A Little Parable For Mothers

I have been doing some serious cleaning in my house this week. Most of my life is cluttered, and to some extent, that’s okay. A completely spotless and shiny house actually stresses me out. Several years ago, we tried to sell our home, and for 60 days, my house had to look like a showroom. I have never been so stressed out in all of my life! We decided not to sell and allowed clutter to enter the house again, and it felt a lot better to me. But every once in awhile, I get a wild idea that I’m going to clean and declutter.

Well the problem with cleaning like this, at least for me, is that I get distracted looking at old photos, letters, and cards. It takes me probably ten times longer when I get distracted with these things, so I try to avoid decluttering as much as possible!

mother-and-baby-1646440_640Today, though, I came across a treasure that I just have to share with you! I was going through my son’s baby book. My sweet “baby” boy Clay is going to be 11 years old in a few months! He’s about to start the 5th grade. So I’m a little sappy over him lately. Getting lost in his baby book was a great way to spend an hour today.

Tucked inside Clay’s baby book was several handwritten pages that my Grandma had written. It was her speech she delivered at my baby shower for Clay. She would often do a devotion of sorts at showers, and I found the text in her writing for the one she did for me at Clay’s shower. I think I’m also sappy when it comes to her, too, since she passed away.

This piece I’m going to share isn’t written by her. I looked it up, and it’s written by Temple Bailey, and I was so touched by it. I want to share it with you now, in hopes that you, too, will be blessed by it.

A Little Parable for Mothers

The young mother set her foot on the path of life.
“Is this the long way?” she asked.
God said: “Yes, and the way is hard.
You will be old before you reach the end of it.
But the end will be better than the beginning.”

But the young mother was happy,
and she would not believe that anything could be better than these years.
So she played with her children,
and gathered flowers for them along the way,
and bathed them in the clear streams;
and the sun shone on them,
and the young Mother said,
“Nothing will ever be lovelier than this.”

Then the night came, and the storm,
and the path was dark,
and the children shook with fear and cold,
and the mother drew them close and covered them with her mantle,
and the children said,
“Mother, we are not afraid, for you are near, and no harm can come.”

And the morning came, and there was a hill ahead,
and the children climbed and grew weary,
and the mother was weary.
But at all times she said to the children,
” A little patience and we are there.”
So the children climbed, and when they reached the top
they said, “Mother, we would not have done it without you.”

And the mother, when she lay down at night
looked up at the stars and said,
“This is a better day than the last,
for my children have learned FORTITUDE in the face of hardness.
Yesterday I gave them COURAGE.
Today, I ‘ve given them STRENGTH.”

And the next day came,
strange clouds which darkened the earth,
clouds of war and hate and evil,
and the children groped and stumbled,
and the mother said:
“Look up. Lift your eyes to the light. ”
And the children looked and saw above the clouds an Everlasting Glory,
and it guided them beyond the darkness.
And that night the Mother said,
“This is the best day of all,
for today I have shown my children GOD.”

And the days went on,
and the weeks and the months and the years,
and the mother grew old and she was little and bent.
But her children were tall and strong,
and walked with courage.
And when the way was rough, they lifted her,
for she was as light as a feather;
and at last they came to a hill,
and beyond they could see a shining road
and golden gates flung wide.
And mother said,
“I have reached the end of my journey.
And now I know the end is better than the beginning,
for my children can walk alone,
and their children after them.”

And the children said,
“You will always walk with us, Mother,
even when you have gone through the gates.”

And they stood and watched her as she went on alone,
and the gates closed after her.
And they said: “We cannot see her
but she is with us still.
A Mother like ours is more than a memory.
She is a Living Presence…”
–Temple Bailey

This reminds me so much of my grandma’s life. She was like this so much, and since she passed away almost a year ago, it’s how I feel now that she’s gone. I cannot see her, but she is with me still. I hope one day I’ll leave a legacy on this earth like she did.

