When “Don’t forget to take care of yourself Mama” makes you want to punch a wall.

It is a phrase that is often delivered by well-meaning friends, family members and doctors. Delivered to you with the best of intentions. And it is often offered to you by the very people who know how hard it actually is! So why does this phrase often incite frustration and cynicism inside the sweet mamas receiving these words instead of the support and comfort they were intended to deliver?

It might be because she is sleep deprived to a level comparable to torture. Her brain is functioning at subpar levels and now focus, logic and emotional processing are extremely impaired.

It might be because she has tried to “sleep when baby sleeps”- but baby doesn’t sleep. Or, as soon as baby falls asleep and she puts him down, he wakes back up. She finds herself broken down once more by how close she was to rest and is convinced that she may never sleep again.

Maybe she has more than one child, and when the baby rests she is making sure to give her toddler one-on one time. Maybe she is postpartum and her hormones are all over the place. Maybe she promised that she would breastfeed and is determined not to give up, but the fight for success in this area is suffocating her physically and emotionally.

What if she just went back to work and it is taking all of her to perform her job well, and return home with enough energy to care for her kiddos, make dinner, try to keep up the house and still connect with her husband?

What if motherhood is so much harder than she thought? What if she is not the mother she thought she would be? What if her children’s needs are much more than she imagined? What if all of her hopes and ideals about motherhood have been challenged beyond repair?

Now imagine you see her, and you can tell she is weary, tired and emotional. And you put your hand on her shoulder in response to her venting and say, “Don’t forget to take care of yourself, mama.”

Even the most well-meaning comments can feel like punches in the stomach when your physical and emotional state is under water.

I have felt this “punch in the stomach” more times that I can share. I have been in a place where hope felt painfully impossible to even think about.

Knowing all too well how this feels, I have found myself wondering lately, “How did you end up becoming someone who says this to other moms? As I share with others about the nutrition and fitness program that I am a coach and client for, I have wrestled with this message of self-care to the mamas out there, when I know how it feels to be in the trenches.

I recently put together a montage of photos of my 3 children and I from the past 10 years. The photos spanned from pregnancy to birth to toddlerhood including both painful and precious moments we experienced. The message that I shared over this collection was meant to acknowledge how powerful motherhood really is. It holds power in the weight of its most miraculous and most painful experiences and memories. Motherhood holds power in the dichotomy that most of us could not wait for this season of life, yet once in it, we realize it is SO MUCH MORE than we could have ever imagined in both incredible and exasperating ways. It holds power in the ways that it has involved, impacted, and changed our minds and bodies. So much power that the thought of taking care of yourself when you have such a great responsibility to take care of others seems not only impossible, but even, dare I say- irrelevant.

Yet, even after acknowledging all that, how is it that I have found myself on the other side of the motherhood “fence,” encouraging other moms to NOT forget themself in the process.

Have I stumbled upon the “secret” to self-care? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Do I have it all figured out? HECK NO. Is my life easier now and without struggle? As Pete the Cat would say, “Goodness No.”

But just like the meaning behind the former name of my blog, “Yesterday’s Kurta,” every yesterday has a story to tell.

While living in India, every Kurta I wore had a major story to tell. A story of hardship and discovery. So just like every yesterday has a story to tell, every person has a yesterday- A unique experience that could provide encouragement and connection to others who might be journeying through something similar. Each person is also in a different season of life. This means that they’ve already traversed through your current life season. Even more, one thing we all have in common even if our experiences or seasons of life vary, is that loneliness and discouragement are always beckoning on our doorstep. Always “prowling around like a lion waiting for someone to devour.”

Reflecting on our yesterday’s often provides us with the ability to offer others relevant wisdom and comfort. And when reflecting with an attitude of thanksgiving, we can see just how far we’ve come. Sometimes the ability to tell someone I know what you’re going through, you’re not alone, and I will help you go through it can be priceless.

When I am facing a challenge, or helping others I am often reminded of the book, “Going on a bear hunt.” With every obstacle the family experiences on their journey to find a bear, the chorus that repeats is,

“We’re goin’ on a bear hunt,
We’re going to catch a big one,

What a beautiful day!
I’m not scared

Oh look! It’s some long, wavy grass! (Or thick mud, or a dark forest, or a pond, or a snowstorm, or a dark cave…)
Can’t go over it,
Can’t go under it,
Can’t go around it,
Got to go through it!

We’re Going on a bear hunt By Michael Rosen

Every person has a forest or a snow storm or pile of muck that they couldn’t go over or under, but had to go through.

For me, one of my “forests” was when my second child had horrible colic for the first 6-9 months of his life. I think back to that time and recall so many tears, so many books rummaged through for help, so many walks by myself because I needed a break from the crying (that despite all of my efforts) I could not relieve. So much gripe water, and trial and error with formula that always ended in projectile vomiting. Then I spent 8 weeks dairy-free to breastfeed because that was the only option. My sweet poor babe was on both C-omeprazole and Zantac to relieve some of the pain of acid reflux. The pediatric GI somberly informed me that the small sphincter at the base of his esophagus just needed more time to develop and time was one thing I had no control over. I remember thinking during his pregnancy (which was very painful with constant braxton hicks starting at 24 weeks) that maybe he would be an easy baby. Wishful thinking.

