On most days I have to find motivation to keep fighting because life is tough, y’all! Lucky for me, people like Mason Mulligan prance into my life to remind me why I must keep fighting, to laugh at silly jokes, and to stop and get your feet rubbed every now and then. Mason has had to battle with health issues, speech, academics, other delays, “the system,” and the list goes on from the time he was born, but, let me tell ya, Mason’s social game is ON POINT. I don’t know a single person who has met Mason who’s life hasn’t been changed. He brings permanent joy into the lives of those around him. I may not get to see him as much as I used to, but when I reminisce on our time together, that same joy comes flooding back.
Currently, Mason’s bladder isn’t working properly. He has been in and out of the hospital in recent years and now has to self catheter for the rest of his life. He also has developed high blood pressure and has an overactive pancreas that produces too much insulin. Most of this would be overwhelming for an average teenage boy, but Mason is above average. In his words, “I just have to ‘man-up!’” Mason and his family have used Mason’s struggles as a platform for their testimonies. According to his mom, in her experience many mothers of down syndrome children are single mothers. Tansi has been able to witness to many women she may have never had the opportunity to meet because before a family of a down syndrome child leaves the hospital, they are put in contact with another family in a similar situation. This has opened many opportunities to share how God has revealed Himself to her through Mason. These women build relationships with each other and with Christ all because of an extra chromosome and a little struggle.
Mason, too, allows God to give him courage and strength to face these difficulties! He takes his medication with no fuss and he’s really stepped up by learning to catheter himself! He, quite impressively, changed his diet and lost 15 pounds since he started in winter! Y’all! This kid loves his food. He would eat breakfast at home, come to school and eat breakfast, bring lunch from home, AND eat a school lunch. He had all kinds of homemade lunches and snacks in his lunchbox each day. When I say that this change has been impressive, I mean it! Mason’s schedule seems to stay quite busy with doctor’s visits and therapists, as well. He has “floppiness” (ligament issues in his feet) that affects his ability with activities, such as running and walking! He sees an orthopedist every 6 months to keep updated x-rays on his feet, knees and hips! He’s nearsighted and has developed a stigmatism and, begrudgingly, has to year glasses. Tansi reiterated how thankful she was that Mason is as blessed as he is despite these issues. “We’re also blessed that he did not have heart or intestinal issues which is common among Downs children!”
I was fortunate enough to be Mason’s sixth grade social studies teacher four years ago. He was and is incredibly academically independent and smart and amazed me daily. My favorite part about Mason wasn’t that he constantly made the honor roll. My favorite part about Mason wasn’t even that he was well behaved during class. My favorite part about Mason is that he made me laugh every. single. day. Each day he asked me, “What are you eating for lunch, cat soup?” Then would fall over laughing, which was contagious. He would ask a million times a day, “Hey, Ms. Boyd, wanna rub my feet?” with a huge, goofy grin on his face and it always made my day. I will never forget sitting beside him on the way home from a field trip and he was pretending to be asleep and snoring because he knew it would make me laugh. We loved picking on each other about our favorite college teams, but he, obviously, chose the wrong one. When spending time with Mason today, I asked if he, the die-hard tiger fan, planned on attending Clemson when he graduated. He said he thought Clemson might be too far away from home so, as of now, he plans on attending Florence Darlington Tech for carpentry, one of his passions. This is Mason. He is looking forward to getting his driver’s permit and attending college. He fights daily. He’s a witness for Jesus. These are my favorite things about Mason...because that *is* Mason - joy. Thank you, Mason, for bringing us joy. Thank you for inspiring us to fight, to ‘man-up.’ Hey, Mason, wanna rub my feet?
Our 2018 model call was a success thanks to these beautiful ladies! I met many different personalities and each shared them with me gleefully. I hope each of them look back on their portraits and see their beauty and worth.
Remember ladies, you are "fearfully and wonderfully made." Psalm 139:14
Olivia - Confident. Outgoing. Smart. Beautiful.
“God is within her, she will not fall.” Psalm 46:5
Allie - Spunky. Inquisitive. Strong. Beautiful.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
Shelby - Unique. Glamorous. Zealous. Beautiful.
“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” Proverbs 31:25
Gabby - Sweet. Gently. Happy. Beautiful.
“Let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:14
Brianna - Sparkling. Lively. Silly. Beautiful.
“By the grace of God, I am what I am.” 1 Corinthians 15:10
Ty - Gifted. Easygoing. Witty. Beautiful.
“You are altogether beautiful, my darling, beautiful in every way.” Song of Solomon 4:7
GraceAnna - Affectionate. Compassionate. Talented. Beautiful.
“You are loved more than you will ever know by someone who died to know you.” Romans 5:6
Erin - Loving. Kind. Sincere. Beautiful.
“Blessed is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her.” Luke 1:45
Ashton - Athletic. Adventurous. Certain. Beautiful.
“It is not fancy hair, gold jewelry, or fine clothes that should make you beautiful. No, your beauty should come from inside you –the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. That beauty will never disappear and it is worth very much to God.” 1 Peter 3:3-4
Marleigh - Assured. Exuberant. Gregarious. Beautiful.
“Declare over yourself: ‘God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.'” 2 Tim 1:7
Aubrey - Poised. Ambitious. Persistent. Beautiful.
“Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30
Annsley - Amiable. Considerate. Servant. Beautiful.
“Whenever you feel unloved, unimportant, or insecure, remember to whom you belong.” Ephesians 2:19-22
I love photographing people. It's my passion and a dream come true that I get to pursue this passion. However, I'd like to expand my photography skills, so I started researching and practicing macro photography because it is (by far) my weakest area of photography. For the past three days, I have been exploring my surroundings and, after THOUSANDS of photographs, here is the best I have from A to Z. It is not good. I'd love to get some tips from other photog friends! I think my biggest issue is that I don't know how to use my macro lens. I'm really struggling with the focus.
