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.”
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.
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.
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!
Some days, all you dream about as a mom is a minute alone. You look forward to that moment when the kids are finally asleep and you can rest your head, or kick your feet up. So when the moment arises that you are packing up for a weekend away, at a hotel, for an incredible conference/retreat/getaway, or whatever it is for you personally, why is it that anxiety sets in? I mean, I was counting down the days for this trip, and the moment it arrived, I doubted if I should go.
For me, I was headed to a Coaches’ Conference for the business I work for, The FASTer Way to Fat Loss. On the drive there I had to talk myself down from the temptation to turn back. That first night in the hotel, I had to focus on all the strategies I knew for calming my brain in order to sleep. It really wasn’t until 19 hours later when I entered into the conference room that I felt a NEW energy wash over me.
It was a foreign energy.
One that I am not used to.
Give me anxious energy, stressed energy, hostile energy, complicated energy, multi-tasking energy, young kids energy, family management energy, parent/marriage juggling energy……these types of energy you can infuse in me all day and my body “systems” will feel as if they are operating status quo.
But give me energy that is sharp-focused, full of hope, inspiration, and comraderie, like the kind I experienced this weekend…..and I was not only pumped but a little scared?!
I mean, I have been on weekends away, and women’s retreats, I have been to training conferences and the like, but I have never been to a weekend away that called upon my “person” as much as this.
What I mean to say is, attending this conference was like drawing a line in the sand and saying, “I am a coach. I want to be a better coach. I believe in myself, I believe in this program and I believe in the possibility that this opportunity brings for myself and for all those I get to serve! I knew it when I registered, and I knew it when I entered the room. The energy spoke for itself.
A foreign energy. One that scared me and challenged me with excitement at the same time.
With every passing session, from the welcome session, the breakout sessions, the session that broke me and built me up all at the same time, the energy kept rising and creating new pathways in my brain and in my body.
Every time I met someone that I had been waiting to meet, that had had impacted my life through this program and every time I met someone new that inspired and challenged me in significant ways, I felt excited and worried at the same time.
It was nearing the end of the conference, when we were asked what our main challenge was. It was then that I understood why “anxiety” had attached itself to “hope” all weekend long.
Without hesitation I answered the question during our round-table discussion and said, “I’m on a a mountaintop right now, where everything feels exciting and full of possibility, but I know that when I walk into my home, into my family dynamic…
(and I quote)….. “I am going to fold to the reality that is …”
…to the reality that is…
When I said it, I could fill the tears rise and my throat tighten. I felt ashamed and honest at the same time. Even so, I felt it important to share the reality of my heart, because I desperately wanted to walk away different. The impact that the weekend had warranted change.
But the reality at home was significant too.
At home, I had my husband and 3 children waiting for me. A husband who believes in me and watched the kiddos solo…. for me.
I had 3 children waiting for me, who were used to my sole attention being them. I had 2 boys with special needs waiting for my return because they are used to me attending to their needs, interpreting what they cannot and assisting in regulations that do not come natural to them.
I had a family back home that I loved with everything I have, but also a family that required everything that I have.
I battled the thought… how dare I? How dare I consider to try to be something else or something more?
There was an amazing woman sitting beside me, who without hesitation responded to my comment about “walking into my home and folding” and she said- “But you know what self-fulfilling prophecy is, right?”
For those who may not be sure, “A self-fulfilling prophecy is the psychological phenomenon of someone “predicting” or expecting something, and this “prediction” or expectation coming true simply because the person believes or anticipates it will and the person’s resulting behaviors align to fulfill the belief. This suggests that people’s beliefs influence their actions.” Wikipedia
When she said this, I felt it in my core.
A little backstory- I received my undergraduate degree in Psychology with a minor in Sports Coaching. I gained my Master’s degree in Exercise Science, all with the hopes of becoming a Sport Psychologist. The idea of Self-fulfilling Prophecy was something I wrote papers about. I knew what it meant.
At that moment, I could hear the voices of so many women providing practical and tangible application of the strategies I had learned over the weekend and it felt possible to continue to grow and develop even upon entering my home environment simply by creating and applying an action plan, implementing one tool at a time.
The first tool, was going to be Mindset.
My mantra, “Keep hope alive.”
