Rivers & Fires

Each year when April rolls around I start allowing my brain to process our summer plans. Sometimes I can hear the dramatic dum-dum-dummmm ominous music playing as I start planning the medical trips, and this week the internal music was blaring.

We aim to do our medical travels in the summertime so that Jake can stay home with one child while I travel with the other. Having a “home base” is a security blanket for us, as prepping all the supplies for extended travel can get stressful. In about a month we will be heading to Orlando for Malachi’s Make-A-Wish trip and we are so excited about the opportunity to travel to a medically complex friendly and handicap accessible place! What a gift!

Vacations are not a luxury we can often financially afford and the MAW foundation is covering all expenses, including meal vouchers and gas money! In addition to a stay at the village in Orlando they have also booked us hotel rooms for the route there and the route back so we can split the drive into two days.

Levi heads to Cincinnati each summer for his annual throat scope, lung cleaning, and airway trimming (if needed). This is typically a week long adventure, with pre-ops early in the week and surgery day Friday. He has a team of different specialists that coordinate in the operating room so they can each do their role while he is under anesthesia. The hospital doesn’t open the surgery schedule for July until May 1st so we call in April to be added to the wait list for those surgery spots.

Over the last 6 weeks Levi has been struggling to breathe at night. I initially thought it was a cold then, when it persisted, assumed it was allergies. His oxygen saturations at night are safe, but he wakes himself up several times a night with his inability to take a full breath, known as obstructive sleep apnea. This isn’t a brand new issue for him, and it was one we struggled with tremendously when he was a baby and required him to wear oxygen at night. But for the last few years his airway has been open enough to pass air through without issue.

My mom radar has been flaring, but I kept really wanting it to just be simple seasonal allergies. His breathing started to get a tad more noisy during daytime as well, especially with physical activity. Last week I took a peek in his throat and sure enough his tonsils are obstructing his airway significantly. This has been on the conversation list with the surgeon over the last few operating room trips and has always been planned as our next course of action if his airway gets too crowded, and as you can see from the photo the gap for him to breathe through is not large enough.

For a typical airway, removing the tonsils and possibly his adenoids (called a T&A procedure) is a gnarly surgery but relatively simple if there aren’t bleeding issues post op. Malachi had this surgery done when he was younger and handled it decently. But for Levi things are a bit more complicated. Anytime we do something significant with his airway we open up the potential for breathing issues and eating issues. If we open things too much, the possibility for food and drinks to make it into his lungs increases. We also worry that voice quality will be affected anytime we do trimming and repair, as his vocal cords are obviously still paralyzed.

I called his surgery team in Cincinnati and sent photos of his airway and they said we definitely need to schedule a T&A alongside his throat scope/lung cleaning in July. The goal is to try to make it safely until then, but if his breathing gets any worse we will have to make a trip up sooner for surgery.

So now in addition to our week in Cincinnati for pre-ops and surgery, we will now be required to stay an additional 10 days for him to be monitored post op. They are expecting him to only need to stay a night or two on the complex airway floor and continue his post op care somewhere close to the hospital.

We won’t have dates until the surgery schedule opens up, but the extended stay in Cincinnati prompted me to slide all of Malachi’s summer appointment at Vanderbilt (with the orthopedic and spine surgeons) to October, aiming for Jake’s fall break. MAW trip is May/early June and we will be taking the teens to youth camp in mid June and I felt like pushing more traveling appointments into our summer would make me cry haha. We have loads of local appointments over the next two months also for both boys (epileptologist, GI, neurosurgery, pulmonology, and so many more).

So in summary…this is a new prayer request. That Levi stays safe enough at night for us to push off surgery until July. The extra work his nighttime breathing requires is burning more calories than normal and he is having a hard time maintaining his weight. We are increasing his tube feeds at night, but with him waking up and gagging so much with breathing troubles that hasn’t been a successful solution. Prayers are also needed for Levi’s emotional resiliency as he faces a pretty big surgery experience and pain. He has so much medical trauma and staying the night in the hospital sparks those embers that are always present.

We also need prayers for health. If Levi does get sick on top of his already tight airway we could be a very scary place.

On to more happy and entertaining updates…

Malachi got a much needed haircut. One of my dear friends offered to help and we tackled it together here at the house. The older he gets the more titles he is requiring me to add to my medical momma resume.

Levi got to go on his first ever field trip, and the excitement he generated leading up to it was so much fun to watch. He was literally jumping up and down with joy the morning of.

Levi started weekly sessions with an occupational therapist at school. Since he started school in January we have seen some great gains. This week we were working at home on his fine motor details, and I had him trying to draw different things, step by step, on his magnetic drawing board. Most of the time his drawings are just scribbles with no recognizable features, but he worked very hard on this one with each new command and at the end he successfully drew “a sad man”. I was so thrilled, and he was so proud! Go Levi!

