Monday, March 31, 2014


In addition to God's faithfulness, one other thing has remained steady over these past five years: the love and support we have been shown by friends, family, and perfect strangers.  Y'all are some of the most kind, caring, encouraging people I know. Seriously. Thank you for that.

Here's the Facebook, short-story version of how Friday went:

Details to come, but in the meantime: all is well for now and God is good for always. 
Thank you for the love and prayers!

For those of you who want to know those details, read on.

Before I get into the technical jargon, let me take a minute to encourage any new heart mamas who may have found their way to our blog.  You see that silly, totally relaxed kid on the exam table up there? Just two years ago that photo would have looked very different.  You would have seen anxiety written all over his face, lots of tears, a group of people trying to entertain him and hold him down, and one stressed out mama.  There are no photos of those days, though, because it was impossible to take one through all the chaos.  BUT.  Take heart, be encouraged.  Happier days are ahead.

So, Friday. It was a VERY long afternoon at the office, but we left with probably the best news possible.

The pacemaker interrogation showed that the battery has nine months of life remaining, which is expected.  Back in September it had just under one year left, so it is on track to be changed out sometime this year.  Ethan has only had a few episodes of atrial tachycardia in the past three months, which could all be explained by elevated activity levels, so there is no concern there.  Praise God!

While all of that is good news, the echo results were probably the most shocking.  Based on some symptoms I've noticed in Ethan lately, I completely expected to hear it was time to do some work on his conduit.  However, the pressure gradient across the conduit has remained stable (unchanged, even) from his echo in September! Amen?! At this point, based on what the echo is telling us, Ethan's heart is a-ok.  His function is great, the conduit is stable, and we are thrilled!

Dr. I's best guess is that Ethan's recent tiredness during activity is related to him slowly outgrowing the conduit.  In a normal heart, when blood flow increases, the vessels expand to accommodate.  Since Ethan's conduit can't expand, it's having to tolerate increased blood flow while he's playing, which creates higher pressures in his heart.  When he tells us he's tired, it's likely his body recognizing that a whole lot of blood is trying to get through a less-than-ideal sized conduit, and he's having to self-regulate.  The echo tells us that his heart is not being negatively affected by those times, so we're okay with this for now.

So, what are our next steps? For starters, we'll go back in another three months (June 24th -- Jeramie's and my eight-year anniversary!) to check-out the pacemaker information. If the battery is doing okay (six months, or so, remaining) and Ethan's symptoms haven't increased, then we'll continue with frequent visits.  Once we start the conversation of replacing the battery, Dr. I will schedule a cath to take a closer look at the conduit (which could turn into an interventional cath, if needed).  If the conduit does not need surgical (open-chest) intervention, then we'll proceed with changing out the pacemaker battery only.  If the cath shows that it's time to replace the conduit, then both procedures will be done together.

The "if, then" scenarios get a little crazy, but we have a clear treatment plan.  Clarity is what I asked for and clarity is what we got -- thank you, Lord.  

Aside from my baby facing some type of surgery this year, the biggest pill to swallow (for me) is that it will likely happen soon after he starts kindergarten.  I am not happy about the timing at all, but I'm working on giving that to God and focusing on keeping Ethan safe and healthy.  In the meantime, we're going to squeeze out every ounce of spring and summer fun! 

Thank you for checking in and for continuing to pray with and for us.  We are so grateful.

Friday, March 28, 2014


There is so much rolling around in my head that I want to post to this space -- pictures, stories, thoughts -- but at the end of the day, it just doesn't happen.

This morning, however, I have a quiet house all to myself and I'm stealing a few minutes to ask for your prayers.

Ethan has a big check-up with his cardiologist this afternoon.  Although we saw Dr. I three months ago for some funky rhythm issues, this will be Ethan's first full check-up since this past fall.  That appointment back in September seemed to be pointing us towards surgery, so we'll see what today's tests show.

