High Five!

Anne’s been struggling lately with feeling… in her words, “useless.”

She sees her brother and sister work together to clean up after dinner and she says, “I’m not a help. I’m useless.”

She compares herself to her peers and says, “I’m not good at anything. I’m useless.”

As you can imagine, Eric and I immediately tell her otherwise and we list all the ways she’s valuable. And we’ve noticed a trend. Her worth is in bringing others joy. She’s good at encouraging others, connecting with others, making others laugh.

A great example happened in church this morning… For the first time since the accident, Anne was able to participate in children’s choir. The children helped lead worship this morning, and after they finished singing their few songs, Anne (who was especially proud of herself) reached her hand out to her teacher and said loudly (so that everyone in the congregation could hear), “High Five!”

Do you know how many people commented to me about Anne’s “High Five” after church? Well… several. She’s a delight to others. And if you have a chance to tell her yourself – be sure to encourage her that she is not useless. She is a joy! At least we think so :)

Photo courtesy of Bobbi Jo Brooks Photography

Photo courtesy of Bobbi Jo Brooks Photography

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She’s a keeper.

It happened. Again. Somebody paid for our meal at a restaurant. It always moves me to tears.

I wonder what compels people to do this. Is it the little girl in a wheelchair? Is it how we interact with her? Or is it how she interacts with others? Whatever it is, sometimes, people are moved. And today, one lady was moved so much to pay for our lunch.

I know one thing. I think people instinctively know that there is something wrong with the world when they see a child in a wheelchair. Disability can represent the fact that we live in an imperfect world. But if you look beyond the physical, you’ll see a little girl who brings joy into others’ lives. Her very spirit exudes light and joy. You can’t help but smile when you are around Anne. God redeems the broken.

I’ve reached a place in this journey where my love and gratitude for our “new Anne” is stronger than my grief over the “old Anne.” I wouldn’t trade her. Yes, I think I’ll keep her ;-)

Anne is eight years old.

Today is Anne’s birthday. Our sweet Anne is eight.

She is coming more alive every day. Her eyes are brighter. Her steps are smoother, and her mind is sharper. We still don’t know God’s ultimate plan for Anne – if she’ll ever be independent… But we can stop and give thanks for what He’s done.

He saved her. And she loves Him. What more could we ask for?

Lighthearted Luxuries

A few days ago, I was waiting in the front lobby of Nickajack Elementary to pick up Anne from school. Anne’s para-pro wheeled Anne out to meet me, and she was beaming. Anne’s para-pro has a hard job. She is with Anne all day to help her with all of her school tasks… everything from writing to bath-rooming.

“You look so happy today,” I said to her.

“I am! Anne had a great day. She did such good work today. It was a potato chip day!”

Now let me pause to explain… Potato chips are Anne’s absolute favorite food. She will do almost anything for a potato chip. In case you’ve forgotten, here’s a video from earlier this summer to prove it :-)

But back to my conversation with Anne’s para-pro…

She continued, “I am so proud of Anne. And I am so excited!

Wow. There are several wonderful points I could make from this interchange… The first is that Anne’s para-pro is an answer to prayer. She feels called to work with special needs kids. She’s going back to school late in her life to get a degree in special education. She even works with special needs kids at her church. She’s older and wiser. She observes and is patient. She is a God-send.

But the second thought I walked away with was how foreign her lighthearted spirit was to me. I don’t experience lightheartedness very often since the accident. Our life is characterized by such hard physical care for Anne… most of the time, our lives seem heavy.

So I consider lightheartedness a luxury. And God gave me this luxury today :)

Canon got braces today, and I decided he didn’t need to go to school after such an ordeal. So, I brought Canon and Kate along with me to ride their bikes while I ran with some friends at the River. We veered off the wide, worn path to explore the narrow, rooty trails. Kate and Canon looked like Mountain Bike experts as they navigated the roots and rocks. And I was in heaven. I love trails. Love. them!

After our run, we decided (spontaneously) to pick up Anne early from school and then we all went out for milk-shakes. (A Milk shake for lunch makes tons of sense when your teeth are hurting from new braces.) We were all in the car, drinking our milkshakes and singing along to the radio when it hit me. I feel lighthearted.

I think God-given luxuries are the best. Don’t you?

What I’ve learned during Therasuit therapy…

Five things…

1. Anne CAN put forth effort. I’ve seen her grit her teeth and wrinkle her forehead as she strains to move her left arm. Seeing that effort has to be one of the most encouraging aspects of these last three weeks.

2. Anne has a fierce temper. Anne is soooo stubborn and gets angry when she feels unstable – which is most of the time. Today, while she was doing squats, she got especially mad and started to yell something ugly (which she knows she is not allowed to say). The therapist asked her to do 10 squats. Each time she would say the “forbidden” phrase, we would have to start back at 1. She got to 5 – and then she yelled it: “I’ll bite your butt!” So we started over. She got to 2 – and yelled again: “I’ll bite your bu-!” She thought if she left off the ending “t,” it wouldn’t count. But we started over. We got to 3 and Anne started to yell, and then thought better and said, “I’m MAD!” Victory. Anne exhibited reason and self control. Amen and Amen.

