by his original audiologist. I remember how mentally exhausted we were waiting for that trip to Florida that was rescheduled twice due to COVID-19. In December 2019, when we arrived in NY from India, we had hoped to receive the care that Jackson needed by January. We chose NY over returning to Florida because it was not just Jackson that needed care. Our family unit needed respite and we sought out family for help. Disappointed that after 6 months of trying, we could not find a cochlear team for Jackson in NY, we were so eager to receive a plan for him going forward. We were thirsty for movement, momentum, something! The waiting can be SO HARD.

There are some seasons of life where all you can do is go off the information that you DO have, what you know to be true in that moment in time, in that season. The tricky part about knowing what to be true, is that as humans, we are emotional beings. Our minds can be swayed easily by our feelings. Feelings are a gift, but they change….sometimes in an instant.

God does not change. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. So when we seek what we know to be true, we attempt to do so by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Moving to NY from India was an easy short term decision, but a difficult long term one. NY for us meant, help. We felt that HE was leading us to get support from family. Doing so meant releasing a dream. Confusing, humbling, sad and aimless were emotions we wrestled with. Grateful to be surrounded by family during such a challenging season, they carried us when we we didn’t know which way was up. In putting the needs of our family first, we were realizing the possibility that leaving ministry might become a reality.

Adam and I have been serving in vocational ministry since the beginning of our marriage. We joined staff for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) just 3 short months after getting married. We were blessed to be able to serve with FCA for 6 years. The pull to serve overseas became a reality when we received a position with an International Agency in Orlando, FL in 2015 where we served on the mobilization team for 3 years. At that time we were finally ready to move overseas and what felt like a 20 year experience happened in one short year.

And now here we are, on the other side of that fence.

But where do we go from here? This is a question that many people have been asking themselves during this pandemic. Back in March, I do not think anyone expected that life would still be so impacted, so deterred, so on hold as it is today. Lucky us, we were feeling these emotions far before the pandemic so you can imagine how long we have felt “on hold.”

I do not know when we as a country will feel like we are on the “other side” of the COVID-19 fence. I do not know when we as a family will feel like we are on the “other side” of this unanswered question of “Lord, what do you want for us? What do you want us to do now?” What I know to be true, is that HE is good. HE has held us in the palm of his hand this whole time. He see the bigger picture. We will continue to wait on HIM.

Until then, His grace is sufficient. By His love, HE has continued to allow us to serve here in Orlando. He is continuing to use us right where we are. He is providing for us. He will let us know what to do next. In the meantime, we pray for ears to hear and eyes to see. This prayer is not just for us to be hard-workers and good stewards in the waiting, but to be willing and ready for His next move. This prayer is also for our son Jackson. His syndrome causes loss of both hearing and vision. But God is bigger than any syndrome, and any pandemic. And when the waiting is over, when we make it to the other side of the fence, we can only hope we did it with honor, love, integrity and faith.

“All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power and authority are his before all time, and in the present and beyond all time!” Jude 1:25