Tuesday, January 16, 2018

a call in the night


i had noticed that brooke had not been feeling well on saturday. she was quiet in her chatter, she wasn’t smiling like she normally does, and i could tell she wasn’t her typical self. 
early sunday morning around 4am i woke to take brooke to the bathroom but before i got out of bed i heard coming from her bedroom a sound. i became a bit more alert and then i heard a distress sound of “Mommmma” and then seconds later, “Mommmy”. i jumped up out of bed and went to her room. she just looked at me as if she was asking for help. i asked her if she was hurting, no words this time but a grunt and she slapped her head (a sign of pain). i grabbed some medicine for her and covered her back up to go back to sleep. when i was about to walk out of her room she looked at me and with a much calmer tone and said, “mommy”.  i smiled and said, “you’ll feel better soon, i love you.”

ok. wow! i’ll never forget this day, not because she was in pain, but that she called out for me because she was in pain. she has NEVER intentionally called out my name for me to come and help her. i got back in bed and honestly, could not sleep. i was so excited that she called my name when she was hurting. 

there have been many times i’ve done that with the Lord. i’ve been hurting, grieving, sad, or struggling with something personal that in the middle of where i was just saying His name, “Jesus”, brought comfort, healing, peace, security.... for when we say His name, we don’t just get a piece of Him, we get all of Him and all that His name promises to be!  it’s His very nature to respond. He is near to us when we cry, mumble, or just whisper His name. 


“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” Psalms 145:18 ESV

Saturday, January 06, 2018

step by step

we have had so many great adventures since brooke has been home. clearly she is so happy and we are elated that our family is back together again. we have daily activities that get us out and about and in the community. however, everyday we try and walk (weather permitting) around the block or at the park nearby. one particular day we started off on our walk in our neighborhood but something was wrong. one thing about walking with brooke is that she likes to walk closely to you, almost hip to hip, holding your hand or arm. it’s actually pretty sweet! however, something was off during our walk that day. as we went around the block our step was off and our arms hit each other as we walked. we got home and the Lord started speaking to me personally. it was like i could verbally hear Him, “Dani, we have to walk step by step, in sync, getting off step with Me can cause you to miss out on what I have for you, abide with Me.” i have been thinking about that day and the way Brooke challenges me without words. i was reminded of a song by Jesus Culture “Where You Go I Will Go”

-What You say I say
What You pray I pray

Jesus only did what He saw You do
He would only say what He heard You speak
He would only move when He felt You lead
Following Your heart, following Your spirit

How could I expect to walk without You
When every move that Jesus made was in surrender
I will not begin to live without You
For You alone are worthy, You are always good-


Brooke reminded me that day it’s imperative to walk closely by My Lord, walking in step with His Spirit, abiding, clinging, lingering long, and in a sweet surrender. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

our complete jubilee story!

We moved to South Alabama, in 2008 to be closer to Brooke as she started attending The Learning Tree in Mobile, Al. We became houseparent at the Alabama Baptist Children's Home, taking care of children who had been abused, abandoned, or broken from their current situation. There is a two child maximum as houseparents so it became our intentions to look for other employment so we could bring Brooke home one day; but it never seemed to happen. The boys, Josiah and Ethan started attending a near-by private school. All seemed well, but our hearts longed for Brooke to be with us. She has never been far from us, seeing her now daily for 8 years never becomes weary. As houseparents we shared a home on our off time with the other houseparents and; often got Brooke for slumber parties or just for family dinners. Sharing a home for many years we desired having our our own that we could call ours. Bill and I began looking and searching for something but never was successful. 
We attend a fruitful and grounded church in our area. One Sunday our pastor, Brett, shared a prayer request that I became broken over. Valerie, a lady in our church had been in an accident that almost cost her her life. I remember kneeling praying for her (who i had not yet met), and she was never far from my thoughts. One year later I was asked to paint one of my palm paintings in our church service. Before I went in that day I was sitting in my car praying, I looked up and saw a woman with a slight limp and a man helping her. I knew that had to have been Valerie that was in the accident a year prior. I prayed for her that morning. About a week after that event a friend of mine called me and said Dani "do you know Valerie Boatman?" I said, "no, I don't, but I've been wanting to meet her".  My friend later sent me a picture of Valerie standing next to the Jesus I had painted! Wow... I knew I needed to meet her. The following week I introduced myself to her at church and I knew upon meeting her we were kindred spirits. Soon after we met for lunch and then soon after her and her husband, Wayne, came for dinner at the children's home. The Lord began spinning our hearts together but we all had no idea why. 

