Friday, December 20, 2013

24 weeks

Four weeks have come and gone and suddenly I am working towards the third trimester.  The biggest change this month was the introduction of the rest of our family being able to feel our little guy moving in my belly.  Landon, by far, is the most excited about this new development.  I have never seen a little boy so excited about an unborn brother!  It makes me smile.

The other amazing thing is that I went two whole weeks without vomiting.  This is big, people.  I have some renewed energy (with the help of a daily afternoon nap), I can pretty much each anything without having any food aversions and overall I just feel a ton better.  What a relief.

I took two weeks of vacation off of work and have been home with the kids while they are on Christmas break.  We have done a lot of crafting and playing and especially building with Legos.

The weather has been amazing (not too many people in the States are setting the sprinkler out for their kids in December) and I am really soaking in this time as a family.  It won't be long before our family takes on a whole new dynamic of adding a third child and all the craziness that comes with it.

I am getting anxious to meet our little guy.  I am also moving into crazy, nesting mode and have begun to plan out how we are going to fit him in Landon's room.  It still hasn't totally sunk in that I am going to have two sons, three kids.  Feeling completely, totally and overwhelmingly blessed.

See you next month!

Friday, November 22, 2013

20 Weeks...


20 weeks have flown by!  I can hardly believe it.  We are halfway to meeting our little man!

I am feeling much better and even went a WHOLE week without getting sick.  Of course I've been sick every day this week but I'm going to count my blessings when I can.  Baby B3 is moving a bit more now, nothing too crazy, but he is doing a lot of flipping around in there.  Still nothing strong enough for anyone but me to feel, but I think those days are numbered.

I've started to walk everyday which has helped with my energy level and I am pretty much eating normally now.  A LOT less Ramen noodles and Saltine crackers!  Woo hoo!

We have an appointment coming up this week and I am anxious to see our boy on the sonogram screen again.  Can't wait to have him in my arms! 

See ya in four weeks!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

she turned four

We blinked and she wasn't a baby anymore.  I'm not sure how it happened but suddenly her day was here.  She woke up with an instant smile on her face as we sang to her through her streamer-ed door.  Her smile so big, cheeks so chubby, her little slivers of eyes, gleaming.  She knew it was special.

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  Our girly-girl who dazzles herself with jewelry, make-up and nail polish but prefers to watch Transformers, Ben 10 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with her brother.

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There is no shortage of sass in this little three-foot-something frame.  Attitude also comes along for the ride.  She challenges everything, has an opinion about everything, submisses to virtually no authority unless its convenient for her.

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But she cuddles better than anyone I've ever known.  She nestles her head into the crook of your neck, throws her arms around you and always makes a sighing noise of complete satisfaction as if with you is the only place she wants to be.

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She loves fiercely, is disgusted regularly, is passionately loud and uncharacteristically gentle.

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We should have given her the middle name of "mischief" or "sneaky."  She is always finding herself in a bind, with a crayon in hand and a blank canvas, also known as her bedroom wall, just begging to be colored on.  We think we have misplaced important things only to find them tucked away in her "secret hiding place" also known as her play kitchen.  It's a good thing we know her secret or there would be a lot more panic as we look for car keys, jumpdrives and wedding rings.

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She's dramatic and resourceful.

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And always finds herself shakin' her "tail feathers" to whatever tune is playing in the background.

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She hassles her brother and gives him way more kisses than he could ever want; but we know its because she loves him so fiercely.

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She was a healing baby for our family four years ago and she continues to do so four years later. 

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A dreamer, a peacemaker, a debater.

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She wants to be doctor so she can help people in this world.

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We couldn't imagine our world without her.

Happy Birthday, little girl.  We love you more than you could ever know.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Friday, October 25, 2013

16 weeks

I've made it to 16 weeks with Baby B3.  I am still VERY sick with pregnancy sickness, which means sometimes visiting my "porcelain friend" a few times a day.  The interesting thing is, I don't mind it as much this time around.  Maybe its because I've been through the loss of a baby and now every week that passes, I feel less worried about losing this one, and more grateful for every moment.  Maybe it's because I just know that pregnancy sickness is part of my body's process and I've just succumbed to the idea.  Either way, I am more laid back this time around.  Which is pretty unusual for me.

I felt my first little "flutters" this week and it is always a reassuring thing.  You just never know what's going on in there until you finally feel some movement.  I am looking forward to the weeks that come, feeling actual somersaults and kicks.  I am also looking forward to the first time that the kids get to feel it too!

Nothing big to report this week (except of course for my growing belly) so we will check back in in four weeks!

