Let’s Talk Spinal Cords

Our Journey to Healing April 30th

photo (27)
photo (27)

Proverbs 3:5-6

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heartand lean not on your own understanding;6 in all your ways submit to him,and he will make your paths straight.

Today is Derek's birthday. And although he is usually not much of a "birthday person" (whatever that means), I am forcing celebration on him. This handsome, smart, kind, witty, hard working man is officially 30.

Derek was born on April 30th to a set of amazing parents (Jay & Joy). He was a happy little guy with blonde hair, beautiful blue eyes, and a mischievous smile.  He grew up loving to tinker around the garage with his grandpa and playing with his older sister Courtney.  His mom remembers him always creating some type of contraption and from an early age, she knew he would make a great engineer. Eventually, his parents were forced to create a rule where Derek had to ask before taking anything apart because he  he hadn't gained the skilled he needed to actually put items back together.

Along with his mad handy skills, Derek has a huge heart. While working on his engineering degree, he volunteered with an organization that built handicap ramps for families. He will be the first person to drop ANYTHING to help someone out. Obviously, I could go on and on about the man I got to marry, but I wanted to hear from others. So, here are some things his friends say about him:

  • Derek has never been too embarrassed or too old to hug me. His heart is tender and compassionate even if he would act like he wasn't...On the flip side he has been known to play inside  a dog cage for an afternoon! - Joy (Derek's mom)
  • Although Derek is an extremely intellectual lawyer type... don't be fooled. He has an extremely goofy side as well. That may be one of my favorite things about him! One of my more recent favorite memories of him is reading "The Book with No Pictures" to his nephews. Derek's sound effects & facial expressions had the boys laughing harder than I've ever seen (& maybe me too)! You should also ask him about his childhood performances to the songs "Runaway" & "Leader of the Pack". - Courtney (Derek's sister)
  • My favorite thing about Derek is his creative spirit. He knows so much about how to make things work, as shown by his awesome job remodeling Bunker --- I'm still confused about how he took out the rafters and the ceiling didn't fall down! I know he's probably got awesome plans for the Quarry! -Adam
  • I love his new wheelchair & playing games with Uncle Dizzle. -H (nephew- age 3)
  • He is really good at helping me with Legos. My favorite was the Batmobile. -T (nephew- age 5)
  • Derek has this unique self-confidence to be, well, Derek. Rudyard Kipling has a quote about “keeping your head when all about you are losing theirs”. I don’t know what it is or how he does it, but Derek has always seemed to keep this level head about him. He just does what is right, and with lots of humor in between.I first met Derek when I was in junior high and have since looked up to him. It’s weird having a hero of yours also be your friend. I often feel this pressure to impress Derek because I always know he’s up to something interesting and cerebral! I have been able to observe Derek throughout the years I’ve know him; being his teammate on high school sports teams, hanging out with friends, and also hanging out one-on-one, and I can say that Derek is himself in all those arenas. There is no pretense or acting differently just because he’s with a different crowd. He’s funny, insightful, and always down for being quirky. Always.So I guess my favorite thing about Derek is that he is just himself. And doesn’t try to be like anyone else. That’s very hard to do. Ironically, and this is no hyperbole, I will often think about what Derek would do in a given situation because his answer would be the closest thing to a thoughtful/simple solution. I guess you could say it’s #mcm with Derek every day of the week. -Joel
  • Over the course of a year or two Derek successfully died his hair nearly every color in the visible spectrum. It was weird, and edgy. -Kevin
  •  When I was very pregnant with ten pounder Kevin, two year old Derek came up to me, pointed to my belly and asked, "Auntie Jill, whatcha got in your pocket?" -Jill
  •  The title to one of my favorite country songs, describes my very fine son-in-law. "Humble and Kind". -Dave
  •  As Derek's mother-in-law, I appreciate him as a man of integrity and perseverance. Derek has a soft spot in his heart for animals. His escapade with rescuing a skunk whose head was stuck in a yogurt container didn't work out too well for him! He always thinks before he speaks and has impeccable manners!  We love having Derek as part of our family! -Donna
  •  Some of our favorite times spent with Derek (and LeAnne) are around the table with a little wine and lots of card games. He and LeAnne take great pride in beating us in a little game called Euchre. It's pretty rare that we win, so Derek often comments "keep the gravy train rolling" when he's feeling pretty happy with his skills. Derek, you're one of a kind and we're so thankful for your friendship. Looking forward to 30 more years of memories with you! Happy dirty thirty buddy! -Nate & Liz
  •  Derek doesn't say much but when he has an opinion on something, you know he is right. -Ryan

They say the first year after any tragedy is always the most difficult. Every holiday or celebration seems to be marred with the reminder that things were different the year before.  We know we are lucky.  There are many of you out there that have been handed a much worse deck of cards. Many are hurting, struggling, and trying so hard to put together answers for what you have been given. On the other side, I do not want to downplay all the tears, frustrations, work, and adaption we have worked through as well. Today, more than any other day this year, I am so thankful for Derek and his life. He means the world to me and I am so proud of who he is.

