Sunday, August 18, 2013

Barren Heights for Barren Hearts

It's that time again, peeps. You know, time for an honest, heart-felt post, in which I tell you what's been going on, really going on, lately.
There WILL be cute pictures galore. BUT if you don't want to read my heart, then skip this post.
If you proceed, please don't say I didn't warn you.
Heads up; a lot of crying went into this story.
So if you hate tearful, emotional things, just close that window now, or flip over to Pinterest and get a puppy picture smiling at'll be better in no time.
Still here?
Welcome, brave soul, into my short stint of vulnerability.
This weekend, my herd and I packed up and headed to the Kentucky countryside for a weekend retreat. It wasn't just anywhere, and it wasn't just any retreat.
It was at Barren Heights Retreat Center, just outside of Scottsville, KY.
Here's a link, so you can check out their amazing ministry!
The idea of a retreat for families with special needs children intrigued me. At first when I applied, I thought to myself "This is a great idea, but I don't know if our family really needs to take a spot away from another family who might need it more this year."
 ....did you catch that? That was the sound of God laughing at me, that Wise One who knows the plans He has for me, even before I have a clue.
I sent in that application, and we were accepted, for the weekend of August 16th-18th.
I couldn't believe it, but I figured it must be what God wanted for us, since He had cleared the way.
Within 5 minutes of being at the Retreat grounds, I was amazed. The host families took us in, welcomed us, and loved our children right away, no questions or hesitation. It was a bit weird for me to have someone volunteer to take my kids off my hands so I could unpack. Our elephants were out the door and exploring faster than I could blink.

 When it was time for the ice cream social, some people asked questions about our dietary needs, but it was curiosity, not judgment, that I could feel from them. (Some people really don't believe in the idea that a specialized diet can have any effect on Autism's symptoms and stims; I wish they could see the change in my B.E. since last fall!)
We had a nice evening, and then went to our cabins to settle in for the night and prepare for the weekend and all it held.
On Saturday morning, I had a "ladies orientation".
I wasn't sure what to expect.
I certainly didn't expect to burst into tears two sentences into my "tell us about your child" story.
It wasn't until that moment that I fully realized how very much we had needed this weekend; myself especially.
There's something I want to share with you, if you are not a mom.
It's hard.
There's something I want to share with you if you are not a mom of a special needs child.
It's HARD.
Let me pause here and say that I am not a martyr, or at least, I do my darndest NOT to be one, or appear as one who needs help from others. At anytime, ever.
If I ask for help with something, there has to be a huge extenuating circumstance.
Like I have to be flat out sick, unable to get out of bed.
A little sick, and I can still conquer the world, you see.
I mean, I went to this retreat a little sick with a bad cough.
From exhaustion.
Because I don't ask for help.
Because I am a strong woman, not a martyr.
I AM *Special Needs Super-Mom*
Back to that sun room, and the moment I burst into tears.
Talking about my precious son,
 my beloved Blue Elephant,
 always makes my heart squeeze.
I love him to the ends of the earth and back.
 There is nothing I wouldn't do for that sweet baby; nothing.
I will do anything in my power to help him in anyway I can.
One of the things I told that group of strangers who were watching me cry was
"I do it all for my son. I have to. He's my baby."
I mean, look at the boy. He's amazing in every way.
I didn't know then that the Lord was going to use that sentence to minister to me so much this weekend.
I felt  kind of embarrassed that I cried with strangers. I don't *like* to cry, period. I haven't let myself have a good cry in months. These women assured me that it was a safe place, and they sympathized with my being tired and not feeling well.
Again, no judgment.
After that session, I got alone with the Lord, and I read my Bible.
My Sunday School class (just have to love how He works...) has been focusing on the Beatitudes, found in Matthew 5.
I read Matthew 5:3, and I journaled a bit about it, because the phrase I'd said earlier that morning came back to me. "I do it all".
Matthew 5:3; "God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for Him..."
{Poor is not monetary in this sense, it is translated "poor in spirit" in another version.}
You see, I don't *need* anybody.
 I AM *Special Needs Super-Mom*.
I knew I needed to rethink that attitude, and address that brick wall inside me soul.
To silence that stubborn voice that coaches me constantly
"I can do this all myself!!"
I was exhausted. I could not do it all myself. My strength had finally run out, as of that morning.
Almost a year into this "label" of Autism, my deep well of self-sufficiency and 'inner strength' had finally run so dry that there was not an ounce left.
I was *officially* poor in spirit.
It was the realizing my need for Him part that was the road block.
Saturday moved on, and we followed our fun schedule of events. The little elephants, Daddy Elephant, and I all had a blast together (and apart! Blissful afternoon nap in perfect peace!!) doing different things.
The volunteers were amazing with our babies. Simply the best!!
I began to relax a bit. I even sat down and had a cup of tea, read a magazine, without jumping up to hunt down where Blue or Pink might be, or worrying about what they might be getting into.
They were being watched; I was recharging.

