I’m on a mission to help families, much like ours, to know there is always hope. And I know there are days hope feels so far away. My name is Samantha and I’m a full-time working mother living with the everyday struggles of a special needs family, along with my own battle with depression. I coach and mentor women and families as they deal with their own struggles of everyday life.

My very own battle with depression began right after our first daughter was born in 2002. Since then I have experienced victory from the stronghold depression had on me. It was a long, tough battle that almost ended my marriage, but through medication, a wonderful friend and mentor, and 2 years with a Christian counselor, I no longer let depression control me. It is something I will always have, but God has shown me I do not need to live in bondage to it.

In 2013, our middle daughter was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), and Depression. Shortly after, our youngest, our only boy, was also diagnosed with ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and severe Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Needless to say, we are not your typical American family. Or are we?

McDonald family

I discovered, after sharing our story with others, how many families out there are battling with many of the same issues. They are asking themselves the same questions I did:

“What am I doing wrong as a parent?”

 “Why doesn’t anyone help us?”

“Does anybody truly understand what happens in this house on a daily basis?”

“I cannot deal with this for one more day.”

It was then I knew God wanted to use our experiences – the good, the bad, and the very, very ugly – to help others just like you. This mission of Living With Real Joy is to do just that. Encourage you when you cannot take one more meltdown. Help you when you feel like you’re failing as a parent. Inspire you to look deeper within yourself for one more ounce of strength when you’re exhausted. Understand you when you feel like no one else does. And most importantly, remind you there is still hope, and it’s found in the grace of a faithful, loving God, who encourages, helps, inspires and understands you more than you know.


What Others Have to Say About Living With Real Joy

“I have found community and honestly it is a good thing because when you battle your own mind for depression and anxiety it does mess with your head as it tells you are alone (even) when you are surrounded by people.”    (Jeneanne G.)

“I looked forward to your daily posts. Many days they have been just what I needed to hear. I’m not a very open person so this venue has worked so well for me. It’s given me something to ponder every day. Allowed me time to reflect and also to go back and reread. I sure hope you do this again.”    (Gail G.)

Thank you, Samantha, for creating this lovely group. I’ve truly enjoyed it!  (Christina S.)






Transformed in My Mental Health

Living with Siblings with Special Needs

A Spouse’s Response to Depression Part 1

A Spouse’s Response to Depression Part 2

What Autism Looks Like in Our Home




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