I had tears streaming down my face in the middle of Silver in the City as I read the following card. It really expresses how I feel about this beautiful day:

Why do I look forward to your birthday every year?It's not the cake, the kazoos, the stretchy paper streamers, or the shiny balloons. It's not the hugs, the candles, the sparklers, or the awkward singing. No, I look forward to your birthday because it's a chance to celebrate one more year of you in my life. With cake!

Here's to another year with you in my life. Let's not cut it so close next year. Deal?

With Love,

The Lavenders

Our Journey to Healing April 12th


Matthew 11:28-30

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Our long awaited weekend getaway came and went way too fast. As you may remember, we headed out to Lake Havasu, AZ to catch up with old friends and try our hand at flying. I am happy to report back that it went very smoothly with only one hiccup at the end of the trip.

Why Havasu? While Derek was in undergrad, he had an internship at Harley Davidson working at their test facility. He spent 3 years (on and off) in Alabama before Harley moved their facility over to Arizona. Derek headed to Arizona for one semester at the end of his senior year and roomed with his friend Matt. Matt (and his awesome wife Lisa) still live out there. For years, Derek has talked about going back to his old stomping grounds and showing me around. When the therapist suggested a trip, we thought this would be the perfect little test run.

Friday, we headed to the airport with plenty of time to spare. After a slightly different rigamaru with security and the airlines, we made it onto the plane with zero complications. We landed at the Las Vegas airport (the nearest airport to Lake Havasu) and promptly made dinner plans. We decided to explore Las Vegas for the evening and wound up at Caesars Palace. In typical Lavender fashion, we ate so much food that we then swore off eating for the rest of the weekend.

Saturday was filled with some of Derek's favorite places to visit. This included the boardwalk on Lake Havasu, a few off roading trails with beautiful views, and a tasty dinner spot. We also sat and watched a jet ski race while frying our knees in the hot Arizona sun.

By Sunday, we decided to be a bit more low key and ended up hitting up the local Swap Meet (where a gentleman trying to sell Derek a hat called him a hillbilly), went on a scenic driving tour where we came across a few adorable wild burrows, and then crashed at home by watching a few painful episodes of Paint Wars.

On Monday, we packed up early and Matt drove us back to Las Vegas. This is when the hiccup occurred:

We boarded the plane with no complications but before we could take off, a storm front started to move in! The captain explained we would wait a few minutes for the storm to pass but we should be on our way in no time. Well, the storm passed fairly quickly, and instead of heading to the runway, we headed back to our gate. The captain explained a federal regulation requires him to only fly a certain amount of hours before taking a 10 hour break. Unfortunately, our small wait for the storm pushed him over his hours and we now needed a whole new flight crew.

With Derek's chair already stored below, we were stuck. The crew told all the passengers that they had no way of knowing when a new crew would arrive, so it would best if everyone just remained in their seats and they would give updates every 10 minutes. An hour passed with the same 10 minute updates. Finally, they agreed we could get off the plane but needed to close because they didn't know when we would take off.

By hour 2, I decided I would step off the plane for a break and to grab us a few snacks. 15 minutes later I returned to our gate (C22) and flew into full fledged panic mode. There was NO plane at gate C22. I checked, double checked, and then ran to the nearest Southwest employee desk asking about our flight.  All I could think about was Home Alone and that this would happen to us. She kindly explained that there was no record of our flight...and then 30 seconds later she corrected herself and said our plane had moved to gate C19.

At hour 4, Derek and I both started to get a little worried. See, with spinal cord injuries, you must take a restroom break every 4-6 hours. You can occasionally push it to 8 hours, but that can cause an AD episode.

Ok, so a little info on spinal cord injuries (SCI). When you or I get uncomfortable from sitting too long, something pinching/poking us, or even just our pants being too tight, we can move around so it is no longer painful. With an SCI individual, they cannot feel that pain or discomfort and therefore don't know about it. The body starts to get really mad and will shoot their blood pressure up. If the discomfort does not get correct within a 5-10 minute window, the person can actually have a stroke. This effect is called Autonomic Dysreflexia (AD). 

