Monday, July 4, 2022

Hurting and Hoping

We (once again) would like to apologize for our lack of presence on the blog or social media, life has been more busy than ever (more on that in a moment) and when I think about posting I don't even know where to start in the way of an update.  In a nutshell, we find ourselves in a strange place... kinda like we are trying to balance a wonky teeter-totter that on one end keeps us on our knees begging God to show us how to walk our precious children through so much heartache and frustration and on the other end... also on our knees, we are praising the Lord for His goodness, faithfulness, and the deep love and loyalty our family has for one another/how much we love to be together.  It's that very love and loyalty that breaks our heart when one of our own takes one hit after another and all you want to do is make them smile, make things suck less, and rescue them from all the disappointment. 


In the way of updates- praise the Lord, Andrew's cancer is stable (just a few tiny spots lighting up).  On the other hand, dialysis is kicking our butt (3 days a week, 4 hour sessions and that doesn’t include the commute both ways, and after each dialysis session Andrew is wiped out and typically needs a nap)…. it’s stolen Andrew’s summer and any level of spontaneity we use to enjoy (just picking up and going somewhere, sleeping in, going to eat anywhere we want, jumping in a pool or lake to cool off, and so much more)… but God… we trust that He is working things out, He is near, and He is good, so we will fight to keep our eyes on Him, praying diligently for His hope and perspective on our circumstances.  Despite how it can feel at times, I know God isn't picking on us, but instead He has chosen us to a level of intimacy with Him that will refine us and reveal more about His character.  It's an honor, but not the kind of honor that feels luxurious.


Next steps- Andrew still has a good 4-6 weeks until his fistula is ready to be used for dialysis (please pray it works perfectly as quickly as possible) and another 6-8 weeks for David and I to get trained on accessing his fistula to be able to do dialysis at home. Once his fistula is functioning well, he can get the catheter in his chest out, unfortunately, that won’t be in time to enjoy summer activities before school starts. Even with a fistula, Andrew still can’t play football and he will probably always struggle with getting tired easily because dialysis dries him out so much (they pull off so much fluid off, it leaves him borderline dehydrated all the time). 


Also, dialysis patients struggle with growth, this is something Andrew is very concerned about and it doesn’t help that he’s a Ross (we don’t make big people as it is). He’s only 4’10 and just keeping weight on him is very hard. Will you please pray Andrew grows (a lot). 


Andrew hates having to wake up at 5:30 am three days a week, especially on Saturdays; he also has to see all sorts of other specialists to monitor for risks associated with severe kidney failure. All this to say, he has very little free time these days, which has meant he can’t golf as much as he would like and he only makes it out to the barn to see his horse once or twice a month (we use to go three to four times a week). 


The intent of this post is to be as transparent as possible about what our lives look like right now, in hopes that you will know how to best cover us in prayer (your prayers are what sustain us!). This is a super hard season in life, but God is still on His throne… only in God’s awesome economy can your circumstances suck, but true joy and expectant hope, co-exist. We have so much to be grateful for, especially when we reflect on allll that God has done in the lives of His people since the beginning of time and even more specifically, in our lives.  An attitude of gratitude gets us through each day. 


Abby and I just returned from a week in Seattle, where she got to play up an age group in a showcase tournament, with some precious teammates and families. Her team went all the way to the finals, but lost in over time. Great soccer was played, lots of college coaches on the sidelines, great memories made with great friends, and one on one time with my girl was absolutely priceless. 







Abby’s team went to pk’s in the semi final game (the winner moving on to finals) and Abby was up to take a pk in the “sudden death” round (if you miss it or it’s blocked, we lose) and Abby was SUPER nervous because she naturally didn’t want to be the reason the team didn’t move on. Praise the Lord, she made it, but after the game she said “that might be the most nervous I’ve ever been in my life… I was even more nervous than how I feel waiting to hear Andrew’s scan results.”  I know she will text us constantly asking for updates when we are at Dr’s appointments with Andrew, but I guess I didn’t realize just how much she worries about him. Between that, and Abby wanting to FaceTime Grace every minute possible, it was a time to rejoice in the love of siblings and the way suffering unites hearts in a powerful way. At this point you have probably seen or witnessed (in some way) Abby’s resilience, selflessness, grit, selflessness, deep faith, selflessness, and love for her family, but this story was a peek into her heart and mind. 



Grace went to Pine Cove Camp in the City (day camp) this week and it was awesome… awesome that she is such a big girl, can make friends/connect with others so easily, and have an absolute blast doing pretty much anything (especially learning about Jesus in the most fun environment ever). 


Another super sweet moment was when we went to pick up Grace's yearbook at school for a yearbook pick up/signing party and I thought we would run in and grab it and head out (since we had big plans waiting for us when we got home... Frozen Monopoly 🀣), but it took waaaay longer than expected because so many precious kiddos wanted Grace to sign their yearbook... further evidence that Grace is the coolest Ross by far and that little experience sure warmed this mama's heart!



I hope this post isn’t a downer in anyway, but instead that you would see into our hearts (the super painful parts and the super grateful parts) and know that we are hurting, but full of hope. Hoping doesn’t mean we ignore reality. I think Lisa Terkeurst said it best, hoping means “we acknowledge reality in the very same breath that we acknowledge God’s sovereignty — His absolute ability and power to work as He sees best.”


We are honored that you continue to fight right along side of us. THANK YOU for never giving up hope and for always leaning in!!! We love and appreciate you so very much!!!




Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Update on Andrew

Overview and update from David:

What a crazy week! Andrew was admitted to hospital real early on Sunday morning, after spending the entire night in the ER. Abby had her final soccer game in New Jersey at 11:30, where they won 2-1 against a strong team from Georgia. Abby and I were able to get on an earlier flight out of La Guardia. We landed at 8:00pm and drove straight to TCH before visiting hours were over at 9pm. Abby got to see Andrew and I was able to relieve Kristi so she could go home and actually get some rest. 

Andrew’s blood pressures continued to stay high through Tuesday afternoon, but since then, they have started to stabilize and have remained at the right levels for the last 24 hours. 

