Know Your Tribe
The tribe we surround ourselves with either raises or lowers our standards. They either encourage us to be the best we can be or to not live up to our potential. We simply become who we surround ourselves with. No one becomes great on their own, that includes both positive experiences with friends and experiences with the ones who betray us!
There are those that are meant to be “rooted” friends that are there through the good times and bad. I like to refer to those rare ones as “friend soulmates”! Then, there are acquaintances that are meant to be apart of your journey, but were never meant to stay. These acquaintances may have contributed encouragement or a learning experience. The third type that may come into our lives are those considered enemies. They are even designed as a part of our destiny!
I was reminded in a sermon that Joseph wouldn’t have taken the Throne if his brothers did not throw him in the pit. David would not have been king if Goliath had not been a threat. Jesus wouldn’t have risen from the dead and brought us salvation of Judas didn’t betray him.
Don’t worry about who left or who isn’t cheering you on. Others don’t know what God has put in you and has equip you with!
Keep running the race, while staying in your lane. Don’t look around you. Remember from my last blog post, we are not in competition. There is no set time that our goals are to be achieved. Don’t let fear hold you back from your purpose!
I once heard a phrase that has stuck with me. It says, “I don’t want to be the smartest or wisest one in my group”. In another words, we all need people in our lives who raise our standards, challenge us to meet and exceed our potential, and remind us of our purpose. Another phrase I have heard that rings true with me because I don’t have many “rooted” friends, is this: “I’d rather have 4 quarters than 100 pennies!” Finding our tribe is essential to success and can also be our determent, depending on the tribe we choose!
Proverbs 27:17 (NKJV)
As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.
Brokenness Doesn’t Last Forever
During a recent conversation with my sister, I said, “We don’t heal during our pain and hardships because we are in the midst of our emotions. It is not until time has passed that we can reflect with a clear mind and allow the light to shine because of our brokenness.
In my last blog post, I discussed personal obstacles. I mentioned there is purpose in the pain. There is purpose in life! As long as we breath, God isn’t finished with us and there is a light meant to shine, especially in the brokenness!
We are all broken... that’s how the light gets in, and the healing begins.
The beauty of brokenness is that we do not remain broken. Healing takes place. How long does that take? It differs from person to person based on our attitudes, acceptance of circumstances, humility, repentance, becoming better instead of bitter, and believing you are loved just as you are.
I want to show love and let you know no matter what your religion is, background, or circumstance; God is bigger than it all. You may have been broken or your spirit may be currently broken, but there is also healing that can take place. There is hope. You are loved and you matter!
All Of Us Are Broken
All Of Us Are Broken
Here is a rhetorical question: How and when did it get instilled in us ladies that we have to be strong enough for everyone including ourselves, no matter the hardships? From an early age, I have felt an immense pressure (that was both given to me through various circumstances throughout my life and put upon myself from having a “people pleasing” personality) to take care of everyone, including my own
We feel a pressure to not show weakness, to not admit insecurities, to be the spiritual leader, maintain a home, care for our family, take dinner to a neighbor, fulfill various appointments made, help bring in an income, and be on time for everything... all while looking clean and put together. I take care of others with pleasure, but feel guilty when I want to be taken care of. I personally feel a pressure to constantly be strong and secure in myself, my marriage, and my future. If I have a moment or day of feeling tired, weak, insecure, lonely, unfulfilled; then somehow I am disappointing everyone and I am not favored. Like so many, I have been through a lot in the last 5 years. My husband of 23 years decided to call it quits, but thankfully I have my two daughters that God blessed me with from that covenant and they are with me every day and every night. I took care of my daughters and my mom, while working two jobs on my own. I did eventually remarry and I now have another beautiful daughter! She is 2 and happens to have an extra chromosome and had open heart surgery last summer. She is imperfectly perfect like us all! December 2017, I had my first miscarriage and lost my mom within 24 hours. Four months later, my job position was eliminated. God has placed me on this beautiful journey and through it all, I continue to learn more about love, life, and myself!
I haven’t “broken” down emotionally in front of anyone, however, I have had my emotional moments in the car or the shower. I feel an expectation to make sure there is peace and happiness among my family because I am only as happy as my saddest child. I know one reason the strong desire is there to make sure everyone else is ok is because I was conditioned to do so during the anger and abusiveness that was endured in my first marriage by my two older girls and myself.