At this point, we had been sitting for 4 hours and had at least another 4 hours of flying in front of us. The captain got on and said the new crew was on their way and we were expected to leave soon. So, with the fear of AD seared into our brains, I requested Derek's chair from the bottom on the plane and insisted they let us take a break before the plane took off.

Derek was a trooper and transferred into his chair in front of 110 annoyed fliers. The crew was great and helped us with our request. Thankfully, we made it back on the plane before the crew arrived! In fact, we sat there for another hour. When we took off, everyone let out a sigh of relief. I almost felt like I was living in a country music video. The flight crew was handing out free drinks and the final college basketball game was on, so there was a lot of hooting and hollering. Overall, it is just a funny first trip story but we hope that doesn't happen again!

We arrived home safely and scarfed down chicken noodle soup and crackers before hitting the hay around 1am. When I asked Derek about the stresses of flying now as opposed to before the accident, he said, "I hated flying then and I still hate it now". So there you have it! Southwest did send us a little coupon off our next flight (I want a free flight but whatever). We are already planning our next little weekend getaway!

Thank you for the prayers!

Ps. A HUGE shout out to Matt, Lisa, and Dingo for putting us up all weekend, showing us around, and being great friends. Can't wait for you two to come visit us here in the midwest!


With Love,

The Lavenders

Our Journey to Healing March 29th


Romans 15:13

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

As I was getting ready for work on Monday, I had a strange realization.  Derek was out in the kitchen drinking his morning coffee and I heard footsteps coming from one of the rooms.  My mind instantly thought,  "I wonder if Derek is coming back here to grab his hat..." and then it hit me. I may never hear his footsteps again. Never hear him bounding down those stairs in Bunker. Never check on him in the middle of our co-ed soccer game when he pulled his hamstring for the 3rd time and hear him complain about how old he is getting.

 As I thought about the concept of footsteps, I realized how footsteps symbolize leadership, trust, and direction. I know the first thing in your head is the little picture every mom has hanging somewhere in their house. The footprints in the sand with a nice, encouraging verse about trusting God. Trust. Trusting. Trusting continually that even if we can't see the direction where He is leading us, there is a purpose. That purpose happens to be greater than the purpose with footsteps.

How ironic, I thought. We replaced shoes for wheels. Muddy footprints with dirty tire tracks. Loud bounding steps with sneaky, quiet rolls. Living a comfortable life complacently with now living a beautiful life completely leaning on God.

PS. The footsteps belonged to our upstairs neighbor

So, that's the lesson from our life this week. A little heavy. A little intense. But, it is what it is.

In other news, we are heading out on a mini-vacation Friday! Our therapist suggested we try flying, so we decided to take her up on the challenge. We will be visiting our good friends Matt & Lisa for a long weekend in Arizona. During college, Derek worked at the Harley Davidson test facility out there and loved it. For years, we have talked about going to his old stomping grounds and having him show me around. So, that is what we are going to do!

Flying with a wheelchair can be a little bit of a process. Well, basically the process is praying the whole time they don't lose his wheelchair. We will get to the airport early and board first. Derek will transfer onto an aisle chair (the aisles are too thin for a regular wheelchair). They will help him transfer into his seat and then we will wait for everyone else to board. His wheelchair will either go down with the luggage or they may be able to store it in the closet at the front of the plane. We have heard horror stories about chairs getting lost, so I am really hoping we can put the chair at the front. We did end up getting a non-stop flight, so thankfully we don't need to go through the whole process more than once. We will be sure to take lots of pictures and are really looking forward to spending time together in a different setting!

 Derek did finish his therapy sessions last week! Both exciting and bittersweet. Exciting to see how far he has come, bittersweet to know there are no other tricks to this paralysis thing. It just is what it is.

Also, we realized an upside to wheelchair life. Derek's shoes will stay nice for years. Gone are the times of me scolding him for wearing his brand new birthday shoes to cut down tree limbs. He picked out some new shoes this week and I told him to choose carefully because he will have these for years!

Thank you for your trip, house, and heart rate prayers!

With Love,

The Lavenders

Our Journey to Healing- March 23rd


Matthew 6:31-32

31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

We are giddy over here. Well, I'm giddy. Derek is the appropriate amount of manly happiness. Because:


That's right. We, the Lavenders, are the owners of the cutest little limestone ranch you have ever seen. I use owners lightly because we still have to close. *fingers crossed* There are also probably cuter limestone houses out there, but I think it's just the best.

On Sunday, Derek and I headed out on the 11th edition of The Great Lavender House Hunt. I found a house that weekend I really loved and thought it could be "the one".  Instead of dragging our realtor all the way out to see just one house, Derek picked one that he was interested in. I bet you can see where this is going.

