#74 - Building resilience in marriage and parenting with Brook and Elizabeth Mosser

June 18, 2024
Elizabeth & Brook Mosser

Episode Summary

Aro Co-Founder Joey is joined by Brook and Elizabeth Mosser, leaders of Intentional and hosts of "The Intentional Parents Podcast" this week on The Aro Podcast. In this episode, Brook and Elizabeth share their personal story of their daughter being diagnosed with a severe form of epilepsy at just six months old, turning their lives upside down. They discuss what they learned about fear, suffering, and grief during this challenging period and explain the concept of "grief in the meantime." The Mossers also reveal how they supported their marriage through their daughter’s medical journey and continue to do so today, emphasizing the importance of constantly re-learning your spouse. They offer their advice on how to stay intentional parents during difficult times and managing phones and distractions at home, including their approach of letting their kids act as their "phone police."

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Episode Transcript

It changed our entire family. It's still changing our family. It's forming my kids, having a sister with disabilities. And Birdie ended up on the best case scenario, end of that spectrum. She's a total miracle and her life is really hard. It's both, but to see what suffering produces if you let it, and that's the caveat there is it can produce really beautiful things or it can make you really bitter, really angry, always fighting against what has happened. But for us, it's turned into a gift.

Welcome back to The Aro Podcast. Hey, it's your good friend, Joey Odom, Co-Founder of Aro. And today's episode I believe is going to be really, really right on the money for some people out there. We cover a bunch of topics, but I had a wonderful conversation with Elizabeth and Brook Mosser and their story as a family is something that I think a lot of people are going to relate to. And it is a story, and I'll give you the line that kind of summarizes it. And this is where we start the podcast. And this is something that Elizabeth wrote. She said, I hate the sickness, but I love the beauty brokenness brings. So they tell their story of their daughter Birdie and her getting a tough diagnosis at six months old and what life has looked like since then and what that felt like in the meantime, what it's felt like, what it's feeling like in the meantime.

And a lot of what we go to, we talk a lot about grief and grief is something when I think about it, I always think of grief as something kind of in the aftermath, not in the meantime of something, but they talked about that feeling the grief in the meantime as the only real way to get to joy and hope on the other side in the middle of a tough time. This is going to make a lot more sense when you listen to it, but this is something that for me, sitting here having not gone through something as difficult as they have with kids was something I just know is going to give courage to you. And encouragement is bestowing courage on somebody else on how to go through this. And they talk very, very practically on what it was like in that hard time for their marriage.

And Brook talking about being with his therapist and saying, Hey, I think I'm ready to hit the eject button. And what his therapist told you might surprise you. There's a moment in the middle where Elizabeth is talking about grief and it coming and hitting you like a wave. And I ask you the listener to do something that I really haven't done before, and it's just to pause. So I want you to make sure you get to that point and hear that and experience that pause and maybe that stillness and maybe that processing and maybe that naming of the grief and what it feels like when it comes to you like a wave. And then we go into some very practical things on their digital rule of life and how they prioritize their marriage and how they prioritize their kids and all that kind of stuff.

And then they talk about their amazing organization called Intentional. And Intentional is designed for spiritual formation. And it's a resource you're going to want to check out. It's intentional parents.org. You're going to want to get a lot more from the Mossers. You'll notice in the entire interview, they're so eloquent, they're so articulate, and they had zero preparation with any of these questions, but this just came from their heart. This is the stuff that came out of their mouths from their heart. And you're going to get a lot more of that in intentional parents.org. So please do check that out for now. Please sit back, relax, and enjoy my great conversation with my new friends, Elizabeth and Brook Mosser gang. Today we welcome a dynamic duo. She's a mother, a teacher, a comer, and a Mosser. He was is and maybe will forever be above the Golden State. 17 years ago, they sang, I'll Love You, so to each other, and the world has never been the same. Duke has John Wayne strength, Scarlet Ruth leads the ladies Birdie. James is their bringer of joy, and Sloan Elliot is their warrior. Even in tough times, they don't break. But these Oregonians do bend. They're intentional in their podcast, their life and their business, and they are our guest today on The Aro Podcast. Please join me in welcoming Elizabeth and Brook Mosser.

Oh my gosh. Wow, you weren't joking about the deep dive. That was impressive. I feel like you should probably change careers and immediately start writing music or poetry or something. I mean, this is beautiful, but that's a real gift you have, my man. Thank you for having us on. We're honored.

Well, it's good to see you and I need to kick off with, and I hate to get confrontational at the beginning, but Brook, I need you to explain yourself. And for those watching on YouTube, you can see it. Can you explain this for us

Right here,

Listeners? I'm holding up a picture of, I thought it was one of the Backstreet Boys, which was in the come, but we got some spiky, frosty tips, and then Elizabeth just looking beautiful on the side. But Brook, why don't you tell us about that?

Yeah, let me paint a scenario for you. Well, I think it's fair. During that time, I think a name that's even less known than the Backstreet Boys is Ryan Cabrera. Do you remember this dude? I

Do. Was he on the way down? Did he sing on the Way down

Something? I can't even remember. He just had that vibe. And when you're young, you catch onto someone's vibe. You're like, yes. And then I had the audacity and I think the people in my life to actually pull that off. So we ended up going that way. I also played music as you kind of mentioned. So I was in the music scene. And when you do that, there's a whole other vibe and look that you're supposed to have. Yeah, sure. So I think that's where it comes. But I mean, truly to date, I have so many folks, I don't have hair any longer. I keep it nice and tight because things have changed. Things have changed. But at the end of the day, yeah, it was a wonderful moment and I really sense because I started losing my hair, I think I was like 21. It was like the glory days I didn't even know I was living in. So

Yeah, that's what happened. And I will say this, that was actually, I transposed myself back to 21-year-old Joey, and that was actually jealousy that I just threw at you because you look