As hard as it was, his pregnancy toughened me up a bit and prepped me for his colic. And now that I think of it, his colic may have strengthened me for his childhood. Over his 8 young years of life we have been managing Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD, Anxiety and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Navigating all these challenges potentially built in me a stronger base that would ultimately prepare me for my third child, who I did not know was going to have Usher’s Syndrome which comes with its’ own set of unique challenges. The needs of my children have broken me down in so many ways, but the ways that I have been rebuilt are priceless. Every single struggle has sent me running to Jesus. And with HIM and all that this life has allowed, I am much stronger than I ever was or ever thought I could be. My mind likes to tell me lies about who I am and what I am capable of, all based on how hard things have been and my feelings in those moments. But Jesus gives me strength unimaginable. He give me strength to consider hope, when everything around me tells me otherwise.

So back to the beginning. How am I able to offer those (sometimes irritating) words to other mamas out there now?

Maybe I have simply arrived in a new season of life. Maybe I have more room to breathe to consider taking better care of myself. Maybe I am less sleep deprived, maybe my kids are in school, maybe I have help.

Or maybe, just maybe, I couldn’t stand NOT taking care of myself anymore.

I started to look around and realized that the waves were never going to stop coming. The obstacles on my “bear hunt” were endless. I had and continue to have legit reasons to explain my lack of margin in my life for self-care. But I tired of them. I tired of the hamster wheel of struggle, of treading water and receiving a life raft just moments shy of what felt like drowning.

So maybe you too feel a weight on your back when someone tells you to take care of yourself.

Maybe it’s because you’ve tried before and “failed.” You’ve seen others succeed when you couldn’t and it hurts like shame.

You see no light at the end of the tunnel and no possibility for hope. The obstacles are too great.

I want to enter into that space with you and say, I know. The weight of what you are feeling is real. It really is all TOO much. There really IS no margin. And having a hope for something better often feels like a trick.

But the alternative to hope, is bitterness and resentment. The alternative to trying is being stuck. The alternative to asking for help is relying completely on yourself, burning out and falling prey to isolation, cynicism and becoming someone you swore you would never become.

Sometimes it takes one simple moment of humility, acknowledging you need help to take care of yourself. One simple prayer asking Jesus to show you how. One simple decision to break the pattern of giving up, and begin the habit of taking one baby step at a time towards healthier choices. As mamas we know all too well what “baby steps” look like. If those sweet toddlers keep getting back up, so can we.

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.”

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

Sarcasm or Encouragement?

Have you ever been in an emotional rut?

Stuck waking up day after day feeling the same heavy emotion? Carrying the same hopeless mindset that leads you into the same painful experience of trudging through the day?

If you have not, that is amazing! I know I definitely have. I have experienced seasons of suffering, be it physical, mental or emotional that left me feeling like I may never wake up feeling hopeful again. Those seasons were long at times and at other times brief, having only felt long.

As a high school and college athlete I loved all of those motivational posters. You know, the ones with the pictures of mountain scapes that read, “Attitude is Altitude” and the others that always showed someone in the military dominating life with the word “SUCCESS” written over top of their picture.

It’s funny how time can change you. Those same posters I was inspired by in my youth irritate the heck out of me now! Now, I find myself more drawn to sarcasm. And it seems I may not be the only one! As I was writing this blog I google searched these infamous posters shown above only to find that many have been altered to include the same photo but with a sarcastic caption.

Funny, right? Now, I am not cynical enough to create these hilarious posters, but I do resonate with them. Even more so, I resonate with the messages that are sarcastic but yet still uplifting. Like this one…

As a mom, I get my fill from the light hearted and funny quotes that you can find at www.smilesmacker.com. They make you smile, you can share them with others to make them smile, AND you can even buy products and have your favorite quote placed on it!

Regardless of my encouragement preference or anyone else’s, I think the main thing is that encouragement is so necessary. Life is hard. Most people are trying their best, and still stumbling, failing, meeting opposition or discouragement. Sometimes we try our best and things go great, but then we realize we are not done yet. We have to try our best again, no matter how hard it was the first time. And that is life. Especially life for many parents in a pandemic. The impact that the coronavirus has had on the education system has been intense. It has caused a great deal of challenge and exhaustion for parents, kids, teachers and community members. I believe it has been hard on everyone regardless of if they are a parent or not. I highlight the parents in this blog, because I am speaking as a parent, in hopes of encouraging another.

This past year we homeschooled our children in India, and it was a heart-breaking experience. Not all homeschooling experiences are like this, I am sure. I mean, when I homeschooled our daughter for kindergarten, it was great! As for our negative experiences, we were balancing the special needs of two children who needed more than we could give, and we all felt broken at the end of it. So when we returned to the U.S so that our youngest could get the cochlear implant that he needed, we placed our kids in public school and saw them thrive! Now this is not always the situation either. I know this because when we placed our son in a public school for Kindergarten before we moved overseas, we were receiving phone calls from the principal’s office twice a day for weeks! I share both sides of the coin, because-like I mentioned earlier… Life is hard! For everyone, for all different sorts of reasons. No one side has it easier, and the grass is NOT greener on the other side.