The doctors ordered an ultrasound yesterday and the results on that did not reveal anything that was of concern to them (praise the Lord). Andrew also had his regular dialysis on Monday, then he was taken down to dialysis yesterday as well, but only for a two hour session to see if they could pull extra fluid off his body, in the event that was causing his blood pressure to rise. 

Thankfully, Andrew didn’t have any negative response from having extra fluid pulled off. The doctor’s plan for today is to have another dialysis treatment and in the progress, try and pull more fluid without making him feel sick in the process. They’re wondering if they initially had his dry weight too high and that his body had been holding on to too much fluid this whole time and that is what has caused his blood pressure to spike (we are learning that dialysis is a crazy balancing act). 

The plan is to keep him through the night tonight and see how his body and blood pressures respond to the extra fluid being pulled off and, Lord willing, the plan is to let Andrew go home tomorrow. 

Thank you for continuing to pray for him!!!


Kristi’s specific prayer request and praises:

PRAYER REQUEST- all the things, but especially for Andrew’s heart, he’s literally had one thing after another ripped out from underneath him… he can’t swim (because of the catheter), no contact sports, he has to miss a lot of golf and visiting his horse because of an inflexible dialysis schedule. Most recently, he was super bummed that he couldn’t go on a mission trip with our church (can’t get dialysis in a rural area), but he was looking forward to going to a camp in Tennessee with the dialysis unit at TCH instead (he would be there with kids from all over the country that are also on dialysis). He was suppose to leave this Saturday, but the Dr’s aren’t comfortable with him going anymore because they will be in the middle of nowhere and he needs to be close to a hospital in case he gets into trouble with his bp again. 

We are trying to find something, anything, we can do this Summer to give Andrew something to look forward to. Please pray for wisdom as to what we can do to make my boy smile and for life to suck a little less. 

PRAISE- God is still on His throne and we continue to see His hand in the details… David and Abby getting on an earlier flight and Abby having a great weekend of soccer despite her concern for Andrew. Andrew and I had some rich time together (hard conversations and quality time) this weekend, his bp has been more stable over the past 12 hours, Abby’s beyond generous heart that is always willing to serve her family, and the joy Grace infuses into the hardest days.  

THANK YOU!!! We are exhausted, but not without hope! #butGod #hopeon #AndrewsArmy #FIGHTLIKEAROSS

Grace doing Grace... worshiping with her whole heart!


Sibling snuggles in the hospital!

We have received a lot of questions about how to order a new Andrew’s Army shirt (I know a lot of kiddos have out grown theirs), here is a link and thank you for always representing Andrew πŸ’š

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Andrew's Kidney Update

 David's words- We haven't been on here in quite some time, but don't worry, we do have a couple unfinished blog posts sitting in drafts from months worth of information. Needless to say, those will probably never get posted and we will just fast forward to what is going on right now.  

As of late, Andrew's kidneys are pretty ruined from all of his radiation treatments.  We were hoping his biopsy would reveal that there was something else going on and it would be something that was able to be treated.  Unfortunately, Andrew's doctor informed us this week that it was definitely from radiation damage and that we need to decide what type of dialysis we would like to have Andrew begin.  

Andrew's nephrologist informed us of the three different options that are available: peritoneal (which is a bag that is placed in your stomach and does the work to filter the kidneys, but it would mean Andrew has to manage a tube sticking out of his stomach [honestly, and this is David by the way, I don't fully understand exactly how this bag operates in the stomach, but it does the filtering somehow]) and the other two options are both hemodialysis, which works through the veins/arteries (one being through a catheter that is placed around the collarbone area and the other is through a fistula, which connects a vein and an artery together on his none dominant arm for treatment).

As some of you have asked us different questions about our options, we can share what we know (which is far from being very knowledgeable).  The benefits to the peritoneal bag, it provides Andrew the ability to have his treatment at home while he is sleeping at night, so in that aspect, it is a huge benefit.  In addition, it does provide a better opportunity for Andrew to be a little more lenient on this new crazy diet that has been very discouraging for him.  However, the downsides will impact Andrew's life in such a way that he is not ready to go that direction.  Andrew would have this bag surgically implanted in his stomach and he would have a tube hanging out of his body and connected to something at all times.  In addition, Andrew wouldn't be able to go into the water anymore (which is a rather normal occurrence in Texas Summers).  Andrew just isn't ready for that at this time.

For the two hemodialysis options, Andrew can receive treatment either in a facility or at home.  When we originally heard about Andrew needing dialysis, we just assumed he could to one of the dialysis centers that we see all over the place; there is even a Davita Dialysis location just outside of our neighborhood.  However, we just found out on Wednesday that you have to be 16 or older to receive treatment at one of those facilities.  There are only two pediatric dialysis locations in Houston, one at TCH and one at Memorial Hermann (both in the Houston Med Center).  Andrew would have to go there three times a week for four hours at a time.  The downside to this option is the distance and time away to get this done.  In addition, this option provides the least amount of benefit for his kidneys, since it is only three times a week.  

The other hemodialysis option can be conducted at home for four hours at a time, six days a week.  With this option, Andrew would need to have a surgical procedure to create a fistula in his wrist or forearm area (and then it takes six to eight weeks for that vein/artery to grow and expand in preparation to be accessed routinely for dialysis).  At this point, Andrew would start off having treatment up at TCH still for the first few months and during this time, Kristi and I would receive training on how to access his vein ourselves, so that we could conduct his treatments at home ourselves.  The benefit to this option is that Andrew wouldn't have something external connected to his body and he could still swim and live a relatively regular life (or at least as normal as possible with this new development).  

*****Well, I started writing this post late Thursday night and decided to go to bed and planned to finish it the next day.  Then, late Friday afternoon Andrew's Nephrologist called to tell us that Andrew's lab results from Wednesday were back and that we don't have 6 to 8 weeks to have the fistula procedure done in preparation for home dialysis. Instead, Andrew will need to go in to TCH this Wednesday and have a catheter (near his collarbone) surgically placed and then he will have dialysis on three days in a row to try and get his BUN (which was at 92, the doctor stated that 100 is his threshold as to when Andrew needs to be on dialysis; just for reference, before we went to Disney, Andrew's BUN was at 64) and his creatinine (which was at 7.0) stabilized.  Then, every week after that he will go to TCH to have treatment three times a week (likely on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday).  Fortunately, the dialysis treatment protocol is very straightforward and there shouldn't be a lot of waiting around for treatment.  The options are to either arrive at 7:00am and treatment is from 7:30-11:30 or to arrive at 2:00pm and treatment is from 2:30-6:30.  