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Little Announcement

Yep, you guessed it!  The Braisted clan is going to be expanding.  Our little one's due date is April 11th, 2014 and we couldn't be more excited!  Check back every four weeks for updated belly pics and new information on the newest little Braisted!

Monday, August 26, 2013

School Days!

I blinked...and it was that time of year again.  Thirteen weeks of summer flew by us and suddenly I have a six year old in Kindergarten and a three year old in Pre-K4.  I never know how much they change and really grow up until I see their pictures from the year before.  

I just can't believe that these two used to be babies. 

Here's to another year!

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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Until it Happens to You

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I realize it is a bit unorthodox to write about things that are painful.  But I promised myself, and those who read these posts, that I would keep our blog real, open, honest and raw.  There is very little that is more raw than the events that transpired this week.  Nonetheless, I still felt God asking me to share them.  We are meant to live in community, we were not created to deal with things alone.  For it is in loneliness that Satan thrives and strives to isolate us into shame, embarrassment and doubt.  Through transparency and a genuinely-lived life, I believe it is where we conquer Satan through our Savior.  Where we give him no foothold to grab, where we leave no stone left unturned.


It's the kind of pain that starts in your heart.  Not the actual muscle located in your body but a place that begins somewhere deeper, that doesn't appear in a medical book.  It slowly pulsates upward through your lungs and spreads wide across your chest, radiating into your shoulders, slowly penetrating your arms.  It makes its way to your hands, to the tips of your fingers.  It's so electrifying that you feel like anyone who is within a one-mile radius of you must feel it too.  You hope they feel it too.  You hope you're not alone in your suffering.

From the moment the two pink lines show up on that plastic stick, something is lit inside of you.  You can't explain it, you can only feel it.  With every week that passes, more and more of this little future begins to unfold in your mind.  Promises, hopes and dreams; they already exist.

Physical signs that life has started to make you acutely aware of this miracle taking shape inside of you.
Names begin to circle in your daydreams.
All the "firsts" they will experience play out like an old movie in your thoughts.

You wonder if they will be blonde or brunette, boy or girl.  Will they be fiery like their sister or sensitive like their big brother?  Will you finally have a child with blue eyes, that maybe could look a little like you?  Those Braisted genes are awfully strong.

You grin when you pass by your husband as he washes dishes because the fact that you share this intimate secret only brings you closer.  You sign up for "Baby E-mails" and put a weight tracker on your electronic devises, this time you are going to keep those pounds in check.

In the back of your mind there's a little dark corner of "what ifs" that you keep smashed behind happy memories of your past two experiences.  It's still such a slight chance, and really, that kind of thing only happens to other people.

Until it happens to you.

I sat there thinking how wrong it was that my child, the one I already had playing soccer in my mind, was now sitting in a place to be flushed down like waste.  The child with Mike's infectious smile and my blue eyes, was no longer in a warm or caring environment.  Coupled with the fact that I could barely grieve because every time the kids saw me crying they thought the end of the world was coming.  In their eyes, I'm a rock, and if something could upset Mommy this much...

I used to be sympathetic to mothers who lost a child in early pregnancy.  I never knew what it was like but in my mind I said things like, "Well at least the baby was only the size of a sesame seed.  She didn't get to see the child's face or anything.  That must feel better."  But now that our baby was just the size of a sesame seed I completely understand.  That is our sesame seed and it doesn't make me feel any better.

The kids were occupied and the sun was setting, I could barely make out some rogue rays creeping over our backyard wall.  The same place from where my hurt was seeping through, called to me to come see beauty through it all.  I yearned for it.  Not for an answer or a quick fix but to see beauty through the ashes of what was left of my broken heart.  So I climbed the stairs to our roof and saw it.


In the clouds, the rays of light, I saw God's heart breaking for mine and at the same time His healing powers flowed over me like ocean waves.  For a moment, and if only for a moment, He spoke through His creation the way words never could:

"I love you, my child.  My mercies are new with every sunrise, my grace is new with every sunset."

I have been in this love affair with Christ long enough, through enough battles and hard places, to believe His words.  To know that as His Word promises "to work out all things for the good of those who love Him," He will do just that.  And like all the other circumstances throughout my life, I can't see it, not standing in the middle of a messy and painful place, but after a few more sunsets I know He'll show me just how much mercy and how much grace He planned to give.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Brown Paint and Refrigerators

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Phaeton, Haiti
Many years ago my mom was opening up several Curves for Women clubs and she wanted to do some murals on the walls to spice up the place.  So we did some caricatures of women exercising.  Given that I was an art major and loved anything to do with painting, she asked me to help.

