Clinging

“To grip tightly, to hold as if glued firmly,” that’s how the dictionary defines clinging. I have experienced a lot of clinging this week. I helped with the 13-18 month olds at Vacation Bible School this week. They are precious, every single one of them. But since I was there all morning working with those little ones, I was away from my daughter every morning. The little guys would cling to me as the morning wore on and they become tired. They wanted their own mommies, but in the mean time I had to do for them. Then I would come home and my sweetie would go crazy trying to get to me in her own way. I would pick her up and she would desperately cling to me, pleading with me not to leave her again.

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All those snuggles!!!

It makes me wonder what have I clanged to in my own life? What have I run to when I am hurt or tired or afraid? The things we cling to show where are heart really is because these are the things that we love most, the things we truly treasure. I personally have clung to my husband, to food, to worry, to writing, to busyness, and to television. It is in these things (and probably lots of other things) that I find comfort from the hardships and worries of life.

A man from my home church used to sing, “The Anchor Holds.” It is a beautiful song and so true. The chorus says, “The anchor holds though the ship’s been battered. The anchor holds though the sails are torn. I have fallen on my knees as I face the raging seas. The anchor holds in spite of the storm.” In the midst of life, worries, and hardships God is still there anchoring us to Him. He desires us to cling to Him. Just as Abigail would not let go of me when I have been away from her all morning, He wants us to run to Him and hold on tight.

As Father’s Day is this weekend, I cannot help but think about how my heavenly Father has loved me and watched over me all my life. I live a very tiny life, but it is blessed in so many ways. I am thankful that God is a Father who loves us despite ourselves. He loves us despite what we have done or how we look or even how we love Him in return. He loves us because He made us, and desires us to know Him and His own Son. I am so thankful to have a heavenly Father who holds us, who comforts us, and who gives us grace and mercy every single day when we deserve none of it.

When worries and troubles come, or when times of joy and celebrating arrive, I want to run to my Father and cling to Him alone. I want to be so close with God that I know His heart and can reflect His love to others. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” That is the God we serve, a God of all comfort who we can cling to tightly despite what we have gone through or what we have done. He desires us to come close to Him, and see whom He is. God loves you so much. My prayer is that this Father’s Day we all cling to the Father who has given us so much!

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Happy Father’s Day to all dads out there!!!

About Me

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For those who need to see hope in this world.

For those who want encouragement in parenting.

For those who want honesty about living with a child with special needs.

This blog offers a positive view on children with special needs; written for special needs moms, stay at home moms, and those who are interested in my daughter’s progress. If you love inspirational writings, adorable toddler stories, and a heart felt love for children than this is the blog for you! The posts on this site include stories of my daughter’s progress, things I have learned from being her mother, and life with a special needs toddler because she is the inspiration behind all I write. The journey with our daughter started when she was two months old. It has been an almost two year process of tests, therapy and tears and we still are not sure why causes our daughter’s developmentally delay. This blog tells our story of the day-to-day life as we discover how to love each other through the delay.

Welcome to our family! My name is Heather. My husband, Jordan and I were married February 1, 2014 and we had our beautiful daughter, Abigail in May 2015. My husband works hard providing for us at his retail job while I stay at home with our joyful little girl. She keeps me busy between occupational, physical, and speech therapy. We live in Atlanta, Georgia, and love spending time as a family. We are active in our local church and are Christians who love God and have an intimate relationship with Him. My prayer for this blog is that it would inspire you to love others more and encourage you in ways you could never imagine. Life is hard, and we are often dealt cards we were not expecting, but those hard, unexpected things are sometimes the greatest blessings. That is what Abigail is to my husband and I, a great blessing! Abigail gives us encounters everyday that we treasure with all our hearts.

So please, if this blog sounds like a good read, subscribe to my posts! Send me an e-mail with comments or questions, or find me on social media. You can find all the links on the left side of my home page. I want to tell our story and help others with theirs. Thank-you for stopping by, and hopefully we will talk to each other soon!

Where are the Answers?

