A view into the life of a family who encountered a different future than expected, but has become all the richer for it.

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Natalie and Mr. Sam

Me and Natalie
Our middle daughter, Natalie, is 5-years-old.  She is a very sweet, tenderhearted little girl.  She doesn't like to see anyone in the hospital or in pain and hates to even see herself cry as a baby in our home movies.  She is very easy to discipline because by just raising your voice the slightest little bit, it causes her to get back into line and obey when she is tempted to stray.

Natalie loves to visit her daddy at the church office that he works in (Mark is the Education Pastor at our church) when we drop by during the week.  Natalie will make the rounds and visit a lot of the secretaries while we are there.  She especially loves to visit Mrs. Tammy, who is our worship pastor's secretary.  Mrs. Tammy is so sweet to my girls and always has candy at her desk to give them.
Natalie had the special joy of moving into Mrs. Tammy's Sunday School Class when she turned 5 this past January.  She has loved being in that class.  Mrs. Tammy's grown daughter, Stacey, helps in the class as well as her sweet husband, Sam.  Tammy, Sam and Stacey are all jewels and we love them dearly.
Our oldest daughter, Elyssa, with Mrs. Tammy, Mr. Sam and Stacey.  This photo was taken when Elyssa was in their Sunday School class about a year-and-a-half ago.

About a month ago, Mrs. Tammy and Mr. Sam invited our family over to their house for a swimming party and cookout.  That was the first time we had ever been to their house and we all had such a wonderful time.  Part of the reason that Mrs. Tammy wanted my girls to come over was because she wanted to ask them to pray for her as she was leaving soon for a mission trip to Brazil.  She gave them a prayer journal and asked them to draw or write prayers in it while she was on her trip.  The girls were thrilled to get their journals and couldn't wait to begin drawing and writing in them.
Elyssa and Natalie swimming with Mrs. Tammy!

Right before we left Tammy and Sam's house, Sam was telling us of a motorcycle trip that he would be going on the same time that Tammy would be on her Brazil mission trip.  As he told us of an 11-mile strip of road in Tennessee that had over 300 curves in it, I had a weird feeling within me and remember having the word "wreck" pop into my brain.  I wasn't sure why that happened and never vocalized it to anyone at the time.  I just planned to pray for both Sam and Tammy on their trips.

The next week, on a Sunday afternoon, we were having lunch with a family that we had invited over after church that morning.  After eating our lunch, the girls were left to play while the adults continued in conversation.  Mark received a text on his cell phone.  It was from our pastor's wife who informed him that Sam (who had been on his motorcycle trip with 12 or 13 other friends) was struck by a car and that Sam wasn't doing well.  He was being flighted to a hospital in Tennessee.  My mind went back to that eerie feeling I had when Sam was telling us about his motorcycle trip at the swimming party.  I felt sick to my stomach.  We immediately stopped and prayed for him and also for Tammy, who was in Brazil on her mission trip.  We didn't know all of the details, but we knew God did.  We were praying for God to be gracious and spare Sam's life.

This is a photo of all of the men who went on the motorcycle trip.
That afternoon more information came in through phone calls and texts to Mark.  We found out that Tammy was in the process of trying to fly back from Brazil to be with Sam.  We also found out that Sam was stable but that he was going to lose his left leg.  We were so sad for him, but were so thankful that his life was spared.  We knew that somehow God would give Sam and Tammy the strength to make it through this trial.

As the weeks went by, Sam continued to improve.  He had to go through several surgeries to prepare his leg to receive a prosthetic leg eventually.  We finally were able to see Mr. Sam at church when he was well enough to come.  We all gave him big hugs that first Sunday morning he came back, although I could tell that Natalie was acting very shy and scared.  She tried to smile but I could tell in her eyes that she was nervous and on the verge of tears.  It broke my heart.  As much as we wanted her to still love on Mr. Sam as she always had, I could tell this was going to be a challenge for her.

About a week ago, I was walking Natalie to her Sunday School class.  We reached the door of her classroom and I began to fill out the security form with her name on it.  Natalie was hiding behind the sign-in desk.  I just thought she was playing hide-n-seek with Mrs. Tammy, who had popped out of the room to greet us.  I handed Tammy the security form and prompted Natalie to walk in the door.  She began to cry.  I asked her what was wrong.  She told me that Mr. Sam was in the classroom and that she didn't want to go.  I hoped I could get her over her fears and talked with her in the hallway.  But, no matter how hard I tried to console her and let her know that there was nothing to be afraid of, the more she cried.  She was in a panic and couldn't even walk close to the door of the classroom.  Tammy assured me that it was okay and that we didn't need to push her to get close to Sam if she wasn't ready yet.  I wanted to cry.  I felt ashamed that Natalie was so scared of Sam now.  I had to end up leaving Natalie in the classroom next door with her younger sister once she calmed down so I could go to "big" church.