We used an overhead projector (yes, I just said overhead projector) to reflect the images on the wall and I traced around the edges of the design and later painted it in.  All was going well until we got to painting the women's hair color.  I could paint every shade of blonde or red or black or gray but I absolutely could not mix the right color to make brown.  Being a painting major at the time, I was incredibly frustrated at the fact that I couldn't make that darn brown paint.  I may have even thrown a little bit of a temper tantrum too.

My mom and I decided to take a break and go out for lunch and I expressed my frustration with the brown paint, to which she replied, "Well, did you pray about it?"  "Mom, God doesn't care about brown paint." "Well, why don't you try and see."  So in my most snotty, attitude-y, teenage voice I prayed, "Dear God, I need to make brown paint.  Amen."  I'm sure I rolled my eyes and crossed my arms and stared out the window at the sheer ridiculousness of the conversation I had just had with the "Almighty Deity" about a bit of tinted media.

After lunch we returned to the club and I took out my paint brush, grabbed some paint colors and just threw them in there fully expecting a disgusting color of blah to be revealed.  But within seconds, the most beautiful Auburn color that any woman would die to achieve showed up in my little Dixie cup.  I couldn't believe it.  I didn't even try.  I completely expected there to be no brunette gym bunnies on my mother's club walls.  But there it was; brown paint.

Although I wasn't a Believer back then, I never forgot that brown paint.  For many years after, when I had become a Believer, I caught myself in the most trying of circumstances quietly saying to myself, "brown paint."  I fully expected that no matter how impossible something seemed, if God cared that I could make brown paint He certainly cared enough to walk me through anything with more serious ramifications.

Monday, my refrigerator stopped working.  Of course something like this would happen when my husband is out of town.  Of course this would happen when I just went to the grocery store and bought a month's worth of meat to freeze.  Of course this would happen when I live in a Spanish-speaking country where I don't know the technical way to say "the external temperature control" or could possibly not know the technical terms they would throw back at me if I called someone asking for help.  So after panicking for a little bit and then calling the manufacturer (which wasn't as traumatic as I thought it would be) the words "brown paint" came to my mind.  I hadn't thought of the phrase in quite a long time so I paid special attention to the fact that it resurfaced in my desperate time of need...and I use desperate loosely, of course. 

I walked over to my refrigerator, put both hands on it and said something to the effects of, "Lord, I hate that my husband is not here to take care of this.  I just want to sit on my couch and drown my sorrows away in chocolate but I am choosing to actively seek You.  I know that You are the God who controls the wind and the waves, the sun and the moon and you even probably control the electricity somehow.  I need this refrigerator and really don't have the energy to jump through the hoops I will have to jump through to get this fixed.  Please fix my refrigerator."  In the exact moment that I said "Amen" I felt the urge to unplug my fridge.  I thought it kind of odd considering that would seemingly be counter-productive but I have learned to pay special attention to things, and thoughts, that are out of the ordinary.  I walked over, unplugged my fridge, plugged it back in and instantly heard the glorious sound of the temperature fan kicking in.  All the lights came back on and cool air was flowing through my perspiring food.

Some may call that coincidence.  Some may call that my own intellectual knowledge of a working refrigerator.  I prefer to call that an Infinite and Mighty God who takes small moments everyday to remind us of how Intimate and Loving He really is.  Our God who paints the colors of a Haitian sunrise the most majestic colors of red, orange and yellow also whispers to our souls His unbelievable love for us through brown paint and refrigerators.

Monday, April 22, 2013

"I prepared you..."

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Three and a half years ago one of the biggest tragedies to ever grace my life occurred.  It knocked the wind out of me.  It shook me to my core.  When it happened, I refused to believe that it was happening to our family.  When we were going over funeral arrangements I felt like I was outside of my body watching other people grieve.  When I finally let myself believe that he was gone I had a husband that was completely broken, a son who couldn't believe his gaga was gone and all the pieces, and people, surrounding our life felt like they were crashing to the floor.  Although it's true that the pain stings a little less over time, this morning his face flashed through my sub-conscience like I was reliving it all again.  But God reminded me of the beautiful things He laid before me during that time and the many months after.  And I knew He wanted me to write about them here.

I remember January of 2009 very clearly.  One early morning I sat on our couch, staring at the fibers in our living room rug.  The rest of the house was asleep and I was almost jealous that they were.  The early signs of depression had already set in, although I was in denial because "Christians weren't supposed to be depressed."  I had known for some time that something was off, that I wasn't myself, but I couldn't really pinpoint exactly what it was.  I began to feel fearful of everything; fearful of car accidents, fearful of harmful parasites, fearful of childhood leukemia.  We had never been in a car accident in the Dominican, we had never contracted harmful parasites and Landon definitely did not have childhood leukemia.  Nonetheless, the unknown began to cripple me.  I didn't want to leave my house.  I didn't want Mike to go anywhere without me.  I didn't want to leave Landon with anyone.  Slowly but surely I was convinced that if we were separated, one of us would die.