We loved seeing our kids thrive for those 3 months in public school. But then COVID-19 came and shut everything down. There we were, homeschooling again. And now, the 2020-2021 school year has begun and we are homeschooling again. And it sucks. Can I say that? Can I just be honest? It sucks! And it is NO ONE’S fault. It just is.

But I vividly remember being back in India. At night, I would feel so heavy at the thought of thinking about waking up again, only to meet the same crushing demands of the day. For me, it was the humbling realization that I could not homeschool alone, I needed my husband. It was the painful realization that my son was struggling with ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder and the latter part (ODD) was for me alone. He welcomed my husband’s authority but threatened mine. I grieved that I was unable to provide our eldest daughter the attention she needed while also grieving that our youngest grew to hate school time because that meant his siblings were occupied and whatever lesson we were trying to perform with him was in vain as he was battling decreasing hearing loss and an inability to communicate.

These are painful memories. They have become very fresh as we have returned to this homeschooling routine once again and it has brought to mind the all too familiar struggles that we once endured.

But one thing is different. Very different.

Choice.

I guess that is one positive thing that you can take away from a negative experience. That and the ability to say, “I have done this before. I survived. It all turned out OK, and it will again. I WILL be ok.”

I think the motivational sayings started to bother me because when I read them, I was interpreting them as saying, “This isn’t that hard, you SHOULD be able to do this well. YOU just have to try harder, YOU just have to be better.”

Instead, I am reading them as if the person who wrote them is saying, “Mama, I feel you. I hear you. I know how you feel. This is hard. You WILL get through it. You WILL be ok. Things WILL get better.”

And this time around, I am remembering the way it was and CHOOSING a different way. I am choosing not to go to bed dreading tomorrow. I am choosing to ask for help. I am choosing to give myself grace. I am choosing to say it’s ok if it doesn’t go well, we can try again tomorrow and we can always try another way. I am choosing to validate myself, affirm myself, and use the tools I have to make it through the best way I can.

I am going back to my FCA days when we would teach about the Armor of God. And I am using my arsenal of emotional support oils to gear myself up for the day. I am using these resources to give myself a shot, to surprise myself, to be proud of myself, and to be the best I can for my family.

I am doing this with scripture and with the help of applying these Young Living Essential Oils:

  • Hope
  • Gratitude
  • Joy
  • Believe
  • Frankincense
  • Valor

Let me know if you would like to learn more about these essential oils and their properties!

The Word of God contains so much encouragement. This scripture in particular-

Ephesians 6:10-18

The Armor of God
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

I am supporting myself and my home by using diffuser blends to create the environment I am longing for such as:

And I am making myself laugh with sarcastic inspiration.

I hope you too are able to walk lightly into a new day, laugh and feel hope. Because you ARE doing a GREAT job.

Grace in the weeds.

The first time I heard the expression, “In the weeds” was in reference to a server at a restaurant being completely overwhelmed with orders and people. When I became a mother, I thought of this expression often and soon the idea of being “out of the weeds” was a mere illusion.

My brain now contains so many “in the weeds” memories, I cannot keep track. Like the time I was changing the dirty diaper of one squirming child, while the other figured out how to unlock the door and escape the apartment. Or, when my husband was out of town and during bedtime one child FINALLY fell asleep and immediately the other one started repeatedly yelling at the top of their lungs, “MOM! Come wipe me!”

Then there was that one time that our middle son came down with the stomach bug, followed by my husband two hours later, then, myself and then the other two children until all 5 of us were fighting over the 1 bathroom.

We all have our own “in the weeds” experiences, don’t we? Lately, our family’s experiences have had more to do with physical and emotional capacity for one another; Or rather, lack thereof.

When life hits you from multiple angles simultaneously, it can feel so much like you are “in the weeds” that in fact, you are drowning under them. Emotionally it becomes difficult to support one another when you are all treading water. The past couple years our family has experienced so much transition, loss, and change that supporting one another while we are all weary has often felt impossible. And to make it even more interesting, the 5 of us have had totally different experiences from one another! Take these pictures for example, all 5 of us physically in the same place, yet emotionally experiencing completely different things. It can feel divisive when one of you is feeling joy or excitement and the other… not so much.

When we told the kids we were moving back to Florida, Gracelyn had actual tears of joy while Garrett had tears of sadness. And BOTH of their reactions were right, justifiable and OK. Similar to our first couple months in NY after leaving India, I was experiencing joyful family reunion while my husband was processing the end of a dream.

Personal preferences, past experiences and even genetic makeup can create for these differences in experiences from person to person. But however explainable, it still doesn’t make it easy. However, it does help to recognize when you, yourself are in the weeds. It helps to identify it-because when you do, you can share that with your loved ones, and this gives them the ability to offer you grace.

11 years into marriage and we are definitely still working on our communication skills. But this one- this “grace in the weeds” practice has been priceless.