So, we get to my house and I am running around trying to convince Derek why it is perfect. It actually was a pretty good option but when we got back in the car, Derek was less than enthusiastic. He kept saying, "Well, you just wait until you see my house".  As we pulled into the driveway of his house, I had every. single. intention of stomping on his home dreams  just like he stomped on mine.

But instead, we bought it.

I should clarify the reason I was a little hesitant on his place was due to the location and bedroom count. Our new house is in a cute, quite little col-de-sac in an area of town that we had never considered. Once we got out and poked around, I loved it! It is also only a 15 minute drive from Derek's office, which is a huge plus.

The house also has only 2 bedrooms, which realistically we really need 3. There is nothing wrong with a 2 bedroom home, but with me working from home, hoping for baby Lavenders one day, and wanting to have guests, we really needed that 3rd bedroom.

So. Solution. Since the master suite and garage are not accessible right now, we will kill two birds with one stone. We will turn the current garage into the master suite and then add on an accessible garage! Overall, the house is adorable. The owner did an excellent job updating the house but keeping the 1950's charm.

If you followed along with our Bunker renovation, you know that we will obviously be blogging about our new house renovations! We can't wait to get started and wanted to thank you all for being a constant support to us.

PS. Here is a little peak of the mid-century wonderfulness we happened to snag:


I'll be posting some more sneak peaks on our IG account: lavenderslittlehouse

And of course, a house name coming soon.

With Love,

The Lavenders

Our Journey to Healing March 6th


Psalm 9:10

10 Those who know your name trust in you,     for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you. ______________________________

We pray for blessings We pray for peace Comfort for family, protection while we sleep We pray for healing, for prosperity We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering All the while, You hear each spoken need Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things
'Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops What if Your healing comes through tears What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise -Laura Story "Blessings"
I want you to think back on the worst stomach flu you have ever had. I know, probably not a pleasant experience. But for my example, please let you mind go there. Remember how terrible you felt? And how at some point you were fairly confident you might just die, and you didn't even care? Keeping remembering. Think about not being able to eat, barely drink, or sit up for longer that 5 minutes. Now think about your best friend (or spouse) coming to sit by your side. They hold your hand, get you a wet wash cloth, and then they sweetly say, "It's all in your head. If you just put your mind to not having the flu, all this will go away." You explain that the doctor said you just needed rest and fluids but they kindly disagree with saying, "You know what you need? A good run! Go outside, run a few miles and think hard about getting over the flu. That will do the trick."
Over the past few months, we have been reminded how amazing the human body is. You may remember, Derek broke his left arm and as a result, his radial nerve was severely damaged. The doctors told us the only thing we could do was just wait and see. For nerve damage, the average healing rate is 1mm per day. Since the damage was near his shoulder and it needed to reach his fingertips, you can imagine how long that would take! 6 months to be exact. The only real thing we could do was wait. Thank God the nerve did heal and he is currently squeezing 103lbs of pressure. When we first got to rehab, he was squeezing only 11lbs. Big change! Now as much as I would love to brag on Derek, the fact is he really didn't do anything. He didn't sit and meditate on healing his hand, he didn't really even work it out. It either was going to come back or it wasn't, nothing he personally did would change that fact.
Basically, I just gave you two blog introductions to the one thing I really wanted to talk about. Emotionally healing when you don't see progress in physical healing. Social media tends to bring more light to the paraplegic community, which is awesome. What isn't awesome is when all spinal cord patients get lumped into one category. The classic answer we heard every day for months "every spinal cord injury is different" holds true to this as well. There are encouraging photos, articles, and posts about these amazing people who start walking again after their injury. And you can basically bet your life savings that somewhere in the article they will say, "The doctors said I wasn't going to walk again and I wanted to prove them wrong" or "I put my mind to it and knew this is what I had to do".
I have become such the skeptic that I have started to do some serious stalking to figure out the back story of what actually happened to the person. I kid you not, every single time, the person in question was expected to walk again.  I will give you the inside hint: Most doctors who perform the spinal surgery will be pessimistic on walking, especially right after an accident. It takes weeks for the spinal cord to stop swelling and therefore really know the damage. Once the person moves to a rehab facility (like the one we went to in Chicago), they will have a much better idea of their chances. The rehab doctors will do a test called the ASIA test which is a series of things (seeing if you can feel pricks, soft touches, and a few invasive tests) to determine the severity of your injury. So what doctors really want to know is where you are on the ASIA scale. Asia A is the worst. Derek is an Asia A.
We have been so excited to watch friends we met at RIC progress from their wheelchair into walking, running, and even scuba diving. But with that comes the painful reminder that most likely, that will never be us. Not because Derek doesn't try hard enough or put his mind into walking again, but because he is an Asia A Complete T-6. We have come to grips with this, but almost need others to as well.
We will continue to pray for Derek's recovery but more than anything, we pray for adjustment. We want our life to be more than doctors appointments, therapy sessions, and walking in a robot. Derek doesn't have a desire to become a motivational speaker or play on the wheelchair basketball team for the 2020 Paralympics. He wants to be a great patent attorney, a father, an awesome husband (duh), and a man who points others to God. We want what we always wanted before. A life.
 The best example I can think of is children. I know there are a lot of people struggling with infertility, etc. so please do not take this example as being insensitive:
 Let's say the doctor told you that having children would not be possible for you. Along with being physically impossible, there was also no such thing as adopting a child, possible medical treatments etc. You were just not going to have a child you always assumed you would. With that information, you continue to do the action that produces a baby, but you do it for your relationship, not for the end goal of having a baby. And you move on! If you know you aren't going to have a baby, you need to start making goals, plans, dreams, around that fact. The last thing you want is to get to the end of your life and think, "Man, I wasted so many of my years dreaming, wishing, and hoping for a baby that never came." That's us and walking. Maybe just maybe, moving on isn't giving up.
The song lyrics at the beginning of this post has been stuck in my head for weeks now. Back in the early days of hospital life, I remember laying my phone next to Derek's head and playing it for him. Although I was fairly confident he wouldn't remember,  I  needed him to hear exactly what I was feeling. What if all of our trials really are just His mercies so that we could know Him better? I know. Tough to swallow when all you want to do is be angry, hurt, or upset. But I feel so confident there is a plan so much greater than I could have ever dreamed for us, and to miss that plan just to be more comfortable? Eh. No thanks.
With Love,
The Lavenders