Looking back, it sounds so incredibly dramatic but the reality is, in the thick of depression even the most irrational things become rational.  My irrational fears of loved ones dying went past my immediate family to my extended family as well; parents, sisters, in-laws.  It was a suffocating place to be.  The once out-going, happy, passionate person I was, slowly began to die within me.  I knew I needed help.

I began meeting with a mentor friend of mine who also happened to be an incredible woman of God.  I can't imagine what she thought when I laid everything out for her, but regardless, she acted in love and committed to walking me through this very dark time.  I discovered that the real source of my depression was a lack of trust in God and a completely warped idea of who He was.  I had a past that I never felt like I had been adequately punished for and I was waiting for the shoe to fall, the lightning to strike.  I couldn't wrap my mind around this whole "new creation" thing or the fact that my slate was wiped clean.  Surely, God was keeping a tally and just when I thought life was too good to be true, the punishment would come.  And because the punishment I deserved hadn't come yet, I sat waiting, day after day, wondering when the day would arrive and my life would be in shambles.

We began reading the book, "The Shack," chapter by chapter.  I realize this is an incredibly controversial book in the Christian sphere but for me it held all the answers.  No, I do not believe that God is a large, African American woman or that I can sit and eat meals with The Holy Trinity but it revealed to me the characteristics of God that had been hidden from me before.  And through those characteristics I began to realize how trustworthy God really was.  How He cared for me - how He paid the price for me so I didn't receive the punishment I deserved.  It changed my perspective, the cloud lifted.

For nine months we met and I was a different person.  Mike and I were expecting baby number two, we had moved into a new house, Landon started school.  Life was as good as it could get...

...and then the shoe dropped.

I don't need to describe to you all the emotions and painful recollections that surrounded the phone call we received when my father-in-law passed away.  Or the brutal months after as my husband dealt with the loss of his best friend.  Or trying to deal with a newborn and a very confused two-and-a-half year old, essentially on my own.  It just goes without saying.

Several months had gone by since Joe's passing and I was trudging my way through my devotions one morning.  The words, "I prepared you," kept going through my mind.   "I prepared you," He kept saying.  Prepared me for what?  For the exact thing I couldn't bare to happen, to happen?  For someone I loved to die?  For my world to go to shambles?

And then it hit me.

My world didn't go to shambles.  I was broken but not defeated.  He had prepared me nine months prior for something that He knew was going to happen on September 10th, 2009.  For something that should have rocked my world and crippled me.  He walked me through my deepest fear, gave me a clearer picture of His love for me and restored my trust in Him before the very thing came to pass that should have plunged me further into the depths.

Some people may see that as a spiteful God, to "let" something like that happen knowing it was the thing I feared the most.  But I saw it in a totally different light.  Jesus never said we will have nothing but rainbows and roses once we accept Him as our Savior.  He says, "In this world you WILL have trouble..."  Trouble is inevitable.  We live in a lost and broken world.  But what I realized through one of the biggest tragedies of my life is that I have a Savior that takes the time to give me knowledge, insight, hope and counsel to prepare me to face whatever giant stands in my path...past, present or future.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Life, Motherhood and Seizing Moments

I wrote a little post over on our ministry blog today...check it out!

A lesson in life, motherhood and seizing moments!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Winter Throwback

As the evening here winds down at a cool 73 degrees I remembered I had these great pictures from our Christmas in Wisconsin that I was totally reminiscing over.  It has been hot here.  And I mean hot, like not tropical vacation sipping Mai Tai's hot -- like the instant you step out of the shower you are already sweating, kind of hot.  For a girl who grew up in Wisconsin, I am sometimes overwhelmed by excessive heat.

So with a little Amy Grant Christmas album playing in the background and some perusing through winter photos from Wisconsin, I reminded myself of how much I love my parent's home around Christmas-time.

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If you've ever grown up in a home with multiple siblings, then you probably know that a majority of the time is spent bickering.  Whether it be over a borrowed clothing item or the last bit of Lucky Charms, there was always a reason to start something with my sisters.  But somehow, someway, the two weeks leading up to Christmas were heavenly, fight-free and absolutely my favorite part of the year.

Because Mike, the kids and I have started a routine of traveling back only every other year, this last visit I found myself going the extra mile to enchant my kids with Christmas in the States.  So often, our kids see us stressed out, exhausted and overwhelmed when we are in the States from the constant traveling, living out of suitcases and the many different beds we sleep in in a six week period.  And this time around, I decided I really didn't want my kids to have a bad taste in their mouths for the country that is still their "home."

