Meet Mia: life with a little EXTRA

In honor of world Down syndrome day I must dote on one of my most favorite ladies sporting an EXTRA chromosome...IMG_5350My first summer of camp at ESP I was lucky enough to be "swim buddies" with a sweet, talented, loyal (sometimes stubborn) camper named Mia. Oh, she also has Down syndrome.

Our friendship started over breaststroke and flip-turns.... And she has definitely turned our life around. Mia moved in to be a part of our family in August of 2009. She is very independent, has a busy social agenda and a job outside of the home. Mia has her own "apartment" in the basement and enjoys her own space. Yet, we enjoy her company at dinner and she enjoys family time with the Whitaker's (unless we're eating fish and brussel sprouts) on the evenings and weekends.

It has been a beautiful 5 year journey. Owen and Finley both don't know our home as any different. To be honest, I don't remember life any different either. Mia's relationship with my children is like none other. Owen knows how to make her laugh, loves to snuggle and give her hugs & is always the reminder to include her in various life events. Mia is the only person who walks through the door and receives a scream of excitement and a running greeting from Finley. She has taught all of us so many lessons- to enjoy the little things, to always greet kindly and to remember the birthdays of those you love.

Joseph and I have re-evaluated the situation a couple times along the road, making sure this decision is still best for all involved. Every time we have looked at each other with watery eyes as we discuss what home would be like without her.

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Meet Mia. She's a 29 year-old young woman who loves life, calendars, pizza & karaoke. She also loves our family and we feel lucky to love her. Mia IS family--- the EXTRA factor that makes it complete. Mia Nobbie-Whitaker

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"Don't neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it." Hebrews 13:2

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Birds of the Air & Flowers of the Field

20140115-204209.jpg ... Even last night I could hear her voice "be careful on the drive home, sweety" and her worried thoughts as we made the drive late from south Alabama to Athens.

Except this time she was not worrying.

Worry was her crutch. Whether her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren or health problem.. there was always a reason to fret. Worry is a unfamiliar stranger that has begun to creep into my life. The older I get, the more I have to lose. The older I get, the more I can relate to her. photo (14)

Story after story people admired her love for beauty & artistic skill in showing appreciation of the world around her. She was an expert--a mastermind in creating a vision, intricately placing each piece of color and texture together, measuring them precisely and turning those small pieces into beautiful works of art-- quilts.

"She makes her own bed coverings; her clothing is fine linen and purple. She makes and sells linen garments; she delivers belts to the merchants." (Proverbs 31)

I've always known of her love for nature. You could see it in her home, hummingbirds all around: dishes, towels and wall hangings. I remember it in her garden- flowers of every kind, planted and tendered for the simple joy of looking at them. And among her beautiful quilts was a common theme-- birds and flowers.

There are so many beautiful things about my grandmother- her faith and how it was instilled in my father, the deep & steadfast love she had for her husband, her people-personality and humorous drama. But this week, as I sat staring at the quilt that lay over her human body and as the preacher read a scripture known so well- I was overwhelmed with the most beautiful thing about my Gran:

"Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6)

Throughout her life my Gran overcame her greatest feat. By daily admiring the birds of the sky & flowers of the field and replicating them in her work she was reminded to fight her greatest weakness, worry.

20140116-214135.jpg It's a lesson I want to cherish & hold on to as I age. The art of not looking down or too far ahead but instead looking around. I am but a small thread in a much greater quilt- God's masterpiece. Worry not- as He is patch-working the details.

20140116-215744.jpg"Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised. Give her the reward of her labor, and let her works praise her at the city gates." (Proverbs 31)

85 years of life, 65 years of marriage, 60 years of quilting, 100 quilts... & a beautiful life to be praised.

Soul Behind the 11

As a mom of a son who often wears a number 11 jersey I tend to notice the other countless little boys who support our fearless quarterback by sporting his number. And as the last couple years have gone by I have often wondered if these little boys know what they are truly supporting when they wear the red, black & 11.

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aaronandbekkah

A young leader myself- taking over a not for profit organization at the age of 20 just 8 years ago- I am always intrigued by the drive behind the face. The last couple years I have been simply swept away as I've seen first-hand the story # 11 continues to write. The arm is firm, the mind is wise, the heart is a leader but the soul has made a difference.

