Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Evolution of The Berry Christmas Tree--Updated

This is our 9th Christmas as a married couple, and as we enjoyed all the festivities of the season, we couldn't help but reflect on what a long way we've come in terms of our Christmas tree.
During our first year, we lived in a less than 600 sq. foot apt in Pasadena as poor grad school students. Since we knew we wouldn't be spending the actual holiday in California, we decided to go with the minimalist theme...
These were all decorations we had around our house that we 'Christmas-ized'. Rudolph is really a giraffe brought back from Africa, the reindeers are gazelles cut out of bull horns brought back from Cuba, Santa is a Socrates statue brought back from Greece, his sleigh is adapted from Cuban cigar boxes, the Christmas tree is the most local item, picked up in some store Charleston, and the elves are Sri Lankan elephants made out of coconut shells. We had a ball putting this stuff together, and were very proud of our little scene.

We moved back to Greenville by the next Christmas, and since we both were bringing home some sort of paycheck, we decided to splurge and buy a real tree at a lot. We were loving it until I found out I was pregnant and my sniffer went on high alert. Every time I walked into our apartment, I almost puked at the smell of evergreen. We also found out that our base had a leak in it, so the water was getting all over the carpet and mildewing! Yuck! It took a lot of cleaning power, but we eventually got the smell out from both, and I was given some relief. This picture was taken while we were still in our tree honeymoon stage. The cute couple next to us is Austin and Chelsey Holmes.Our third Christmas tree was again done on a budget. We had just bought a house, had a baby, and relinquished my paycheck so I could stay home with the baby. So Christmas was low-key, and our tree was borrowed from Brandon's parents. We have high ceilings, and this little thing was only about 5.5 feet or maybe 6. We had to put it on a box just to give it a little presence in our living room! Here, our friends Jodie and David Smith show off their precious gift from God, Avery.
Finally, we come to the Big Kahuna of Christmas trees. My cousin, Jimmy and his wife, Debbie have always been extremely generous, and we have benefited from their generosity on more than one occasion. One year after Christmas we were visiting them in Charlotte and they were taking down their beautiful 10 foot pre-lit tree and decided that they were through with it. They offered it to us and said they'd give it to Goodwill if we didn't want it, but warned us that it had a string of lights that never came on and they always had to turn it so it wouldn't be seen. We had no idea how we'd get it home in our already stuffed Honda, but Brandon and Jimmy bagged it up and we all made it home to Greenville. I hit the after-Christmas sales and got some ornaments and we put it up in the attic until the next year. When we got it out, we remembered there was a strand of lights out, but fortunately I guessed right on the first bulb and fixed it in 5 seconds, and we had a fully functioning beautiful tree. It took some getting used to with the Clark Griswold size, but after we had it decorated and lit up, we were both mesmerized and loved it! We enjoyed it like this for a few years, before we moved to Charlotte.
Here's Brandon with Ella putting the angel on top.

 In 2011, we found ourselves in a rental home in Charlotte and pregnant (again)! The ceilings in this home were a standard 8 or 9 feet, and there was NO WAY we would be able to put up the whole tree. Thankfully, my genius husband figured out that we could use all but the bottom (and biggest) portion, and make it work. The picture below looks cut off, but so did the tree. There was absolutely no room to do an angel on it for two years, but we still enjoyed the tree and especially loved to see people's faces when they walked into our home to see this humongous beast of a tree taking up most of our front music room.

And this year is our first year in our new home which happens to boast 10 ft ceilings, perfect for bringing back the tree in all it's glory. This year we tried to set aside some time to put it up right after Thanksgiving, but between ministry obligations and three small children's random needs and requests we realized it was going to take a lot longer to put up and together than we had previously thought. And, this was the year that most of our white lights decided not to work. Three strands were out on the tree and most of our random other decorating strands also went Ka-put. Awesome. Caroline, our almost 2 year old learned a few new phrases in the process: "No, no touch" and "I broke it". We laid a few ornaments to rest, and vowed to only buy unbreakable ones for the next few years. But that's part of the fun of it, right? Plus, our angel is happy to be back in business this year.

