Blog Archive

Friday, June 8, 2018

Light for the Path

In 2013, in the midst of a deep depression, struggling with anxiety and slogging though daily life with three small kids and a difficult season of our marriage, I sat on the phone listening to a friend whose marriage was on the brink. I knew I didn't have answers or quick fixes, but I did have words of hope. I did have experiences to share...times when God had met me in dark places, when I'd seen God sustain our marriage and family through betrayals, brokenness and heartbreak. We were not yet "out of the woods", and yet I could see very clearly that God wasn't waiting for our marriage or my life to be "fixed" or "perfect" before using our story to encourage someone. I saw how, through my own experience with depression and anxiety, God was allowing me greater connections with my neighbors who struggled with depression and mental illness.  I was humbled.

My broken places, and OUR broken places had become cracks through which His comfort and hope were now streaming.

In that time and place, God graciously gave me eyes to see a spiritual reality of his work.

In my mind, Matt and I were walking through a forest on a dark night. There were roots and branches and obstructions in our path, and our only light came from a small lantern, which we each carried.  I looked around me & noticed others with lanterns scattered throughout a mass of people who were all walking with us. We were holding hands and slowly, step by step making it through the forest, finding our footing, then turning back to shine the light for our neighbor.  It was slow, messy work, but I know we were all making it through the forest together. I also knew it would be much easier if there was someone perched atop a mountain looking down on us who could shout out directions! However, it was clear to me then, that this slow path was the means to get the most people through and to the other side.

God wasn't giving either me or my friend the whole picture. Neither of us could rely on verbal directions from an expert or book or blog to orient us ahead of time to the struggles and trials we'd encounter or guarantee us safe passage.  Instead he'd placed us together. Each one who had a light was sharing their own light with those closest to them, and that light, that truth, that revelation about who God was for us there, was helping and was enough.  

Many friends, mentors and family members have shared their lantern-light with us over the years. They have stood with us in the dark, taken us by the hand and walked with us through the forest of loss and suffering and brokenness. And it has been a profound and humbling honor to share the light of truth and life and hope we've been given with those near us.

Last Sunday, during a teaching series on suffering, we had the opportunity to share our journey to date with our NYC church family. It was as honest and raw a conversation as we've ever been able to have, and for both Matt and I it was a moment of holding out our lanterns to light up the forest for those nearest to us. In many ways, with Elizabeth's recent surgery, and two more scheduled for this summer, we remain in that forest. God continues to make us dependent daily on His mercy and grace, invites us to travel by the lantern light of those around us, and share our light with others. We've never been made to do this alone. What a privilege.

If you would like to hear the recording of our conversation, you can listen to it here. If you're in New York City and would like to be part of a community of Jesus followers who would love to share our lanterns with you, please come visit us at Trinity Grace Church, Westside.

Sara & Matt

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Elizabeth's Heart is Lookin' Good!

With all the social media spots to update, I sometimes drop the ball.
I'm sorry I have been AWOL here! Those of you who read these updates
and pray for our Joy Child and our whole family are precious to me.
Thank you!

We just returned from Elizabeth's THIRD follow up echo/ekg/cardiology
appointment with very good news!

To back up, Elizabeth went to the ER with symptoms of post-operative
pericarditis. Fluid had collected around her heart as a result of
inflammation from her surgery. Since she has such a high pain
tolerance, she didn't mention the pressure and pain until it was bad
enough to give her high fevers...which resulted in a trip to the ER
for a complete work-up.

The treatment--high doses of anti inflammatory medications--is not
complicated, however, because she still has the clot in her liver, the
veins around her stomach and esophagus are enlarged and under
pressure, so until now, anti inflammatory meds have been off limits.
But after weighing the risks and benefits, we began the meds and
agreed to watch her closely & repeat the echo.

Well, today's echo showed that the fluid has completely resolved!
We're all thrilled! We're so thankful she's been able to be home this
past week instead of hanging out in the hospital waiting for progress.
We're so grateful for her cheerful attitude, her courage & resiliency.
And we're thankful for your prayers. These last few weeks have been
exhausting. Another round of emergencies means more missed days of
work for Matt, more projects pushed aside and more strain on the girls
as we juggle immediate needs and a desire for normalcy.