Four years ago 11 said “yes” to the call to escort children with disabilities on-stage to help celebrate what the children CAN do instead of what they can’t. The challenge was to make each child feel special on stage at our annual Big Hearts event.  The challenge was very much accepted:  11 bowed to the young ladies in wheelchairs, kneeling to get on their level; he kissed the cheeks of sweet girls with Downs syndrome who long to be treated as ladies; he passed footballs to young boys who may miss- yet made them appear as champions. And when the event was over, 11 was the last to leave with a bag of trash in hand.

Year after year 11 humbly accepted the challenge. And while he put on a show-stopping act on stage that made the kids feel worthy & special- the scene backstage was far greater. The genuine hugs, fist pumps, whispers of encouragement, the late nights and the absent complaints.... all to provide a special night for the children who deserve it most.

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aaronandemily

Whether on stage, after practice or at the kids favorite place- ESP- #11 has met them with grace. In a recent interaction on the practice field- a young girl, Emily, wheeled up to 11 and gleaned her giant smile. He looked at her for one moment and proudly stated, “Emily, you changed your hair color! I love it!” A freezing statement. The accuracy of the assessment of Emily is one that takes men 20 years of marriage to master. Yet, it was an incidence of many showing that 11 didn’t care about the number on his jersey or the photograph that was being taken of him. Number 11 cared for Emily. He cared for each of the 55 children who stood at the sidelines of practice cheering him on. And as the minutes passed on and the children surrounded,  # 11 kneeled to each child, looking them in the eyes and treating them as if they mattered. Because they mattered to him.

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aaronandkids

And as the last 4 years have passed the most amazing part of the story is that it’s no longer just #11. It’s  #88, # 31, #82 and the list could go on.  As circles of players surround one boy Kaleb after practice singing beats to his favorite song, “she’ll be comin around the mountain” they smiled watching Kaleb’s pure joy in their involvement and focus on him. You see, the team has watched the example of their leader, #11. And in doing so have learned the power in giving.

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kalebandplayers

And as the mom who is ever answering her 5 year-olds football questions, I was struck by the definition of quarterback. So often the focus is on the field, one who- “lines up immediately behind the center & directs the offense of the team.”

As the nation knows, #11 has done his job on Saturdays well.

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But what sets #11 apart from the other men across the nation is the whole definition, “a person who leads or directs a group” # 11 is more than an arm, more than a quick mind, more than a handsome face or a leader on the field. # 11 has written a story, here in Athens, far greater than points on a scoreboard. He is a man who gives time & attention to those who are often stared at & forgotten. A man who has helped his team to change their perspective & use their position to engage. He is a soul that chose to use what he had to give to something greater than himself.

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And so, little boys, may your #11 jersey not retire after this season. Instead #11 should be a reminder that one soul chose to use his number to make a difference. May it be a challenge to the numbers that follow and to us fans who all have something, anything, to give back what we have been given. May the nation know and emulate you- Aaron Murray-  as your soul of servitude speaks much louder than your number. quar·ter·back noun 1.a back in football who usually lines up immediately behind the center and directs the offence of the team. 2. the position played by the back. 3. a person who leads

*Laura Whitaker is the Executive Director of Extra Special People- a place where children & young adults with developmental disabilities don't just exist, they thrive. For more information visit www.extraspecialpeople.com or to make a contribution in Aaron's honor visit HERE.

"BYE" to a Why

This week was tough. Two in one year. And it never gets any easier.

I often talk about the "why" around the office. When we're all exhausted, over-worked with no end in sight... it's the "whys" that keep us there, heart on our sleeve putting one foot, one dollar raised, one program planned in front of the other.

10 years ago I fell in love with ESP in part by one big smile & one word.

As the newbie around ESP, I knew I had a lot to learn and couldn't wait to soak it all In as I gave what I had in return.

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Each child at ESP has their own story. And as I see it, their own super powers. There was one guy I was naturally drawn to- 13 years old. One of his powers is his super natural smile- a stop in your tracks kinda smile, that makes your own heart grin. I was told early on that although he used a few selective words at home he had not yet spoken at camp. And with my 18-year-old pride in tow, I was immediately on a mission.

Through bribery of everything Ranch dressing, sodas, high-fives... I worked diligently throughout the summer to try and get this awesome kid to say a word, just one word. Despite my grandiose efforts mid-summer he wasn't budging. But something else was. Something greater. With no words at all, a friendship was being formed. One that was sweet, gentle and fun. I taught him a new song- Tarzan- that became his most demanding request. He taught me the motions to every ESP song. And through the friendship I realized that it wasn't about me, helping him to "communicate" in the way I thought was appropriate. It was about him teaching me to communicate in sincerity and affection.

