Mess of memories

Vacation for Brandon and I once looked like evening strolls down the Champs-Elysees, studying Gaudi’s architecture in Barcelona, and Christmas-ing in Rome. (I’m so thankful for those times, now more than ever).

When you have kids, your definition of “vacation” is significantly modified. Throw some autism in the mix, and, well…

These days if we can manage a day trip away from home, in which we go and come back alive, that’s vacation!

Last week I scoured the Internet and thought long about what we could handle for a family vacation; ever mindful of Hope and not wanting her to miss out on anything and ever mindful of Rhema and what would be best/easiest/enjoyable for her. Sadly, it’s a rare thing lately to see Rhema really having a good time – the anxiety, the unfamiliar, the sensory onslaught sucks the fun right out.

We settled on York’s Wild Kingdom in Maine (thanks for the suggestion, Lo!) which featured a

  zoo = good for Hope, bad for Rhema
+  small amusement park = good for both.

Except, of course the fact that the park opened a whole two hours after the zoo opened and heaven forbid we had to wait in line for rides = bad, bad.

The next day we took the kids to a mini-golf course. When we got there and saw the course – the water, the open green, the people – we thought, very, very bad. B and I sat in the car for a good 15 minutes trying to figure out what to do. Should I drive away with Rhema, while he and Hope did mini-golf? No, this is a family thing. Should we all just leave? No, Hope’s sooo excited. But what if Rhema pees on Hole 13? (She’s going through a regression in toilet-training). In the end, we decided to try anyway, and I wished everyone putt-putting could know how much courage it took for us just to be there.

I’ll spare the gory details, but both ventures – the zoo park and the mini-golf – ended in what could easily be described as disasters. There were some ugly, frustrating, discouraging moments. At the end of the day, during our nightly family prayer, B sighed, “We did the best we could do today, Lord.”

When I look over the pictures of our disaster vacation, I see Hope soaking in everything, not wasting a minute, full and spilling joy and life. Her happiness is satisfying; makes me think I’m doing right by her. I see Rhema, in her sweet practical, no-nonsense way, picking up the golf balls and putting them in the hole. Why in the world would you waste time with a club, people? I see her lasting for 5 holes on the course. That’s not nothing. I see my girls getting to spend summer days with their dad – finally, after several summers apart. I see us crafting a beautiful mess of memories. Blessing upon blessing, and none of it had to be.

“We did the best we could do today, Lord.”

And for me, it really is enough.

13 thoughts on “Mess of memories

  1. I am an avid follower of your blog. Every post alternately makes me smile and cry. This post, however, hit home very solidly for me. My son is 2 and was diagnosed at 18 months. He is non verbal, a runner, never stops moving, has no sense of danger or pain and has very specific needs, both sensory and otherwise. We had never taken a vacation with him, gone somewhere totally unknown, with so many potential hazards and pitfalls, until last week. We decided to take the plunge, for a three day, two night trip (only an hour and half from home). Our experience sounded much like yours…mostly a disaster with some really amazingly perfect moments thrown in. We won’t be doing it again anytime soon I am sure, but we will keep trying. Thank you for sharing your beautiful girls/family with all of us. I can only hope my husband and I do as well by our son as your do by your daughters.

  2. As usual, not much to say, my friend… just letting you know that I’m here and reading/listening. But you know, that I’m here typing…do you ever think that the thirty seconds of sheer joy outweighs the days worth of, well, crap? Yesterday, I felt perfectly healthy and normal and fine for about 4-5 minutes. Nothing hurt, I wasn’t starving, my blood sugar was in the normal range, and I didn’t even have to pee. And, knowing now what it is to deal with chronic illness, those moments of normalcy are so incredible. I live for the next one. God always has another one in store for me, and it gives me reason to hold out and find out when that moment will come. Is it anything like that at your house? You muddle through all that stuff, but when you get the highs, it makes it all worth it…?

    • Lydia, yes. Yes. We’ve been having some really tough days and I sometimes feel like I’m entitled to a pity party because well, yesterday was so hard. And then Rhema will do something like say “night night” clear as day and it blows my mind and makes all the tough stuff pale in comparison. It helps me remember that all we can do is trust God to sustain us moment to moment.

      I’m so sorry that you’ve had to deal with chronic illness and setback after setback. Your life is a reflection of His glory, truly. Thank you. Praying for you, in all your moments.

  3. None of this is “not nothing”. You guys are brave and inspiring. My fave pic is Brandon with his daughters. That in and of itself is wonderful. Maybe next year you can try camping. Choose a rainy weekend so the place will be empty and no-one else can hear/see the meltdowns. Peeing in the bushes is acceptable and if one girl wants to play in the sand while one wants to splash around in a bucket of water or position herself so the smoke from the fire will blow in her face … it’s all good.

  4. Soo blessed to see this Nealls! The way you and family go for joy with all you have no matter what is so beautiful and so brave. Way to live. What value in your journey. So glad Brandon is home. We love you.

  5. Love all of the family pictures, especially the one of Hope and Rhema. What a special bond they share. You guys are so good for pushing aside doubts and fears – and confronting them when those doubts and fears come to fruition – in order to create moments of joy for your family. May God continue to bless you.

  6. I can only imagine the energy, prayers, and the grace of our beloved God that is took for you guys to actually go to the zoo and mini golfing, but you did it! And it looks like there was definitely some great times. So happy for you all that Brandon is back and you were able to make a mess of memories. Praying for your strength.

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