You look fantastic. I didn't look nearly that cool. I was not a musician. So no, that was just pure jealousy being thrusted towards you. Thank you. Well, hey, listen, I'm so excited to talk to both of you and I'm going to go, I'm going to change gears just entirely here. And I want to just go deep from the beginning and I want to get into your story and I want to begin it with a line from you all that I think summarizes it very, very well. And I've not prepped you for this, but I want to dive into your story with a line that I believe this Elizabeth wrote. Elizabeth wrote, I hate the sickness. I hate the sickness, but I love the beauty brokenness brings. And I told you before we recorded, I did quite a deep dive and you all have been very open and transparent with some of the trials, with some of the brokenness and then in the cocoon, the writing, what you've been through. And you've seen some wonderful things on the other side of that. But Elizabeth, will you start with that? Will you all tell me story, tell the listener your story kind of with that line in mind? I hate the sickness, but I love the beauty brokenness brings.

Yeah, I mean I think the majority of our story of what you're talking about started eight years ago. I think leading up to that, I grew up in a really beautiful, solid family that when you're a kid, you don't realize the gift that that is. And then as you get older and you realize that wasn't actually the norm of most of my peers around me, it was such a gift and gave me such a strong foundation. And we met young, we got married young. We met when we were 17 with the Ryan Cabrera hair got

Married, they drew her in. I feel like that was,

She had no choice. She had no choice,

Cannot miss it, cannot miss it. But got married at 21, had kids by 23 and really had not gone through anything significantly hard. I mean, just the normal life, hard life is hard and life is full of suffering, whether it's big T trauma, little T trauma, it's just hard to be a human sometimes. But eight years ago after our third daughter was born, she was just six months old and started just kind of making these odd movements we thought at first. And we eventually ended up in the emergency room and just in a whirlwind, we're standing in front of a neurologist with him telling us, your daughter has a tragic form of epilepsy called infantile spasms. She may never walk, she may never talk, she may never be able to eat food normally, or she may get through treatment and she may be what we consider a success, but her life will be a struggle.

She'll have learning disabilities, behavioral struggles, and it will be a very long time before which outcome she's going to have. And it was that moment that just, I think so many people can relate to those moments where in an instant your life is turned upside down and there is no returning to normal after something like that happens. It's not something that's just a quick, this one bad thing happened and we're back to where we were. It started a very long journey of, for her, it was a really intense treatment that we weren't sure she was going to survive and literally going to the hospital every day to check her blood pressure while she was going through the treatment and then years and years of intensive therapy just to help her brain develop and recover from all the damage that was caused. And then with that, so many more things happened in the last eight years. Brook's dad died of cancer. Our son got really sick. I got really sick and live with chronic illness. And so what I was referring to when I wrote that is what has happened in the last eight years has been horrifically hard in one hand and it's deeply formed us and changed us in the other for the better.

And so I can look at it now and say, I never want to repeat any of those things. I would like a lot of those things to still end, but what they've done in us, I wouldn't trade for the world. And when I say us, I mean both Brook and I and our whole family, it changed our entire family. It's still changing our family. It's forming my kids, having a sister with disabilities. And birdie ended up on the best case scenario end of that spectrum. She's a total miracle and her life is really hard. It's both, but to see what suffering produces if you let it, and that's the caveat there is it can produce really beautiful things or it can make you really bitter, really angry, always fighting against what has happened. But for us, it's turned into a gift.

Brook, what is that like? I'm talking to you as a dad here. As a dad, you want to control the situation. I mean, most situations, a lot of us, the debts are pretty good about wanting to do that. And here you are standing with your six month old without any control, without any sense of I know what to do here. And then also probably trying to be for each other, a support system. What was that initial time? And then as you've gone through it and navigating through that, what does that process felt like?

Yeah, I mean I think the idea of suffering, especially when you hit it, it actually dissolves this illusion of control. We think we have, none of us really do have full control. So I think that's a good point to maybe make is that we just feel like we do and then we create structures around our life to reinforce our belief that we have more control than we do. But these moments of suffering snap you out of that reality immediately and show you actually, there's very little things I can do to control health, to control the outcome of this. Basically at that moment, it was about caring for our little girl birdie. It was caring for Elizabeth. I remember for me, we process very differently and we process at different times. So I was upfront, I was a wreck at first just processing all the, what does this mean?

And basically having to go to the darkest places of where this could lead and kind of process that. And I did that in the moment, which was helpful because in that moment when I was processing, she was actually just kind of shut down some of the emotions I'd say, and just went into caretaker mom mode, everything birdie needed. And then as time went on, when I was in a more central place, she grieved a lot and we still grieve is a good way to say it. So I mean what it did to me was help me realize that I don't have a lot of control, but what I can do is be present to the people that I love most. And then I think it's really just learning to sit in the reality of the moment and make the wisest decisions you can. Because I think for us, what we were presented with was a handful of really hard scenarios.

One of them was here's this medication. Now not only is this medication $185,000 to treat this and your insurance doesn't cover it by the way, they say, oh my gosh, they said doesn't cover it. But also you run the risk of it stopping her heart because it's so much steroids. So the chances are high that she could have a heart attack, but the chances are high or higher that they could potentially stop these seizures. We just don't know. So do you want to take that calculated risk? Do you want to spend 185 grand? These questions that at that moment, how do you have thoughtfulness to do that? And we had a lot of really gracious people around us to help. And then I also think there was a lot of people advocating for us. We found out that our neurologist actually went to the church that we went to. She knew us, we didn't know her, and she was advocating on our behalf and going to the insurance board to ask three different times, I think it was to say, you have to cover this. There's not an option. And they ended up covering it. It went from 185,000 to 10 bucks.

Oh my gosh.