I prepared my heart for the things I knew to be true, and spoke to my heart about the things that I want to be true.
I asked my husband when the best time for me to arrive home would be, because for our family, transition is difficult.
As much as I missed them all, It would not honor all my husband did parenting solo for the weekend if I returned whenever I wanted. It works best when we can prepare the kids for transitions which we can mean, new environments, or simply the addition of more people to the room.
It was actually best for everyone for me to arrive home when no one was there.
It felt weird to come home, to an empty home. But it also gave me time to reflect.
When everyone arrived, I was ready to embrace and exchange stories with each child and it was incredibly sweet.
The next day however, was incredibly hard.
The novelty of missing one another had worn off. My daughter had actually been away for the weekend on a trip with her friend. She was also returning from a mountain top experience. Her retreat was priceless. She is the older sister of 2 brothers….hard enough as that can be- she is the older sister of 2 brothers with special needs. She needed the retreat, but the re-entry was hard.
I can feel her struggle as strong as my own.
While away, I never forgot how challenging it can be, trying to provide enough attention to each child, while simultaneously trying to buffer the challenges on each sibling that hearing loss and autism can bring to a group dynamic. I never forgot, but when I felt it, I did grieve again as if it was new. Strange, how that can happen.
I even took all 3 kids solo to the Orlando Science Center with the hopes of re-engaging with them in an exciting and memorable way. Very quickly I was reminded of “The Battle of the Voices” that emerges on car rides, the Oppositional Defiant Disorder that is present whenever Dad is not, and the stress that results from impulsive behaviors that literally create separation and the fear of losing a child.
I decided to sit all 3 of my kiddos down on the carpet in the hallway and let them know that I was debating on going home. I let them know that we could not stay if they could not be respectful of others and listen to their mama. After some time we decided to head to the playground area so they could get some energy out and I could sit and collect myself.
Shortly into that time, Garrett approached me and said, “I can’t have fun if you are not.” And he rested on my lap and tried not to cry.
As much as my heart pained knowing that his heart did, I couldn’t believe how proud I was of him “feeling” for me- something that did not come easy for him.
Soon after that Dad arrived. We were able to salvage the afternoon somewhat and end the day on a good note.
That evening my husband asked me, “Where are you at?”
In our language this meant he wanted to know how I was after the weekend I had and the “Re-Entry.”
I was able to tell him that I went from a hyper-focused weekend of positivity and possibility to one of anxiety, cloudiness and fear. But one feeling that was present as well was this intense desire to keep hope alive. I knew that the life that I was creating for my family and myself was important. I knew that the weekend that I had just had was significant to our life. And I knew that it was not going to be easy, but it would be worth it- to keep hope alive and keep moving towards my goal of being someone who brings hope to others.
I have chosen to wage war on the battle between hope and despair. I have always believed that my God is sovereign and faithful and has never forsaken me where He has lead me. I have decided to remember the energy I felt this past weekend and to live in the way that I encourage my clients to live, one step at a time, one day at a time, progress over perfection, full of hope and a fiery spirit to keep trying!
I hope that here, in my writings, you can find connection and hope too!
“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.
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!”
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.”
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.”
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have heard the expression, “I have arrived!” It was said to announce not a physical arrival to a destination but a metaphorical arrival. I have held dreams of this kind of “arriving” or success. Along the way I learned that,
“Success is not always in the outcome, but in the attempt.”
Hmmmm. Thought provoking, right? Who was the author of this enlightening thought you ask? Well, I can tell you.
Sometime in late 2013, early 2014, I was determined that I would overcome SOMETHING. ANYTHING! I was so tired of being a prisoner to my weaknesses and always talking about the same struggles day in and day out. It felt like finding joy in motherhood, being able to exercise again and having a “faith big enough to move overseas for” were simply goals that I could not reach. My mind told me that these goals were possible for others, just not me. If you have been reading my blog, than you have heard me express my battle with anxiety. At this time in my life, I was in denial that what I was struggling with had anything to do with anxiety. I believed it was truly just a result of my weakness.