One day we were driving in the car together before Abigail was even a thought and Jordan played a little song for me by *NSYNC. Maybe you have heard it, “God must have spent a little more time on you.” The chorus goes a little something like this, “When I look into your eyes I know that it’s true, God must have spent A little more time On you.” It’s a classic love song, and I hated it. I felt like it was just saying you needed so much extra help that God had to take extra time fixing you to be right. I know that is not how you are supposed to take it, but that is what I heard. We still laugh when we hear that song and we will sarcastically say, “yep, God spent some extra time on you.” Then we had a lovely baby come along and I can definitely say that God put some work into making her!

We have been to about seven different specialists, not including her therapists and regular pediatrician. It goes without saying that every single doctor has been puzzled by Abigail. She is an odd bird to say the least. Her tests results never come out the way the doctor plans. Her results often do not match what she can do physically. We have done many tests and procedures in this short two years and every single one has come back normal with zero answers as to why Abigail is the way she is. She is a complete medical mystery so far.

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Our medical mystery…at least she is cute!

Just this week we received details about her genetic testing we have been waiting on for six months now. Six months is a long time to wait on a test that could literally change everything.  Everything is pending on this test. Answers as to why Abigail is the way she is, what our next steps will be, what her future will hold, and finding out about our next steps as a family. This was a BIG test! And in about five minutes of being on the phone all our hopes were shot. You say you will not get your hopes up. We knew this test could be as normal as the other test. We knew it might not give us the answers we were counting on, but you cannot help but to get your hopes up a little bit.

The nurse on the other end of the line said what we have always heard, “basically, the results show that all Abigail’s genes and chromosomes are normal. She does not have any misplaced or missing, so that’s unfortunately fortunate.” We have been fortunate that she has no major chromosomal abnormalities, but part of you wishes there was one thing wrong so you could have an answer. We are very unfortunately fortunate a lot. Part of us wants to cheer because our baby is healthy, and the other part of us wants to beat our heads against a wall because this constant testing process will never end. Between scheduling appointments that are months away because the doctors are so booked up, and tests that take months to complete we feel like we will never have the answers we seek.

What makes Abigail the way she is? No one can tell us. No one can say why she is so social and yet she cannot talk. No one can say why our two year old, who has been working on sitting for 18 months now still lacks the core strength to sit on her own. No one can tell us why her legs refuse to hold her up. No one has any answers and it is frustrating. But for now we are doing what we can. Even with a diagnoses we would do exactly what we are doing by going to therapy and receiving all the help we can for her. But it is that one question that plagues us – why? Why did God spend a little more time on Abigail, making her so complex? Why is it our child who will have to work harder in everything she does in life? Why?

I cannot answer these questions. I ponder them sometimes as I go throughout my day. When people ask us what is wrong with Abigail I try to explain to the best of my ability what I do know, but there is an awful lot I do not know. But I do know that God made her. He may have spent some time crafting her uniquely, but His thumbprints are all over her. And God made her with purpose. He made her in love. He made her with grace and mercy, and He loves Abigail more than I do plus a million times more. While I do not have all the answers, I know we are not alone as we journey through this. We have a Leader who guides us through. Yes, the way is often dark and very lonely but we are not alone. And for that I am thankful. I am thankful God spent a little more time on Abigail. She is perfect in every way and I would not trade her for the world. She may never talk or walk or even dress herself, but she is my sunshine and my little blessing. I only pray one day as I look back over our journey I will see the fingerprints of God in every step of this long path.

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Help my Unbelief

“Sleep like a baby” is such a great term to use because it is so true. When babies sleep they really sleep. I remember Abigail’s first Easter we all woke up early to make it to the church’s Sunrise service. Abigail seemed great waking up a few hours early, but by the time the Sunday service started she was gone. She knocked out about the time the choir started their first song. I am pretty sure I could have flung her any way I wanted and she would be asleep still. Jordan and I almost went into hysterics trying not to laugh out loud at her in the middle of service. Abigail has always been a great sleeper, and even as a toddler that is no exception. She sleeps around ten hours every night and then takes a two hour nap in the afternoon. Usually right around the two-hour mark she begins to wake up and I go and get her out of the crib. Today, she was snoring away when I went to check on her. I said, “Good morning, Abigail,” thinking that might wake her up. Nope. This is the picture I took then. A little girl sleeping away just like a baby. I guess she was a little more tired today.

