Building a Community

What an adorable girl you have.

She is just beautiful.

What a happy girl.

Her smile is the cutest.

That hair!

These are just some comments we receive from strangers while we are out and about with Abigail. She is too cute for her own good. I tell Jordan all the time that I do not know how we made such a cutie. Her blonde hair, blue eyes, contagious smile, and now her little pink glasses make an adorable combination. You see, Abigail looks completely normal. Nobody with would think twice that she has a developmental delay. Often people are shocked, or they just do not understand, that she is not able to sit or stand on her own.

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Our beautiful girl!!

I guess most people consider special needs children to look or act a certain way. But special needs covers a wide variety of conditions from speech delays to the autism spectrum to severe cases of cerebral palsy. And that does not even cover the other thousands of syndromes and genetic disorders that are known today. People are so quick to judge the little boy in the wheelchair or the little girl with Down’s syndrome, but they do not realize that children like Abigail have some of the exact same issues.

I have to watch myself when we are out and about because I catch myself staring at families that have disabled or special needs children. Not in judgment, but simply because I can relate with them and I want to encourage them. But they take one look at Abigail and they would never guess that we were the same in any way. The other day we were in the check out line of Wal-Mart, and a mom and her two daughters got behind us. The one daughter was in a wheelchair, so I immediately wanted to talk to her and make a connection. Thankfully, she commented on how cute Abigail was and I was able to talk about how we just recently received her glasses and found my lead in to say, “Yes, we are alike!” Turns out her daughter’s and Abigail’s stories were quite similar in the beginning. Her daughter did not walk until she was four, she has no diagnoses, and they go to therapy too. It was wonderful to make that small connection, and I wish we could have kept talking, but it is hard to do that in a check out line.

I live for these connections with other special needs parents. They are people who can relate because we have all journeyed down similar paths. My passions are slowly being molded to start a special needs ministry for parents in some way. I have always wanted to be in ministry since God called me in 2010. I always figured I would be apart of a women’s ministry of some kind, but know I feel more and more led to special needs. It is where I am in life as a mother of a special needs child myself. And yes, while our children may all be experiencing their own struggles and triumphs, all special needs parents share a common bond. We are all struggling to find our way through emotions, bills, insurance companies, appointments, and still raising our kids to thrive in their environment. It is a lot, and we need each other. So my daughter may be the cutest thing in the world, and look like she has is all together but her mama needs those other parents to understand that I need them and we need each other. So today I am praying that God works in and through myself, my community, and that He can use me to bless other special needs parents in some way great or small.

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Our Connection

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I love this picture of us! Our hair is greasy, but those smiles are genuine. We had just recovered from being sick all week and I took Abigail outside to get some fresh air. That smile melted my heart, as it always does!

From the moment that seven pound bundle was placed on my chest I knew my life would never be the same. I was never one to dream about having kids. I never planned to get married really. But God had other plans for me when I met my blonde headed lover. I knew I would spend the rest of my life with this man about a month into dating him. And my man wanted kids. He was the dreamer of the family in that department. So a kid a got! And what a special addition she is to in our lives.

I had no clue what to do with this bundle. Abigail was born about 30 minutes before shift change so after the nurses had us all cleaned up they just left us. Jordan left me to go tell our family all the details and it was just me and Abs for a while in a room alone. I figured all the books said babies are hungry so we tried the whole eating thing and I had no clue what I was doing and literally no one to help me. I barely knew how to hold an hour old baby much less how to care for her needs. So while we had a few minutes alone we simply looked at one another, both trying to figure the other out.

I knew this baby would change my life. She would alter my dreams and my schedules. I still felt wholly unprepared to be a mom, but ready or not I was a mother and there was no turning back. Abigail was the easiest baby ever and for that I am thankful, and oh so very spoiled. Even as a newborn she rarely cried. I had no clue how to breastfeed, but she was a champ. I always say she did all the work, I was just there to hold her. She slept well even early on and she really wasn’t a cuddly baby. We would place her on the floor and do chores or cook dinner and she was as content as could be.

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Those fingers wrapped around mine…it’s a small connection but it means so much!!

When Abigail was about three months old we moved about 45 minutes away to be closer to my family. I helped part-time with my family’s business and my mom and grandma would often keep Abigail and just let me nurse her when she needed to be fed. This was our routine until my husband and I decided to move closer to his family and be nearer to a larger city with more job opportunities and opportunities for Abigail. We made our second move when Abigail was about 1.5 years old. It was then that I became a full-time mom.

Some people would argue that breastfeeding Abigail for a year is what connected us. And while it might have, I also believe if she had been given formula it wouldn’t have been any different. I truly believe our connection started when we made this move and I became the one person Abigail sees most often. I’m the one who wakes her up in the morning and puts her to bed at night. I take her to all her therapies and doctors. We go on errands and to the park. We play and exercise and do everything together.

