November 01, 2013

Thunder Road Wheelchair 5k

About a month ago I was joking around with Garren. I am running the Thunder Road Marathon on November 16 in Charlotte. I was teasing him about doing it with me. Then I mentioned in passing "You know, there is a 5k the same day."

A couple of days later, Garren came to me and said, "So Dad, am I going to do that 5k?"

I started looking for a racing wheelchair, and found the costs starting at $2000. There's no way we can spend that kind of money for something we want to just try out.

So I sent an email to his physical therapists, who connected me with an adaptive sports program in Charlotte. They were so helpful, and have loaned us a racing wheelchair! Garren has been getting out and training on the roads in our neighborhood. He is determined to do this, and we are so excited for him.

If you want to come out and support Garren, here are the details:

God has continued to do a work in Garren. It is amazing to see such progress. We cannot wait for November 16!

October 03, 2013

Are You Passionate?

Psalm 22
"My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Why are you so far away when I groan for help?
Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief."

This is the psalm that Jesus quoted while on the cross.
It begins with anguish, and ends with rejoicing. It depicts the loneliness and hurt and pain that Jesus was facing. He was abandoned, left alone to die for the sins of the world. But the end reflects the future hope that we have through the work of Jesus: eternal worshiping and rejoicing throughout the whole earth.

This psalm doesn't simply reveal what Jesus was thinking or even feeling. It reveals His passion

"His passion was to do the will of His Father, no matter how much it hurt, for the greater glory that would come."

What about you? What is your passion? We hear that word a lot these days. It's one of those buzzwords that seems to lose meaning the more we use it. 

The dictionary defines passion as a "strong and barely controllable emotion." Do you have a "strong and barely controllable emotion" to do the will of your Father? No matter how much it hurts? For the greater glory that will come?

"I will praise you in the great assembly…
All who seek the Lord will praise Him.
Their hearts will rejoice with everlasting joy.
The whole earth will acknowledge the Lord and return to Him.
All the families of the nations will bow down before Him."

Lord, thank you for being with me, even when it hurts. Thank you for allowing me to suffer for your glory. Help me to faithfully rejoice in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death. Help me to keep my eyes focused on you in the midst of the storm.

September 25, 2013

The truth I was reminded of from a hamster... (Guest Blogger: Nancy Janes)

While we were in Haiti we had an escape. Not there but back here in the US. Kelsey’s hamster Smoreo is nowhere to be found. They looked and looked but couldn't find her. Today I have searched the house with no success. I had the sad thought that should I find Smoreo the chances of her being still alive are not good. It’s been several days now with no food and no water. The other danger is Tigger, our cat. Who knows if he’s had an extra kitty treat. I started thinking….Smoreo got out of her cage. She now had her freedom. Or did she? In her cage she had everything she needed…food, water, a place to run around, a noisy wheel for exercise, almost daily hamster treats, bedding to get cozy in and Kelsey who watched over and loved her. Now in Smoreo’s “freedom” she is without. Maybe she can run more but she no longer has the necessities of food and water and no one to come love on her.  

This made me think about the prodigal son in the Bible and us as people. The son in the story had all he needed at his father’s house just as we have all we need in God’s arms. But within both there are boundaries. Just like Smoreo’s cage. But boundaries to protect us, not to hinder us or hold us back. The prodigal son didn't and sometimes we don't see it that way and feel we are too confined with God. There is no fun! That we need our freedom and independence. So we run.  

The son took his inheritance from his father and ran. We turn our back on God and the truths we know and run. Just like Smoreo I’m sure did once he was out of the cage. It feels great at first. We can stretch our legs, do what we want and not listen to the boundaries of life. But this excitement will begin to die. I would think that after some time Smoreo became hungry and thirsty but there was no Kelsey to fill the bowl or give a treat. With the prodigal son once his inheritance was gone the good times stopped. He was free but he was hungry and lonely.  

In our Christian life if we turn our backs on God so we can be ‘free’ but we still know the truth and real freedom in Christ and after some time that begins to haunt us. At this point there is a choice to make. Continue in ‘freedom’ or repent and go back to true freedom. The prodigal son did that. He went back to his father, asked for forgiveness and his father welcomed him with open arms. God too waits with open arms to welcome any of us back who have turned from him. Yes, this means boundaries again but as have discovered it means love and forgiveness and freedom in those needed boundaries.  Unconditional love.