And those moments, you're just like, so that's a long way of saying it helped me learn a lot in those moments, but just also to surrender to the moment, the craziness. When you're a whitewater rafting, that's a really fun sport. It's a fun thing. I mean, you're not doing what you're doing is just trying not to die. That's what we were doing. I was just trying not to die and not make things worse is what

It was. Everybody in the boat

Keep everybody in the boat was there, keep

Everybody in the boat. What did you learn when you said you went to the darkest places? This is for both of you when you went you to the darkest places of what could happen, which I think is another way of expressing, experiencing fear. I think that could be the case. I've heard people say that fear comes to you. It presents itself as a fully formed story. So when you feel fear, you're kind of projecting an outcome that may or may not happen. So what did both of you learn about fear in that means? One, I'm sure you hadn't felt anything nearly to that magnitude. And obviously you're Christians, you have faith that you stand on. But at the same time, what did you learn about fear, how it presents itself, how to overcome it, and maybe even how to confront it now when other things come up that could evoke

Fear? I think I learned that fear takes on a lot of different forms. And for me, my fear often looks like control. And so in hindsight now I can see I went into high control mode in a situation that was very much out of my control. And it was a way that I managed my fear. If I just do all the right things, if I do all the medical things, all the therapies, if I do everything the doctors tell me and everything Google tells me and we see a naturopath and we see all hit it from every angle. If I do all the right things, then we can try to have the best outcome. And so I took on so much responsibility and it's tricky in that situation, I needed to do those things. I needed to take it really seriously and take on that responsibility, but that's how I was managing my fear at the same time.

And I think the thing that unlocked everything for me, and I think that is sometimes the antidote for fear and is maybe even what Brook's talking about of going to those dark places. There's a freedom that happens when we allow ourselves to truly grieve and lament. I don't think we're doing ourselves any favors by avoiding those thoughts and feelings and trying to keep everything positive. Now, I really do believe that our brains are powerful, our thoughts are powerful. We can't stay in a negative spiral forever. But I don't think we can truly get to acceptance and joy and shedding the fear unless we're really willing to face, this is awful, this is devastating. My daughter might die. I had to face all of that. And if she doesn't die, I have no idea what her life is going to be like. I don't know what my life is going to be like. Is she going to live with us forever?

Once I was able to actually face all of that and face my sadness, and for us coming from a belief in God and a Christian faith, it was facing that with God. And God is so present in those moments and we are created to feel deeply. And so when we shy away from those really difficult feelings, we end up trying to control. We end up being filled with anxiety. We all face it differently. For some, it's just only being able to talk about positive things. But I think we lose a gift in that honesty that for me, I was just the master at suppressing my emotions. And I hardly ever cried unless I was really mad. And now I've tears sit at the surface for me all the time and they're happy tears a lot of the times. It enabled me to learn to actually feel the full range of my emotions, which makes you actually be able to experience joy in a deeper way.

And that's so hard from, it feels like, and I don't believe it is, but I believe the natural inclination is for people of faith to say, I believe. And so it's in a way that you almost feel like you have to shut down the portion of you that wants to grieve. Right? It's almost like if you're, so that had to have been a tension there. It's like it's not for bad reason that you were dodging grief, right? But it's only through that that you're actually able to find hope. Is that somewhat the journey? And what was that tension like between faith and grief?

I think tension is the right word. I think it's learning to let the two live in tension. So for us, it is both true that God can work miracles and that he can turn all things to good, and that the joy of the Lord is our strength. All of that is true. While it's also true that we have moments where we feel like where is God? How could he possibly turn this to good? This is really hard. The lived experience of it is still really hard. And I think it was a long journey of learning that it's not one or the other. It's both.

And yeah, it's still ongoing today. There's these moments in even her development, purdy's development where they're like Joys. She joined a soccer team last week. We never thought that would happen. And then immediately Elizabeth goes out, she's like, we're going to buy her every soccer thing we could. I was like, sweetheart, money's not an issue. Get her want. Want anything you want? She's the most decked out soccer kid right now. And it was like, that's a joy. But then there's these other marks that are griefs and we still grieve and we still find joy. And that tension is a really, it's really hard. It's a way of life more than I think it is one or the other.

And I think you've touched on this, so forgive my obtuse this in asking the question, but we very often think of grief as a feeling that you feel in the aftermath of something, not necessarily in the meantime of something. So Brook, I'd love, will you tell me a little bit about what grief, maybe how grief presents itself or maybe an appropriate way, maybe if someone's listening who's in the meantime and doesn't know how to process grief or how that may present itself, what does grief in the meantime look like and how does it present itself for the two of you?

Yeah, lots of thoughts on this, but I'll try to make it brief. I think grief is exhausting for me. Grief presents itself as emotional fatigue with everything else going on. It's really exhausting. And it took me a long time to realize if it was Elizabeth's health or my daughters or even my dad dying, which was a longer process because cancer, I mean, there was years where I'm just like, you'd hit these days and they're just called grief days. And essentially you get there and you're like, I can't really tell if what's changed in the air, but today is exponentially harder than yesterday and I'm feeling this all today. And so I think the first thing for me living in it is giving it some space. Having language with my wife as an example, I am having a really heavy grief day and I really don't know.

And she knows that means I'm going to be less present as a parent, I'm probably going to be more moody and grumpy. I'm not going to handle things well. So a lot of high stress is going to actually probably present. I won't respond well to that. Now. It's not an excuse to be lame, but that's the reality of what happens. And so I think living in the tension is for me, and I can only speak for myself, is it looks like being okay with that. Because a lot of the times what I try to do, which many people try to do is we just go, no, no, no, it's fine. So we numb it, we overeat or judge it or judge it, yeah, we get real mad why I did that for a long time. One practice that was just super, if anyone's listening, super helpful for me because I can be disconnected from my emotions at times.

