Fatigue doesn’t care, but I do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I couldn’t get past myself.

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

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

So many voices. My own, and others.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Becoming jaded does not take much effort.

Becoming hopeful….. that is the real challenge.

Becoming hopeful…..that is a gift.

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

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

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

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

— Grateful to be a servant of the MOST HIGH

1 Peter 1:3-9

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

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.

The mirage of “Arriving.”

I have heard the expression, “I have arrived!” It was said to announce not a physical arrival to a destination but a metaphorical arrival. I have held dreams of this kind of “arriving” or success. Along the way I learned that,

“Success is not always in the outcome, but in the attempt.”

Hmmmm. Thought provoking, right? Who was the author of this enlightening thought you ask? Well, I can tell you.

Sometime in late 2013, early 2014, I was determined that I would overcome SOMETHING. ANYTHING! I was so tired of being a prisoner to my weaknesses and always talking about the same struggles day in and day out. It felt like finding joy in motherhood, being able to exercise again and having a “faith big enough to move overseas for” were simply goals that I could not reach. My mind told me that these goals were possible for others, just not me. If you have been reading my blog, than you have heard me express my battle with anxiety. At this time in my life, I was in denial that what I was struggling with had anything to do with anxiety. I believed it was truly just a result of my weakness.

Daily I felt that I was failing to achieve any goal I set for myself. I could rehearse all of life’s pains and struggles as if they were still raw and fresh. And I would rehearse them. At least my brain couldn’t stop remembering all those painful experiences and was convincing me that the idea of giving things another try was being a glutton for punishment. I wrestled with tasks as small as encouraging myself to get out of the apartment with two kids solo, to big ideas like just wanting to be a fully functional stay at home mom. Ya know, the kind that managing the home and children comes natural too. The kind without grumbling, no stress… just joy. Because after all, I chose it. And I assumed, if you choose it, you should love it. And be good at it, right? I also battled with questions like, how come I want to be a happy mom, but I can’t? How come I want to exercise, but I can’t? I was a former strength and conditioning coach and now every time I exercised I would end up with severe spasms in my neck and back so debilitating that I could not move for days. So when it came down to choosing between caring for my toddler and baby or giving exercise another shot, the decision was made for me.

Most of all, I asked myself, why can’t I just be fearless? What happened to the girl who studied abroad in Australia? The girl who travelled New Zealand solo? The wife who chose to spend her first wedding anniversary on a medical mission trip to Africa? Now, the mere topic of living overseas brought panic attacks. At the time, I did not know they were panic attacks. I did not know my body was having a physiological reaction to fear. And I did not know that my fears of living overseas were being manipulated by media and body chemistry.

photo from our 1st anniversary in Ethiopia.

My husband and I worked for a non-profit sports ministry with future hopes of moving and serving overseas. At one point in our journey I decided enough is enough. I was going to wrestle fear by the horns. I was going to say yes. Let’s move to India. Funny how in the movies there is sweat and a punching bag and usually a great soundtrack when a character overcomes something. For me, I just got more back spasms, and actual asthma attacks.

Now before you stop reading and think, this is the most depressing blog ever, hear me. As discouraged as I was, I still wrote the quote that I started out with. “Success is not in the outcome, but in the attempt.” I even shared it in a room full of people during three separate speaking opportunities. And to be honest, the more I told myself, and others, the more hope and life I breathed in and the more lies and discouragement I exhaled. Because the success IS in the attempt. The success is when you keep trying, even when it’s hard and you have failed.

You ARE successful, when you don’t give up on hope.

I used to think success was only when you “arrived” at your goal. For me, I had to look deeper at the goals I was setting for myself. I was setting goals, making expectations for myself that I believed if I just tried hard enough, I could achieve. For example, if I did all of my physical therapy exercises my neck and back would heal. If I strength trained enough the “right way” I would return to the athlete I was. If I prayed hard enough, I wouldn’t be afraid of moving overseas. If I read enough parenting resources, I would feel competent and in control as a mom. I believed I would truly feel success and peace when I reached these resolutions in my life.

Fast forward to today, June 2020. I can exercise now without ending up in spasms! I am still the mom of 3 littles ones that I love dearly but challenge me daily. I moved to India… and I moved back.

