Is your back against a wall?

We’re coming up on the FIVE YEAR anniversary of Reagan’s crisis. It happened April 8, 2014. Back then, things looked grim, like they were over. But oh, how God can take the really awful things and make them really awesome. Only God can take a locust destroyed land, and restore it, as if the locusts were never there.

It’s not every day we talk about locusts, but I got wrapped up in reading Exodus 10 and the surrounding chapters this morning. It says one day God blew in a strong east wind all day and night, and in the morning locusts “invaded” Egypt and “covered all the ground until it was black.”

Can you imagine?!

Let me briefly unpack what happens next. Pharaoh was angry, he summons Moses, says he’s sorry, asks for the locusts to leave, and then God brings a strong west wind and they all blow away into the Red Sea until not one locust was left in Egypt.

The plague of the locusts was actually the eighth plague out of ten that God brought to Egypt leading up to the mass exodus of the Israelites out of slavery from Egypt. I know when we go through hardships, like a locust eating hardship, we’re often we’re quick to blame God.

“How can He do this to me?”
If he was a loving God, he would never do this.”

Those questions are human and valid, but they come from a place that lacks the full knowledge of what God knows. When looking at the 10 plagues and the exodus from Egypt, God gave Pharaoh nine solid chances to let his people go, it was the 10th plague when Pharaoh had enough and couldn’t take it anymore and finally let the Israelites go.

Want to know what’s even more crazy? When the Israelites are set free, God doesn’t take them on the shortest path out of Egypt, he takes the long, scenic route. He took them around the desert and he had good reason, it says in Exodus 13:17-18 that God knew if they went the shortest way, they could face war and then run back into Egypt and into slavery.

Ugh…reading this, for me was super impactful. I really feel like our family has really gone off the beaten path to get to where we are. But God knew something we didn’t. In order for our family to get here, with our faith, with our marriage, with our ability to communicate and enter into someone else’s hard space and speak some of God’s hardest truths, with confidence, we had to walk that path. We had to go the long way around.

It gets better though, for the Israelites and for you! I’m telling you, read the plagues in Exodus and about God’s deliverance of Israel, the Bible is for sure not boring in these chapters.

Good news, the Israelites escape, even though they went the long way, but now their backs are literally against a wall, a wall of water known as the Red Sea, and it looks like it’s over because the entire Egyptian army is racing toward them. But God made a way. He said:

The Egyptians you see today, you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” – Exodus 14:13-14

What if that was our stance toward every arrow that is flung in our direction? In sickness, in financial trouble, in marital woes, with our children, with our enemies. The Israelites stood there looking back, and God said, don’t you worry about that army of 600 of Pharaoh’s finest chariots loaded up with officers and his entire army of troops coming after you; I’ll fight that battle, you just be still.

I’ll fight the battle with Reagan, just be faithful to me, Rob and Anne-Marie.
The Lord will fight and she’ll walk again. You be still.
The Lord will fight and she’ll eat again. You be still.
The Lord will fight and she’ll talk again. You be still.
The Lord will fight and she’ll read. You be still.
The Lord will fight and she’ll smile and laugh, and we will take the long way to get there.

The thing that’s cool about going the long way, is you will only see beautiful things, gain wonderful wisdom and walk with confidence when you go the long way.

Five years ago, I firmly believed it was impossible for Reagan to re-gain anything back. You know what else looked impossible? Escaping Pharaoh’s army.

Did you know that the Red Sea has a maximum depth measured at 8,200 feet and has an average depth of 1,640 feet? Neither did I. God made a way for the Israelites by splitting the sea and they walked across on DRY LAND. The Bible is super clear that the land was dry.

“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.”
– Exodus 14:21-22

If you feel like you’re drowning, or in a place that seems hopeless and a place where you future feels less than sure, remember what God has already done, and if you can’t remember what he’s done in your life, man…Exodus is a really cool place to be reminded of what God can do, what He has done and that putting your faith in Him is a great place to start.

If you’re thinking, “Yeah but that was so long ago, he won’t do that for me.” Then look at my family, because if God can restore us and Reagan, he can restore you too. He can take whatever you are struggling with and turn it into something beautiful that has a purpose. The path to restoration might not look how you want it to, it never does to be honest. You’re most likely on the scenic route, where you’ll see really beautiful things and learn something you never could with a shortcut. Then and only then, will you walk confidently out of your hopeless situation feeling hopeful, strong and a lot wiser.

A 2018 Sunset

As 2018 winds down, Rob and I sat down to reflect what this past year has looked like. And more importantly, we wanted to document things we never want to forget from this past year.

I’m not a scrapbooker, we rarely print pictures. Social media documents our progress and this blog knits the highs and lows into a tapestry of our life.

And so this is where our family keeps some of our sacred memories and moments and we share them with you.