Praise be to the Anchor who holds us in every high and stormy gale!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Prayers for Elizabeth...

6 years ago this morning, we were saying goodbye to our precious Ava Bean. In the midst of that, Elizabeth had been fighting a respiratory virus that had finally turned problematic. In the darkest moment of or lives, Matt took Elizabeth to the ER, where they planned to admit her for pneumonia. After learning about Ava's death, we worked out a solution to being her back for IV meds over the next week, and we were able to bring her home. 


Friends, this day is already complicated enough. However, this week Elizabeth has had around the clock fevers with no clear source, and when she started having some trouble breathing last night, Matt took her to the ER. There, they found some fluid around her heart and are still working to assess the source of the her infection. Our hearts are so full right now. Please Pray. 


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Happy Easter!!

What a full and wonderful weekend. We are thrilled to have all our chicks back in the nest! We are savoring the time to reconnect, even while there are the obligatory emotional bumps along the way. E slept well her first night home and woke up with a craving for Rockland Bagels! A 30-minute drive seemed doable and E enjoyed a quick tour before needing a bagel break. 😊 #worthit 

While E-bug rested with Grandma, Matt and I got to spend Saturday with Hannah & Ruby and thoroughly enjoyed the TGC egg hunt in Central Park. 


However, the highlight of the weekend was Easter Sunday. While I'd prepared myself for her to decline, Elizabeth decided that if Grandma would be her "wing-man", she would, in fact, want to brave the crowds of loving friends and head to church! It was incredible to celebrate our risen savior with family and friends. We finished the day with some read-aloud time and games with friends, and then shared a meal, lovingly delivered by yet another generous friend. So much grace. 


It is impossible not to recognize that Elizabeth is alive today, both in spirit and in body, because JESUS is alive! What a happy homecoming. We are humbled and beyond grateful to experience this miracle.

Thursday, March 29, 2018


Birthday Dreams do come true! It took a whole day full of tests and procedures, but Elizabeth managed to get discharged in time to celebrate Grandma Harms' birthday in person and in the comfort of our own home! God is GOOD, and we are tired! Laundry, and snuggles, unpacking and re-entry await....but first, sleep. πŸ’—


We're tube-free!! After a beautifully clear chest X-ray this morning, CT Surgery came by first thing and slipped it out! Amazing. Ruby & Hannah have whisked Grandma off for a birthday adventure and Elizabeth and I plan to do as much walking around as possible now that she doesn't have to lug her IV pole around. In fact, she just declared she needed to use the bathroom and was waiting for me to get up to help her. The look of delighted surprise when she remembered she was "unattached" was priceless! Happy Day! 

Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Holding Steady

Elizabeth's chest tube drained nearly 400ccs overnight and through the morning and her early morning chest X-ray showed that her fluid pocket was about 50% improved! So since her tube was finally working, they left it in for another day, and in the early afternoon it appeared that the drainage was done! We'll know for sure after the X-ray tomorrow morning, but we're hopeful that she could get her tube taken out tomorrow! 


This pushes back discharge a bit, but we still have Easter at home in our sights. πŸ’— Meanwhile, she's lost 9 pounds and is pretty wiped out, so pray that her lack of appetite and lethargy are simply the result of that pesky tube and the heavy diuretics! We're certainly happy to fatten her back up at home if they let us take her! πŸ’—

While E has been laying low, her sisters have been having precious time with my mom all last week, and now Matt's mom. They've been doing school, sewing, making cards for E, and enjoying the sweet care packages friends have sent. I'm so glad they have each other and such attentive, intuitive grandmothers. Their hearts are also weary of the long separation, but everyone seems to be doing well and I'm proud of the way they are handling it. They've both expressed a desire to spend more time in the Hospital with E, (free snacks from her untouched meal tray, the child-life play room are a big draw!) so we've had the chance to play lots of games and process how their hearts are doing. One day at a time, we're doing it! 


We are incredibly humbled by the amount of support and encouragement, the meals and coffees and offers to visit, the notes and gifts, the prayers and expressions of love...were overwhelmingly thankful.  πŸ’—

Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Answered Prayers!

