Updated: Feb 25, 2020
By Brittnie Blackburn
God's Brave Women - Brittnie's Story
My eyes filled with tears as I slowly packed her suitcase. Shirts, shorts, swim suit, sneakers, all the gear a child needs for a week at summer camp. All of the typical gear plus a lot of non-typical gear such as headphones, fidget toys, overnight diapers, wipes, chew bead necklaces and more. What was I thinking? I continued to wipe my eyes over the course of the next hour. Yet, as I grabbed the last tissue out of the box, it was evident I’d be wiping us clean of Kleenex in no time. My heart was beating so loudly I just knew the next-door neighbors could hear. My firstborn, my baby girl, was headed off to camp in two short days and if I thought about it too long, I might just cancel her plans and hang all those clothes nicely and safely back in her closet.
This would be her first sleep-away camp. Well, her first ever camp, that just happened to be a sleep-away camp. Four nights. The longest we’ve been apart. I don’t say that as a martyr or with pride, it’s just the reality. Because you see, my beautiful girl has special needs. With a diagnosis of Cohen Syndrome, Autism, I.D.D, and Microcephaly, the idea of releasing her needs over to a group of strangers at a summer camp she has never attended felt like too much.
Clara doesn’t speak. She needs assistance with most all daily living tasks and personal care. She despises loud noise and while she can walk, needs tending to when going upstairs or over a curb. If not closely monitored, she will wander off with no awareness of her whereabouts. Why in the world did I think four nights at camp was a good idea? How will I be able to walk away from my girl?
"Clara doesn’t speak. She needs assistance with most all daily living tasks and personal care... Why in the world did I think four nights at camp was a good idea? How will I be able to walk away from my girl?"
“She will be fine,” my husband would say on repeat. “This is like a vacation for her, too. No school. Swimming each day. She will be fine, Britt.” And yet, despite his reassurances, I could not think on the pending reality too long or I’d crumble in a puddle of sobs.
We arrived at the campsite a few days later, and as I saw each and every volunteer welcome this next session of campers, all of who had special needs, my eyes pooled with water yet again. These people are so happy! So joyful! So genuinely excited to selflessly spend their week loving on kiddos with different abilities.
I watched in awe as one-by-one campers ranging from 7-21 years unloaded from their cars, some independently and some with assistance, and walked or rolled through the welcome line. And it hit me. Each and every one of these campers is showing up, saying yes to a new experience. These kids are taking a risk. They are open handedly walking into the unknown, without the safety of their caregivers. They are choosing vulnerability. They are a living definition of bravery.
If they could be so brave, then so could I.
On that hot, summer day, bravery looked like the posture of hands open and palms up. For me, and maybe for some of you, bravery looks like releasing our grip, letting go and trusting that the God who made the universe will not leave us. It is trusting that God is bigger than our fear. This letting go is hard, so very hard, but sometimes it is in this letting go that forces us to lean-in and trust deeper and blossom and grow and reach new heights and joys we would otherwise miss out on.
"On that hot, summer day, bravery looked like the posture of hands open and palms up. For me, and maybe for some of you, bravery looks like releasing our grip, letting go and trusting that the God who made the universe will not leave us. It is trusting that God is bigger than our fear."
Bravery looks like “Casting all of our anxiety on the Lord, because He cares for us.” (I Peter 5:7)
Friends, had I chosen the posture of a tight grip, had I packed her shorts back in the closet, I would have missed so many joys.
The joy of Clara’s smile as she rode a horse for the first time.
The joy of her giggle as she tackled the zip line.
The joy of new friendships formed for my girl.
The joy of new memories and conversations with Clara’s younger, typically-developing sister, made possible because of this camp.
The joy that comes in a new-found confidence that Clara is resilient and is able to conqueror hard things too.
The joy that comes in knowing that this will not be her only summer camp experience!
Not only did she survive one week at summer camp, she thrived. Thrived! I had made assumptions based on her limitations, and God was right there waiting to show me that with Him, nothing is impossible. There are no limits to what God can do. God saw endless possibilities, not limitations or special needs. All He needed was my brave choice to let go.
I realized I had to choose to act first, knowing and trusting that the feelings would follow. I had to choose to be brave before I was ready, friends. I had to make the hard choice, even in my fear, trusting that God would replace those fears with joy in His time. Trusting, with open hands, that God loves my girl more than I can ever comprehend.
Sometimes, the brave act is saying “Yes!” when our flesh screams, “No!” and trusting that God will show off in the end.
Dear sister, is there an area of your life where you might need to release your grip? You might not be raising a child with special needs, but we all have our own version of summer camp. Is there an area where you might need to let go and let God replace your fear and hesitation with his power and joy?