Here is the part where I lift up my hubby.

He was ready to move overseas in our first year of marriage. 9 years later we went. How did he wait this long? Grace.

He knew I was in the weeds. In the weeds of motherhood. In the weeds of moving to another state while 8 months pregnant. In the weeds of identifying and managing my anxiety. In the weeds of life! How did he know I was in the weeds? Besides the obvious. I told him. I told him I was struggling. I apologized for ways I projected my frustrations on others. I asked for grace while I leaned into the Lord and asked HIM to carry my burdens, change my heart and give me the strength to do the things I needed to do.

It is hard to ask for grace, if you don’t believe you need it. And if you don’t believe you need it, you might be missing out on the ways that you can grow as a person. This might not be the case with everyone, but it was for our family.

I am sure that in our last couple months in India, I was not at my best. Little did I know that I had been taking a placebo instead of actual anxiety medication, but even so, my head was not where it needed to be for my family, for the people I love. But, my husband gave me grace, upon grace, upon grace. He was able to do so because he has seen me at my best and my worst and because he constantly checks in with me and asks me how I am doing. And I tell him my truths because I trust him with them.

When we returned from overseas, I was able to extend the same grace to him as he took time to process unchartered waters. Because I too have a mental log of him at his best and his worst. I too ask him how he is, and he trusts me with his truths.

Walking through the weeds with someone can be painful. Long-suffering may be reality. Mental logs of your loved ones at their best and worst can be helpful forms of measuring tape and asking questions and being honest are crucial. But grace….true grace comes from Jesus.

The truth is- we love our people. We love our loved ones, and when it comes down to it we would probably jump in front of a bus for them.

But when our loved ones get ornery, cranky, selfish or unkind, it can be hard……so very hard. Don’t pretend like you don’t know…. you do. Those moments when your person is behaving in a way that hurts, and you want to set them straight. And sometimes you do. And other times, you stop and take a breath, and realize that their behavior is just the pain talking. The pain inside that no one else can see. So instead of setting them straight, you give them space and love them anyway.

A few verses keep circling in my head as I write this blog.

“As the Scriptures say, ‘No one is righteous— not even one.'” Romans 3:10

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12

“But He gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.'” James 4:6

There are many reasons that I love Jesus. Today, one of the main reasons is this, without HIM, I would not have seen my sin. Without HIM, I would not have redemption. Without Him, I would not be able to receive grace, nor offer it.

No one is perfect, but it can be hard to see your sin, when you are a pretty good person. You can look to the left and look to the right all day, and see yourself as doing a pretty good job. Until the day you do something, behave a certain way, or even feel a certain way that you never thought you would, let alone could. The day you realize you are a sinner, is the day you are truly capable of love.

When you can see your own faults, you can ask for help, and ask for grace. And when you have had to ask for grace or forgiveness yourself, then when it is YOUR time to offer it to someone else, you have a mental log of what it felt like to receive forgiveness or grace when you did not deserve it. Then, you too can offer it as well.

Grace in the weeds.

I love my people.

We are all sinners.

I can’t imagine a life without forgiveness.

I started writing this blog because our family just moved after living 8+ months in my parents house. My parents are amazing. Their generosity and hospitality and Pete the Cat mentality are incredible. But everytime I spoke with someone about our current circumstances, they asked me how my husband was doing. Because, let’s be real- any spouse living in their in-laws house for an extended period of time deserves grace right?

Well, my hubby did it for a very long time. He had his ups and downs, but I am so grateful for him. He loves my parents, me and our children so well. He knows when we are a healthy family unit, and when we need help for our family unit to thrive.

I love you Adam.

Thank you.

Things are not as they should be.

We were walking through a furniture store to pick out a piece for a family member. No big deal. Except for when I wandered off, looking at pieces of furniture, and the strangest thing happened. My chest felt tight. My heart felt uneasy. My brain was telling me, I have been here before. But being here again, is too soon.

At this moment, we were 1 month into being back in the U.S, but I could remember the day I was walking through the furniture store in India, picking out furniture for our new home, like it was yesterday. Picking out the furniture that was supposed to last us the next 3 years, at least. The same furniture we sold in two days, only 8 1/2 months after we moved in.

Fast forward to 3 months completed now, living in Central, NY, living with my parents and India has begun to fade… already.

When we first got to my parents house, all we had is what we brought with us to India. Which if you know anything about India’s climate, we were not prepared for NY’s winter. But for Christmas, at least I had something red. A red Kurta, the last Kurta that was purchased while we were in India.

Wearing a Kurta in upstate NY 3 weeks after departing India for good brought on all the feelings. One being, can I really get away with this attire here? But mostly, feelings of sorrow, pain, and confusion. The wounds from our abrupt departure, still raw, still not even fully addressed.

Come late January, all of the India souvenirs were mailed, all of the Kurtas packed away and picture albums old news. I have returned to the messy bun and athletic clothes, no more coffee made via Aeropress, back to the Keurig and fully hooked once more on Almond Joy coffee creamer. I guess I felt if I returned to all of my old -isms, and American comforts, did that mean our move to India didn’t really exist? Did all that the Lord has done in me, really happen?

