Alsup Family

January 29  |  3 minute read

My 15-year-old son Turner has epilepsy, autism, a variety of intellectual disabilities, and some gut issues. There are daily challenges, but God gave me a sense of humor to survive. In addition to Turner, my husband and I have a 14-year-old daughter (you can imagine how that is!), and my joke is that they have really taken turns being the difficult one! They are our two teenagers at home, with totally different needs. 

My family is very new to Jill’s House Rocky Top. After getting in all the paperwork, Turner was eligible for camp January of 2020…right before COVID hit. There was a small pause in camp, but Turner attended Rocky Top Camp all throughout 2020, and last month it was my turn to experience the care of Jill’s House. The retreat I went on was the first for not only Nashville Jill’s House moms, but any of the Weekend Adventures camps across the country! When I told Turner: “Hey, I am going to Jill’s House this weekend!” he said, “Well when do I get to go to Jill’s House?!” It was a typical teenager moment of “How come? I’m jealous!”

The retreat was a time of feeling so deeply understood. It was such a safe place and offered a time of feeling so known—the similar experiences between moms were crazy. A while back, I realized something was lacking in my social life—I don’t have as many friends who are special needs parents like me. The retreat provided the perfect amount of time to be with other moms, share stories, and encourage one another.

Any mom would choose the needs of their child over their own, and a special needs mom has to choose that in an intense way. It was hard to choose my own self care for an entire weekend—not because I am worried to leave Turner with my husband, as I’m fully confident in his abilities, but because that is a choice I’m so rarely presented with. I felt so rejuvenated and renewed coming back into the day-to-day work of being a special needs mom. Our speaker was excellent! The message for the whole group was so on point for the importance of caring for ourselves.

Another thing about being a special needs mom—there is so much attention to detail required. To have that attention to detail turned back my way and given to me was humbling. From the notes that camp staff will send to me after Turner’s weekend stays, to the chocolate placed by my door each night of the retreat—the extravagant attention to detail in everything Jill’s House does for us makes us feel so loved and cared for and seen. That never happens in my world!

And what a wonderful time to have this retreat—at the very start of the year! Particularly at the end of such a chaotic and stressful year. When everyone was nervous at the start of quarantine, we joked that as special needs parents, we had that down pat! Welcome to our world! We are all too familiar with an isolated life. However, it has proven even more challenging in the last year. There is a feeling of deep hopelessness for parents whose children cannot have a real routine during COVID, to be home 24/7 without any help. I (and certainly all the other mothers) often ask, “Will my child ever have a normal experience in the future? Ever have that reward of schedule and the things they desire?” For this reason alone, this retreat was absolutely wonderful for me, and even more wonderful for those who do not yet have their lives back. COVID makes the need for a retreat such as this even more important—maybe even doubly as important as before.

As someone invested in Jill’s House, you are doing a wonderful thing for a community very much in need. Respite is so hard to find physically as well as spiritually, and I know how much I appreciate Jill’s House, the other moms, and the vulnerability. It is a huge amount of trust. Jill’s House does a terrific job of creating that trust so that you can either share your child with them for a day of camp or open up on a mom’s weekend. The amount of work that Jill’s House puts into it is massive. I have never been on a special needs moms retreat—it was just amazing. Even just a women’s retreat through church cannot compare to how specific this one was. Thank you for meeting the needs of people like me.

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 © 2018 Jill’s House

Enjoy this story? Share it with your friends or read more like it!


 © 2018 Jill’s House