I can still remember the day I dreamed about being able to exercise again, like I do now. I can still remember how it felt to dream of one day not being afraid to move overseas, like I did. And I can still feel the ache in my heart over the days that I grieved over not feeling the way I thought a mom or wife should feel. But, I had no idea that “reaching my goals” would happen the way it did. It was not the result of “muscling” through. It was a gradual process of surrender. A process of surrender that brought me to a place of willingness. Willingness to try another way, to see things from a different perspective, to humble myself, and to trust the Lord deeper than I ever had before.

In 2016 I started treating my anxiety with medicine and counseling. The year that followed brought healing, grace, forgiveness and deliverance. One day, I was not afraid to exercise. And after I did, I waited for the spasms. They never came. So I exercised again the next day. No spasms!

It started small. But those small steps were the biggest wins I had ever experienced. I had started going out SOLO on adventures with my 3 kiddos. Joy, redemption and excitement were some of the emotions I experienced that I never thought I would!

And then one day, after a time of serious reflection, I was able to look back on our then 6 years of marriage and say, I think it is time for our family to move overseas. I shared with others how through managing my anxiety, I was able to see life SO much more clearly. It was as if my brain had more space to see all of my memories, not just the painful ones. I felt like I was feeling all the emotions, not just the anxious and stressful ones. And I could see the Lord’s hand over my life, over our lives and I could see the story HE had been weaving the whole time and I wanted to continue to be a part of it! I wish I could share every detail, person, lesson, moment, prayer and guidance that I experienced that all played such a significant role in these victories. It was not just the diagnosis, the medicine and the counseling. It was all of it. The life I had lived, the life I wanted to live and the grace to live it.

I used to think that the day I was “fit” again was going to be the day that “I arrived” at my goal. That the day I moved overseas would be the day that I truly overcame my fears. I know now that “arriving” is like a mirage.

I made it overseas. However, we thought we would live there for at least 3 years but we came back in 9 months. I am exercising again, but I am not and may never be the athlete I once was. I LOVE my kiddos and I am happy to be a stay at home mom and I go on a lot of adventures with them! Sometimes the hardest adventures are the days that we stay home!! At times I still find myself discouraged, and unhappy, but I live more now in the freedom of grace! I do not hold myself to the standard of those illusions I had set out for myself before.

When 9 months into our long-term move overseas ended, and we found ourselves selling all of our furniture and packing up our bags once more, we knew grieving would come but our minds were fixed on the reason for leaving. There were many reasons, but the most pressing reason was Jackson. We knew his hearing loss had progressed even further and now to the point of needing cochlear implants. We knew we needed to get back to the U.S to get the care he needed. We decided to bypass Florida and come straight to upstate NY to be with family. We were in need of support. But of course, as with most plans, we had no idea that our expectations for rushing back to the US to receive care for our son would play out like they did.

Month after month, we waited for doctor’s appointments and answers. Not only did things get more gray in what was to happen for Jackson, but then COVID-19. Every step we took to move forward and make sense of the past few years of our life, to understand what we were supposed to do now, was left unanswered. And the day I realized that we had been living with my parents in upstate NY for the same length of time we lived in India, I felt lost. I could not make sense of it all. I was losing hope that we would ever know how to find the best care for Jackson, where to live, where to work, or even who we were as a family going forward.

I was stuck in a mirage. The mirage that when we arrived back to the US, everything would be OK. That Jackson would get cochlear implants and we would find a home down the street from my parents, the kids would go to school with their cousins, and our family would have all the family support we needed. And the feelings of pain and sorrow from leaving India and ending a dream that was sought after for years would all fade because the reasons that we left would make up for it.

BUT, recognizing the mirage allowed for me to see all the REAL, tangible blessings around us!! Blessings that we would not have experienced if it hadn’t been for this season of unknown. Because of unanswered questions, because of the Coronavirus, because of time, we received support, love, healing, pruning, gut-checking, re-evaluating, and precious moments with family that you wish you could freeze in time.

Life is still messy, but we have finally received some answers and direction. We have found such great care for Jackson back in Florida with his audiologist and the team there that we have decided to move back to Florida. Jackson will be receiving his first cochlear implant maybe as early as September, but we continue to wait for those answers. We are relieved and grateful and feel such peace with this decision. However, it will not become another mirage. Once we “arrive” in Florida, everything won’t be perfect. Life will never be perfect on this side of heaven.