Daily I felt that I was failing to achieve any goal I set for myself. I could rehearse all of life’s pains and struggles as if they were still raw and fresh. And I would rehearse them. At least my brain couldn’t stop remembering all those painful experiences and was convincing me that the idea of giving things another try was being a glutton for punishment. I wrestled with tasks as small as encouraging myself to get out of the apartment with two kids solo, to big ideas like just wanting to be a fully functional stay at home mom. Ya know, the kind that managing the home and children comes natural too. The kind without grumbling, no stress… just joy. Because after all, I chose it. And I assumed, if you choose it, you should love it. And be good at it, right? I also battled with questions like, how come I want to be a happy mom, but I can’t? How come I want to exercise, but I can’t? I was a former strength and conditioning coach and now every time I exercised I would end up with severe spasms in my neck and back so debilitating that I could not move for days. So when it came down to choosing between caring for my toddler and baby or giving exercise another shot, the decision was made for me.
Most of all, I asked myself, why can’t I just be fearless? What happened to the girl who studied abroad in Australia? The girl who travelled New Zealand solo? The wife who chose to spend her first wedding anniversary on a medical mission trip to Africa? Now, the mere topic of living overseas brought panic attacks. At the time, I did not know they were panic attacks. I did not know my body was having a physiological reaction to fear. And I did not know that my fears of living overseas were being manipulated by media and body chemistry.
My husband and I worked for a non-profit sports ministry with future hopes of moving and serving overseas. At one point in our journey I decided enough is enough. I was going to wrestle fear by the horns. I was going to say yes. Let’s move to India. Funny how in the movies there is sweat and a punching bag and usually a great soundtrack when a character overcomes something. For me, I just got more back spasms, and actual asthma attacks.
Now before you stop reading and think, this is the most depressing blog ever, hear me. As discouraged as I was, I still wrote the quote that I started out with. “Success is not in the outcome, but in the attempt.” I even shared it in a room full of people during three separate speaking opportunities. And to be honest, the more I told myself, and others, the more hope and life I breathed in and the more lies and discouragement I exhaled. Because the success IS in the attempt. The success is when you keep trying, even when it’s hard and you have failed.
You ARE successful, when you don’t give up on hope.
I used to think success was only when you “arrived” at your goal. For me, I had to look deeper at the goals I was setting for myself. I was setting goals, making expectations for myself that I believed if I just tried hard enough, I could achieve. For example, if I did all of my physical therapy exercises my neck and back would heal. If I strength trained enough the “right way” I would return to the athlete I was. If I prayed hard enough, I wouldn’t be afraid of moving overseas. If I read enough parenting resources, I would feel competent and in control as a mom. I believed I would truly feel success and peace when I reached these resolutions in my life.
Fast forward to today, June 2020. I can exercise now without ending up in spasms! I am still the mom of 3 littles ones that I love dearly but challenge me daily. I moved to India… and I moved back.
I can still remember the day I dreamed about being able to exercise again, like I do now. I can still remember how it felt to dream of one day not being afraid to move overseas, like I did. And I can still feel the ache in my heart over the days that I grieved over not feeling the way I thought a mom or wife should feel. But, I had no idea that “reaching my goals” would happen the way it did. It was not the result of “muscling” through. It was a gradual process of surrender. A process of surrender that brought me to a place of willingness. Willingness to try another way, to see things from a different perspective, to humble myself, and to trust the Lord deeper than I ever had before.
In 2016 I started treating my anxiety with medicine and counseling. The year that followed brought healing, grace, forgiveness and deliverance. One day, I was not afraid to exercise. And after I did, I waited for the spasms. They never came. So I exercised again the next day. No spasms!
It started small. But those small steps were the biggest wins I had ever experienced. I had started going out SOLO on adventures with my 3 kiddos. Joy, redemption and excitement were some of the emotions I experienced that I never thought I would!
And then one day, after a time of serious reflection, I was able to look back on our then 6 years of marriage and say, I think it is time for our family to move overseas. I shared with others how through managing my anxiety, I was able to see life SO much more clearly. It was as if my brain had more space to see all of my memories, not just the painful ones. I felt like I was feeling all the emotions, not just the anxious and stressful ones. And I could see the Lord’s hand over my life, over our lives and I could see the story HE had been weaving the whole time and I wanted to continue to be a part of it! I wish I could share every detail, person, lesson, moment, prayer and guidance that I experienced that all played such a significant role in these victories. It was not just the diagnosis, the medicine and the counseling. It was all of it. The life I had lived, the life I wanted to live and the grace to live it.