It’s the seasons of uncertainty that are the perfect breeding grounds for doubt and believing the lies that are whispered over you. The lies that tell you you are a failure, you have let every down, you can’t hack it. All too familiar, these lies. Fortunately the familiarity of lies bring the familiarity of God.

I cling to HIM more than I ever have. I trust in HIM more than I ever have. I believe that I am a chosen, loved, redeemed child of God more than I ever have. All that the Lord has done in me is real. We did move our family of 5 to India, with significant purpose, hope and intentionality. It all did happen.

And yes, I have to remind myself of these truths every morning. I have to talk myself down from yelling at the Lord when I awake to each new day with the relentless reality that 3 months after rushing back to the US because Jackson needs cochlear implants, we are still no further along in the process than when we left. We still are living in my parents home, sharing their car and unsure of what the future holds.

Things are just, NOT as they should be. But then again, that truth is not new. That truth is the same truth that encourages me to cling to the hope of Jesus Christ, and the hope of heaven. The hope that Revelation 21:4 brings, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” One day, we will not have suffering or sickness, and grief will end. One day, Jackson will have hearing and vision as clear as day. One day, this mama will not battle her persistent opponent, anxiety. One day, Dad won’t stress about finances and providing for his family. One day, things will be as they should.

Until that day, God is gracious and merciful and loving and kind and ever present and always faithful. We just need to pay attention. I know this to be true because HE uses his people to remind us. He uses my parents daily to remind us. How they day in and day out, generously and without expectation give, host, support, counsel, and love our family. How my brother shares from the bottom of his heart how much it means to have me “home”. How my sister in law without hesitation watches our kiddos after school.

I also experience God’s nearness through the blessings that come in moments. Moments like being present for your Grandma’s 80th birthday. Moments like getting to see your niece’s classroom during open house night at school. Moments that come daily like experiencing our kids level of excitement as they share about each new day at their new school, and moments that come every couple weeks like witnessing Garrett’s sweet bond with my dad as they head off to Lowe’s and grab a soda and a hot dog from the outside vendor.

These moments are significant to me, as I have lived as long out of my hometown, home state as I have lived in. I have missed so much. While we were in India, I missed the passing of my Nana and her funeral. The pain I experienced missing that, creates a whole new appreciation for all the little things I am experiencing now.

Things are not as they should be. But we get glimpses.

Glimpses by way of suprise mail from dear friends and supporters who just want to offer us a card of encouragement and a gift. Glimpses when others go out of their way to show you how much they are praying for you, thinking about you, here for you. Glimpses come when your church offers their continued support financially and tangibly to help you through this season of uncertainty.

But do not be mislead. I have to pay attention to these people, these moments, these glimpses. I have to look for the blessings. And WHEN I don’t, because let’s be honest I AM HUMAN, then I get swallowed up in the reality, that things are not as they should be and I forget to hope for heaven. I forget to find my hope in Christ.

We are now post 4 cochlear specialist consultations and 4 different audiology tests, and we have landed in a place of uncertainty once more. We are encouraged to repeat testing that was done while we were overseas, to obtain certainty that his hearing loss has TRULY become severe enough for implantation (for insurance purposes). While we agree on the need for certainty, Jackson’s diagnosis of USHER’S SYNDROME is driving the ship. We need to get him the best access to hearing that we can, and that’s why we returned to the U.S, and ended our journey serving overseas.

What I know to be true, what I am finally accepting, is that I have 3 children, 2 with special needs, and I need some support. We needed support so much that we bypassed Florida and flew straight to Upstate, NY. We left tenants in our townhome, and all of our belongings in our storage unit to come straight to my parents home with only what we had from India.

And even in the midst of continued uncertainty and lack of conclusions, God is answering our need for support. And because of this support, I am even able to think outside the box these days. I am able to dream, analyze, consider.

In April 2018, I needed support, emotional support. I found it by way of essential oils. By the end of the year I grew to learn so much more about the life-giving support offered by these natural oils distilled from plants and I realized by sharing them I can actually help support others too!

It is humbling, to feel as if you always need help or support. When we moved to India we had great hopes of serving others in various ways. And we discovered, we just could not. Our kids needed more support than allowed for us to serve others. Humbling to say the least.

Lately though, I have come to embrace this truth. I am embracing the reality that God created our family unit just the way it is. And in this current season of life, these little people HE has gifted to us are our main job. We want to love and serve them with all that we can. He is gifting us the ability to do that right now. And HE is gifting me the ability to serve and support others right where I am. From my home, while my kids sit next to me, when I share about Young Living Essential Oils with others in hopes that this natural element can support a need, just like it has done for me. And all the while potentially providing my family with an extra income.

So here is our update. We are doing life with family, getting support, and waiting until God reveals HIS plan for Jackson. We are praying, the kids are going to school, Adam is reflecting on his past careers and exploring where HE can best use the gifts God gave him. I am still praying, and often in a Cry-Yell-Pray sort of way and I am officially going to start my Young Living Essential Oil Business. https://photos.app.goo.gl/YSsVAqmE4VEqMMsPA

And daily, sometimes hourly, often minute by minute, I am looking for the glimpses of life, that remind me of God’s promises.

