Mightier than the thunder

Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea – the Lord on high is mighty – Psalm 93:4

Here I sit – in my cluttered school office – doing what I love, what I think I’m called to do – teach, disciple, and love on teenagers. At this very moment, someone who is not me is dressing my daughter, getting her breakfast, and will care for her while I’m gone.

Also, school? Not just school. But virtual school. How is that supposed to happen at my home when I am at my school face to face? How can I manage Anne’s schooling when I am teaching other people’s children away from my home?

I can’t. I just can’t.

The seas have lifted up, Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea – the Lord on high is mighty. Psalm 93:3-4

A Decade

April 13, 2010 – April 13, 2020 = A lifetime

It’s only been a decade since the car accident, but it seems like a lifetime. Not in a bad way – just in the fullest of ways. It’s been a decade marked by God’s steady faithfulness – like a gentle wind pushing us forward.

10 years ago, I was 39 with children 7, 5, and 3 years old. Well, you can add 10 ;) A lot changes from age 7 – 17, 5 – 15, 3 – 13 (and I won’t think about the fact that I’m almost 50!)

In so many ways, Anne is still the same. There will always be a part of her that remains five. Thankfully, she’s grown in maturity and self-control. She thinks about boys in one moment and Daniel Tiger in the next. She misses her friends but loves her mommy best. There’s a five-year-old and a 15-year-old jumbled up in the best way and what is left is simplicity and joy.

Canon will be a senior in high school next year and both Kate and Anne will be freshmen. It’s not easy having Anne as a sister but they are better people because of her. Anne makes us all a little less selfish and a bit more grateful.

Eric and I are anticipating a time when it’s just the three of us. Canon and Kate will leave to begin their own families and Anne will remain with us. It’s a bittersweet thought, but we are strengthened with the knowledge that caring for Anne is a holy work. She’s our jewel.

Today, my 13-year-old Kate posted this on her brand new Instagram account, “ok so today is the 10 year anniversary of the car accident and honestly i think this year i have finally fully accepted the plan that God has for my life and Anne’s :)”

My greatest desire as a parent is to see my children walk in God’s ways. My constant prayer for them is that they might have the courage to follow wherever God might lead them. Today, God gave me a glimpse that He hears my prayers, that He is always working for our good, and I can always trust him. Bring on the next 10 years!

The Great Reversal

I have been reading through the Bible using The Daily Bible – which arranges the Bible into 365 chronological readings. I’ve come to Leviticus which contains all the laws. God’s holiness is beyond my understanding and I struggle to reconcile his law with the compassion of Jesus.

Leviticus 21-22 are especially difficult passages for me as they refer to “without blemish.” No priest or animal could have a blemish. That meant no blind priests in the tabernacle. Hunchbacks were not tolerated. Even if your hand was injured, you were not allowed.  Where does Anne’s disability fit into God’s picture of holiness depicted through the Levitical law?

But I have an idea… What if God was painting a picture of his original design? What if he was pointing back to what should have been – before sin entered the world… Sin corrupted everything… even our physical bodies. Disability, sickness, and death were not part of God’s original plan. There was no “blemish” before sin. Taking this idea forward, what if God was also painting a picture of how he will restore all of creation at the end of the age? In the new heaven and new earth, there will be no blemish, no defect, and no disability!

Anne’s disability is just an outward picture of our inward brokenness. Apart from Christ, none of us can approach God’s throne because none of us are “without defect.”

In this difficult time of waiting for heaven, I can find hope in the resurrection of Christ – which undoes the effects of sin. It is the resurrection which begins the great reversal. What did C.S. Lewis write in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe?

Though the witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. But if she could have looked a little further back… she would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.

Death is working backward. One day Anne will be whole and without defect. And so will I! Lord, hasten the day!

Stairlifts and Basement floors

Seven years ago, our family moved. We were living in a three-story house (with a drive-under garage), and everyone assumed we were moving to a more accessible ranch home. After all, stairs are not practical with a disabled child. But no. We moved to another three-story house with a drive-under garage. Why would we do that?! We moved to a cul-de-sac where our closest friends lived – my kids have literally played in the street (and surrounding woods) with their best friends for the last seven years. It’s one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.

But as Anne has grown heavier, navigating not one – but TWO – flights of stairs has become too difficult. Eric and I have been wrestling with whether to move away from our coveted cul-de-sac or figure out how to make this house work for Anne. We have spent so much time and energy brainstorming out of the box ideas – from moving to a 900 sq. ft. ranch to pricing elevators!