I used to think that the day I was “fit” again was going to be the day that “I arrived” at my goal. That the day I moved overseas would be the day that I truly overcame my fears. I know now that “arriving” is like a mirage.
I made it overseas. However, we thought we would live there for at least 3 years but we came back in 9 months. I am exercising again, but I am not and may never be the athlete I once was. I LOVE my kiddos and I am happy to be a stay at home mom and I go on a lot of adventures with them! Sometimes the hardest adventures are the days that we stay home!! At times I still find myself discouraged, and unhappy, but I live more now in the freedom of grace! I do not hold myself to the standard of those illusions I had set out for myself before.
When 9 months into our long-term move overseas ended, and we found ourselves selling all of our furniture and packing up our bags once more, we knew grieving would come but our minds were fixed on the reason for leaving. There were many reasons, but the most pressing reason was Jackson. We knew his hearing loss had progressed even further and now to the point of needing cochlear implants. We knew we needed to get back to the U.S to get the care he needed. We decided to bypass Florida and come straight to upstate NY to be with family. We were in need of support. But of course, as with most plans, we had no idea that our expectations for rushing back to the US to receive care for our son would play out like they did.
Month after month, we waited for doctor’s appointments and answers. Not only did things get more gray in what was to happen for Jackson, but then COVID-19. Every step we took to move forward and make sense of the past few years of our life, to understand what we were supposed to do now, was left unanswered. And the day I realized that we had been living with my parents in upstate NY for the same length of time we lived in India, I felt lost. I could not make sense of it all. I was losing hope that we would ever know how to find the best care for Jackson, where to live, where to work, or even who we were as a family going forward.
I was stuck in a mirage. The mirage that when we arrived back to the US, everything would be OK. That Jackson would get cochlear implants and we would find a home down the street from my parents, the kids would go to school with their cousins, and our family would have all the family support we needed. And the feelings of pain and sorrow from leaving India and ending a dream that was sought after for years would all fade because the reasons that we left would make up for it.
BUT, recognizing the mirage allowed for me to see all the REAL, tangible blessings around us!! Blessings that we would not have experienced if it hadn’t been for this season of unknown. Because of unanswered questions, because of the Coronavirus, because of time, we received support, love, healing, pruning, gut-checking, re-evaluating, and precious moments with family that you wish you could freeze in time.
Life is still messy, but we have finally received some answers and direction. We have found such great care for Jackson back in Florida with his audiologist and the team there that we have decided to move back to Florida. Jackson will be receiving his first cochlear implant maybe as early as September, but we continue to wait for those answers. We are relieved and grateful and feel such peace with this decision. However, it will not become another mirage. Once we “arrive” in Florida, everything won’t be perfect. Life will never be perfect on this side of heaven.
I have my eyes fixed on the author and perfecter of my faith, Jesus Christ. I walk in grace knowing that the success is not in the outcome, but in the attempt. It’s not about the destination but the journey. It’s not about where you are going, but WHO you are walking with. The victory is walking by faith and trusting in HE who is worthy to be trusted, to bring HIM glory and to hope that one day, He will say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Matthew 25:21
“Two are better than one, because they have good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
These were some of the temps this past week! Out of gatorade and glucon-d just ain’t cutting it. Not to mention our kitchen is the hottest room in the house and the only room without an AC unit. It is a sauna. And this whole gluten free eating is getting old! It requires constant food prep (in the heat) and several trips to the local grocery store (in the heat) and when we are finished, all we want is water anyway! This NY gal must still have NY blood because I feel like an oven that is always preheated, so with these high temperatures I need an ice bath to stabilize! So grateful for my husband. Our teamwork this week was clutch. This week did involve more than just heat though.
We paid our first electric bill which looks like a receipt that you receive and then are required to go pay at the electric supply office. This is tricky, without assistance I am sure Adam would have been lost somewhere in the middle of town in 110 degree temperatures looking for a building that no doubt is unmarked, has a long line of people and no A/C. Thankfully our superhero Landlord stepped in and saved the day (which he has done several times) and drove Adam to pay the electric bill and also dropped Adam and the boys off to get a haircut! How do you like that!
