This used to be my place.
Yet, I haven’t visited it in ages.
I haven’t known how to share my heart without also bearing the soul of my family, which can be difficult. This is my place, where I have opened up but I want to be careful in how I share my family since their hearts and stories are their own to share…and they are sacred. They have been forged at a price.
Over the past several years, the Lord has taken me through a journey of learning how to be there for my husband and our girls when they are going through a storm. It’s difficult. As the ‘manager’ of our home and our family, I want to fix things and make them better. I want to encourage and be strong but at the same time, I don’t have the answers. I don’t know why we go through hard things. I don’t have an explanation or reason for everything. I have to admit, mostly to myself, that I am not in control. In between the great days, there are good days, and sad days, and blah days, and plain old hard days.
I have to reconcile that my prayers are not always answered how I want or think they should be. I don’t know the whole story. I don’t know how the parts fit together or why the Lord allows some things to happen. I am also not aware of everything He has protected my family and I from. I am so limited in my knowledge…
So I have to lift my eyes from the waves and trust Him. Trust Him because I know He is trustworthy. I know God is faithful. Even when my heart is hurting, when I feel like my family is in the depths, I can rely on His everlasting love and goodness. He never wavers. It’s never too hard for Him. In the darkest tunnel, He is our light. He is our hope.
When we are broken, He is our refuge.
Shortly after we moved to Franklin, Amari and I were on our daily bike ride/run. We went a new way home and I remember so clearly, Amari asking me if we were going the right way. I assured her that we were. She told me how she didn’t recognize the way. She knew we hadn’t come this way before. How sure was I that this would lead us home? I asked her to trust me but she continued to ask for reassurance. After about a mile, we turned the corner and I looked down at her on her bike. Her eyes lit up as she recognized where we were. “You took us home, Mama! It wasn’t the way I knew, but I trusted you and you brought us home.” I remember, finishing that run with her words running through my mind. “It wasn’t the way I knew but I trusted you.” Feeling the truth of those words in my own heart.
For a long time we hoped that Boone would be our place. We fell in love with that little mountain town…it was our ‘home, home’. Our friends were family. Our love for them was (is) so deep. We put our roots down in our church and the community. We thought our girls would grow up there. We loved our home in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
When it came time to say goodbye, it was so difficult. We were excited for what lay ahead but we also grieved who and what we were saying goodbye to. We knew well that what we had found there was rare, and beautiful, and precious.
As we transitioned to Franklin, Ryan and I kept reminding each other that transition takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight. Relationships and places with value take time. They can’t be rushed. We had learned that when we moved to Boone. We had to be patient with ourselves and the girls. We had great days, good days, and super hard days. Brooklyn had a lot of hard days. Okay, let’s be honest. We all had a lot of hard days. I think Brooklyn’s hard days took the biggest toll on Ryan and I. She loved her school, her friends, and her village in Boone. There were a lot of tears and a lot of prayers.
Still today, there are days when our footing may not be sure. It may feel slippery and risky. In those moments, that’s when we need to find ourselves in Him. He is our sure footing.
When we found out we are expecting a new little Smith, we were thrilled. Everything about this little life reminded us that He is the giver of life, the author of our stories. My first appointment went smoothly. I really loved my doctor. I saw little one’s heartbeat on the ultrasound. We were going to wait until I was done with my first trimester to tell the girls but since we were going to Montana to see my family, we decided to share the news a little early. The girls were delighted. We told them while visiting a pumpkin patch with my mom, sister, niece and nephew. The girls were shocked but overjoyed. Brooklyn’s jaw dropped and stayed like that as she hugged us over and over again, looking at the ultrasound photos. Amari put her hand on my tummy and said, “There’s a baby in here? Is that why you’ve been so sick?” That little one is so smart! Our entire Montana vacation was amazing – full of family, friends, food, and great memories…
We came home and at the end of the week I received a phone call from my doctor. She said that my bloodwork had taken longer than expected because they had found three unique antibodies. One, Antibody D, most likely developed after Brooklyn’s birth. Injections are normally given during pregnancy and after to prevent the development of these antibodies. These antibodies develop in Rh- patients against Rh+ blood if negative blood mixes with positive blood. It only takes a very small amount of crossover for these antibodies to develop. My doctor told me that I would be considered a high-risk pregnancy and would need to see a specialist who would take special care to monitor the baby’s bloodflow through ultrasound. The Antibody D in my blood has the potential to destroy the baby’s circulating red blood cells if they are Rh+. This can lead to various complications. She said that if the baby is in distress and showing signs of a low blood count, we would deliver as soon as possible. Rh incompatibility is pretty rare due to excellent prenatal care in the U.S. but unfortunately we are one of these rare cases.