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Choosing Joy

I think I’ve decided to write another book. I’m about 90% sure. I wrote one a few years ago called Walk by Faith, and what a journey that was just in the writing process. It took me two years, and while it was fun for me (I do love writing), and I’m so proud of how it turned out, it was also a lot of work. Above all else, I am a full-time mom to 2 kids, one who has a great deal of special needs. Extra time for things like writing isn’t exactly there. But then I feel as though the things I have been through really need to be shared.

So I’m going to tell you a story about a lesson I’ve learned through my son Clay, and I’m pretty certain this story will be in my new book. I learn a lot of things through my children about life and faith. I love seeing this world through their eyes. I always have. Well this was no exception.

This story is about joy. Joy is one of those things that people strive for, but I also think it’s something that confuses people. Joy isn’t the same thing as happiness. Happiness is something that is circumstantial, meaning your circumstances kind of dictate whether you have it or not. But joy is different. It’s something that you have much deeper within your soul. It’s not dictated by what you’re going through. And to some extent, I think you can choose it. Now, I’m not saying that’s easy, but it’s something to think about.

GrandmaAndAngie

Grandma & Me

I learned this lesson from Clay on the day that my grandmother died. My grandma was 94 years old. She was a good Christian woman, this wonderful God-fearing, kind, passionate woman. She lived an amazing life. She loved her family deeply, but she loved her God even more. I lived with her briefly in college, and I used to eavesdrop on my grandparents as they played cards together because I loved listening to them. They played Skip-Bo almost every night after supper, and they talked and laughed together like newlyweds, even though the year Grandpa died, they had been married for 54 years. I loved them dearly, and cherish the time I lived with them.

The last few years of Grandma’s life were hard. Her health was awful. She was weak. A few weeks before she passed, they finally allowed Hospice to come in and make her comfortable. The day Hospice was called in, this hit me so hard, and I just needed to see her. I left the kids with my mom, and I headed to the nursing home to see her.

When I got there, she was sitting in her chair and when I entered the room, a smile broke across her entire face. She said, “Oh! Angie! I’m SO glad you’ve come to see me!”

I immediately hugged her, and said, “I needed to see you today, Grandma.”

Still smiling, she said, “I know.” She took my hands in hers, and smiling with only a hint of tears in her eyes, she said very softly, “You know this isn’t the end. I need you to remember that. I’m ready.”

Tears now falling from my eyes, I said, “I know, but I’m going to miss you so much.”

She wiped the tears from my cheeks, and she said, “I’m so proud of you, of the woman you’ve grown into. Grandpa would have been so proud of you too. You are a wonderful mother. I love you very much.”

I decided after that visit that I would be brave like her. When she passed, I would be brave for my kids and not cry a lot.

A few weeks later, I was finishing cleaning up the kitchen and about to send the kids to bed. It was about 8:45pm when my phone rang. My heart sunk, without even seeing who was on the caller ID. I just knew. I picked up my phone, and I could see it was my mom. I knew why she was calling. I answered, “Hey, Mom,” and I realized I was holding my breath.

She was crying, and she said, “Angie, you know why I’m calling, right?”

I was crying, and choked something inaudible, so Mom continued, “Grandma is gone.” I asked how dad was, and she said, “Dad is okay.” Then we got off the phone.

Bravery and my “plans” flew right out the window, and I screamed, “No!” Then fell to the floor in tears. Clay was right there, and he immediately ran to me and threw his arms around me as I sobbed. So much for not showing emotion and putting on my brave face about death.

Clay said, “Great Grandma died, didn’t she?”

I sobbed, “Yes.”

Clay hugged me some more, until I finally wiped my tears and took a deep breath. Clay pulled back from me, and with tears in his eyes, this wisdom came out of him that I’ll never forget. His perspective, his faith, his bravery. He said, “We know Great-Grandma is in Heaven. I’m going to choose to be happy for her and not sad for me.”

Those precious words changed me that day. We can CHOOSE to be happy. That’s what joy is, when we CHOOSE to be happy despite our circumstances. Oh, how I wish I had his faith! This must be what Jesus spoke of in the Bible when he said that we must have faith as a child. Clay’s words have helped comfort me these past few months of grieving my grandma’s death. There have been several times I have just downright missed seeing her, missed talking to her, missed going to her with things going on in my life. But I choose joy instead. Like Clay, I’m going to choose to be happy for her and not sad for me.