Those boys just about broke my heart with their big boy Indian hair cuts! They looked so grown up! And my heart broke for Adam as his sickness continued to hold him down no matter how hard he tried. For a guy who rarely went to a doctor in the states when sick, the fact that Adam went to a doctor here says a lot….. Indian virus-1, Adam-0.
In spite of the heat and sickness that dominated much of our week, I made it to the import store that sells frozen berries, frozen chicken, and frozen french fries! This is significant. I had heard about this store and tried to find it on my own. An hour later in a tuk-tuk with two boys, lost somewhere in the marketplace and overheated, we gave up. So thankful for a friend who picked me up and brought me there in her car! That meant I did not have to ride home with loads of groceries in a tuk-tuk! I took a snapshot of the outside of the store so that I would remember so I can go it alone in the future. I know I will need to with all this gluten-free cooking.
And, with my frozen chicken I was able to cook with the pressure cooker for the first time and make shredded chicken! I was so nervous I would over cook it that I ended up turning the heat off and checking on it 4 times. Which meant that it took double the time to cook, which kind of defeats the point of a pressure cooker. This also meant I spent twice as long in the sauna, er, I mean kitchen. Yeesh.
We were so excited that we had been invited to a friends house to watch India play in the world cup this week! Unfortunately going would have required both of us to be able to stand vertical. The heat had gotten us so bad that we took turns lying on the cold floor while the other tried to manage, anything at all. In our fatigue and surrender we let the kids take the shower buckets on the porch for some water play and they ended up turning the floor of the porch into a slip and slide. It was pretty great to watch. From inside,… on the floor,… in the A/C. Needless to say, India won the match against South Africa, and also won in the battle of Indian heat versus our hydration battle strategy. Now you know why I mentioned glucon-d not cutting it! Fortunately Amazon India brought us our tub of gatorate mix over the weekend!!!
India may have had some victories this week, but so did the Braucher’s. Jackson had his very first speech therapy session via skype! He crushed it! For a 3 1/2 year old to focus for 30 minutes on skype and not only remain engaged but excited was an answer to prayer. We are so excited to continue this therapy and are so grateful it even exists. We are also extremely excited to see Jackson’s progress in speech therapy, as he had spent two years with little to no progress in speech therapy before we knew about his hearing loss, and now that we have his “ears” in and they are all tuned up, we are ready!
Drumroll…….Gracelyn and I are finally ready to reveal some of our yoga progress! It has been awesome watching Gracelyn’s natural athletic ability unfold in these classes, very similar to how it did when she took gymnastics in the states. I have loved taking yoga from an athletic standpoint and have experienced increased mobility and pain reduction. Here they are!
Our week ended with receiving our long awaited package from the states full of goodies from Mima for the kids, and precious items such as popcorn seasoning, young living essential oil products and ziplock bags.
Stay tuned for next week, I have a feeling the popcorn seasoning and probiotic gummies we got will be a game changer.
Oh, and I went to the tailor with the material I bought last week! My dress will be ready on the 15th!
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart; and you will find rest. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30
I read once that it takes 21 days to make a habit and 60+ days to change your life. So at this point in our journey I believe it is safe to say we have experienced incredible life change and new habits. For example, I used to have ice cream almost every night before bed. You know, that sweet tooth night cap? But now, I am regularly so thirsty from the heat and dust that all I want is water and salt! I have always considered myself a sweets person over salty, but potato chips have NEVER tasted so good.
Another great change, is that in America, I always took a doctors word for gold! But here, I am finding that I follow a Doctor visit with a google search on “what are the 7 medicines he just prescribed for me to give my 3 year old?” I can barely get Jackson to eat his meals let alone take any medicine. Thus, I had to give my boys a heaping scoop of nutella every day this week to get them to take their antibiotics. Fortunately the medicine had a peppermint taste so I assume it tasted like a spoonful of peppermint patty. Coughs and sniffles have consumed each one of us lately. So I was grateful to have my oils when after I had used all the medicine I could think of, coughs were still keeping the kids and myself up. I used the Young Living Breathe Again Roll-on for me and Snifflease oil for the kids, and shortly thereafter…… sleep came.