Yesterday when we went to church, Natalie was nervous about going into her Sunday School class.  I assured her that Stacey would be helping Mrs. Tammy that day instead of Mr. Sam.  Once we got to the room and once she saw that I was telling the truth about Stacy being the helper, she finally went into the classroom.  Tammy told Natalie that Mr. Sam had a special present for her and he wanted to give it to her after church.  Once the church services were over, we drove our van over to Sam and Tammy's truck.  Mr. Sam (on his crutches) and Mrs. Tammy walked up to the van where I had slid open the side door so they could see the girls inside.  Natalie quickly hopped from the middle seat, where she had been sitting, into the back seat by her older sister.  I could tell she had those nervous eyes again.  Mr. Sam talked to Natalie and told her that he had a present for her.  I urged Natalie to come to the open door so she could get the gift bag.  She quickly got the bag and then darted to the back seat again.  She began to open the gift bag.  She pulled out some candy and the cutest stuffed teddy bear that had the words "Friends Forever" sewn onto it.  Sam told me that there was a card in the bag that he wanted me to read to Natalie.  I noticed as Sam was telling me about the card that Natalie's eyes kept gazing down to Sam's shorts.  She was checking out his missing leg.  I told Natalie to thank Mr. Sam and come hug his neck.  She quickly came up and hugged his neck and told him "thank you."  She again darted to the back seat.  I thanked Sam and Tammy. When I got back into the van and closed the door, I opened the card and read it to Natalie.  These words came from my lips as tears streamed down my face:


Five weeks ago God allowed a change to happen to my outer appearance.  I know that can be hard to understand and might even be a little scary.  I thank God for this change because it was in His plan to make me a better person.  So now, I'm not just Mr. Sam; but I'm God's better Mr. Sam that even loves YOU more."

As I struggle with helping Natalie understand that she doesn't have to be scared of Mr. Sam, I realize that she has to come to terms with everything in her own time.  Sometimes I feel ashamed that my child is scared of such a sweet man because he lost his leg in an accident.  It makes me so sad.  But, I take comfort in knowing that one day (hopefully, soon) Natalie will run up to Mr. Sam without any fear because she remembers who he is on the inside.  I pray that she will get past his outward appearance that has changed and that she will cling to the man that she has always loved as a friend.

Natalie fell asleep on her teddy bear the very day Sam gave it to her.  She named the bear "Sambo" since the bear was a gift from Mr. Sam.
In closing, I am reminded of a special Bible verse that I use when speaking publicly about my special needs daughter, Victoria, who has Down syndrome. 

I Samuel 16:7
"For the Lord does not see as man sees:  for man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart."

May we all strive to love as the Lord does!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

One Proud Momma!

Victoria's Pre-K End-Of-The-Year program.

As I sat in the Pre-K classroom at Saraland Elementary School today with lots of other parents, I remember thinking, "I should've brought some tissues with me!"  The little 3, 4 and 5-year-old kids started filing into the class with their cute "handprint" t-shirts on while all of us proud parents looked on.  All of the kids went to their spots on the classroom rug and got ready for the "End-Of-The-Year" program to start.  I sat in-between Mark and my mom and I could tell we were all beaming when Victoria was the first child called up to retrieve her printed name card from the board.  She took her name card to her teacher and then she and Mrs. Moore began to spell her name out-loud together.  After she finished spelling her name, she put it back on the board and took her seat.  I felt so proud of how well Victoria followed her teacher's instructions.  That was the first of many other activities and songs that Victoria and her class performed for their audience of family members.

Mark and I have gone into Victoria's classroom this year many times and provided a "music time" for the kids.  We have gotten very attached to all of the children and have seen how much they have all progressed this year.  Most of the kids in the class have special needs.  Several of the children have autism and could barely speak at the beginning of the year.  Some children have birth defects that have delayed their learning development.  Victoria is the only child in the classroom with Down syndrome.  No matter what each child struggled with at the beginning of the year, it was exciting to see how far they had all come by the end of the school year.

I think the proudest moment for me was at the end of the program when Mrs. Moore was handing out awards.  Victoria didn't win an A Honor Roll or AB Honor Roll award.  She didn't even win a Perfect Attendance award because she has been sick a lot this year.  But, the award she did win was so special to Mark, my mom and me.  She won the "Most Well Known and Most Well Loved Child at Saraland Elementary School."  I know this to be true because when I walk Victoria down the hallway each morning to her class, almost every child we pass walking down that hallway says "hello" to Victoria.  I hear the children comment as we pass, "She is so cute" or "I just love Victoria."  Victoria takes daily walks with her aid to see the secretarial staff, principal and also the lunchroom ladies!  Everyone at the school just loves her!  It is in moments like today when Victoria received that award that I can almost look into the future and see her being voted Homecoming Queen in high school one day by her class.  She is just that lovable and special. 

What a privilege it is for me and Mark to be blessed to raise one of God's "special children."  When Victoria was first born I didn't feel that way.  I was questioning God back then ... wondering why "I" was having to go through what "I" was going through.  I was grieving and sad that Victoria wasn't "normal."  Oh how the tables have turned in my heart!  I look at Victoria every day and feel blessed to have her.  When I put her to bed every night, I look at her sweet face and I am genuinely thankful that I have the opportunity to live life with her.  Our family life with Victoria isn't without challenges, but her sweetness makes the trip down the road of life so much easier to walk.    

