The communications/worship team at our church, Cumberland Community Church, produced this video of me telling the story of Anne. I’m thankful for their amazing editing work, and I pray the story is an encouragement and blessing :)
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.
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!
This morning was Anne’s first day of summer. She woke at 7:30. I gave her a bath. She loves baths! After dressing, taking her medicine, and eating breakfast, it was almost 9:00 am. Time. It slips away like water. Everything takes longer with disability.
After breakfast, Anne watched the Wiggles while I finished report cards (summer break for teachers is a myth). Then we read a book together.
For the last seven years, my prayers for Anne have been for her to walk and read. God answers prayer. Sometimes he answers quickly and dramatically. Other times, his answer is a slow work – shifting subtlety over time – molding character through patience and perseverance. It is true that Anne can walk and read better than she could seven years ago. This is something to be celebrated. She read the whole Little Bear story, all eleven pages. She read three lines completely independently. I’ve never seen her do that before. She was highly distractable but she had a great attitude as I redirected her attention back to the story. She read with comprehension – often re-reading lines with more emotion to emphasize the meaning.
It took approximately 45 minutes to read the entire story. We were interrupted by a telemarketing call. After I hung up, Anne said, “That was awkward.” We laughed so hard together. The left side of her mouth used to droop when she smiled. Now her smile is almost even – and it’s perfect when she laughs. I love her laugh.
We finished the story at 10:30 am. Time. It slips like water. But it’s summer, and there is time to give. Anne is my treasure – a gift to be savored!
Most of my friends spend Saturdays with their families…soccer games in the fall, baseball games in the spring. Some swim all year long or attend gymnastics meets every weekend.
My typical daughter, Kate, would love to play soccer in the fall and spring, go to dance-lessons 3 nights a week AND be a competitive gymnast. Her energy and drive amaze me. But our family isn’t able to live at the same pace as typical families.
We are able to participate in one extra-curricular activity per season. Kate was in gymnastics in the fall. Canon played basketball in the winter. And Anne is in robotics therapy this spring. This is how I spend my Saturday mornings – watching Anne in CHOA’s multi-million dollar robotics lab!
This is not the typical “extra-curricular activity,” but it is for our family! Even though I know this is what is best for Anne, I still struggle with guilt. I worry that I’m cheating Kate out of opportunities that would develop her natural athletic ability.
All families struggle – our struggles are just different than the typical family. But the joys far outweigh the struggles. I just hope Kate feels the same way.
Valentine’s Day is not at the top of my list of favorite holidays. Its saccharine commercialism turns my cynical stomach. Besides, I’m a middle school teacher, and we middle school teachers KNOW that it is best to avoid all references to romantic love of any kind!
So. I forgot all about Valentine’s Day. Which is not good when you have kids in elementary school. In case you didn’t know, there is an unwritten rule that says that all elementary school-aged children must bring every classmate a special valentine – preferably with candy attached.
This day started as usual – with me waking Anne up early to get ready to catch the bus. Anne’s first words to me were, “Happy Valentine’s Day, Mommy!” This is from the girl who struggles with memory and knowing the days of the week. She confuses “yesterday” and “tomorrow” on a regular basis. But she knew it was Valentine’s Day. She then asked to wear her “love” shirt to school. “You know the one, Mommy – the blue shirt with L-O-V-E spelled out with arrows!!” Really? Who knew Anne loved Valentine’s Day so much?!
I felt like a total mom-failure when I realized that I would be sending my Valentine-loving-Anne to school with NO VALENTINES. How does this happen? How do I forget a MAJOR HOLIDAY?! Anne’s sister, Kate, was not happy with me when she realized that she would be hand-writing each Valentine on note cards on the way to school. No fancy-schmancy store-bought cards for the Jackson girls. It’s hand-written or nothing!
Oh… In case I forget, Happy Valentine’s Day ;)
Anne is having surgery today…google: Epiphysiodesis! Her right leg is 1 1/2 inches longer than her left. Doc is inhibiting her right growth plate at the bottom of her femur (thigh bone) so that hopefully her left leg can catch up a little.
Please pray for a successful surgery and a smooth recovery. Anne and I plan to chill at home for the next few days. This is how Anne and I pass the time – being silly :)
Update: Anne is out of surgery, and it went very well. The doctor said that based on the amount of growth left in her shorter leg, that Anne’s legs may even up after a few years. Thank you for praying!
I was at dinner with my kiddos and some of my friends and their kiddos. It was chaos. But not the “I’m going to scream” kind of chaos. More like “this would be fun to watch from a distance” kind of chaos. Continue reading
The other night I dreamed that Anne could walk. I woke up that morning overwhelmed with joy which was quickly replaced with disappointment, but in the end, I decided to land on “hopeful.” In my half-awake state, I heard Anne calling from her bedroom, “Mommmm! I need to go to the bathroom!!!” Bleary eyed, I walked to Anne’s room, only to find her – not in her bed – but in the hall, right outside the bathroom. She can scoot to the bathroom, but she has never done it in such a purposeful way before.