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Just call her sleeping beauty!

But she makes me jealous. Abigail sleeps so soundly. I toss and turn all night long worrying over to do lists and things that have gone on that day. My thoughts are everywhere, but usually lean to the negative side. “I won’t ever finish this project.” “I cannot do this anymore.” “I am worried about how to go about this thing.” “Why didn’t I say this to so and so today?” The end of the day worries and regrets wash over me as I lay in my nice cozy bed. Why do we do that? Why do we hash out every little detail and let it consume our thoughts. It takes away valuable time we could be doing something so much better with. Where is our trust and faith?

That is why babies (and my husband) sleep so soundly I believe. They do not worry about things. I get so frustrated at Jordan because he does not let the small things bother him, and he can compartmentalize all his problems. He always says that he will worry about it tomorrow, and then he lays his head on his pillow and drifts off within minutes. Not me. Long after he goes asleep I am laying there, tossing and turning wondering about everything and anything.

But I realized today that Abigail has no worries because she knows everything will be provided for her. She has never been hungry or in need ever so she does not know how to go without. She has no need because every need is met. She has complete and utter trust in me, Jordan and her other family to take care of her and give her whatever she may need.

I want that absolute trust in my Heavenly Father. I want to know that I know that every need will be met in Him, so there is no need to worry about the future. I do not have this trust. I lack faith. I worry about simple things that after a week will not matter. But I want to keep growing, keep gaining this faith in God.

One of my favorite verses is when the demon-possessed boy’s father tells Jesus, “I believe, but help me in my unbelief.” That’s me. I know in my heart God is good and He will bring us through, but in my head it does not make sense how. I think it would be easier to rely on myself to see me through. But may God help me in my unbelief. May I have such child like faith as my Abigail has in me. May I know God will provide. He loves us too much not to. Oh that I may rest in His love and His provision!

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Abigail’s Special Ability

We were sitting on our front porch and we watched three little girls ride by on their bikes. She watched them riding by, giggling as they went. As they disappeared around the curve she reached her little arm out and I explained they had already gone. She just kept reaching, processing everything that had just gone by her. My own eyes filled with tears as her eyes kept watching after those three girls. My baby girl cannot keep up with those girls. She might never ride a bike or run around the front yard. As she watched those girls go I wondered what she was thinking.

A questionnaire I was filling out at the doctor’s office asked if Abigail’s condition affected her relationship with others. I had never thought of it affecting her before. She is such a friendly, social little girl. But as I sat there pondering that question I thought of how much she is affected. She cannot explore her environment as a normal toddler would. She cannot socialize with other children her age because they are too fast for her, and they scare her. Yes, she is cute and a show stopper in so many ways. Yes, she can get all the attention in the room quickly. Yes, she is a social butterfly and does not mind getting attention from complete strangers. And yes, she loves all people. But how does her disability affect her socially?

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Would Abigail be who she is today if she was not developmentally behind? It is hard to think of Abigail as being ‘normal.’ I cannot imagine her running around, getting into everything and talking to me in her own toddler language. Would her personality be as glowing and sweet? Would she be a calm child or one who is into everything. Would she be adventurous or cautious? I would like to think that she would be the kid climbing the walls and coloring the walls. She would be strong-willed and stubborn. She would be independent. Maybe I am glad to have a toddler who cannot move. Just the other night she literally poured out an entire bag of cheerios on the floor in a matter of seconds. I had given her the sealed bag to play with while I talked to Jordan. Neither of us were paying her any attention, and then we heard the Cheerios spilling out. They were everywhere before we knew it. That little stinker managed to open the bag and spill them all without even leaving my lap. She is a mess and a half and she knows it too!