I cried. Of course I did. I’m a crier anyway, so pregnant…of course I cried. However, we prayed over baby Smith and I hung onto the promise that He is the giver of life, the author of our stories. And that even though we don’t know the way through this, even though it doesn’t look familiar to us, He knows the way home. He knows.
That next Monday, I scheduled a routine eye exam for Ryan. For years he’s been struggling with inconsistent nausea and vomiting. We wondered if he had parasites from traveling, perhaps he got a lot of food poisoning, maybe it was from stress…we had no idea. When we still lived in Boone, he started getting migraines. After we moved to Franklin, their intensity really increased as well as the pressure. He would randomly spend days to weeks in severe pain, vomiting and fatigued. We found a new primary care doctor and went several times. Ryan received migraine and nausea meds but they didn’t help. It was frustrating. Then we noticed that Ryan would close one eye or tilt his head back to see. During some of his migraines, his vision was affected. I thought maybe he needed a new prescription. Long story short, they found something unusual and sent Ryan to get an MRI. That afternoon, Wednesday, he received a phone call that the MRI had revealed a brain tumor. They scheduled an appointment with a neurosurgeon for Friday morning. So we had a day to wait…that day was Amari’s 5th birthday. Ryan and I decided there was nothing we could do but pray, ask some family & friends to pray, and celebrate our 5 year old. We spent the day celebrating, crying, praying. It’s been significant for us to have our new Franklin community rally around us. We didn’t make it to our small group that Wednesday but they came the next day with a basket of celebratory gifts for our pregnancy, and gift cards, and prayers. A friend brought us dinner and our community filled our hearts with messages of prayers, hope, encouragement and love. As did our family and friends from far away. These messages, texts and phone calls have meant so much to us. The Lord has used them in a powerful way to uphold us. We only told a handful of people since we didn’t have a lot of information.
Friday morning we met with the neurosurgeon, who thought we had already seen the scans. He started the conversation by telling us how rare it was to see a tumor this big. You can only imagine our fear in that moment. However, there was some favorable news. He told us the tumor was a meningioma. Here’s what we’ve learned about them from WebMD:
A meningioma is a tumor that forms on membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord just inside the skull. These tumors are often slow-growing. As many as 90% are benign.
So, the tumor is separate from Ryan’s brain tissue and can be removed surgically. The doctor said that once the tumor is removed Ryan’s brain will go back to normal. He showed us Ryan’s scans and we were shocked. The tumor is about the size of baseball and he said it’s probably been growing for about 10 years. He immediately put a plan in place and scheduled the surgeries. He gave Ryan a prescription for some steroid medicines that will help with the pressure and hopefully begin the slow process of shrinking the tumor. This Monday or Tuesday we will go to the hospital for pretesting (labs, paperwork, etc.). November 4th, Ryan will have his first surgery where they will cauterize and seal the blood vessels that supply blood to the tumor. This should take an hour and a half and he will be able to come home after the surgery. November 10th Ryan will have a craniotomy to remove the tumor. This surgery should take 3-4 hours. Ryan will be in the hospital for 3-4 days and then need 4-6 weeks recovery time before he can go back to work.
It has been a whirlwind of a week to say the least. Lots of emotions all across the board. We spent part of the later afternoon visiting the doctors who had taken part in this process, thanking them for being so diligent in their work and referring us to specialists until we found the tumor. Ryan’s humor remains intact and we spent the afternoon laughing together. Once we arrived home, Ryan was exhausted. He has spent most of his time at home sleeping when he’s not at doctor appointments. The pressure in his head is intense and overwhelming. Ryan shared the news with Brooklyn Friday evening and then we told Amari. They have known Ryan’s symptoms well. Just a few months ago we planned a little day trip to the amusement park, Holiday World. Ryan spent the day vomiting and sick with a migraine. He ended up sleeping in the car while the girls and I finished out our day. He has tried so hard to be present and to be himself while being in a lot of pain. We’re so thankful to have found the source of these symptoms.
We know we have a journey ahead of us. We know there will be many tough moments but we also have so much to be thankful for. Thankful that they found this tumor. Thankful that his symptoms haven’t been worse. Thankful that the tumor appears to be benign and can be removed with surgery. Thankful that we have an amazing surgeon. Thankful that this is curable. Thankful that Ryan’s vision should return to normal.
We may not be familiar with this road. We may need reassurance that it leads home. But we will trust in Him, even when it’s hard, and even when the journey seems too difficult. We know He will lead us home. He is a good, good Father.
We would love your prayers as we continue down this road of healing. Please pray for the Lord to give us peace that surpasses understanding, for Ryan’s pain to be tolerable as he waits, and for the surgeries to go smoothly and without complication. Please pray for baby Smith to be healthy and whole. We are so grateful for your friendship and love…and the time you took to read this. We hope that when we make it through to the other side we can say to the Lord, “It wasn’t a road we knew, but we trusted You.”