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Birthday Month

It is hard to believe, but our Victoria turned 4 today (March 10th)! Time has crept by in some ways and flown by in others. These past four years have been filled with many, many things. Many joys, many fears, many unexpected surprises.

We continue to learn how to best meet Victoria's needs as a special needs child and we are definitely not experts at it. We still wonder when Victoria will learn to speak clearly, but we are so thankful that she understands everything we tell her and she responds accordingly. We wonder when Victoria will develop a sense of fear that causes her to act cautiously. She still has no understanding of the fact that she could get lost if she wanders away from us. She has no understanding of the fact that she could get hurt if she climbs up on things, etc. I am yearning for the day that those things "click" inside her. It will ease much of the stress I feel these days. I know it is a matter of Victoria growing and maturing and she will eventually "get there." But, today I put aside any worries I have about raising Victoria and I just rejoice in her life and the impact that I've seen it have on others!

Something that is WAY harder for me to believe is that I will be turning 40 on March 13th! Where have those 40 years gone? That is unbelieveable! My 40 years have been filled with so many blessings! I cannot begin to count and recall all of the wonderful things that God has done for me in my life. He has been so good to me and to my family. I know there have been hard times somewhere within those 40 years, but the good far has outweighed the bad!

I'm so thankful this month for the blessings of life and for a God who never ceases to amaze me!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Tooth Hero!

Saturday night was a very exciting night at the Messick house. I was taking Victoria to the restroom before putting her to bed and Elyssa and Natalie were in their room playing. Moments later, I heard Elyssa screaming ... "Momma ... Momma!" She came running in the bathroom and blood was streaming from her mouth. I quickly got Victoria dressed and then had Elyssa lean her face over the sink so the blood could flow into the sink. I turned the faucet on and was trying to gently splash water on her mouth. I asked Elyssa what happened. She said that Natalie had kicked her in the mouth and that her tooth fell out. Her tooth had been very loose for some time now. Her tooth was barely hanging onto the gum and I told her to go ahead and grab the tooth and pull it out. It came out very easily and Elyssa placed the bloody tooth on the countertop in the bathroom. I was yelling for Mark to come to the bathroom so he could see what was going on, but he didn't come initially. He was on his phone and then was helping Natalie get some paper towels for Elyssa's mouth. I imagine, too, that he wasn't too eager to see all of the bloody goo coming from Elyssa's mouth anyway.

After Natalie brought me some paper towels, I grabbed them and told Elyssa to hold it over her gum where it was bleeding. Elyssa was pretty freaked out at seeing so much blood. She's never seen anything quite like that before. Mark eventually entered the bathroom and asked to see the tooth. We looked on the countertop and it was nowhere to be found! I knew it was there at one point because I saw Elyssa place it there. I had no idea what had happened to it. So, now that Elyssa wasn't bleeding all over the place, our attention focused on trying to find the lost tooth. I was so upset that this was Elyssa's first tooth to lose and now it was lost.

We asked Natalie if she had seen it and come to find out, Natalie picked up the tooth and placed it in the paper towels that I had grabbed to put on Elyssa's mouth. Natalie started crying when she realized that she may have lost the tooth. So, here was Natalie crying ... us searching the bathroom like crazy ... Elyssa looking in her bloody paper towel for the tooth ... Elyssa was crying because she thought she wouldn't get anything from the Tooth Fairy without her having her tooth! It was a frantic atmosphere. But, we couldn't find the tooth anywhere!

I told Mark that maybe we just needed to get over the fact that we will not be able to have a tooth to put in Elyssa's Tooth Fairy pillow. I know it sounds silly, but Mark and I were so sad that Elyssa's first ever tooth to fall out was lost forever!

I had Elyssa write the Tooth Fairy a letter. She told the Tooth Fairy that she had lost her first tooth, but she was still asking for money!

I decided to try and get the girls all in the bed and give up the search. Natalie eventually fell asleep and I had Elyssa in the bed. She had not yet fallen asleep. I was in Victoria's room patting her on the back ... trying to get her to sleep, when I heard a noise in the bathroom. It sounded like Mark was sawing the drain pipes in the bathroom off to find the tooth. I went into the bathroom, followed by Elyssa and Victoria and there was Mark with our Dyson vacuum cleaner. He had made some sort of tube contraption on the end of the vacuum cleaner and had sucked Elyssa's tooth out of the drain! He was standing there as proud as could be holding her tooth. I felt like I was looking at a hero! I couldn't believe he was able to recover the tooth. I just knew it was gone forever!

We were so excited that Elyssa was going to be able to put her tooth in her special tooth pillow that night after all! Mark is our "Tooth Hero!"

Here is a copy of Elyssa's new letter to the Tooth Fairy, after we found the tooth!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Just A Swingin'!

This video of Victoria was taken recently at my parent's house. She loves playing on the swing set they have in their yard! This is just proof, once again, that special needs children can do just as much as a "normal" child in many cases.

Always place value on each little life! Even the life that isn't labeled as "normal" can be the biggest blessing to you!