Wednesday, October 23, 2013

This is Where The Healing Begins

When parenting children with past trauma it is imperative to recognize that healing comes with it's own set of difficulties. The unfortunate consequence of healing is having to address and feel the tremendous pain from yesterday that had been previously hidden by anger and defense mechanisms. 
When a child experiences trauma, they experience the same kind of adrenaline rush that comes when a normal person is in a crisis that allows them to pick up cars, be crushed and feel no pain, or break bones and keep walking towards safety. Repetitive trauma turns the adrenaline switch on full time. As the child heals, and learns that they are safe, the adrenaline switch eventually turns off. When it goes away, all they are left with is their wounds. This is where the healing begins.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Purpose in Our Tragedy

I have a friend who is struggling with her children who suffer from Reactive Attachment Disorder. I wrote this to her and wanted to share because this truth is the same for all of us....

Someone said to me very long ago that we did not make these children this way, we simply came behind with Band-Aids too small to fit the trauma wounds caused by their first, and second, and other, sometimes many other, parents. We pay for the faults and failures of those parents because we are the ones brave enough to stay. Mama's like you and I, we attempt the impossible. We fight a battle that without God's intervention, we will lose.

I have to look at it as if we are firemen. Sometimes firemen come in and save the day. Sometimes they arrive on scene and have to stand by knowing that there are people dying inside. Sometimes they show up after the devastation and simply have to clean up the mess left by others. Each and every time, they are firemen. They are doing their job; an impossible and dangerous job that most people will never have the strength enough to do.

I know that you are feeling very discouraged right now, like you have wasted and lost for no reason, but I need you to know this if you know nothing at all; your story, your struggles, your successes and losses, they gave me hope when I had none, they gave me laughter when I realized that other mama's dealt with the absolute weirdness these kids sometimes bring, they brought me  strength when I was tired, but most of all, your stories brought me the truth.

The truth is sometimes horrible things happen to little children rendering them simply unable to ever love or feel or be. The truth is that no matter what we do,  they will most likely never ever appreciate, understand, or know how much it cost. The truth is we are human. We fail, we succeed, and we love, even when we have to lock that love away to protect our hearts. We are Mama's to children who have lost so much they will never grasp what a blessing it is to have one.

The point of it all isn't "success" but that sometimes some of us do succeed, because they had women like us surrounding them in the process. Sometimes a mama breaks through, maybe not us, maybe not now, but sometimes they do and the truth is those mama's could not have gotten through without our experience, our failures, our bravery to share our story. I love you bunches. I'm proud to call you my friend.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Our Weekend in Nashville and the Tennessee Justice Center

I was asked a few weeks ago to come tell our story at an event in Nashville by the Tennessee Justice CenterIt was incredible honor to me to be asked and so I prayed that God would help me find the words I needed to tell our story in a way that brings awareness and helps people to understand the importance of what the Tennessee Justice Center is doing. 

Within a few days I was able to find a way to put my story, Jaylin's story, and the hope the Tennessee Justice Center gave our family into something sharable.
Stephen and I traveled to Nashville early Friday morning. We were able to have lunch with Susanne Bennett at Jacks BBQ. It was the first time I got to meet this angel of a woman in person. She keeps saying she doesn't feel like a hero but what else do you call the woman who helped keep your family together?
I was so ridiculously nervous but had my Stephen by my side who has an extraordinary way of knowing and acting when I need it most. One of my favorite moments of the night happened when I was interviewed by News Channel 5 in Nashville. 

Most of you know I have weird panic in large groups of people so I was nervous anyway.

The news wanted to record me walking into the room and I started to panic with ok, walk into a standing room only room where? Without me actually saying that out loud, Stephen looked at me and said I'm going into the room, give me a second and walk in to me. How sweet was that????? That way I walked in to the room to the man who loves me, not a crowd of people! I love that he pays attention, he protects, he makes things less "big." I am so blessed.

My speech went off perfectly, not a dry eye in the room. After I spoke, I got called back up by the Tennessee Supreme court Chief Justice Gary Wade to hand out the Raising the Bar awards to the other Law firms and attorneys. He hugged me and said I was magnificent. Linda O'Neal, The executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth who hugged me and said I needed to find a way for more people to hear our story. OVERWHELMING!!!! 