I never want to forget


When Reagan would blame everything on her elbow. She’d take a full cup of water, purposefully dump it on her bathroom counter, and point to her elbow and laugh. Or take her plate and dump all her food on the table, as I watched, she would calmly say, “Elbow” with pure comedic genius.

When she learned my mom’s name, Thelma, and started calling her by her first name.

Then she started calling Daddy, “Daddy Robert” and giving us her signature mischievous grin.

She started adding “ie” to words. Do you want a snack Reagan? “Chippies. Orange chippies!!” Which means she wants cheddar and sour cream ruffles. And Huggies. She comes toward us with arms wide open saying she wants a hug, “HUGGIE PEAS!!”

Reagan tries to discipline Bauer when he barks. “No barking Bauer! Sit down Bauer!” Bauer doesn’t listen, which makes me so gleeful, because it gives Reagan just a taste of how annoying it is when someone doesn’t want to listen to you. She also wants Bauer on her bed for bedtime stories and to stay until she falls asleep, and he totally obliges.

She drives her power wheel with no hands and rarely does she look forward. She totally understands how to put it in reverse and turn the wheel, but has determined that driving with hands is 100% overrated.

We are always always impressed that Reagan has her dance routines memorized. And while she isn’t on beat, she knows the moves, and does all of them to the best of her ability. If she’s not feeling a particular costume accessory, like gloves, well…let’s just say it became our Waterloo.

Why you might ask? Why? Why? Why? Why? We’ve entered the why phase. Is it going away anytime soon? No. Why? Well I’d tell you to ask Reagan but then you’ll be 45 why questions in and forget where you started in the first place.

Getting the award for Most Talkative in dance class. (What?! How?! So excited for this one).

Asking to play with her friends by name.

Reagan has come into her own, fashion-wise. She LOVES picking out her outfits, changing them after school, after dance, after painting, after being outside, after her first nightgown, after getting food on any part of her outfit…you get the picture. More than that though, she dresses herself.

Her bravery. This year she connected the dots when she was at the hospital for a blood draw.

One thing I wish I didn’t have to write, but am going to anyway. Reagan’s extreme strong will has broken us more than we’d like to admit. On our very first Kindergarten school field trip to the zoo, Rob was one of the chaperones and I volunteered so we could help each other out. Turns out, we needed one another more than anything. Reagan became frustrated at lunch, and the talking back turned into screams and a meltdown that prevented us from moving forward more than once. We ended up having to leave the field trip, apart from her class and our hearts were so broken and burdened by what this means for our girl, who sometimes has such a hard time with emotional outbursts and behaviors. I cried for days and both of our spirits were so low.

Luckily, we have amazing friends who sat down with us and brainstormed how we could get her attention to a correct this behavior. Since clothes are the #1 thing she loves, we told her that for talking back and screaming when we ask her to do something, her punishment will be having batches of clothes taken away. It was a hot button item for Reagan and one fateful Tuesday morning in December, the plan was put into place when she started talking back to me. I came out with a handful of princess dresses and put them in a trash bag in front of her. Her reaction definitely let me know I had her attention. Unfortunately, her will of steel was still in full force. At the end of the day, three trash bags of clothes and four drawers were removed from her room. I honestly felt for all of us. I don’t want to do this, it makes me cry that we have to. Reagan can earn her items back with good behavior. We are filling up a mason jar of fuzzy pom-poms, affectionately called “warm fuzzies“. Reagan can earn warm fuzzies for listening, having good behavior and being kind. In just a day, the jar was half-full.

This brings me to another thing we are keeping in mind. Reagan is being weaned off many neurological medications. She’s currently off of two completely. Everyone’s parenting journey is different, and while I’m being super candid about ours, her struggles aren’t lost on us. In the same respect, we still have to parent and discipline. Even though she has trouble speaking, is being weaned from medications, has a genetic disorder and suffers from irreversible brain damage, she still has to be disciplined. And that is something we struggle with. Is it too much, not enough? I don’t know, she’s our first and only child and so we’re doing about as much right as we are messing up. But we’re doing all we can.

Reagan loves art. She started coloring more in the lines and her art table is a place of peace and calm. Art helps Reagan calm down, and she loves to create things.

We’re adding a larger patio to our house, Reagan tells everyone it’s for her bubbles.

We had a friend make a new table and bench, before it came Reagan would sign “different” and tell everyone “new table“.

Reagan used to sign “kind” and now she says we are “kind Mommy and kind Daddy.”

Reagan prays at night, she asks God to help her to talk. And she prays for her friends and Mommy and Daddy and MéMé and Bauer.

After a particularly tough day of discipline, she read her Bible until falling asleep.

Her love and loyalty to the little friends she’s made and kept for the three years she’s known them.

