Elena Smiles


Changing Seasons

March 19, 2018

Looking at my girl, I’m coming to terms with the fact that she is growing up.  I’ve had several moments of late where I stop, look around me, and think – where has time gone?  Elena is closing in on seven years of life – SEVEN!  She looks every bit of it too.  This realization has had me in a perpetual state of wonder and reflection.  How did we get here?  What happened to TIME?

Following Elena’s injury, it was like someone had take our life, crumbled it into a million pieces, shook it up in a bag and handed it back to us with assembly instructions in Mandarin.  There was so much time spent sorting through the grief, piecing our life back together again and in fear of what our future, what Elena’s future would look like.  It breaks my heart to think of our naivete at leaving the hospital with hope that Elena would “wake” up from the medication she had been given, and settle back into the “old Elena”.  I knew in my heart she would never be the same, but as a Mother how do you come to terms with that?  You may remember that we clung to Ephesians 3:20 “Now to him who able to do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine according to his power that is at work within us.”  I was certain this meant recovery, healing, restoration for my broken baby girl.  

Those early days I worked with Elena around the clock.  We were constantly going to doctor appointments, therapy and if we weren’t doing those, I was doing therapy with her.  It was overwhelming and a rollercoaster ride of emotions.  But, I began to really understand her.  I was learning my daughter, soaking up information about her vision impairment, GI issues, muscular struggles and bone development.  Though this role gave me purpose and hope, I often found myself in tears, feeling much more like therapist and manager than Mom.  

Then came the Jackson Center, it became my sanctuary.  It was a place where kids were like Elena and the other Moms understood me.  I could ask a hundred questions and listen to the wisdom and compassion from the other Moms who had been in my shoes, comforting me and quelling my fears.  That was such a critical time for me, it was a time where I began to accept that Elena’s life would not look like the one I had dreamed.  I was learning to both grieve that and be ok with that.  While Elena performed hours of grueling therapy, I would have a little bit of therapy myself.  

Somewhere over the course of this time, I found (one of many) a miracle.  Peace.  I’m not sure that I ever once prayed for peace over this situation.  But, then again – Ephesians 3:20 “…..more than we could ever ask or imagine”.  Granted, I would give anything, ANYTHING for my miracle to have been for Elena to be healed.  And it will be my forever prayer to see her continue to achieve.  But, this recent time of reflection has given me perspective, which if you’ve read anything I write, I am a firm believer in the incredible gift of perspective.  And this bout of perspective flows from the peace that is within me.  

I will forever grieve the expectations I had for Elena’s life.  I will forever grieve her struggles, our struggles as a family over her injury.  I will forever have good days, hopeful days, joyful days and angry, fearful, cripplingly sad days.  But the resounding beat of my heart lately has been peace.  I am at peace with my beautiful girl, just the way she is.  This doesn’t mean I’m not constantly searching for ways to help her, make her life easier or pushing her to achieve.  It means that this life, her life is meaningful and rich and fulfilling and lovely even in it’s broken form.  
It feels as though a new season of life is ushering it’s way in.  Oh, I’m still in the trenches with her wild and crazy brothers, schedules, and such, however I’m settling into a better rhythm.  A more stable one, a more hopeful one, one with loads of perspective.  Being a sharer by nature, I feel like it’s positioning me to be able to be more generous in supporting others and paying forward the experience that all those Moms helped me (and still do!) with along the way.  And there is just so much darn hurt in this world to help. 

My days are long, my to-do lists longer, and there always seems to be a kid who either needs something or needs to be cleaned up after.  But as I crawl into my bed each night, there’s an inner satisfaction with this wild, difficult, fulfilling, joyful life of mine.  I never could have imagined it this way, or honestly, nor would I have wanted to, but that’s the how the beauty of my faith works.  I put my trust and hope in something bigger than me, my circumstances, my control and my failures, and somehow, inexplicably (but actually very explicable) in the end, it gets redeemed.  My heart gets changed over and over and over again.  Fear and anxiety get replaced with peace.  Despair and heartache with joy and gratitude.  And the promise He made to me in Ephesians 3:20 will continue to reign true again and again with more blessings than I could ever ask or imagine.  The best of which, to spend each day with my living, breathing miracle, who is and always will be my greatest inspiration, my Elena.  

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This is Elena. Our Light. You can see all the goodness and joy that shines from those deep blue eyes. She loves sneezes, yawns, industrial toilet flushes, automatic paper towel dispensers and The Star Spangled Banner. Music is her everything, specifically Moana, Frozen (really all Disney), Queen & Taylor Swift. Nothing makes her squeal quite like swimming, fast boat rides and her two brothers in trouble. In addition to her megawatt smile, Elena reminds us to cherish the smallest of victories, to live in the present, and to daily dwell in a posture of gratitude for every breath and every blessing.  

More About Our Story

I’m Emmalee, an ordinary gal born and raised in the Heartland. Wife to Chad, and Mom to Elena, Calvin & Turner, I spend most my days ridin’ dirty (literally so much trash) in my minivan carting kids to and fro. When I’m not being a Momager, I excel at self-care, cooking gourmet meals my kids won’t eat and deep-diving all the feelings. Most days, my attitude is gratitude, just taking life one step at a time.

Emmalee & Elena

Meet The Gals