All About Daddy

My favorite things about My Man, Jordan. The man I plan to spend the rest of my life with. My baby daddy. My rock. My support. My constant encourager. I could make other lists just about things I love about this man! But in light of Father’s Day I tried to keep them on a more fatherly note. Happy Father’s Day, everyone!!!

1) We found out I was pregnant on Jordan’s birthday. I think he loved that birthday gift. He nearly tackled me in excitement when the stick said I was pregnant. I love that he was so ready and excited to be a dad. He always has wanted kids from day one, and I am so thankful for a man who loved his children even when they were almost nonexistent.

2) “It’s a girl.”

We just looked at each other and smiled when the ultrasound tech said that. I have never seen my husband smile that big either. He wanted a girl, and still wants a houseful of them. It was definitely a great memory! A daddy of girls. He is so good with her, and I hope we have some other girls to complete his all-girls dreams.

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They took a lot of naps together in those early days!

3) That moment he cried while Abigail was having test done at a day old in the hospital. At a day old Jordan loved that 7 pound baby more than anyone else. It was stunning to me how much he loved her and I knew I would be an amazing dad.

4) All those nights he would stay up late with her while I got some rest. He was the perfect partner in those early days. I had day shift and he had nights, and would come let me nurse and then take her back downstairs again. We loved our system!

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5) Those sweet giggles only Daddy could bring out in Abigail. I posted a video of it on Facebook the other day. You will have to check it out if you haven’t yet. He could always make her laugh! Here’s the link for this video if you want to watch it. 

6) Wrestling time with daddy – Abigail loves it! She loves to crawl on him and ‘beat him up’. She loves to pull his hair and be tickled back. Of course, wrestling for Abigail means trying to desperately pull up on you while hurting you in every way possible. But it still is cute!

7) Abigail loves to tap her little hand against you. Abigail used to not want to hug Jordan. She’s getting better, but for awhile we couldn’t get her to hug him. So we started doing love taps, and it’s still the cutest thing. Abigail will crawl right up beside him and gently tap Jordan’s face or his stomach or his arm and talk to him. It’s how she wakes him up and I love it!

8) I love my twinsies. They looked alike from day 1 and still look alike today. But she has a lot of her daddy in her too. She is stubborn and independent and has the best sense of humor.

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9) These last two are my sentimental thoughts, but the way Jordan fights to support us. We have been through a lot in our four years of marriage with Jordan’s career. We have not had a lot of good ‘luck’ as some would call it. But through it all Jordan has kept working even at jobs that he should never have to work. He has fully supported us for the last two years and I am so thankful he has never quit. He just keeps going for us and I know we are both blessed by his work ethic every day!!

10) Lastly, is the way Jordan loves me. The way parents love their children reflects so much of how the child will grow up. It impacts how the child perceives love and often it impacts their relationships with their future spouses. I am thankful to have a man who loves me. Who sacrifices for us. Who has committed to me his life and love. I pray our marriage stands the tests and trials that come, and that our love can be a model to our children that a good marriage can be had. That love isn’t a feeling. And that we are simply trying to reflect God’s love to them.

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My Partner Through it All

My blogs focus a lot around Abigail because let’s face it when you have a cute baby that people care about they want to hear about the latest updates and all the details of her development. I love sharing our story and telling about all the things I am learning and things Abigail is teaching me. But this story would not be complete, it would not even be possible, without someone I rarely talk about. Not because I don’t like that person, but because he isn’t one to draw attention to himself. He is my other half, my hubby and my best friend. Jordan isn’t mentioned a lot because this space is usually reserved for Abigail, but Jordan is who keeps our story running and tonight I thought I would share how Abigail has impacted our marriage.

In a world where the divorce rate is skyrocketing and single parenthood is so common, I am thankful I can share my story. Of course we are no experts at marriage. We only have four very short years under our belts and one kid. There are millions of other couples who could give lots better advice, but I am not here to dish out marriage advice tonight. I am simply here to share our story – our short, crazy, unplanned story.