She helps with family art projects and the art that Rob makes for our house.

It’s not green or blue, it’s “Aqua” and she’ll correct you.

Reagan saying Obama for umbrella.

When we ask Reagan a question, the answer is always no. Then we wait, and she’ll tell us what she really means. We’re working on having her first answer be the one she wants to say.
“Do you want pizza, Reagan?”
“NO!”
“Yeah…yeah!!! YEAH DADDY!!”

The only word she can say that starts with an S is Snoopy.

Reagan’s first haircut in a real salon.

Loves playing hide and seek but is terrible at it. She says, “I’m here!”

If someone else burps, she says “Excuse Me” for them.

One of my most favorite memories is Reagan being a flower girl in a wedding. She walked down the aisle by herself, she held her flowers up to the sky at the altar, and walked into the reception like everyone was there for her exclusively.

Her confidence.

She climbed a ladder to the top of a playground all by herself.

Her love for Santa and for Halloween. But she never eats her halloween candy.

This year we were able to be at the beach for hours and she would cry when we had to leave.

Losing three teeth and only finding one.

Positive flying experiences.

Reagan saying “I’m a miracle.”


I recently read a passage from Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowan. It talks about taking the things the enemy has used to wear you down and bring against you, the war that he’s waging against youto take that suffering, and turn it into spoils.

Romans 8:37 says that we are more than conquerers through Christ Jesus. And being more than a conquerer in war, means driving the enemy from your field, taking all the food, supplies, ammunitionit’s the spoils. And so much war has waged in our life, on our field, through our daughter Reagan. And with Jesus, we are fighting back, taking our spoils and being more than conquerers.

L.B. Cowan compares the storms of life this way: “Like the eagle, who sits on a crag and watches the sky as it is filling with blackness, and the forked lightnings are playing up and down, and he is sitting perfectly still, turning one eye and then the other toward the storm. But he never moves until he begins to feel the burst of the breeze and knows that the hurricane has struck him; with a scream, he swings his breast to the storm and uses the storm to go up to the sky; away he goes, borne upward upon it.”

There are many times that I hate our storm and the war we have to fight. But knowing that the storm can help me go higher, and knowing that there are spoils from the war being waged that we can appropriate for our family, allows me to look back and see, that we’ve actually done that, and continue to do that.

All the things I don’t want to forget this year…these are our spoils, and we’re not done.

Healing.

You know what’s crazy about open cuts and wounds? They heal.

We often say time heals all wounds but I tend to disagree with that statement. As a person who has had lots of wounds, other than just this massive physical wound that’s healed on top of my head, I think a more accurate statement is that over time, we learn to live with the scars from the wounds we’ve endured.

One year ago today I had brain surgery. Looking at me, you wouldn’t know that I have a scar from the top of my head to just below my ear. You wouldn’t know that I have titanium plates under my skin, or that I don’t have 100% feeling in my scalp, and that much to my chagrin, I think my head feels like the Grand Canyon. Rob plays with my hair every night and he says, “you really can’t tell,” but I think he’s just being a good husband.

That’s the thing with invisible hurts and wounds, if others can’t see them, it’s like they don’t exist. I’ve always said my brain surgery was a side dish to the main course of our daughter Reagan and her struggles. Her struggles are visible, so there’s an understanding amongst other people when we’re out. But there are lots of invisible struggles and everyone has them.

If you’re going through something mountainous, or Grand Canyon like, every step might look like one where a wound will be inflicted. The inevitable thing in this life though, is that wounds are around every corner, from a friend, a spouse, a family member, a Dr. report or the sidewalk outside.

Please be encouraged though, when your wounds begin to heal, you will figure out a way to live with the scars and not just live, you will be joy-filled again. If there is one thing I’ve learned in the past five years it is that God is serious about seasons. He’s always teaching you no matter what the season, but the times I was closest to him and the times I learned the most, was in those really rough seasons. There was something being refined inside of me, so that in the next season something new could shine.

I’m grateful to be one year post op and out of brain surgery season, but there were valuable things I learned while there. Because of that tough season, I will walk more confidently in the days ahead, and you will too.

What a Difference

What a difference a year makes!

You hear people say that all the time, because in hindsight, problems or circumstances can be completely different in a year. What we don’t often hear is what a difference three years makes. Because that seems like an eternity, and it’s too hard envision all the work that will have to happen between now and three years from now. Can’t it just be a year of work and everything get neatly tucked into place?

God does some of his greatest work in the struggle of the desert. You might not think God is in the desert, especially if you’re relying on your own faculties to get through it. The beauty of the desert is there’s NO way you’re going to feel fed or watered unless you look up to who can provide that. The desert is survival mode for everyone and everything. But the desert is also where God is most relied on and where he’s most desired. I think that’s why he puts us there to be honest.