3. Anne has many obstacles to overcome. The greatest of which is fear. Anne has the physical ability to walk with the least amount of assistance. But she can’t overcome her feelings of  fear each time she feels the slightest bit off-balance. If Anne walks independently one day, it will come after years of “persevering -never-giving-up-hard-work.”

Which leads me to the fourth thing I’ve learned…

4. I can’t believe I’m writing this, but… I wouldn’t trade Anne’s broken body for her former healthy self – simply because of the character she will develop in overcoming her disabilities. Special needs children have amazingly strong spirits because of the amazingly large obstacles they have to overcome. Anne has put forth an inspiring effort over the last three weeks!

I confess that I’ve spent way too much time focusing on my “seen” circumstances instead of the “unseen” promises in God’s word. I’ve been overwhelmed thinking of how much work it will be for Anne and our family to continue her recovery. But just as I take pleasure in seeing Anne’s effort and perseverance so does God take pleasure in me – even in my weakest efforts. The key is leaning on Him for strength for the moment – and not worrying about where the strength for tomorrow will come from.

So the fifth thing I’ve learned…

5. Living in my own strength leads to exhaustion and burn-out. God has given me circumstances that force me to lean on Him. Even though I hate it, and get so angry… and stubborn…  and I feel like yelling, “I’ll bite your butt!” – I’m thankful that God would care enough for me to give me such an honorable task as to care for a special needs child. And for this, I am grateful :-)

Year in Review

It’s May. May is always busy. In fact, there’s a post from a year ago that I could have just copied and pasted. Nothing has changed! Well that’s not really true. A lot can change in a year.

At the beginning of this school year, I set two goals for myself… 1)Write more, and 2)Exercise more. I’ve done okay on those goals.

Both goals were primarily about me finding time to do the things that I love, but I learned some valuable lessons in the pursuit.

Because of my writing, I was asked to speak at a national women’s conference in February. I’m one of those rare persons who loves speaking. I did a little speaking before Anne’s accident, so I was very ready to try out my teaching skills again. The conference went well, and I received encouraging feedback, but when I came home and looked into Anne’s eyes, I thought, “My place is here.”

I had a similar experience when I went away for a girls’ weekend with my running buddies. We went to Nashville to run a half marathon. Now that’s a major accomplishment, something that I’ve always wanted to do… But when I came home, and hugged my Anne, I had the same thought. “My place is here.”

I think there’s a part of me that still strives to find significance outside the home. It’s a struggle for most stay-at-home moms. The culture places little value on our work at home, so we try to reach outside to find significance. Writing and speaking are worthwhile pursuits (and I hope I get more opportunities), but my most significant work is the work I do behind my front door – the sacrificial work of taking care of my family.

This is so counter-cultural. And it’s especially hard to believe when I’m sitting on the bathroom floor waiting for Anne to have a bowel movement or when I’m washing soiled sheets or brushing Anne’s teeth. But the most significant thing I do – the thing that has the most eternal impact – is working together with Eric to care for our children. Somehow, these humble pursuits are deemed valuable by God. So, I’ll keep fighting against the part of me that longs for significance. And if I need clarification… all I have to do is look in Anne’s eyes and know that (at least for now)…  “My place is here.”

The view from my front porch

Do you see that house across the street? Our good friends live there. They have three children. The second-born is Canon’s close friend, Joel. And the youngest is Natalie, who is only 6 weeks younger than Kate. The blue car in the cul-de-sac belongs to my mother. She lives in the basement of that house, in a two-bedroom apartment that our friends have rented out for years. We have much-needed support directly across the street.

Last week, I saw Canon, Joel and his older brother, Parker, race across the cul-de-sac on their scooters, hop up on the curb, run and then collapse in the green grass. The three of them wrestled a bit and then just relaxed. I can only imagine what they talked about as they lay in the soft grass. I thought of how much those boys have shared together. We stayed with this family after the accident. They let Joel stay home from school to be with Canon when he was released from the hospital. I remember the first time the family got to see Anne. There were strange tubes coming out of Anne’s nose and head. Her hair was a matted mess. But Canon turned to Joel and said, “Isn’t she beautiful?” Joel just nodded. He knew better than to argue.

Every afternoon Canon and Kate get to play – HARD – and live life at their pace with great friends. This allows Anne to stay inside (which she’s always preferred) and live life at her slower pace. And because Canon and Kate have such freedom, they are more inclined to slow down and sit with Anne. It’s a good balance, and a good life for Canon and Kate. And it makes me very thankful!

Two years.

The following is a copy of my last post on Anne’s CaringBridge site. Thank you for praying and supporting us during the last two years, and thank you for continuing to follow us on my blog :-)

It’s been two years since our accident.

This will be my last post on the CaringBridge site. In the months following our accident, this site was a source of great comfort as so many of you wrote words of encouragement and offered prayers for Anne’s healing. She has made great progress and continues to grow and change in positive ways… but, we are left with the harsh truth that there are parts of Anne’s brain that still have significant damage. We are now learning to live with disability.