This connection we have formed is deep and it is strong. When I’m in the room she wants me. She may hug others and laugh for a little bit, but she eventually tires of them and wants her mama. But lately I have noticed that we even reflect each other’s emotions. If I’m feeling sad or mad or upset I have realized Abigail’s isn’t herself. Just yesterday I was running a low fever and not feeling 100% and Abigail was fussy all day. There has been a few times where Abigail has choked very badly on food and I get scared so I end up scaring her and making the situation worse. Thankfully Daddy has always been there to calm us both down. But I have noticed this emotional connection we have lately, and it’s amazing to me that she can pick up on it.

I guess when you spend the amount of time together that Abigail and I do you are bound to learn the person. And Abigail know each other pretty well. Even though she lacks all forms of communication, I can usually figure out what she wants. She has her own way of communicating and I am thankful that we have such a bond that she trusts me to care for her in every way. I don’t know what her future holds, but discovering this deep connection with my daughter gives me confidence that we will be okay no matter if she can never walk or talk.

Just three short years ago I would have told you I would never be a mother, much less a stay at home mom. But now I am a mother to the sweetest girl in the world. And our mother/daughter bond is unbreakable! I want to be the best mother I can be for Abigail. I want you to know I love her and that I’ll always be there for her. And I pray this special bond we have formed continues, no matter what this life may hold for us!

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When Life is Hard

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Abigail has been wearing her glasses for about a week now.  She is as cute as a button in them, but they are not to help her see. Yes, they have a slight prescription for her far-sightedness but the glasses are mainly to try to help strengthen those eye muscles. Abigail’s eyes are actually what began this long, on-going process of finding what is going on with her. At two months her vision alerted the pediatrician something was not right, and we were sent to a pediatric ophthalmologist. For about her first year of life Abigail constantly looked up. Her eyes have fixed themselves, but she still gets cross eyed at times and her eyes are still shaky. Her eye muscles, as they are in every part of her body, are very weak. So the glasses are here to hopefully help that. We are supposed to wear them as much as possible. We normally get about six to eight hours a day in them. And honestly she does a lot better with them than I would ever imagine. When we first put them on on the mornings she does not like them and touches them repeatedly. But after the initial touching she really does not bother them, unless you leave her alone with them. Then they are off in a heartbeat. She knows the glasses are weird and she does not wear them unless we are around to watch her.

The glasses are new and I’m sure they are not the most comfortable things in the world. Her vision is adjusting to a new prescription and her unsteady eyes have to get used to seeing things completely different. Change is hard. It is hard for a young child and it is hard for a grown adult. As adults we learn to cope with change. It is the only sure thing out there, so we know our life will constantly be changing in some way or the other. Some people are better with change than others. I am one of those people who hate change with all my heart. I like order, routine and sameness. I literally could do the same thing everyday and be quite content. I understand that makes you world changers out there cringe to even read that last sentence, but that’s who I am.

This past year has had a lot of changes. Between moving, changing therapies, finding new doctors and new programs for Abigail, finding Jordan a new job, becoming a full- time mom, and trying to find a church home I am drained. That does not even include the little everyday routine shifts that naturally pop up with life and having small children. Life is crazy and I am starting to feel it. My body is tired, my head hurts and I am just worn out physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

As I watched Abigail touching her glasses this morning I could not help but be reminded I am just like her. Life bothers me sometimes. It is annoying and I want to throw in the towel and go hide in my bed all day and never see anyone. It would be a much easier life that way. But those glasses have to be worn. No matter the amount of times I have to get little smudgy fingerprints off them, or how many times Abigail pulls them off they have to go on and be worn. They are helping Abigail whether she wants them to or not. She does not understand, but I know she has to wear them for them to help her. And in my heart I know I have to continue to live life because every stress, every worry, every decision, every tear shed, and every change is making me stronger.

God is still working on me. He gave me this life to reflect His Son, and I cannot do that the way I am as a rotten, spoiled sinner. Life is shaping me to be more Christlike everyday. Is the process fun? No. I wish I could rip off all the burdens and struggles like Abigail does her glasses, but this is the life God has given me. Today it feels very heavy, but it is often because I try to carry my load all alone. I am stubborn and independent to my very core. But God made us to be dependent people relying fully on Him. And oh do I need Him today to carry my load, to pick me up, and to stand my feet on solid ground. So my prayer today is that if you, like me, feel like life is hard or even just annoying then may us seek God’s face and may we fully rely on God who can take every worry, fear, burden and tear and give us freedom and life more abundant then we ever thought possible. May you dear reader find this abundant life in Christ today!

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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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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!

The Perfect Mom

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I am not perfect. In fact most days I am not even that good. I spend more time on my phone and on social media than I would like. I get impatient with Abigail. I brush off her whines to be played with or held so I can finish that one load of laundry that just has to be done. I am selfish with my desires and time. Often at the end of the day I can see the moments I should have done things differently or had a better attitude or reaction to something that happened earlier in the day.