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It was the Wednesday of the very last week of camp. I was putting my friend on the bus, high-fiving him for a mid-week day success. As I turned around and headed away I heard a faint voice. And as I looked back behind me, that supernatural smile was shining bright. The small voice I heard came from my friend... "Bye"

Bryan, one of my Why's- I want to say thank you. For just as the skies speak no words, they paint for us a beautiful picture of Him. You, without words, have announced what His hands have made.

And as you said "bye" to me... 10 long years ago. I say to you, my why, "bye" -- for now. One day we will stand next to you in worship with your supernatural smile and your now supernatural voice- a voice that has been preserved for the One who created it.

"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies announce what his hands have made. Day after day they tell the story; night after night they tell it again. They have no speech or words; they have no voice to be heard. But their message goes out through all the world; their words go everywhere on earth. (Psalms 19:1-3, NCV)

We are, we are Family.

 

family"We are, we are

Not your ordinary fami-mily

But we can all agree that

We are, We are

Close as close can be"

- We Are Family, Ice Age 4

There are (many) times in the ESP journey that I have been tired. Many times I have wanted to crawl in a hole. Many times that I have nearly called it quits. And why (many say) do I continue to do what I do? 

There are times in life when immediate family can get tiring. Many times when you want to escape them. Many times you may even want to disown them (lets be honest, it happens with every normal family). But why don't you?  Because at the end of the day, they are family. 

ESP IS family.  Really, they are. And this week it was so evident. At CTL it was the week for campers  ages 16+ (many of them I have known for 10 years). Throughout the last 6 days I cannot begin to count how many times Finley was touched, coddled over, held, passed around, danced with & smiled at. Owen was high-fived, danced with, played with, hugged and given constant affirmation and affection.  The beautiful thing about family is that they love unconditionally. 

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And now I get it, I understand the value of ESP  and the love we show to each camper on a whole new level. Because each camper has a parent, grandparent or caregiver who longs for them to be loved. 

There is simply no better gift than watching your child be loved.

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And so we are family. And I continue to do what I do because we are family. Despite the stresses of this job, it is the family of ESP, the love they show and the lessons they teach me that keep me coming back for more... back to our crazy, assorted, unfeigned, unconventional, impassioned family.

 

 

 "Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves." Romans 12:10

If the world was an ESP dance party...

....then world peace would be possible, seriously.

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You know that phrase, "dance like no ones watching"?  Well, it's something that our ESP'rs actually do and do so well.

A little over a week ago I experienced my 10th ESP Prom- a summer tradition & one of my favorite nights of the year.

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As I was "Harlem shaking" in the middle of the dance floor I teared up & goose bumps spread all over as I realized the beauty of what I was experiencing and the rarity of this phenomenon. I was surrounded by young kids, old kids,  black, white and in-between kids. Kids who wheel to dance, kids who may have a seizure in the middle of the dance floor. Kids who can speak fluently and ones who have limited speech. Not a soul in the room cared what dress you were wearing. Every individual, volunteers or camper was treated the same, with love.

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I know that none of us truly understand what heaven will be like, but man... I have to believe that an ESP dance party is pretty close.With one exception-- no wheelchairs, walkers, limps, tantrums, slurred speech or slower minds. If heaven is without that, but like an ESP dance party, than I'm in.

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The kiddos & I are back at Camp twin lakes for the week where dance parties happen after every meal-- heaven on Earth!

Join us-- grab your kids, a friend-- turn up the music and dance like no one's watching. Consider it a practice round for what lies ahead...

"Then the young woman will rejoice with dancing, & young and old men rejoice together. I will turn their mourning into joy,give them consolation, and bring happiness out of grief." -Jeremiah 31:13

 

The Nurturer.

Nurturer should be her nameHis biggest fan, my fathers wife Example of a tender Jesus I grew to love Teacher of faith through seasons of life The best volunteer ESP camp nurse Heart of empathy, often tears Deliverer of my little girl at birth Best friend of later years Unofficial church greeter Comforter of the timid & finder of the discouraged Warm and caring nurse of decades Bringing in life and caring as it fades.

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Happy birthday to the woman who inspires me to be a better mom everyday.

New Mom Muffins.

image I always struggle with what to bring new moms at the hospital, or better yet- to their home.