Tonight were having a party up here on the 6th floor, because IT'S DRAINED!! πŸ™ŒπŸΌπŸ™ŒπŸΌπŸ™ŒπŸΌ

Of course there are many details I want to go back and recount but I'm about to fall over so they'll have to wait. To make a long story short, her tube started draining more & I was concerned with the change, so I pestered the nurses and Matt pestered CT surgery and they finally came and worked on the line for 30 minutes and in the process, doubled her drainage from the last 6 days! 


So I'm the end, it's drained!! If her pneumothorax is unchanged, and her fluid hasn't reaccumulated, if her labs look good and the draining has stopped, they'll remove the tube tomorrow and she could be discharged by Thursday! God is so good! There simply aren't enough words and exclamation points. πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‰

Sent from my iPhone

Monday, March 26, 2018

Ups and Downs

These two pictures bookended a difficult day for E. She was up early for a chest X-ray and a blood draw for labs, and then learned not only is the fluid still there, but she's now developed a pneumothorax (a small hole in her upper left lung) thanks to the therapy she endured to try to re-inflate it. Ugh. 


This was followed by the news that she was to be NPO (couldn't eat or drink) and might go for surgery in the afternoon. While both of those decisions were eventually delayed by a day in favor of increasing her diuretics, it made for a hard morning of frustration, disappointment, sadness and anxiety. 


Now that she's 12, she knows the pain that she's facing. She realizes that Dr.s smile and are friendly, then have to poke and prod. And she knows that she feels crummy and it feels like it's never going to end. 

The afternoon improved with the visit of her sisters, a winning game of Hospital Bingo, a short visit by a doting friend and the arrival of BOTH of her grandmas into her room for "the changing of the guard"! (My mom leaves tomorrow and Matt's mom is here for the next 9 days. 


Obviously, she ended the day on a much higher note, but we would appreciate continued prayers! That pesky fluid is still hanging around. She'll have surgery tomorrow if it isn't resolved. She is on large doses of diuretics, so pray that she would be free of complications! Pray for grace for Matt as he has to see patients 3 days this week. And pray for continued health and restorative rest for all of us. 


Though this feels difficult, there are many ways in which we feel so blessed...available grandmas, healthy bodies, stable work and living situations, incredible support from friends and family, our church and colleagues. May we continue to find and receive the nourishment of peace and grace from this, our daily bread. 

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Day 5 and counting...

Today the adrenaline officially ran out. 


As if He knew it would happen, God filled our day with many sweet graces. I will share more tomorrow, but tonight I'm out of words. 


We continue to need prayer for Elizabeth's chest tube to drain all that excess fluid. Elizabeth is doing her very best with all the exercises and therapies, but it's simply not budging. Before it can get infected, the team will want to place an additional tube, which would require another surgery and a return to the PICU, and were eager to avoid that if possible. Tonight she developed another fever, and that always puts us on pins and needles, so please continue to pray for protection from infection! 


Finally, we all need stamina and grace for this journey. Matt will be back to seeing patients this week, so the juggling of time and attention will continue. As we fall into bed tonight, I'm thankful for the sufficient grace that is promised to meet and fill our moments and hours tomorrow. 

Goodnight precious friends. πŸ’—, Sara

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Go Elizabeth, Go!

Today was a day of encouragement.  It began with a great night of sleep for everyone! πŸ™ŒπŸΌ when I came up for Dr's Rounds, I brought up all the cards, notes & pictures I've been accumulating, and now her room looks super cheerful! She said, "wow! There are a lot of people who love our family!" Wow, indeed. πŸ’—πŸ’—πŸ’—


What you can't see is our dear angel-auntie Elisabeth, who brought lunch and showered our Elizabeth with attention and conversation. Meanwhile, Matt got a shower and a date with Hannah Mae to baseball practice while I was able to pay some bills and catch up on work & Granna and Ruby got some one on one time together, so it was a blessing for ALL of us! 