Beating Apraxia

Two blog posts in one day!  It’s just that kind of week I’m having, and it’s actually GOOD! You can read about Cora’s yellow belt here if you’d like!

I’ve adopted a hashtag on social media that is called “#beatingapraxia.”  I post a lot of things when Cora accomplishes something in her speech and give it this hashtag.  It’s actually kind of neat for me to search for this hashtag and remember all the things she’s said that I thought were worth posting.

This practice also causes me to see in black and white that Cora’s making progress.  I realized recently that when I get phone calls or reports about Cora, it’s never good news.  I’ve even found myself cringing when I get a phone call or anything about Cora.

Two weeks ago, after fighting with insurance about some therapies Cora needs, the place where she gets these therapies popped up on my caller ID.  Without even realizing it, as I answered the phone, ready to start arguing and fighting over coverage, my hands were balled up into fists.

The lady on the phone introduced herself, very friendly, it even sounded like she was smiling.  But I was still ready for a fight.  Seriously, phone calls are NEVER good!

She continued, explaining that I had signed a waiver 2 years ago that they were allowed to write things about Cora in research and publications they do, but that when a child is about to be used in a story, they like to call and inform the parents anyway, just so they know it’s happening.

I was confused.  This didn’t sound like something I needed to argue with, so I really didn’t respond with more than, “Ok.”

She continued.  “We realize that Cora has made such huge progress here over the past 6 months, and acknowledge that she’s really made a lot of progress in the full 2 years since she’s been here.”  Right.  2 years ago, Cora had no words.  Nothing.  Now she talks all the time.  But still, I’m thinking in my mind, “I’m so confused right now.  I’m not sure where I’m supposed to jump in and start arguing.”

Then the lady said, “We’re writing a report on Cora to be shown to other organizations like ours, in order to show her accomplishments.  Is that still okay with you that we do that?  It’s been 2 years since you signed that it was okay, but I want to verify that it’s okay still.”

Okay, my fists relaxed.  I don’t need to fight at all.  I said, “Of course that’s okay!  She has made huge progress.”

She said, “Great!  Thank you so much!”

I said, “I’m sorry to bother you about this, but I’ve never seen anything GOOD about Cora before.  Can I see what you write about her?  I really need the black and white, something I can hold.  The only reports I see about Cora are bad.”

Well then it was her turn to be confused.  She said, “I don’t see why not, but let me ask.”  So she went and asked and came back on the phone to say that they’d let me see it in a few weeks when it was done.

I’m pretty sure she thought I was crazy, but seriously, I’ve never seen written down anything GOOD about Cora’s progress!  I need this like a thirsty man needs water.

Well I got it yesterday, and this is what it says, in it’s entirety about Cora (it’s part of a bigger report that I’m not allowed to see):

“Six months ago, 5-year-old Cora was saying approximately 2 to 3 words [per sentence].  She has apraxia and her brain has difficulty planning to move body parts needed for speech such as her lips, jaw and tongue and this causes her to have problems saying arounds, syllables, and words.  Her speech therapist at [school she attends] used a variety of techniques to help Cora with planning, sequencing and coordinating muscle movements for speech.  Sequencing stories were used to help Cora learn to put together simple sentences with a noun, verb and object.  Cora learned about WH questions (who, what, when, where, why) using workbooks and a preposition application on the iPad helped her learn location concepts (under, in, on).  Cora’s parents also practiced with her at home using strategies given to them by the speech therapist.  Cora is now saying 8-9 words [per sentence] and is able to relate personal experiences, telling her mother about her day when she gets home from school.”

I think we’ll give all that the hashtag #beatingapraxia.

Yellow Belt Victory

My daughter Cora is 6 years old, and in many ways, she’s like other 6-year-old girls.  She loves princesses and dressing up.  She loves pretending she’s the chef in a restaurant.  She loves playing with baby dolls and she loves small animals, especially kittens and puppies.