Jordan and I met in college. If I was sitting down with you over smoothies (I hate coffee, so I’m saying smoothies) I would give way to many details about the beginning of our relationship which mostly include him thinking I was a crazy weirdo (he still thinks that too) and me thinking he was too popular and cool to be with the likes of little old me. But since I’m not sharing our dating life, let’s just say it’s a miracle we ever made it to the girlfriend/boyfriend stage. However we did, and then 6 weeks into dating I nearly died. I might be exaggerating a little, but I did have a freak bleeding episode and had a 2 night stay in the hospital that included 4 blood transfusions, 5 IVs and a surgery so it was pretty intense. But my boyfriend of only 6 weeks stayed with me through it all. Well that brought us pretty close pretty fast. Only 2 weeks after my hospital stay Jordan told me he loved me. He said, “as I watched you laying on that hospital bed the only thing I could think was, ‘my girlfriend is going to die,’ and that thought actually made me sad.” That’s Jordan for you. He is a very romantic and sympathetic man as you can see. But it all worked out for me because I caught me a man and that man became my husband a little over a year after that.

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I tell that whole story to say that maybe God brings medical cases into our lives to wake us up and help us realize something. He used my hospital stay to bring me and Jordan together, and now He is using Abigail and all her disabilities to build our family. Did I want to bleed to death to get a guy to fall in love with me? No! Do I want my daughter to have special needs so our family can be shaped and molded a certain way? Of course not. But God is using Abigail to teach us so much.

I am thankful to have Jordan walking this road with me. We have been through a lot with Abigail as any parent has been with their child. We have heard multiple doctors assessments of her, we have had multiple strangers praise her beauty, we have seen her progress leaps and bounds. We have seen her with needles and wires all about her and in her. We have held each other when we both have had to cry. Jordan keeps me sane when this world feels out of control. When I get all emotional, he keeps me steady and level-headed. He is my solid rock, my listening ear and my loyal companion. While I stay home with Abigail and work with her and deal with all her doctors and therapists, Jordan makes all that possible and he helps me be a better mom.

Having a child will impact your marriage. Children change you life in so many ways. We only had 6 short months of marriage before we found out we were pregnant. I didn’t think I was cut out to be a mom. Neither of us knew what we were doing, but we survived. Thankfully God gave us the easiest baby in the universe so Abigail made it easy. But no parent wants to hear there’s something wrong with their baby, and that’s all we have heard from doctors from 2 months on. There’s an issue with her eyes, there’s an issue with her muscle tone, there’s an issue with this or that. But no one can tell us why those issues are there. But through it all I have had a partner and a best friend. Jordan has experienced it all with me. Our marriage has been forged deeper because of all this. When we have had no one else we have had each other.

Children impact every part of you. They impact relationships and they impact your marriage. Some parents build their lives around their children and not their marriage which is devastating. Some marriages break up when one spouse or the other finds out their child will never be ‘normal’. There are thousands of reasons marriages don’t make it. But when calamity strikes, when you receive that bad news you never want to hear, when the world just seems too much to handle – I couldn’t imagine doing it alone. I am thankful our marriage has survived this so far, and I pray it continues to stand strong. I love living life with my best friend! I love always having a friend to talk to. I love my husband and our little family of three.

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Growing Up Slowly

When you have a child time seems to speed up somehow. In just a few short months Abigail will be three years old. Where has three years gone? I still remember being pregnant with her. I had horrible night sickness (my morning sickness always hit around 3 and stayed all evening). And around week 12 I remember having multiple thoughts that I was going to die at any point, but the only thing that kept me going was that I was growing another life, and her life mattered too much to give up. But here we are almost three years later and I am glad I kept shoving food down my throat after all because having Abigail was worth all those weeks of sickness.

I have no idea how parents of typical children do it though. I mean an average child is sitting by six months and is walking by a year. They start talking and being independent. They get sassy and push the limits and they know where every button of yours is. Your baby grows up in a blink of an eye! You might get a few cuddles here are there but after they are mobile they don’t sit still for long. Again I just don’t know how you do it!

We have been so blessed in a weird way that Abigail has grown up so slowly. I’ve never thought about that before, but it hit me the other day we are getting a small blessing in disguise. Don’t get me wrong I wish everyday my little girl could walk and run and play like every other 2 year old. I cry that she cannot communicate the way she wants to. But even in the bad things and the things that don’t make sense I truly believe you receive little blessings in disguise. Sometimes you don’t see those blessings while you are in the middle of the storm, but they are there. Abigail herself is my blessing. She is an amazing little lady! But the fact that, as a mother, I get to soak in every stage a little longer is amazing!!!