The truth is, I am broken inside. I am so grateful for the relationship I have with God and I know there is purpose in the pain. There is purpose in why people leave (even church friends) and abandon you. There is purpose in the rumors. There is purpose in death. There is purpose in life! As long as we have breath, God isn’t finished with us and there is a light meant to shine, especially in the brokenness!
We are all broken... that’s how the light gets in! The beauty of brokenness, is the healing that takes place afterwards and the ability to love and encourage another while letting them know they are not alone. The "light' of hope, wisdom, and love gained from experiencing real life and real circumstances can shine for others if we chose to let it. Whether one has a child with special needs, doubts their purpose and worth, or has experienced a loss of any kind; the light shared with others from our hardships may just be the strength someone else needs in disguise.
The Importance of Connecting With Others
I recently encountered a sweet reminder of the importance of connecting with other moms! Although everyone has a unique journey that has a special purpose; similarities in circumstances, beliefs, and experiences can begin a lifelong bond! After our prenatal diagnosis, while in the hospital to deliver our third beautiful daughter, and even during all of our routine checkups with our pediatrician, we were not provided information (other than worse case scenarios) about Down Syndrome. We were never directed to support groups or avenues to gather positive stories that may encourage us with hope. We were never offered information that would give us advise. We were never provided resources that are available to greatly help our children, such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy. We were never even given a brochure or told exactly what Down Syndrome is. Unfortunately, this is the common story I have heard from some other moms.
My only resources were Google and Web MD. YIKES!! I found myself having such moments of desperation to know our unborn daughter would be ok.
I slowly began to find mom's like me on IG that truly inspired me and continue to do so. Through Instagram, I was able to see so many beautiful children that had an extra chromosome. I saw families that were living life as usual and doing amazing adventures together! That gave me hope!
One day, when our Savannah Lanier was about 6 months old, my husband saw a tv show that was interviewing a lady named Nancy Gianni. She is the founder of GiGi's Playhouse, which is named after her daughter. GIGI's Playhouse is an example of a positive resource! They provide weekly physical therapy for babies and toddlers and have various social classes that include activities and music. Most of all, this organization provides education and support for the entire special needs family!
They have a location in Atlanta, which is only 90 minutes from where we live. We made plans to go that very weekend!
We finally felt there may be a place for us!
When we arrived at GiGi's Playhouse and began to talk to other parents, we were directed to another organization called 'Babies Can't Wait'. They also provide various local therapies for one with special needs. Through 'Babies Can't Wait', I made my first local contact with another special needs mom. She has inspired me by making amazing baskets full of gifts, information, and encouraging words! She then takes them to the hospital when notified about a family that has just had a precious little one like ours!
My newest find is an organization called AbleFinder. Savannah and I have the honor of being one of the ambassadors and spreading the word how it connects parents around the globe! After Savannah’s prenatal diagnosis, I had desperate moments with little hope. I clung to my faith and kept telling myself “God makes no mistakes!” I needed hope. I needed to see other families that were beautiful and normal living with the beauty of Down Syndrome. I wish I had Ablefinder during that time, but I’m here to share this hope-FULL way to actually connect with other families that have paved the way, giving insight with truth, hope, and love. It is also a way to not only receive when needed, but to be that light to another.
What a mission field we have to love, encourage and give hope!
How has the medical community dropped the ball in the matter of delivering positive feedback and hope during a diagnosis of DS? Lives are more than a medical book and statistics. Instead of pointing a finger, I feel it's our duty to share our story to cheer the next one in line! Paving the way for others and advocating on behalf of our children can bless those that come behind us in countless ways! The question I ask myself and try to live by daily is, "What are some things I can I do, to be the person I needed, to someone else?"
God has used this "journey within my journey" to open my eyes to a future I look forward to with HOPE and standing arm in arm with some wonderful new found friends!
You may connect with AbleFinder at
End of Summer Blues
With school starting back day after tomorrow, I’m already feeling the “end of Summer blues”.
Today will be a day of going to an amazing middle school that we are already familiar with, to meet Ava’s teacher and see her classroom. Then, we will begin a new chapter with Alexis as we head over to the high school (which also has an amazing reputation) and make ourselves somewhat familiar with countless halls and buildings.
I am a mom that becomes more sentimental and emotional when a new school year begins. I know routine and structure is healthy and needed. There is great purpose in order; however, there is something about Summertime and the unscheduled, non-routine days. There is something about not having a bedtime, the smell of sunscreen, hosting Summer birthday parties, hearing giggling girls come downstairs to get a late night snack, and whatever road trips and outings we take as a family! These are just a few things that brings a giddy excitement and contentment to me.