Unfortunately I don't think this will be the case for Smoreo. I don't think we will have him return to say sorry for getting out of his cage. Unfortunately I think we will find Smoreo at the end of his life. Don't be like Smoreo. Don't wait until its too late. Don’t live your life running away and not having the life that God so wants to give you. Turn back and ask for forgiveness. You can never do anything that God can't forgive. He loves you and your present and your past. He waits for you.

September 20, 2013

Haiti Women's Conference 2013

What a great blessing and honor it was to be a part of the Southbrook led Women's Conference at Pastor Rene's church in Haiti. 12 of us (2 men, 10 ladies) traveled to Haiti this week. 6 of these ladies taught on women in the Bible, and how their stories relate to our own stories. They are did an amazing job. Public speaking is always a challenge. Add speaking through an interpreter, and speaking to over 600 eager women, and the opportunity for stress and nervousness goes off the scale.

But this did not phase our speakers. They shared what God had placed on their hearts, and God used their words to speak to the hearts of those who attended the conference.

Each day started off with worship, Haitian style. Dancing, clapping, shouting and singing for over an hour, it is easy to see the sincerity on the faces of these ladies as they praise the name of Jesus. If only there were some way to bottle up this intense experience and bring it home! What would Southbrook Church look like on Sunday morning if we would let go of our selves and just let loose and freely worship God! It's always refreshing to worship with this group.

After worship, 3 of our ladies spoke each day. They shared their stories, and they related to women in the Bible. It was amazing to discover that though we are separated by an ocean, and that we live completely different lives, in the end we are all human beings with the same basic needs and desire. After the third speaker, we offered the opportunity for people to come forward for prayer. Many came, asking for prayer for things like their marriage, their children, their husbands, their homes. Their concerns are no different than our concerns. And what a blessing to take these requests to our God in prayer.

At the end of the day we were able to serve lunch to each conference attendee. A styrofoam box with rice and beans, a piece of chicken, and some pasta salad was passed out. Our team tried to help, we were mostly in the way, so we got out of the way. 

This is the second year we have led this conference, and the expectation for another one next year is great. Begin praying with me now that God will form a new team this next year to return and be a part of this amazing experience. Maybe you will join us?

Family Update

It's been a busy summer. I went to Haiti in July, and had the awesome opportunity to take Kara and Kelsey with me on a missions trip to Mexico in August. Then in September I was back in Haiti, this time Nancy, as well as my dad Gary. We were a part of a group from our church who led a women's conference at a church in Port-au-Prince. 

Meanwhile, the kids are all back in school. 

Garren is a junior at Piedmont High School. He has really come a long way. Last semester he would take his power chair three times a week, and his manual chair the other two days. This year, he took his power chair the first 2 or 3 days of school, and has been using his manual chair since then, every day. That is amazing progress.

Last semester, Garren only went to 3 of the 4 daily classes (they call them blocks now). This year he stays all day. One of his classes is weightlifting, which is great. This ensures that he is getting exercise 5 days a week. We continue to work on other strengthening exercises at home as well.

Garren is still learning to walk. We continue to see amazing improvements. He can get around the house with a walker. He is doing really well with that. Garren still cannot swallow. This is the biggest prayer item for his healing. I know that he is healing, though it is very slow. I trust God and pray daily that God will allow him to swallow again. 

Kelsey is a 3rd grader at Porter Ridge Elementary School. She is growing up so quickly. She loves school, which is great, and is doing a great job. Kelsey has also started piano lessons, and is going to be training with a group called Girls on the Run 2 days a week. They will be training to run a 5k later this year.

Kara is officially a high school graduate. Nancy and I took her to New York City where we helped her move into her new home. She is attending The American Academy of Dramatic Arts. It has been her dream for many years to live in New York City and to pursue a career in acting. Her dream is coming true, and God is going to use her in an amazing way. Pray for her, that God will keep her safe and focused, and that God will continue to provide the funds needed to pay tuition (it's not cheap)!