One of my best friends who just had a baby is a dietitian & I knew she would appreciate something hearty & healthy to keep things movin' (if ya know what I mean)- If you've experienced childbirth you know it can be traumatic to ALL of your systems.

I decided to whip out a favorite in my household to bring to the hospital- my famous Blueberry Bran Muffins (I'm not famous for much in the kitchen so I take pride in their popularity with my crew). If you double the recipe you can refrigerate for the fam to eat throughout the week for breakfast. They are easy, healthy and best of all--- man & kid proof delicious. 

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Our family had spent the day at a local blackberry farm the day before the baby came so I decided to modify my recipe to add our newly picked summer crop.

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Recipe:

- 1 Cup of Bran

- 1 & 1/2 Cup of Whole Wheat Flour

- tsp. of baking powder

- tsp. baking soda

- 2tbsp. olive oil

- 3/4 cup of applesauce

- 1/2 cup of honey

- 1 cup of milk

- 1/2 small zucchini grated

- 2 eggs

- cup of blueberries, blackberries or whatever fruit you would like (apple is delicious too!)

- pinch of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400º. Combine dry ingredients. Blend wet ingredients in a separate bowl then add dry ingredients. Stir until moist. Spoon into muffin pan & bake for 15-20min. *I always sprinkle a little rolled oats on top for an extra visual touch*

Keep refrigerated after a day. Delicious warmed with butter!

 

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I think the treats were a hit- This is the text I received from the new daddy-- with new momma's plastic bag EMPTY.

Next time you know someone who has a baby-- try New Mama Muffins. They will make mommy & baby very happy... and guarantee they won't make it back out of the hospital!

 

Fort for $14

For some reason Owen has talked about building a playhouse for the last year- probably due to  the lack of play space in our backyard (the only thing I don't like about this house). So, with a week off for us both (rare) we decided to help make the little guy's dream a reality- on a really tight budget- what he had saved in his piggy bank, $14.

Step 1-4

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I found 15 pallets on Craigslist several months ago, free. There are companies out there that want to get rid of them. I just heard from a friend that Lowe's etc. are selling them after the raise in Pinterest pallet projects-  there are still free options people, so don't give in. We also had an old fence door from a project at my office.

Things you need:

- 5 pallets

- fence door or piece of plywood

- nails- 4 in, 2.5 in

- two hinges (for the roof)

- 4- 2X4's

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Steps 6-10 image

Things you'll need:

- wood & stake for sign

- paint

- twine or rope

- plastic reusable bag (the yellow is from Ikea, the blue is a plastic tablecloth)

- flag pattern

- hole puncher

I created the flags from reusable bags & plastic table cloths. I decorated the fort with the help of the little guy with items we already had: toys, kids picnic table, bird box & flower box from ESP fair day!

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Voila! Happy kids & tired happy parents- a perfectly good "playhouse","workshop", "fort .... for only $14.

 

Babe Magnet

"Loving a baby is a circular business, a kind of feedback loop. The more you give the more you get and the more you get the more you feel like giving." Penelope Leach More like Babe-y Magnet.

I worried going in to the week that we (me and my kids) would get in the way. I wanted to be here to oversee, support the staff & most of all support my mom (who has been the ESP Camp nurse for the last 9 years) but not get in the way.

What I did not expect is watching Fin pave her own way amongst the campers. I have seen kids with autism who self-stim & tantrum fall still, silent & gentle in the presence and closeness of the baby. There have been lulls of possible homesickness diverted by love to her, many snuggles, hugs, high fives & pats on the head.

I find it fascinating that old, young, black, white, disability, ability, speech, no speech- a gentle connection with a baby is present. Maybe there is some kind of pure universal language the campers & Fin share or some club the rest of us don't know about. I wouldn't be surprised. After all, as Jesus puts it- they are the cool crowd.... image "When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these" Mark 10

Thank you, campers, for embracing my children. It's the greatest gift to a mother, watching her children be loved.

Home Is Where the ♡ Is.

image Here it is! Our home for 2 weeks this summer. Actually, it's not too shabby for camp (I told our generous loaners that this was a the Ritz of all campers). With two kids in tow & not a free bed on the grounds- we had to make alternative arrangements.

The kiddos & I are out at Camp Twin Lakes with ESP. There is something so pure, so beautiful & so right about God & the world while out at camp.