Exasperated from dead-end solutions, we finally turned to God and asked for help. (Obviously – this should have been our first move.) God, in his mercy, gave me an idea…and it was such a simple and obvious solution! We have a partly-finished room in our basement – right off the garage – with an (unusually large) finished bathroom. Why couldn’t we convert that room into a bedroom for Anne?

Currently, I hear the banging of floors being installed in our basement!! Anne will have her own room right off the garage with an accessible bathroom. In the mornings, I can get her ready for school and not have to get her down two flights of stairs. She’ll already be down there! Also, the bathroom has a shower stall. No longer will I have to lift her in and out of a bathtub, but she can transfer from her wheelchair to a shower chair into the shower stall that has been in our basement (unused) for the last seven years. Even the sink in that bathroom is perfectly accessible by her wheelchair. We are also installing a stair lift from the basement to the main level of the house to help ease the burden of getting her up and down the stairs.

Once again, God has provided perfectly for our every need. Why am I surprised? Not only has God provided for Anne, but also for our other kids. They get to stay close to their friends, and Kate (for the first time in her life) will have her own bedroom :)

Being a special needs parent is hard. But seeing God provide – even in these material ways – is so encouraging. Jesus loves Anne. He loves me. He will not leave or forsake us. I’m so thankful!

Update: Anne has moved down to her new room and she LOVES it!!!

Excuse me, while I grieve

This fall has been hard. It’s just grief. We’re old friends.

I think I’ve come through the other side – at least for this season. An old counselor described grief as a tunnel – it’s dark in there – but it will end. This fall’s grief tunnel was relatively short with brief holes of light – but I’m through, and I’m grateful.

Author and special needs mom, Sandra Peoples, describes three seasons of grief for a special needs parent. The first is immediately after diagnosis; the second is around puberty, and the third is after the child ages out of school – around 22.

Anne is 14 and at the end of puberty. She’s developed into a beautiful young lady, yet she still loves Daniel Tiger’s neighborhood and Candyland. She continues to read at a 1st-grade level, and her walking is increasingly laborious causing her to be confined mostly to her wheelchair. I don’t think you realize you have expectations until you arrive and life is – well – different than you expected.

I thought Anne might be more grown up. walking a bit more – maybe even reading a bit more. I expected her interests to be more age-appropriate. Actually, I don’t know what I expected, but I know those expectations have not been met.

Instead, I have a delightful daughter who loves boundlessly, connects effortlessly, and brings me a tremendous amount of joy. She’s exactly who God willed her to be. As she snuggles in my lap watching another episode of Daniel Tiger, I savor her presence. As my other children grow up and out – Anne will always be close. She’s mine, and I’m grateful :)

Boundless love

Note: I wrote this in June of 2018 – but forgot to post it…

Yesterday was the 18th of 20 days of Anne’s intensive therapy. She’s doing amazing!

When I picked her up, Anne’s therapist greeted me with the usual, “Anne worked so hard today. She walked longer and further than the other day,” and other good newsy items. But then she said, “But… Anne got angry and screamed at us. To distract her, I asked Anne if she ever screamed at you. She said, ‘I never scream at my mom. EVER.'”


As her therapist shared this story, we both laughed as I described how Anne unleashes her anger on me via screams, bites, hits. Then her therapist made a wise observation – ALL children save the worst for their moms. No matter the diagnosis or lack there-of – it’s the privilege of moms to love their children at their worst.

But it’s also the privilege of moms to enter into the deepest part of their children’s lives, linger with a hug, wipe away a tear, stay up late with when they’re teens, watch them fail, and coach them into adulthood. In other words, we know our kids best – ALL of who they are – the best and the worst – and we love them anyway :)

Anne’s brain injury leaves with her little ability to filter her thoughts and emotions. She’s slowly improving in filtering around others, but when she is with me, I get ALL of her. ALL of her needs, ALL of her emotions, ALL of her love. It’s a little overwhelming. Anne’s anger is IN-TENSE. But on the other hand, her love is intense too. My day is filled with spontaneous, unsolicited declarations of love.

I love my time with you, mom.

You make me feel comfy, mom.

You’re beautiful.

I love you, mom.

As much as I love her, I swear she loves me more. Not many moms can say that. I’m blessed :)


Not Ashamed

In John Piper’s devotional this morning, he argued that if we long for heaven then God “will not be ashamed to be called your God.”

I long for heaven – but not as much as Anne. Anne’s simple child-like faith challenges me. This morning on our long drive to therapy she talked about her longing for heaven.

Mom, I can’t wait to go to heaven! I will be able to walk in heaven! When will God let me go? I want to go now.

