Not ready.

I never thought I would get to a place where I kind of don’t want summer to end.

It felt like yesterday when we were rushing to make sure that the majority of the summer weeks were accounted for because if we didn’t……..

AHHHHHHHH!

At the time, back in May, my chest got tight just thinking about the potential unplanned weeks ahead. The Fear of the combination of boredom + siblings + FLORIDA HEAT BEING/STUCK INSIDE would practically raise my blood pressure! Even though this was only my 2nd summer anticipating the “school is out of session” dread, memories from last summer’s cabin-fever days are literally burned into my brain.

Exhausted parent/oblivious child. I wouldn’t have it any other way 🙂

For most mom’s I imagine the song, “School’s out for the summer” has more of the “Jaws” theme song ring to it versus the celebratory appeal it has for the kids. I confess, I have not totally experienced the full weight of the “school’s out” feeling. Yes, we have homeschooled in past years, but to be honest the majority of school days were always so interrupted that I’m not sure I have ever really had that so-called “liberating” feeling of having all of my children in school at the same time. At least not for a full day.

For the past couple years, school days have always been brief or interrupted. Our youngest only had school for 5 hours a day, and our middle child often required a mid-day pick-up or need for mama’s intervention. Not to mention half of the week, the school days always felt cut short due to a doctor’s appointment or therapy session. Nevertheless, what I assumed was going to be a summer heavy-laden with the weight of having no break from the kids, turned into one where I rather realized the absence of the heavy weight of commuting to school and appointments.

In the beginning of the summer, several attempts were made to stay consistent with my son’s therapy schedules. But sickness and travel put us in a place of going over a month without services! For those who are familiar with the significance of a consistent therapy schedule for a special needs child, forgive me- it was not neglect that we went this long! I found myself in a panic on week 3. I could tell that we were both going through withdrawal as he could not self-regulate for the life of him and I started to shut down too.

Just a typical tantrum from the summer.

But something happened in that 4th week.

I forgot.

I stopped thinking about what he was missing.

I stopped worrying so much.

I started using what I knew, exercising the ways I knew to support him instead of focusing on what was lacking.

A moment of actually not feeling so anxiety-ridden.

The absence of therapeutic intervention began to lose its intensity. My muscle memory kicked in and we managed. I mean, this wasn’t our first rodeo without regular therapy. A little over two years ago, we basically had gone a collective 18 months without therapy during our 9-month stint overseas, plus 9-month temporary move to NY. Not that I recommend it, AT ALL! I have tried to block some of those days during that 18 months out of my memory!

But when we returned to Florida after our summer travel and there were no signs of sickness preventing us from getting back on the therapy schedule, we got that first week of appointments set on the calendar.

But to my surprise, I had a great deal of mixed emotions.

I was so excited to get him back to the supports that he needed. And honestly, I was so excited to have that support for myself too! I look forward to those post-session debriefs because I get to ask questions to someone who can finish my thought, knows exactly what I am talking about and can provide me with the tools to better support my kids! That and we just have the best support team for our kids!

But after spending over a month without any appointments on the calendar, when it was “back to the grind” time, I had almost completely forgotten about the commute and all that goes into getting to an appointment!

I had forgotten about the challenge of trying to schedule appointments, that mostly likely would need to be rescheduled. By no fault of anyone either, it just is what it is. And returning to the juggling act with my spouse as we lay out our calendars and discuss who is taking which child, to which therapy and for what hours of the day was not missed either. I had greatly enjoyed the break from insurance company claims and followups as well as wrestling my kids into the car for that 40 minute drive there and back!

I think I also enjoyed the rest from reality and all of the explanations.

Getting ready for school means getting ready for the reality that we have 2 children with IEP’s, which can require a lot of explanation. That our daughter now has BOTH younger brothers attending her school, and she is already anxious about needing to explain their behaviors to all of her friends. (But what big sister doesn’t stress over that!) That the phone calls and emails home will start again, and explanations due for behavioral incidents are inevitably on the horizon.

School starting up again brings about the reality that we took on a pretty hefty commute for private school because an alternative environment was considerably necessary. It brings about the reality that with that commute and the various therapy appointments, and potential extracurriculars, I will be in the car A LOT.

I share all of this because no matter how many times I have learned it before- I relearned this valuable lesson once again- “the grass is never greener on the other side.”