I have my eyes fixed on the author and perfecter of my faith, Jesus Christ. I walk in grace knowing that the success is not in the outcome, but in the attempt. It’s not about the destination but the journey. It’s not about where you are going, but WHO you are walking with. The victory is walking by faith and trusting in HE who is worthy to be trusted, to bring HIM glory and to hope that one day, He will say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Matthew 25:21

Mommy-ing with Anxiety And Oils.

Heather Braucher 

I had a flashback the other day. Oddly enough, I have this one a lot. It was back to a time when my 3 kids were 5 and under and every other week my husband had to travel  3-4 days for work. My oldest had begun pre-school (late birthday) and I spent most days at home with the two boys. As much as my daughter loved her pre-school, and I was grateful for having one less child’s needs to juggle, I DID NOT enjoy the 7 straight months of various sickness that followed.

Ear infections, flu, stomach bugs, bronchitis, pneumonia, and hand, foot and mouth disease all cycled through our family of five and the pediatrician’s consistent reasoning for this crippling season of chronic sickness- pre-school. It was very hard for me to accept that simply because my oldest was hanging out in a classroom for 5 hours a day, that our entire family’s immune system was shot. And the day that I found myself hurling with the stomach bug AND coughing at the same time due to my active case of pneumonia, I knew that something had to change.

Now let’s flash even further back to high school. In those days, I was a dedicated athlete. I loved training, and seeing progress. I went on to play field hockey in college with hopes of becoming a sport psychologist. I loved the passion, mental perseverance and discipline that sports and fitness desired from an individual. I wanted to be a part of helping people overcome obstacles in their way of reaching their full potential. I earned my B.S in Psychology and Sports Coaching and my M.S in Exercise Science. I had the privilege of working as a high school field hockey coach, a college field hockey coach, a sports performance coach at Velocity Sports Performance and PerformFit, a personal fitness trainer, a group fitness trainer, and even a strength and conditioning coach for athletes and teams. 

Around the 5th year of my career, just when I began to feel the part, an old college neck and back injury reared its ugly head. My ability to train others and myself began to dwindle and my career felt like it was ending just when it was taking off. Interestingly enough, my personal faith crossed paths with my professional journey and the intersection brought me from a job in sports performance to a job in sports ministry. In hindsight, the transition made perfect sense. I was drawn to the psychological element of training people, this explained why when I trained clients, it often felt a lot more like a counseling session.  

6 years later, married with 3 children, our family transitioned into a career in the field of world missions. We partnered with a global sports company and moved to South Asia. Now before you get the wrong idea, and imagine I am this devout Christian who is peaceful, pious, fit and psychologically sound, hear me…

It was exactly 11 months and 29 days postpartum after my 3rd child that I walked into my OB and said “I think I have postpartum depression and anxiety.” I am almost positive that my confession was probably 3 years late, but even so, thank God. My life would be forever changed by that day. Following that OB appointment came diagnosis, prescription and counseling. These tools provided me with understanding, proper brain chemistry, and coping skills.  With my counselor, I walked through stages of my life that left memories, regrets, pain and fears trapped in my brain and my body. And I mean, literally trapped in my body. You heard my background. I was an athlete, a fitness trainer. But at this point in my life it had been 3 to 4 years since I was able to exercise at all without ending up with debilitating back spasms. I was angry and overwhelmed ALL of the time. The freedom from recognizing and treating my anxiety allowed me to begin experiencing breath, life, and victory in areas where anxiety held me captive.

And the Lord did not stop there. It was then that I was introduced to the world of Essential Oils. Like I said, we had experienced chronic illness in our family for an extended period of time. Over the counter medications and antibiotics had become all too familiar in our daily routine. Prescription medicine was imperative in some areas of health, but even so, I was desperate for healing inside and out. I wanted the same thing for my family. My best friend shared some of the Young Living essential oil products that had a tremendous impact on her family. Essential oil blends like Stress Away, Valor, Vetiver and Peace and Calming became my secret weapons. And not just for me, but for my kids!

At the same time, it was also becoming evident our middle son was battling SPD/ADHD. Being too early for medication and diagnosis, oils like vetiver became instrumental in assisting his body chemistry. Over the next couple years all 3 kids began school and the EO’S that support our immune system were crucial in the game of “which sickness will they come home with next?” The products, education and community that Young Living offered provided my family with physical and emotional support. It also provided me with an outlet! As a stay at home mom, I found solace, as well as an avenue for utilizing my gifts. I loved creating roller blends and DIY gifts for friends and family. I loved being able to create something that I would later be able to offer my children when they needed help settling down, focusing, or even falling asleep. 