A very life changing moment occurred as I took the podium, which I shall write more about later. As I looked around, and out the windows at the beautiful Nashville skyline (we were on the 27th floor), this poem came to my mind.
Come to the edge, he said. We cant, we are afraid, they said. Come to the edge, he said. We can't, we will fall, they said. Come to the edge, he said.So they came, And He pushed them, And they flew.”― Guilliame Apollinaire French Poet
There have been several things over the past few years where God was pushing me but I was afraid to let go of what I thought should be, to grab onto His plan for me. Last night when I looked up, I thought, My God I'm flying!

The weekend was AMAZING and certainly the most fun and best time I have ever had on any trip ever! I am so grateful for the opportunity and for all of the wonderful things I got to share with my Stephen afterwards! I will leave you with a few photos! 

My best friend, Heidi Scott and I got a chance to hang out as well on this trip. She has been such a precious addition to my life since I was 11 years old. I love her dearly! She has been with me rain or shine! 

The Tennessee Justice Center gave me flowers and a bottle of wine! I love this man and am so grateful that God brought him into my life! He has been the answer to prayers I was never brave enough to pray.  
Suzanne Bennett and I. This woman was my angel! 
Jaylin and I
Stephen and I
Me with Susanne Bennett at the TJC Event. I adore this woman! She is amazing! When everyone else said no, she said yes. My daughter is home today because of her hard work and dedication! If you ever have time or money to spare, I am begging you to send you to send it to the Tennessee Justice Center! 

We ended our night being silly at the Wild Horse Saloon. Good times! 

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Change the environment

You know the funniest thing happened when I rescued my dog Vega from his previous owner. The man presented himself as an animal lover who had done everything he could to love and care for his dog, but Vega just stayed so sick and kept losing weight. The owner was pretty certain Vega could never be anything more. I must admit when I first saw him I almost agreed. It was in the almost that healing began.  
Within one week of being in my care and being fed on a regular basis, Vega gained twenty pounds. After five months of love and care he went from a 72 lb lethargic bag of bones to a 150 lb healthy, loving, and beautiful family friend. The truth of the matter was that there was nothing wrong with Vega at all. In his previous home his most basic needs were neglected so his appearance and demeanor were poor, it was not reflective of him but of his neglectful owner. Once he was loved, fed, and cared for properly he grew to be one of my most favorite animals. 

Monday, June 03, 2013


Don't let ugly surroundings make your house ugly! ~ Me

Friday, May 31, 2013


Sometimes I don't want to be super Mama.
Sometimes I don't want to be hypervigilant.
Sometimes I don't want to make sure that you and everyone around you are doing what they are supposed to when they are supposed to.
Sometimes I hate therapy appointments and Dr. visits and medication and making sure you take them and making sure you are being honest with therapist and Drs and gosh why can't you just tell the truth?
Sometimes I look at people who should, and I want to kick them in the throat. 
Sometimes I want to get in my car and drive and drive and never come back.
Sometimes I don't know what to say.
Sometimes I'm too afraid to say what I should.
Sometimes I get tired of explaining
Sometimes I get exhausted of defending your presence in our life. 
Sometimes I cry because I am so broken hearted about everything that is, and nothing that can be. 
Sometimes I want to smack other mothers in the face for bitching about their normal children.
Sometimes I am just tired, and lonely, and feel like I don't have a clue what to do with you and no one I talk to knows any better and I feel helpless and frustrated and scared.

But all the time, I am your mama.
All of the time, I promised.
All of the time I do what I said I would simply because I said I would.
All the time I try to educate others so they aren't so cruel to you.
All the time I make sure you have what you need even if it isn't home with me and breaks my heart.
All the time I admire your strength.
All the time, you are mine, and I am yours, and all the time is all we need to get wherever it is we are going. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Why

As adults, when we struggle, we often wish other's understood, and seek out grace when we fail or don't perform our best. We hope for forgiveness. We wish that people could see the why of our actions, I've not slept for days, I'm worried about my child, I'm sick, my heart is broken, I feel alone, hurt or whatever. I know you understand because we are human and humans fail. 

I am thankful for those times when I have blown it that God always forgives me. I am grateful as well when those around me are able to extend grace to me when I do something I shouldn't or fail them in some way. 

Grace is a very precious gift! 

That being said, when it comes to children, we are so quick to forget about grace in the pursuit of obedience. Now I will tell you, in the depths of depression, I operated on a whatever will make them quiet mode that I am still paying for, I was permissive to the extreme, that is NOT what I am talking about here. I have also been so panicked about the out of control mess I created that I hardened my heart and failed to see the "why" or extend grace to my children. Both are terrible mistakes for which, guess what? I have been forgiven.