Although all of this has really helped me awaken to that reality is basically to sit down. If you can find five, 10 minutes in a quiet place, I think a place of beauty is helpful, like a park or someplace where that you enjoy and just write down a few things. What am I sad about? What am I mad about? What am I happy for? What am I excited for? What am I depressed about? And just actually name that stuff. And I don't know why, but for me, as I sat there and would write these things out, it didn't take care of the problem, but it let the air out of the tire. And it was a huge wave for me to get in touch with. Like, oh, I'm sad about. And then I'd read it back. I'm like, oh, this makes a ton of sense. So for me, living in the tension looks like embracing those hard days. But I mean, they still come. They're still here.

Yeah. Elizabeth did it for you. Were there any distinct ways from what Brook just described in the way that you in the meantime have processed grief or give it some air, give it some oxygen?

I think the longer you're in it, the quicker you are to recognize, oh, this is what's happening. And that took a while. But similar to Brooks process, I think there's a freedom that comes in naming we can't heal what we can't name and what we can't see. And so I just had to begin to notice over time that oftentimes when I would take my daughter to occupational therapy followed by physical therapy, and I'd come home, I'd have all the kids with me, I'd come home and I would just be exhausted, way more tired than I should have been for the hour therapy appointment. And over time, I had to recognize that's grief. I'm sad. I'm sitting there feeling all these emotions while I'm taking four kids to a therapist office multiple days a week. And I'm sad that this is my reality as a mom.

And so for me, I found so much freedom in being able to name that say, this is what's happening. I'm really tired. I'm going to go lay down for a few minutes. I know that this wave is going to pass, but I'm going to let myself feel it. I'm going to let myself be sad. I'm going to let myself think all the things I need to think. And what I've found over time is that so often grief, I think of it now as a wave when you are looking at the ocean and you might see this massive wave coming at you that you're not sure is actually going to stop at the shore, or if you were standing out in the middle of the ocean, it might knock you over, but the wave is going to calm down and it's going to go back out and you're going to be able to stand up again.

And then each time I did that, the more reps I got of that and realizing after I let that wave pass, I feel totally free. I don't feel like I'm stuck there. I think I was so afraid that I was just going to be pummeled by those waves and never be able to get back up again. So don't feel 'em or judge myself for what I was feeling. But what I found over time is that when I would stop and let myself feel, let myself be tired, let myself be sad, let myself cry, I actually felt totally free and I could then experience joy and then I could experience and be grateful for all the things my daughter could do after I was sad for a minute about the interaction I just saw with her in a peer and I noticed all the things she can't do, that's where that both end comes into play. But I think that was similar to Brook's practice was just almost like a pause, pause. I'm going to feel it's going to take as long as it needs to take, but it always takes less time than I think it's going to.

This is an odd thing to do, maybe midstream through a conversation, but just to break the fourth wall for the listener, I just think that's what the two of you just said. And having lived it and being in it, if you're feeling that wave, if you're in the middle of a wave, just hit pause for a second and just feel it. Just let the wave hit you. But when you do it, just know, just like Elizabeth said, this is a wave. This is not a tsunami, it's a wave that's hitting you. So hit pause for a second and if you just need to feel it, and if you need to name it, if you need to cry it out, just give yourself a second and give yourself permission to do it. Don't talk yourself out of it and just allow yourself to feel it now that everybody's back.

Thank you for that. Just giving, I think just giving that permission. And I think, and not to overly stereotype, but I don't think moms especially give themself permission. You got to give yourself permission to take care of yourself. Goodness, you're carrying so much. And this is very interesting, and I feel like this reminds me, have you all read a grief observed CS Lewis's manuscript after his wife passed away? He has a line in there and he says, I never knew that grief felt so like fear. And so it's interesting, but we're talking about grief and fear altogether. And here's the most brilliant thinker of modern era who has tied that together, which I think puts us on the same level as him intellectually, which is fun.

I'll claim that. Yeah, absolutely. We'll join you in that thought.

Thank you.

With technology, with phones, they have an added lure almost where it makes it harder to step away to put down. It's way easier to put down a magazine or a book or something than it is to put down a phone. I would struggle with that and I would feel bad, but I also felt kind of trapped again with my lack of boundaries.

We love hearing stories from the Aro community. The one you just heard actually comes from our Voices of Aro episodes where I sit down with Aro members and they share about their stories and their lives with Aro. Make sure to check out the Voices of Aro episodes, and if you're a member who would like to share your own story with Aro, please email us at stories@goaro.com.

Okay. So in all of this, you still are, this is an obvious statement in all the grief and of the last eight years, you're still married and you still have a marriage to take care of. So I'd love to shift a little bit practical and what have you learned? Actually, I want to back up really quickly. Olivia, you said something that was so good and it was about you basically described processing grief like a muscle and you can get better at it. What a great thing to say. I just wanted to put a real underline on that for people that you can build a muscle, I believe is what you said. What a great thing to say. So practically, you're married, you got to take care of your marriage. How in that time did you think of each other in your marriage, in that unit that has to remain strong? And obviously the stats say that parents who go through trauma with children, the divorce rate is sky high. So what are some things you did in the meantime and maybe even to today, what are ways that practical things that you're doing for your marriage that keeps you strong?

Can I start on this one? Yeah, go for it. Okay. So you talk about breaking the fourth wall. Here's the truth. It is the hardest thing In our entire life. There were so many dark days. There were so many times where we're not going to survive this. Our marriage is not going to survive this. I don't want to be around you. You don't want to be around me. I don't really want to do this with you anymore. It'd be way easier to eject. And I would actually say even to the dads, because I think, well, first of all, here's what I know. Moms have this ability. Now, it's obviously possible that moms can eject from families. That does happen, but it's far rare, far more rare than it is for fathers. Fathers have an ability to eject very quickly and easily. And I think for me, I actually had to entertain like, wow, I don't want this.