Then, Steven Curtis Chapman’s song See You In A Little While came on the radio. Chapman wrote this song about his daughter who died tragically and finding comfort in the fact that she is in heaven with the Father. Anne asked to listen to this song over and over. After every line, she would ask me to stop the song to ask me questions…

The song begins:

I hold your hand and watch as the sun slowly fades
Far in the distance the Father is calling your name

Anne asks: Mama, Is the Father really God? Whose name is He calling? Is the person singing this song a daddy?

The song continues

And it’s time for you to go home

Anne asks more questions: Where is home, Mama. Is that heaven? Why does God want to call her to heaven? Why doesn’t God call me to heaven? I want to go to heaven.

And on it went. So many questions. What an encouragement to me!

After this conversation, I read John Piper’s devotional – encouraging his readers to long for heaven. He writes:

When we desire this heavenly city — this dwelling place of God — more than we desire all that this world can give, God is not ashamed to be called our God. When we make much of all that he promises to be for us, he is proud to be our God. This is good news.

I love the paradox of God’s kingdom. Anne has nothing to offer God – nothing except a heart that longs to be with Him. And He is not ashamed of her!

Progress Report on Anne

I am currently sitting at a therapy clinic in Villa Rica, GA. Sometimes great things are done in obscure places ;)

Anne will be here every day for the next month undergoing her traditional summer session of intensive Thera-suit therapy. Everything about this therapy session is good for Anne. It stretches her in every way – physically, cognitively, emotionally, even spiritually.

Here’s a progress report on Anne:

  • Physically
    • She’s grown to almost 5 feet and weighs 89 lbs.
    • 2 years ago (before puberty), she was walking with a cane. Now at 13, she struggles to support her weight when standing. Walking more than a few steps tires her out.
    • Anne still does not use her left hand, but her right arm is so strong that she can beat everyone in our family at arm wrestling (well, maybe not Eric – but she  comes close!)
    • In the last month, Anne has started having convulsive seizures. They have probably emerged because she has outgrown her current dosage of seizure medication. We’ve increased her medication, so hopefully, we’ll see these seizures diminish.
  • Cognitively
    • Anne’s reading has improved tremendously this last year. She can track and read short sentences without assistance. She can read long stories with assistance in tracking. She reads with more emotion and fluency. She still only reads 1st/2nd-grade level readers, but her improvement is so encouraging!
    • Anne’s attention has improved slightly, but she still struggles with focus, attention, and impulsivity.
    • Her middle school teachers really pushed Anne so that she was able to do 5 minutes of work independently. This is a huge step for Anne!
  • Emotionally
    • Anne’s hormones are irregular causing her to be emotionally volatile. Her anger outbursts are sudden and intense. This is our biggest challenge with Anne currently. It’s difficult to know how to prevent the anger outbursts, how to handle them when they happen, and what consequences to enforce after the outburst passes. It’s hard to know what Anne can control and what she can’t. I need wisdom to discipline her appropriately when her anger spills out to hurt others.
    • Anne also struggles with restlessness – causing her to make mischief to get attention. Hopefully, intensive therapy will help with this!

As with any child, Anne has struggles and triumphs. I am reminded daily of my own inadequacy to care for all of my children. I desperately need God’s wisdom and direction as I work to parent, shepherd, and train my kiddos. I’m thankful for Anne’s a-typical challenges. They force me to lean more deeply into Jesus – trusting him moment by moment.

Thanks for caring enough about Anne to track her progress over these last 8 years! Your prayers and support mean the world to our family. Thank you! -kathryn


8 years

Today is the 8th anniversary of our accident.

I still remember the day so vividly. What strikes me most is how ordinary it all seemed. I didn’t wake up with any strange premonitions. It didn’t seem like the last morning that Anne would be able to get out of bed by herself. Walk herself to the bathroom. Brush her own teeth. Use her left hand. There were no shouts from above urging me to look close – that this was the last day I would see her bright, intelligent eyes – the last day she would jump, move, smile, create, and live as a typical child in a typical family.

A lot changes in 8 years. On the day of our accident, I had two preschoolers and one 2nd grader. Today I have one in high school and two in middle school. So much has changed. We’ve all grown.

Jackson family – 2010 – Bobbi Jo Brooks Photography

Jackson family – 2018

Yes, we’ve grown physically – but I think we’ve grown more spiritually and emotionally. We give more. We love more. We’re more grateful. A little more patient. Eric and I have grown into our roles of caregiver. Anne is such a delight. We both receive so much more from her than we give.

So yes, I still miss our typical Anne. But the loss of the five-year-old Anne makes me more grateful for our 13-year-old Anne. I savor her words. Gaze at her eyes. Marvel at her smile. I drink in her joy and share in her sadness. She makes my life richer – more worth living somehow. And I’m grateful!