This is Kristi...  we have been praying for wisdom as to which dialysis option we should choose and we are taking the most recent turn of events as God's way of making His will clear.  It isn't what we had planned on doing, but we trust that He didn't fall off His throne when Andrew's most recent labs showed that we don't have time and must act fast to keep Andrew healthy.  

Many of you have asked about transplant... under normal circumstances, that would absolutely be the next step, but the conversation about transplant in the presence of cancer, is very messy, scary, and not clear cut... well, it is clear cut, but must be approached with a very healthy discussion about the risk-benefit ratio.  We have been beyond humbled and blessed by people reaching out and saying they wanted to donate a kidney to Andrew... can we just pause there... I don't know that there is anything more humbling, transparent, and sacrificial (outside of Jesus dying for our sins) than someone willing to sacrifice their own comfort/well-being for the sake of our boy's life.  I wish it was that easy, that a transplant would solve Andrew's problem of failing kidney's, but the fact that he has underlying cancer makes it a super risky and controversial proposition.  The criteria for eligibility for transplant is 2 years cancer free... for him to be "cancer free" would be a miracle in and of itself.  At this moment, he has two tiny spots (smaller than the tip of an eraser on a pencil) still lighting up (that's a 90-95% reduction in tumor burden..... that is amazing.... to God be the glory), so he still "has cancer"... although Andrew's Dr in Denver looked at his images and said that he can't really see anything and that he would say there was no evidence of disease (that classification means that nothing is visible on imaging, but leaves the interpretation open because we all know full well that there can always be tiny metastases hiding somewhere that isn't big enough to visualize at this point).  The risk of giving someone who has active cancer a kidney is that the immunosuppressive drugs needed to prevent the body from rejecting the new kidney, can create a breeding ground for cancer (you are turning the immune system off).  If the cancer starts to grow, you have to stop the immunosuppressive drugs and that puts you at risk for rejection of the new kidney.  Worst case scenario, you are left with progressing cancer and a rejected kidney.... that's a bad deal!  Our team of Dr's plan to meet to discuss the risk/benefit ratio of the transplant conversation, so will you please, please, please pray for wisdom for Andrew's team of Dr's and for our family?!?!  

I'm not going to lie... a lot of tears have been shed this week because of the uncertain future for Andrew and our family... I literally can't even fathom how this next leg of the journey even works out, it's like I'm standing in front of an insurmountable mountain... I'm intimidated, scared (mortified really), and weak in the knees looking at this mountain, but that's what a sherpa is for right?  I know we have a good and perfect Sherpa leading the way, I just feel exposed and vulnerable as we prepare for this climb.  As I was crying out to the Lord yesterday, He reminded me so clearly "remember, we have been here before..."  He reminded me that we stood in front of a similar insurmountable mountain with Grace.  Those of you that have been on this journey with us over the past almost 10 years, probably remember when Grace had a surgical complication after her third open heart surgery and found herself in the CVICU at Texas Children's on deaths door step and almost every medical professional around her giving up on the hope of her surviving.  We questioned if we had heard God correctly (about taking a riskier road with the hope of a better long term prognosis by going to Boston Childrens) and feared that we may have literally killed our daughter.  While the situation looked grim, God reminded us that He was still on His throne and He made a way where there was literally no way.  We walked through a curling 3.5 months where Grace was life lighted back to Boston, our family was separated for too many months, Grace endured 2 more open heart surgeries, and required a crash cart more than once, but look at where she is today...  God didn't remove the Red Sea, He parted it... He didn't remove our problem, but He made a way through it, carrying us all along the way.  God's reminder spoke to this weary heart and served as a powerful reminder that He did it once and He can do it again.  

Prayer warriors- we need you in the biggest way... I thought cancer was our Goliath, but now it's like we have two Goliaths determined to crush us.  One thing I know about Goliath is that God used David, a small, shifty, nimble, expert slinger, brave as all get out, selfless boy to defeat a giant because what others saw as a disadvantage, God used as an advantage that ultimately took down a giant.  We serve a miracle working God, so we are begging you to please join us in hitting the floor in prayer for wisdom and deliverance from cancer and end stage renal disease on this side of heaven.  

Please pray for Andrew's (and the rest of our family) peace, resolve, and hope (in the One that doesn't disappoint) through this new battle and that God would do what only He can do (heal and restore Andrew fully and completely on this side of heaven).  Please pray that we continue to do ALL things in His strength and for His glory!  



Thank you for standing with us, for loving us well, and for serving us in ways that only God knows we need!  You are the hands and feet of Jesus in our lives and we literally thank God for you all day, every day! But God!!!  We love and appreciate you!!!



Sunday, October 17, 2021

Looooong Over Due Updates!

Wow... I almost forgot how to access the blog, it's been so long since I've posted an update.  My lack of posts isn't a result of a lack of excitement in our lives or a lack of thought for y'all, our faithful prayer warriors, but instead an answer to prayer that, as it often does, came in a way that I didn't expect.  I have been praying about having God honoring balance in my life as I strive to juggle being a wife, mom, work, ministry, etc at this stage of our life.  I'm keenly aware that each day is a precious treasure, an opportunity to see God's hand in the details of our day, and to be used by Him to positively impact the lives of those around us.  I've been especially prayerful about being purposeful with every minute, so as not to miss the joy of every stage that we are in with the kids...  you see, so much of our lives has been spent in survival mode, where life feels like it's moving a mile a minute and it's absolutely God's grace that allows us to survive and thrive while in survival mode, but I don't think we are meant to live in that place forever.  I think the reality of Abby starting high school and Andrew starting junior high (which I purposefully never allowed myself to think that far in advance because of the timeline the Dr's gave us and all the unknowns that surround his future) has caused me to pause at the realization that time is flying by faster than I had appreciated while in survival mode.  As we come up for air (while Andrew's cancer is stable and everyone is doing well), I want to relearn how to prioritize my life in a way that honors the Lord.  All that to say, God's answer to that prayer was taking away the desire to engage with social media.  It's not like I made a commitment to push pause on the use of social media or something like that, I just literally lacked the desire to post on the blog, look at Facebook or Instagram, etc.  I realized that the pivot in my heart was God freeing up time and attention that could be better allocated.  The result has been such a sweet time of recalibrating how I pour into my first ministry... my family.  Look, this wasn't some radical transformation, especially since I didn't spend much time on social media to begin with, but it's been pretty amazing to see how the Lord changes our heart, He changes our focus, and our "wanter" to align with His when we ask and fully submit it all to Him.  That was a long explanation as to why it might appear that I've been less present here, but please know that we continue to covet your faithful prayers and support.  


