Awareness to Advocacy

Have you ever hesitated to share what you are struggling with to a friend because this statement rings in your head, “stop complaining, there are others who have it a lot worse?”

If so, I hope you know that yes, there are varying degrees of struggle out in the world, but that does not mean that your struggle is not real or does not matter.

When I first started to suspect that my child had special needs or was “more”, I shoved it down deep in my chest. I read books about discipline. I tried harder.

Maybe it was fear, or shame, or maybe it was some of those common statements so readily offered. You know the ones,

“He’s just a boy.”

“He’ll grow out of it.”

“You need to discipline your child more.”

“You need to be more consistent.”

Now, when I think back about what life was like when this particular son of mine was almost 3, I remember having a baby and a pre-schooler as well, but it took ALL OF ME to contain him.

I did not want to jump to diagnosis, but I knew that I needed help.

Growing up, I learned about special needs early. My mom was an Occupational Therapist. I have fond memories of stopping by her workplace as she had to drop something off, or pick something up. While she attended to her task, I would take in the environment around me.

On one hand it was one of the coolest places I had ever been. I couldn’t stop staring at all of the toys and equipment. I just wanted to play on everything-especially the swing!

But on the other hand, I often got introduced to kids who required a wheelchair, kids who could not talk, and kids who made lots of unfamiliar noises. Sometimes I felt scared about the unknown I was witnessing. Other times I felt sad. But often I felt amazed. The love and care that the therapists provided them, and the joy that the children expressed in their own special ways was incredible.

I feel grateful to have grown up witnessing this world of amazing people. The exposure to the reality of people living with special needs impacted me in so many ways.

This reality taught me at an early age to have perspective. To be mindful of the way I view things. Sometimes that means being grateful for what I have, when my flesh wants to complain. Sometimes that means, taking a step back to gain a better perspective, to see the big picture and to avoid rash or quick judgements.

But it also taught me that it is possible to be grateful and grieve.

It is possible, to know that there are worse things, but to still worry.

It is true that pain is relative.

Just because someone’s struggle looks different than yours, does not mean that yours isn’t real.

I understand that not all may agree with my way of thinking. But for me, if I had swallowed my concern, tried harder to be better and just kept focusing on the positive, I would have not served my child well.

Let’s be real. There is being positive and hopeful, and then there is “toxic positivity.”

For me, in order to care for my son well, I needed to swallow my pride. Some might think swallowing my pride would have looked like me ignoring the temptation to default to blaming my child’s behavior on a diagnosis and simply “manning up” and being more militant. I believed swallowing my pride truly was me accepting that no matter how hard I tried, I was not going to be able to manage this struggle alone.

Through humility, I was able to walk from awareness that my child might be “more,” towards acceptance and now into advocacy.

Our journey navigating have a child (2 in fact) with special needs started about 5-6 years ago. For those curious what it looked like practically, when he was 4 we reached out to Early Steps and found an OT that specialized in sensory integration therapy. We learned all about sensory processing disorder and we were encouraged to have a continued level of awareness if his needs were to shift or change for the better or worse. And they did.

Around age 6 he was diagnosed with ADHD and we found that it was time to navigate the use of medication to support his struggles and needs. A couple years later, after prayer and discernment, we felt it best to seek out a Neuropsychologist so that we could receive a more thorough evaluation in hopes of truly identifying what might be “driving his ship.” It was then that he was diagnosed with High functioning Autism.

Each year we have experienced intense heartache as well as intense celebration as we have watched him grow and learn, and make mistakes and make progress.

Just like him, we as parents are growing and learning and making mistakes and making progress.

We may have entered into the world of “labels” that so many fear. And I understand that.

But the only real label that we have in our house, is being “A child of God.”

That is the true identity that each of us holds and clings to.

The other labels have provided me with clarity and direction. They have blessed us by connecting us with the most amazing therapists and other parents walking similar journeys. All because of being aware of a great need that I could not fill on my own, accepting and embracing that reality and now being so much stronger for it that I can advocate well for my child.

So if you happen to feel like you need to keep your struggles to yourself, like you need to stuff them down or remember that others have it worse…. Don’t.