The melancholy emotions at the end of every Summer aren’t so much about having to get back on a routine, but it’s a realization that time is passing too quickly. I am a “Momma hen” that loves her “chicks” being close by. I’m so thankful for the honor of loving and taking care of them and do so with all I have. As each year passes, the needs of my children change and our relationship matures and deepens. That in itself is beautiful and how it’s supposed to be.
I am growing as a parent as each stage changes in my children and as they continue to grow. We are “infant” parents when our children are first born and we grow together as time passes.
My youngest daughter, Savannah, is two years old and has Down Syndrome. She is not in school outside our home yet, but I know I will have every emotion and concern that I have with her older sisters. However, there will be additional emotions I will not allow myself to dwell on at this time. In my transparency, I don’t want Savannah to be stared at in a negative way. I don’t want her to be excluded, made fun of, or made to feel inferior. I want her to be treated equally and for all who have the privilege of meeting her, to see Savannah, not a diagnosis.
How may school children with disabilities not experience those fears I have? It starts with us teaching our children without disabilities to treat their peers with kindness and respect, never believing we are better than another. If they see someone sitting by themselves at lunch, invite them to sit with you. If one is playing alone, befriend them. Differences can be so cool and amazing because they teach us something we don’t know and are unfamiliar with!
What I have to remember is, if I’m doing one of my jobs as a Momma correctly, I’m also teaching my children not to need me like they once did. That’s a hard pill for many of us to swallow.
I’m teaching them to be independent, responsible, respectful, soon to be adults that will be a positive, loving, contributing part of society. However, I will advocate and educate to whomever will hear how we are all more alike than different.
I will cherish every moment and every stage daily. I will continue to develop and change as a parent just as my children continue to do so. However, whether we are on a routine or Summertime freedom, I will teach, love, direct, and encourage them until I take my last breath. No matter the stage or season, I will forever be a Momma having all of the emotions that come with that privilege.
Thank you Summertime, you have been good to us and have given us more precious memories we will always cherish!
“Believe” is what is written in sign language on Savannah’s shirt.
This word means so much to me, as one year ago TODAY, we were at Egleston Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta preparing to hand over our baby to strangers, knowing they would literally hold Savannah’s heart in their hands. Open heart surgery, you scared me and you intimated me, but you also gave me hope that all would be so much better for my precious baby. I “believe” in The One who could heal Savannah’s heart without surgery, but chose to do so through the hands of others that He blessed with the wisdom to do so. I “believe” that God chose to allow me to cross paths with so many beautiful, loving people that I wouldn’t otherwise have had the pleasure to meet without surgery.
I remember waking up throughout the night before her surgery at the Ronald McDonald House as Savannah slept peacefully in the bed next to us, oblivious to what the following days would be like for her.
I remember kneeling beside her bed, laying my trembling hand on her sleeping body and begging God for a long, healthy, happy life for Savannah, full of strength, vitality, and protection. I prayed for the surgical team and all who would take care of her.
I didn’t cry until I handed our sedated Savannah over to a stranger and walked in a different direction. It felt so contradicting to want to hold and protect her, yet hand her over and trust a group of strangers to open her chest and have the fate of her life in their hands. Then, the word “believe” comes into play again. I believe and trust in my Heavenly Father and that He is good. He is a good, good Father and still provides miracles, even in the midst of what is scary and intimidating.
Today, the doctors can not even hear a heart murmur! She is thriving and growing so much every single day! I’m thankful, so thankful for all Savannah is and what she will be with a strong will and a strong heart!
If you’re a Momma or Daddy that is about to begin this journey, I’m open to answer any questions and surround you with love and prayer!
Happy one year anniversary to my HE❤️RT WARRIOR!
“How Fear Of What Others Say Can Hinder Our Potential”
The heat of the sun, the sounds of water splashing on the concrete, giggles from the kids running through the water fountains, and the sound of a lifeguard blowing their whistle, are all apart of our Summer life. Making new friends as we are playing in a public area is also a great part of Summer! However, meeting other moms at a splash park or public area can bring about fears that are humbling to admit.