I'm a bit anxious, and I have lots of questions.  Why is Ethan getting tired more often? Will his pacemaker battery need to be replaced soon? Will the conduit be replaced at the same time, or can it wait a while? How many months are we willing to put between those two surgeries for the sake of waiting? How will this affect Ethan starting kindergarten in the fall? How will this affect mine and Jeramie's ability to welcome children into our home?

So. Many. Questions.

But, praise God that He is not the author of confusion! I am trying to hold fast to that truth this morning, even when my body wants to fill with tension and anxiety.  My prayer over the past couple of weeks is that today's appointment will be full of clarity. Even if the answers are the ones we don't want to hear, I want them to be clear, and I trust that God's peace will conquer any fear or worry that may try to creep in.

Will you pray with me, too -- for his heart, and mine?

Happy Friday, friends.  Thanks for loving us well!

Saturday, March 15, 2014


I have been home from India for almost two weeks now, but I've yet to be able to put the trip into any words deeper than "incredible" and "amazing".  My heart and my mind were wrecked over those eleven days; I imagine it will be a while before I truly comprehend the magnitude of what I experienced.

For now, photos are what I have.  When my words fail, these photos speak for themselves.  I'll tell you a few stories along the way and introduce you to some of the most beautiful children I've ever met.  I hope you'll enjoy this small glimpse into a place that has completely stolen my heart.

2.20.14 -- Our team at the airport

2.20.14 -- Sunrise somewhere between Raleigh and Dallas

We flew for a really, really long time before finally arriving in Hyderabad late Friday night (Feb. 21st). We slept in a "nap room" at the airport that night and took a one hour in-country flight to Visakhapatnam (Vizag) the next morning (Feb. 22nd).

2.22.14 -- Our view during lunch in Vizag, a port city on the southeast coast of India.

The Bay of Bengal

From Vizag, we had a six hour train ride to Kesinga. The train was probably my least favorite experience while in India, but it was well worth it to arrive here...

New Life -- school, orphanage, church

We spent four days at New Life with Pastor Siani, his wife Suphala, and sixty of the most precious children I've ever met.  I love kids, so I knew spending time at the orphanage would be a highlight for me, but I did not expect their faces and their stories to seep so deeply into my heart.

2.23.14 -- Exploring Kesinga

2.23.14 -- Sunset in Kesinga

Our team in Kesinga's market

This is Amir (green), Santos (red), and Rahul (purple).  They are such smart, kind-hearted boys and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them. This picture was taken shortly after Amir and Santos had taught me a word game and they were so proud of themselves!

2.23.14 -- Playing games with sidewalk chalk

2.24.14 -- The best manicure I've ever had.

This is Millie.  She is such a beautiful girl, inside and out.  She taught me so much about serving others, worship, and joy.  Her singing and dancing gave me a glimpse into what Heaven must be like.

2.24.14 -- Girl time

While we were at New Life, we took a bumpy bus ride into Sindhibahali, a remote village outside of Kesinga.  The village has about 700 people in it, but only a handful of families are Christian.  Through the Lord's provision, we were able give this village a clean water well, which allowed us to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with many of the Hindu families.  A few people even made the decision to turn from Hinduism and declare Jesus as their Savior! Praise God that one more village in India has been reached for His glory!

The church in Sindhibahali, in partnership with New Life in Kesinga

2.24.14 -- Christians in Sindhibahali greeting us with song for the water well dedication

2.24.14 -- Pumping the well in Sindhibahali


"Jesus said, 'Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again." -John 4:13-14

After the well dedication, the village broke out into one big dance party -- a celebration of what God had done! A few minutes into the dancing, I noticed a shy boy with tender eyes standing close by, watching me dance with some of the girls.  I invited him over and he captured my heart in those first few minutes.  Our team visited the village a total of three times and he was by my side every time.

His name is Jaheed.

2.24.14 -- Dancing with Jaheed after the well dedication

The day after the well dedication, our team took a prayer walk through Sindhibahali.  By the time we stopped at the last house, a crowd of mostly Hindu village people had gathered around us and Pastor Siani (sitting, pink shirt) began preaching.  A few minutes into it, one of the village children came and sat in his lap.  If this is not a figurative picture of Jesus, I don't know what is...