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As we watch Abigail grow day by day I realize how long she is getting. Her baby-ness is disappearing and she is turning into a little girl before our eyes. Yet, every time I talk about her for the first time I do not mention her progress or her abilities. I always tell people about her disability. I explain she cannot sit up or walk or talk. Her disability is apart of who she is. I do not do this because it defines her, but because people realize something is not quite right and it is easier to put them at ease then make them quietly question it in their minds. Yes, her disability is apart of who she is, but it is not all of who she is. Abigail is a smart, spunky, independent little bombshell. She is hilarious and the life of the party. But because she cannot do anything independently she quickly gets overshadowed by everything else going on around her.

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I want Abigail to always remember this. She has the ability to do so much, and I want her to never think because of her disability she is not enough or not worthy. Yes, she will struggle. Yes, she will do things differently than everyone else. Yes, she will have things to overcome. But this will only make her stronger. It will give her a story that can only be hers to tell. Oh may her ability to do what she sets her mind triumph her disability every day!

Thus Far

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I love the Old Testament, and right now I’m reading through 1 & 2 Samuel. In 2 Samuel chapter 7, God has just revealed to David the Davidic Promise of how he will always have a relative on the throne for all eternity. David goes in, sits before the Lord, and says, “Oh Lord, who am I and who is family that you have brought us thus far.” I obviously cannot relate to how David felt at this moment, but I can repeat those words. “Who am I oh Lord, that you have brought me and my family thus far!” I was reflecting today where the Lord has led me in the last 10 years. I would never have planned any of it, but I am thankful to be here and to know God has brought me thus far and He will continue to lead me and my family!!

When I was fifteen I got serious about my relationship with Christ. I knew it was something more and that relationship needed all of me. God needed all of me. So I made the decision to jump head first into my relationship with God and I never looked back. There have been lots of times of doubt, struggles, and fear but God has been with me every step of the way! I had my life all planned out by the time I was a freshman year of high school. I had always wanted to be an elementary school librarian (my dream since second grade) and I planned to go to college at Berry in Rome, GA. I like plans and hate change so when I make my mind up it does not change a lot, but low and behold God had other plans for me. I had already applied for Berry and a few other choices by my senior year. But my friend was looking into a school named Truett-McConnell for a soccer scholarship. The ironic thing was this friend did not have a relationship with Christ, and to apply for Truett you have to have a written testimony. She even asked me to write a testimony for her. Needless to say I had to explain that was not an option. But because of this friend I found myself at the TMC table during a college fair talking to the admissions rep. The rep was great at her job and convinced me to tour the school and meet the librarian there. I was so excited to meet a librarian I agreed to come visit the next week.

My mom and I went to TMC to meet with the Admissions team and take a tour. The weather was awful and I had to sit in my moms lap while taking the tour so I would not get wet. An eighteen-year-old riding around a college campus on her mom’s lap was not a good start to the tour. But the last stop before we went home was the library. I do not even know why but I told the librarian I would be there in the Fall. I went home and applied to TMC that night and was accepted in the following weeks. I was going to TMC to major in Education to get one step further in my dream of becoming a librarian.

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Me as a little tiny Freshman. The hair cut was a huge mistake!

Truett-McConnell changed my life in many, many ways! I wish I had the time and space to write everything, but since I don’t I will just have to hit the highlights. The first and biggest thing was that God continued to change my plans. I felt God tugging at my heart and leading me into ministry but I struggled because if I heeded to Him all my plans would be shot. I had already changed schools (which was a marvelous decision) and now He was taking away my only other dream. But by the end of my fist semester of college I was ready to surrender my dreams to God too. It is a story in itself, and everyone who knows me calls it my FROG story. Maybe one day I’ll share it with you too, but I accepted Gods call to ministry, changed major to Christian Studies, and again never looked back. Three years later I graduated with a Christian Studies degree, and I pray to use my calling to encourage and disciple women all my life!

But not only did I receive a whole new calling and a degree there, I received a husband and a child. My family grew there, literally. I was not even planning to get married going into college. Having a family was not a thought for me. I just was not one of those girls who dreamed of marriage and family. I guess I figured one day I would get married and have kids, but it was not something I desired. I liked living my life, and growing closer to God, but as always God had other plans for my and my mystery man.