One thing that makes me tense, as a special needs mom, is the question, “How old is your daughter?” You see, I know that my child is not walking or talking as well as her typical (I really don’t care for that term) peers that are the same age. Many two year olds are speaking well enough to understand and are not only walking, but running. Savannah is two and just learning to walk well. I often feel the need to explain why Savannah is behind and then I find myself getting on an advocacy soap box. Why? I’d like to say it’s 100% because I’m seizing an opportunity to educate. Truthfully, it’s also because I fear judgment or pity. I don’t want pity for Savannah or our family. I want so desperately to let others know that Savannah will accomplish anything and for others to see her for her, not her challenges. For the most part, I believe most people do see how beautiful, smart, and loving Savannah is before anything else. The victories over the challenges she has will only shed a brighter light on her and The God we serve. If I lived in fear, I would rob so many of seeing the beauty of Down Syndrome and that it is not a scary thing! I wouldn’t have the opportunity to educate and encourage others in a unique way, by opening up our life publicly through photos, testimonies, and blog posts.
Fear of an opinion or criticism is not only for those associated with special needs. Fear of what others say can hinder our own potential and what we are called to do.
I have been in many circumstances that have rendered a “damned if I do, damned if I don’t” response. I’m sharing this because I want to encourage you, friend, to rise to your potential and be the best YOU, using the gifts God has given you! No matter what we do, there will be those that have something negative to say. Unfortunately, there will be those that reject you, ignore you, and gossip about you no matter how kind, loving, and hard working you are.
There was a time in my life that rejection almost crippled me. I loved, served, and “obeyed” one man in marriage while enduring controlling ways, verbal abuse, and at times physical abuse. I was always told it was somehow my fault. He filed for divorce after 23 years. God used my two daughters at the time as life preservers and they were the only reason I got out of bed every day. I have been the one to care for my daughters and have sole custody. To this day, not one member from our previous church and not one past family member have asked if we are ok or if we have a need. There were some that refused to even speak to me when I’d see them. Rejection and being ignored are two hard pills to swallow. However, I have learned so much and for that, I’m truly thankful.
I have had family unfollow me because I was “too happy”, “too religious” (which in fact I don’t even like “religion”. I simply love Jesus and am a Jesus follower).
I have had family unfollow me because they didn’t receive an invitation to a get together and on the opposite spectrum, I’ve had family members curse me out because I told them they were missed after not coming to an event they were invited to.
I have been harshly reprimanded for using a NIV version of the Bible instead of KJV in an encouragement note. (That one makes me laugh thinking back on it).
How can we keep others from saying and projecting negativity our way? We can’t. How can we keep from living in fear of what others say and think? We don’t say anything. We never step out on faith and never act on what we are called to do. We don’t do anything. We never open up and share what God has done in us and through us.
We give up living a beautiful life, having beautiful relationships, and serving others with love.
Or, we can surround ourselves with folks that are real and love us for us. We surround ourselves with the ones that speak in wisdom and love.
It is ok to put folks up in the balcony and love them from a distance. Not everyone deserves that front row seat in your life. It’s also ok to encourage yourself when no one else is around to do it! Don’t let someone else control who you are and arrest your potential. We have to decide to live our best life and be talked about, or not to live at all and be talked about!
Fear of what others say most definitely can cripple us and prevent mental, physical, and spiritual growth. That is not what God wants for us! He knows we will battle fear. That’s why He reminds us 365 times in His word to “FEAR NOT”!
I heard a quote the other day from Jay Shetty that sums up this post perfectly. “Don’t let compliments get to your head and don’t let criticisms get to your heart.”
There’s so much I want for my children. I want what any good mom wants for their kids, for them to be healthy, happy, have an intimate relationship with Christ, and to be a productive citizen.
However, I want a bit more for them. I want them to enjoy the Summer and have forever special, feel good memories that the smell of freshly cut grass and the sound of an ice cream truck brings back to them one day.
Laying in a lawn chair as I watch Savannah play in a dollar store pool with beach toys gives me a sense of peace. Savannah often reminds me to put my phone down as I may be innocently going through emails, checking my bank balance, or writing a new blog post. She pulls my phone away from me and crawls into my lap. As my soon to be 14 year old and 12 year old have their own phones, I don’t want to be an example of having my face in a phone all the time. Yes, this is a different generation; however, respectful and positive principles must be implemented to gain respectable and positive results while allowing the most incredible memories to be made!
