This week has been an emotional one. If the things I am saying don’t make sense today please forgive me.
Let’s start with fun pictures. That is always a fun way to start!
Malachi scored a goal in soccer this week. He also got hit in the face with the ball, and everyone gasped in horror…everyone except for Malachi who thought it was hysterical and giggled.
And just for fun, here is a picture of Jake playing soccer when he was Malachi’s age:
Levi has figured out how to undo the med port on his g-tube extension. If he succeeds, all of his stomach can start emptying through the open port making a HUGE (and gross) mess. He has had lots of impromptu baths this week.
We had a very special visitor this week. The “Chick-Fil-A mom” (as many of you know her) from our viral post last year was nearby and stopped in for a visit with her youngest. I love that God has created such a random and fun friendship for my family.
Our week was full of “regular” appointments…physical therapy for both boys, feeding therapy for both boys, horse therapy for Malachi…then we added in the mess of non routine appointments…eye doctor for Levi, IEP meeting for Malachi, milestones assessment for Levi, oxygen tank refills. It’s weeks like these that I have to look in the mirror and give myself a pep talk, lying to myself about how I can handle this life like a boss!
Several weeks ago we noticed that Levi’s eyes sometimes turned in a bit when he was focusing on objects up close. I scheduled an appointment with the pediatrician who then referred us to a pediatric eye doctor. Wednesday was the big eye appointment day and I was anxious and eager to hear what they were going to say. In my mind, I had decided that Levi had simply inherited his dad’s bad eyes and would need some cute glasses. I had even gone so far as to take time imagining how cute he would look, but how busy his little face would be with oxygen, tape, and now glasses!
The appointment was an hour away and set for 8:45. Whenever I meet with a new specialist I like to make sure I am dressed somewhat professionally so they take me seriously. I learned several years ago that first impressions only happen one time and when you dress like an educated and professional momma, doctors tend to treat you like one. I set the alarm for bright and early and we hit the road. I was feeling pretty good about my planning ability and was set to get there 15 minutes early- plenty of time to get the boys unloaded and inside. We wheeled up to the office to check in and the lady behind the desk informed me that while this was that doctors office, he was at a different location that day. She pointed me across the street to another building. Lovely.
I had plugged the return address on the registration packet envelope into the GPS and when I showed that to her she said “Oh, you must have accidentally gotten some of our old stationary. So sorry.”
Back down to the car we went and I strapped everyone back into their car seats, loaded up the wheelchair and the stroller, and headed to the next building. It was a ten second drive, then unloaded everyone and everything again and raced into the building. My gap of extra time had dissipated by now and so had my patience. We checked in and waited nearly two hours before seeing the doctor which increased my frustration even more.
I played the “shadow watch” game and stared at the bottom of the door, hoping that one of those passing shadows would be the doctor coming in to see Levi, and finally the door opened!
The doctor looked at his eyes and said “Yes, well he is definitely cross eyed! We see that a lot with kids that have suffered brain damage.” I was very taken aback and felt myself starting to get defensive, which is silly. I explained that he wasn’t cross eyed all the time, but that one of his eyes occasionally turns in when he looks at things up close. He said “Well, he has been cross eyed the entire time I have been evaluating him.” This confused me even more so I pulled out my phone to show him a picture of Levi from the night before and asked “So this is cross eyed?!?” He replied, “Well in that picture he isn’t.” which just added to my confusion.
The part that hurt the most was hearing him referring to Levi’s brain damage. At one point he used the words “Brain damaged kids like him…” and the hair on my arms stood up.
He said that sometimes the dilation they have to do for the eye exam can weaken the eye muscles but he felt confident that Levi’s muscles were affected by his brain damage. His eyes are structurally fine. I asked the doctor what the treatment was and he said “Surgery ASAP.”
I felt like I had been sucker punched in the gut. This isn’t what the outcome of this appointment was supposed to be like. There was supposed to be an easy solution, an easy fix.
The word “surgery” is starting to become a trigger for me emotionally, as my heart just can’t handle seeing my babies go through the pain of not only the surgery but the process too. IV pokes, nights in the hospital, scars. Little Levi has had 20 stinking surgeries. Malachi has had 13 and has two more on the books for October and November.
I could feel that imaginary water rising and putting pressure on my neck. This is always the first sign that an emotional break down is about to happen. I wasn’t in a place to be able to ask a lot of questions so I just listened. He explained that Levi has 2 eye issues: 1) Amblyopia (lazy eye) and 2) Esotropia (in turning of one or both eyes). To treat the Amblyopia we will need to start patching the stronger eye so the weak eye has to work and get stronger. To treat the Esotropia we will have to do surgery. We are going to patch for 4 weeks then go back in to talk more about scheduling surgery.
The doctor left and BOOM the floodgates broke open. I not only cried, but UGLY cried. I pulled it all back together just enough to schedule the next appointment and make it out the doors of the building. Then I sobbed some more.
Oh how my mommy heart wishes I could take the pain from these boys. I feel so helpless.
I allowed myself to cry more than I normally do and it felt so good. But my pity party depleted my energy down to a dangerously low level.
We went to church that evening and taught the children and the youth, me fighting a migraine the entire time. We hosted a party for the younger kids that evening and set up a 100 foot slip n slide for them to play on. Jake decided to take Malachi for a turn:
Around 8:00 we heard sirens coming from all over town and racing towards the scene of something. I didn’t think anything more about it until Jake’s phone rang an hour later. We received some devastating news that one of our close friends, Johnny Gorman, had just passed away in a motorcycle accident. In addition to being a close friend, his sons are also a part of our youth group so Jake jumped in his car and headed over to the family’s restaurant to be there for the boys.