Here is a rapid fire update on the Rosslings:


Abigail  

-She has finally made it over 5 feet tall... she was projected to be 4' 8"-4'10" and has been hopeful that she would make at least 5 feet and she made it!  To be clear, Abby knows full well that God doesn't make mistakes, so no matter how tall she turns out to be, she is prepared to rock it and she actually likes being small and mighty.... for soccer purposes, she has always hoped to be at least 5 feet tall.  

-Grace's favorite time of the day over the Summer was when Abby would tutor her.  Abby would spend between 30 minutes to an hour and a half every day tutoring Grace in math, reading, and writing.  We love that she takes her role seriously, desires to help Grace grow, it's sweet bonding time for them, and it's a great way to make money.  Abby always saves her money and ends up spending it randomly on other people, which is a quality I admire about her.

-After much prayer, Abigail decided to apply and was accepted to Episcopal High School, in Houston.  There are a million different reasons why we didn't think Episcopal made sense for Abby (and our family), but God sure did change our hearts and make a way where there didn't seem to be a way.  So far, Abby loves it and we continue to be blown away by how amazing and purposeful the teachers, coaches, and administrators are.  

-Abby's note to Grace during baseball- Grace played baseball with the Dream League and it was quite possibly the best sporting event to watch of all times.  Kids with special needs are paired with a "Buddy" (Andrew was Grace's buddy) and they play games on Saturdays.  Everyone cheers for everyone and the kids have an absolute blast!  Grace took her baseball games super serious and talked about them allllll week.  For her final game, Abby couldn't make it because she had soccer that conflicted, so when Abby told her she wouldn't be there the night before, Grace lost it.  She was SO sad that her Sister Buddy wouldn't be there to cheer for her on her last game and Abby was absolutely crushed seeing Grace so hurt.  She would explain the situation as Grace was being unconsolable and Abby felt absolutely awful about it.  She did what only Abby would do.... after putting Grace to bed (David and I were out that night at an event), she made her her favorite pancakes to eat before her game in the morning, she posted little post it notes all over the house encouraging Grace, and she typed her up the sweetest note.  







-Soccer continues to be Abigail's happy place and we have had to begin really talking about colleges, which seems so crazy. She went to a couple soccer ID camps this summer at Vanderbilt University and Texas Christian University; had the opportunity to play in a showcase tournament in Florida where more than 800 college coaches were present; went to a regional ODP training/games in Tennessee (consisting of 11 different states); attend a team camp at the ranch home and property of one her teammates in Jonesboro, TX; began training with Albion (her club team) at the beginning of August; and lastly, last month Abigail had the opportunity to head to Dallas for the day to attend a Youth National Team Identification center training that she was invited to be a part of with 28 other girls from Oklahoma and Texas who were also born in 2007.  Next up, we are super excited for school soccer to start next month! 


Andrew

-Andrew's recent scans revealed a 90-95% reduction in tumor burden!  It seriously feels like a miracle and we can't stop praising the Lord for, again, making a way where there was no way!  There are four spots that still light up on imaging (active tumors), so we have an appointment with Dr. Liu, oncology surgeon in Denver, CO that specializes in Neuroendocrine Cancer, to see if it's a possibility to go in and remove those four tumors.  He is an adult Dr, so that could be a stumbling block, in addition to the fact that we don't know how accessible the tumors are, but we are trusting God to align our steps with His will.  Will you please be praying for our virtual appointment on Tuesday?  We would covet your prayers for wisdom and open doors to eradicating every cancer cell in our sweet boys body!  THANK YOU for always standing with us in prayer!!!

-Another HUGE praise and honestly, a blessing that feels of miracle proportion... Since Andrew's most recent (investigational) treatment, he is off of all pain medications!  Many of you remember that Andrew used to be on 11 different pain meds around the clock, and yet, he would still have break through pain.  We were talking about inserting a pain pump at one point...  today, he is playing football for his junior high! This is his first time playing tackle football and he is loving it.  Honestly, we are just thrilled that he is healthy enough to be able to play a sport that is so physical and requires a lot of work.  A couple years ago, this would've been unimaginable, but he is doing great, wants to practice all the time at home, has such a teachable heart, and looks forward to it everyday.  Proud and grateful is an understatement!  

-Much of the confidence Andrew has right now, comes from F45, the gym where he worked out at the entire Summer.  The owner of the gym and trainers who work there did a fantastic job pouring into these kids and really cared about their growth, physically, mentally, and in their character.

-Andrew continued to compete in obstacle challenges with his horse, Otto.  He continues to grow in his ability to lead Otto through new obstacles that are terrifying for horses, especially Otto, since he used to work at Family Camp, where his job was to stay far away from anything that looked like an obstacle because he had precious cargo (unexperienced riders) on his back.  


Andrew was sitting in a little compartment of the trailer eating his sandwich and Otto was very intrigued with Andrew's food.


-Over the Summer Andrew earned money by tutoring Grace on the Bible.  He was absolutely, positively, amazing at breaking down scripture for Grace (drawing pictures, acting it out, whatever it takes to get her to understand), and preparing her to come and tell us what she learned.  