July 25, 2013

Closed Windows

This morning a small bird got into our house. At first he was just on the back porch. But then before we knew it he was flying around in the house! He finally ended up sitting on the light that hangs down from the ceiling in the front entryway. From his position he could see out the window that is at the same level as the light. Just below the window is the front door.

The bird obviously wanted to get outside, so he would leave the light and fly into the window, then turn and return to his perch on the light. After a few tries, I opened the front door. Instead of flying down and out the opened door, he continued to bump into the window, and return to the light. After quite a few attempts, he finally hit the window hard enough that he fell stunned to the floor. Then he hopped up and made his way out the door. Free at last.

I was reminded of my own stubbornness. I know the desires that God has place within me. I look longingly through the window at my level. Yet for some reason, everytime I try to go there, I seem to run into some invisible wall, a closed window, just like that bird. I return to my perch, look through the window, and try again. Maybe this time I can fly through the window?

But nothing changes. Why is it that we fail to see the open door, just beneath the closed window? I believe God places desires within us, he gifts us and gives us a passion chase after our dreams. But we become so locked into what appears to be the only way to get there, that we often fail to see the way that God has provided for us.

It wasn't until that little bird had beat himself against the window enough times to bring him to the ground that he was finally able to see the way that I had provided for him to get out. If you and I are not willing to wait patiently, and earnestly seek God's direction for our lives, we too will have to continue beating ourselves against closed windows until one day we fall to the ground, at the feet of our God, and discover the way that He has provided for us all along.

May 20, 2013

Garren's Latest Swallow Test

It's a long journey. We continue to pray, as I know many of you do, that Garren will one day learn to swallow again. I never get tired of the parents who come up to me and say "My son/daughter won't go to bed at night until they have prayed for Garren!" Thank you.

The other day, someone asked me about prayer. They weren't sure if maybe after asking God for something so many times, without getting an answer, if maybe we should stop. I looked him in the eye and said "I have an alarm on my phone that reminds me every hour to pray for Garren's swallowing. I don't plan to stop." We will continue to pray through this until we see an answer.

It's been several months since Garren went to see someone about his swallow, so we scheduled a swallow test check up last week. We had no idea what we would discover. Although Garren still cannot complete a swallow, the therapist immediately announced that she could see changes and progress. The base of his tongue has movement (toward the back of his throat) that was not at all evident before. Other parts are moving significantly where there was little or no movement before.

I will continue to pray, hourly, for Garren to swallow. This is progress. This is positive movement toward healing. We are so thankful to God for these small but significant changes. As the therapist said, it's neurological, and healing in the brain is a matter of time.

Thank you Lord for small steps.

March 01, 2013

Vote for Kara

Our oldest daughter, Kara, is a senior this year at CATA High School in Monroe. She has really made us proud with her passions and achievements. She has recently been accepted to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. It is her dream to go into acting. We are all very excited about this opportunity.

However, as you well know, opportunities like this cost money! Apparently quite a bit of money! So Kara has been tasked with seeking out and applying for scholarships. Lots of scholarships. She recently submitted an essay to WyzAnt College Scholarships. The finalists for this scholarship are chosen by popular vote. So we wanted to ask you to vote, and then ask all your friends to vote as well.

You can read her essay and cast your vote here.

Thank you so  much for your help!

February 28, 2013

Twists and Turns

Life is full of twists and turns. As I look back and reflect over the last couple of years, I think about the things that we have seen and experienced that I never could have dreamed were even possible, things that are just bizarre. Watching my only son go through a near death experience, come out of a coma, and begin the path of recovery from a brain injury. It's just bizarre! An unexpected twist on the path of life. 

Then to walk through the most stressful and heartbreaking church crisis I have ever been a part of. To see people turn on each other, watch people get hurt, watch pride pull people apart, and watch tremendous damage occur within the Bride of Christ - how bizarre! It all seems so surreal. Unbelievable. Who could have ever dreamed up the things that would have happened in the last couple of years?