Even though I've never slept in this bed before & we are only here once (this year twice) a year- somehow & in some ways this feels more like home to me than anywhere else. Guess it's true that home is where your ♡ is...and my ♡ is here- with my children, with ESP, away from distractions and enjoying the purity & joys of camp.

Check out the site later in the week to read about a few special moments and what C.A.M.P means to me. image

C.A.M.P.

imageI just realized that I have been attending, working, counseling, running or overseeing camp for 20 years. I have become the women I am today because of camp: beginning at   The Swamp & moving on to ESP.

Through the eyes of a camper, volunteer, counselor, leadership staff & camp director-- here is what C.A.M.P means to me:

Captivating: "to influence and dominate by some special charm, art, or trait and with an irresistible appeal." Ask any kid whose been to camp who had a positive experience at camp if they could choose any place on earth to be & I suspect 9/10 would say camp. There is some special charm it has that is absolutely, indescribably irresistible.

Ageless: "Seeming never to grow old. Timeless." A place where no make up worn, the normal dress code is tie-die & it never gets old running after people with shaving cream. I have realized whether I am 8 or 28 the joys  of camp are ageless.

Momentous: "Of great importance or significance, esp. in its bearing on the future." I have a terrible memory, really, I do. But for some  reason I can still remember so much about camp. It was at camp that I fell in love with God, at camp that I met my first real crush, at camp that I met friends that I still have to this day. Although only aweek (or for some of us a summer)- the memories of the crazy adventures have a lasting impact.

Pure: "Having a homogeneous or uniform composition, free from anything extraneous." If only the world could function & behave like camp. At ESP the staff giving to the kids and the children giving back to the staffas they work together for the same goals. There is nothing extraneous- no extra gadgets, bells & whistles, ladders to climb, people to please. It's  amazing that in such a group of diverse people there could be such a beautiful dance of uniform composition. image

Camp IS crazy shorts, spagetti, wet hair,  sunglasses, backstreet boys (yes, still.), starving stomachs, water balloons, pranks, crushes, trips to the nurse, chacos, constipation (or is that just me?), smiles, lakeperfume, relay races, star gazing, breaking barriers, friendship, line dances, water bottles,  junk food, late nights, early mornings, after-lunch naps, coke, water slides, new beginnings, tears at the end of week, smelly laundry, ice cream,  rain jackets & sunsets. image

A renewed hope.

So, I made it what- 2 posts? And then came the spamy messages that were enough to convince me not to blog. Well, I'm giving it another go. So here goes nothin'...

It's hard to believe it, but I have been at Extra Special People for a decade. I had a crazy moment of realization while walking into the first day of camp that this was my 10th first day of camp. One of my favorite days of the summer is "Fair Day" - an event where the campers sell crafts they created. The $$$ goes to field trips like Mall Day where campers spend their hard earned cash. My first summer as a counselor, I purchased a gorgeous blue pot with a beautiful flower in it-- for a whole $20 (nearly a 1/10 of my 2 weeks paycheck at the time).

My new little gift had no chance. Confession..... I have a black thumb. It's true. Everyone in my family knows it. I'm a catastrophe when it comes to cell phones, cars & plants.

So, naturally, my plant died within two weeks of my possession (probably more like 2 days). Sadly- it was that same fall that the founder of ESP, Martha, passed away. I never realized the symbolism but I did feel a strange attachment to the my dead plant.  It has moved with me to the last 4 homes and sat {sadly} on each porch.

On mothers day this year I walked out the front door as usual, heading to put the kiddos in the car. I was looking down talking to Owen when something in the blue little pot caught my eye. After 10 years of multiple locations, droughts, rain & little attention-there was a sprout in my little blue pot. Be still my heart. Ten years in the making! Or- maybe a new seed was somehow sown? (or, quite possibly- it's a weed).

Either way, it made me remember my first summer, Martha and the magic of ESP I fell in love with. As we are now toiling to build a new facility for the individuals of ESP (we grew out of our current one over 15 years ago)- there are many days that feel hard, overwhelming & hopeless. But thank you little sprout. You have reminded me once again that God is the one in control. Whether plant, water, or leave things alone-  He is making things grow in His own time.

"So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow." 1 Cor 3:7

The moment.

"Laaaaaaaaaaaaaauuuuuurrrrrrrraaaaaaaaaa", a voice I knew so well, one I heard for four years over the crazy cheers and happy sounds at ESP. I knew what that call was for, it was time for lunch with Riley (name changed to abide to confidentiality).