As Bill continued to look at different homes for us in our area he found one that seemed suitable. We all went to look at the house. I was trying to imagine my life there but when I walked upstairs my mind shifted. Covering the whole wall upstairs was chalkboard paint! As I looked carefully at the faded and discolored chalk, I noticed that what was written on the wall was a bible verse. The words were "those that wait upon the Lord will not faint, they will run and not be weary, walk and not faint". I knew at that moment we were to wait. I did not understand that at the moment, but I was pretty determined that Jesus was speaking clearly to us. The next home bill located was in a great area but needed lots of repair; however, we were excited to take on the DIY makeover! After dropping the price about $20,000 we seemed confident that this was the reason God told us to wait.  We put a contact on the house and our realtor prayed with us in the kitchen asking God to give us direction and wisdom. That next week we saw Wayne and Valerie at church and they told us they would bring over some thanksgiving food for the boys. The next day Wayne showed up and brought lots of food over just as he promised. Bill and Wayne walked outside to talk and when Bill came in he told me he wanted to tell me something. Standing in the kitchen at the children's home Bill said, "So, Wayne and I were talking and Wayne asked me, "Is there anything else I can do for you?" And I told him that we had just put a contact on a house and we might need some contractors names because we were going to be gutting the house. Wayne stopped me and said, "Wait, you need a house? I gotta house and you can have it!""
I was like...what?! You have got to be kidding me! I instantly wanted to talk to Valerie. Needless to say, the very next day we got a call from our realtor saying the house we had put a contract on had gone to someone else!!! 
A few days later we went to see the house. I was in awe as I walked around inside. I didn't see anything, I just heard laughter, stories, tears, scripture, pain, and pure joy!
I saw Valerie at church that Sunday. She said, "Dani, you may not like the location, or the house, but if you do it's yours if you want it." I stood there speechless and in awe at the Lord and what He was doing. We spoke a few more words to one another and then I asked her, "what's the street name?" She said "Locarno." I went to my seat in church and looked up the word on my phone and was amazed to read that "Locarno" was a treaty between Switzerland and Europe years ago, the treaty meant "Peace for the future". Wow. We were both speechless as God had given us hope for our future! Seven years prior to this the Lord had opened my eyes to this hope called a jubilee. The idea behind jubilee in Leviticus 25 is a beautiful promise to Gods people to give them hope. We held on to this hope for our family knowing that the Lord would one day give us this jubilee.
“...it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.” Leviticus 25:10 

The gift from Wayne and Valerie of the house on Locarno was the first concrete step toward the fulfilling of Gods promise for our family. This allowed us to start the process of bringing brooke home. The next step would be arranging in home care for brooke; because of our position as houseparents we would need a lot of in home care hours for brooke. We made our initial request and after back and forth, and justifications for the amount of time needed our request was approved! Clearly God had gone before us and made provisions. Soon after the Lord opened doors for Bill to have another job so we could all be together. We left our jobs at the Alabama Baptist Childrens Home and in July, (2017) we were able to bring Brooke home to live with us! What a reunion! What a jubilee! What a Savior! 

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Our Jubilee is present!