Unlike other 6-year-olds, though, Cora has brain damage.  She has a type of brain damage called Periventricular Leukomalacia.  Hers is considered “moderate-to-severe,” and in her case, approximately half of her brain is dead.  At 12 months old when she was diagnosed, we were told that she’d never walk.  Actually, what that doctor told me was that she’d never walk or talk or run or dance or learn like other kids.  And if by some VERY slim chance, and “don’t get your hopes up,” that she does walk, she’ll never be graceful or coordinated or athletic.  She’ll use a walker and have ankle braces and struggle.  A lot.

6 months later, almost to the day I was told this, Cora walked.  Actually, if you know Cora, she never does anything halfway, and she doesn’t do anything until she’s perfected it.  Her first “step” was actually 30 steps RUNNING across my living room.  That’s my Cora.  Actually, that’s just proof that God has other plans and He doesn’t follow what some “professional” says about her.

If you follow my blog at all (and if you don’t, you totally should!), you’ll know that about 6 months ago, I was told she’s got such a low IQ that she’s unable to learn.  I refuse to believe that.

Yesterday, God showed off again, and once again, we get to be the recipients of His blessings.  It’s not often that we get to truly celebrate.  Overcoming Cora’s disabilities is hard work!  All the time.  I’m forever toeing the line of pushing her to learn, pushing her to grow, but not pushing her too much, not giving her more than she can handle right now.  But still always always always pushing forward.

At the beginning of the school year, we decided to take the plunge and let Cora start taking karate classes.  Clay started taking karate when he was in kindergarten, and I claim that aside from raising my children in church, karate is the best parenting decision I’ve ever made for him.  He’s building physical strength, discipline, learning respect, growing in confidence.  And it’s fun!

So we finally decided that we’d let Cora try, knowing she’d probably be a white belt for a VERY long time.  It takes Cora a long time to remember things.  It’s hard for her to coordinate her body sometimes.  But that’s okay.  Karate would be good at building her strength, working on her muscles, and expanding her memory.  Even if it takes a year or two being a white belt.  But maybe, just maybe, it would give her confidence in herself.  Maybe it would help her memory.  It would be a good outlet for her “wiggles.”

Last week, we went into class knowing that several of the white belts were being tested for their yellow belts.  Donnie and I knew Cora was getting close.  She’s been a white belt a pretty long time.  But I don’t know if I really expected her to pass.  And one thing worth mentioning about this dojo the kids go to is that the teachers don’t just give away new belts.  New belt ranks are earned.  Kids have to pass a test.  They have to know certain things at each level and be proficient in them before they can move on.  Apparently some dojos let children rank up if they’ve been at a certain level for a certain amount of time.  This school isn’t like that.  If you move up too soon, you could get injured, doing things your body isn’t ready for.  So they make you pass tests.  And Cora isn’t treated any differently here.  She has to meet certain expectations as well.  Same rules apply that they can’t let her try things her body can’t handle, so she has to pass just like everyone else.

So last week, Sensei Sarah tested Cora.  Cora had to know 10 different karate stances, such as horse stance, attention, front punch, and other things like that.  She also had to know 3 forms of self defense maneuvers.  Well lo and behold, she PASSED!  And last night, that blessing of her passing, Cora actually remembering those 10 things and 3 self defense moves, came to fruition!  Cora earned her yellow belt!

Last week, when she passed, and Sensei Sarah confirmed that she passed and could get her yellow belt, I burst into tears!  My sweet girl that works so hard at everything she does, my girl who was never supposed to walk or learn, she PASSED!  Of course I cried.

Last night, as I was sitting in the dojo waiting for the ceremony, Sensei Sarah teased me that I shouldn’t have worn makeup because I would just cry it off.  As it turns out, I wasn’t the one who cried.  After Cora’s new belt was tied on, I looked to my left, where Clay was watching, and our eyes met.  Through big huge crocodile tears in HIS eyes, he said, “Mom, she did it!  I’m just so proud of her!”