It's so fun to see how God has blessed and grown our family, expanding our capacity for love in our family as h

Friday, December 19, 2008

One Step Closer

Great news!
Mom is officially on the transplant list as of 12/19/08.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


On Saturday night, Brandon started not feeling well as soon as dinner was over (we had take-out from a local steakhouse). I thought it was because he had stayed up all night the night before with 130+ teens at a lock out. But soon after he started, I did, too!

Turns out we had food poisoning, and it was absolutely horrible! It may have been the longest 9 hours of our lives. We took turns sprinting to the bathroom, and were left completely wiped out by Sunday morning. I definitely was contemplating asking Jesus to just come on and take me home immediately.

Thankfully, after a doctor's visit, it was confirmed that we are all gonna live, and that Baby Berry #2 was unharmed in the fiasco. We took some good meds to make our bellies feel better and after Ella was safe with the grandparents on her way to Hendersonville, we literally slept the entire day.

The only aftermath has been bloodshot eyes and red spots all over my face. Apparently, I was very forceful in getting it all out, and broke blood vessels all over!

Yuck, yuck, yuck. I don't wish that on my worst enemy.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Update on Mom

For those of you who would like to know the latest on what's going on with Mom's Pulmonary Hypertension battle...

After getting dismissed from the Duke transplant program due to an antibody issue, they were able to get in touch with the Cleveland Clinic (CC), which is a bigger program. The CC was able to determine that the antibodies were not an insurmountable issue afterall, and have putting Mom through the process to get her on their transplant list.

She and Dad spent a couple of weeks up there going through tests and endless interviews with everyone from the main surgeons to the custodians who would clean her recovery room, I guess. This was very exhausting for everyone, especially Mom who understandably gets tired quicker than most.

They passed that test, and then were told to start anti-rejection medicine. From what I understand (and that's not much) it's necessary to figure out which anti-rejection medicine will work BEFORE the transplant. Yeah, that makes sense. They don't want to get new lungs in her and then figure out, "oh, this anti-rejection medicine doesn't work..." oops.

The meds have done a job on her, and have had some pretty lousy side effects. She had to go off of them for about a week and spent some time at MUSC (I think she just missed Charleston) trying to get her feet under her again. Since then, she has had to get back on the meds and take them until her tests came back showing that it was, indeed working the way they wanted it to. This sounds pretty straight-forward, but in reality, we have been told we're working against an ever-quickening clock here. (For the record, we believe that God is bigger than a prognosis by even the best, most well-meaning doctor. She has outlived most of the previous timelines that she's been given already and we're believing that she still has a significant purpose which is why she's beat the odds again and again so far).

She has definitely become more easily worn out in the last few months, and is trying her best to take it easy so that she can stick around long enough for those new lungs.

We finally got word on Friday after Thanksgiving that the drugs are working the way we want it to. They were supposed to meet with the board of doctors that make transplant list decisions yesterday, but for some reason her case didn't come up. When it finally does (they only meet on Mondays, so hopefully next Monday), then after they all sign off on it, it goes to someone in the State and could take another 1-2 weeks before she finally gets on the list, officially.

Honestly, we are all exhausted (physically and emotionally), and are in need of some real light at the end of this long tunnel. Mom's other meds have made her especially emotional, which is never easy for anyone, including her. We are all feeling the weight of what we're facing on a daily basis, and though we know God is in control, sometimes we just wish things would work out easily. But that hasn't happened yet. Everything seems to have to go the long way around to get us to the next step...taking precious time.

Please pray for God's peace during this process...it passes understanding and guards our hearts and minds. We thank God for His continued presence with us.

Please pray for Him to open up doors quickly, that her files or her case would not get lost in the shuffle, and that all the other administrative hoops would be jumped through seamlessly.

Please pray for a special breath of fresh air for my dad who has tirelessly taken care of Mom for over three years now. Pray for his strength to keep going, to keep his head on in the midst of frustration, and for his ability to advocate for Mom with the doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies if necessary. Pray that God would give him a special grace to endure what is ahead.

Please pray for the family of the person whose lungs we hope to get (soon). It's an extremely hard concept to grasp that someone else will be grieving the loss of a loved one while we're nervously but excitedly expecting new life to be given to Mom.