Remember, it IS possible to be grateful and grieve. I do it every day.

I grieve that I am a sinner. And that no matter how hard I try, I probably will continue to sin on this side of heaven. It’s not an excuse to sin, but it is a reality that without the help of the Holy Spirit, my flesh WILL fail. Yet at the same time I am SO grateful that because of what Jesus did on the cross, I am forgiven and made new and will get to experience an eternity in Heaven one day!

It is the awareness of my sin, and acceptance that lead me to MY ultimate advocate.

HE who-by the way, will NEVER judge you when you share your struggles with HIM. He will NEVER tell you try harder or to remember how good you have it. But HIS love will wash over you in such a way that you can’t help but be grateful, even in heartache.

Stay tuned for my next blog, I can’t wait to share about how every Mama needs someone who gets “it” and someone who “wants to.” Because every mama, regardless of if they have a child with special needs, is STILL A MAMA. Our struggles do not separate us. They draw us near to one another. And we all have a story to tell and hope to give.

 

 

The things we say

Sometimes you catch words coming out of your mouth that you truly never could have guessed would pass your lips. For example, “You can’t have your ice cream until you finish your McDonald’s.” Or, “You will go to the beach and you WILL have fun!” Unfortunately, those sentences were delivered more than once while we were living in India and traveling through Indonesia. Getting the kids to eat Indian food at first was quite the struggle. So when we would find a familiar food item or restaurant, out of exhaustion and in need of a minute of life without constant battle (Parents of young kids- I know you feel me,) we would give them what we assumed was EXACTLY what they would want, only to find that there was STILL something off. Like, the cheese was different on the pizza, and there was no McDonald’s cheeseburger, only chicken.

When we left India for a forced 3-month exit, we assumed travel was the best option versus returning to the US. After a month in Thailand, where we had spent most of the time swimming in a pool or at beach, by the time we brought the kids to a beach in Bali, they were “beached out.”

In the hotel room, asking if they could relax in bed and watch TV instead of the beach!

That sounds ridiculous, when I say it out loud. But in reflection I can understand. Going to the beach after leaving the summer season of India was like literal water to our thirsty souls. We were in desperate need of being outside, in the fresh air. So we overplayed the beach like you did when you were young and you put your favorite new song on replay. It was tempting to perceive our kids were simply being “spoiled” and “ungrateful” with their whining and resisting of fast food/ the sea and sand. But sometimes our perspective on what they would enjoy isn’t always spot on.

First Day in Thailand after leaving India.

I recall these stories because something happened the other day that brought them back to the forefront of my mind as if it was yesterday and not almost 3 years ago.

I found myself saying something that felt almost as foreign as it was crossing my lips, simply because it was my first time saying it.

“Wow. I am so thankful for the Cochlear aqua gear.” Try saying cochlear aqua gear 5 times fast.

I’ve realized that living in a foreign country sometimes parallels the way it feels when you are simply walking through a foreign aspect of your life (like being the parent of a child with cochlear implants). The unexpected challenges catch you by surprise. Just like the things you assumed would be tasty and fun, were not- The things you thought would be an easy, just aren’t.

When the weekend comes, we are often looking for activities that our family can do that check a few boxes. Is it outside? Is it active? Is it something that all 3 kids would enjoy? Checking all 3 boxes is not easy. But when we heard about the upcoming church picnic and kids color run, I think we registered faster than we read the event details. So when we packed up our picnic lunch and I was checking to see if there was anything I forgot….BAM! “Oh wait- what about his “ears?” (Note: We call his implants his “ears.”) I messaged his audiologist and she said he could still participate but to make sure to use his “aqua gear” to protect his implants from the residual powder that was to be thrown on him while running.

The aqua gear are incredible. They allow him to wear his implants in the pool! However, they make for a very clunky, gawdy experience for him and they do not stay put with his level of activity in a pool. They frustrate him and he often chooses to remove them and simply go without sound. Sometimes this makes my heart sad. I think because it reminds me, even though they are amazing, his implants did not repair his hearing loss. Although, sometimes I think it makes me more sad than he actually is. He has just as much fun with them off sometimes! Maybe it’s because he is an excellent lip reader. Maybe I project how I feel too quickly. Once again- assuming that fast food restaurants, beach trip and color runs are sure-fire wins, when they might actually not be.