Our Journey to Healing February 19th


Matthew 6:25-29

Do Not Worry

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

I realize about a month has gone by without much of a peep from us. Truthfully, life is starting to feel pretty normal, so I just assumed no one really cares to hear about it anymore! That isn't a bad thing either. I remember back in the early days when everyone was so encouraging and Derek said, "We must not be in a good situation when people keep telling us how strong we are". So, I will take the boring over life threatening any day of the week. But then my sister-in-law reminded me that our life may seem boring to us because we live it every day, but there are still things people can learn about this lifestyle through us. That comment has encouraged me to start blogging a little more frequently.

These new blogs will be less scary and more day to day. We have a journey ahead of us with checking off our "American Dream" tasks. Buying a house, hoping to have children, getting a drivers license, learning to swim, attempting to fly to see friends, etc. We will gladly be blogging and taking you along on each of these little life lessons, which I am confident will result in some ridiculous stories.

To catch you up to speed, I am going jump right into a few main things that have been happening, and then will blog in a few days about some others.

The first big thing is work. As many of you know, Derek works for a law firm downtown. We were able to find an apartment within walking distance of his work (he laughs and says it is insensitive to say "walking" but I can't bring myself to say rolling distance every time). SO there you go. It is within rolling distance for him and walking for me! Due to Derek's health needs and disability insurance, etc. he has been easing back into it. Honestly, our main goal right now is to get him accustomed to sitting at a desk for hours. I know this sounds strange since all he does is sit, but we have determined that sitting at one place for long periods of time is really hard on his neck and shoulders. Imagine if you couldn't move from you desk and your hands rested in the same place. It really pulls on those neck muscles. We are working on finding a good height for tables/ desks which will  hopefully result in better posture and more comfort.  Derek's amazing cousin Kevin built us a beautiful desk for our apartment. Right now, that is where a majority of work gets done (and where I am blogging from currently). We are hoping by the end of 2017, Derek will be back at work full time.

I had to step down from my job back in September due to FMLA and just needing to be with Derek in Chicago full time. Honestly, we had no idea what the next step was for me. We knew I needed something where I could work remotely and a place that would be understanding of our situation. I figured I would start the job search this spring. Well, God really showed up in this area of our lives. At the end of December, I was approached by Luke @ MudLOVE (you know, the place where those adorable Goat mugs and Moxie mugs were sold on our behalf?) Well, they wanted someone to run their Fundraiser Marketplace and help set up campaigns to help others. I was shocked. Actually, let me tell you how I found out because it was pretty funny (at least to me).