We had a newborn basically for about 10-12 months. For Abigail’s first year of life she really wasn’t aware of her environment. She just loved watching people’s faces. She had barely any head control and her muscle tone was basically none existent. She was exclusively breast fed, which was not my choice but she wouldn’t eat baby food very well so we did what we had to do. That first year was hard!! Abigail did not show a lot of progress. We had no idea what was going on. We had no clue how to take care of a baby, much less a baby that doctor’s kept telling us ‘wasn’t normal.’ The doctors kept telling us things that we didn’t understand or that we didn’t like. We loved our baby and she was the happiest, easiest newborn ever so it was hard for us to see anything ‘wrong’ with her. Around a year old she was still around 5-6 months developmentally, so I got to savor those newborn moments for longer.

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Abigail around 7 months – she was still the sweetest thing you ever saw! But she had no interest in those toys you see. We always tried new things though.

Then her second year of life came and things started to progress. She became more aware of her environment, she started to like food, and she showed true potential physically. We began to learn we didn’t have to listen to everything the doctors said. We began to learn the system and find things that were helpful for us. We had amazing therapists that encouraged me and worked with Abigail diligently. But I was still able to savor those baby moments longer because she was around a 6-9 month old developmentally.

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This picture means the world to me! Abigail was around 15 months in this picture. I left her on the couch to go get ready (crazy huh? but she never moved so it worked for us), and I returned to a smiley baby and an overturned bucket of toys! I snapped a quick picture because I was so excited! This was the first time Abigail had ‘played’ on her own!!!

Today, we have hope like we have never had before. Abigail is doing the best she has ever done. She is eating (and a lot of times helping herself) normal table food, she is moving, she is learning to play in new ways, and she is trying to communicate like never before. We are in such an exciting time! I feel so much more confident in what I am doing. Medically Abigail is healthy and at this point her doctor is simply trying to find the cause of why she is the way she is. But if they never give us an answer I will be okay because she is progressing forward every day.

Abigail is still only around a year old developmentally maybe 18 months in some areas cognitively. But if course she cannot sit or stand yet. But for almost three years I have gotten to savor what most parents only have 1 year to experience. It is like time has slowed in our house. This means we get to see the tiny little steps of progress and we celebrate the tiny victories. This means that sometimes the days are long! I get tired of having to lug her everywhere, because goodness she is getting heavy!! Sometimes it would be so convenient if she could sit because we could do so many more things. Sometimes I have to be creative while we are out, and about, and going to a bathroom with her in a public restroom when I forget the stroller is a trip. But I am savoring!

We may be in the toddler stage for a long time. Honestly, she may never leave it. We have no idea what Abigail’s future holds. I tell people all the time. Abigail has the potential to be a 100% normal 5th grader who you wouldn’t even know went through all this when she was 2. On the other hand she could be living with us forever because she never leaves childhood mentally. We have no idea what her future holds. But right now I know we are hitting the toddler stage hard, and after 2 years of being in baby stage that is tough on this mama. I’m watching Abigail grow and mature everyday. I see my baby growing into a little girl. She is beautiful in every way!! And while she might not be growing up like every other toddler, I appreciate that she is growing slowly. It gives my mama heart time to soak in every moment, every change, and every day with my little sunshine. While I wouldn’t have chosen this life for us, I am blessed to have a little one who is growing up slowly.

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!

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Now What?

A lot of special needs families get one big punch as they hear the diagnosis from a doctor that their child has special needs. Whether it’s in utero or when the child is four years old it is painful. No one wants to hear that their child is ‘messed up.’ No one plans to have a special needs child. Honestly, most people don’t even consider it a possibility. So when that diagnosis comes, when the news is heard, it is often not taken well. They wonder ‘what now?’. What do we do now? How do we do life with a child with so many needs? How do I live with crushed dreams or all this guilt? But I would dare to say life isn’t over with a diagnosis. Yes, life looks different, but there are amazing blessings in store!

But our story is a little different. We didn’t have one of those end all moments. Our news came in slow, sporadic moments at doctors’ offices. It started when Abigail was two months old with her vision. The pictures below are some of my favorites from when she was itty bitty. You can see how her eyes always looked up. That’s where our journey started. Today she is three and we still don’t know a whole lot more than we did then. But her eyes are slowly fixing themselves, and that’s a huge praise! Abigail’s diagnosis as of right now is severe developmental delay. It’s a blanket diagnosis until they can give us a real one. I can tell you a lot of things Abigail doesn’t have, but as to an official diagnosis we have nothing.