Never the less, I recently grounded several of my children. Their behavior for various reasons was way out of line. This I know. And while I am personally not a fan of grounding because it ends up only punishing the parent, I got into a habit of dishing out grounding instead of allowing natural consequences to occur or making event specific consequences, in other words, I've been lazy. I have spent the last several days rethinking the consequences and deciding how I was going to proceed.

For one of my children, grounding is actually something she enjoys because she likes to distance herself from others. She is feeling very unloved, abandoned, and isolated so she did what many of us have done, and decided to give those around her a reason for the unfair way she is being treated,  and so today I decided she was ungrounded, not without consequence, but ungrounded. We replaced instead with chores specifically related to her offenses which she did with me or her siblings. This is also known as "Time In" in the attachment parenting world. 

For another the seriousness of her behavior combined with the fact that I can see the separation is making a very important impression in her mind that I know she won't soon forget, so, she is going to stay grounded.

For another, I noticed panic about certain things in her life, and a willingness she NEVER displays to do above and beyond without me asking that I felt was important to reward with some free time from being grounded. Her panic is making her agitated, which is making her hateful, which is making her end up in trouble. While I can continue to ground her for the hatefulness, it does not help the root cause and will not improve the situation. So with her we are backing up and punting...but most certainly helping her see the benefit of doing something good and kind. 

Three kids, three different plans newly made because in my laziness and exhaustion failed to remember that they are not cookie cutter versions of one child, but individuals. To treat them the same will only make them worse, and honestly, I have seen that. 

I remember back to when my Livy was little and she destroyed her bedroom every night. I would help her clean her room before bed and in the morning I would notice it was destroyed. If I took everything out she would rip her clothes or bedding or anything she could find and I would find it all around her bed. It was weeks into this with no consequence ever working that I walked in one day and noticed something. The mess was around her bed, not on it or in other parts of her room, but I dismissed it as some part of her mental illness and left it alone. 

Weeks later I went to a training with Bryan Post, an attachment therapist, and when he allowed for people to ask questions, I asked what I was supposed to do with my child since she continued to make piles of things around her bed every night. I did not get the answer I was seeking, instead he looked at me and said, "in all your effort to get her to obey you, have you ever bothered to ask her why?'  

Well how stupid is that? Parents make rules for kids own good, kids follow rules, period, right? 

He went on to explain how he had a child who got in trouble every single night before shower-time. She flipped out and caused some sort of scene which many times resulted in her not bathing. The parents did all sorts of consequences for this behavior but nothing worked. Up Bryan's suggestion, they asked her why. In her birth home, she was raped in the shower. She panicked about showers because she didn't trust that it wouldn't happen again. Unknowingly the parents had over and over again re traumatized their child. 

I went home thinking he was wrong, but honestly desperate so the next night I decided to ask Livy why she was doing what she did. And she says to me, "well the scary can't get on here then". I knew from her story that the "scary" was the person who had abused my children or what they called him. She wasn't trashing her room, she was building a wall to keep herself safe and I in my ignorance destroyed it night after night reaffirming in her little mind that I did not want to protect her. I was sickened at myself and what I had done. 

So that night, we pulled out all kinds of stuffed animals and blocks and we built a wall together, and in the morning we put it away, and guess what? Our nighttime troubles ended. My baby girl slept. Healing  began. 

In my pursuit of obedience, I almost lost her. 

Yes, obedience is important, but sometimes you have to look at the why! You have to back up and start over. You have to do what God and others have done for you in your own life. In doing so, you not only help your child deal with whatever is going on in their life, but you help them to understand God's grace. 


When you finally break free of the chains that bound you, your greatest opposition will be those who are still bound. ~Me

Psychology is just sinful human beings sinfully thinking about sinful human beings

From my COUN 506 class discussion board. The questions were: 

Clarify your rationale for agreeing or disagreeing with this statement: "Psychology is just sinful human beings sinfully thinking about sinful human beings." 

Can psychology and Christian counseling really be integrated?  If yes, how; if no, why not?