So am I, Clay, so am I.  It didn’t really dawn on me till last night how vested Clay is in Cora’s growth and development.  He’s been along on this ride too.  He was there when I was told she’d never walk.   He’s been there watching her work SO HARD on her physical development, and her memory, and her speech, and he too cheers and celebrates her victories.  I sometimes joke that the day she walks across a stage to get her high school diploma, I’m going to need a truckload of tissues and an army of shoulders to cry on.  Well, I think Clay might need that too!  Such a sweet boy.

Here’s a couple of pictures from last night.  We’re very proud of her.  God has big things planned for this girl.  I’m certain of that.  She is fearfully and wonderfully made, and God is going to do a mighty thing through her because of her PVL.

My Joy

Dear Clay,

You fill my heart with such love and joy, and some days I think my heart is so full that it will burst.  I often feel inadequate as a mother, but then I get glimpses of what I saw today and think that I must not be doing too bad of a job raising you and Cora.

I am confident in very few things, but of this, I am confident.  You are going to be an amazing adult.  Well, you’re amazing now, so this really isn’t a stretch.  I see God forming you into someone that He is going to use in mighty ways for His kingdom.  Your kindness and gentleness are being formed and molded into one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen with my own eyes.  I read stories about amazing and awesome people, but I really should stop and realize that YOU are one of these amazing and awesome people.

Today started out like many Mondays.  Nothing spectacular.  I have our morning routine down to a science.  I don’t waste a single minute.  I can get up, shower, dress, get you and Cora up (if you aren’t already up), feed you breakfast, pack lunches, eat breakfast myself, have a cup of tea, and brush my teeth.  Then we can get out the door at exactly 7:52 to catch the bus.  Well I got distracted reading a news article online while I was drinking my tea and I wasted a few minutes.

As I was quickly brushing my teeth, I shouted to you and Cora to put your toys away and get your shoes and coats on.  I hurried, knowing Cora has trouble with her shoes and her coat.  But I walked down the stairs to this.

ClayHelpingCorasCoat.JPG

You had your coat and shoes on.  You had already helped Cora with her shoes, and you were zipping up her coat.  But it was your words that further blessed me into tears spilling out of my eyes a little.  You were very quietly and gently speaking to Cora, barely above a whisper.  You said, “Cora, we’re going to get on the bus and go to school.  You’re going to have an amazing day.  You’re going to have lots of fun and probably learn something.  Tonight, I have karate.  You have karate tomorrow, and this will be a very good day.  You’re getting your yellow belt tomorrow, and I’m so proud of you!”  Cora was just beaming, listening to you speak to her, and give her a wonderful pep talk.

You make me proud, Clay.  Every day of your life, you bless me.  You are a gift from God, and I feel so lucky that God chose me to be your mom.  Keep being awesome, buddy.  I love you very, very much.

Love,

Mom

What a Difference 5 Years Makes

I have the Timehop app on my phone, and each morning, it just beckons for me to click.  It’s a really neat app that shows you things you posted on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram on this date in years past.  It often reminds me of the funny things my children said, which I’ve usually forgotten.  It shows me pictures of what I was doing on this date however many years ago.  Those are always enjoyable.  Today’s reminder, though, was filled with lots of emotions, both good and bad.  5 years ago today was a bad day, but padded with the journey I’ve been on the past 5 years, a lot has also been overcome.  I’ve seen miracles.  I’ve battled demons, and won.  My faith was pushed to the very brink of whether or not I’m going to continue believing in the One True God.

5 years ago today, my world turned upside down.  My daughter Cora had the MRI that has forever changed our lives.  It completely altered the path we were on as a family and put us into a world we didn’t realize was so large, filled with such devastation and sadness, and yet always the hope that tomorrow will be better, and I’ve seen and experienced many victories.  This was the day we were thrown into the vast deep end of the world of special needs.  I even just said to Donnie last night that before 5 years ago, I never realized the special needs world was as large as it is.  When you’re not a member, this world is easy to overlook.  But when you’re in it, you get to meet some amazing people, people whose strength is inspiring.  I wonder if people find my own strength inspiring.

DSCN1977.JPGAbout 5 years and 5 weeks ago, Donnie and I adopted a beautiful baby girl we named Cora.  We were told Cora was perfectly healthy, but shortly after getting her home, I knew something was wrong.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but she just felt “off” to me.  Our pediatrician ordered an MRI of her spine because he suspected she had a tethered spinal cord.