Anne still doesn’t walk independently, nor does she have the use of her left hand. She is cognitively challenged by a limited attention span, and she will struggle to keep pace with her peers academically. Yet Anne has many strengths to help her compensate. She is verbally strong and has a deep-rooted desire to love and connect with others. She has an amazing sense of humor and a compassionate heart. She is weak in body, yet strong in spirit :-)

Despite the difficulties of caring for a disabled child, I am struck by moments of inexpressible joy (1 Pet 1:8) and a peace that surpasses understanding (Phil 4:7). These moments are made possible only by the Spirit of God producing them for me. God knows there is nothing inherently joyful and peaceful about caring for a brain-injured child! However…. “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt 19:26).

I also take great comfort in knowing that God is sovereign. Our car accident wasn’t a case of us being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I don’t think I could go on if I believed I lost the daughter I knew and loved to brain injury just by chance. God’s word assures me there is a purpose for our pain, and therefore, we have the strength to carry on. But I also rest in God’s goodness. Even if I don’t understand His purposes in the here and now, I know that one day I will look back and see that His purposes were good.

So when kind-hearted people ask me how Anne is doing, my response is that she is “good.” Even though the question is directed to her physical and cognitive recovery, I’m not thinking of that. No, I mean that her person is good. God has a purpose for her, disability and all, and that is what is good.

Thank you for being with us these last two years. The ministry you’ve served in our lives is deep and oh-so-meaningful. You’ve carried us and sustained us, and we are so grateful. Feel free to continue to follow our family on my blog, kathrynJackson.com. We are moving on from recovery to adjusting to our new life with our new Anne. We would love to share our journey with you :-)

With much love and gratitude, Kathryn

And the old becomes new.

As we approach 2 years post-accident, we have much to be grateful for…

I remember the first time anyone mentioned “brain damage” to me. It was Anne’s second week in the PICU, and she was still in a coma. The PICU nurse innocently said that her neurostorms were just part of the “brain damage.” I just sat and cried as I considered that Anne might have significant brain damage.

I remember when Eric said that he couldn’t ever imagine Anne talking again. I couldn’t imagine her not talking! But a month after the accident when she did begin to talk, it was evident that Anne had significant brain damage. Even her voice sounded different. It still does.

When Anne came home from the hospital, I began to wrestle with how to grieve the old Anne – while at the same time – hoping for parts of her to return. Now I know that the old Anne is gone, and God has given us our new Anne. She is forever different. Even in heaven when she receives a new, unbroken body, her soul will be marked by learning to live with disability. She is simple, yet rich in spirit.

And now two years later, we are in a new house that has no memories of the “old” Anne. There is a finality about this new place. A finality that I am just now able to accept. We’ve been working toward this move for almost a year, and many times I wondered why it was taking so long to sell our old house… But God knew that I couldn’t handle leaving the place where I could see the old Anne in every corner. I loved that Anne. And I don’t see her in this house. There is no island where she would sit and pretend to cook. There is no fireplace where she would stand and sing for us. There is nothing in this house that reminds me of the “old” Anne. She is really …gone.

But. But.

God, in His great mercy has made her new. She is alive – and she is being transformed daily into a picture of God’s tender loving care toward us… his broken children. Anne is indeed special. And we are indeed blessed to know her.

It’s all in the details…

I’ve been a bit preoccupied lately with unpacking, organizing and trying to transform this old “foreclosure home” into something pretty. I typically only have space in my mind for one creative pursuit at a time, hence, writing has taken a back seat for a brief season.

But I’ve been amazed at how God is still present even when I’m focused on simple, temporal matters – such as… which faucet to buy for the powder room.

You see… this faucet couldn’t be too copperish – it had to be really dark bronze – almost black. And then there is this one style that I just love. I call it the waterfall faucet, because when it’s on – it looks like a small waterfall. What can I say? It’s the little things that lift my spirit!

So, I’m standing in Home Depot – eyeing that elusive waterfall faucet – but the color is just not right… way too copperish – and that means it will totally clash with Eric’s mother’s antique mirror that we just HAVE to put in the powder room, right? Right! :-)  …But then my eye stopped on an open box – an outdated box – but with all the right parts – and guess what was in that box??? My waterfall faucet!! But it wasn’t copper. It was dark, dark bronze with just a few copper accents! Oh yeah baby! It was the old model – before they updated it to all copper, and God saved it just for me!!! I’m still a little giddy.

You wanna see it?

And while I’m at it, I’ll show you a few more favorite spots in my old foreclosure home….

I love this pillow!

I love the modern light fixture juxtaposed against Eric’s grandmother’s old fruit paintings :-)

I like this color combination… red with bluish green. It matches the colors in Eric’s grandmother’s painting above. Gotta love that!

More new and old things.

I’ve also been thinking about how our 2 year anniversary of the accident is almost here. And how much both Anne and I have changed in the past year. But I’ll write more about that later. I have to help Eric install the new faucet ;-)