When I reflect on my background, it makes sense why I am passionate about health, wellness and fitness. When I think about my body chemistry and family dynamic, it affirms my need for emotional support. But My God continues to weave my life into a story. He continues to affirm that no matter what season of life, whatever strength or weakness, whichever state or country, He sees me, He knows my yesterday and tomorrow and he is not done with me yet. He plans to use me for good. Be it through, motherhood, health, fitness, ministry, or natural living, I plan to be useful, to share my struggles and victories with others, and to be there for those seeking victory too.

Mother’s Day.

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

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

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

Jackson today, May 2020.

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

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

Sweet and strong Gracelyn, today, May 2020.

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

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

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

Me, May 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!……

Purple

“No power in the sky above or in the earth below-indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:39

Some memorables heard in our house this week were, “Mom, for my birthday I want Power Rangers on this side of the cake, Yoda on this side, and a Gingerbread man on this side.” – Garrett in reference to his upcoming birthday.

“Mom, I know I am not a spider, but you know that I really do have super powers, right?”- Gracelyn after having seen the Spiderman movie.

Oldie, but goodie.

“Mom, can we have a going to heaven party this week for nana. I mean, one where we all just snuggle, and cry and be together.”- Gracelyn after sharing with her that our beloved Nana was nearing the end of her battle with cancer.

What Gracelyn said was perfect. And that is exactly what I planned to do when I received word that The Lord healed Nana from her cancer and took her into his loving arms. And HE did, and she is at peace now, and I give thanks for this truth. But my heart does ache.

My heart aches for being absent during this time. It aches knowing she was suffering and it ached as I clung tightly to my phone for fear of missing any updates. I was absent for a lot this week. This week held 3 family birthdays and a funeral. I did as much as I could to stay busy, because that’s what we do when it hurts too much right? Either that, or we sit in the heartache and want to be alone. I did that too.

I also rested in God’s grace this week. Every time the reality came upon me that I would no longer get to talk to or see my nana, I remembered how she believed in Jesus and Loved Him. And I know that I will see her again, in heaven. I rejoiced hearing from family members about how despite their grief, they were truly celebrating a beautiful life of one who loved well and was loved well. Her favorite color was purple and so, many of her loved ones wore purple to the funeral.

I was out at a shop the day of her funeral and every purple item in the store popped out at me. I was even looking at a kitchen item in one section of the store and there, behind it was this random piece of cardboard with the word purple written on it! I left the store that day with my own little nana daily reminder. A small bag for inside my purse that will go with me everywhere, every day.

Emotions are funny.

Sometimes you are so flooded with one emotion that you can not feel any other. Like when your 3 year old is a dinosaur who won’t break character and is having the performance of a lifetime, but you are in the middle of a quiet restaurant and someone tells you, “Cherish these moments, they go by so fast.” It’s really hard to grasp that perspective when you are sweating bullets trying to muffle the dinosaur.

Oldie, but goodie.

But then there are other times when you are so flooded with one emotion but it creates a landslide allowing all the other emotions to join in the fun. Like when you are feeling really down and heavy-hearted, and every which way you look, the lens is a muddy color. I felt this way too. Suddenly, all the things I used to like, became irritants. Similar to when you start dating someone, you love all their quirks, but after some time it drives you nuts that they won’t throw out an empty tube of toothpaste or empty jar of ketchup because “it still has some left.”

It was clear that I needed a change in scenery. So, I got brave (or desperate,) got us a babysitter, and went on a date with Adam, and then a date with myself. This was a huge victory! Adam and I have only had one date since we moved here and we have been here for almost 4 months. It’s hard to find someone you trust in your home country, let alone in a foreign country. So it was a big deal to find one here. And the kids were pumped. In fact they shut the door on us when we arrived back home as if to say, “No! Not yet!”

I documented our date because it was roughly 1 hour at a coffee shop with uninterrupted conversation and it was amazing!

Then I headed off to an event a friend was hosting at her business workplace. It was a vendor show for different businesses in the area. It was wonderful. I stopped by each booth and got to hear what each vendor offered as well as some background to their business. I was fascinated by how many businesses were passionate about using eco-friendly materials to make their products. One in particular known as Ashanari was a non-profit organization that focuses on teaching the local women who live in the slums how to sew and earn a living as well as conserving water by using scrap materials to make clothing instead of cotton. I was able to support the organization by purchasing an adorable and comfortable yellow dress with pockets!