Post-Color run. Thank God he wore the aqua gear to cover his implants!

Likewise, being the parent of a child on the Autism spectrum, sometimes it’s just simply a Saturday that catches you by surprise. Here you are thinking you will sleep in a little (because it’s the weekend, right?) and that your family might enjoy an outing and a day off of schedules. Instead you wake up to find it’s going to be one of those “off days”- the ones that remind you your child has some extra struggles. To enhance the struggle, these “off” days always seem to come the day after a couple days that felt “normal” and “functional”…“thriving” even. 

Garrett did NOT enjoy the powdered color!

But what’s my point?

Like always, I find solace in both rejoicing and lamenting, sharing my experiences with words and hopes of affirming not just myself but anyone else who might be reading this and longing for this kind of connection.

I bet all parents can relate to this thought, that a lot of days simply just do not turn out how you thought it would.

I remember back when we were newlyweds, dreaming about what values we wanted to instill in our children. Back when people asked how many kids we wanted to have and we would answer romantically, “five.”

And now….10 years later with 3 children, I can understand why those receiving our answer of “five” held the facial expressions and the muted responses that they did.

But just as important as it is to recognize the struggle and process those emotions so we can support one another better the next time around, the “great” days and moments need to be meditated on too.

Family walks….. 50% chance of success, am I right?

So on that note….the other night we were all sitting at the table eating dinner.

The end.

Just kidding! (Kind of.) Because to be honest, THAT sentence alone is a victory worth noting. 

Because getting 2 boys with sensory issues, ADHD and Hearing Loss to sit at a table and have a functional dinner time meal is like getting a fish to NOT flop when it’s first out of water.

But lately…… we’ve not only been sitting together….. and eating…but talking too! Talking in a group conversation type style! You know the kind- where people take turns, and finish each other’s sentences, and connect!

Just lately, we have seen it. And it’s priceless.

Some days, you are taken aback, because your 6-year old cochlear implant wearer just told you in full sentences, “Will you go wait in line for me and ask for a velociraptor balloon animal- but if she can’t make that- will you get a monkey?”

I remember when he only had 30 words total that he could say.

Some days, your 8-year old, chooses to give his balloon animal to his 6-year old brother. EVEN THOUGH he obsessed and fixated on getting one, spending the majority of his time at the picnic event worrying about getting one, and almost had a full-on episode when pulled out of line…..

A rare moment captured.

Some days you get to see your child grow. You get to see your child do something that was either SOO very difficult for them to do (but you know that they’ve worked hard on it in therapy) OR something you NEVER thought they’d be able to do! Because miracles DO happen, and walls DO come down and limits CAN BE surpassed.

And for the moms and dads out there who can relate- sometimes you get to encourage your own self because you have seen and felt that YOU TOO have experienced growth!

I remember the days when I worried if I would ever be able to NOT worry. I remember when my daily prayer was to not get mad or let my frustration with kids’ behaviors get the best of me. I remember when as a couple we grieved over if we would ever experience a social event where our family was functional, socially appropriate or without crisis. 

I still sift through all of these thoughts, but I am anchored by experiences of success, muscle memory, thicker skin and above all else, an unshakeable faith in my Sovereign God. My God who sees all of my days, all of my weaknesses, all of my efforts, all that I carry, and all that I hold dear. 

And because of that I GET to honor my son’s sacrifice of a ballon animal- even though there were a number of unfavorable behaviors that preceded…. 

I get to give myself a pat on the back when I chose patience and resisted the felt social expectations and judgements surrounding me and chose NOT to reprimand my kids, but instead walked them through a “do-over” so they could experience how things could have gone. So they could experience the possibilities of how life could be.

Because of God’s grace and mercy and the life experiences that HE has allowed me to endure, I understand better WHICH behaviors to place my mind and my heart on. I understand better how to handle the unexpected.