“You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family.”
Leviticus 25:10 NASB

This was the verse the Lord gave to me 8 years ago. I found myself believing that He alone would bring it to pass as I hung on tightly to the promises He had spoken over me. Since then, the Lord provided a home for us and He has provided a way for Brooke to return to her family! Our jubilee is at our front door and awaiting new possibilities! The Lord is faithful! 

There are several things that still need to occur as we all make this exciting transition. At this point it's a matter of waiting on the details to be finalized. The reunion is no longer a distant reality but a close and present hope. 

“There is hope for your future,” says the Lord. “Your children will come again to their own land.”
Jeremiah 31:17 NLT

Saturday, July 18, 2015

shower time


There are rare moments in life when you hear the Lord whispering in your ear. Yesterday, was one of those sweet encounters and almost visually speaking.

Yesterday I decided to get Brooke for a visit at the Children’s Home. It was so hot outside I knew we would be spending most of the day inside allowing the kids to play games, puzzles, or just watch a good movie.  When I picked her up from school it looked as if she had had a rough, hot morning.  I knew a good shower was on our agenda.  After we all had lunch I told Brooke, “Let’s go take a shower.” She walked into the bathroom to get ready. For those who are unware Brooke cannot shower herself.  She does know some self-help skills and shower time is one we are working on.  I wash her thoroughly, shampoo and condition her hair, shave her legs, then I allow her time to just let the water fall on her.

After I got her all clean I sat her down while I started gathering her garments, one by one, to put them on her. (I think you get the idea). I had noticed while I bathed her that she had many sores/bruises so I knew I wanted to put some ointment on her to help them heal. I grabbed my Neosporin and one by one started applying them on her arms, legs, ankles, and wrist. Then, it happened…..as if Jesus was standing in our small bathroom whispering over my shoulder to Brooke and to myself. His voice was so clear as He said to me, “This is exactly what I do for you, Dani.”

Tears whelped up in my eyes as I re-thought the whole process of bathing her and caring for her needs. In such an intimate and personal way Jesus meets us where we are and cleanses us.  We are so helpless and without His touch we cannot be clean, we cannot be healed, we are incapable of doing it ourselves.  He not only leaves us there cleansed, but He comes closer and applies His touch to heal our deepest sores/hurts/scars, those visible and invisible.   

I left that bathroom different than I entered. It was a beautiful picture of His loving-kindness and in the most vulnerable and intimate way.

He says to us in Jeremiah 31 to expect love and more love…and yesterday was no exception. He is the balm of Gilead and He has promises us that He will heal us and He is mighty to save. (Jeremiah 17:14)

Thank you Brooke for being so vulnerable and for being His instrument once again.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

blessed are those...

The Lord has given me a great promise (see 'jubilee' post) that Brooke will one day be back home with us. as a mother, I yearn for that day! this morning when I woke my heart was heavy for this promise. I have learned to be content in my present circumstance (Phil 4:11). however, there are some days the tears flow and the longing awakens something within me. today, was no doubt....one of those days.

I love the unique gift of friendships! The Lord knows what we need and when we need it. when a friend prays for you on your behalf when words can't seem to escape your mind....there have been those times when friends reach the throne of God to help in the time of need. The Lord has special ways to comfort our weary hearts.

coupled with that, it's sweet when complete strangers approach you too. this afternoon a lady at SAMs asked me what my necklace said. I said "a mother knows the words that her child cannot say". after I told her that my daughter had autism, she said.... "I'm gonna pray for you, because that's what it is about, that's how we do things."