The news was another sucker punch to the gut as Johnny was such a special friend to us. He wasn’t just a small part of our lives- he coached soccer with us, chaperoned summer youth camps with us, came and sat on our couch for hours talking about religion, and owned our favorite restaurant 5 minutes down the road. We talked at least 3 days a week. In fact, Johnny had just called me on Monday and we talked for over 20 minutes about the upcoming soccer team and religion. He was a huge part of our lives and the idea that he was suddenly gone was really hard for us to process.
His wife asked Jake and I to each speak at his Celebration of Life Service this afternoon- what a honor to be asked to speak about such a great man. We spent the latter half of the week praying and trying to figure out a way to honor his legacy. Jake has also been spending time with Johnny’s son as well as trying to minister to all the broken hearted teenagers around him that are impacted by this- the soccer team, his students at school, the youth group, the employees who worked at his restaurant- so many broken hearts.
I wish that right now I had the emotional strength to tell you about Johnny but my heart and my eyes are just so tired. His service was beautiful and hundreds of people came out to celebrate his entrance into heaven. Jake and I each felt an anointing from the Holy Spirit with our speeches and through this man’s death hundreds of people were able to hear about the love of God. Johnny would have been so happy to hear that his death had the opportunity to give others the chance to hear about eternal life through a relationship with God.
Here is a picture from last year of Jake (far right) and Johnny (second from the left).
Malachi and Johnny were very close as well. Johnny treated Malachi with such love and respect, and made sure to also treat him like the five year old that he is. Malachi’s eyes would light up when we told him Johnny was coming over, as he knew that he would get to arm wrestle him, put him in a headlock, or pretend punch him in the face- something Johnny would over dramatically react to for Malachi’s amusement.
Here is a small portion of my speech tonight about Johnny that I thought you all may appreciate:
On Wednesday night I fought back tears as I told Malachi that Johnny had gone to heaven to be with Jesus. I watched Malachi’s mind process my words and with such exuberance he sat up straight and signed “yes yes yes” with a burst of joy and laughter. His was so excited to hear that his buddy Johnny got to meet Jesus face to face.
As we celebrate the life of Johnny I hope that we can share that same joy that Malachi had that night. While our emotions may be raw, and our hearts bruised by his passing let us remember that our horrible night was Johnny’s most beautiful one as he entered into the presence of God. Johnny was honored by heaven and heard the words “well done thy good and faithful servant. Well done.”
Thursday I sent Malachi to school only to have them call me an hour later. They said he just wasn’t acting like himself, so I went to pick him up. As soon as I got there, he perked right up and was himself. In my heart I know that the high emotions of Jake and I from the night before had left him unsettled and insecure. He just needed to spend the day with momma and see that daddy, although he was crying a lot, was okay.
Now on to my devotional thought for the evening….
I have likely already shared this with you before, but I have recently started doing a sermon for the children on Sunday mornings. While we are still youth ministers and still have that calling on our lives, God has also been pricking my heart to start spiritually feeding the children in our church as well. At the beginning of the month we kicked off a new children’s ministry and it has been absolutely invigorating for me.
There is something about seeing their eyes light up as you tell them about God that is so uniquely beautiful. This morning we talked about the story of Elijah and one particular part really caught their attention….
1 Kings 17
2 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: 3 “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan. 4 You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.”
5 So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.
The kids were floored to think that the birds brought Elijah food every day and every night! I joked with them as I asked them how awesome it would be to have a bird drop a happy meal on their doorstep each morning and each night.
But while we may not have birds bringing us food, we still see examples of this protection in our lives. The verse says “I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.” What we don’t always get to see is the background workings of God. How He orchestrates his creation to serve and provide for one another.
I look at a simple week in the Carroll family and I see so many raven moments…moments God himself has directed for us. Meals dropped off on our porch, tickets paid for at restaurants, opportunities to earn extra income, uplifiting notes, generous financial gifts- all coming from people that say “God laid it on my heart…”
While we may not see ravens, we can definitely see and feel the hand of God on us. What a wonderful peace that brings me. I am fueled and challenged by these moments.
We talked in Sunday School about the verse in Matthew 11 that says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. ”
As I read those words today I noticed that it doesn’t say “I will take your burdens.” It simply says “I will give you rest.”
We have become trained to view burdens as a bad thing. But let me challenge you to remember that sometimes these burdens can be the exact thing we need to strengthen our faith muscles. Yes, when we are weary and burdened we most definitely need to go to the Father for rest. But sometimes after those moments of rejuvenation, our calling is to continue to carry those burdens. And we have to learn to be okay with that. We have to learn to trust that there is something greater meant to come out of the experience.
And we have to remember that when we are walking in faith that God will ALWAYS supply the things needed to strengthen us in our journey. Whether it be through the beaks of ravens or the hands of brothers and sisters in Christ. God will provide.
I was in awe this week as I watched God create some beautiful sunsets:
Please pray for our family this week. We are very tired and worn down emotionally. Please pray for miracles for my boys. Pray that Levi’s eyes begin to spontaneously heal and his vocal cords begin to function. Pray that Malachi’s hips and feet move back to their original position, and that his brain stops sending the wrong signals to his body. Pray that Jake and I’s hearts can heal as we deals with the loss of a friend. And pray that God gives us the words to help our community process this loss.
I am also requesting prayers for Johnny’s family- his wife Michelle, Madeleine (in her 20s), Jace (16), Levi (12), and Olivia (8).
Thank you for checking in on my family, and I apologize for the jumbled mess of a blog post that this is. I will bring my “A” game next week!