It was a late Friday night and we were at my parents house in Ohio. We were playing a Spy game (SpyFall), and the goal is to figure out who among you is the spy based on asking a lot of questions. Well, it so happened that I was the spy that round. So as my dad was asking questions, I decided to "check my email" to try to look as natural as possible (and honestly avoid eye contact). As I pulled up my phone, Luke's email was the first one to pop up. I started reading it and then my eyes got huge. I was so excited! Dad stopped and said "LeAnne's the spy! She's acting weird!" I continued with, "I am the spy and I don't even care! Listen to this email!". The rest is history. I started working full-time remotely in January. There are so many things I love about this job, but a great benefit to us is that they are located in my husband's home town. Which means any time I need to be at work for a meeting, we can go together and see our family. Small plug- If anyone needs a creative way to fundraise, check out MudLOVE. If you are raising money for medical costs, humanitarian, adoption, or school specific needs, check out MudLOVE's Fundraiser Marketplace. Ok. That is all! 

Next and last topic of conversation. The Great Lavender House Hunt. Just to catch everyone up to speed in 7 seconds, we lived on a great little property just NE of town in a renovated garage we named Bunker. We were making plans on redoing the house (Longshot) when the accident occurred. We rented out Bunker until January and then put her up on the market. Bunker was very popular with 80+ showings in just under a month. BUT many people were having issues getting the bank to approve a loan due to the condition of Longshot. While all this is happening, we've been living in an accessible apartment looking at Zillow every.single. day.

Last week, we accepted an offer on Bunker. We are set to close in April. Obviously, these things can fall through, but we are happy with how everything has progressed. So, now is the fun part of house hunting. A lot of people have asked us what we are looking for, so I'm going to fill you in and then let you get back to your Sunday nap!

A ranch is ideal but actually not necessary. There are options with getting Derek up and down stairs. You can put in a little elevator lift (which isn't as expensive as you might think), or we could add a lift seat that goes on a railing (like you see in every commercial during the Price Is Right). A ranch takes up more space on a property, tends to be more expensive, and gets snatched up quickly. We have found at least 2 properties in the last 2 months that really caught our attention, but both were gone within a matter of a few days. It seems like everyone had the same idea we did! But, we are voting for a ranch!

For renovations, we would really just need to redo a master bathroom and possibly a kitchen. The kitchen really just depends, but a lower counter height and cabinets just on the bottom would be ideal. Hardwood floors are also a huge plus, as carpet and wheelchairs don't always go great together. We would love a little bit of property (or at least a nice deck). The tricky part is that although we don't know what life has in store for us, we are essentially purchasing a forever home. We don't want to have to modify a place just to *Lord willing* outgrow it in a few years.

After 3 hours of driving around looking at houses yesterday, the one that caught our attention was literally in a retirement community. We laughed and said the good news is we won't have any trouble finding a place for us to live when we are older!

I do have a few things I want to share that have been on my heart, but I felt it necessary to catch you guys up on a few "life" things first. Looking forward to the next time we chat!

With Love,

The Lavenders

Our Journey to Healing January 14th


Psalm 3:2-6

Many are saying of me,     “God will not deliver him.”[a]

But you, Lord, are a shield around me,     my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord,     and he answers me from his holy mountain.

I lie down and sleep;     I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands     assail me on every side.

Do you remember the moment you first rode a bike without training wheels? I do. It was a warm day and I remember by dad holding onto the back of the bike seat as I climbed on. As a three year old, my legs barely reached the pink peddles. I remember crying out of fear and begging my dad not to let me fall on the gravel. He started running and pushing me, and before I knew it, I was zipping around our lane. I remember not knowing how to turn around and therefore tried to plow my way through the grass before crashing. I rode that little bike around all summer and never once was I upset at my dad for pushing me outside of my comfort zone.  I will  also say that the amount of coordination I showed as a 3 year old did not follow me into adulthood!

Anyway, I hope you can see where I am going with this little story. We were not excited about God sticking us on this tandem bike of paraplegia, but we've gotten a little less wobbly, out of the scary zone, and I am happy to say we are really getting the hang of this!

As some of you may have heard, Derek has started driving class! Here in Indiana, the state requires 10 hours of supervised driving for someone with Derek's level of injury. Basically, he will use hand controls and a "suicide knob" to drive a car. Hand controls remind us both of boat controls. You push forward to stop and pull back on a handle to go. They hook up rods from the hand controls to go down to the peddles. The suicide knob is almost like a door knob that hooks onto the side of the steering wheel. Since Derek does not have a majority of his core, he needs help to be able to turn the steering wheel while keeping his balance. That is where the suicide knob comes in! All other controls work (cruise control, etc.) and I will be able to drive the car as well. Ideally, we will be getting some sort of hatchback or lower SUV. The car needs to have open trunk space for his wheelchair and be low to the ground for an easy transfer.