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When a little blizzard flew through the village of Pewaukee, I would have much preferred to stay snuggled, drinking coffee, warming myself by my parents' electric fireplace.  But I knew, this Christmas had to be different.  And I have learned, in a very good way, that being a parent absolutely means forgoing a lot of your wants and desires to make special memories for your kids.  So after what seemed like a half an hour of putting on snowsuits, gloves, hats, scarves and boots -- our family took to the outdoors for a little snow fun.

When I was a kid the most awesome part of our neighborhood was the amount of kids around who were so close in age.  There was a little cul-de-sac right behind my house where the older kids would dig underground forts and snow blockades and we would have all out wars with snowballs.  We would play past dark, completely forgetting how late it was until one of the Moms would yell out to us to go home.  It was epic.

I wanted that for Landon and Emi so my Dad and I made a fort for the kids...and it was a complete failure.  Not for lack of trying, or skilled construction or even execution; they just had no interest in it what-so-ever.  I think Emi stepped in it once and said it was "cool" and then went about her business eating snow.

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This was the first year that I really saw so much bonding between the kiddos and my Dad.  Emi thought he was the best thing since sliced bread.  The Christmas tree would be lit up, the fire place going and my Dad would be watching something on TV.  Emi would walk into the room and just crawl into his lap.  It seriously made my heart melt.  If only she knew what an amazing Dad he was to me...and how special it was for me to see what an amazing Papa he is for her.

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We stayed outside until the kids were shivering so bad that their teeth were chattering.  We went inside and I conjured up some hot cocoa from ingredients that you might not normally use only because, in reality, my parents don't exactly make very much hot cocoa anymore.  We flipped the switch on for a hot fire and watched "A Christmas Carol."

I had the same warm feelings that I did when I was a kid coming in from a long day of snowball fights with my friends.  Only, it was that much more special to watch that same Christmas magic glimmer in my own kids' eyes.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

from Lemons to Lemonade

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Before there were blogs and websites and the stratosphere that is the internet; there were pen and paper and journals.  Ever since I can remember I have been writing.  I can still remember first grade when Mrs. Vermillion had us write a sentence-or-two-story about what we wanted to be when we grew up.  At that time I definitely wanted to be a singer like Madonna but by the time seventh grade rolled around and I had my first class with Mr. Johnson, I knew I wanted to be a writer.

My first few journals started out as, kind of, pictographs with a few short sentences about rainbows and ponies and sunshine.  But it wasn't long before I fell in love with poetry and descriptive words and metaphors.  I would spend hours writing songs and mini-novels, using phrases like, "...when the early morning dew kissed the lonely trees."  In fifth grade I even started typing my stories on our family typewriter (yes, I said typewriter) because it felt more "professional" when I clunked on those keys.

The world of blogging was opened up to me when we started our transition to missionary-hood when I found myself delving into this strange and unknown "digital journal" with a feeling of such excitement and opportunity.  I scoured other missionary blogs and, soon after Landon was born, Mom-blogs, just knowing it was something I wanted to take more seriously.

I think about writing 18 hours a day (sometimes more depending on how well I'm sleeping, or not sleeping, at night).  I wake up in the morning thinking about some epiphany or story I've been desperately wanting to tell someone -- whoever might listen in the wide open space of the internet.  Though, I rarely seized the moment to jump out of bed and write my thoughts down, until three days ago.

I have enjoyed following other people's blogs but I have known for some time that I needed to write differently.  Most people prefer to only write about the good days they have because, honestly, bad days aren't very inspiring.  But what I have found, in my own personal story and on my blog, is that people respond so much more to real-ness and transparency.  That everyone experiences really tough days (and maybe even weeks or months) and reading that someone else is struggling and learning through difficult times can actually be more inspiring that rainbows and ponies and sunshine.

This is not to say that my blog is going to be depressing.  I promise it won't be.  Believe me, we have some pony-rific days around here but if I wait for every pony-rific day to write our story, I won't be writing very often.  And that's not depressing, that's just life.  Life is challenging, beautiful, extraordinary and heartbreaking all at once.  But we have learned as a family this past year that even our battlefields are beautiful because God is a God of transformation and refinement. What seems like coal to us can easily be turned to diamonds by Him.

So that's it.  I'm turning my Lemons into Lemonade.  And even if only my current seven followers read what I have to say, I am ultimately writing for an audience of One and I know He thinks I'm pretty awesome even if some days I don't.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Me Observa

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photo credit: kyle zehr

For so long in my Christian walk I've feared God.  Not in the way you should, in adoration of His awesome power, but fearing that He was waiting for just the right moment to punish me for all of the things I had done in my past.  I carried a lot of guilt for the life I lived before I knew Him as my Savior and I could never wrap my mind around the fact that I was forgiven completely and that my slate was wiped clean by his love and mercy.