However, despite my imperfections I love being a mom. God blessed me with my daughter and she is my responsibility to raise, and I am thankful for this even on the hard days. Raising children is not easy. They need a lot of things and attention especially when they are young. I know the teenage years come with its own list of demands and worries as every new stage of childhood does, but right now I am in the infant, dependency stage. To think that God gave you children to raise is a huge honor and one not to be taken lightly. So often we forget the big picture as we struggle through the daily grind of dirt, feeding, and playing. We forget that we only have these little people in our lives for a short period of time before they grow up and leave our houses to build lives of their own. Babies do not keep. Babies become adults out in the world who have an impact for the good or for the worse. We all want our kids to be world changers and lights in a dark world, but are we modeling that in our homes everyday with our children now?

Motherhood is a blessing. Those little arms that reach around you at just the perfect time make your whole day better. Watching your children learn and discovery as their personalities bloom in front of you is a treasure in and of itself. Knowing that this little child will soon be replaced with a man or woman making their own decisions, makes you want to store every possible memory of them you can. Yes, days can be long between the complaining, whining, cleaning, and hunting for that lost shoe. But God gave us children to enjoy, to nurture, and to teach and He trusts us with that precious child each and every day. Motherhood not only shapes the child, but it transforms you too as you learn from those precious little lives about child-like faith, dependence, and brings you face to face with your own selfish desires. God uses motherhood to mold us as we mold our children after God.

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Children are a blessing. I still remember the first day we went to listen to Abigail’s heartbeat at the OBGYN’s office. We were about 8 weeks pregnant. I had already been experiencing night sickness for about 3 weeks, but that tiny whoosing on the monitor made everything just stop for a moment. I wish that they could give every mom a recording of that precious sound. It is the sound of life. Children bring life into everything they touch. They bring joy and laughter and fun. The way they see things is astounding, and makes you realize how much the world influences you daily. Children find more joy and laughter in the simple things of life. They would rather play in the giant cardboard box than the new toy they just received. Children make life seem so simple, and they can teach us so much.

I know I am not a perfect mom, and I know I never will be. Mistakes happen, reactions will come out too fast, and time will be mismanaged. However, I want my kids to know that I was the best mother I could be. I want to be their mom that they love. I want them to know that they are loved and that we are so proud of them. I want them to know that the love God has for them trumps my love 100 fold. I want them to be children, and let innocence reign for as long as possible. I want them to feel safe in my arms, and know I will be there to support and encourage them all day, every day. I want my children to laugh and love. I want them to be different than the world, and shine in the darkness. I want them to know and understand the Truth and know God’s Word. I want my children to love one another and love others. I want them to not be afraid to be who God created them to be.

Today, I pray, not to be a perfect mom, but to be the mom Abigail needs. I pray that you will be the parent your child needs. Let us remember the big picture, that these children will not be children forever. God gives us these little lives only for a short time to raise, and then we send them out. But they are not alone! Our God who loves our children so much more than we ever could is with them every step of the way. Let us remind our children of that daily, and then remind ourselves of that even more. May your season of motherhood be blessed!

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My Sunshine

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I love this time of year! Everything is blooming and waking up from its winter slumber. Nature is just beautiful, and even though my allergies are at an all time worse, I love driving and seeing all the beautiful scenery. But the sunshine as it kisses my skin is my favorite. I am up early enough to see the first rays of light touch the earth and brighten it as the sun rises. I love the feeling and warmth of the rays and knowing no matter what that the sun will come up and be there to welcome the day.

The sun brightens everything and shares its light and warmth. Abigail is my sunshine. She brightens everyone’s day that she meets and she never meets a stranger. She loves “waving’ at people, which is really her reaching out to touch them. Faces are her thing. If she could play with your face and hair all day she would be the happiest baby! In just the first five minutes of meeting Abigail, she reaches out for your face and hair and smiles her perfect smile. Abigail is simply a joy to be around, and I don’t think I am saying that just because I am her mom. She smiles and laughs at people while we are in the check out line. Her therapists love her and say she makes their days better. And friends and family always tell us she’s wonderful. People are just taken with her because she is such a welcoming little one.

When I think of the way Abigail brings joy to people, the way she just makes people smile with her beauty and joy, it brings hope into my life. Maybe this is exactly who Abigail is meant to be. A little blonde headed ball of joy who is a little odd compared to others. A person who stands out in the crowd. Until you meet Abigail yourself you cannot fully grasp her personality. I cannot put it into words correctly, but this child can change the atmosphere in a room instantly. Even as tiny as she is Abigail makes a big impact in a room of people and I love that about her. She brings life, and joy and hope to others, and she is not shy to have all attention on her. She does not realize she is missing out on so much. She does not want things other toddlers want. She is content to play with your face other than a new toy. She just wants to be with you more than anything in the world. In the arms of a person who adores her she works her magic and you cannot help but catch on with her contagious smile and adorable giggle.

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Our precious Spring pictures from last year.      Happy Spring y’all!

Abigail Paige is my sunshine. All children have an innocence about them that is perfect, and their joy in the smallest things lights up this world. That is what Abigail does for me; she is my bright light in this dark, confusing world. She warms up my heart and allows me to love freely. She helps me see special needs in a whole new light, and she is teaching me she does have purpose in this world. Abigail can be a world changer with just her smile. And she is by lighting up lives with her tiny rays of joy everyday!! Oh I hope that those sweet rays continue to shine for a long, long time.