 

We were never told that Abigail had special needs. It just happened. It is like a mist that slowly crept up on us. We saw it slowly coming in the distance, and soon we were in it. It didn’t knock us over like a tidal wave. It wasn’t unexpected like a tornado. It simply came – slowly but surely. It took awhile for me to be able to say those words. My child has special needs. I think the first time I said it was in my first blog I wrote almost two years ago. It is painful, but more than that it is unknown. People do not like the unknown. I have had a lot of questions about what is wrong with Abigail or will Abigail ever talk or walk. I have no answers to these questions. We do not know what is causing Abigail to be the way she is. We do not know what her future holds. And that unknown factor makes it so hard to be able to talk about her and her special needs.

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Abigail is a huge question mark. She could be completely normal in five years, or she could live with us when she is forty because she cannot sustain herself. She might never walk or talk, or even sit by herself. Or she could be an Olympic gymnast with an amazing story. We have no idea. We have no idea if it’s genetic or what has caused her to be the way she is. We know she isn’t a normal three-year old. We know she is improving at a snail’s pace. We know that she has special needs and needs a little extra attention. We know she is precious and wonderful and wants to do so many things! We know she brings blessings to our life everyday, and we are so thankful for her.

We have been so blessed on our journey. A lot of families hear the diagnosis and then ask “now what?” We never had to do that. Every time we had to take another step, find a new doctor, a new therapist, or start more paperwork someone was there to guide us. Our pediatrician was the first to help. Looking back I will be forever in debt for their quickness in spotting Abigail’s delays. Without them Abigail would not have received the early intervention that she did and she would be even further behind. We were clueless anything was wrong with her. Her pediatrician led us to start therapy at five months old. They got me connected to the right doctors. And then those doctors and therapists led us to where we are today. I have met fellow special needs moms that have been there and done all this, so they have helped given me advice and contacts to call to answer any and all my questions. We were never alone in this! For each new step someone helped us over the hump. I think that’s what has made this whole process easier on me. I have never felt helpless. I know I am giving Abigail the best care I can. I feel good about where we are and where we are going.

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Our baby girl was cute from the start, but I am so thankful for those who caught her issues early. I was so blind to her needs, but they saw them and helped us in ways I might never know fully!

Yes, our daughter has special needs. But we never had to ask the what now question. We never lost hope in her. We simply take one day at a time. If I start thinking too far in the future it gets overwhelming. But day by day Abigail is improving. She is always trying something new and amazing us all. It doesn’t feel as awkward to say that Abigail has special needs anymore. Her needs don’t define her. Even a diagnosis wouldn’t define her. She has the ability to raise above a diagnosis or a prognosis. So now what? What do we do moving forward. We keep teaching her. We keep helping her strengthen her muscles. We keep loving her. And we keep watching her soar! Abigail’s future is bright, and I am so thankful for our journey and cannot wait to see what tomorrow holds.

 

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Learning to color while in her stander. She has come so far, and I will share more about that in my next blog!

100th Post Celebration

Congratulations! You, my friend, are reading my 100th post. I began this blog two years ago just to share our story. Not a lot of people even knew we were going through anything with Abigail. We didn’t know much, but I thought it was time to share our small simple story. As more and more people gave me positive feedback I began to write more. Today, this blog is full of stories and updates and encouragement from my little girl. I went from writing maybe every other month to writing almost twice a week. I’ve learned a little. I’ve grown a lot. And I hope I encouraged someone out there.

I have great dreams for this blog. I hope to one day expand it into something bigger. Maybe my own company of sorts. I want to brand it, and help others who are going through the unknown. I want to share our story and let others know they are not alone. I hope to one day make this blog my job. I have a lot of work to do and even more learning, but I am excited where such a tiny idea will lead me.

I called this blog “Treasured Encounters” because so often the encounters I have with Abigail do feel like small tiny treasures I like to store in my ever-widening heart. I want to hide all these tiny, sweet moments and ponder them. I want to treasure every encounter! Of course, the name might change. The direction may lead to a wider audience. The appearance may enhance. But this tiny little blog has meant so much to me! In these short two years it has seen over 3,500 people! I have thirty followers who don’t even know me!! And I can’t wait to see where this blog goes next!