A few days ago I was on one of my morning runs and I was listening to Kari Jobe's spanish album.  The song "Tu Eres Para Mi" came on.  It means "You Are For Me."  I've listened to the song many times, both in English and Spanish, but this time was different.  I knew in my spirit as soon as the first notes were played that God was speaking to me in the intimate way only He can.

I was listening closely, mouthing the words as each foot hit the pavement.  I was waiting for what I knew was coming.  And then the words came, "Me observa."  If I had been listening to the song in English it would not have had the impact that it did.  "Me observa" in English means you watch me or you see me.  And although it sounds nice and pleasant in the language that I grew up speaking, it meant something totally different in the language I am learning and am still a student of.  "Me observa" in Spanish is something so much deeper.  Although it means "to see or to watch" in it's literal terms, it also means "to observe."  It was right in that moment that I knew what God has wanted to say to me all along.  I have known and loved Him for almost 12 years but he has KNOWN and loved me my whole life.  Not in the way I've thought, like a God disappointed in my actions and waiting for an opportunity to teach me a lesson but like a new Dad who gazes upon His newborn and loves her from the second He lays eyes on her.  Observing her eyelashes and her pouty lips, the tiny hairs on her cheeks.  Memorizing her and breathing in every ounce of her.  His love growing more with her every breath.

God hasn't been watching me, waiting for me to make more mistakes and wondering when the right moment is to punish me for the things I've done.  He's been observing me, as a good Father would, allowing me to make those mistakes, knowing that sometimes it is the only way His daughter would learn.  He could rescue me from the pitfalls that this world offers me but every good parent knows that rescuing their children every time they are going to fall only enables them to keep repeating their behavior.  As hard as it is, as heart-wrenching as it is to watch His daughter struggle, and hurt, and fall and scrape her knees, He knows that these things shape her.  That they make her acutely aware of the ability she has within herself to call upon her Daddy whenever she wants, not to rescue her from the things that are put in her life, but for Him to hold her, kiss her forehead and tell her that He understands.

"My child, my beloved daughter, you have no idea how much it hurts me to see you going through this.  And although I can't explain it fully to you, as your Father, I know without a shadow of a doubt that it is what is best.  You may be mad at me, you may want to slam your bedroom door in my face, you may even say to yourself 'what kind of Father lets her daughter suffer like this?' but I see the final outcome.  I know where you will be in a month, a year, a decade.  And although I want nothing else than to rescue you, I am going to have to sit here, with you in my arms, letting your tears fall in my hands, instead.  Trust me...please trust me."

I do, Daddy.  I trust You.  I know that it is hard for You to watch Your children suffer in this world.  I can't even imagine the heartache You feel everyday knowing that You have the power to rescue us all but the time hasn't come to do so yet.  And until that day, when you WILL come and rescue us, I will settle for crawling into your arms, letting You hold me and watching my tears fall into your hands.

Because there is no safer place to be.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Colorado - our beautiful battlefield

I've been writing this post in my head for over a month.  Not really sure how to share what I want to share.  I want to keep private what needs to be kept private but write hoping that it can help another family that may be struggling with similar things.  I had a lot of time to think through the course of our lives over the past two months and it is all but remarkable where God has brought us to.   At the beginning of January, I would have told you it would have been impossible.


We stepped off the plane at the Denver airport after being delayed because of weather.  It was already dark and we had to locate our rental car place and still drive another 90 miles.  Mike and I were a little snippy with each other and the kids sensed the tension.  Neither one of them were exactly sure why we boarded a plane that didn't end up in the Dominican.

After waiting for what seemed like forever for a shuttle to take us to our rental car, we were on edge.  It had way less to do with a delayed flight and the inconveniences of airport transportation and way more to do with the reasons why we were in Colorado in the first place.

In March of 2012 our world felt like it was falling apart.  Our sweet, sensitive, endearing, caring and loving 4 year old became angry, violent and sometimes utterly belligerent.  It felt like it was completely out of nowhere.  Like, one day he woke up and decided to hate us.  He used words that were hard to hear coming from a child's mouth.  His actions were completely incomprehensible.  His demeanor and even his expressions changed to something we had never witnessed before.  It was scary and unnerving and we thought that this couldn't possibly be happening to our family.

Our first morning at The Ranch
After months and months of trying different things and meeting with different people I had resorted to the fact that this was going to be our lives forever; a child that we loved so deeply, falling apart at the seems.

