Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ministry During Difficult Times: Part 3

"Please pray for us as my wife will be having a fibroid removed."
These were the words I heard from a man at our church just days after we had escaped the hospital with Garrison.
The morning of the woman's surgery, the church staff was talking about how her husband probably needed our prayers and reassurance more than the patient!
So, when our pulpit minister said that he was going to visit them before the surgery, I immediately volunteered to go. With our recent worries and anxiety from a hospital stay, how could I turn down this opportunity? It was so fresh on my mind that I had NO problem walking back into a hospital environment.
It was obvious our friends were glad to see us. We made small talk and laughed. The gentleman hugged each of us and told us how glad he was that we came. Turning to me, he said, "I would have thought you would be tired of hospitals by now."
My reply: "I am...and that's exactly why I'm here!"
I knew his anxiety and the questions that must have been floating around in his mind. I knew his feeling of helplessness. I knew his overwhelming need to protect his family. I sympathized with his lack of sleep.
Father God, NEVER let me forget the draining emotions and faith-building experience of our recent stay in the hospital. I never want to fear hospitals again, but I want to see them as opportunities to help others. Father, keep this experience fresh and new for me. May I use this to minister to others the way You would minister to them. Help me to see opportunities, and to know what to say or do in tough times. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ministry During Difficult Times: Part 2

During our recent ordeal, God opened up ANOTHER door for some ministry! (Insert sarcastic gasp here.)
Before Garrison was moved to the NICU, he had a WONDERFUL nurse name Onie in the nursery. She has worked there for over 30 years and seen it all! She is the sweetest lady ever, having volunteered at her church nursery for many, many years.
When she started asking questions about our church, I asked her about her own church-going background. Sadly, she told me about this church that had largely ignored her servant heart, and failed to return the love when she needed it the most. She felt lost in a mega-church crowd.
I told her about our little, imperfect-but-lovely church. I don't know if she will follow through on my invitation or not, but I pray she felt a connection to another believer in Christ for that short time we sat together in the nursery. I hope she was encouraged. I hope she will not stay discouraged in her relationship with God because other people failed in their relationship with her.
God bless you, Onie. We love you!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Ministry During Difficult Times: Part 1

Before I start out on this blog entry, I must thank you for your continued prayers and encouragement during our stressful time with Garrison. He is now HOME and doing very well! I've been telling people he's doing exactly what babies do...eating, sleeping, pooping and keeping us awake!

During our recent hospital stay, I learned that God can provide ministry opportunities even during difficult times...
I had called a friend of mine to let him know of a youth ministry opportunity, and he returned my call the day Garrison was born. This kid is "cream of the crop" in my books. I mean, he and his family are just precious people. He's been in youth ministry for a few years now (3 or 4?) and I believe God has, and will, use him in great ways.
So, my heart dropped when he told me, "Franklin, I'm thinking of getting out of youth ministry. I've never been so discouraged in all my life. I can't believe that people treat each other like this. Is this what Jesus died for?"
My heart immediately recalled some difficult times in my own ministry. There were dark moments where I felt the world was against me, and that nothing I did made any difference. I remember feeling like I had no friends and no support.
It kills me to hear of people dropping out of ministry. If this guy leaves, it will make TWO of my good friends that have now left.
Sometimes it's because of bad leadership. Sometimes it's because people are stubborn and won't follow a vision that's laid out before them. Sometimes it's because you've called people out for their shortcomings. And sometimes it's because of misconceptions and shortcomings on the youth minister's part.
Youth ministry is not easy. Caring for the souls of people can be a heartbreaking business. Many times you pour your life and love into people, and get "nada" in return.
If you are in that boat, hang in there. What doesn't seem to yield immediate results may be planting eternal seeds. Your patience and dependence on God is your greatest weapon.
Would you show some loving kindness to your youth minister today? (Please, I am asking this for other guys, and not myself! I am very well taken care of!!)
Write them a note, take them to lunch, volunteer to teach Junior High class (OK, maybe that's a bit much!) Tell them they are making a difference. Let them know you at least appreciate their efforts. PRAY FOR THEM. Pray WITH them! Spend time with them.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

He's Heeere!

Garrison (who I think I'll start calling Baby G) was cleared to come home this morning!! His lungs look like they have totally cleared up, all support (wires, etc.) was removed yesterday, and he is eating very well.

Coming home has been a relaxant for all of us. Tracy's been itching to come back for days. Garrison seems to know he's in a safe place where people won't inject him or poke anything down his throat. He has enjoyed cuddles with everyone, including older brother Fischer (THREE times today!) Of course, Grandma and Papa Sewell got their time in, too.

It's hard to put him down. Every time I pass by him, I have to stop and stare for a while. It feels like he is now "officially" ours. We've been wanting to hold him, protect him, comfort him, spoil him, and just love him. Now we get that chance.

We would just like to praise God. First of all, for hearing many prayers on behalf of Garrison. He is a compassionate God who wept with us through our doubts and fears. We also thank Him for all of our wonderful friends and family, who have been praying nonstop for us. We want you to know that your prayers brought us strength. Your prayers and encouragement brought us before God and helped us leave our problems at His throne.