Another change is that I used to take my second cup of coffee in the afternoon. 2 cups a day isn’t bad? Now, I can barely make it past 9:30 without a second cup. Maybe it’s because by 10 am my head is swimming with Hindi words during our language class. When there is only 2 students and one teacher, it is pretty obvious if you can’t keep your eyes open. I also blame the fact that India is for night owls. The evening brings bareable temps allowing for evening walks, parks, work and just simple socializing. Needless to say our kids are up for 15 hours a day!! NOT.A.FAN.
We did get invited to our first Indian birthday party this week for our friend’s 5-year old son. It was excellent! Complete with a paw patrol theme, a bouncy house, countless balloons, cake and party favors. It was so wonderful to see them so happy. However, I learned a little too late that you can not simply run to a pharmacy or party city to get wrapping paper. In fact, I still have no idea where to go to get gift wrap! I felt so embarassed to offer the gift in a bag with not even any tissue paper. I will have to research this before the next one!
The heat is increasing. I am still finding it hard to stay hydrated. I noticed that many people here wear white to beat the heat. So I decided to find an all white Kurta for the super hot days. Maybe it was the beautiful handiwork that drew me to this one, or maybe it was the song “Hopelessly Devoted to you” from Grease playing in the background (random right?). But the one I chose makes me want to run through a field of daisies and sing “the Hills are alive!” This Kurta is also very light. Which reminded me of today’s verse. Weeks here are a roller coaster full of ups and downs. And long days make for swollen and tired eyes and weary hearts. But I look to Him. That is where my help comes from.
I was grateful that we got to experience some new adventures this week. Gracelyn and I started yoga! Our language teacher connected us to his friend who is a professional yoga athlete and teacher and she came to our home to teach us. I was so excited to get active and even better, in the comfort of our home. I have not tried to exercise outside in public yet or go to a gym. I had been feeling pretty out of shape and was eager to get back into it. As always, upon exercising I was reminded that my mind thinks I am still a college athlete while my body cries out in defiance, “Oh no, you don’t. I will defeat you with arthritis and scar tissue! Leave my atrophying muscles alone.” You can only imagine how my hamstrings felt the next day after doing several rounds of surya namaskar. NO PICTURES for this one, somethings are better unseen.
The other adventure was a day of sightseeing over the weekend. We had not done a major tourist outing since we were hounded by hawkers at Amer Fort. We were hopeful that being 2 months in we were not so wet behind the ears. We also decided to pick a few places and keep the visit duration to a minimum. The first was Jaipur zoo! Which is actually, no longer a zoo. That’s always fun to find out….while you are buying tickets and about to go in with 3 very excited children. Turns out the majority of animals were sent to a nature reserve while the remaining wildlife consisted of birds.
To my surprise, it turned out to be great. And hilarious. For one, I have never in my life seen an ostrich the size of an elephant nor a pelican the size of a 12 year old boy before. So there was that. I have also never seen a museum of taxidermy animals in a zoo. But most of all, I have never been to a zoo where there is one monkey on the inside of the cage and the other monkey on the outside. At first we were excited to see the monkeys. But then we realized the one on the outside was clinging to the one on the inside and Jackson turned around and in sign language said monkey followed by signing the word “sad.” Later that night Gracelyn prayed that the monkeys would be reunited.
We also ventured to a museum. That was a fail. We lasted 10 minutes before meltdown 0′ clock started and people were sight seeing us more than the museum. So we bolted and headed to City Palace. This was a risk. We almost went home because the kids did not seem to be interested in history. Until there was a Bollywood movie filming in the center of city palace!!! 30-40 Indian women dressed in matching sarees, smoke machines, music and lots of “1-2-3 action AND cut!” I hope we get to find out what movie was being filmed someday. Attention spans run low with our crew, so after about 5 takes when the kids realized we were only going to see the same 30 seconds over and over again we needed to move on. And to our luck, we ended at a phenomenal puppet show where the puppeteers had their puppets perform a traditional Indian dance, a cobra and charmer dance and of course, an Indian Michael Jackson dance….. only India.
Our outing was a victory. We saw the sights, had a great time as a family, and I believe many people went home with a snapshot of us in their photo gallery on their phones.
Yes, random strangers took pictures of us and our children ALL. DAY. Encouraged for next week’s language class so I can learn how to say, “take pictures of the animals please, not my children.”