Malaysia

So we are not in Nepal! Not sure if you all caught that at the end of the last blog. We rerouted from Indonesia to Malaysia on November 11th. Our plans changed for several reasons.

Our last week in Indonesia was pretty tough. We were all travel exhausted and the effects of constant transition were taking its toll on our family. I was down for the count, knocked out by something that we thought was dengue. Two blood tests later and I still do not know what I had, but the kids caught a version of it as well.

Picture this:

Hottest week to record in history in Makasar, Indonesia. Constant fevers making it impossible to leave the air conditioned bedroom of the house that we were staying in, that just happened to be located directly next to a mosque who blasted the call to prayer over a megaphone 5 times a day.

Talk about being in a dark spot.

More significantly, Jackson had a noticeable decline in hearing again so we knew we needed to get his hearing tested sooner than waiting until we returned to Thailand in December.

So we booked flights to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and checked into an airbnb which later would become 1 of 5 Airbnb’s over the course of our stay in KL. Oh yea, before getting to KL we had already stayed in 9 hotel/houses in 2 months time.

We knew that we would be living nomadic for our 3 month forced exit from India, but we averaged a new place every 5 days. Can you feel my pain????

On the bright side, we knew we were making the right decision for our family and we had an ABR (sedated hearing test) scheduled for Jackson at Gleneagles Hospital 2 days after arrival.

Garrett, Gracelyn and myself also had checkups and walked away with 3 prescriptions each. How does Adam avoid this? I think someone needs to create a vaccine from his DNA.

We spent the first 4 days in KL returning to the hospital. Ill explain why in a bit.

But we also spent our time in Malaysia walking through Chinatown to the Pavillion Mall, taking grab cars to Suria KLCC mall and outdoor playground, visiting the Petrosains twin towers, eating donuts, visiting indoor playgrounds, going to the movies and seeing all of the christmas decorations up all over town.

Not sure if I am the only one who has noticed. But it seems everywhere we have gone around the world, marvel characters seem to be there!

Thanksgiving came during our time in Malaysia. At first I did not want to celebrate. Too many expectations to meet or let down during such a transient time. But we made some friends back in Indonesia that happened to be in KL and they invited us to join them! I never expected to celebrate Thanksgiving, and see Christmas decorations everywhere here in Malaysia, but I was grateful for both.

Well, as for the results of Jackson’s hearing test, little did we know our small re-route from Nepal to Malaysia would bring about a major re-route by the end of the month.

We had suspected a decline in jacksons hearing but we didn’t know how significant. Jackson’s hearing is now at a severe hearing loss level. This makes 4 declines total in his 4 years of life.

At this point we have been told that it is time to consider cochlear implants.

Back when Jackson first received his hearing aids we attended a support group for families of children with hearing loss. Many of the children in the group that were Jackson’s age already had cochlear implants. A representative from cochlear came and spoke to the group. I felt compelled to ask questions and take notes, as if this was an inevitable part of our future.

When we found out Jackson has Ushers Syndrome type 2, we were told to check his hearing every 3 months due to his rate of decline, even though ushers type 2 is not typical of progressive decline.

I just had a feeling we were headed this way.

With Ushers there is inevitable vision loss at varying degrees making it even more important to stabilize hearing.

So here we are now, almost 1 year since he received his hearing aids and we find ourselves spending the majority of our time scrolling websites about cochlear implants and discussing possibilities for surgery.

After considerable research and counsel from his audiologist in orlando, we know now that he is a candidate for cochlear implants, that he has maxed out his current hearing aid capability, that his hearing has declined roughly every 3-6 months and dropping and that the window for speech and language development is closing rapidly. Because of this, after great prayer we have decided it is time to return to the U.S and begin the process of pursuing cochlear implants.

Before we left for India we knew that he had hearing loss caused by Usher’s syndrome. At the time, we felt that we had everything we needed to care for him well even in india. We did not expect two declines in hearing while overseas.

It is clear now that we do not have all we need to care for him and our family unit well and thus we will be headed to upstate NY where my extended family is while we pursue cochlear implants for Jackson. During this time we will wait on the Lord to guide our next steps.

Being rerouted is hard. Having to wait is hard. Not understanding is hard. And trying to make sense of it all is exhausting.

Our journey has been one with setbacks and times of riding the wave, it has held changes in plans, open doors and closed ones.

Through it all we have tried to rest in the things we know to be true. The things true of ourselves, our needs, our abilities and limitations. Things we know to be true for the season we are in. And always the truth of who Jesus is and who we are as believers and followers of Christ. He is good, faithful and sovereign, no matter what. “He is our refuge and our strength, an ever present help in times of trouble.” Psalm 46:1

It is not our circumstances that makes this true, it’s the calm we experience in the presence of our circumstances. The calm that only comes from the Holy Spirit. The “peace that transcends all understanding.”

And with that, all we can do is the next right thing.

Yes, you heard me. I just quoted Anna from Frozen 2. But in all fairness, we saw the movie twice while here in KL and those songs are now engrained in my mind. And confess, I may have teared up during that scene.