The journey through these valleys has brought us to this point. Looking back down the path we see indescribable devastation. We also see unexpected highlights and blessings that we never would have experienced or appreciated had they not been surrounded by these circumstances. I helped Garren walk with his walker yesterday. We went 1/2 mile in about 45 minutes. Amazing progress! 

Looking forward into the fog, we beg God to give us a sense of what's next. We seek His face, asking for direction. But all we seem to get from Him is "just take another step." One more step. We trust His leading, but sometimes it's hard to take another step, not knowing where it will lead.

Our journey has been, and will continue to be full of twists and turns. We will never really know for sure what's next, no matter how well we think we have planned our journey. This is all another great reminder that God is in control, and we are not. God's plans are better than our plans. No matter what the next step of our journey brings our way, we can know that our God and Father already knows, and will lead us through it; all we have to do is trust Him and follow Him, each step of the way.

February 18, 2013

Happy Birthday Garren!

Last Tuesday was Garren's 16th birthday. So hard to believe! Garren continues to progress and get stronger. Our greatest prayer continues to be for him to swallow.

On Saturday Garren invited some friends over for a birthday party. It was so much fun to have these guys come and hang out. While they were here, the "blizzard" hit outside. Next thing we knew, they were all outside playing basketball in the snow! Several of them (including Garren) refusing to wear a coat!

O well, boys will be boys! They had a good time.

February 04, 2013

2 Years Ago Today...

2 years ago today our lives were traumatically rocked when Garren was rushed to the ER with a bleed in his brain. So much has happened. Garren has come such a long way. Here is a picture of him one year ago:

Here is what I wrote about that picture: "Here's Garren today. He can stand with the help of his crutches all by himself for about a minute or so. He did this for the first time this week!"
It's amazing to look back over even the past year and see the amazing progress that has been made. As I've mentioned before, when you are in the middle of it everyday, it can seem slow and agonizing. But looking back, we have so much to be thankful for.

Today Garren is able to walk for up to 45 minutes on the treadmill. We walk a minimum of 5 days a week. He has also started seeing a personal trainer 2 times a week. Garren is involved in the student group at church. He helps run production (lights) for the Sunday Morning middle school service, and he attends the high school service on Sunday evenings. He is doing very well in school, working on homework, and hanging out with friends. We are so proud of him.

Here's he is now:

We are very thankful and continue to give God the glory for all He has done for us over the last couple of years. We will continue to press on, praying daily for Garren to swallow and to walk on his own one day. Thank you for taking this journey with us, and for your prayers and encouragement.

January 29, 2013

Snow Tubing

Last Monday we took the family up to Boone for some snow tubing. When we told Kelsey we were going tubing, we had to show her a picture. The only tubing she had ever done before was on a river. She wasn't sure about tubing in the cold water! Garren had mentioned several times that we should go. So we headed up to the mountains to give it a try.

The challenge would be transporting Garren from place to place in the snow and ice. We were able to let him sit in the tube while Nancy and I dragged him along through the snow. The bigger challenge was transporting Garren back to the top of the run! There is a moving sidewalk, about 12 inches wide, that you stand on to ride back up the mountain. Since Garren cannot stand on his own, I had to help him. Together, we stepped onto the moving conveyor, and managed to stay upright for the ride up. Only one time did we almost fall off. A huge gust of wind came out of nowhere, and we nearly fell over! Nancy had to follow along with all three of our tubes in tow. It was quite a sight!

After about an hour, the older two kids were done. It was cold and the wind was picking up. Kelsey and I ended up going back out for about another 30 minutes. It was a ton of fun!

Garren has been faithfully walking and working out in our new workout room. Today he walked for 39 minutes, for a total of 0.7 miles. He has really progressed quite a bit in the last 3 weeks. Tomorrow we are meeting with a personal trainer to see if this will be a good fit for Garren. If it works out, Garren will go train with him 2 times a week, while I continue to walk with him 5 days a week.

Still no changes with swallowing. We continue to pray.

January 17, 2013


We moved Kelsey into Garren's old upstairs room. We then transformed the empty room into a workout room. The goal is to get Garren upstairs on the treadmill 5-6 days a week. We started on January 2. Garren walked 10 minutes at an average of .5 mph. This week he is up to 25 minutes, averaging about .75 mph.