Jordan and I both became Resident Assistants for the 2012-2013 school year. That was fated to bring us together, though I am not sure exactly how. We could not be more opposite. He was your typical athletic, popular, blonde hair jock, and I was your shy, dweeby average nerd. We did not hang out in the same circles (mostly because I never left the all girls’ dorm and he never left the all boys’ dorm), we did not share the same interests, and we had no clue the other existed though we sat a couple chairs apart in most of our classes the semester before.

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I think this is our first picture together at the TMC Hoedown.

But the summer we came to school for RA training we got to know each other and kept having weird, awkward encounters around campus. One time we passed each other in the stairwell and just stared at one another for about a solid minute without saying anything. I practically ran back to my dorm room mortified! Oh, to be a young college kid again. So after a lot awkward encounters, and a lot of volleyball games later we both confessed we liked each other for some reason or another and we became, as the kids say, ‘official.’ That was September 4, 2012. We both knew after two months of dating we were going to get married. Jordan proposed in June the following year and then in February 2014 we were married.

Our first year of marriage was probably kind of weird looking back, but we did not think anything of it at the time. Our first home was a small apartment inside the all girls’ dorm where I resided as Resident Director. So Jordan lived with 60 other girls for about four months. Then we moved down the hill to another on campus apartment to become the Resident Directors to more college kids. Six months into marriage I was pregnant and sick as a dog most days. Again, not the life I had planned but I would not trade these things for the world. They have made me who I am today.

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The day we left our ‘first home’ aka Otwell. I had lived there for three years by then.

Soon after Abigail was born we left TMC. It was a sad farewell, but we both knew it was time to move on. This is when the adventures with Abigail started. At two months we knew something was wrong with our child, and it has been a journey since. I will not go into details because I have told Abigail’s story so many times, but she is yet another thing we did not plan. We planned the having a baby part, but not the ‘your baby has special needs’ part. No one can plan that.

I could tell story after story of how God continues to change our plans. How we have interviewed at countless jobs for Jordan’s ministry position and yet have been turned down for one reason or another. I could tell of the tears that have been shed or the questions we have asked God as to why He continues to change our direction and path. But today I want to celebrate where God has brought us as David did all those years ago. I want to thank God for the life He has led me on. I want to praise His name for His faithful and continual care and provision for us. We have never been without what we need. God is good all the time and all the time God is good. He may not seem like He is always there or that He is listening to our pleas for answers and direction, but He has a bigger plan than I could ever dream or imagine. So while we are in the unknown in so many areas of our life, all I can do is trust God to see us through, and remember how far He has brought us thus far.

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My family! We are BLESSED!!!

Babies Grow Up

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Abigail, only hours old

Our sweet, not so cuddly, newborn baby we brought home two years ago is growing. Her baby fat is melting away, her hair grows inches everyday I swear, and if Abigail would stand she would be almost 3 foot tall now! I see the changes everyday – a baby turning into a beautiful little girl.

She is learning so much and is becoming interested in her environment around her. She loves people and will interact with any adult she sees whether we are in a restaurant or checking out at the store. Her joyful little personality comes out day by day. She brightens up a room, and makes people smile in her own simple way.

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One year old Abigail. What a cutie patootie!!!

If Abigail was your typical two year old she would have be jumping around and climbing into everyting. She would be an adventurous, that kid who is into everything and we would be exhausted at the end of each day as we try to keep up with her. Abigail is fiercely independent and stubborn. She is adventurous and a little dare devil. She has no fear of getting hurt, falling or being in danger. She is our blonde headed wild child.

When I lay her down in her crib at night I see her length has taken over her crib. Yet, she finds a way to snuggle all the way to the bottom of her crib with her legs always at crazy angles jutting out away from her most nights. I know it is going to be time for a big girl bed soon, and that excites me and saddens me all at the same time. This baby is turning into a girl, and we have so much to learn about raising a child!

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Trying out the big girl swing in the park the other day. She is still so tiny in it.