I also meandered over to the free samples that Cafe Kothi had on display and very quickly realized I would not be leaving without a jar of dark chocolate peanut butter. Comfort food, right? I had already had my second coffee of the day on my date with Adam, so I couldn’t order another but was needing a “cold drink,” as they say here. On the menu was a mint pomegranate drink that to this day I can’t stop thinking about. Hit.The.Spot.

Later that night, Adam and I watched Avengers End Game and I realized that since coming to India, I have become a legit Marvel fan and now want to go back and watch all of the movies. Maybe it’s because I got to see all the superheroes in person (see an earlier post for proof!) The next marvel conquest was the new Spiderman movie because Garrett is a die hard Spiderman fan and we decided to have a family night at the movies. I didn’t think it could get any better than riding the scooter that was on display at the entrance of the movie theater. That was until, during the movie we looked over at our kids and saw the most intense smile on Garrett’s face.

After the movie Gracelyn delivered her comment (see the beginning) about having super powers. It took everything we had to hold the three kids back from trying to spray spiderwebs from their hands and swing down to the bottom floor instead of using the escalators.

No joke. Our kids genuinely believe they are super hero’s. And ya know what, they just might be.

Well, in India-Fashion, just when I started to get all irritable and down-trodden, India brought me some sweetness in the form of good old-fashioned American sugar and laughter.

It may have taken over 3 hours, but a sweet friend of mine made us donuts! Oh how we miss Dunkin Donuts. These homemade donuts brought sweet nostalgia to our family.

Unfortunately Jackson came down with a fever this week. I knew he was fighting something when he willingly took two naps two days in a row. It was time to get a check-up, but this time I wanted to see a pediatrician. We had been pleased with the ENT we had visited and more than pleased with the Audiologist, but this day, I was needing that special touch from a pediatric doctor. We had a referral from a friend whose kids had seen this doctor before so we called her up and made an appointment. On the way there in Indian’s Uber style, Jackson got to ride in the backseat with no car seat, but this time without his siblings he had so much space! He was so happy it was like we took him on a special carnival ride.

We got to the hospital where the doctor’s office was and I was once again impressed by the infrastructure, and cleanliness. Even without speaking much Hindi, a staff member knew exactly where to direct us when we mentioned the Doctor we were there to visit.

Although, there were a couple sights on this visit that did catch me off guard. The first sign is one that I have never read in a hospital before. This sign may come as a shock to some of you, as confusion to others, or maybe even familiar. I can not speak for certain as to why this sign was there, but I can speculate the reason and it brings me sorrow.

On the other hand, the second picture just made me laugh. I felt two things as I received the doctor’s text message back. One, only in India would my doctor be texting me during a casarean. Two, maybe I should see this as a privilege to be texting with my doctor?

Either way, we saw the doctor and she told us many children were battling viral fever and no antibiotics were needed. This was a relief, because getting Jackson to take medicine is like getting me to eat frog legs. I was so encouraged once again with the level of care and that special quality a pediatric specialist has with children.

Back at home I knew that family members were reconnecting over Nana’s passing. I knew that memories were being shared, photos were being rummaged through and stories being told bringing tears and laughter. I hated missing all of it but I could just picture how history was being reignited. Later that week I was at a shop famous for block printing. As I read the description on the wall about the process of block printing, the history behind it and how the art is passed down from generations, I was struck by how well India celebrates its heritage in grand and small ways. Families truly cherish and honor the generations before them. And so does mine. I thought about the actual block print, a wooden stamp of a design used and printed on cloth. I then thought about how Nana has left a stamp, an imprint on all of our hearts, for a lifetime.

No matter how far away, I can feel my family’s love. Just like I can feel the Lord’s.

“No power in the sky above or in the earth below-indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:39

Life actually.

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” Isaiah 40:30-31

“Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

After the grind of language learning, homeschooling and home “minister-ing,” I look forward to the weekends, to rest. But as every parent knows, weekends are cool, but they are no day-off. So in typical fashion we filled the weekend with activities that were outside of the every day and had some fun. For this post I will share about two weekends and the week in between.

We took the kids to beat the heat in an indoor play center called Kid Fun City.