I could run. I could run. Now, I don't actually want that. I love my wife, I love my kids, but when you're trying to escape pain, grief, all that stuff, you start doing weird stuff. That's all weird stuff. And honestly, a ton of pain, it happens. And I remember I was sitting down with my therapist and I said, well, I don't know. I'm just like, I'm toying with the idea of ejecting because I don't even know what else to do. And then he actually gave me permission. He said, yeah, you should do that. Think about what that would be like. Wow. And I was like, wait, wait, wait. You're supposed to talk me off the ledge. I mean, he's the Jesus follower that we don't believe in divorce, right? I was like, you're not supposed to say think about it. He said, no, go on a walk and think about that to its logical conclusion and next time we talk, let's talk about it.

And so I did. I went on a walk and I just thought about it logically from a non-emotional state. And I realized that if I objected from my family to avoid pain and to avoid hardship, I would get what I want in the moment for a month or maybe two or maybe three, only to live with even more pain for the rest of my life for a permanent amount instead of maybe a contained amount. And so I just realized like, oh my gosh, ejecting from my life will only make this. It's like quicksand. The more you start moving to get out, the further you sink. And so the more I try to run and escape, the more it gets worse. And so for us, if I can be completely transparent, it was not easy. We've walked through so many moments and hardship. I would say one of the things that's been really helpful for us is both of us getting help from therapists really wise, good people together, individually, even to have people to talk to that isn't your spouse, I think is actually a very thing.

Now, I think obviously you need to be connected to your spouse, you need to share life and love and everything with your spouse. But I also think that there's a super helpful processing that happens. So I know for us, I think talking to others that could objectively calmly sit and look at our situation and then talk with us through it and walk us through it. And then, yes, we're married, but we also I think have, we are still doing repair work from that time in the sense of still building communication and different levels of connection and all that stuff. One thing that we do, and then I, I'll stop, she'll have something even more brilliant I guarantee. But no, when it comes to just prioritizing marriage, I think that's been a very, very simple, and I know it just sounds so stupid and so foundational, but I would just say prioritizing daily, weekly, monthly, annual moments to just to be with each other is important.

So daily that looks like us. 15 minutes on the couch, we make our kids clean up dinner. It's amazing. They're old enough to know that. And we talk and they know that's like our time. And it's not a lot, but it's just a miniature connection throughout the day. Once a week doesn't often happen, but we have a date night, we'll try to do that or walks, and then we try to get away two times a year, a couple nights a week or a couple nights a year. And then ideally, if we can get away for four or five nights just once a year, we try to do that. So again, these are all, if any marriage experts, any therapists, they would all go like, yeah, this is bottom of the barrel. And I'd say it is. And that's where we're at. We're still at the place of rebuilding. But those things have been very helpful for

Us. But we overcomplicate things too. We think that we have to do these big grand gestures if everybody did what you just described, and again, we're all with an acknowledgement. I understand you said, Hey, you, I'm not perfect at this. But just that intention towards that, maybe pun intended for you all, but just the intention to do that and the recognition then like, Hey, it's been a couple of weeks since the date night. Let's go ahead and get this. Or like you said, I actually like that you, I'm going to say dumb that down to a walk. If you can't go on a date, go on a walk. If you can't get 10 minutes on the couch, get five minutes on the couch. So what you just described is, yeah, I would rather than say it's bottom of the barrel, it is foundational. And I don't think a lot of us are doing a great job at that. So I'd love that. It goes down to those very practical things. Elizabeth, what jumps out for you?

Yeah, I think the first thing, I agree with everything Brook said, and I think for us it's been these different stages of health things happening. And I think to anybody listening who maybe there's something really acute going on with your kids, with your spouse, with life, somebody just lost a job. You're in the midst of it being intensely hard. I think in those moments, you're just trying to minimize damage as much as you can. You're trying to hold space for each other to grieve differently, to process how you need to process. And I think in hindsight, I think we did an okay job when Birdie first got sick and then a couple years later when our son got really sick, we about destroyed each other. And I think those moments, if you can just like we're triaging, we're just trying to keep everybody in the boat. We're just trying to


Eject, remind each other, I do love you. We're going to be okay if you put all the pressure on yourself that we need to have all the perfect rhythms and we need to be in marriage counseling and we need to be doing all these things in those moments, you're just going to not even try. You're going to feel like you don't have capacity. You're just going to fail. But then I think when things calm down a little bit, even just a little bit, that's when we've had to just press into rebuilding in recognizing all the years that our kids are going to be in our home, especially because we started young, is actually just like a fraction of our life. We're going to have a whole other stretch of our lives where it's just the two of us. And I don't want to get to that time and be like, I don't even know who you are anymore. I don't know who I am anymore. Because the reality is we got married at 21 by 31. We were not the same people that we were at 21. So you have to constantly be learning, relearning your spouse. I used to think I was really easygoing. I'm not easygoing. I think he knew from the very beginning that I

Wasn't, oh my gosh, I love explaining her to her. It's my favorite thing. You remember, this would be true if you were a passive compliant individual, but these are not parts of your personality. I love that about you. Okay, so let's just stop pretending that you're that

Way. Let's be honest about that.

I love that. It's okay. I just have one more thing to say though. I think for anybody, something that's been just found, we're talking about what are the things we've done. I think one of the things that was so helpful was making a conscious decision, both of us, like, Hey, we're going to be doing this for life. We know that our life will be more complex if we don't stay together and we know from stats that it will be more harmful for our kids. So we're in this, so I could make this harder on you. You could make this harder on me, but I'd actually like to make it easier. And I'd like to just be like, okay, well sometimes I can be really rude and slow to apologize, and you need me to be less rude and quicker to apologize. Well, I think I can work on that now.