God bless you all. We love you!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Things are looking up every day! Yesterday, about noon, Garrison was taken off of his oxygen. He must be able to go 24 hours without it for them to consider letting him go home. They also want to monitor him in his carseat for an hour to see how he does. Pretty thorough, huh?
They are saying that possibly tonight or tomorrow he gets to come home!!!!
Meanwhile, I went to the doctor yesterday, and he just gave me some stronger antibiotics for my cold/allergies/whatever. Hopefully this round works!
We can't thank you all enough for your prayers and encouragement during this time. It has helped us so much and kept up our spirits.
By the way, if we are a little overprotective of people holding Garrison for the first few weeks, we hope you'll understand!

Monday, October 06, 2008

I'm Sick of Sickness

Garrison is eating well today! They are keeping the feeding tube in just in case, but so far, so good. He had his PICC line (deep in his foot) removed today, too! So now he just has a few leads on him to monitor his vitals. I think the IVs will probably stop soon, too.

Still no scholarly guesses on when we're coming home. They want to make absolutely sure he is OK before letting him go...and I'm 100% OK with that!

Meanwhile, I'm feeling pretty awful today. Lack of sleep and stress can't be good on top of getting treated last week for severe allergies (and maybe a cold; I don't know...I just took the drugs!)

Anyways, I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired. (That's why I posted this goofy pic...just to laugh a little!) I surrender. Tomorrow I'm going in to the doctor AGAIN. This time, he will probably check for pneumonia. If you don't hear from me for the next few days, I'm probably hiding out, trying to rest and recover! Please pray that our family will be united soon, and that we'll all be well enough to stay with each other!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Garrison News

So much to write about, but I need to get some rest!

OK, first the update on Garrison:

Chest tube came out yesterday, and arterial line in his left arm (along with a lot of tape and a block of styrofoam to hold it in place) came off this morning! Slowly, but surely he is shedding wires and technology and doing it in on his own.

We tried at feeding earlier this evening. He fed for a few minutes earlier on, but the next go around he just stayed asleep or wouldn't work at it. So, unfortunately, the feeding tube got reinserted.

Since we are trying to feed him, Tracy packed up her things and is pretty much living at the NICU. She will try to feed him every 2-3 hours. Please pray for her strength and stamina (and health) as she endures some late nights and baby cries.

I must admit that I am not a fan of hospitals. But I think I am changing my mind. A hospital is not just a place of healing, it is a place of learning. You will learn to be patient, you will learn to hear the cries of others, you will learn to be OK with shedding tears and confronting difficult things in life. You will learn to be more thankful for your own health, you will learn that there ARE people who care in this world.

Most importantly, you will learn the importance of PRESENCE. God's presence is EVERYWHERE in hospitals. If you spend a while in one, you will know what I mean. You will also learn the importance of your presence for others who are hurting. When you are hurting, NOTHING beats seeing the face of a loved one, or getting a text or voicemail, or reading a loving email...anything that lets you know people are with you and thinking of you.

I tried to communicate that to our teens tonight (THANK YOU FOR COMING TO VISIT ME IN THE HOSPITAL LOBBY!!! YOU WILL NEVER KNOW HOW MUCH I APPRECIATED THAT!) I hope they grasped this lesson and learn from it.

I hope I will grasp this lesson and learn from it.

I leave you with a song we used to sing for Fischer that I found myself humming to Garrison tonight:

I am a sheep and the LORD is my Shepherd

Watching over my soul

My soul to keep, guarding over me ever

Watching wherever I go

And when the winds blow

HE is my Shelter

And when I'm lost and alone

HE rescues me

And when the lion comes

HE is my Victory

Constantly watching over me

Yes, HE is constantly watching over me!!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Hi Everyone!

First of all, I gotta say "Thanks!" for all the prayers. Mommy and Daddy tell me that lots of people have been praying. All I know is, it was real tough a few days ago, and things went downhill from there. All these people were poking me and constantly badgering me. For a couple of days I was real sleepy and woke up with this gross tube in my mouth. I waited for just the right moment (4:00 am yesterday morning) to pull it out myself! Anyways, all that to say I'm feeling much better now, so thank you!

I opened my eyes tonight at feeding time, and Daddy happened to be there. He had a mask on his face, but his eyes were smiling REAL big!

Well, I'd better get back to sleep. Tomorrow might be a big day. If my lung x-rays are looking good, the doctors will remove my chest tube! (You can kinda see it under my raised arm.) They will probably also remove my PICC line (like an IV that goes straight into my artery.)

And here's the best part: If all that goes well, sometime soon I'll get to start feeding from Mommy. I really like being held by her, even if she's crying every time! (I guess that just means she wants to hold me a LOT!)

Tell my parents I'll be FINE. We'll be walking out of this hospital real soon!

Friday, October 03, 2008

He's Off!