So the next right thing for us looks like heading back to India, packing our bags and heading to the US.

Please pray for our family as we try to repack and transition once more.

Indonesia

10 years. We have been married 10 years! What better way to celebrate then heading to

BALI!!!

Bali is a place that we would never have visited had we not already been on this side of the world. So we decided to spend our first two weeks of Indonesia in Bali before heading to an island in Indonesia called Sulawesi. We saved up some birthday money since Garrett, Adam, Jackson and Gracelyn all had birthdays in the past 3 months and decided to stay at a hotel with an awesome kids pool and slide. They were so pumped. The day after we arrived it was Jackson’s 4th birthday. We had so much fun celebrating and enjoyed the hotel staff as they helped us celebrate Jackson too.

The beach was a close walk from our hotel and we got to see so many sea creatures just wading in the shallow waters.

The kids had so many questions about Balinese culture. every where we turned there were statues and gargoyles and temples.

In fact, we were all so intrigued that we decided to rent scooters one day and travel through town to visit a place called Puja Mandala. In one location, side by side are 5 different places of worship including a Hindu temple, a Mosque, a Buddhist temple and both Catholic and Protestant churches.

As intrigued as we were by the various religions and presence of endless puja stands every 5 feet, there was one place that captivated the kids attention like no other.

……Pirate Bay.

Our kids have had quite the cultural experiences this past year. As much as we hope to have deep probing question and answer sessions with them about what they are seeing, how it makes them feel, or what they think, we know that they are kiddos. In one breath Garrett will ask us, “Do they believe in Jesus” and before we can get an answer out, he’ll shout, “What! A pirate ship!!!!”

All these things for some reason reminded me of a passage of scripture in Luke 2:15-20, “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherd returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

I don’t know why I keep thinking about this passage when I think about my kids and all that they have seen and witnessed this past year. Maybe I am storing all these realities up in my heart, and maybe they are too. For example, walking through Bali there were so many offerings on the ground made of flowers and straw, leaves and incense. The kids would sometimes accidentally step on them or knock them over. We asked a local about their significance. The reply was that the offerings on the ground are to ward off the evil spirits and the offerings up high on the temples and statues are to encourage the good spirits. Of course there is so much more to it than that.

Every space available had a temple or statue and offering and it appeared that a great deal of motivation behind the daily rituals was that of thanksgiving and fear, all to appease the spirits. Do not get me wrong, I am by no means an expert on world religions. I only understand as much as I learned by seeing and asking questions.

But witnessing these practices caused me to reflect in thanksgiving on the freedom I feel that I have in my faith in Jesus Christ. I have stored up this treasure in my heart that daily I know that I can not earn His love or appease His wrath. There is only one God and one mediator, Jesus. My righteousness is in Him alone. He was the ultimate sacrifice and nothing I do or do not do can add to what He has already done. In Psalm 51 16-17 it says, “You do not delight in sacrifice or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O god you will not despise.” It is by realizing that I am broken, and sinful and in need of a savior that brings me to my knees daily, thanking the Lord for His grace and unconditional love.

I am also so grateful for the chance to see so many different people, cultures and worldviews, stuff that I had only read about, I have had the chance to see firsthand. And Bali had so much to it. I am so grateful that we had the chance to visit Bali both in tourist areas and local living. I surprised myself how much I enjoyed the food! But one of the coolest things we did was visit to a Luwak coffee plantation. It was there that we learned that Luwak coffee has a special backstory. The coffee beans are eaten by a furry little animal kind of like a raccoon or cat. The animal then poops it out, processing the bean even further. Which is then dried and crushed. The sight of Garrett taking part in the process made me laugh since he has always had a fascination with helping us make our morning coffee. We all enjoyed a spread of various different teas from the plantation. My two favorite were mangosteen and lemongrass. The avocado tea was surprising as well. Later in the day we hiked through some rice paddy fields. It was invigorating to take in the culture, the outdoors, the agriculture and to see our children’s faces light up with intrigue.

Our last day in Bali was Halloween! Still can’t wrap my head around what time of year it is while we are over here in the tropics. Adam and the boys had a fishing date while myself Gracelyn and a friend of ours went out to the local grocery store to find some unique treats for our trick-or treating evening planned at our friends house. Early the next morning we were back at the airport and off to Sulawesi, Indonesia.

I wish I could share more about our time in Sulawesi. Unfortunately, I fell very sick on day two. So sick that I was tested for dengue fever twice. I still do not know what I had, but I never want it again. The upside was we celebrated our beautiful first born’s 8th birthday, AND I got to have another Starbucks!

See you in Malaysia!……

Thailand

Ephesians 2:10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

One week before leaving on a 3 month visa run, Jackson fell off the bed, got a nice slice in the back of his head that required stitches. 

Lord, have mercy.

6 months in India and I was soooo close to avoiding a hospital run! But these kiddos gotta keep me on my toes. On the bright side, he was able to get the stitches removed one day before our flight to Thailand. An answer to prayer since we were planning on swimming for the next 2 months!