Malachi is quite a character these days. He has been swimming like a fish and riding his horse at therapy like a cowboy. I treasure my one on one time with him when Levi is at school. We are connected in such a unique and beautiful way and have so many deep conversations. He can’t speak a coherent word, but he communicates so beautifully.

He is full of opinions, frustrations, and laughter. I took a video of him after a soccer game last week and his joy was so contagious. The team was chugging water from cooler and Malachi thought the spectacle was pretty fun.

His seizures have changed this week and become more aggressive and longer in length. This is usually a sign that something is bothering him or causing him pain so I am watching him closely as we try to eliminate potential causes. He has some teeth that are about to pop through the gums, but it could also be something less obviously like an ear infection or something else that needs to be addressed. This guessing game is one of the hardest challenges to navigate. We are praying for health over his body as well leading up to his MAW trip!

This week I have been been caught in a mental loop. I keep flashing back to the many times that God has led me to the hard and asked me to trust Him. I can look back and see so much growth in my faith and my relationship with Him through each of those trials, and I can look back with fondness at the hard knowing that it led to so much beauty and strength.

But it still brews up those bubbles in my stomach each time I think about facing the hard and having to take that step towards it.

Isaiah 43:1-3 “But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;’”

In this scripture the prophet Isaiah was speaking to the Israelites and trying to offer comfort and encouragement. He wasn’t promising them it would be an easy journey, but God promised to be there every step of the way.

They would have to pass through the waters.

They would have to swim through the rivers.

They would have to walk through the fire.

And as scary and terrifying as each of those encounters will be in our lives, God’s words in this scripture are like water to my parched soul…

Do not fear.

I have redeemed you.

I have called you by name.

You are mine.

I will be with you.

The rivers will not overflow you.

You will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you.

For I am the Lord your God.

As we enter a season of rivers and fires I am choosing to focus on God’s promises instead of the unknown. I expect the waters to rise to my chin and swirl rapidly past me as I fight against the current. I expect to feel the heat of the flames as they threaten me. I expect to be overwhelmed with uncertainty.

But I also expect God to be true to His promises. And the reminder that my future, and the future and health of my children, is already established and written by God brings me a peace that surpasses all of my understanding.

Philippians 4:4-7 “Rejoice in the Lord walkways; again I will say rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Please be in prayer for our family as we enter the fun of these next few months as well as the hard.

Much love,


Greater Progress of the Gospel

As I mentioned in the previous post, last week was spring break and it didn’t disappoint! The extra family time together was very much needed. The week was a busy one with several appointments to work around and family adventures in between.

With some surprise appointments added in we were not able to go to Medieval Times with Malachi but plan to find one when we go on his wish trip in a few weeks. To curtail any disappointment we gave Malachi a list of other activities to choose from and he settled on a day at the arcade. You are now looking at the Hungry Hippo champion at our local Dave & Busters! Malachi shot past the record on the game, winning 500 tickets which he subsequently turned in at the prize counter for a 65” bat. Not surprisingly, the bat has added a lot of humor to our home this week.

We worked hard to get the pool open for the season and throughly cleaned out. We drain the water a few times each year and it definitely needed it. The boys swam a few nights and both of them were so thrilled to be back in the water.

We tried new recipes and made some homemade pizzas, although my cheese guy was definitely sneaking some bites when he thought I wasn’t looking.

Right now our favorite evening activity is going to the soccer games! We are mid season with the high school boys so we are at the field 2-3 times per week. Levi loves the social side of watching the game and Malachi LOVES hearing his daddy yell while he coaches. Malachi will shout out too just to be like his dad but gets the giggles each time he does it.

This morning we attempted to get some Easter photos, but as always that was a difficult task.

Take a moment to look at that last photo and you will see how big Malachi is getting. He has gotten so tall lately and is up to 47 pounds. He cannot help at all with transitions or lifting and safely moving him is getting harder and harder to do. It has started the “next step” train of thought for creating a safe way to move him around at home using a lift system. I am not sure how much longer my body can tolerate the lifting without putting up an argument.

But oh, how I love this boy so much.

Malachi gets medications at 11:30 each morning and that happens to fall right in the middle of Sunday morning service each week. So after praise and worship he and I go to a room off the sanctuary where we can hear the sermon but I can administer meds and milk without being a distraction.