I am definitely, still flawed and dependent on Jesus and will be until Heaven. Thank God HE is with me every day until then. Because I know there will be many more moments of failed outings and wrong assumptions of what our children should think is fun and great and tasty.

But I look forward to more unexpected phrases like, “Thank God for the aqua gear.”

“That’s great… for you.”

I was in a parent workshop listening to a speaker talk on the subject of behavioral therapy for children. I could sense that there were parents in the room, like me, who were in the thick of the struggle. But there were also parents in the room who were on the other side.
The side where victory or freedom or hope lives.
During the talk, I had to frequently battle the voice in my head that said, “Your situation is more complex, your child’s’ struggles will never be fixed, you will never be on the other side.”
I hate that voice. I believe it to be the voice of the enemy. The “Father of lies” who wants us to remain trapped in discouragement, devoid of hope.
But I have become aware of it enough to prepare myself before attending these talks. I prepare myself by praying- “Lord help me hold every thought captive to you. Help me hear what is it you have for me today.”

Looking out over the city (India)

Sometimes when I share about the program I am a coach for and how much breakthrough I personally have experienced in the areas of strength gain and reaching health and fitness goals, I imagine a person out there on the other end, receiving my message thinking- “That’s great that it worked for her, but it will never work for me.”

I can’t tell you how many times I have felt this way in so many areas of life.

It brought me back to the days of sleep training, breast-feeding and behavior training. The days when well-meaning mothers and friends would share how their child is sleeping through the night, or how their child could listen and obey right away, or 1-2-3 magic was the key. They were not to blame, but I often felt so discouraged.

But then I remember when I read the book Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child and applying those strategies literally changed the game for getting our firstborn to sleep through the night. But I hesitated sharing about that book because even though it worked for me, I didn’t want to frustrate someone else.

Because so many times had I sat around the table with other moms listening to their success stories thinking that’s awesome… For you… But it won’t work for me.

Flying solo with all 3. Wondering if things will ever be simple again haha.

I can even recall the days when I felt like shouting on the rooftops that prayer and turning to Jesus was the answer for those who were struggling and in pain, but I feared offending them.

How often do we see the success of others and think there has to be a reason that they were able to reach their goal, a reason that sets them apart from me, a reason that makes success more possible for them than it is for me?

How many times have we been told that we just need to try harder? How many times have we been told that we just need to believe it and speak it into existence? And how many times have we still NOT experienced victory?

If you have read my blog post “On the other side” or “Hope” I wrote it because it was a significant moment in my life when I could tangibly feel and see what it was like to be on the other side of a struggle.
Seeing Jackson’s progress with speech and language development ever since he received adequate hearing has provided me with the most profound experience of recognizing and celebrating growth, change and victory. But it was not even close to a quick fix to get there.

Jackson winning the sportsmanship medal!

In a lot of my blogs I talk about the blessing that suffering can bring. Trust me I do not enjoy suffering, in fact I used to avoid it at all cost. I would not make a move, make a decision, even consider taking a risk unless I knew that the probability of success was substantial.
It took me 10 years to get to a place of willingness to move overseas for fear of the struggle. But I have realized that it has been the struggle, the long-suffering, the day to day battle, that has made the awareness and ability to embrace being on the other side so sweet.

We cannot predict how quickly success can be achieved for others, but we can share our struggles and our wins in hopes of bringing others closer to being on the other side of their struggle.
Everyone’s struggle looks different and everyone’s victory looks different. In fact one mother may receive seven different methods for getting her child to sleep through the night before she applies it and it works. Does that mean the mothers before should not have shared?

One woman may try hundreds of diets or fitness programs before she reaches her health and fitness goals does that mean all of her previous efforts were in vain?

Which brings me to the question,
is it OK to share what has worked for you?
My belief- ABSOLUTELY.
If someone is grieving, I’m gonna pray for them.
If someone needs help with math- I will DIRECT them to someone who can (lol).

And if someone wants to improve their health and wellness, I can’t wait to share about the FASTer Way!

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!

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.