We arrived at Blessing Ranch in absolute darkness; both literally and figuratively.  We unpacked our things and settled in.  The kids were burning off energy, because of an 8:00pm nap, by running circles around every room.  I sat on the bed and the unknown loomed over me.  What if this doesn't work?  What if this is what the rest of our lives will look like?  What if he only gets worse?  I cried again like I had almost every day for the previous ten months and Landon walked in on me.  I lied and told him I was just happy to be in such an awesome place.


I don't do well with the unexpected and I am always skeptical of quick fixes.  I didn't believe for a second that five days in a place could change the course of our lives, even though I really wanted to.  But I woke up early that first morning ready to give this place a shot.  I mean, what did we have to lose.  I rounded the corner from our bedroom to see a sight we hadn't seen in our late night arrival.  A wall of windows gleamed back at me as I stared at the blue mountain scape caressed by the most perfect color of orange terrain that seamlessly blended into one another.  Years of art classes and studying the effects of complimentary colors literally panned out in front of me.  God reassured me, only He can do something this spectacular.  It was as if that first glimpse gave me what I needed to throw caution to the wind and trust a Father who has been nothing but faithful since the day I first gave Him my heart.  My load was lightened.

I could tell you all about the two sessions a day of sitting in a room with an absolutely charming counselor who I was completely cold to for the first two days and with whom I became a blubbering mess of emotions with later.  About hours of Landon drawing pictures and meltdowns and then breakthroughs and things we had no idea about before our time there.  And how, by the absolute grace of God, Emi sat patiently and quietly for hours on end playing with Barbies and legos, all the while almost oblivious to the hurt and the fear and the tension melting away right in front of her.

It was nothing short of a miracle.

Our favorite little gazebo, Landon thought it was "so awesome"
We listened to our son talk about how when he gets upset about something it makes him feel "really hot" and then it makes him even more mad.  How he's scared to be alone in a room because "the devil wants him to be on his team and he's too little to fight him on his own."  How he feels so "out of control and wants to be nice" but he just can't.

I can't tell you how hard it is to hear your little boy say things that most forty year old men can't even express but the fact that he had the words to describe how he was feeling was, like I said, nothing short of a miracle.


We had nothing but time to spend with our kids putting puzzles together and going on "nature hunts" and playing Simon Says.  We were greeted with rabbits, deer and elk.  I've never had more of a desire to wake up early to see a sunrise in my life.  Every day we spent out in the wilderness I could feel my boy coming back to life.  And maybe I was coming back to life too.

This little blondie blended in with the background, it's a good thing we packed bright-colored clothes!
Not every moment was perfect and there were plenty of tough moments to account for but one thing that continuously rang on every thorny thistle and every mountain peak, was hope.  Hope for a future yet unwritten.  Hope for a boy who felt trapped in his overstimulated body.  Hope in a God that does nothing but mesmerize those who take a second to see His awesome power...even in the deepest valleys.


After only five days on The Ranch, we were equipped with a diagnosis, a list of activities to help Landon cope with his sensory issues and a plan to follow if we came upon any of the difficult scenarios we had been in over the past year.

After only five days, Landon improved drastically...and when I say drastically, I mean drastically.

Probably my favorite shot out of the 300 I took
God showed up.  Not in the way I thought He would and not even in the way I wanted Him to but in the way He knew would be best.  I've met countless people who have lost their faith or wavered in their faith when they couldn't see how God could allow something so awful to happen to them, if they were His so-called children.  What we have endured in the past year has been so excruciatingly painful that it wouldn't do it justice to put into words.  And it wouldn't do Landon justice to tell you either.  But what I can say is that God found a way to bring me to my knees every day.  To intervene for my son through prayer like I had never before.  To trust the steps He was asking me to take when I couldn't even see one foot in front of the other.  To bring me to a place of intimacy with Him that may have never been possible any other way.

The sunrise on our last morning.  The kids woke up early too and couldn't believe how amazing it was.
My son is not like your son and he will never be.  But he is beautiful and eccentric and artistic and loving and passionately sensitive and fiercely aware of a God who is taking him on his own journey, unique to him.  And I am learning more and more everyday since the trip to Colorado that God is doing the exact same thing with me.

This picture was taken a half an hour after the sunrise picture above...we literally watched the wall of snow hit us

"We too often forget that people will also follow our grief to get to Jesus. They will watch us on the day our spouse walks out the door or the business goes bankrupt or the child runs away or we receive an ominous diagnosis. They will watch...and they will look to see if the God we preached on our best day can sustain us on the hardest one." 