-This Summer was a great opportunity for Andrew to attend a youth camp with some friends at their church.  Andrew had a great time, met some new friends, and was able to grow in his understanding and relationship with God.  Since this Summer camp, we have been praying as a family about which junior high school is the best fit for Andrew (public or the private school that Abby went to for junior high).  Andrew really felt called to go to public school and we totally supported that (nothing like seeing your kid seek God's will and watching them listen to His leading).  The first 9 weeks have been fine and football has certainly been a highlight, but God continues to stir in him (and us) the possibility of pivoting to private school.  Will you please join us in praying for wisdom as to where God is calling Andrew, as it relates to school, and that whatever He calls us to, that He will fling the door wide open and work out all of the logistics?  We just all want to be in the center of His will!


Grace

-Grace turned 9 at the end of August!!!


-Grace is LOVING school and is especially excited about her school play in December!  She even has a speaking line!

-One of the many ways Grace ministers to us (and so many others) is the way she sings loud and proud during worship at church.  It is truly amazing to watch her! 

-Grace is looking forward to staring cheerleading again.  She will start back up in a few weeks, once Andrew's football games are over because she takes her role as Bubba's #1 cheerleader SUPER serious and wouldn't miss his games for the world.  She is also super excited to start basketball and baseball (again) in the winter. 

-Some of my favorite Graceism's...  on our way to school in the morning, we pray together and talk about what God is up to in our lives.  Grace will often times look at the sky in "awe" and say "God paints such a beautiful sky!" or "God is fantastic!"  When we arrive at school for drop off, the precious kids that open the car doors to let the kids out of the car rider line all hope they get our car because they so badly want to be the one that get's to let Grace out of the car.  When we pull up to the open spot, the child often times cheers and jumps up and down with joy, simply because they "got Grace!"  I feel like a celebrity just getting to be Grace's chauffeur (LOL).  Then, she always turns around and we say our little ritual and then she does our "I love you" sign with her fingers and yells "I LOVE YOU" until I drive off.  Every. single. morning, I drive away feeling blessed waaaay beyond what I deserve. 

-Tomorrow, October 18th, Grace has her semi-annual cardiology appointment and echocardiogram.  Will you please pray her heart continues to look healthy and amazing (that little heart is so far from "normal, but beyond amazing) and that there are no complications at all?  We know that she will outgrow her mechanical heart valve at some point and need it replaced, what we don't know is when.  Thank you for your prayers, these appointments come with echoxiety instead of scanxiety, so we appreciate you presenting our Gracie girl before the throne of grace.  


David

-Went back to work as the College Counselor/Student Advisor at the Tenney School which allows him the opportunity to car pool to and from school everyday with Abby.  What a sweet blessing for these two to have uninterrupted time together.  

-David had arthroscopic surgery on his knee back in May in order to fix another meniscus issue; however, somehow he now has some a spot of fractured cartilage in the same area on his knee.  Doctor said definitely no more soccer or running, so David has a second opinion on Wednesday and is hoping for something miraculous.  Will you please pray for options, wisdom, and healing?  As most of you know, David is a very active guy (loves running the Snowdrop race, playing soccer, and all the things), so the thought that he won't be able to do the things he loves is pretty devastating.  His biggest hope is that he can at least get to a point where he can kick the ball with Abby again (planting his foot to shoot is not an option at this point).  Thank you for covering him in prayer!

-David and I began helping to lead Refuge, the college/young adult ministry at our church.  It has been a tremendous blessing for us to have this opportunity.  We get to learn from them and grow in our faith alongside of them.  It has been so awe inspiring to watch God move in the next generation!


Kristi

-Work is busy, but great! 

-Helping lead refuge.  LOVE those young adults!!!

-LOVING my job of being a cheerleader for the kids at soccer, horse, football, baseball, cheerleading... ALL THE THINGS!!!



Monday, January 18, 2021

God's Fingerprints...

As I'm typing, Abby is at soccer (where she spends much of her time) and Andrew and Grace are dressed up (Andrew is the Sherif and I'm not certain what Grace is....  she has on googles, gloves, a nerf gun, and is carrying around a stuffed horseπŸ€”) and playing make believe.  It's like a real life Toy Story episode and my mama heart loves it on so many levels.  The fact that the kids love playing together, everyone is healthy enough to play together like "normal" kids, and that in my feeble efforts to practice "resting" (more on that in a minute) I'm able to quiet my heart and mind enough to see God's hand at work right in front of my eyes.  

I didn't get a pic of those two playing dress up, but here they are while on vacation... Grace smothering her Bubba with kisses.  Abby always wants to hug him too and while he acts too cool much of the time, I know he loves being deeply loved by his sisters.  


Since my last post, Andrew had his 3rd treatment, we ran the Snowdrop 55 Hour Relay Race, had an amazing Christmas (thanks in large part to our Candlelighter's family), went on our first family ski trip to Park City, Utah, and now we are gearing up for Andrew's 4th, and Lord willing, final round of the investigational radiation treatment.  I would hope to share a couple quick updates and prayer requests, that I pray will be an encouragement to you as we all continue to navigate these CrAzY and uncertain times.  Let me start by saying that one benefit of knowing suffering very intimately is that you know, that you know, that you know, no matter how uncertain times are, we serve a God that is certainly (and consistently) good... He only knows how to be good... He can do all things, but fail (I love that song by CeCe Winans called Never Lost), so we can trust that our pain is not in vain.  Here are a couple ways we have seen God's hand in the details of this holiday season:


1)  The Snowdrop 55 Hour Relay race was virtual this year, but somehow it was just as amazing as the actual/live race... different, but equally as amazing.  We so missed the power of the Snowdrop community as you slug it out on that course with hundreds of others that are also pushing their bodies to its breaking point, with the visual and mental pictures of all the kiddos that are battling or have fought the good fight with cancer and when you want to give up or slow down, you remember all that these kiddos have to endure and they don't have the choice not to, they don't have the promise that after 55 hours their pain will be relieved, there is no medal... they are literally in the fight for their life and cancer will change their lives in every way (and their family's lives) forever.  We obviously know this reality first hand because we live the battle, but it is not lost on us that it is an incredible gift that so many precious friends choose to spend their New Years running this race in Andrew's honor  While we were only 40 runners total for our virtual race this year, our Andrew's Army teams and Team Gabi brought the heat and the fun.  Our fast team (which David and Abby ran on) had a goal of 350 miles total and they crushed that goal, totaling 380 miles!  Our other two teams also logged some impressive mileage (about 250 miles each) and it was awesome to have so many friends on the course at all times (since it was right in our neighborhood) and we had a super fun New Year's Eve celebration as we cheered on the runners that closed out the race at midnight.  Here is another way God showed up and showed off... this is the first year that Andrew was well enough to actually run on a team.  Last year he joined us for a couple runs and crushed 5 miles total, that was such a huge accomplishment.  This year, I ran the first hour shift with him and he was going hard and quickly realizing that his body was already hurting, getting sore...  I explained to him how that's part of the power of the race, we all know that our bodies are going to break down along the way and the sleep deprivation will mess with you, but we count it as an honor to demonstrate grit, enduring the pain as a way to honor him and other kiddos battling cancer.  In essence I told him... this is just the beginning of the pain, so you have to make a decision if you are going to lean into it or let it control you.  That was the last time he even mentioned pain or fatigue... he ended up running 21 MILES total!!!  He would have run more if he had the opportunity.  That is all God!  Abby and David both ran 38 miles, and I ran 31 miles.  The 2020 race is one that I will never soon forget.  


                                     

                                     

All three of us kicked off the race by taking the first hour shift.  This is where Andrew realized that this was going to be much harder than he had anticipated, but decided to lean into the pain and embrace the challenge wholeheartedly.  Andrew and I ran 5 miles this first shift, that's the total number of miles he ran in last years race.  Abby would just pass us over and over again (she would crush 7+ miles each shift), we cheered her on every time we would see her and Andrew started to realize just how hard his sister pushes herself in his honor.  It was a very special moment to see Andrew's eyes be open in so many cool ways.   

                                               

One of our favorite traditions... our 2 am run in the middle of the night!

                                     

Couldn't have been more proud of this guy... he pushed himself HARD for all five of his one hour shifts.  He ran with David in the middle of the night and brought one of our dogs, Emme, with him because the meds he's on can make his already very vivid imagination even more vivid, so the dark is not his friend to say the least (Emme gave him a sense of security). Since David was running on the fast team, they didn't run together, but they would run by each other often. 

                                                  

Grace was the best cheerleader EVER!  She has endless high fives and encouraging words to give! 

                                      

                                        

We are missing a bunch of teammates in this pic, but we adore and appreciate every last one of them.  We are also incredibly grateful for the always SO generous shirt sponsors... GURU, JUPITER, and JAPANEIRO'S!!!  These are three of our favorite restaurants because it is great food owned and operated by great people, but now more than ever.... let's support small businesses as they try to keep their doors open and serve their customers with excellence despite an impossible situation with this crazy pandemic.  

                                       

2)  The kids Christmas gift was a ski trip to Park City, Utah.  They have always wanted to go skiing and we have just put it off for multiple reasons... number one, we wanted everyone to be healthy enough to go and we always worry about Grace's heart at an elevation.  We would never live at a high elevation because it just requires Grace's heart to work harder and that could be risky, since that wonky heart of hers doesn't work like a "normal" heart.  Her Cardiologist gave us the green light to travel to an elevation and just encouraged us to keep an eye on Grace to make sure she acclimates ok, which is no problem because we always travel with our pulse ox (to measure her oxygen saturations) and check to make sure her gums are pink, cap refills are good, she's not retracting when breathing, etc.  We were originally suppose to go to Breckenridge, CO, but changed locations because of all of their covid restrictions.  We ended up going to Park City, UT and it wasn't until we were home that we learned that UT has a significantly lower elevation than Breckenridge, making the change in our plans a great one (but God).  All that to say, Grace's heart didn't have any problems and everyone was safe and healthy (praise the Lord).  Grace had her own one on one ski lesson everyday through the National Adaptive Sports organization; it was not cheap, but money well spent.  Grace fell in love with skiing and fell in love with Little John, her instructor.  Little John took Grace on the big ski lift and down mountains that felt like Mt Everest to me (in terms of Grace going down them) and she killed it.  They took breaks for snow balls fights, to sit and chat, and to build snow castles.  The big kids wanted to be the first and the last on the lift everyday (we skied for 4 days) and I was reminded that while David's waaaaay to daring antics stress me out, we are a good balance because he was able to take the kids on runs that they were totally ready for, but outside of my comfort zone for them.  David would take them to do things that would scare me, while Grace and I had play dates in the afternoons on the bunny slopes and then the kids would be so excited to show me all they learned and the blues they were skiing with David the day before.  What a treat to have had a morning to ski with just David and a lot of time for David and I to ski with just the big kids (while Grace was in ski school).  Our evenings were relaxing as we played family games by the fire (and Grace was Grace... cracking us all up) and mornings were spent doing a  family devotional with the most glorious view.  While we went hard during the day while the lifts were open, the purposeful time of relaxation was a gift I didn't even know I needed. 

Our view (pic does not do it justice... at all) during our morning family devotions...

                                                

We rode this gondola a bunch and it never got old... every time Grace thought it was like a ride at Disneyland.

                                     

                                      

                                                

                                     

                                                

Grace's snow alligator!

                                       

Best vacation ever!!!

God has been talking to me about "resting" for a while now.  I've realized that I don't "rest" well... at all...  I don't watch tv shows (outside of soccer and football), movies, or read (outside of the bible, devotionals, or books on how to be a better wife, mom).  While this might sound really righteous, it is absolutely not and I'm learning it isn't sustainable either.  I've learned that this trait has grown out of a life spent in survival mode for the past 8.5 years.  It has gotten to a point that I can't sit and relax because I feel like there is always something more "productive" that I could be doing.  I want to be purposeful about every minute of my day, and while that is good, when it comes to pouring into my relationship with the Lord, David, the kids, and work.... it is equally as important that I'm purposeful about "resting" and allowing the Lord to renew my heart, mind, and body and not feel guilty about it.  It's such a simple concept, after all GOD RESTED...  He GAVE us a day of rest!  If God did it and clearly provided it for us (He obviously knows our needs since He created us), why would I be so ignorant to think that I don't need it.  Well, I've always known I need it, I guess I just forgot how to do it.... the enemy gets so loud and makes me feel like I am being lazy and am forsaking someone or something if I'm not always being purposeful and productive (my definition of purposeful and productive) with every minute of the day.  I hear friends talk about binge watching TV shows/movies or reading all these books and it sounds like a foreign language to me, I can't even wrap my brain around how to build that into my life without being mentally tortured that I'm wasting precious time.  God used our time in Utah to help me see how to purposefully "rest" and I'm trying to continue to apply those precious lessons.  This is why I started this blog post, to acknowledge the beauty of listening to the kids play and soaking it in, instead of making a mental note of it, praising God for it quickly, and then moving on.  