I smiled and told her thank you. I was so thankful that thru our small conversation The Lord comforted my heart.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they WILL be comforted. Matthew 5:4

are you weary and mourning today? He is faithful in His love and will comfort you in due time.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

caterpillars and butterflies

I have 2 tattoos on each of my wrist. one, ebed (Hebrew for slave to Christ), and second, a butterfly (in flight). my butterfly tattoo, created by a local artist, was engraved in my wrist for Brooke.

someone recently asked me what they both meant and I love sharing the stories of each of them. I shared with her that after the butterfly tattoo was done weeks later I realized that in the engraving was a capital "B". I thought that it was super cool that the artist designed it that way and without her knowledge of my daughter. several more week later a dear friend of mine called me after looking thru a James Avery Craftsmen magazine and told me that I needed to look immediately at the necklace called "Mother's Love". I was blown away that the same symbol in the necklace was also in my butterfly tattoo. in telling my story to my friend, I told her I had no idea of either symbols in the tattoo...but that the reason I chose a butterfly was because of her name. Brooke's middle name is Renee', which means "born again". [Born again can be recognized as the symbol of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly]. my new friend quickly said, "I didn't think you were going here with that story. Do you know how you say "caterpillar" in Latin"? ummm, well, no. she then told me, "brookum", actual translation, "bruchum".

I was blown away as I think my jaw hit the floor. Who knew when we named brooke, almost 17 years ago that her name would have such a powerful meaning. a caterpillar changing into a beautiful butterfly. proves to say that there's really a lot in a name...

I've always thought that when she get to Heaven the Lord will give her a new name. I can only imagine what that "new" name might be. For now, she's learning how to fly.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

running for a reason

i consider myself to be pretty athletic gal. when i was younger i ran track. 50 yard dash and so on. i was an ok runner, but i loved to run. i played basketball in elementary and then a bit in high school. then i played softball. i was a catcher for our team. now, at 42, i feel myself getting up from a fast pitch and throwing it down the straight line to second base, in an attempt for an easy out, and my knees hurt. ha!

after you have children you wonder what sport will they play. when i had brooke, it crossed my mind she would be a runner. after all, she had bill's legs. now, i know she will never run (like you and me). she has other traits that i find courageous and that i could never do...so im ok, now, that she will never run.

i'm blessed to know certain people in my life. some i've never met, or will meet...but have had the unique experience to find them thru this crazy computer. it's not that they aren't real, but just the opposite...they are very real and raw and vulnerable people. amy courts is one of those. amy is an artist. she writes/sings...and with her music she has brought me into the presence of God. rare.

a few weeks ago, via facebook, she sent me a PM that stated this:

"you may or may not know this, but i've joined a group here on FB called "i run for Michael"...we pair runners and athletes with special needs people who can't or don't or won't be able to run like we do...and we run for them. for us runners, it just gives us something bigger to run for...it gives us a person. anyway, we are working on pairing up some more runners but we need more kiddos! I immediately thought of you and your incredible kids who have autism."

wow! was my immediate thought. i went to the site and found runners or walkers or others that were doing cross country and that were running/doing for a purpose, for a person that could never run. incredible! i told amy, "yes! find brooke a runner."

within hours we had a match. Brooke's runner is a lady named Yvonne. Again, its funny how the Lord knows just who to send in your life. Her story is one of strength, courage, grief, and passion.

i just had to express this story. it's one of selflessness and gratitude. it's one of strength and dying to self. it's one of honoring another.

and, personally, as a mother of one that can't run...i'm humbly grateful.

it's more than a gesture to me.
it gives life.
it gives hope.
it offers a chance to feel the wind in your hair and have a fresh breath of air in your lungs.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

sweet 16/march 6

Brooke,

God has continued to grow you into His masterpiece...and what masterpiece you are. I love how, with every stroke He formed and made you. You are His...and I'm thankful He gave me you. 
In these past 16 years you have taught me some valuable lessons. You exhibit strength, beauty, loving kindness, patience, dependency in your creator, joy, peace, and HOPE. 