So in my 100th blog post I simply want to say thank you to my amazing followers, my friends and my family – you people! Without you this blog would have never happened. Without your kind words, your Facebook likes, your amazing feedback I would have never continued. I might not comment on every note, but I read everything and it all means so much to me. Now I am dreaming of more. I want bigger and better. So I am asking you tonight. What do you want to see more of? What do you love about this blog? What do you want to know? Any questions for me about Abigail? About having a special needs child? About starting a blog? How would you like to see this blog grow? Is there anything I need to change, improve, add? Please, drop your comments and suggestions or even questions below or message me or Facebook me. Let’s connect! I want to hear from the people who read these every week. And to say thank you for being so amazing I want to give away a very tiny prize. Trust me. I wish I could buy you all a car, but since I can’t do that I am giving away a cute T-shirt to a lucky winner.


I found this company on Etsy, and fell in love instantly. The shirt reads “Choose Joy”. It perfectly describes Abigail. She chooses joy every day, and helps me find joy in the small moments too. I love my joyful little girl, and I know so many of you do too. So one lucky winner will receive a free T-shirt to help spread our joy! For a chance to win all you have to do is leave me a comment here or on Facebook about how I can improve this blog. Again, read suggestions above if you’re drawing a blank. Everyone who leaves a comment will be entered into the random drawing. I’ll announce the winner June 18th! So please leave some love and some advice. Who knows you may be getting that awesome shirt in the mail soon!! I truly wish I could thank each of you personally, and send everyone a shirt. But stay tuned because this blog has big things in store (hopefully). Thank you so much again and good luck!

Wonderfully Made

“I don’t know how much he understands about God. But I’ll never stop telling him that he is fearfully and wonderfully made. That his life brings glory to God. That yes, Jesus loves him.” I saw this caption on Facebook one day. A fellow special needs mom had posted it about her son. What simple truths to be instilling in our children. Truths I want Abigail to be reminded of daily!

First, that God made her perfectly. He might have spent a little more time on Abigail. No doctor may be able to tell us why she isn’t ‘normal’. But she was created perfectly – the way God planned. I wouldn’t change a thing about her. Her specialness and uniqueness only add to her vibrant little personality. Abigail is gorgeous. That perfect blonde hair and endless blue eyes. Her joyful spirit and contagious smile. It all adds to her wonderful-ness. I pray she always knows how beautiful she is and finds people who bring out her beauty. Not only on the outside, but I want her to grow beautiful on the inside too with a heart full of joy and an attitude of servant hood. For God did make her wonderfully!

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My beauty

Secondly, that her life has purpose. God created us to glorify Him and to fellowship with Him. No matter her ability in life. No matter what she can or can’t say. No matter if she’s valedictorian or barely graduates high school. No matter if she lives with us her entire life or she marries and has an amazing career. No matter what she does, I want Abigail to know she matters and she was created with purpose. Right now I am telling her story, but soon she will write her own. She is already a small light in this dark world. She brings such joy to people. She brings hope. She brings life. She brings encouragement. She brings passion. Her story is amazing, and her purpose is being laid as you read this. This girl will move mountains!

Last, that she is loved. Not just by me and her family and friends, but she is loved unconditionally by a loving Father. Jordan is an amazing father. He loves his girl so much. At just a day old Abigail broke out with sores on her body. The neonatal doctors came to our room and took our hours old baby for blood work and tests. Jordan had to go with her since I could not. He came back, closed the door to our room and simply cried on my shoulder. It was the first (and almost only) time I have seen my husband cry. He said it was awful watching them draw blood from Abigail. He loved her when she was hours old and that love has only grown more since. But as much as he loves Abigail, she has a Heavenly Father that loves her more. It’s hard for me to fathom more love than the love I have for Abigail. But I want her to know no matter what happens to me and Daddy that Someone else out there loves her, and He has her in the shadow of His wings. That’s actually her life verse I picked for her while I was pregnant. Psalm 17:8, “Keep me the apple of your eye. Hide me in the shadow of your wings.” Jesus loves her this I know!

 

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They were the best napping buddies. Twins from the beginning!

Abigail may not be able to understand anything about God. She may not comprehend salvation. But Abigail can understand that she is beautiful. That she has purpose. And that she is loved. Three foundational truths every single person deserves to know. Not just children, but all of us. These simple truths are hard some days. Even I need the reminder that I am beautiful, that I have a purpose and that I am loved. As humans we are so quick to see the worst in ourselves and others. But today I am here to remind us all that we are all made wonderfully. I pray you know these simple truths today and I pray my precious little girl grows up with these truths implanted in her heart. Abigail is made wonderfully. She has an amazing purpose. And she is so loved! And so are you!!