Thanks to generous friends, we enjoyed our favorite pizza from @antika_pizzeria for dinner and then got to take our first family walk with Elizabeth's new and improved heart! Her sisters enjoyed driving the IV pole and holding the telemetry monitor and she was a good sport, pointing out the playroom, the room where her new three week-old friend is staying, and her absolute favorite, the Kosher Kitchen!  Because it is Shabbat, there were many men gathered to pray and she thought that was super interesting! 


While she's healing well, she's still got almost a kilo of extra fluid sitting around her lungs and heart, so we need that to start draining so she can get her chest tube out, the last major hurdle before discharge. Would you pray that she would have stamina to do all the activities to help it drain? Also pray that her chest x-ray tomorrow morning would show that improvement! We are still hoping and praying that we're home in time for Easter, so fluid, "be gone!"


Thanks everyone. As Elizabeth appropriately observed, we know that there are a whole lot of people praying for and loving on us, and we sure feel it. πŸ’—

πŸ’—, sara

Friday, March 23, 2018

New Day, New Mercies

This girl. What a rockstar! The two of us had a pretty rotten night. There was some confusion about her regimen, so she got behind on her pain meds, and as a result woke up every 30 minutes anxious, thirsty and in pain. She developed a low grade fever and we couldn't help but worry about a possible infection or developing pneumonia.
All I can say is, Praise God for mornings!
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
~Lamentations 3:22-23
This morning we were able to make some changes during rounds. Best of all, that means better pain management! We also have a super competent nurse and a support squad that arrived throughout the morning with coffee, snacks, hugs, lunch, some laughs, more coffee and prayers! As a result we got a pretty uncomfortable IJ Line removed, managed to get her up and walking...2 1/2 laps so farπŸ™ŒπŸΌπŸŽ‰...and then she sat up for 2 hours! As a reward for all that hard work, she got to introduce her OT to The Greatest Showman. 😍
She's looking forward to hosting her sisters for dinner again, and we're even beginning to believe we might be home by Easter...what grace.
Thank you so much for your continued prayers. As you can tell, there are lots of highs and lows and big swings between pain and comfort. This journey is not for the faint of heart, so it's a good thing our Joy-Child has a strong one! πŸ’—πŸ’—πŸ’—

Thursday, March 22, 2018

A Whirlwind Day

What a difference 24 hours makes! When I left Elizabeth last night to tuck in the girls at home, she was stable, but pretty miserable. She wanted water which she couldn't have, and no position was comfortable. His residency (read: sleep under any condition) training made Dr. Daddy the best candidate to sleep in the ICU meanwhile, I got to comfort sweet hearts at home and then had the luxury of my own bed.

I arrived this morning to learn that today would less like a spa day and more like boot camp for our sweet girl. Her post-op chest x-ray showed her lungs hadn't fully inflated so she needed to take deep breaths (painful) to try to expand them, AND she needed to sit up and get moving a bit to help her get rid of some of the post-anesthesia air-bubbles which were pretty painful! Let's just say she was not excited about "the plan" coming from rounds.


Fortunately, our girl does really well with incentives, so between daddy and I we got right to work: a sip of water after 3 deep breaths on the "incentive spirometer", a movie & a fresh set of french braids for sitting up in bed, another movie for moving to the chair! Well, her hard work paid off. She got through a bedding change, a surgical dressing change, fought through icky nausea all morning and finally held down a croissant! This afternoon she was delighted to talk all about E.T. with our sweet friend who arrived with lunch and treats in-hand, enjoyed some reading, snoozed through 4 movies, got her arterial IV taken out, moved from the "pain pump" to oral pain meds and she is now discharged from the PICU & resting comfortably in our private room in new Pjs after a dinner-time visit with Granna, Ruby & Hannah!


You can imagine how tired she is! It was a banner day for our girl. It's hard to believe she's only 1 day away from open heart surgery and doing so well! God is so good!


Please continue to pray for deep, restorative rest for our Weary Warrior and her exhausted parents. Pray for protection from infection, good pain management and for clear and healthy lungs. Pray for Hannah & Ruby's hearts to be filled with peace and assurance as they ride this roller-coaster with us. Finally, continue to pray for supernatural hope and trust surround and sustain us. We have been down many harrowing paths and it is easy to guard our hearts so we're not blindsided by heartbreak.