These are new skills, but I also think I could try. And so it's not perfect. I still don't apologize quick enough. I still don't always have the moments where I handle it, but I am also thinking, okay, that's something she needs. And the definition of love, one of my favorite definitions of love is to will the good of the other. And when you think about love in that context, my job really is to love my wife. Well, what does that mean? It means to will or good. It's to think about, well, how can I love her in a way that she feels loved? What's good for her? If I get a PhD in all things, my spouse and she does the same thing for me, dude, that's called happiness as we would describe it, right? And I think so many people when they hit a tragedy, and we know this so practically we've experienced it, you're looking for just relief. You're looking for, is life ever going to be the same? I cannot see a future, but if you can just hang on. I mean, just don't make any decisions, just hang on. I think that's one of the most important things to do in the midst of all that. Yeah,

I love that. And Elizabeth, you said it just minimize the damage. How can you just minimize the damage and just don't mess something up in the meantime knowing, especially if you can recognize I'm in something right now. You know what I mean? Which I love that this was, I was legitimately like curiosity. There has to be you're just drinking from a fire hose. You also had, by the way, you had a fourth child, you also homeschool. I don't understand how you do this, all of this. So how do you go in the midst of crisis like that? It has to be very easy to take a very reactive posture. And so just transitioning over to parenting. So how have you been able, or what are some things you've done to shift away from reactive parenting into, and I would say maybe the antithesis being intentional parenting. How can you go on the offensive? That's maybe a little bit of an abstract question, but how do you, especially in crisis, go from reactive to intentional parenting?

I think it's really difficult to do in the midst of intense crisis. And I think you have to face a lot of your ideals when your life is turned upside down. That was very true for both of us of what I thought my parenting was going to look like, what our home was going to look and feel like, what homeschooling was going to look like. It's been a long process of death to a lot of my ideals in a good way. They were ideals that needed to die so that I could actually see the kids in front of me and not just see the ideals of the kids I thought were going to be in front of me. But Brook mentioned that we both had therapists through that whole journey. Still do. I think one of the greatest things we can do as a parent is go on the inner journey ourselves.

Because what happens, especially as our kids get older or life gets hard or life gets boring, is that our kids begin to trigger all of our childhood stuff that we didn't even know was there, or our spouse begins to trigger it. And that's when we get into that reactive mode because we have some misheard message as a child or we have some ideal that came out of maybe our family of origin that we've never challenged that ideal or I just feel like once your kid hits like eight, nine, you start to have all these feelings when they're reacting to you, you are internally reacting to them in ways that I don't think we do as much when they're really little. And so I think the way that we stop doing that is first we have to name it like we already talked about. You have to realize that you're doing it or listen to your spouse.

If they're trying to tell you, Hey, you're totally over responding to that scenario, then if you can have, for a lot of us, we need someone to help us. It's not the reality for everybody that you can afford a therapist or find a good one. There are a lot of therapists out there, there's a lot that are really helpful and a lot that are maybe not as helpful. There's also so many good books out there that can start you on the journey of just beginning to understand yourself, beginning to understand why you react the way that you do. I think especially with anger as parents, there's usually something underneath that anger that is beyond just the thing your kid is doing. And I think for us, I think that's a lifelong journey. I was just asking my mentor who's a therapist, I was just asking her, does this ever get easier where you've uncovered the parts of you that need healing and that are reactive? I've uncovered them, a lot of them, the ones I know that are there, but does it ever get easier to not have to keep doing this deep work? And she just kind of laughed and she said, I think it gets a little easier, but also you just start to peel back more layers. Okay. I think that's very true, but I think that's probably the only way we can truly become less reactive and not just rely on behavior modification that doesn't actually work in the long run. I dunno if that answers that question.

I think so. No, you're so right. It is like you describe it, people describe a cold plunge. A cold plunge never doesn't suck. It's terrible every time. And it's the same thing. It's always going to be, yeah, yeah. No, it's always pretty hard.

Yes. Yeah. And I think that one, just to capitalize, Elizabeth said idealism, I think we all have this. I mean, you have a preset of ideals that your kids will respond this way. You'll be this kind of parent, you'll be all that. And when you get into the bulk of life, that all gets challenged with life. And so if the more malleable and open and don't give up the ideals, but be open to a different normal. Because honestly, sometimes the truth is that we have kids that are different than what we expected, and we, even without knowing it can sometimes even push away or reject because we haven't actually accepted who they actually are. It's our job to not only mold our kids through parenting, but it's also our job to unfold them, to figure out who are they? Who are the people that we have in our life?

Because I'm telling you, man, with birdie, I had this ideal of what kind of little one she was going to be. And I have to tell you, she is not any of those ideals that I had initially. But if I could be completely truthful, she's better than all those ideals. She's so much more beautiful and better in all the ways that I couldn't even describe. She was more of what I needed than I even knew as a dad. So anyway, I just would say with that, if you can press into those things of your own ideals and then accept is a huge, huge, huge word, accept the little ones you have instead of trying to make them what you want them to be, I think is a helpful way to move through the world.

I dunno if that was on the spot or if that's a line you have, but our job is not just to mold them, but to unfold them. What a great, great way to look at parenting. Brook, you said, and I love this, you said that attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity, or that was a quote that you quoted by somebody and you said, be aware of the gift of attention you can give your family today. I felt like, and you can tie this over to technology if you want, that's obviously kind of the biggest distraction in the enemy. The way I read that, and I could be wrong, when you said, be aware of the gift of attention you can give your family today, I felt like that was advice to everybody else, but also to yourself. That may or may not be true. But what is that? How does that look? What are some rhythms you all have in how you really can give that gift of attention to your family and everyone around

You? Oh, man. Yeah, it's absolutely me focused. I was absolutely saying that to myself. So great observation. Yeah, I think we underestimate and really truthfully don't understand the power that happens when we give attention to somebody. And I think that quote, Simone Beal is the person who said it. That quote is so helpful because it's the rarest, but it's the purest. It's like this generosity of just your life. You're saying you matter so much that I'm not going to do anything else or look at anything else or be distracted by anything else because you matter that much. Our spouse needs that. Our kids need that. Our kids want to know that we like them, not just that we love them. They know that mostly if we're in a healthy phone. But you got to say, I like the way you're made. This morning I wanted to go on a walk by myself because my little ones woke up early and our youngest are eight and six.