As we sat back in the room this morning the worship leader ended the service with the song “Because He Lives” and I immediately flashed back to the first Easter after Malachi was born. Jake and I left the Ronald McDonald House and went to our hometown for the first time since his birth two months prior. We wanted to attend church on Easter and I remember that I greatly underestimated how hard that trip away from the NICU would be. We were one hour away and I felt so frantic inside. Malachi was stable at the time but my mind kept going to the potential phone calls I could get at any minute from NICU staff.

That morning this same song was played for worship and I held back tears as I listened to the words. But the floodgates opened when we started this verse:

How sweet to hold a newborn baby,

And feel the pride and joy he gives;

But greater still the calm assurance:

This child can face uncertain days because He lives!

I actually teared up just now typing that verse!

Hearing those words again this morning made my heart swell with such gratitude to the Lord for the many things He has brought our family through. Ten years ago I would have never dreamed of the life we now live. But what a blessed journey it has been.

As you already know, we aren’t big on “traditional” anything for holidays. I am still trying to decide what I want each holiday to look like for our family, and I am particularly focused on not allowing myself to blindly accept the traditions of the world. Levi is a sponge this year and he has had so many questions about Christ’s death, like why people didn’t like Jesus and why He had to die. Early this morning I asked him some questions about Easter and hearing him reason through everything was such a joy to hear.

We did hide a few eggs around the playground for the boys to find and Malachi particularly enjoyed the hunt. His puppy Shiloh would retrieve the egg he got close to and drop it on Malachi’s wheelchair, much to Malachi’s delight.

If you look at that photo of Levi you can see some really big holes in the mulch around the playground. We had a bear visit on Friday night and he explored the playground for a good 5 minutes, leaving foot marks all over and mulch on the slide where he was exploring. I was pretty awestruck at the paw marks in the mulch!

We had left a cooler on the porch with some drinks after the soccer game and his curiosity was just too great. Here is a video for anyone that wants to see him:

Levi still continues to make us laugh with his antics. Two quick stories to give you a chuckle…

Story 1: This morning Levi kept raising his hand during the sermon. Jake leaned over and told him to put his hand down and asked him what he wanted to ask. Levi replied: “I wanted to tell him he is talking too long.”

Story 2: Levi was at a soccer game where a high school boy wearing an unbuttoned shirt tried to give him a fist bump. Levi was very uncomfortable and leaned over to our friend and told her that “that boy was showing his private parts”. The poor boy was mortified and we had to explain to Levi that boys showing their chest isn’t the same as girls.

Levi started school occupational therapy last week and I am excited to see what types of gains he can make between now and the end of the school year. We are still praying about the next step for him, whether it be another year in Preschool or moving him up to Kindergarten and potentially doing two years there if needed. I change my mind by the hour, so I am praying for clarity and guidance from God on this one!

In my quiet time this week I started reading Philippians again, one of my favorite books of the Bible. As I dug back into chapter 1 a verse popped out to me that I hadn’t given much thought to before.

Verse 12 “Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel,”

He was referencing his imprisonment for preaching the Word of God, so I can’t compare our trials on this specific thread. But I thought about the Carroll journey and the opportunity it has provided to share the gospel with so many others.

When we are in circumstances it is easy to spot all of the things we are being deprived of or missing out on. It is easy to make a list of all the hard side effects we are encountering due to our circumstances.

But what if instead of looking for the negatives to validate our sorrow we, like Paul, start to look for the opportunities that the trial can provide?

This verse has been on my heart for about a week and a half, playing in my mind as I look through the lens of opportunity. Then early this morning my phone dinged with a new message from one of Malachi’s former NICU nurses and the God timing of that message on the tail of me processing this verse was a beautiful validation from the Lord.

I have hesitated sharing this with you as I never want to betray confidence, but I don’t think this person would mind me sharing a brief except of the text:

“I couldn’t help but smile this morning when I thought of Malachi. Through God, that precious boy changed my life. I was so lost for so long….your faith was so foreign to me and then slowly things started to change. I began to see the beauty and purpose in all lives. I began to see His unfailing love for us….”

As I read this message I was overcome with emotion, recognizing that this life I have been BLESSED to be called into serves such beautiful purpose. Through our pain and our trials someone was introduced to God and they have become a new creation in Christ, sharing their faith with others. Like verse 12 says “Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel,”

This mentality comes at a cost. It requires putting aside our comfort, our ideals, our selfish desires and embracing the path that God places on. It requires turning out focus from inward to outward as we hunt for the opportunities in the moments of darkness and embrace them with a heart of obedience and humility.

I have to admit that I have not always handled circumstances as opportunity. And I have so many regrets for times when I allowed my focus to shift and excused it with justifications. But I am challenged this week to stay close enough to the Spirit that I simply cannot miss an opportunity to share the good news of God with others.

1 Peter 1:6-9 “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.”

Much love,