All the Feelings

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… I cried out to the Lord in surrender.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I saw that,

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

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

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

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

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

Emmanuel means “God is with us.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas, Blessings, and Happy New Year!

Phone calls & field trips.

“Hello?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This kid.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I still am.

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

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

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

Today is October 4, 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So today I will write.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is true for all of God’s children.

This is true for you mama.

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

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

His promises are forever.

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

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!

The Journey Deepens

 

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

How it began.

April 12, 2019

 

I am so excited to share with you about our little Braucher bunch and our time here in India. Our journey here has a backstory of almost a decade. To be here is an honor and a privilege. To be here is a testimony of God and His great majesty.

My hope is to share highlights of our weeks but also struggles and joys weaved into stories told by my Kurtas. Each post will be sprinkled with thoughts about the Lord, cultural revelations and victories using Young Living essential oils. My thoughts are in no way the be all, said all for ways of life in India. They are simply my thoughts and speculations. I hope that the joys and benefits I have received from writing my thoughts will be a blessing to you also.

Thank you for joining me!

Heather

SINCE THEN…

May 14, 2021

I felt it necessary to update this introductory post. It has been 2 years since I started this blog and after you read the posts, you will understand the need for this update!

The title of this blog started as “Kurta Daily: Life in India and all the feels.”

Upon returning to the USA with the realization that we were not going back, the subtitle became “Life AFTER India and all the feels.”

Now the title is “Yesterday’s Kurta.”

I considered changing it to something regarding motherhood, but I couldn’t. When I started this blog, I was transitioning to a new life overseas. Writing about our experiences was like therapy. The Kurtas that I inherited while living there were more than just a garment to help me “blend in.” Every day overseas felt like one hundred days in one. When all of your senses are stimulated at the same time with experiences so new, so different, so challenging and so exciting- each day establishes itself as a memory imprinted at the forefront of your brain forever. And each Kurta was a symbol of all that happened in that day.

After returning to the U.S, the intensity of life did not slow down. Maybe it was because of all that happened. Maybe my senses were turned on in such a way, that life would never be the same. But every day still feels like one hundred days in one. Every day is filled with so much incredible joy and heartache. And the Lord has made good on HIS promise. Not one day has HE forsaken me. This life continues to delight and dishearten, but HIS presence is constant, enduring and full of incredible love. So yesterday’s kurta, or leggings or teeshirt or business suit or pjs tells a story worth telling. I hope mine inspire in you ALL the feelings. I’d love to hear yours!

Love,

Heather

And Now…

August 17, 2022

A little over a year later, I have decided to change the title. So much life has happened since I began this blog and I recently spent some time in reflection, and re-read every post. I found each one, layered with laughter, heartbreak and hope. It has become ever so clear that the majority of my writing describes what life has been like as a mother of children with special needs. Narrating in the midst of this constantly moving, never simple life has become a practice in mindfulness. Every time I write, it is therapy for my soul. And every time I write, I imagine with great hope that there is a woman or a mama sitting on the other side of the screen feeling heard, seen and known through the ability to connect with my stories.

If that is you, I’d be honored to know!

Love,

Heather