 

My Small Life

It’s funny how life works out isn’t it? I love planning. I plan everything months in advance and make two thousand lists of everything you can think of. Of course, I had my life planned out in 6th grade. I planned to graduate high school, go to Berry College, and get a degree in education. Then I was going to teach for a few years as I worked on my Masters of Library Sciences from UGA. I would eventually achieve my greatest dream of becoming an elementary school librarian – my dream since second grade. I can’t make this stuff up. As you see I had no aspirations of a husband or kids. Just a dream job so I thought.

Now I am married, have a kid and a degree in Christian Studies from Truett-McConnell. None of my plans came about. None. Zip. Zero. My senior year God steered me to Truett instead of Berry. Then my freshman year, He called me away from my dreams. He called me to fully trust Him. He directed me to the degree I received, and toward a blonde headed man I also married. You’ll be glad to know I have no idea what my future holds. At this point I simply have to hope God has a plan, because I weirdly don’t. I plan all the daily details, but I don’t know what five years down the road holds anymore.

Today, I lead a small life. Kathleen Kelly in You’ve Got Mail wrote this in an email, “Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life – well, valuable, but small.” I’ve always loved that quote. That’s me- a small, but valuable life. I don’t see a lot of people most days. I spend all my time with a three year old who doesn’t talk. I do a lot of talking to myself – well I’m talking to Abigail, but really to myself. I’ve gotten a lot of stares in the grocery store, but that’s okay. That’s how she will learn how to talk is by hearing words, right??

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I’m just a small town girl. A stay at home mom. A wife. A servant of God who tries to be faithful. A friend to a few. A daughter and granddaughter. Such a simple life. Some would probably say it is boring. Some would say it is pointless. Sometimes it seems useless. Sometimes I feel awful for not helping Jordan provide an income for our family. Yes, it is small. Yes, it is often not rewarding. Yes, it often goes unnoticed. Yes, it is lonely. Yes, it seems like I could be doing more. But I am thankful for my small life. The small little moments I get to have with my daughter every day. And I couldn’t even begin to express my thanks for my husband. He works hard to support us. He misses out on so much, and has made so many sacrifices just to keep working for us. He lets me pursue my dreams, and tells me to do whatever I want to do whether it’s blogging or writing a book or making crafts. He supports all my crazy dreams and he encourages me daily! He keeps me grounded when I get emotional, and helps me sort through all my millions of plans.

I never planned for my life to be like this. I honestly don’t know what the future holds. But I like my small life. I have dreams and plans, and I pray they are fulfilled. But these plans aren’t about what my future job is or making lots of money (well I never dreamed about that anyways). My dreams are more realistic now. Little seeds of hope God is planting in my hungry heart. My plans include family, and helping others. That’s my prayer now – that this small, simple life I lead will impact those around me. That I can be a servant to everyone I meet, and that our story will help someone else’s. Yes, my life is small, but it is a very blessed life that I wouldn’t trade for anything!

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I love this small life and my family!

Bittersweet Parenting

I was sitting in church Sunday singing a good ol’ gospel hymn about heaven. One of those talking about getting up and walking around heaven. I love good old-fashioned hymns, but this one brought tears to my eyes. All I could think about was my little girl not being able to walk. I know it is silly to cry about something that may or may not happen, but in that moment I just felt an overwhelming sadness that she was missing out on so much.

Abigail just turned three. She has never sat up by herself to play with her toys. She has never felt grass beneath her bare feet as she runs through a sprinkler. She has never tripped and fallen over her toys spread throughout the house. She is forced to go wherever people take her. She is at the mercy of whomever she is with. She has no control over when she stands or when she sits. It is all dictated by others.

Of course she knows no difference. She has no idea she is missing out on a whole world of independent living. She is happy as a clam being able to army crawl around the house and letting us do everything else. She has no idea how small her world is. How limited she is, and how dependent she is on others. In her world she can do anything and everything, and she tries her hardest to make that a reality.