And my response: 
Psychology is man’s attempt to understand human nature using science and reason. While it is true that because of the fall and original sin, man’s thoughts are “imperfect and partial”, it does not negate the fact that God gave humans the ability to reason  (Entwistle, 2010, p. 12). While some human behavior leads to poor choices that lead to mental illness, this is not always the case. There are a great number of psychological illnesses that are biologically based, which could not be considered the result of sinful choices. To present that mental illness is only the result of sin leaves a great many people disenfranchised and without the grace God offers. Claiming that illness, mental or physical is simply the result of sin could lead a client to searching for the source of their sin, or to find more faith, instead of seeking treatment.
Psychology and Christian counseling can and should be integrated. While God’s Word is all encompassing, it also frequently references times when God imparted non-spiritual wisdom to others to bring His purposes to pass. Geometry and woodworking were necessary for the ark, despite God’s command to build it. The Israelites were told by God to take from Pharaoh’s land before traveling into the wilderness so they were prepared (Crabb, 1977). Pastoral counseling without knowledgeable interpretation of God’s word and competency in mental health treatment is ignorance at best. While the intent is good, it can lead to further harm, especially when Christ’s word is used as the base. One must not simply rely on counseling or preaching, but must ensure that both are in congruence with God’s word. God’s word should be the foundation, but also a filter through which all other knowledge passes before it is incorporated into a client’s treatment.
Crabb, L. J. Jr. (1977).  Effective biblical counseling: A model for helping caring     christians become capable counselors.  Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan       Publishing House.
Entwistle, D. (2010). Integrative approaches to psychology and christianity: An introduction to worldview issues. Philosophical foundations and models of integration. Eugene, OR:Cascade Books.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

The Garden

Three years ago, my very precious friend, Kim Bushore-Maki opened the door of Shakti in the Mountains, a place of rest, growth, and simply being for women in our community. If you do the math, and you know me, you will remember that at that time everything in me hurt all the time. Domestic assault and self destructive choices had left me a very broken, very scared, very worthless feeling woman. I have known Kim for years since my time at East Tennessee State University and the Take Back the Night program. That is a story for another day...I digress. So, I know she saw how much of a mess I was, but what is beautiful is she saw a strength in me that I did not know existed yet. Over and over again she offered open doors and hugging arms to me. Most times, I found a way to escape, feeling too unworthy of that kind of love and acceptance. She did not, however, give up. Spring came and they decided to start a garden, flowers and herbs and veggies. Once again Kim reached out to me. While I felt completely worthless, I was good with growing things. I would spend hours and hours in my yard, planting and replanting, rearranging and making things grow. I would buy half dead plants and trees growing sideways and find a way to get them growing as they needed to. That I did well. When I saw the need for plants and people to help get things growing, I got very brave and I went. I spent hours and hours digging up extra plants of mine and moving them to Shakti. I would sit and turn dirt over and over, pull weeds and anything she needed because in those moments I was not a victim, I was not all the terrible names he'd engrained in my mind, I was not worthless, I was someone who knew how to make things grow. I can honestly say that during that time period, that place was my only place of rest. I didn't know it then, but I was growing too...
Fast forward a couple more years and I'd been set free from the things that bound me, but it cost me a great deal, including my home and my garden. As spring arrived this year I have simply ached for the ability to dig my hands in the dirt, to watch things grow. My precious Stephen saw that, and bought me the most beautiful bonsai trees. I have spent hours and hours on them and am so grateful for him seeing that hurt in my heart and reaching out to me to find a way to make it better. I love you for that Stephen. Anyway, so tonight was the 3 year anniversary and after I ate, I walked around outside and suddenly I realized, wait, there's my lilies, there's those hostas, there's this or that plant that I had brought over years earlier. In that moment, wow, tears flowed freely as this ever so beautiful voice said to my heart, they aren't lost Jessi, they were moved to a safe place, a place of healing and growth, to a home where many other women who have hurt just like you can come and heal and rest and grow too... Wow, I love God's timing,

Sunday, May 05, 2013

The Tree

 I got this tree a couple of years ago. It was discounted because it was badly curved in the middle. As most things in my world, it was broken and discarded. I took it home and built a frame around the bottom. From those I attached 2 support straps, one to the middle, and another pulling in the opposite direction a couple feet up. It looked straight but as soon as the supports were removed, it went
 back to bent and nothing worthy of being called a tree. A few weeks ago I decided to take them off again, and the tree stood tall and straight, leaves reaching to the sky. A couple days later, a series of storms came, and I was worried. I was certain I'd find the tree bent over, but as I opened the door, there it stood, tall and beautiful. The tree healed, it proved artificial supports unnecessary. The tree is just fine on its own, it only needed time.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Friends and Stalkers

I am the parent to a child with special needs. She has no concept of relationships really, and her disorders causes a level of narcissism that is not easily topped so in her world, if she says it, it's the truth. 

