Sunday, December 26, 2010


"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."
Jeremiah 29:11

"More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given us." Romans 5:3-5

"Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer." Romans 12:12

Hope has been my word for the year...and a half. :-) Late last fall when we found out about Jethro's heart, it was devastating. The prognosis was very grim; they didn't really expect him to make it to birth, and if he did make it that far, they said it was very likely that he would die within the first week or so. I can't even tell you how suffocating that appointment was. I was deeply panicked and grieved at the same time and I was quite honestly terrified of walking through the grief of losing another child. I knew that God is faithful, and I knew that He would carry me through whatever He had for us, but I just didn't want to go there again.

As I regained my bearings a bit and began to pray, I felt God impress me with the knowledge that He would not miraculously heal Jethro's heart. I prayed for it, but as I prayed, I just knew that this was a journey we were going to have to take. However, as I prayed, God also gave me a very sure feeling that everything was going to be okay. Now, I will admit to you, I didn't know what "okay" meant. I knew it could mean that Jethro would die, and we would once again find God faithful within that grief. I also knew it could mean that Jethro would live and we would find God faithful within that path. One thing I have learned over the last several years is that God's definitions and my definitions don't often mesh up, but God's are always right. So, although I didn't really know what okay meant, it did give me a great sense of peace because I knew that whatever God had in store for us He would be there to strenthen us and hold us steady.

Jethro was born dead, and after extensive efforts on the Drs part, God allowed him to be resuscitated. By the time I woke up from surgery, my little boy was safely ensconced in the NICU, sedated, intubated, and hooked up to many monitors. That was a Friday. Over the weekend, he held his own, and talking with the various Drs, I got the impression that although they were cautious, they felt he was doing okay. Monday arrived, and so did Dr. Jensen. We had seen him during my pregnancy, and I was anxious to get his opinion on how Jethro was doing. He sat us down and talked to us about how serious a condition Jethro was in. When I asked him if he was at all hopeful over how well Jethro had done over the weekend his answer was a simple, "No". He explained 4 different surgery options and why each one was not an ideal plan ~ also explaining that the surgeon's might refuse to do surgery because of the condition of his heart...and then he suggested that we might want to consider 'comfort care'. Which is basically making baby comfortable while they die. I was hysterical ~ not in a loud, frantic way, but I began to cry, and I could not stop. I felt like I had lost my baby. I finally had to get up and leave. Poor Dr. Jensen. He was in a lose-lose situation, not only having to deliver hard news to a Mama and Daddy, but having to deliver that news to a post-partum, post-surgery hormonal Mama.

I had lost my bearings. I felt like I had either mis-understood God, or that I was having an epic fail of faith. I called my mom, and I called a friend who had had an Ebstein's baby the year we lost Tucker. I knew she had to have had the same conversation with their cardiologists. Mike finally came to my room and we talked about 'the options'. I also got in touch with a local heart mom, and bless her, she came right down to the hospital and talked with me for hours. I asked her about how they came to the decision to go the surgery route, and many, many other things. By that evening, I had calmed down much, and Mike and I had determined what has led us through all this time ~ if there is life, there is hope. We would fight tooth and nail if need be to get Jethro the care he needed to live.

Within the next day or two we talked with the surgeon, who came to us with a surgical plan (thank you, Lord!), and the die was cast. Jethro had the first of his surgeries at 10 days.

This has been a long, hard year. We've been through so much, and yet, we can honestly say that God has been more than faithful, and we are tremendously blessed. I wanted to share this because I think sometimes we really get down on ourselves when we lose sight of God's promises. But, I believe that's just a part of the human condition. It's how we react when we are in that spot. Am I going to turn my back on God because I think that suddenly He's not faithful, or I feel like He's turned His back? Or, am I going to stay the course, trust His word, even when it doesn't 'feel' true, and believe? If I falter, am I going to continue the fall, or am I going to catch myself and lift my heart heavenward once again?

If Jethro had died, would I be able to say these things? Yes. Yes, I would. And, six years after Tucker died, I can say that I am so thankful for that experience. Please don't misunderstand, I would *love* to be raising my sweet boy ~ there is a definite hole in our home where an active little 6 year old boy should be ~ but I am thankful to have had and lost Tucker, because I believe that part of God's purpose for Tucker was to prepare me to parent Jethro. To be able to walk through all this uncertainty and upheaval in trust and faith ~ and that is a true gift from God.