Abigail will get her wheelchair tomorrow. It is hot pink, and we are hoping she will be able to one day (a long time down the road) be able to crawl into it herself and push her own chair. Again, we are a long way from that, but that’s our end goal. I have been excited about this chair for a while now. I am excited she will have a way to get around, and I pray she can push herself in it easily. This chair will bring us some freedom. But it is a little bittersweet. Who wants their child to be confined to a chair? Of course, Abigail is an odd situation where she won’t be in the chair a lot. She does have the potential to walk and crawl, so that’s our end goal and all her teachers and therapists will be working to get her out of the chair and walking on her own. But the chair means she isn’t quite there yet. The chair will bring stares from strangers. The chair will bring pity. The chair will define her as different. Right now strangers don’t have any idea how far behind Abigail is. To them she is just a cute toddler in pink glasses in the grocery store shopping cart. She can get by with her cuteness. But put that same cutie in a hot pink wheel chair and you then invite questions of ‘what is wrong with her?’ ‘She looks normal, but why is she in that chair?’ So we are about to open a can of worms when we take her out and about now. I don’t know if I am ready for all the stares and questions. How do I explain Abigail? I don’t even know what’s going on with her.

All these thoughts have been running in my head these last few days. I know we will make it through. Soon the stares and the questions won’t even phase me. I know I’ll be able to answer people the right way when (and if) the time comes. My prayer is that I always honor my Lord and give my child encouragement in all my responses. I want people to see children who are a little different and know the right things to say. Maybe I can be the educational instrument to guide people’s questions in the right direction when it comes to special needs children. So many people don’t know how to talk to a special needs family. They don’t know how to ask their questions simply because they have never walked in their shoes.

If you ever wonder how it feels to have a special needs child I would tell you it is one of the most rewarding but hardest things you will ever go through. It is draining. It is hard work. It is frustrating. It is lonely. It is disappointing. It is demanding. But it is also rewarding. It teaches you so much about yourself and about that sweet child you are raising. It bonds you and your child like nothing ever could. It teaches you about sacrifice and selflessness. It opens a door to a community you never knew existed. I once read a book that gave a good picture of what I’m taking about. This is an excerpt from Andrew and Rachel Wilson’s book, The Life We Never Expected.

“Discovering your children have special needs is like being given an orange.

You’re sitting with a group of friends in a restaurant. You’ve just finished a decent main course, and are about to consider the dessert menu when one of your friends gets up, taps their glass with a spoon, and announces that they have bought desserts for everyone as a gift. They disappear around the corner, and return a minute later with an armful of spherical objects about the size of tennis balls, beautifully wrapped, with a bow on each one.

As they begin distributing the mysterious desserts, everyone starts to open them in excitement, and one by one the group discovers that they have each been given a Chocolate Orange. Twenty segments of rich, smooth, lightly flavoured milk chocolate: a perfect conclusion to a fine meal, and a very sociable way of topping off an enjoyable evening. You begin to unwrap the object in front of you.

But you’ve been given an orange. Not a chocolate orange; an actual orange. Eleven erratically sized, pith-covered segments with surprisingly large pips in annoying places; requiring a degree in engineering in order to be peeled properly. You stare at it with a mixture of surprise, disappointment and confusion. The rest of the table hasn’t noticed. They’re too busy enjoying their chocolate.

You pause to reflect. There’s nothing wrong with oranges, you say to yourself. They are sharp, sweet, refreshing and zesty. Looked at from a number of perspectives – medical, dietary, environmental – you have been given a better dessert than everyone else. And you didn’t have a right to be given anything anyway.

But your heart sinks, all the same. An orange was not what you expected; as soon as you saw everyone else opening their chocolate, you simply assumed that is what you would get, too. Not only that, but this wasn’t what you wanted. And because you’re surrounded by other people, you have to come to terms with the   sheer unfairness of being given your orange, while your friends share, laugh about and celebrate theirs. A nice meal has taken an unexpected turn, and you suddenly feel isolated, disappointed and frustrated.  

Discovering that your kids have special needs is like that.”

Yes, that’s my Abigail. She is no chocolate orange, but I love her all the same. She is juicy and messy and very good for me. Honestly, I would choose to have another orange at this point. Oranges are my normal now and I wouldn’t even know what to do with a special treat like a chocolate orange. So even though it’s a little more work and a little more messy I am thankful for my real orange. She brings such joy and flavor to our life! I am excited to start a new adventure in a pretty pink wheelchair. And I invite any questions from you or from onlookers. Please, never be afraid to encourage a special needs parent you see out and about. The very fact that they came out with their child is a big deal. Just let them know they are amazing parents. Every parent needs encouragement and we are parents too. I mean this life is bittersweet, so I encourage you to add some sweetness to a life today!

Carry Me

I carried her inside of me for nine months. I loved being pregnant. Well, after I got past the wanting to die because I was so sick part of it then I loved it. I loved feeling her inside me and watching her wiggle around in there. I really had no problems except for being sick the first trimester. I just remember wondering what Abigail would look like the whole pregnancy. I don’t think either of us expected her to have blonde hair and blue eyes, but I’m so glad she got her daddy’s traits!!