Find the rest at http://bit.ly/MacroAtoZ .
13 Reasons Why Not
Trust me, I get it. My life has been full of pain...physical pain, emotional pain, psychological pain. I. Get. It. Sometimes it seems so much easier to simply give up than go on. Well, it *is* easier. But who says it's better? When life is hard and the pain is too heavy, make a list of reasons "why not." Read them. Read them again. Read them over and over to remind yourself why you must go on despite the pain. My reasons are below and I'm sharing to show you that I, too, struggle with those scary thoughts. But these reasons alway have and always will help me survive. I'm not challenging you to share your list (unless you want to), but I am challenging you to make one. And read it. Read it again.
- Mom is first because she has endured so much. Not that anyone else's pain will be less than hers, but because she has experienced so much pain in her life, I don't want to be the cause of more. Sometimes I think it would be easier to leave because of all the heartache and headaches I've caused her by living. But I know from experience that leaving her would cause infinite more pain than living ever could.
- TJ had never really experienced much pain before he met me. When I walked into his life, I came dragging a huge, heavy bag of ache with me. I struggle with thinking his life would be much brighter without all my baggage. Why is he a reason why not? He hasn't had to experience loss yet. Do I want to be the one to show him the darkness of grief? Heck naw!
- I saw what losing a child did to him. I saw what almost losing me did to him. I don't remember much from my accident three years ago, but I remember the tears and fear in my dad's eyes as he was telling me to keep looking at him. Keep fighting. I never want to see that fear again.
- He's my baby boy. Tyler was always the happy one. He rarely got angry and was always even-tempered when he was upset. He has brought so much joy to my life...especially when it snowed! When Clint left us, his brightness dimmed and has struggled to shine as bright ever since. If I leave, who's to say that light won't go out completely?
- I often feel like Daniel's life wouldn't change much if I left because we don't talk much anymore. Those thoughts are straight from the devil's lips to my ears. He uses my insecurity about our relationship to bring the poison of depression into my body. None of us have been the same since one sibling left. How could I ever make it two siblings? Daniel loves me, devil! Get behind me!
- While my students' day-to-day lives may not change, my influence over them would. I have always been an advocate for perseverance and hard work. I have always tried to be a witness for overcoming adversity. If I were to do the unthinkable, all of my testimony to them would be destroyed. It would have all been for nothing.
- I feel like William and Easton are young enough that they wouldn't remember what the loss of a family member would feel like. But because of Andrew's age and inquisitive nature, he would. Never will I EVER intentionally be the cause of pain on those boys. Neva!
8. God's purpose
- I have had cancer, a staph infection, and a 25 foot fall. If God's will in my life was over, I'd be gone. I still have more to do.
- Not that I think that any of my other friends would hurt less than Anna, but I know Anna naturally feels things more intensely than others. She loves deeper than most and hurts deeper than most. I also think that she would carry guilt. Even though it would not be her fault, I could never be the reason to hurt her like that.
- While they will go on, they will also hurt.
- Same goes for my friends.
Jax follows every step I take. I don't do anything in my home without Jax, so I think he'd come with me. But Brees? Brees would wonder where I was. He would mourn the loss. He isn't your average pup. He's quite human. He remembers. He'd grieve.
- How can Clint be a reason why not? He's actually the #1 reason because... I felt it. I felt the loss, the grief. I felt complete darkness and loneliness. My life forever changed and will never go back to how it was before. I would never wish that hurt on anyone, so I vow not to be.
Make your list. Read it. Read it again.
You may or may not have heard my story. Spoiler alert...it's one of survival. I started my own little celebration day three years ago when I survived a 20+ foot fall down an empty shaft. Each year on May 17, I like to celebrate the survivors among us. This year, I am celebrating these two precious beings.
Charlie and Chris were born at 28 weeks and spent the first few months of their lives fighting, surviving. Chris spent three months in the hospital to finish developing his sweet, premature body. Little Miss Charlie had an even more dramatic debut into the world...women are like that sometimes. We need to keep everyone on their toes.
While in the NICU at McLeod hospital in Florence, SC, it was discovered that Charlie had a narrowed aorta and had to be transferred to MUSC NICU in Charleston, SC. She needed heart surgery, but had to be at least five pounds before the doctors would operate. So fight she did. She fought for weight. She fought against her underdeveloped heart. She fought for survival. Once ready, one heart surgery wasn't enough for our Fighter of the Year, she had to go under again for a heart cath...but a SURVIVOR was born.
When a small child fights for survival, I know from first-hand experience that his/her parents suffer most. Chris and Charlie will not remember those days in the hospitals. They will not remember the surgeries, doctors, poking and prodding. They will not remember the long nights and traumatic days. But Mom and Dad will. Mom and Dad, Abby and Wade, will always remember the moment their children were born. They'll remember the fear and helplessness they felt as their children fought for their lives. They'll remember the financial burdens and the long travel between Chris in Florence and Charlie in Charleston. They'll remember their pleas to God to help their precious babes. Chris came home a month before Charlie, so these newlywed parents had to split their time, barely sleeping or surviving themselves.
But the joy comes with the morning.
When Chris and Charlie entered the world, a whole family of survivors was born. Wade, Abby, Chris and Charlie, all had to learn to survive. And they did. On Christmas day 2017, Charlie came home and the Reynolds family became whole for the first time. Today, we celebrate this family of survivors. We celebrate your tenacity, your love, and your witness. Thank you for sharing your story.
"Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning." Psalm 30:5