So, what does hope look like at our house right now? Let me share some pictures with you from Jethro's first Christmas...a Christmas we weren't sure we would have.

Opening his first present

Who took my picture!?!? ( I got this look *every* time I snapped a shot!)

This makes me laugh every time. Christmas is apparently a very surprising holiday.

Opening (or eating) presents at Pak and Grammie's house.
I am so very thankful that I serve a sovereign, faithful God. A God of hope.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Our Christmas/New Year's Letter

Ezra, Laura, Josiah, Mama, Kathleen and Logan (front)
Levi, Will, Garth, Daddy and Jethro (back)
 Warm Winter Greetings Beloved!

It’s been a long 2 (3?) years since we’ve sent out a letter, but you were all in our thoughts last couple of years. We have had a couple of years full of trials and blessings, and we stand before the end of another year with thankful hearts, knowing that God has truly blessed us.

We are thankful for a son born dead, yet who lives. Jethro Storms Dole was born February 26, 2010 at 3pm by emergency c-section. He weighed 9lb 1oz and was 22 inches long. He required extensive efforts to be resuscitated, but by God’s grace, he was. Jethro was born with a very severe and rare (1 in 210,000) heart defect known as Ebstein‘s Anomaly. His heart condition was incompatible with life, and he really was not expected to make it very long.

We are thankful for outstanding cardiologists and pediatric thoracic surgeon’s who were willing to operate on Jethro’s heart so that it could function and support life. Jethro underwent his first open heart surgery at 10 days.

We were so very thankful to finally hold our newest son when he was 2 ½ weeks old. You never realize how much you take for granted all those snuggles and time spent rocking, until you are not able to do it.

We are thankful for the timing of our house burning. March 17, I was in Jethro’s PICU room and received a phone call that our house was on fire ~ not the call you want to get at your critically ill child’s bedside. However, we didn’t have to worry about anyone being in danger because the rest of the family was at my Mom and Dad’s house, and, because we were dealing with life and death issues with Jethro, losing the house was not as traumatic as it might have been otherwise. Extremely difficult, yes, but because of the circumstances we were in, we were able to look on that loss with a better perspective than if it had been the only traumatic thing happening to us.

We are thankful to be part of a rural community. In times of need and trauma, you can really appreciate small communities. Folks came around us and supported us and prayed for us and did what they could to help. We were overwhelmed by the love and generosity shown to our family.

We are thankful for a new house going up where the old one stood. We were able to use our existing basement, and I have a dear friend who is very talented when it comes to drawing up floor plans. The Lord has truly blessed us with good builders, great deals…and although it’s not going up in my timing, I know that it is being built in God’s time. I am *very much* looking forward to moving back into my own home. We are also thankful that our little farm is now paid off, and the new house going up is debt free ~ what a tremendous blessing that is!…AND Will isn’t 42! :-)

We are thankful for health for the rest of our family. We are thankful that we have grown closer over the last year, and that everyone is doing well. The little boys have adjusted to a new baby well, and love their little brother very much. The girls are more and more help all the time, and decided that they enjoy cooking (although they still need to figure out cleaning up after themselves!). Logan and Garth both played football this fall and had good seasons. Middle school went undefeated, and the high school team only lost 3 games this year. Levi and Will have rented an apartment in Plummer and are busy with work. They have both been such a blessing over the last year, helping out with the younger children and just being good, steady young men. Levi is working at the hardware in town, and was recently promoted to Assistant Manager of the hardware. Will is still working part-time for the post office, and is now on staff part time with South Lake Youth Ministries. It is so exciting to see what God is doing in their lives and see them blossoming as adults.

There has been much to the last couple of years, and I would love to be able to share all of it, but that would be a novella at least. :-)
This past year has been full of hospitalizations, therapies, and doctor appointments, as well as our usual busy-ness. But through it all we have seen God’s hand and known Him to be faithful. I can’t even imagine how we would have survived this past year without the firm foundation of our faith in Jesus Christ. He has been my source of peace and calm in the stormiest of waters.

May you find yourself blessed as well as you look back over this past year, and forward to the new.

All our love,

The Dole clan, Mike, Tracy, Will, Levi, Garth, Logan, Kathleen, Laura, Josiah, Ezra, and Jethro