We are so thankful for your emails, texts, messages of encouragement and prayers. We are so amazed at your care for us.

With so much love and humble gratitude,

Sara, for all of us

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

It’s fixed!

She's done!  The surgeon's report is that the surgery was successful. It was more complicated because her heart is "atypical" but he said, "it's fixed". So we'll take that! 

She's intermittently awake & vacillates between surprisingly coherent and cranky & uncomfortable. At the moment she's dozing through the end of ET. πŸ’—She's got a great team here in the ICU so I'm going to sign off and be with my baby girl. Thank you for your thoughts, encouragement and prayers for our family. 


Sent from my iPhone

Checked In

We ran through the beginning of the snow to catch our Uber. Now she's all checked in and settled down watching ET for the first time. πŸ’— In good news, it looks like we may get bumped up and go back to the OR a bit earlier, which would be a huge blessing! The sooner she forgets that she's hungry the better!


From where I sit, I can see two slivers of the nor'easter sweeping across the Northeast. But we're warm and cozy, the girls are warm and cozy at home with Granna and now we just wait. Thank you so much for your emails and texts, and especially for your prayers. πŸ’—

Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

T-minus 24 hours

So grateful for some one-on-one time with both Hannah and Ruby yesterday and today. Everyone is a bit on pins and needles, but overall, hearts are calm and we're all eager to get on the other side of the surgery in order to get the lay of the land.  We enjoyed a yummy dinner from friends and topped it off with Elizabeth's favorite: strawberries and whipped cream, to celebrate the first day of Spring. 

This afternoon we found out  we are scheduled to register at 9am. Elizabeth's the second case, so she'll go back to the OR in the afternoon. It'll make for a long morning of not eating or drinking, but it will be really nice not to have to rouse her at 5am to get there early. Also on the bright side, after years of pre-op eating and drinking restrictions, she's become a real champ and will hopefully be easily distracted by unlimited media time while she waits. 

Please pray for deep rest for all of us overnight and that this crazy nor'easter wouldn't cause any complications! So thankful we can trust in God's perfect timing tomorrow. I'll be posting updates via social media and on our blog. (Link in profile)Thank you for all your prayers and encouragement. They mean the world to us! 

PS -can you see that the moon πŸŒ™ is really still round 🌝? Still reminds me of our sweet Ava Bean and our Faithful GodπŸ’—


Monday, March 19, 2018

Pre-op: ✅

Echo ✅
mama got coffee ✅
a new book & art kit from the pre-op nurse ✅
urine ✅
blood ✅

lunch with daddy ✅
chest X-ray ✅
& now Home Sweet Home, where dinner from friends is in the fridge and where homeschool with Granna looks like math, piano, writing, games & sportsmanship & mani-pedi's!
When Ava was alive, we held onto Deuteronomy 7:9. So often we needed to remember (and still do) that the God who was faithful during all of Elizabeth's hospitalizations was STILL the Faithful One who would guide and provide for us in all the unknowns. How fitting that today's verse in my Bible App was Deuteronomy 7:9. He is gently reminding me that He intends to be faithful once again.

Pre-Op Day

And we're off for Pre-op Day! We ran into our darling neighbors on our way out of our building and E got to walk toward the subway together with her friends. A sweet gift at the beginning of this long day.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

A *Date* of Sorts

Matt took the younger girls to baseball practice so thought I could take advantage of some one on one time with Elizabeth before Granna (my mom) arrived this evening. So I asked her if we could have a date.

She said no.

I reminded her that all 12 year olds love mother/daughter dates. She said "I don't". πŸ˜‚ #toomuchattention.

I asked her to pleeeeese let me take her and she said, "as long as we can call it an errand instead" πŸ™„ #fine #youwin #sheesh #notgettingmyfeelingshurt

We ran my errand and then visited Barnes & Noble for a chai latte and some time with books! Thankfully, she found one about the childhoods of over a dozen famous authors and she's as happy as a clam!

Note to self: books not clothes are the way to this girl's heart. πŸ’—πŸ’—πŸ’—