My little girl will always be my baby. So often it is hard to see her growing up because she is still so dependent on us, but I am seeing her grow before my eyes. One day she will not be as reliant on me. One day she will feed herself or get herself dressed and I will be a proud mama who will treasure these moments, but for now I will watch this baby girl of mine grow into a lovely child who will one day shine her bright light for the world. Right now though she is my innocent, sweet little baby girl snuggled up in her footie pajamas just sleeping away in her crib. Oh may this little girl grow into a godly woman with a big servant’s heart.

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I love sleeping babies!

Our Journey with Food

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Last year I posted a blog about Abigail finishing a whole container of baby food. You can read that story here. It was an exciting day!! Our journey of food and eating has been quite an adventure. We are blessed that we never have had a feeding tube, or even a thought of needing one. But there was a time we were not sure how we were ever going to get Abigail to eat anything. Today she eats so well; even eating table foods.

Before we had Abigail I had already decided to breastfeed simply because it is more cost effective for us. Baby formula is expensive! I read everything I could about it,  attended classes and still decided I had no idea what I was in for. Thankfully Abigail knew what to do and she was amazing!! I’m a huge believer that fed is best for any baby. If you can breastfeed great, if not then formula is great too!! I am not a breastfeeding advocate. I was not a huge breastfeeding fan if I have to be honest, so I cannot write about how amazing it was and how it helped my baby. But it did keep her nourished for the first year of her life and for that I am thankful for my breastfeeding journey.

We tried introducing baby food at six months. It did not go over well. Abigail hated the texture. She hated the spoon. I tried making my own baby food. I tried all the flavors Gerber offers. She would eat about a fourth of the container all day long. This is when the food struggle began. I would cry because I knew she could not live off breastmilk forever, and I would not breastfeed forever. But we kept offering, kept trying every trick we could, and kept listening to what our therapists would tell us. The one thing Abigail did catch onto quickly was drinking from a straw. We could not get her to take a bottle to save her life, and she could not figure out sippy cups. I was at a loss how to get liquids into her mouth. But my mother-in-law suggested a straw and we have not looked back since. Abigail was drinking with a straw by nine months, and it is still the only thing she uses today.

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First time eating baby food. She did not eat any of it despite what the picture shows.

At a year we were still mainly breastfeeding and eating what little baby food we could get in her. Our pediatrician referred us to another doctor to get a swallow study done. They wanted to make sure nothing was obstructing her throat because she would also choke and gag a lot, even while drinking water. Around a year old we went to Athens Regional Hospital to do the swallow study. They put barium in her food and water and put her under X-rays to watch her food go down her throat. It was the weirdest thing to watch as a parent. But, as always, there was nothing wrong with her swallowing except for the fact that Abigail did not chew, she simply sucked on everything and then swallowed. So we still were not ready for solid foods.

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Trying sweet potatoes. She hated touching them, but at least eating them wasn’t too bad.

In just a year of working with our therapists, continuing to offer food even when Abigail refused or would choke on it, and simply allowing her to grow up a little more she has made huge improvements. She stopped breast feeding around 15 months!!! She began finishing whole containers of baby food, and she even started eating table food. Today she loves fruit and bread!! She takes after her mama there. She eats chicken, quesadillas, strawberries, Mac and cheese, and other things. Her diet is varied and she is not picky. No, she cannot keep up with a toddler her age but to see her eat table food now after where we were a year ago is so exciting. I would cry at night and throw pity parties about how I would always be a milk machine and nothing else. I was scared Abigail would be that kid who was still nursing at five years old. Jordan, as always, would tell me that is ridiculous and stop my pity parties with his indisputable reasoning. I needed him as I always will. But those fears were so silly, and I am thankful Abigail can eat real food now.

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We still have a ways to go. Abigail gets choked on water every other sip, she still refuses to feed herself, and she will not bite food to save her life. But these things can be helped and learned. To see her progress already encourages me that we can only get better from here. Our food journey has been a rollercoaster, but I am excited where we are today. And I am proud of my daughter!! And I am glad she likes food and has become a little piggy.