When Derek is driving by himself, he will transfer into the car and then break his chair down beside him. He will be sitting in the driver seat, pop off both wheels and also the chair seat. He will lay those beside him in the passenger seat. He will then fold up his light framed chair (it is only 9lbs!) and will buckle it into the passenger seat. We have heard a few horror stories of chairs flying through windows if they aren't buckled in! He will then put the chair back together when he is ready to get out of the car.

In other Lavender news, we also put our beloved Bunker up for sale this week. This was a hard decision made by weighing the pros and cons of building v. buying. Although we love the property and the idea of having a little guest house, it just wasn't ideal for our situation. We need a little flatter property with a larger ranch style home. We have had a lot of showings so far and are hopeful we will find great owners! In the meantime, our house hunt is officially ON.

On the health end, we have officially decided to go off blood thinners. After talking with our spinal cord doctor, she encouraged us that unless he happens to get another clot, we do not need to stay on the thinners for life. This was great news and Derek stopped taking the medicine a few days ago.

In closing, I heard the first intentionally mean comment about us since our whole situation happened in June. Truthfully, the fact that this is the first time I have actually felt hurt by someones words since the accident is just impressive. For the majority, people (family/friends/strangers) have been so kind and encouraging. But with that being said, every life circumstance seems to bring both positive and negative comments. Every. Single. Circumstance. Why are they getting married so soon? How can they afford to have another baby? Why does he always get promoted? Wow, did you see where they live?

People love drama and tragic stories. Without a sad ending, it seems we are somehow disappointed. But why? We are all human. The comment had me thinking why some people root against other humans & marriage. I am not without guilt but it has challenged me to always root for others. Always.

For prayer, please continue to pray for that heart rate (resting is around 116 beats per minute) and also as we begin to adjust back to working full time!

With Love,

The Lavenders

Our Journey to Healing December 28th


Philippians 3:20-21

20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

As we are currently going through Christmas detox, I wanted to catch you all up on a few things and decisions that have taken place since we last talked. *If you are reading our blog, I consider it to be talking, so thanks for wanting to talk with us today!

Christmas came and went and has left us feeling very encouraged. We had such a great December catching up with friends, seeing all the long lost family members, and getting to watch our niece crawl for the first time. We also hosted a few overnight guests, watched 4 Christmas movies, put up a tree, didn't turn on the tree lights because it was starting to burn the tree. and then proceeded to take the tree down. We managed his wheelchair in our first ice storm, came to the conclusion that cocktail parties and paraplegia to not mix well, and we have eaten a piece of chocolate every.single.night.

Overall, things have been moving in a positive direction. Regarding Derek's health, we spoke with our spinal cord doctor 2 weeks ago and have decided to discontinue blood thinners at the end of January. As you many recall, we were really torn with the pros and cons of lifelong blood thinner medication. After consulting Dr. Park, she highly encouraged us to stop taking the blood thinners once we hit our 6 month mark and just continue on with our lives. She said the chances of Derek getting a blood clot again are very slim, which is encouraging!

We also met with our dentist which is our first step in getting Derek's teeth fixed. To give you an idea of how the appointment went, my favorite quote was, "This one tooth looks salvageable". If he didn't lose it, he broke it. Our next step is meeting with the oral surgeon in February. This is the same group of doctors that performed his jaw surgery, so we were excited to get an appointment! After the doctors appointment, we will be given a time frame and run down of the plan. According to the dentist, this whole process from start to finish could take 1.5-2 years, depending on how the gums and implants heal. I should also add that Derek HATES going to the dentist, so this next stage of recovery should be an interesting one! In the mean time, Derek has been enjoying lots of soft foods such as crock-pot meals, soups, cut up hamburgers, and peanut butter toast.

Derek has another month of therapy sessions but these have slowed down to 2x per week. He is gradually adjusting back to work and has been going in a couple times per week. At this time, his focus is working part time and regaining more energy. I have excitedly accepted a position with MudLove (the wonderful company which sold our Goat/ Moxie mugs for a fundraiser) and will be the Director of the Fundraiser Marketplace. I will be helping other families and organizations raise support for their cause! I am also able to work from home which is perfect for our current situation.  I have been blow away how God has so clearly opened and closed doors for us these past months.