The day before the MRI, he called me and said he couldn’t shake this nagging feeling he had about Cora’s MRI and really wanted to have her brain scanned too.  He said, “I don’t know why, I really do think her problem is her spine, but while we’ve got her under, I feel like we need to spend the extra half hour and scan her brain too.”  That was perfectly okay with me!

5 years ago today was that MRI.  We were told that we wouldn’t know any results till early the following week because it takes time for a radiologist to read the results and put them into Cora’s file.  No problem, I told them, I am a very patient person.

After Cora’s MRI, Donnie went out of town.  Our church was going on a men’s retreat, and a handful of men were waiting around for Donnie to be finished at Children’s and they were all going to ride together.  I took Cora home, picking Clay up on the way.  He’d been playing at a friend’s house all day while we were with Cora at the hospital.  My parents came over after dinner to play with their grandkids.

Cora was fine after the anesthesia.  She’d been playing and reading books, and she was so excited when her grandparents came over.  My phone rang, and it was our pediatrician calling me from his house.  He did this once before after Clay had had a procedure done, checking on how he was feeling.  I wasn’t alarmed by his greeting, “This is Dr. Stowers.  How’s Cora?”  I told him she was doing fine, she was playing with her grandparents.

During this part of our conversation, I walked upstairs to my room by myself just so I could hear him better and could speak without bothering the kids.  Then he said, “Angie, are you sitting down?  I have Cora’s MRI results.”  I’m pretty sure my heart stopped beating.  I remember all the blood rushing to my face and I felt hot and terrified.  It was too soon.  He would only call me like this if it was bad.

I immediately sat down on my bed, and I said, “I’m sitting.”

He proceeded, “There is something wrong with her brain.  She has something called Periventricular Leukomalacia, and Cora’s is pretty significant.”  Now my breathing stopped.  He said, “It’s called PVL, and soon you’ll be so familiar with it you’ll be able to spell it without much thought.  Cora’s is moderate to severe, and what that means is half of her brain is dead.  I’ve only seen one other child this severe before, and that little girl is in a wheelchair.  She can’t walk or talk, she has a feeding tube, she has significant learning problems.  Do you have any questions before I continue?”

I had tears dripping off of my chin.  My nose was running just as bad.  (Sorry for the gross visual… I was a mess.)  I was crying so hard. I said, “I’m sure I have a million, but I can’t process this quickly.  I need you to tell me what this means for Cora.  Please don’t hold back.”

He said, “Your life just changed forever.  Cora will probably never walk or run or dance like a normal little girl.  She’s going to have significant delays.  She’s going to struggle in school and probably won’t learn like her peers.  She will most likely be in a wheelchair, but even if she’s not in a wheelchair, she’ll never be coordinated or graceful.  She’ll never be able to run fast, or maybe not even run at all.”  Then I remember him instructing me to get a pen and paper because he wanted me to write down her diagnosis and google it.  He said that he was going to be making us an appointment at Children’s with a neurologist, and that it would take a few months, but he wanted me to be familiar with PVL and have my questions ready.

He wasn’t wrong.  Our lives did change forever that day.  And he wasn’t wrong about her brain.  She shouldn’t be doing any of those things.  But, ooooh, this is where those miracles come in that I’ve seen!  Looking back on this awful day in my life, do you know what I see now?  God held me that whole day.  God wasn’t surprised by her brain damage, and He knew that it was going to be terrible news to receive, and He was holding me the whole day.  He was drying my tears, and showing me just how strong I could be with Him inside my heart and my life.

God showed me how much love our parents have for their grandchildren, including their newest grandchild.  Every single one of them, in their own way, began fighting for her health and growth through their love for her.  My parents were there when I got the news. After I called Donnie (and he shared the news with the men he was in the car with, and they turned that car around and brought him home!), I told my dad what the doctor said.  Through his own tears, he said, “Angie, that doesn’t change how much we love Cora and we will do whatever we can for her the rest of her life.”  Then I told my mom, and through her tears, she did all she knew to do, and that was to grab my hands and lay our burdens at the feet of Jesus.  Then when we told Donnie’s parents what the doctor said, they too insisted that none of that changed how much they love her, and they were quick to show up at our house and love on her and Clay both.