2.25.14 -- Pastor Siani sharing the Gospel in Sindhibahali

After the prayer walk, it was time to leave the village for the final time.  Watching Jaheed turn around and wave to the bus, as he walked towards his poverty-stricken home, was one of the most heart-wrenching things I experienced that week.

2.25.14 -- Saying goodbye to Jaheed

Our team left Kesinga and New Life late Wednesday night, and it was not easy! Around 1:00 a.m. Thursday morning, we boarded another train back to Vizag, on our way to Hyderabad.  Once in Hyderabad Thursday night, we visited another orphanage (Raja's) and the guys on the team began prepping for a concert they would be putting on Saturday night. 

2.28.14 -- Children at Raja's orphanage in Hyderabad dancing to India's national anthem

Hyderabad at night -- taken from the roof of Raja's orphanage

2.28.14 -- Prayers at Raja's

The last couple days of the trip are a bit of a blur for me.  I got sick with a fever, chills, and stomach issues late Friday night.  Miraculously (seriously, y'all), the Lord took it all away for about seven hours on Saturday, which was just enough time to worship with thousands of people at the concert in Hyderabad.  The fever stayed at bay after the concert, but the stomach problems came back in full force and never fully resolved until a week after I returned back home.  It was not how I envisioned my last days in India to go, but it did make coming home that much sweeter.

3.2.14 -- The up-side of our flight out of LaGuardia being delayed: seeing NYC at night from an airplane window.

3.2.14 -- Home

However, that first week back home was stressful, to say the least; I now have a full understanding of the term "re-entry stress'.  The first thing I wrote in my journal after waking up in my house Monday morning was, "America is overwhelming".  I'm still working on reconciling all that I learned and experienced in India with how we live here in the States, and figuring out what that means as I move forward in different areas of my life.

This is what I do know: I miss India.  I miss the kids, I miss their joy.  I miss the simplicity of it all.  If it weren't for the whole traveling-across-the-world thing, I'd go back tomorrow.  In the meantime, I have lots of photos and even more memories to hold me over.  Because, if there's one other thing I know for sure, it's this:

I will be back.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Five Years Later

Dear Ethan:

Happy FIFTH birthday! Today is the day you've been looking forward to for weeks now.  I think this is the first year that you've waited for your birthday in eager anticipation, and I've loved witnessing it! Yesterday, I made a big deal about it being your last day as a four-year-old.  You, however, were more than ready to be five.  I had to smile (even though you were completely serious) when you asked me, while running errands for your party, "Mom, when I wake up tomorrow, will I still be this size?". You keep us laughing, that's for sure.

Your fifth year has also elicited a large number of tears.  Probably not as many as your first, but you and I have struggled to find our groove this year.  We still have a lot of work to do, but I'm confident that - with lots of prayers, grace, and forgiveness - we'll figure it out.  I asked your Granny one day if parenting you gave me a glimpse into what it was like to parent me.  She laughed at me and quickly dismissed my question.  Apparently, I was even more stubborn than you are! You and I may butt heads until we're both old and gray, but I hope you'll never doubt that my love for you is just as fierce.

My biggest prayer for you is that you would grow into a kind, respectful man who loves the Lord.  You are already asking really tough questions about God, and I pray continually for the wisdom and patience to handle your curiosity.  You are so smart, Ethan, but don't ever let the intelligence of your brain trump the truth that's in your heart.  And we all know how incredible that heart of yours is.

Five is going to be a big year for you! In just a few short months, you'll start Kindergarten and enter a whole new phase of "growing up".  I'm sure you're going to change so much over this next year! I've also been wondering lately if this is the year that you'll have another heart surgery.  I am already praying for you, and for your Daddy and me, as we prepare for such a huge chapter in your story.  You can be sure that, no matter when or where, we will be by your side, cheering you on, just as we did that first year.

Daddy and I love you so much, Ethan! Your laugh makes our days brighter and your smile is contagious.  You bring so much joy to our lives! Happy birthday, sweet boy.  I look forward to celebrating you for many years to come.


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