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The day before I was induced. May 7, 2015 – last day pregnant

The first time I had to carry Abigail was hours after she was born. The hospital we had Abigail in transferred you upstairs to a mother/baby room after you finished in the labor and delivery room. They put me in a wheelchair and Jordan handled all our bags. (Our 15 bags we brought because we were so overly prepared – oops!) Then they placed that seven pound little baby in my arms – all swaddled so perfectly as any nurse in that ward can do! I honestly could think nothing else but ‘don’t drop her, don’t drop her’. I was so exhausted from giving birth I didn’t think my arms could hold her much longer. The trip upstairs lasted an eternity with me thinking my ‘hold on to this baby’ mantra the whole way. But we made it. My arms kept her safe the whole way. And now I laugh thinking about how I thought 7 pounds was heavy.
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The awful wheelchair trip. I was so tired!!

Now I still carry Abigail everywhere. I carry her to breakfast and then back upstairs to get dressed. I carry her to and from the car. I carry her so often that I don’t even think about it being odd to have to carry a three year old everywhere you go. It’s amazing how your body adapts to what you need. I am a weakling. I am not scared to admit it because it’s the truth. I have never really worked out a day in my life and I am truly okay if I never do until I die. I love to walk and swim, but the thought of working out sounds awful to me. But I have carried Abigail A LOT in the past three years (and I haven’t even dropped her once – knock on wood.) I have gotten some arm cramps, but my body has slowly adapted to carrying her around. Thankfully she gains weight slowly so my arms have time to adjust to her weight. And I am thankful my little girl is only on the 9th percentile for weight. Could you imagine if she was in the 90th? Maybe God made her small on purpose! That’s what I like to believe at least. Abigail’s weight is different than a normal toddler’s because she doesn’t support herself much at all. She is getting better, but most days she is like carrying around a sack of flour – literally. There’s no help. No give and take. It’s all of me carrying all of her. If you ask her to hold on she will kind of hug your neck for a few seconds before simply just letting go. She is just too trusting. She knows that you won’t drop her. Abigail fully relies on you to do all the work and get her where she needs to go.
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Carrying her in for a doctor’s appointment.

A lot of people say how I’m a good mom or how I always seem to be happy. I guess a lot of people wonder how I can have such a great attitude about having a child with special needs. Maybe people wonder how I can be so confident when we know so little as to why Abigail is the way she is. It’s because, like Abigail, I am also being carried. Full reliance on God has been my motto since college, and it hasn’t failed me yet. But I struggle with it daily! Oh I wish I had a childlike faith. I wish I could be as free and innocent as Abigail. But one thing I do know is that no matter what this life may throw at me, I am being carried. God won’t ever forsake me or make me doubt His goodness. He is Lord and His ways are better than my ways.
I am reminded of that famous poem that used to be so popular, “Footprints in the Sand.” I will post it below for those who need a reminder. But it is very true that in your lowest moments, God is always there. He never promises our lives will be without sorrow, heartbreak and pain. But God promises over and over in the Bible that He would never leave us or forsake us. God taught me a little object lesson once and it has always stuck with me. God always shines brighter when it is darker just as the stars always seem to increase when you get away from the lights. The darkness is often scary and very lonely, but God can show off in the darkness. When you can’t see to guide yourself then it’s time to let God guide you. When you don’t know what step to take, let God lead you. And when you don’t know how you can make it, let God carry you. When you can rely fully on Someone else then all those fears, doubts and worries seem to handle themselves. God won’t ever drop you. He won’t ever let go. Cling to Him, cry to Him, and find comfort in Him as He carries you.
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So glad I get to carry this sweet thing! We love each other so much!!!

Yes, my arms are often full! Between carrying Abigail and her bag and whatever else we may need that day it becomes a juggling act. But I love that my arms are full with a little girl who I can call mine. And God loves when we come to Him too. I know I can carry Abigail better because He has shown me how to be carried. I can love better because He has shown me how to love. And I can be the mother He has called me to be because I find my strength in Him. I am not perfect by any means, and I struggle with these truths daily, but I am learning that dependency on God is good and I am thankful for His never ending presence and His arms of love that carry me onward even when I don’t know what is ahead. At least I am being carried by Someone who will always take me where I need to go.
Footprints in the Sand

“One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”