The next day we took them to the pool we had gone to a couple weekends ago. I made sure I took pictures of the estate that this pool is located on because it is a former general’s mansion turned resort and for a fee the pool is open to the public. The grounds of the resort are incredible, and I am sure Adam and I would have spent more time exploring if the kids were not running full speed ahead to the pool.

After the pool, we returned home and spent some time preparing for the week. We began monday in normal fashion with language classes and homeschool. However, it also began with some unexpected news of friends leaving. Here, the landscape can change in an instant. There are many other expats here in the city and many travel to their home country for holiday and many leave either because it is time for their return back or the government has asked them to leave. As a foreigner, we are restricted to a certain amount of time in country depending on our type of visa and business. I was gripped with the reality of our limited time here. Much like all of our days, in the big picture or small, tomorrow is never promised. We filtered much of our week through the temporal nature of life abroad while wrestling with being present at the same time.

I gave this post the title of “Life Actually” because it reminded me of the movie, love actually. You know, the scene in the airport at the start and end of the film, with all of the hello’s and goodbye’s that life brings. I changed it to life instead of love because of the sobering nature of the week. Hello’s and goodbye’s are a part of life, but that does not make them easy. It was not easy to leave friends and family back in the states, and it is not easy to be absent during trials and celebrations. It hurts to say goodbye to new friends, it hurts to be left behind. It breaks my heart to watch others deal with grief of saying goodbye, be it temporary or eternal. Goodbye’s are heart breaking.

Small things can break the mundane and soberness of reality. For example, laughter and ordering coffee from your favorite coffee place in the middle of language class, or watching as as many Marvel movies in a week as you can. And hands down, Bollywood music and movies can change the mood of a room in an instant. “Bum Bum Bole” is one Bollywood song that is a hit right now and the kids are loving it. During our language class the kids have class with an excellent teacher and she taught them the choreography to this song and they had a blast. Music and dance always bring light to my day so it was pure joy to see Gracelyn’s excitement when she showed me what she had learned.

At the end of the week, I was so excited that my new Kurta dress was ready to be picked up. I was amazed at how great it fit, how beautiful it felt and how comfortable it was. And finished in perfect timing as Adam and I got to go on our first date since we moved here that Saturday! So I put on my new dress and we went to a coffee shop for pancakes, cappuccino and uninterrupted conversation. Oh, and we swung by the market because who doesn’t when you have the chance to get some groceries sans kids. As if having a babysitter wasn’t enough, we also took the kids to see the movie Secret Life of Pets. It was actually their gift to Adam for Father’s Day. At the movie theater there was a promotion for watching the Cricket World Cup Match so we enjoyed getting a “snapshot” with some local celebs.

After the movie, the kids and I worked together to bake some gluten free cupcakes and bread for Father’s day. It was my first time using a small convection oven and first time making bread ever. So….. it was…… interesting. I mean, it tasted like bread! That’s success, right?

In the afternoon, on Father’s Day, we were ecstatic to see the rain and the wind! It is either pre-monsoon season, or actual monsoon season, but either way- it rained! And that meant the temperature dropped. I stood outside letting the wind blow all around me as Gracelyn frolicked around in her rain boots singing “Jumping up and down in muddy puddles,” a tune from Peppa Pig, which surprisingly here is a local network favorite.

That night we went to our friends to watch the World Cup Cricket match of India versus Pakistan. All five of us loved the fresh air, the view of the mountains, and witnessing the joy and operation of a large family living communally. Our kids played with all the other little kids and the men watched the game while the women talked. As different as life may be from one place to another, the reality of shared interests that can transcend culture is awesome.

After these two past weekends, I was reminded that rest over the weekend is an illusion. I often awake saturday morning remembering the days of youth, sleeping in and watching TBS all day. It is much different now, as an adult, a wife, and a mother. It is also very different living in another country. I still can not believe how much sleep I used to get in my 20’s! But I digress. I am learning not look to the weekends to rest. I was reminded of this as I was looking at the mountain view at my friends house. As long as I can remember, mountain and lake views have always had a calming and soothing effect. I think it is because I grew up visiting the Adirondacks and some of my best childhood memories are there. And the view is always breathtaking. But I think it is also because when I see a mountain I hear the verse in my head, “I lift up my eyes to the hills- where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-3

Truths like this and the ones at the start of this post help me find rest when weary. They help me find peace in a world where so much is not as it should be. They help me get back to the grind. The grind of “home-ministering” as they say here. The grind of home-school. The grind of daily tasks. The grind of transition. The grind of culture shock and homesickness. For the joy of the Lord is my strength.