-Beautiful Battlefields, Bo Stern

***Landon was diagnosed on the spectrum of three things:  1) Hyperactivity 2) Sensory Dysfunction Disorder with an oversensitivity to movement 3) Spiritual Warfare...since our visit to The Ranch, Landon has had only two meltdowns in two months (and they were comparatively small).  He used to have at least two meltdowns a day.  We have restructured our days at home, implemented a lot more schedules and stick to a stricter diet for him (a lot less sugar).  It is incredible the changes we have seen. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Quick Crafts for my sanity

Somehow I always forget how much I need creativity in my life.  I don't know how I could possibly forget this fact considering it has been engrained in my DNA since I came out of the womb.  Either way, I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately and started reorganizing my time and looking for some margin in my life.  That's when I realized that I had not been making any room for a creative outlet.  My friends, Jackie and Audrey, are always inspiring me with their homes and how they make time to create.  And really, what girl can live without a little home decorating?  So this week, I reintroduced my "15 minutes of quick crafts for my sanity."  Each little project didn't take any more than 15 minutes each and can be spread out to a little each day or, like this morning, I had a little extra time because it's the weekend (yay!) and I did a couple projects all at once.  Enjoy!


Kids Chalkboard
Chalkboard Paint - $10 for a pint (we have lots left over for other projects)
Smooth Plywood - $10 
Time:  15 minutes for two coats of paint + a husband to mount it to the wall :)


Curtains for our Casita
Old Tablecloth - FREE
Hot glue gun - Already had it
Glue sticks - Already had it
Wire - Already had it
2 pieces of twine - Already had it
Time: 15 minutes each set (total of 30 minutes)
I simply cut the curtains to the length and width I needed and then hot glued the seems instead of sewing.  Thread the fabric onto wire to hang.  Then I used the twine to bunch the fabric to keep the windows open!


We finally put flowers in the planter boxes!  Only took us 3 years :)



Pallet Display
Old Pallet - FREE
Repurposed pallet nails - FREE
Time: 15 minutes to nail pallet boards together + a husband to mount it to the wall

Fabric Wrapped Frames
Scraps of Fabric - FREE
Cheap Frames - $1 each
Hot glue gun
Glue sticks
Staple Gun
Time: 10 minutes each frame
Directions:  Carefully place fabric on the corners in a cross section.  Then glue a small portion of fabric strips and begin wrapping the fabric around the frame until entire frame is covered.  Use a staple gun to staple pieces of twine to the back of the frame and hang!  Super easy and looks great!

Burlap Banner
Burlap - approx. $5/yd
white paint
paint brush
glue gun
glue sticks
Time: 30 minutes
Directions:  Cut enough triangles of burlap to make the word you want to paint.  Put a small amount of hot glue across the broad part of the burlap triangle and fold it over a long piece of twine.  Repeat until all burlap squares are glued on.  Then use a wide paint brush and white paint to write a letter on each of the triangles.  Put two nails in the pallet display and tie the twine onto the nails.

Monday, February 4, 2013


We've been back in the Dominican for almost three weeks and Landon says to me last night, "Mom, I never want to leave the Dominican again." I think they are happy to be home...and it looks like if you want to see Landon you're going to have to visit him here!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

my joy.


when i realized that i hadn't posted on our family blog since september, i just about died.  if you knew how much i love to write and share stories about our growing littles, you would know why i am so horrified.  i have completely slacked.  but i AM going to turn this corner.

so let's just pretend i have been consistently blogging for the past four months and we are well acquainted with all that has been going on in the braisted home.

moving right along.

my little emi is three.  (and yes, someday, i will post pictures from her third birthday--which happened two months ago.  ugh.)  she has changed so much over the course of the last two months that she is hardly recognizable.  she still sports her golden locks and sassy brown eyes but she has changed into this little person.  

she dances at the first inkling that music is going to play.  she has moves and motions and "hips that don't lie."  seriously, we are going to have to chain her to her seat when she gets older.  she can shake it like a real latina.

the last year with her has been a little rough.  she is bossy and independent, mouthy and defiant.  what was adorable as a nine month old, was not adorable as a two year old.  i promise.  but she has really come into her own over the last couple of months.  don't get me wrong, she still has her "moments" but she definitely has decided that being obedient and polite is a better route than punishment and disappointment.

i have really enjoyed her.  i've had flashes of the future of her and i, the best of friends, chatting about life over coffee.  i mean, we have to survive teenage-hood first, but i can see it nonetheless.

she cuddles at a moments' notice.  hugs with abandon.  swoons over princesses as they are kissed by their prince.  coddles a crying baby doll and soothes them with a song.  she is all girl with a hint of tomboy.  just like her mama.

i don't know what the third year will bring but i am doing my darndest to hold tight to these precious moments with her.  it feels like we just brought her home from the hospital and here she is dressing up in gowns and pearls.  

oh my little emi.  you are my joy.