That last paragraph might sound crazy and hard to relate to, but it's what God is teaching me in this season of life and I'm trying to be a good student.  Like all the lessons taught in God's classroom, it isn't easy because it confronts my self made principles and calls me to die to what I feel is right and noble and embrace what God says, even though it feels contrary to what I find rational... don't do what will help me to check items off my endless "to do list" and ease my fear of dropping a ball and instead, just sit and relax, letting my mind sit idle?!?!  I'm discovering that prayerfully allowing myself to be idle (I like that word because it's not totally off/disconnected, but it's not moving one direction or the other either) allows me to see and appreciate His character on display all around us (we miss it if we aren't purposeful about seeing it) so much more.  An image of His character that will forever have new meaning to me, is the awe of a snowflake.  One afternoon in Utah, Grace and I were catching snowflakes on our gloves.  As the snow fell, we were determined to catch the biggest snow "chunk" we could find, but it didn't take long before we started to notice these tiny, but awesome little snowflakes that fell right along with what looked like just chunks of snow.  These snowflakes would fall on our gloves and sit there long enough for us to analyze them and marvel at the God who created them... not just a God that is creative and powerful enough to create something so fragile and yet with such intricate detail, but a God that cares so much for His people that He would want to create something beautiful just to bless us.  It's not like we need beautiful snowflakes for survival (yes, we need snow that melts into water that ultimately serves as a major resource for our survival, but it doesn't have to involve beautiful snowflakes), I think He created them (and all the other beautiful aspects of His creation that we get to lay our eyes on) because it reveals something to us about Him... He is a powerful, creative, beautiful, gracious, and thoughtful God that cares about the details because it's in those details that He speaks to our hearts in a way that feels like a personalized love note.  A note that reminds us He sees and He cares.  I pray you are reminded today (and everyday) that you are seen and known by our amazing Heavenly Daddy! 

While I didn't get a pic of the snowflakes, Grace did get a lot of random selfies of our play dates in the afternoon πŸ˜‚

                                             

3)  We spent a little time with Abby during Christmas break researching colleges, since she is working towards coming up with a list of the top 15-20 schools she would like to attend/play soccer at (some being stretch goals, some reasonable goals, and some that may not be her top choice, but she would still be willing to consider).  How did we get here... the realization that my little bestie only has (Lord willing) 4.5 years under our roof is sobering and has sure recalibrated my heart and priories in a hurry.  We are tempted to believe that we always have more time, but time is a funny thing... 

Time is free, but it's priceless

You can't own it, but you can use it

You can't keep it, but you can spend it

Once you've lost it, you can never get it back

-Harvey Mackay 

As I have prayed about having God honoring balance in my life (this, in conjunction with practicing "rest," are my priorities for 2021), God used this real world reminder of how quickly time flies, coupled with the reality that we are all too familiar with... tomorrow isn't promised, to drive me to my knees and seek His guidance as to how to best allocate my time and attention this year (and every year really) in lieu of continuing to allow ourselves to live in survival mode.  It is such a gift to watch Abby fiercely pursue her dreams with such grit and determination, so we will continue to join her in praying for God's will for her present and future and praise Him all along the way.  Proverbs 3:5-6


4)  Andrew's next treatment is scheduled for February 5th.  We are anxious for scan results because they will be a clear indicator as to how much impact we can expect from this treatment.  We are badly praying for complete healing and we ask that you approach the throne with the same hope and confidence.  Andrew's hair has started shedding and he's been a bit self conscious about it, however, I don't think the average person would even notice.  He has a lot of hair come out when he is in the shower and David and I can certainly tell when we help him style his hair.  Will you please pray that he doesn't lose any more hair for the 4th round of treatment?  Andrew's leg is healing.... slowly.  They will need to surgically cut out the area that was infected because it's the only way to truly eradicate this extremely difficult-to-treat infection, however, it's location makes that hard.  It's on a part of his leg where the skin is very tight, so they are worried that if they cut it out now at the current size, it will leave a wound that will never fully heal.  We are treating with oral and topical antibiotics, in an effort to get it as small as possible and make it easier for the surgeon to get out and heal adequately.  Will you please pray that the wound would heal amazingly well and the surgeon is able to easily (that it hasn't gone into the bone) take out the necrotic tissue without any issue?

                                                

On a side note- One of David and I's favorite marriage conferences/series is Love and Respect (if you haven't read it... run fast and do it, it's a game changer)...  Well, I learned that the same author of Love and Respect has a book called Sons and Mothers, The Respect Effect.  I just began listening to it and while I have always tried to extrapolate the things I've learned about how men are wired from the Love and Respect series and apply it with Andrew, the practical application of this book for mothers and sons has been awesome!  I've been practicing "respect talk" when communicating with Andrew and my mind is blown how such simple changes in the choice of words we use can minister to our boys' hearts in such profound ways.  I'm only half way through the book, but wanted to share this resource with you in case you have a son of any age :-).  


Thank you for being our faithful Army!!!  You continue to bless and sustain us with your prayers!!!

                                               

#butGod #hopeon #Heisbigger #fightlikeaRoss





Sunday, September 27, 2020

Treatment #2 coming up...