I want to go on a walk by myself. And when I was almost out the door, my little 6-year-old said, dad, can I go with you? And I'm like, and at first I said, no, I need some space. I need some space. I did, I really did. And then I was like, but she'll be six on Saturday. And I was like, I have these little moments with her. These are just these little windows. So I was like, put on your jacket. Let's go. Let's go. So we do. And I mean, she's holding my hand the whole time. And I think we probably had, I haven't even told you this, we probably had one of the most sweet and fun, interesting conversations. I got to know her on a whole new level today, honestly. And there were parts of her I knew, but her sweetness came out in a way, and it was simply from just not having phones, being outside and just walking and then asking her curious questions.

And in her 6-year-old way answering. And I know she was blessed the future, she's blessed when her dad does that. I know that. But I was blessed, and I think people miss that. I was actually so encouraged by seeing who this little person was in front of me. So it's absolutely true of us. I think when it comes to practical things, when I get home, I am not a huge phone addict. I can be distracted by my phone like anybody else, but I also love not being needed. So that a O box, thank you again for that. I mean, just having a place where you can just put your phone and be like, it lives there. I don't care. I I'm here now. For me, mentally, that's one of the things I do. It's trickier, I think, for moms who live in the both communication work world, but then also are at home maybe depending on people's situation.

So I know it's harder for her because she's trying to do literal work things where I'm, and it's my fault half the time I'm calling her about work stuff. I mean like, Hey, can you talk? And she's on the phone and saying, the kids, like kids, I'm talking to your dad about work stuff. So that's real, right? Something that I know we live in, and we can talk about this more if you'd like, but just as a tease, we live by something just called a digital rule of life. So we have a rule of life around technology, how we want to interact with it. And again, that's actually a list of ideals that we try to live into. We're not living into every single one of 'em because I don't think it's always possible, but it's a bar that we set, and it's anywhere from how do we interact with phones and when we have phones all the way to when we watch movies together and when we do things. So that's just one of the ways that we have tried to implement healthy boundaries with giving our attention fully to our kids and trying to give them that gift.

I love that. Elizabeth, how does that, and again, it does look different for moms and it does look different moms, dads, it looks different for everybody, but when it comes to giving that full attention, you probably feel like you're always giving your full attention. So how does that show up for you?

Man? I mean, I wish I could say I feel like I'm always giving my full attention. I think the tricky thing for moms, especially if you're with your kids a lot, is yeah, there's a lot of life happening with your phone and just things, your kids want to look stuff up or there's just a lot of interaction with your phone. But I also think, especially when your kids are young, and if you're with them a lot, I am, I mean, they're homeschooled. We're together a lot in full transparency. There is easily the tendency to want to escape my life with my phone and just numb out and just be distracted or not face anxiety or not face disappointment, not face my boredom. So I absolutely struggle with going to my phone for that when I don't need to, when my kids definitely don't need me to. Oh,

I walked upstairs the other day and Birdie was sitting next to Elizabeth. She was doing school with her, and I just hear Birdie with a stern voice, put the phone down,

No phone during

School, no phone during school. And I was like, it was to her. I was like, that's amazing.

I love it. But we've given our kids, and this is the beauty of your kids getting a little bit older. We've given them all full permission to call us out when we're distracted by our phone. I love that because I don't want to, I already know that I have major work to do in this area, but I don't want to look back when they're all grown and wish that I had put the phone down more. I want to actually do it. I want to put the phone down more. And so I want them, as long as they do it somewhat respectfully, I want them to catch me. I want them to help be a part of that process. And I also want to communicate to them that this really matters to me. You matter to me. I don't want to be disconnected from you, so please call me out when you see me doing that.

It was Kurt Thompson who's a psychiatrist, and he's a beautiful author, and he shares this idea that we all come into the world looking for eyes, looking back at us. That is what we are searching for from the moment we're born. And it was so true of all of our kids when they were born, they're hearing our voices. They can't even fully see us. Their eyes can't focus, but they're hearing our voice. And all of our kids looked around the room trying to find us as fresh newborn babies. And there is something that, and God made us this way, to look into each other's eyes, to fully attune to each other and to just be a presence in each other's lives is healing. Whether or not you have the right things to say, or you're the perfect parent or not, nobody's the perfect parent, by the way.

But our kids need that almost more than they need anything. And the reality is we are going to miss it all the time, especially if you have multiple children, especially if you are addicted to your phone at all. Or if you are trying, the moms who work from home, hardest job on the planet, gosh, because you are a full-time, stay-at-home Mom and you work and somehow you're supposed to do both at the same time. You're going to have moments where you're just exhausted and you just need the kid to go to bed and you miss them. But there's the beautiful idea, if you studied attachment theory at all, but the idea that rupture and repair builds resilience, that when we have those ruptures, when we don't attune to our kids, when we're digitally distracted, when we're,

Which happens all the time, by the way,

Irritated. It happens all

The time for all of

Us. Yeah.