The desert is for two things 1. developing something within us or 2. releasing something that has a grip on us.

Do we need to develop perseverance, conviction, trust?  Do we need to release control, possessions, pride or something else that’s not helpful? You can’t hold on to unnecessary things in the desert, because if it’s not helpful for survival, it’s dead weight and it has to go. The only thing you can hold on to is Jesus, the desert makes it abundantly clear who you need and where your eyes must shift in order to gain strength and hope.

Three years ago

We would pack up Reagan’s walker and go to the mall. Reagan couldn’t walk straight and being on wheels would sometimes make her push off her feet and go in circles, which she found hilarious. To be fair, it was super cute and funny but it also made me wonder, will we ever be able to walk the mall together? Three years ago she could only walk the length of about four or five stores and we couldn’t go into any stores because they’re not set up for a child in a walker who has trouble going straight. Honestly, my soul hurt so bad to go to the mall when we had to bring the walker. I had to mentally prepare…we will get stares, children will point and look to their parents for an explanation. The parents will look at us and shrug as if to say, “I don’t know what to say, please forgive me.”

Today

Reagan is walking the mall back and forth, going into any store that looks interesting and having a GREAT time. This photo is angelic. Her shadow reminds me that angel armies have been protecting her, God has held her and us while we’ve been in the desert, and as we emerge into a land that has the fruit and riches of hard work, it is different than we expected, but we are here, still on the path God set forth; we didn’t arrive on our own strength or laurels. God paved the way, God gave us the strength so let me credit who it IS owed to so you know what I mean when I say, what a difference three years makes.

If you’re in the desert, please don’t give up. There are things you can only learn and develop within yourself while you’re in the desert. There’s no other place quite like the desert to learn perseverance or trust. There’s no other place quite like the desert to develop the amount of empathy or understanding God would like to see in you. You may want to rush it, but the desert is arduous, designed that way for you to stop trying to fix things on your own and rely on God. This process can’t be rushed and neither can gaining the character traits that are being developed inside of you.

Seasons

Remember, being placed in the desert is a season, being placed in a meadow with flowers is also a season. There’s something to be gleaned from each season of life that God puts you in. I can look back to the harder seasons and while I didn’t love being there, I can be thankful and grateful for what I learned there. Keep going. Better seasons are ahead my friend.

 

Two and a half years ago

Two and a half years ago I thought being pregnant was the only thing that mattered. I was consumed by it. It also didn’t help that I watched over 50 COUPLES get pregnant and announce it on Facebook…but who’s counting. I ask myself how come 100 people were able to become parents, but not us?

Let’s back up though. How did we get to two and a half years later? Well, in Jan/Feb 2009, Rob and I thought it would be a good time to start our family. After 6 months, of negative pregnancy tests, I thought something might be wrong. We decided that if after a year of trying, we hadn’t conceived, we would go to a fertility clinic.

Cue February 2010 and our first visit to a local fertility clinic. We had a myriad of invasive tests and questions we had to face. Six months of appointments, drugs, the last month which included an injection in my tummy…we still got a big fat negative.

The cost of treatment was getting to be too much, not to mention the emotional, physical and mental drain on your body. Infertility can be used by Satan as a foothold to get between you and your spouse. Rob and I have been completely open about this with one another and our close friends. When you’re both striving for something whole heartedly and it doesn’t happen you can get disillusioned and it causes you to have some serious introspection. “Why doesn’t God want to bless me in this way? How come all our friends are pregnant? Why do I feel like no one cares?”

If you’ve never had to go through something like this, it’s hard to really understand how it feels. Resolve, the National Infertility Association, compares the struggle of infertility to that of a cancer patient. You deal with the loss of self esteem, loss of security, loss of control, loss of anticipation–after so many negative results you just start losing hope. The biggest that goes unnoticed to “outsiders” is the loss of someone. Every month that is not a success, its like mourning a death…and then you have the loss of health/body image because you weren’t able to produce a life. All of these emotions can wreak havoc on a relationship. And I believe–I truly believe, Satan loves to use this struggle to come between husband and wife. You feel inadequate and the quiet whispers of “God must be punishing you…you’re not a real man or woman…your name won’t live on,” well, that can bring you down quite a bit.

So at the kitchen counter in July 2010, we looked at the monetary costs of another round of treatment…$2,000. (Did I mention insurance covers zero)? We discussed our emotions and we affirmed that NOTHING was more important than our relationship with each other and with God. And that this struggle was getting a foothold in our lives and that needed to stop. I cried all weekend, but I knew it was the right decision. So from July 2010 to September 2011 we didn’t do any fertility treatments. I had some acupuncture and did yoga for stress relief, but we put our biggest desire on hold for more than a year as we tried to sort though what God was trying to teach us.