Well, it seems, knock on wood (even though we don't believe in that), that the hot, humid, sticky, sweaty, Texas summer has finally come to an end.  For anyone who lives in the Houston area, this is very exciting.  It is almost as exciting as waking up this past Monday morning and realizing that all three kids would be out of the house and attending school in person (side note, this is David writing, Kristi would state this in a manner that sounded much sweeter).  While Andrew and Abby have been attending school in person since this school year began, Grace has been going virtual for the first four weeks of the school year.  On the first day of school, I quickly realized that not only was Grace in 2nd grade, but I was as well.  While I joke about that, I actually am grateful for the time we spent together and getting to see how Grace works and performs in school.  It gave us a whole new appreciation for how hard teachers work and the amount of patience it requires; as well as, how grateful we are that Grace has resource teachers available to help her in the mainstream classroom (as she would have a difficult time keeping up without some guided assistance).  For example, when doing math equations and typical kids are taught a number of different strategies they can use to get to the correct answer, Grace really only needs to master one strategy as to not get confused by all the different ways to analyze the problem.  Last year, Kristi and I would often talk about how we wish we could secretly observe Grace in the classroom and see how she is doing. We would often be dumbfounded with the high scoring assignments she would come with and proudly show off.  The blessing of working alongside of Grace for the past month is that it provided a fascinating opportunity to see how Grace's mind works and how much she truly understands and comprehends in her learning environment.  I was thoroughly impressed with how well Grace did and how much more she could do than what I had envisioned.  Huge thank you to all of Grace's teachers and resource teachers who are there to help her be so successful!

Another blessing to this school year is getting to see how well Andrew is doing.  In second and third grade, Andrew definitely missed a lot of the material covered in class because of the drugs he was on, pain he was in, or just from falling asleep in class.  Halfway through his fourth grade year, which is also when Andrew was finally able to come off of all the heavy narcotics he had been on for pain, I feel like Andrew was able to pull his head out of the clouds and begin paying attention in class a lot more.  However, I think he also realized how far behind he was in some areas, particularly in math.  So many of the concepts they learn in Elementary are building blocks for the next concept.  Andrew missed a lot of those concepts, so he had to work really hard to get some simple concepts that he should've known already.  Thankfully, Andrew has had some great teachers who understood the uphill battle he was facing, as well as some teachers who took extra time tutoring Andrew after school or during the summer, and really invested in him getting caught up and prepared for 6th grade.  Now, Andrew has been crushing it in all of his classes at Poly Ryon.  If this were Kristi writing, she would write something really sappy about how outstanding the Poly Ryon teachers and administrators are, so know that they really are fantastic in the way they invest in these kids.  He has really caught Kristi and I off guard and has shown a lot of initiative and starts his homework right when he gets home from school.  We no longer have to go through his backpack and search for what assignments he might have crumpled up on the bottom.  We are grateful to see him working hard and enjoying school this year.  

While Andrew is doing great in school, he is a little worried about missing six days of school in the next two weeks, as he goes back for scans next Wednesday (9/30) and his second round of treatment on Thursday (10/1), at which point he will be radioactive again and not be able to return to school until Wednesday (10/7).  In addition to Andrew feeling worried about falling behind in school, he is also really dreading feeling nauseous again.  Last time, Andrew felt nauseous around the clock for five days. He has had tears a few nights this past week and stated he really doesn't want to have to feel that way again.  We have been able to talk to his doctors a lot and they have come up with a couple ideas to try and help the nausea to not be as bad this time.  Will you please pray the scans show some positive results from the first treatment Andrew received; for his nausea to not be an issue at all this time around; and for Andrew to feel well enough to stay on top of his school work and not get behind.

In regards to Andrew's arm, he continues to amaze his orthopedic doctor, but not necessarily in a good way.  While his arm is continuing to show new growth on his bones and that it is progressing from where it had been four weeks prior, Andrew is still no where close to being healed.  It has been nearly four months since Andrew broke his arm, but when you look at his X-rays there is still a big giant break right in the middle of one his bones.  The doctor stated that Andrew's X-rays look the same as someone who is only two months into the healing process, not four.  For some reason, we just like to do things a little unorthodox in the Ross family.

Andrew and Otto had an Obstacle Course challenge this weekend and they rocked it, especially considering they've hardly been able to practice obstacles because of Andrew's arm, Andrew has to manage Otto on the course with just one arm, and this is only the second time they have done anything like this together.  Andrew even one money on one of his rides, but the best part as seeing how much he just loved being out there with his horse for over 12 hours.

The one obstacle Otto was not having was the pond.  As soon as the competition was over, they allowed the participants to take their horses to play on the course.  Andrew headed straight for the pond and they conquered it.  Andrew was one happy kid after that and it looked like Otto enjoyed it too...  he was splashing in the pond at one point.  

Lastly, we can't forget our sweet Abigail!  She continues to work hard at all that she does and continues to grow into an amazing young woman.  We are proud of her attitude, effort, dedication, care and concern for others, and grit that she displays everyday.  Abigail's grit is such a defining characteristic for her.  Just recently, in Abigail's first league game with her new soccer team, it was a HOT day and Abigail had made a lot of sprints down the sidelines while dribbling the ball.  After about 30 minutes into the first half, Abigail was subbed off, which we didn't think anything of because she had beenworking so incredibly hard and in such extreme heat.  After the game, Abigail's coach sent me a text and told me that Abigail was working so hard that she had caused the other team to have to sub off two different defenders who were covering her because she wore them down.  So, by the time Abby had subbed off, the other team was already on their third different defender for that position.  This is a small example of Abigail's grit in all aspects of life.  She is such a blessing and Kristi and I are so grateful for how God has gifted her and wired her.  

Abby and her biggest cheerleader.  Second to watching Abby play soccer, we love hearing Grace cheer for Abby and her teammates from the sideline.  She cheers "GO SISTER BUDDY!!!"  or "shut em
down" or "you got this... you got this..." or "just kick it"... just to name a few πŸ˜‚. 


PRAISE- Andrew's hair is still miraculously hanging on!  Please pray it continues to do so because this has been a huge encouragement to Andrew.

PRAYER REQUEST- with treatment week ahead of us, we could really use your prayers... will you please pray for all the details above and for our time of being separated as a family for 6 days while Andrew is on isolation?  Thank you so much for never wavering in your commitment to cover us in prayer!

We choose hope, hope in the only hope that doesn't disappoint because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.  Romans 5:3-5