When we can be humble enough as a parent to go back and say, I totally missed you. I was distracted by my phone. I was irritated from the day and tired, and I was not present when you were trying to tell me about what happened to your friend or if we can communicate to them, this is my heart. I want to be there for you in those moments. I don't get it right every time. Will you please forgive me? And will you tell me about what happened in your day yesterday? What we're actually doing? That's not a failure moment. No. That is actually one of the best things you can do as a parent, because what you're doing is you're repairing the connection that was lost and you're showing them over time, you're not going to get this perfectly. You're not going to repair every time, but if you can repair 30% of the time to start, you're winning.

That's great. But you're showing them, Hey, connection matters. I missed it. Let's reconnect. And what it actually does in our kids is build relational resilience. So in all of their future relationships, when there's a missed connection, when a friend is mean to them, when they're adults and they're struggling in friendship, it will not be an automatic, like, what's wrong with me? I'm insecure. I need to fix this. I need to prove myself. It's like, yeah, sometimes connections get lost. They're still relationally resilient. So I think if we can keep that end goal in mind, everything we're doing with our kids is way beyond just what's happening in the moment. It's who they're going to be become as an adult. We want healthy, full functioning adults who then can raise the next generation. So if we can recognize that does not mean we have to be a perfect parent, but if you can learn to make repairs, that's one of the most powerful things you can do as a

Parent. And maybe just the little cherry on top is we really live by the 80 20 rule. If you're doing this 80% of the time, you're doing far better than most. And that's the, so just for that 20%, you're like, I missed again. Yes. Welcome to. We all do. We're trying to live into

It. I think even with all the attachment theory stuff and all the studies they've done, if you can get it 60% of the time, maybe not. I could be butchering that. Who


But there's freedom in that. Let, let's just do

70, right? Right in the middle,

70 30. Let's split it. You're overachiever. You're 70%.

It's true. That's true. We're a C average kind of family

Is. I'm sitting here listening to the two of you talking, and what's amazing, and it is important for the listener to know you didn't get any of these questions beforehand. The fact that this flows so freely from both of you really is incredible. And I know people are going to want some more Vitamin M's, more Mosser in their life, will you tell them I want them. They can get it through Intentional, through your organization, intentional. Will you tell us about Intentional will tell people how they can learn more about it, find more about it. It's just an amazing mission organization. Will you give us some time on intentional?

Sure. I can start and you fill in gaps. You're great at that. So yes. Intentional is a nonprofit, and our hope practically is to help families in the arena of spiritual formation. So we're all being formed by something, but we ultimately do believe and agree that what we need to be formed by and what we're formed by really changes not only who we are, but how we interact with our family, and then how we really interact with the world. And so we are a faith-based nonprofit, and we create resources and content, practical stuff all the way from the ideals, but all the way down to the practical stuff of how to actually have a healthy marriage, an intentional marriage, intentional motherhood, fatherhood, intentional parenting, and even being intentional around emotional health. And so these are some resources that we create. We actually have partnered with her parents, Elizabeth's parents, Phil and Diane Comer, and we do this with them.

So what's really fun is they're legit, meaning that they are 74 and 65, but they are so normal in the best way, and they're really wise and kind and godly. And we actually do our podcast is the Intentional Parents Podcast. Someone just the other day said, this needs to not be the Intentional Parents Podcast because you guys don't just stick on parenting at all. And we don't talk about everything. So we might actually rebrand the podcast, but we cover everything in the arena of being intentional around life, business, family, and really from our own lived experience in a way of failure, not success. So what you won't hear from us is here's all the things you could be doing that we don't really respond well to that. So we don't really replicate that. We do share very honestly and vulnerably from a place of just weakness rather than strength, because the truth is we're all struggling and trying to figure it out. So yeah, with that, we have a book, we speak all over the place. We have all sorts of different ways that we try to help people, and those are just some of the mediums that we do it right now. What did I miss? Love that you covered it all. I have nothing to add. That's amazing. Most of the time she's like, what about this? What about this?

Sorry, I interrupted

You. And where can people go? Where can people go find that and follow you on Instagram and all that kind of stuff with Intentional?

Sure. So Intentional parents.org is our website. You can check that out. Again, we'll rebrand that, but don't worry, you'll be directed to it. But intentional parents.org. And then the Intentional Parents Podcast is our podcast right now. Social media at Intentional Parents on all platforms. And then anywhere that you can find books, a book that actually Phil and Diane wrote, we haven't written that book. That's their book. It's called Raising Passion of Jesus Followers. And that's anywhere books are sold. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, anything like that.

King, this was amazing. You two are incredible. I wish I could go to one of birdie's soccer games, but please let her know. Please let her know. Well, uncle Joey's cheering from Tennessee. Yes. We'll, we're big Mosser fans. Thank you. Thank you very, very much for joining us. Thank you for your openness, your wisdom, your vulnerability. Really appreciate it. So thank you very much for joining us today.

Yes, honored. Thank you for having us.

I have a full page of notes written from that conversation, and I want to leave you with this when it comes to parenting. Brook said, our job as parents is not just to mold our kids, but to unfold them. And he talked about that walk he took with his daughter this morning, that walk where he saw her come to life, her bloom, and letting her unfold. So when we find those little moments, they talk about prioritizing the moments. So can we prioritize a moment? And that could be five minutes on the couch with your spouse. That could be a 30 minute walk with your daughter, that could be jumping on the trampoline with your son. That could be a little bit of time for yourself. Can we prioritize those moments, even the small ones, find a little bit of time to go do that. And of course, on brand, do that phone free.

That will transform the experience for the good if you don't have it. And it will transform the experience from what it could have been if it's with you during that time. So I want to encourage you to do that. So that's all of our challenge. How can we prioritize the moments this week? Thank you so much for joining us for this week's episode of The Aro Podcast. We can't wait to see you again next week. The Aro podcast is produced and edited by the team at Palm Tree Pod co. Special thanks to Emily Miles for video and digital support, and to our executive producer Aro's own, Katelyn Farley.