give what you’ve got

A year ago our youngest was recovering from her third cleft related surgery. I didn’t write much about it because it fell days after I returned from Ecuador. Thanks to reminders on Facebook, I realized we were celebrating a year post-surgery.

Her first surgery was to repair her cleft lip. Her second surgery was to repair her cleft palate. Those first two surgeries were standard. We knew she needed them. Her doctor knew she needed them. Despite how difficult it is to watch your child go through a surgery, we didn’t wrestle with should or shouldn’t we put her through the surgeries.

Her third surgery was a much different story.

Her third surgery felt more like a gamble. Prior to her 3rd surgery there were sound she could not make. The anatomy of her palate made it pretty much impossible for her to form certain sounds. For her third surgery, we had to weigh the cost. Her doctor couldn’t tell us if she needed it or if it would work. We couldn’t determine it either. We had to trust the expertise of one very important person in her life – her speech therapist Jennie.

After months of waiting to see if she would begin making certain sounds and months of Jennie listening closely, Jennie recommended the surgery. We trusted Jennie and our baby girl went through her third surgery.

The doctor told us it would take right around 6 months for everything to heal and for us to be able to tell if she could now make those sounds she was unable to before.

Almost exactly 6 months later our girl was speaking clearly and articulating sounds she had never been able to make before the surgery. It wasn’t until seeing one of these pictures pop up on Facebook that I remembered just how far she has come in the last year. A year ago I was interpreting for her. She would talk and I would in a sense translate what she was saying to others. Very few of her young friends understood everything she said – actually, none of them understood everything.

Those days are far behind us. A few months ago she graduated from speech therapy twice a week to now only meeting with Miss Jennie once a week. Jennie changed her life. It was Jennie’s knowledge that guided us towards a surgery that ultimately empowered our daughter to communicate clearly with others.


I don’t know if Jennie ever gets discouraged in her chosen career. I’m guessing she might because I think most of us do at some point or another. I’m thankful Jennie pursued speech therapy. I’m thankful she said, “Yes” when we asked her to work with our daughter. She will probably never make millions of dollars. I doubt the school system will ever shower her with extravagant gifts or luxurious trips. She probably won’t get huge bonuses. BUT Jennie lives out her gifts. She shows up for her students. She is changing the world one little voice at a time.

Jennie reminds me of these words from Jill Briscoe:

“You go where you’re sent,

and you stay where you’re put

and you give what you’ve got until you’re done.”

~Jill Briscoe

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  • Melanie - So good to hear what Little One is up to. Everytime when you mentioned her talking I thought “Wow, she is talking now?!”.
    My son is hearing impaired and I love our Mrs. Kraus as much as you love Jennie. She is the one that taught him to speak and to hear/listen. I just love her. Now the end of our journey with her is in sight and I am forever grateful for her expertise and her patience.
    What people like your Jennie and our Mrs. Kraus do for our children cannot be paid with money.

    Greetings from Germany!

  • Shira - I echo what Melanie said — I’d been wondering too, and cheering for Little One behind the scenes! I’m hearing impaired and had speech therapy for a number of years as a kid (and thankfully, it worked). I loved my speech therapist. Huzzah to you all for all the progress – it takes guts and trust to go for that third surgery. Congrats on the success! Your Jennie sounds quite amazing.

  • Amanda - This update couldn’t have come at a better time <3 After saving (and saving and saving!) for our adoption, we are exploring a special needs adoption. Thank you to you and your family for sharing your story. You made my heart happier today!

  • Christine - Thank you for sharing. I’m so happy to hear of Little One’s progress. Thankful for all the “Jennie”s out there helping children and families! Here’s to your Jennie!!

  • ranee - love this post and loved hearing Jill Briscoe at IF gathering…such wisdom! 🙂

  • Tammy - Teary-eyed here. I found your blog because of your sweet Little one and I am always so thrilled to see Miss Jennie.

  • Caitlin E - Just sent this to my mom who is a pediatric SLP! I know there’s many a mom out there who is thankful she chose her vocation!

  • Carrie - So glad she has Jennie. We are still waiting for a definite decision regarding the 3rd surgery for our daughter for same reason. But they are leaning towards it…

  • Betj - That is amazing. I never had these issues but did need speech therapy as a child and I can say that it is such a battle wanting to be understood but not able to. I can still remember how happy I was when I could be understood by those I love most. I know it will always be that way for your girl too.

  • Laura Sennott - Thank God for Jennie!! What a joyous privilege it has been to see your little one grow and strive, for all of your little ones! You and your family are a wonderful example of the good in the world!

  • Candace - I am so glad you have an awesome speech therapist. We love ours and she has made the world of difference. I don’t ever think they get enough credit for what they do!!!

  • Rae - I’ve been reading your blog since I was 14 {around two years now}. For years, I’ve been interested in becoming a speech therapist; this post was so inspiring. God Bless Jennie and your family! <3
    Also, your blog completely changed my view on adoption. From being against it, I am now utterly, completely a LOUD advocate for it lol. I talk about the beauty of adoption with almost everyone I know and you're a constant example. A constant example in my life as well. I hope to adopt when I grow older. I'd love to adopt a baby…somewhere from newborn to a year old..because I feel like it would be easier for them to adjust. What system did you use?
    Thanks! 🙂

  • Monique - Jill Briscoe rocked my world last weekend at IF Gathering. I came home and checked out every book I could from the library, and purchased used many of the rest. Your “mission field being between your own two feet” and considering prayer a place we go instead of something we do, “the secret place where nobody goes,” are other takeaways from her that have challenged and inspired me. So thrilling to see her quote on your blog today! I know she’s been around for awhile, but I felt like I’d discovered a gem of a mentor when I heard her speak!

  • Jenny B. - So encouraging! So thankful for Jennie and people like her. And So thankful for Little One’s accomplishments! <3

  • Maureen - Absolutely beautiful! Thanks for sharing! The Jennies of the world are what makes this world so remarkable.

  • Seamingly Sarah - What a wonderful post. Thank you for the quote at the end. It speaks
    to me so much right now.

  • Elise - beautiful!!!!!!!

  • Trisha - This is beautifully said and very moving. Go Miss Jennie!

  • Lindsay Kjar - What a beautiful story! Her contribution to your family is amazing, and so is your belief in not letting a grateful heart forget to say thanks!

  • Emily - Our SLP is amazing. My son has Apraxia (no physical limitations) and has therapy twice a week. He loves going to see her and his speech is clearer every day. She really is worth more than rubies. <3

  • Jill - Our son was in birth to three (he turns 10 tomorrow!). I’m so thankful for the speech therapists we had through birth to three and in the school system. Thanks again for a lovely post Miss Ashley.