Last night one of the nurses in NICU was turning Garrison over at about 4:00 a.m. As she did so, something didn't sound quite right and she looked down to see that his ventilator had come out (we assume he pulled it out!)
They usually take that as a sign that the baby is ready to be off the vent. So, they just hooked up the nasal oxygen tube and let him breathe on his own. He is currently at 30% oxygen, and doing fine. They should be checking all his vitals and blood-gases soon.
Please pray that his breathing continues to regulate itself and that he doesn't need to go on the vent again.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Baby Garrison Newest Update

As of 9:30 tonight (a few hours ago) Garrison was down to 25% oxygen AND they have turned the ventilator down so much that he is doing 70% of the breathing on his own! His blood gas and white blood cell count are still very good.
So tomorrow may be the day he comes off the ventilator. But that brings whole new anxieties for us.
Let me tell you the best news. The nurse let Tracy and I change his diaper and take his temperature. As we were doing so, he opened his little eyes and tracked us the whole time! We got to speak soothing words and give him comforting touches instead of being poked or prodded. It was something we really needed, although Tracy still has a desperate longing to hold and nurse him.

Thank you all SO much for the emails, facebook messages, phone messages, and texts that we are receiving. We love you all so much.

You Never Let Go

Fischer loves to listen to David Crowder Band. I think the repetitive lyrics of the choruses really stick in his mind.
I took Fischer to putt-putt this afternoon, just to get him out of the hospital for a few hours. This song came on and at the chorus, his little voiced chimed out, "You never let go, you never let go."
Tears dripped down my face as I made the connection between this song and how God is watching over us right now. Sometimes we don't feel Him there, and sometimes we want to solve problems on our own, but God never lets go.

Here are the lyrics, or you can go here to listen to the song and see a video.

When clouds veil sun
And disaster comes
Oh, my soul
Oh, my soul
When waters rise
And hope takes flight
Oh, my soul
Oh, my soul
Oh, my soul

Ever faithful
Ever true
You I know
You never let go
You never let go
You never let go
You never let go

When clouds brought rain
And disaster came
Oh, my soul
Oh, my soul
When waters rose
And hope had flown
Oh, my soul
Oh, my soul
Oh, my soul

Oh, my soul
Oh, what love, oh, what love
Oh, my soul
Fills with hope
Perfect love that never lets go

Oh, what love, oh what love
Oh, what love, oh what love
In joy and pain
In sun and rain
You’re the same
Oh, You never let go

Choosing to hold on,

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Latest...

I have debated all day whether to take pictures of Garrison in the NICU. Are those scenes we want to remember?
After much thought and tearful prayers, I decided to take and share a few pics. The reason...because I want to be able to look BACK and see the wonderful things that God did when he brought about healing. And I believe we're getting there.
I can't thank you enough for your prayers. Hopefully you can see from the above paragraph that we can feel your prayers and derive our strength from them. We BEG you to keep them coming!

UPDATE: Earlier tonight, the nurse lifted our hearts by telling us Garrison's levels are looking very good. His blood-gas levels are right where they need to be. His inflammation levels are down, and his white cell count is down to 15 (ideally it should be between 14 and 18) from 35. He is currently on 30% oxygen, down from 39% earlier tonight. And he is sleeping BIG TIME (he really needed his rest.) The nurse also turned his ventilator down from 14 to 11 (I know, I don't know what that means either, but it sounds great!) Between the doctors, nurses and a loving God, we know our little Garrison is in good hands.

Garrison Recovery: Day Three

In case you don't know by now, here's the latest on Garrison...

This morning as they were putting him on a ventilator, they discovered that he had a small hole in one of his lungs. The way it was described to me is that one area got mostly blocked and his accelerated breathing pumped it up like a balloon until a small tear was created.
So, they had to put a chest tube in (under his armpit) to help draw that stuff out and alleviate the pressure. This will allow the hole to come back together and start healing itself.
Once that is accomplished, hopefully the antibiotics will clear out anything else and allow his air sacs to fully extend and start taking in more oxygen and releasing it to the rest of his body.

Here's the good news: His heart tests came back looking fine, so we don't think that is the root cause.
Also, even with all the tubes, he looks like he's sleeping like an angel. He's getting the rest he needs since he's been struggling on his own the past few days.

Tracy is doing OK, but I think lack of sleep is catching up to her. Her stomach is a little upset tonight as well, so please continue to pray for her.

After the news this morning, I got fed up with being stuffed up (allergies, I suppose) and wearing a mask every time I see him because of my runny nose and coughing. I got in to an ENT specialist who gave me LOTS of good stuff to help clear me up. Breathing through my nose has never felt better!


Prayers for Garrison

Nurses came in this morning to inform us that Garrison's oxygen needs increased during the night. He was up to 60% oxygen from the machines.
So, the doctor has decided to put him on the ventilator to help him rest, since he has been working so hard to breathe for the last two days. Because he will be intubated, we will just have family visiting him at this time.
However, personal visits and prayers for Tracy (and me) are invited. You might just call to check before you head up here. We are in Room 841 at Methodist (but will probably be discharged tomorrow morning.) After that, we will spend most of our time on the fourth floor (which is NICU.)