It normally does take months to get an appointment with a neurologist at Children’s.  God moved things for us and we met with a neurologist just 36 hours after receiving the word from our pediatrician, and he was exactly who we needed to see.  He was exactly what I needed.  He came in with a plan, proactive things I needed to be doing, and words of encouragement that quite honestly could have only been inspired by God himself.  He said, “Kids are miracles all the time.  It takes hard work and lots of therapy.  We never catch PVL this early in a child’s life.  You have this gift of knowing about it now, so that there’s still time to do something about it.  Fill this girl’s world with physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, developmental intervention, and anything else you can.  Work with her, stimulate her muscles through exercise.  Love her.  And don’t allow language in your house anymore of ‘can’t’ or ‘never’ or ‘won’t’.  It won’t be easy.  In fact, this will be the hardest thing you ever have to do as a mother.  But push her and work with her and fill her life with all the help you can.  The sky is the limit with Cora, and if anyone tries to put limits on her, find someone else.  Don’t take no for an answer.”

CoraPrettyAnd look at her now.  She’s been in 2 dance recitals.  She takes karate.  She’s in kindergarten.  She walks, runs, dances, skips, twirls, and flips.  She’s got delays, sure, but she’s learning and growing and thriving.  She’s got a big brother that literally knocks bullies out of her way.  He is her great earthly protector, and I couldn’t be more proud of him for how he cares for her.  She talks, she BACKtalks, she sasses, she makes jokes.  She loves all things princesses, but she also loves all things cars and trucks.  She loves watching football and basketball with her daddy, but also loves a good musical with her mommy.  She loves books and puzzles and coloring.  In so many ways, she’s a very normal 6-year-old girl.  She’s tough and strong.  She works hard. We’ve had a handful of people try to put limits on her, but believe me, those people don’t last long with her momma around.  We don’t allow that language or that mindset in our lives.

5 years ago today, our lives changed forever, but at this point, knowing who I am now versus who I was then, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I have strength I didn’t know I had.  My faith is ginormous because I have seen God move mountains for us.  I’ve seen firsthand his miracles.  I live with them every day.

Happy Anniversary?

I’ve been really confused today.  All day, I’ve been getting “congratulations” on LinkedIn for today being some sort of “anniversary.”  So I finally went over, and it says I’ve been an “independent contractor” for 10 years today.  Huh.

What that actually marks is the day I got laid off from a company I had worked for for almost 5 years.  Most layoffs are devastating, stressful, terrible, etc.  And at first, that was my reaction as well.  But like all things in life, even ones that seem “bad,” God had a plan.  And His plans are ALWAYS better than our own!

What that meant in my personal life at the time was I lost my health insurance, which was terrible and paid for nothing of importance, and put me on Donnie’s health insurance, which was amazing.  We were, at the time, going through fertility treatments trying to get pregnant.  The cost was astronomical, and of course not covered by insurance.

But with the layoff, and switching health insurances, HIS insurance covered fertility treatments!  It wasn’t at 100%, but it was a significant amount nonetheless!  It allowed us to try harder and longer than our original budgeting had allowed, even with 2 incomes!

Friends, this is SO HUGE!  After my layoff, I never went back to a regular 9-5 job.  I did “independent contracting,” and even still do that some, although not as much as I used to, and I’m perfectly fine with that.

But it allowed us to keep trying with the fertility treatments for many more months, which gave me a beautiful, kind, generous, intelligent, hard-working, funny boy!  This layoff, in a sense, brought me a step closer to my son, Clay.

Friends, if you get some devastating news, or your circumstances aren’t what you want.  Maybe you’ve been laid off, or maybe you got a health report that wasn’t what you wanted, PLEASE give it to the Lord!  He can make something beautiful out of it!

Just look at the beauty I got from mine!

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Clay Robert Maddox