[with just glance in your eyes you give me energy and strength. holding your hand I sense your passion. watching you sleep I see your at peace. seeing tears in your eyes i know your struggle will one day end.]

you simply amaze me! 
I'm a better woman because of you. 
I love you brookie!
happy 16th birthday to my sweet girl!

momma. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

the move

as of a few weeks ago, Brooke has been a resident at TLT for 4 years now. in the past four years she has grown into a beautiful, courageous, determined, brave, strong, and lovely lady. 
this past week, Brooke moved, but just into another group home. the move is going to be good for her. her school opened up a new home to accept 2 new girls. so, Brooke now has new roommates. I've already met one of them. I'm excited for her and her family!

however, you know me, I'm a thinker. for 4 years Brooke has lived with 2 of the greatest ladies. even though I told Brooke she was moving I knew she wouldn't understand it fully until the move occurred. it just made me think though, what if I moved away from someone I was used to seeing everyday for 4 years. (grant it, they will continue to see one another at school/some weekends). I know that that would make me sad. brooke is not one to express emotions much, so I tend to forget, emotionally speaking, what all she goes thru in a day, what she thinks about, who she misses, and all the other stuff girls go thru. 
tonight, as I left Brooke I leaned in and told her like I do every night I see her, "Brooke, Jesus has got you." after I said it, I said out loud again,  "Brooke, Jesus does reeeeaally got you." 

He holds her tears in His bottle, prays for her when she cannot udder a word, walks with her, sings over her, embraces/speaks to her while she sleeps, and provides for her needs without her even knowing them. 

I don't know if Brooke misses her little friends, I know I sure would. but, what I do know is.... Jesus does have her and He quickly desires to fill the void. 

at that moment, The Lord spoke to me and reminded me of that simple truth. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

peace on every side

this past saturday we took brooke back to the group home. it was raining so badly when i drove her to the house. after caring for her while at the hospital and at home my heart only grew stronger and sweeter for brooke. i dreaded the day. the rain outside became the condition of my heart.

after getting her in the house, she went to her room, turned around, and began walking towards the door to go outside. i can't tell you how many times we redirected this so she would settle in on the couch or in her room. i pulled out books or movies to help her settle down, but she was began bitting herself and became verbally  upset saying, "i wanna be with mommy," or, "i wanna see mommy." needless to say, this only made the rain pour harder within my spirit. after signing information and sharing details, i walked out in the pouring rain not caring whether or not my clothes were drenched.

i got in my car and began praying for peace for her. i remembered a passage of scripture in II Chronicles 20:30 "the Lord gave them peace on all sides." i prayed that passage over her and drove away. thankfully we had plans to hang with friends for the day, so, once i got home we left. my heart was heavy throughout the day, but the Lord sustained me.

on sunday, i went to see brooke again at the group home. it was still raining in our area, but it was much more of a sprinkle. when i walked into the door brooke saw me, grabbed my hand, and walked me to the door yet again. i died inside. i wanted just to leave with her, but i knew she needed time to adjust and i needed time too. earlier that day at church, we had heard such an encouraging message about, "be still and know that I am God." he talked about the the word, "still" actually meaning in the Hebrew the idea of your hands being by your side. in the sermon he also mentioned the very passage i had prayed over her in II Chronicles 20. i was amazed, but at the same time i left assured that God indeed would give her "peace on every side." thinking on the message, i left the group home once again but this time...with a peace of mind and my hands by my side....knowing that He was God and He was at work.

Brooke has done really well during her recovery and she continues to improve behaviorally. We have heard she has little to no behaviors throughout her day. was it that she was hurting so badly before her surgery that she was displaying bad behavior as a way to communicate? who knows, really. i do know we are in good place with her, and that....gives me peace on every side.

thank you for your constant prayers and love. i once heard, "rich is the one who has a praying friend." Brooke is very rich!