It was a wonderful afternoon, which ended in a dinner and then a family fun activity down at the "old barn".
 {Can  I just say....this photo captures the essence of our herd perfectly.
 It might be this year's Christmas card.}
Water balloon sling-shot competition. There was a picture of Goliath on the side of the barn; he was the target. Closest shot won the game. (Ahem...we didn't get even close! LOL)

B.E. was frustrated that he didn't hit his mark. It wasn't until the next morning and recounting of a conversation he had with one of the volunteer ladies that I knew about his feelings, or his finding hope and a flower for mom. These sweet pics of him marching his prize to me....priceless.

  When it was dark, we gathered for a s'mores roast. One of the other moms had brought along GFCF chocolate chip cookies. She was sweet enough to share with my two elephants, as well!

{Side note: my Pink Elephant has the most beautiful eyes, ever.}
After everyone had gone back to their cabins for the evening, Daddy was helping B.E. with a shower, and P.E. and I were sitting in our little main room, reading. She was reading kid books, and I picked up the journal that was in the middle of the table. It was a guest log-book of sorts, a place where people who had stayed at Barren Heights could write about their experience, or what had blessed them while they were there. I leafed through it, and tears began to prick my eyes.
I took out a pen and started writing. Four pages later, my husband came out into the room to find me bawling my eyes out. I grabbed a sweater, and retreated to the porch swing, in the cool darkness of the camp.
Hubby and I have been married long enough that he knew I needed some time. Alone.
The porch swing creaked as it swayed, the moon came out from behind the clouds and illuminated the field, the fire pit, the gazebo. The fireflies twinkled. The frogs croaked. And I cried.
I cried tears I haven't cried in months. Everything, simply everything came pouring out of me. Short bursts of prayer, long bouts of silent tears streaming.
"I do it all."
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, who admit their need for Him."
" I just....can't do it, anymore, Lord."
My own strength was gone. Just gone.
I admitted my need for Him, I acknowledged how I'd been ignoring the depth of emotion in order to function this year. This long amazing, wonderful, horrible, terrible, whirlwind, life-changing first "official" year of being an Autism family.
Even as I type this, I am crying. No longer in despair and weariness, but now in joyful hope. I CAN'T do it all.....and I'm done trying.
It took this weekend that I *thought* we didn't need "as badly" as others to show me my barren heart. My dried up strength, my lame self-sufficiency.
I am a special needs mom.
But I am NOT super.
I cannot do this gig in my own strength.
Exhaustion is the result!
Hubby came out onto the porch after much of my whispered prayers had subsided, to sit and hold me. He's wonderful in that way, my husband. He can tell when I need time, and he can tell when I need to be held. What a gift he is to me.
I told him, in gasping, wheezy (still coughing and sick, mind you) words what the Lord had showed me, and what I had finally surrendered to Him. Hubby just held me.
After awhile, I ran out of tears.
We went inside, and read bedtime stories, said prayers, and put the littles to sleep.
Sunday morning, the Moms' meeting was, in a word, holy.
The stories shared were orchestrated by the Lord in a beautiful way that only He can compose.
The vulnerability of one lead to the openness of another. Tears were shared, hearts were encouraged, and understanding ran deep.
We were all there for a reason, and He knew it.
The verses that were shared by the volunteer in charge of the devotion were never more applicable to me than in that moment. I've heard them a thousand times.
But I've never stopped to embrace them, to claim them for my own, or to acknowledge the depth of what they SHOULD mean to me; to any Christ-follower.
"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."- Matt 11:28-30
As the sweet woman had told my son, when life gets you frustrated, you have to remember to just take one day at a time.
One day at a time, this Autism journey continues.
One day at a time, I make the choice to find my strength in Him, and not myself.
I can't do it all.
HE can.
I am a special needs mom.
But I am seeking to daily surrender to the only ONE who can give me strength.
In Him I choose to find my rest.
It is His yoke I wear, and His burden I bear.
For they are easy, and they are light.
Barren Heights is a place for barren hearts to find their renewal.
They have blessed our family beyond measure.


  1. Thank you for sharing your heart, dear friend. I am blessed beyond words. <3 you.

  2. You are a beautiful Woman and mommy. I shared your tears and I am blessed to witness your familys journey. You really are SUPER. You know that though! xoxoxox <3

  3. This is so touching. I've taken the liberty of sharing your thoughts and encouragement with some of our volunteers and supporters at Barren Heights. I'm so glad you were blessed by your weekend.

    In gratitude,
    Toni Rose
    Director, Barren Heights.

  4. You said very poetically what I have not been able to express. Barren Heights was a blessing my family received that we didn't even know we needed!