I say that to preface this...

She came home from school one day very upset. I ask her what's wrong and she replies, "my friend was being mean to me today."

I say, well, "what did she do?"

She says, "she kept telling me to go away, stop following her,  and stop talking to her."


I said, "What's your friend's name?"

She says, "I don't know but I told her friends don't talk to each other like that do they Mom?"

A little confused, I asked, "What was happening while she was being mean to you?"

She says, "Well, we were in the gym and I was sitting by her and she kept telling me to go away, then we went to lunch and I was trying to sit with her and she said to stop it that she didn't want me to sit with her and I kept telling her friends don't say things like that but she just said she's not my friend and to go away. That's not how friends talk to each other is it mom?"

So I say, "Let me get this straight, you saw a girl today, and you decided she was your friend, but you don't know her name, and you kept trying to sit with her, talk to her, and follow her around?"

"Yeah but she told me to stop and was saying mean things at me and friends don't do that right?"

I proceeded with the explanation of what friends were, what stalking was, and how someone had to agree to be your friend, and at a minimum you had to know their name before you could call them a friend.

"Ohhhh," she says....

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Can you move your arm if you only have one shoulder blade? Why would God make someone with one shoulder blade? Why do people say God forgets your past but they don't forget your past? Is there a Food City in Charlotte cause when I'm 15 I wanna put the groceries in a bag? Does everyone know how to get to our new house? Why do people think it's ok to just forget about you? Why do dragons just pick people up and eat them without even seeing if they are nice first? If its freezing ice outside and I take a bath will I be freezing too? Did you ever see my birthday mom? Why don't I see her now? Why did the judge decide that? What if she changes her mind? What if I want her to change her mind? Why do parents just leave me? Why can't parents just act like I'm their kid? If you die will I live with Jo'd or Stephen? If I live with Jo'd can I still go to my dads during the day? Do you know the way to get to Charlotte from the new house? What if you get lost? Do all phones know how to find you? What if your phone is broke? What if you forget where we live? Will my school have a buffet too? What if I hate their food? Can I just eat what I want to? Do I get snack still? How come the new kitten hates you? Why did Isaiah give his rat away? Doesn't he even care that his rat loved him? Why don't people care when you love them? Why do babies not want to eat from bottles sometimes? Is it ok my friends boyfriend hurt her because he was mad about their baby? Why do boys get mad about babies? Do babies know if their dads are mad about them? What if princesses were real? What if dragons came to Kingsport and ate people? How do you know dragons aren't real, they are on netflix. Why doesn't Snow Whites stepmom love her? Will the bad guys ever get in trouble? Do people ever just kill dragons? What is the full moon called? What is the half moon called? What is the other kind of moon called? Why does the same moon have different names? If we don't have a alarm clock how will we know it's daytime? What if we don't wake up? Will the stove be here tomorrow so we can make breakfast? 

One day...and this isn't all. I am grateful that she is thinking, that she is processing things, that she is beginning to understand the world around her enough to question it, instead of being wrapped up in a self absorbed sickness, but holy canoli, I am mentally exhausted! 

Rise Up

I attended a fundraiser event last night for the Sexual Assault Center at Shakti in The Mountains. It was beautiful. There were many people there, a story I will tell on another day... but I kept thinking, one in three women are assaulted in their lifetime, and simultaneously thinking of the population of Johnson City, and then...where are the people?
As a Christian, it breaks my heart to see a very obvious absence. There is such a beautiful and powerful ministry opportunity here...where are you my Christian friends? I know it matters because the community group and church families I have had in the past have wrapped me up tight in love and understanding. It saved my life. It could save someone elses.
I have watched as hundreds of my Christian friends show up to feed the hungry, to give clothing or other things to families in crisis. I have seen facebook post after facebook post raising awareness of God's care and concern over unborn babies and marriage. And yet...a woman is raped or abused, and where are you? When she needs to know more than ever that God is able to heal and restore, that He cares for her, where are you my Christian friend?
I'm here.
I can't do it alone.
I am challenging each of you to rise up. To donate your time or money or even a facebook post, to show them, to show me, that they matter.


I've recently become a criminal and unlocked my firestick and have access to all the movies. While most people are looking for the new...