These cuties help too 😉

Its getting hot in here.

“Two are better than one, because they have good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

115.

108.

113.

111.

These were some of the temps this past week! Out of gatorade and glucon-d just ain’t cutting it. Not to mention our kitchen is the hottest room in the house and the only room without an AC unit. It is a sauna. And this whole gluten free eating is getting old! It requires constant food prep (in the heat) and several trips to the local grocery store (in the heat) and when we are finished, all we want is water anyway! This NY gal must still have NY blood because I feel like an oven that is always preheated, so with these high temperatures I need an ice bath to stabilize! So grateful for my husband. Our teamwork this week was clutch. This week did involve more than just heat though.

We paid our first electric bill which looks like a receipt that you receive and then are required to go pay at the electric supply office. This is tricky, without assistance I am sure Adam would have been lost somewhere in the middle of town in 110 degree temperatures looking for a building that no doubt is unmarked, has a long line of people and no A/C. Thankfully our superhero Landlord stepped in and saved the day (which he has done several times) and drove Adam to pay the electric bill and also dropped Adam and the boys off to get a haircut! How do you like that!

Those boys just about broke my heart with their big boy Indian hair cuts! They looked so grown up! And my heart broke for Adam as his sickness continued to hold him down no matter how hard he tried. For a guy who rarely went to a doctor in the states when sick, the fact that Adam went to a doctor here says a lot….. Indian virus-1, Adam-0.

In spite of the heat and sickness that dominated much of our week, I made it to the import store that sells frozen berries, frozen chicken, and frozen french fries! This is significant. I had heard about this store and tried to find it on my own. An hour later in a tuk-tuk with two boys, lost somewhere in the marketplace and overheated, we gave up. So thankful for a friend who picked me up and brought me there in her car! That meant I did not have to ride home with loads of groceries in a tuk-tuk! I took a snapshot of the outside of the store so that I would remember so I can go it alone in the future. I know I will need to with all this gluten-free cooking.

And, with my frozen chicken I was able to cook with the pressure cooker for the first time and make shredded chicken! I was so nervous I would over cook it that I ended up turning the heat off and checking on it 4 times. Which meant that it took double the time to cook, which kind of defeats the point of a pressure cooker. This also meant I spent twice as long in the sauna, er, I mean kitchen. Yeesh.

We were so excited that we had been invited to a friends house to watch India play in the world cup this week! Unfortunately going would have required both of us to be able to stand vertical. The heat had gotten us so bad that we took turns lying on the cold floor while the other tried to manage, anything at all. In our fatigue and surrender we let the kids take the shower buckets on the porch for some water play and they ended up turning the floor of the porch into a slip and slide. It was pretty great to watch. From inside,… on the floor,… in the A/C. Needless to say, India won the match against South Africa, and also won in the battle of Indian heat versus our hydration battle strategy. Now you know why I mentioned glucon-d not cutting it! Fortunately Amazon India brought us our tub of gatorate mix over the weekend!!!

India may have had some victories this week, but so did the Braucher’s. Jackson had his very first speech therapy session via skype! He crushed it! For a 3 1/2 year old to focus for 30 minutes on skype and not only remain engaged but excited was an answer to prayer. We are so excited to continue this therapy and are so grateful it even exists. We are also extremely excited to see Jackson’s progress in speech therapy, as he had spent two years with little to no progress in speech therapy before we knew about his hearing loss, and now that we have his “ears” in and they are all tuned up, we are ready!

Drumroll…….Gracelyn and I are finally ready to reveal some of our yoga progress! It has been awesome watching Gracelyn’s natural athletic ability unfold in these classes, very similar to how it did when she took gymnastics in the states. I have loved taking yoga from an athletic standpoint and have experienced increased mobility and pain reduction. Here they are!

Our week ended with receiving our long awaited package from the states full of goodies from Mima for the kids, and precious items such as popcorn seasoning, young living essential oil products and ziplock bags.

Stay tuned for next week, I have a feeling the popcorn seasoning and probiotic gummies we got will be a game changer.

Oh, and I went to the tailor with the material I bought last week! My dress will be ready on the 15th!