And even though I write from a perspective of special needs parenting, I know so many of my thoughts and struggles are not isolated to this arena, but are relative to parents in general. Some of us may spend more collective hours of the day with our kids because they are still too young for school yet, or they may homeschool. Some of us spend more collective hours in the car with our kids because of school commutes, or extra curricular activities. Regardless, we all LOVE our kids but we all can get weary and tired of being needed. We all love spending quality time with our families, yet we all need a break from time to time.

One other way I love that parents can relate to one another despite their family dynamic, is that as parents we are always adjusting. We continue to adjust our expectations based on their age and stage. We continue to adjust our priorities to what is best for our people as a whole. And we continue to adjust our outlook based on what life teaches us.

For me, I have adjusted my outlook on “summer break.” Through a change in routine and being removed from the typical and expected, I gained space to see outside of my assumptions.

I assumed that summer was going to be hard. We are a lively family of 5. The noise decibel in our house is way higher than healthy. Everyone is spirited, opinionated and willing to stand up for themself, (which I know will pay off one day.) Many of us, (possibly even myself-haha) are a work in progress when it comes to emotional regulation. But you know what? When people ask us, “How was your summer break?” I love (and am somewhat shocked) that my answer will be- “It was so great!”

We may have driven each other nuts on occasion, but we also made some incredible family memories! We may have battled boredom some days, but I got to witness my three kids play together voluntarily! As they ran through the house living out a story of imagined characters in an imaginary world, my heart lept thinking about how no matter what friendship troubles they might have had or will have, they ALWAYS have each other.

And I am grateful for how the summer provided space outside of the routine and mental space too. Room for me to consider how much my children have grown. And myself too.

Space to realize I shouldn’t be too quick to assume that last years troubles will be on repeat.

The grass is green on BOTH sides, it just takes cultivating.

It is a new school year.

New teachers, new backpacks, and maybe even some new friends!

Even our therapy locations have all changed, and maybe even our therapy needs?

And the best NEW of all…. I heard there’s an express lane on our route to school.

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!

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.

Fatigue doesn’t care, but I do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I couldn’t get past myself.

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

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

So many voices. My own, and others.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Becoming jaded does not take much effort.

Becoming hopeful….. that is the real challenge.

Becoming hopeful…..that is a gift.

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

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

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

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

— Grateful to be a servant of the MOST HIGH

1 Peter 1:3-9

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

On the other side.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mother’s Day.

It was the weekend before Mother’s Day in 2018. We went to Cocoa beach and had an incredible day. But as the day was ending and we were rinsing off the sand, the day took a turn.

To this day I can see what happened clearly, and at the same time, not clearly at all. The three kids were sitting at barstools overlooking the beach. They were passing snacks and being yelled at for trying to sit on the ledge. That is when Jackson fell off the pier. It was a fall close to 15 feet. He landed on his back on the sand. I can still feel the moment when his foot slipped out of my grip.

Fast forward to Mother’s Day one week later, I found myself sobbing in lobby of our church. I couldn’t stay through the entire service because I kept recalling the previous weekends scare. I was grieving over the events of Jackson’s fall. My heart squeezed as I recalled running down the pier ramp and onto the sand. I scooped him up into my arms, and we rushed him to the hospital. I cried that Mother’s Day because my mama’s heart hurt at the reality that one weekend earlier, my grip was not strong enough to hold him. By the grace of God, Jackson was not only OK, but completely uninjured.

Jackson today, May 2020.

I praise the Lord for his mercy that day. Even so, the painful memory still endures. And unfortunately, before Jackson’s fall, I was not a stranger to these feelings of pain and shame. I remember as clear as day when Gracelyn was 1 year old and 1 day, and I gave her peanut butter and jelly for the first time. I was so excited to share such a treasured treat and I looked forward to many PB&J days to come. That is, until the reality of her peanut allergy appeared.

I can remember her small one-year old body being strapped to an adult sized bed in the ambulance with EMT’s struggling to get an IV in her while I sang the only song I could think of to try to distract her, the “Happy Birthday” song. Hours later, following epipen and 2 steroid injections, she was recovered and we journeyed home with the trauma behind us and instructions for a new life ahead.

Sweet and strong Gracelyn, today, May 2020.