In case I forgot to mention, we are limited to 180 days in India for 2019. This meant I had the incredible challenge of packing up our family of five with 3 months worth of necessities while also packing up our home to protect it from dust and mold. We only just arrived in India at the end of March, so since we were already out for 90 days, we only have to be out for 90 days more! ONLY! 

Haha. I hope you mistake my sarcasm for optimism! 

In one sense, a 90 day trek through South East Asia is a dream come true! With three kiddos under 7, let’s just say it’s a “dream” and leave room for interpretation. Our plans were to spend 30 days in 3 different locations, Thailand, Indonesia and Nepal.

We arrived in Thailand after a red eye flight and took a 5 hour bus ride down to the beach. After catching some z’s, we took a walk outside and it was love at first sight. From that moment on we spent all of our time soaking in the fresh air, blue skies and beautiful views. 

To help you better experience the fresh air with us, here is a little background.

We landed in India one month prior to the heat of summer (aka 115 temps) and monsoon season. This limited us greatly from any quality outdoor time. Getting outside was always a challenge. We depended on uber or hailing down a tuk-tuk to get around. Either way, it was never a seamless transition. 3 kids without carseats, motion sickness, language barriers and a map that was never quite accurate made us wish we could walk everywhere. However, with no real sidewalks and a traffic system that looked like the racing of the bulls prevented us from taking a stroll to the park. We were all so thirsty for outside time that we spent the next 7 consecutive days rotating between the pool, the beach and bike riding. Dream come true…check!

And the dream would have continued for the next 7 days at the beach but the kids wore out their bathing suits so much they all got bathing swim rashes! I have never seen anything slow Garrett down the way that rash did. We tried to mix it up and still had a great time as we ventured out to the local markets, explored more of the beach front looking for shells and took a chance on scooter rides. My first time driving a scooter and it was life breathing! I had not driven a vehicle since we left America and the autonomy of doing so brought a refreshing sense of independence.

After 14 days in Dolphin Bay, Thailand, it was time to move north to Chiang Mai. Our city in India actually has medical care beyond what we expected. However, our family has some needs that require specialists and many other expats had encouraged us Bangkok and Chiang Mai were the places to go. Thus, we planned our trip that we would spend the first 2 weeks decompressing with the healing outdoors and the next weeks getting checkups.

The place we stayed at in Chiang Mai was filled with families with young children just like ours, plenty of outdoor play room, a pool and 3 square meals a day. The kids made instant friends with other expats and we all enjoyed having good, nutritional meals and company. I especially loved the daily laundry service.

We were all able to get an annual checkup, a dental checkup, some debriefing over our past 6 months transition to India and some western food! One of my highlights from our time in Chiang Mai was finding out that the anxiety medicine that I had refilled in India was most likely a placebo and I am not crazy!! Haha. For real. I had been wondering why my medicine was not as effective for the past couple months and after having a checkup I was able to get the real thing and it was a night and day difference, praise the Lord!

But without a doubt, I think the kids would say that their favorite part about Chiang Mai was going to the Elephant Sanctuary and to the Chiang Mai Night Safari for church! Yes, you heard me right! We got connected with a church that held its services at a zoo! After service you get to walk around and see some animals for free!

While in Chiang Mai, we had hoped we would be able to get Jackson’s hearing checked and Garrett an evaluation with a pediatric behavioral psychologist. We needed to check in on his pre-existing sensory processing disorder/potentially ADHD. Unfortunately, Chiang Mai did not have the speciality services we thought they had. In fact, we had appointments scheduled for both boys and when we arrived to check in, that is when we found out that they were actually scheduled at the Bangkok location. Same hospital, different city.

UGH!

So we cut our time short in Chiang Mai and travelled to Bangkok. We were not excited about this because our family of 5 in a hotel in the city for 5 days is not a pretty picture. Especially after having left a city and relished in the outdoors for the previous 3 weeks.

Regardless, of the the less than ideal circumstances, we praise God that we were able to get the services we needed for our boys. Garrett had an evaluation with an excellent doctor and we were able to identify his ADHD clinically and get the treatment and resources that we needed. We were also able to establish care for Jackson and get the ball rolling on his future hearing test that we will need in December.

For fun, we went to the movies and let the kids get some energy out at a trampoline park!

So in one month we stayed in 4 different hotels. So far so good. Hard to believe there are two months left if not more before we can return to India. We had great adventures and great respite. We also had time to reflect on how the past 6 months in India was for our family and for ourselves as individuals. Upon leaving India, I was not very thrilled about this forced travel, but I found myself grateful. Grateful to step out, literally, pause and reflect. No matter where I go, I know who I am. Made in Christ and sustained by Him. Cared for and guided by a Sovereign God who knows every hair on my head and every day that has passed and is to come.

And to be honest, it was refreshing to wear a teeshirt and shorts, throw my hair back up into a messy bun and remember myself before India. I packed only 3 Kurtas for our trip! I knew that in Thailand and Indonesia I would be able to wear more western clothes but in Nepal, our last stop on our trip, I will need to take the Kurtas back out. Until then, bring on the western wear and Starbucks!