I want Summertime to reflect a season of chilled non-routine days. I want my children to have memories of the smell of the grill cooking our dinner, popsicles staining their tongue and lips, playing in a sprinkler, going to the pool/ water park, watching a movie in a wet bathing suit, being chilled as they walk inside a cool house after playing in a pool, staying up late and sleeping in. I want them to remember fun family memories of us all together at the smell of sunscreen. I want them to remember the excitement of going to the grocery store to pick out snacks and food for a vacation. (Cheez-its, Vienna sausage, and Dr. Pepper are my childhood vacation snacks😂). I want them to remember us celebrating the birth of our country with fireworks, grilled hamburgers and hot dogs. I want them to have precious memories of driving to Orlando and spending time with Gam-mah, Papi, and cousins.
Most importantly, I want my kids to remember me being there. As a former single mom, there have been events I had to miss because of work. I actually had one in my chain of command tell me “there are things you just have to miss”. With that being said, I realize how hard it is to be completely responsible for children and others without help. I have an amazing husband that shares my desires and is so incredibly supportive of me and the time I have with our children. I couldn’t be more thankful and appreciative.
So, today and the next day, and the day after that, I will be aware of the time I am on my phone. I will let my kids be kids. I will surround them with positive energy and flood them with love, intentionally striving for an environment full of all the Summertime smells and activities. I will be there. Why? Because I love Summertime and the memories I have, but I love my kids even more and want their memories to be the best!
There is a quote hanging in Alexis’ bathroom that says it all, “You are the author of your own life story. So make it a good one!”
Happy Summertime, friends!
My Rear View Mirror
After Savannah’s checkup with her cardiologist today, I found myself reflecting on her open heart surgery last summer and my heart is full of gratefulness and thankfulness that it is in “my rear view mirror”.
There are some that do not want to look in the past. For me, certain things are hard to reflect on, yet the hardest times can teach us the most.
To think 2 1/2 years ago, I was told that Savannah had only 3 out of the four chambers of her heart, that she had Down Syndrome and that I had to make decisions and make them fast. (Those “decisions” meaning terminate Savannah). I was given every possible negative scenario and told every situation that could go wrong from any possible angle. I was even given a negative outlook on this sweet, beautiful little girl’s future!
Who can predict anyone’s future? Any child comes with obstacles and difficulties, correct? Do you love your child any less because they are failing math, need braces to correct their teeth, or aren’t good at football? Of course not! All of us have our obstacles and difficulties, some more than others. Honestly, the obstacles I see in any of my children makes me cheer for them even louder, do whatever I can to help them succeed and be the best they can be, while encouraging them with so much love....because they’re worth it!
God is good no matter the circumstance, no matter how muddy the water is you’re standing in, and no matter what statistics or “specialists” tell us!
I personally know a couple of Mommas and one Daddy that contemplated terminating the pregnancy due to the bombardment of negativity and scare tactics that they endured after their baby’s prenatal diagnosis.
There are countless pregnancies that have been terminated with this scenario. I do not judge anyone for a decision that has been made or contemplated. Judging another isn’t my job and thankfully never my position.
However, I feel my job (and heart’s desire) is to encourage another and educate anyone that will listen that medical specialists are human and makes mistakes.
A “specialist” misdiagnosed Savannah’s heart diagnosis. Just an hour after I was pressured to terminate my pregnancy (by the one that gave the misdiagnosis), I was told by a prenatal cardiologist that Savannah actually did have all four chambers of her heart and she may need a surgery to repair it in the future.
Sharing our lives publicly as a living testimony is a way to show others that living with the beauty of Down Syndrome isn’t scary. Listening to negative, inaccurate, and outdated statistics by one that doesn’t even know someone with “designer genes” or any type of special needs, however, is scary.
Down Syndrome doesn’t paralyze one’s life, it does the exact opposite. Down Syndrome breathes life into one’s existence. It connects souls from across the globe. Down Syndrome unites different races, genders, and religions. I’m so proud God placed me on this journey. I’m so glad Fear was defeated. (Until it raises its ugly head and defeated again!) I’m so glad the doctors can not even hear a murmur in Savannah’s heart and that open heart surgery is in the “rear view mirror”.
In the meantime, I will keep looking ahead as I drive forward, only looking back to remember the grace given and wisdom learned while seeing the beauty of my future in “my rear view mirror”.
I write about life and family. My heart's desire is to educate as I am being educated, while inspiring and encouraging others through the beauty of Down Syndrome.