This post is part of a blog project called the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project – to learn more or join, click HERE. Because we are a better together as 2 than alone as 1 here at Milestones & Miracles, we are each submitting an entry for this exciting opportunity! The project is part of a celebration kicking off the paperback release from one of our favorite authors, Glennon Doyle Melton from Momastery. To check out the book that we love (and have given too many times to count as gifts: click HERE).
When I proudly walked into my first job as a Physical Therapist, I expected many things and most were as I expected…healing patients, increased motion, decreased pain and swelling, some blood, sweat, and tears, but most of the time, I saw progress. There was a lot of beautiful.
A few years later, I became a mom, and in the process I started adapting everything about myself (sleeping patterns, my new “scent”, my definition of the word “ok” (adj://state of being meaning everyone is fed, safe, and relatively clean), and my job. I began working as a Pediatric Physical Therapist in Early Intervention (no one older than 3 years old accepted) in the homes of families in West Virginia. This season of my life is where I began the true understanding of my messy, beautiful being.
Do you remember the first time you became a mother? Sometimes I felt there was a one-size-fits all approach to the oh-so-popular hot topics of sleeping, eating, toileting, child-care choices etc. Most of the time, I worried if I was choosing the correct answer on the new parent multiple-choice test. The rest of the time, as I left my little house cacoon and wondered into others homes, I wondered if they were making the right choices. After ten years of mothering my own kids and helping other parents while they learn more about their own children, I know there are no one size fits all approach to parenting. I know that we all have to show up and try our best. I know that we need each other so very much. And I know that it is the hardest and most rewarding job ever. It is truly messy and beautiful.
When I walked into a family’s house today, the mother said, “Please don’t mind my house it is so messy.”
I gave my standard reply, “I didn’t come here to see your clean house, I came here to love you and your baby.”
She’s a foster mother loving and learning about a child whose mother likely used drugs and alcohol during pregnancy and who shakes like a leaf when we try to simply move her around. I never saw a messy house. I never saw a “messy” family. I just saw the beauty.
So many of the families that my business partner and best friend are privileged to work alongside show us the beautiful. The ironic thing is that we are sent to these homes to teach their families how to help their babies learn to walk or talk, yet in the process we end up learning so much more. Being in someone’s house is messy. Sitting on floors and holding snotty, slobbery babies is literally messy. There have been times I have literally had to move animals or piles of Cheetos to make a small space to sit! And then there was this a few weeks ago.
But, being invited into someone’s home weekly is a big deal. No one can hide laundry, or pet hair, or tricky family relationships, or financial hardships, or worst fears and biggest hopes forever. Eventually we get in – not just to the home but also to the heart. It’s a huge amount of trust to take and a huge amount to receive. We don’t take it lightly and often the miracles of our lives come out of it.
Meet Emily. Sweet Emily. When I met her, she was blind. Her parents were told she did not develop much of a brain in utero and that they should consider abortion, which was not an option for them. They got brave real fast and made the decision to donate her organs shortly after birth. Except…Emily lived. She had surgeries, and long hospitals stays, and too many predictions of “she won’t do this” to count.
I remember shining a light in her eyes and moving my finger towards her nose with no response at all. Not a blink. Her mother’s initial goal was to help her get enough control of her head to nurse or take a bottle safely. It was a relatively small goal for most, but for Emily (and her new and nervous PT) it was Mount Everest.
Days turned to weeks. Weeks turned to months. Months to turned to years. Emily slowly progressed. Each “inch”stone forward was something huge to celebrate.
Emily was learning to see light, roll to her side, babble.
I was learning that hope was the spark to all good things starting.
Emily was learning to respond to her sister’s voice by giggling, to suck a bottle, to hold her parent’s fingers.
I was learning that family is the safe place where we all start to get brave and start to take chances.
Emily was learning to roll, and pick up toys, and call her Mom when she needed help.
I was learning to call on someone greater than I when I felt weak or challenged.
Emily was recognizing familiar people in her community, who helped watch her when her parents needed a break, and sharing meals, and sitting tall.
I was learning that relationships – with my husband and my friends keep me happy and honest and real…and they need to be fostered with time invested.
Emily was trusting her parents to not let her fall at first…and then to learn to fall safely.
I was learning to take chances and learn from mistakes.
Emily was learning to walk with a walker and recite bible verses and see people 30 feet away.
I was learning that nothing is impossible with God, and love, and patience, and trust.
Emily’s doctors repetitively said to her parents, “I have no explanation for what she is doing. Medically, this should not be happening.” When Emily turned 3 and started preschool (and working with a new therapist), before I fell in to my post-Emily funk, her mother gave me a collage that included a picture of her brain CAT Scan at birth and at 1 and 2 years old.
Underneath were the words, “Thank you for being part of the miracles that is me.”
People: Love doesn’t just win. Love changes things – big time! Love changes brains. Brains that people have for the next 90 plus years! Love pushes miracles along. Love turns the mess into beauty.
These images sit in my office and 3 years later, I still can’t look at it or say those words without crying. Yes, it is beyond kind that her family graciously recognized my efforts as her therapist, but that is not why my tears fall. My tears fall because Emily’s family took what most people would regard as messy – a child with extremely expected limitations, obstacles that most would see as to much to even try to overcome, family life infused with doctors and therapies and big decisions, stresses to family relationships – and they SHINED and showed the world the beautiful. Their beautiful. They showed me the beautiful too.
The laundry wasn’t always folded. The emotions were not always calm, cool, and collected. It was rarely easy. The answer wasn’t always readily there. But the beautiful was. It never left – not for a second.
Being a mom and being a therapist is my calling. I know this. Mothering alongside other mothers is my joy. Being in their homes in not sterile or structured or easily predictable. I’ve learned to be part PT and part counselor, friend, and fellow crisis manager. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It is THE reason that my bestie and I created Milestones & Miracles. We wanted to share our therapy lives and the support that our “Mommy Posse” gave us with the world – to let others know what we have learned. Messy makes life beautiful.
Out of my daily messiness, I see the beautiful. I learn more about what really matters and more about myself. At the end of some days, when I fall into bed exhausted and overwhelmed, when I’ve fed my kids cereal for dinner (again) and have felt guilty from ignoring them for work, or drug them to another meeting, I laugh and think to myself, “God, please don’t mind my messy life.” Through the example of Emily’s family and so many others, I can easily fall asleep knowing he replies, “I didn’t come here to see your clean life. I came here to love you and your babies.”
To see a video of Emily and her brave sister singing about LOVE – click Live Love.