Saturday, June 02, 2012

update

Brooke got her staples out on Thursday. she did really well sitting there watching her favorite show. afterwards we treated her to a slushy.  apparently, the staples were very bothersome to her because she isn't so insistent on scratching her back.  Brooke has been off pain meds now for 3 days and seems to be ok with no pain. she's been very active, going on walks and pacing in the hallway. bill and I took her to fairhope the other day. she enjoyed the ride and the walk.  she finally slept longer than 4 hours last night. after going to bed around 8 last night so did I. we both slept til 3:00. she drifted a bit after that, but nothing to be excited about. her behaviors started picking up and I believe it kept her up and me.  we are still tackling her behaviors (slapping face). what a beast this is. this behavior is more bothersome for me than any other she has had because it targets the face.  Monday, she'll start going to school for a couple of hours to get her back in the swing of things. June 9, saturday, we will take her back to her group home. this will be a tough day.. prolly more for me than her. all in all, she is a trooper, a tough cookie and an amazing little lady. Thank you all for those that have been praying for us. thank you for the wonderful meals and sweet treats. all have been such perfect timing and a gift from God. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

long day

our day started at 3:00am. Brooke woke up and didn't go back to sleep. she has been very restless and agitated.  come 7:00a.m. I was feeling the effects of just 3 hours of sleep. I knew several friends had been praying, and knowing I needed the encouragement to finish the day and finish well I called on them for help. by 1:00p.m. brooke was less frustrated. however, just over an hour a go... she has been extremely upset! I gave her some loritab thinking she was in back pain. she's very aggressive and verbally upset (yelling). she still has not slept since 3am.. and neither have we.  i just hurt for her...wanting her to be comfortable, at ease, and especially I want her to sleep. she has been thru a lot in the last week but I'm confident the Lord is listening..and in His timing will make all well. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

whatever it takes

recovery with brooke continues to be a constant struggle. between her behaviors hitting her face and her wanting to get to her back (partially because of a rash due to the self-adhesive dressing) it is a constant redirection, or holding her arm temporarily. today,  for example, after waking up at 5am, bill and I were laying in the bed with her consoling her, holding her hands until she drifted off to rest again. she ate some breakfast which consisted of fruit, yogurt, and a slice of pizza. she kept wanting to touch and scratch her back and hit her face. it was challenging. we gave her a shower to make her feel better then, the LT staff came at 10;30 and stayed til 1:00. during this time, I got her lunch together, did laundry, and sat in my hammock for a bit. our afternoon was a bit more in tense for she got more unsettled, so we gave her some medication to calm her down. I made her dinner, she ate well but behaviors have increased again this evening,  I cannot lie, at times, it is extremely stressful and I wonder if we made the right choice of going thru with surgery. you question everything at times like this.  on a brighter note.. she is by my side and I desire to do everything to help her get thru this...and I will do whatever it takes. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

collapse

every now and again I see how helpless brooke is without someone with her at all times. a few years ago our whole family, including brooke, went to Nashville. while visiting, we went to Opryland Hotel. the hotel is my moms favorite, so we enjoyed walking around seeing shops and enjoying each others company. we decided to take the elevator up to another floor and before you know it Brooke had gotten in the elevator and the doors shut!  within seconds my mind raced to what could've happened when the doors opened again on another floor without us.  she wouldn't know where she was. she wouldn't be able to say who she was with or how to find her family. and at the time, she would not have been able to say her name to those trying to help her. helpless. however, we quickly pushed the button and the doors opened before it speed off to another floor. I remember grabbing her, holding her, telling her it was "ok." not only is Brooke helpless, but so am I. today a dear friend said something to me that reminded me of my helplessness. the phrase she said was, "collapse in His arms." being the thinker that I am I looked up the word "collapse." Webster puts it this way, "to fall abruptly, to break down completely,  to cave or fall in, to fall helpless." I couldn't help but see myself, or those that know Christ, fall helplessly in His arms..almost like i was fainting.  I love the idea that Jesus is my all and all. I love the fact that when I fall helpless or when I'm wondering helplessly as Brooke does...that He is there without any hesitation. and, in doing so there's no need for me to speak or utter a sound...He knows.  its then He grabs me, holds me, and tells me, "you are ok."