Riley is one of our long-time campers-- who came alive at ESP. Born with cerebral palsy and unable to feed, bath or care for himself- Riley is one of the most spunky, good humored and life giving individuals I have ever met. Ignored at home and left in his bed-- Riley would be whipped into ESP straight to the bathroom by 18-20 year-old boy counselors who would bathe him, brush his teeth, spike his hair and whip him back out to camp with a movie-star grand entrance.

Most of the time I never ate during lunch with Riley. I don't know if it was the fact that it took most of the lunch time to feed him piece by piece (for a stick and bones young man, he ate A TON. I let him, as he wasn't fed much at home) or if it was the difficulty on my stomach as I watched him struggle to chew and swallow. Either way, I didn't care. He was happy and my soul and heart were full- that was all that mattered. Riley enjoyed our special time and quite honestly, I did more. Camp was amazing but as a camp director my time was focused on working with families and managing staff. Time with the kids wasn't the same as when I was a counselor, and I needed Riley (more than he needed me).

Communicating with his family was near to impossible and support for him was null. We would have counselors drive for an hour to and from camp to pick him up those early summer mornings and late hot afternoons to take him home. No transportation, no Riley, no Camp, no hope. We always found a way.

It was 2007 when Riley last enjoyed ESP. After that, although I searched and searched-- I couldn't find him. His family moved trailers, the telephone number changed and no one in his county seemed to know where he was. For the last 3 1/2 years, I have thought and prayed-- feeling tremendously responsible for not being able to provide him with the place he loved most, a place he was wanted.  I was told it wasn't my responsibility but my thought was always---   (<----One of my favorite quotes) If I wasn't doing something for him, who was?   

Over the years I have shared Riley's story, cried tears in prayer and held on to the fond memories of RIley, one (of the many) I cherish in the safe-heaven, angel-filled ESP. I could only assume he was no longer alive, now a man and past his life-expectancy. Riley has driven change in our program at ESP-- we are now working to meet more than the needs of the child, but the needs of the family too. If only I could have done that for Riley's family. I held on to the hope that his legacy was still alive.

Until today.

I was headed to a meeting with another executive director who runs a program for senior citizens. After a frustrating and not-getting-anything-done-but-doing-everything-I-can-without-stopping kinda day... I did not want to drive across town and lose more time. I get there and turns out that the lady I was meeting with had to cancel (which did NOT help my tude). Instead, she set me up with one of her staff who walked me around their facility.

As we approached the "adult day care" facility for elderly adults, most with alzheimer's and dementia-- we talked and as I asked the typical ED financial and programmatic questions.....it happened. It was the moment. An almost  time-warp, walking on air kind-off thing...I saw him......"is, is, is that man's name Riley?".... I walked over... "Riley! It's Laura, from ESP". And before those words finished coming out of my mouth-- his arms spread out spastically in his pretzel-like way. His mouth spread wide open and a smile as big as the moon came across his face, "Laaaaaaaauuuuuuuuuuuraaaaaaaaaaaa."

The moment I had desired for going on 4 years, a moment I thought would never come.

I spent an hour (holding back tears)  joking with him, talking with the staff and reliving some of my favorite  memories with Riley. We reminisced about the "kissing booth" he used to hold to raise money for ESP-- he always had a way with the ladies.

I was in "auto-ESP" mode while with Riley, but inside filled with emotion. As I walked to the car, one of the workers walked with me explaining his family situation only worsened and this program is "all he has" (just as we used to be). Created for the elderly, serving a young man in need. 

As I got in the car, I let out a sigh and put my foot on the pedal to head up the hill. As the car climbed, my stronghold broke. Tears flooded and my heart overspilled with emotion... emotion so deep I could barely whisper in prayer: he was alive, taken care of, still with hope.

5 “Because of the oppression of the afflictedand the groaning of the needy, I will now rise up,” says the LORD. “I will put the one who longs for it in a safe place.” Psalm 12:5

Today's moment was beautiful. And as I reflected I once again felt a sigh of relief and weight fall off my shoulders--  as much as it feels like it at times, it is not all about me and what I can control. As much as I try to help- it is God who is all and in all- He is the father of the fatherless, hope for the hopeless and a safe place for those who long for it. It is Him who kept Riley safe and He too will keep my Owen, my unborn and all the other 100+ ESP angels in his hands.

He's got the itty bitty babies and the fragile fragile Rileys in his hands, he's got the whole world in his hands.