And I will never forget the day that Garrett’s school called us in, lead us down a hallway and had us stand outside a door to watch our son destroy a classroom. The beginnings of Sensory Processing Disorder, anxiety and ADHD could explain the long story, but the short of it is, a scared little boy was unable to process the big world around him and desperately needed physical touch to ground him. A hug, a squeeze, something. But the public schools have their hands tied and unless a child has a 504 or an IEP, the child is left to wrestle through their wiring and the world’s expectations of them. Once they let us in the room, I held him as tight as I could while Adam began deep pressure. As a result our son returned to us and broke free from the frantic that held him captive.

One-of-a-kind Garrett, today, May 2020.

Sometimes I wish I couldn’t recall these memories so clearly. I wish I couldn’t feel the pain and fear so intensely. Instead I long to meditate on the moments of thanksgiving and relief that follow. The moments when I rejoice because my children are still alive and safe in my arms. But anxiety will do that to you. Your brain gets stuck. And without intentional mindfulness, prayer and keeping your eyes on the Lord, the creator and sustainer of your faith, it is easy to fall prey to the pain and forget the victories.

Me, May 2020.

I guess, in that way, we are not so different from the Israelites. They witnessed protection through the plagues on Egypt. They witnessed being delivered. Yet, when they were in the desert, out of fear, they questioned ever leaving.

My children are only 8, 6 and 4 and I know there is more to come. I know that I am still young in motherhood. But I know that I am not alone in these experiences either. There are so many mothers out there with so many stories to tell. And by what I can gather, none of us are immune to the fears and insecurities that motherhood brings.

I look back on the past 8 years of motherhood with so many emotions. I pray with my entire being that I am doing right by them. I ask for the grace of Jesus to cover all my mistakes along the way. I beg him to finish the work He has begun in me so that I may fulfill all that is asked of me.

The Lord has blessed me with 3 children, 2 with very dominant personality types (and husband too!) I however, am wired the opposite. I have always struggled to find my voice in every setting of my life. Be it out of fear of confrontation, desire to keep the peace or just plain insecurity, I can honestly say it took me about 34 years to find my voice. And it was a messy road. Full of mistakes. Irony of it all, the Lord used motherhood to help me with that.

Today I can proudly say, I am the mother of an incredible, passionate, and dedicated daughter who will make an amazing actress one day. She is an expert at “not breaking character” when she becomes one. She is also the elder sibling of two boys with extra needs. We already have seen the impact of this on her life and so desire to stay vigilant in our awareness of her needs.

I am also the mother of a brilliant, witty, fire cracker boy who without a doubt is going to change the world- as long as I can keep him alive!! He may be wired with extra challenges, and he “extra” pushes my buttons, but we long to help him have access to all that he needs, to be all that God has planned for him. In these early years it is very challenging to discern when it is SPD, ADHD, ODD, anxiety, versus when it is just 6 year old boy. But God has placed us with the honor and challenge of identifying the difference, because there is a difference. Recognizing it and responding appropriately can change the course of his life.

And I am the mother of a precious 4 year old boy who has captured my heart and turned my world upside down. This boy was a God-given surprise that turned this scheduled, instruction following mama into a co-sleeping, wrap me around your finger type in the blink of an eye. And I think that was God’s plan because the way Jackson was designed does not fit into a type. Jackson has Usher’s Syndrome. His hearing loss, speech delay and future vision loss requires my ability to be flexible, innovative and full of grace.

I often wrestle with the temptation to ask God why he has chosen me for this family. I often feel so inadequate, weak, and discouraged. I struggle with the exhaustion from feeling like I am giving my all, my best, and not making a difference. Do you?

But I have to battle the temptation. For the sake of my children. And trust, that the Lord gave me these little ones for a reason. And that He does not expect me to be perfect. In fact, He knows I cannot. And, He knows that He can. For “He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

And in His great mercy, he plants people in my life along the way, to demonstrate love, faith, courage and wisdom. He places others in our life to guide us and help us, like puzzle pieces working together to finish a masterpiece. I mean, it takes a village, right?

These truths enabled me to move our family of 5 overseas. And these truths allowed me to move us back.

And I will preach this to myself daily, if need be. Because God is worthy to be trusted. He is worthy to be praised. If He is worthy to take our sin upon the cross, sacrificing his life for us, then He is worthy to carry us through the life we live now. He is the one most worthy of our humility. Only then can HE extend His grace, so that we might taste the life He has set before us.