We meet with a personal trainer today to discuss strength training.

Here's Garren hard at work on the treadmill.

January 15, 2013

Abram's Simple Obedience

Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’” (Gen 12:7)

Set your goals. Make a difference. Evaluate. What did you accomplish? Were you successful? We spend much of our time and energy trying to get things done. We mark our progress so we can know if we were successful or not. We spend our lives trying to accomplish something significant. When we celebrate someone’s life, we celebrate them for what they did.

Abram was known for being a man of faith. “By faith Abraham...obeyed.” (Hebrews 12:8) God promised Abram that he would be the father of many nations, that the number his descendants would be too many to count, and that his offspring would receive the promised land. But he never promised Abram that he would see or benefit from any of this.

Is it possible that we so caught up in trying to be something great for God, that we fail to simply obey Him now? Not to say that goals shouldn’t be set, or that passions and dreams shouldn’t be pursued. But, maybe instead of trying to make a name for ourselves, we should spend our time and energy simply pursuing God and responding to Him in obedience.

God obviously used Abram, but Abram never saw how God used him. Abram simply lived his life and obeyed God’s calling. When God said “Go to the land I will show you,” Abram packed up his family and went. When God said “I will make of you a great nation,” Abram simply tried to start a family. Of course, as you read about Abram’s later years, he became desperate to try and make God’s plan work out. All he did was create a big mess. Abram didn’t really do anything significant, at least in man’s eyes. What Abram did do was obey. He just did what God told him to do.

And long after Abram died, God fulfilled His plan. Abram did become the father of a great nation. Abram’s descendants did become more numerous that could be counted. Abram’s descendants did receive the land that God had promised to Abram. Even though Abram didn’t live to see how God used him, God used him because he faithfully followed and obeyed God.

Are you striving to make yourself great in God’s kingdom? Maybe we should quit trying so hard, and focus on simple obedience instead. Be faithful to complete the tasks God has put in front of you today. Rather than trying to be a part of the completed plan of God, be the part of His plan that He is calling you to be.

January 10, 2013

Happy New Year

Well, it's not really that new anymore, but Happy New Year anyway.

2012 was a year of learning. Many life lessons were taught and learned. I hope not in vain. Looking ahead to 2013 I pray that I will continue to be taught and to learn. I hope you are open to that as well.

We are quickly approaching the end of 2 years since Garren's AVM ruptured. He has come a long way. He's in school 5 days a week. He is involved in the student ministry at church. On Sunday mornings, he runs lights for the middle school service. On Sunday nights he participates in the high school ministry. And he loves it!

It's great to see a desire in him to be involved. 

Kara is halfway through her senior year of high school. She's involved in school plays, cheerleading, while trying to get through her final course requirements. She is still undecided on a school of the fall. She has a couple of options, and we will son begin the process of applying for financial aid! 

Kelsey continues to amaze us with her strong and outgoing personality. She loves school and reading. She stays busy caring for her hamster and playing with her friends.

Physically Garren continues to progress. And that's great. But with progress comes changes in his  level of professional medical care. We still have nursing at night, for which we are very thankful. Garren is still unable to swallow, and is still unable to walk on his own. Up until December he was going to Carolina's Rehab for physical therapy twice a week. 

His most recent evaluation revealed that he has reached a point in his recovery where he is not in need of "skill" development. He needs to work on strength training, and endurance training. Since the rehab focusses more on skills, they decided it would be best at this time to stop physical therapy, and for us to focus on strength and endurance training at home.

We are in the process of talking to personal trainers to wee what the best next step will be for us and for Garren. We also dedicated a room upstairs in our house to a workout room. We've dubbed it the "Chamber of Torture" for now. Using his workout table, treadmill, chin-up bars and other torture tools, my goal is to get him up there daily for a workout.

We continue to pray for swallowing. Who could have ever dreamed or imagined that we would be dealing with something like this. It truly is a bizarre thing to be dealing with. 

But God is in control. We trust Him. We believe that He has the best in store for us. Garren's attitude continues to be positive. We are very thankful for that.

Thanks for all your support over the last 2 years. I hope to continue keeping you updated on a more regular basis this year.