I’m a firm believer in the sovereignty of God. If I look at the seemingly random events of my life through the lens of God’s sovereignty, sometimes I see patterns. That morning, Anne’s purposeful scooting to the bathroom immediately after my dreaming of her walking – seemed like a pattern. I would never go so far as to think it was a promise that Anne would walk! (The Bible doesn’t promise that!!) But…I do think it was a loving reminder that God sees the longing of my heart and cares. I was encouraged as I reflected on God’s sovereignty and could feel myself relax as I thought…God is in control.
I’ve also been encouraged by Anne’s progress in therapy. Her walking has dramatically improved. She is standing much straighter and crouching much less. Her endurance has also improved. The first day, she was able to stand for only 2-3 minutes. Today, she stood for 15 minutes. She also walked for 20 minutes (with support) on the treadmill. Her step size has increased as well as the speed of her walking. Also, she is propelling and steering her new walker independently. We typically see these kinds of dramatic improvements a few months after therapy. To see so much drastic improvement during therapy is very encouraging! See…God is in control!
Anne’s last day of intensive therapy is Friday. This session has flown by and seemed much easier to manage than in years past. That’s due in part to good friends who have offered to drive Anne for me a few times each week. I have been lifted and sustained by the body of Christ. Another reminder that God is in control!!
Looking forward, Anne will start three months of therapy in CHOA’s multi-million dollar robotics lab in February. She responded very well to their Physical Therapy program 1 1/2 years ago. So, I’m excited to see Anne continue to gain strength and stability this spring. I’m thankful that I can trust God to provide all that Anne will need exactly when she will need it. Afterall, He is in control ;)
Sometimes I sit down to write and just feel empty. Paul’s words, “Poured out like a drink offering,” come to mind – but I don’t pretend to be that godly ;)
I do know this (in the wake of Thanksgiving)… I am deeply grateful for my life and the many jobs God has given me.
I’m thankful to be Eric’s wife. He’s away on business and I miss him. It’s nice to miss someone you love.
I’m thankful to be a mom – to a growing teenage boy, a spunky tween girl and to my Anne. The other day I was looking into Anne’s face and realized that I can’t imagine Anne without her brain injury. The injury has seeped into the deeper places of her person. I can’t see the “old Anne” anymore. It’s just Anne. I think this is good. Not the injury. The injury will never be good. But God’s work in our lives – helping us to accept his goodness in spite of Anne’s injury – that is good.
I’m also thankful for my teaching gig. I like teaching Latin to middle schoolers. But what I like most is just being with the kids. I love watching them grow and hopefully playing a small role in nudging them toward the Savior.
So my empty feeling is a false alarm. I’m not empty. Only tired! And it’s the good sort of tired that comes after meaningful work.
Speaking of work, Anne starts another round of intensive therapy next week. Fifteen, four-hour therapy sessions will be spread out over the next month. My prayer is that she will begin to get stronger. She needs more strength to keep up with her growing body. I’ll post a few updates on her progress.
Lastly, I’m thankful for your prayers and all the encouraging words you have given me over the years. If you’re reading this, know that this journey is lighter because of you. I’m so grateful! -K
Anne has very little ability to filter her own thoughts. This results in her complimenting strangers and interrupting conversations. Most of the time, she is delightful, but then there are episodes like today…
This morning, I started a new adventure in our new church – teaching a 5th grade leadership/discipleship class. My experienced co-leader warned me that this year’s class could be the biggest EVER. Kate and Anne – both being 5th graders – get to have me as their teacher. Lucky them ;)
Anne, Kate and I arrived early to church to welcome the 5th graders to class. Imagine my surprise when TWENTY NINE crazy kids showed up. Consequently, I decided to begin the year with a serious talk about behavior expectations ;) As I began my spiel, literally, as if she had planned it, Anne began SCREAMING at me. Seriously. Screaming. “Stupid, mom! I want a snack!!” Kate tried to calm her down which only made Anne madder…”KATE, STOP. I HATE YOU KATE!”
There I was – with 29 pairs of eyes staring at me – right in the middle of me trying to act all strict when my own daughter started yelling. This is what “No Filters” looks like sometimes.
I made a silly quip about how Anne was demonstrating how “Not To Behave” and gave her one of my mean “mom” looks. Miraculously, Anne calmed down. Just a few minutes later, Anne raised her hand when I asked why we needed to show respect to others. She said, “Because if you disrespect others, you are not obeying the Holy Spirit which lives inside of you and helps you to follow God.” Wow. Good Answer. This is also what “No Filters” looks like sometimes.
We survived church and had a relatively quiet Sunday. But tonight, as I was getting her ready for a bath, Anne said,
“Jesus has a good plan for my brain injury. When things are at their darkest that’s when I have to believe the most.”
This profound thought was sandwiched between excitement over new bath toys and wondering whether she had to go to school the next day. Just another thought in an unfiltered day.
I wonder what I would look like “unfiltered.” That is a very scary thought! Most of my thoughts center around myself or are critical of others. I have small moments of thankfulness and/or God-focused thoughts – but not as many as Anne.
In some ways, I believe Anne’s brain injury is an asset. She’s not self-absorbed or bound by the fear of what others will think of her. In other words, she is not encumbered by self-consciousness.
I think Anne’s secret to an unfiltered life is that there’s less of herself to get in God’s way. He works through her more powerfully, because she surrenders herself so effortlessly. I get to see ALL of her joy, sadness, anger, wonder, disappointment and excitement. It is beautiful to me – because she is wrapped in the fragrance of Jesus.