In closing, I want to shamelessly plug NorthWestern Mutual for all their work on our behalf. Here is a God thing for you: We had been meeting with a financial planner for a year, but mainly just to pick his brain on investment ideas and how we should be saving our money. In May, Derek decided we should at least purchase something, so he went ahead and bought Supplemental Disability insurance policy. The cost was inexpensive ($20 per month) but would help us if anything ever happened to Derek. I remember him telling me he purchased the policy and I actually got a little upset because he did not run the decision by me first. Well, fast forward 3 weeks later, and I am calling up our adviser to explain the situation and see if the policy will work under the circumstances. That policy has been and will be an incredible blessing to us as we work through the lifelong costs of paraplegia. I am by no means a financial guru, but I would highly encourage you all to meet with an adviser and get your ducks in a row. We do not know what tomorrow holds. Plus, they are all usually very nice and they give you free coffee/ water during your meetings!

For prayer, please continue to pray for Derek's heart rate and blood pressure. Also, we have started to mental process of "next steps" for a home. We do not know what this means yet, but we do not want to rent forever! Lord willing, we would like to either purchase or build an accessible home within the next year or two. Please join us in prayer over that decision.

Have a wonderful New Year!!

With Love,

The Lavenders

Our Journey to Healing December 6th


Romans 8:24-26

24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

Happy Shopping Season to all of you! So first things first. We are over 5 months post accident and it is getting harder to count exactly how many days that is, so our blogs will now just have today's date at the top. I hope no one is too devastated because this will save me at least 5 minutes each time I sit down and try to count back those dang days!

These past couple weeks have been the best weeks we have experienced in a long time. Over Thanksgiving break, we were given the chance to head to Winona Lake to spend time with Derek's family. We packed as if we were staying until Sunday but we warned everyone we may need to head home earlier. With winter clothes, Derek's medical supplies, the wheelchair, etc. you would have thought we were heading to Europe for a month. We bundled up and left for Winona mid- morning. Of course we made the mistake of not packing a lunch and therefore were driving here and there trying to find a restaurant open! We settled on some good old McDonalds and continued our journey home. Derek does pretty good with longer drives. My mom found us a slightly used wheelchair cushion that we have put in the passenger seat. This is a much better solution than the pillow he was sitting on. As I have mentioned before, skin integrity is EVERYTHING and when you can't move your lower half, you can imagine how sitting in one position for hours can be hard on your skin.

Although things have been going more smoothly, we did have a slight scare last Wednesday morning. Around 3am, I woke up and noticed his knees seemed to breaking out in some sort of rash. I mentioned this to him and he said, "O ya I noticed that before bed!" Ha! I begged him to tell me next time he noticed such abnormalities but we quickly just fell back asleep. When we got up that morning, the rash was getting a bit worse. After calling both of his doctors and sending off pictures to our families members who are in the medical field, they all encouraged us to go to the E.R.

So, after finishing our coffee and getting ready for the day, we headed off to the local emergency room. According to the nurse, early afternoon is the worst time to show up at the E.R. because that is when people wake up and realize they aren't feeling great. Of course we showed up right at noon and got checked in. At this point, the rash was starting to spread and was now up to his chest. We thought it was may have been a tad dramatic of us to head straight to the E.R.but the nurse said it was good he came in because most doctors offices would have just sent us straight there anyway.

After sitting for 2 hours, it was finally our turn! According to the nurse practitioner, it was either 1 of 2 things. He was either having an allergic reaction to his antibiotic  or one of the pieces of thardware (either spinal cage, arm plate, or jaw plates) were infected. Obviously, we were hoping for the first one! It isn't terribly uncommon for an infection in your hardware to develop within the first few months after surgery, so we were a little nervous.

The doctor was very surprised to hear we have already been on the medication for 2 weeks before the rash began. Just to be sure, he ordered blood tests to be ran, as well as an IV for some medication and hydration. If you think Derek is cute now, you should see him on Benadryl :) He got very sleepy very fast. I grabbed our jackets to make a  little pillow and tipped his chair back so his head could rest on my lap. We then sat like that for 2 hours while I read the current book we are going through (Hope Heals- you should check it out!) and waited for the blood test results.

Around 5pm, we were told his blood tests look great and it was just an allergic reaction! We headed home around 6, very hungry, and very relived. That night, Derek slept like an angel! He had been having a hard time sleeping the past couple weeks and just not feeling great. It is crazy how much better you feel when you stop poisoning your body with medicine it hates!

We also had an appointment with our pulmonologist (lung specilist) last week. We were sent there to discuss Derek's blood thinner medication and where he could stop taking them. As you may remember, he was put on a heavier dose of blood thinners after his second incident with blood clots in July. The doctor was extremely informative and basically gave us two option. He could stop taking the blood thinners late January and take the chance of getting another blood clot. Blood clots can kill you, and since Derek cannot feel his legs (where the pain usually starts), it would be incredibly difficult to foresee a blood clot and get to the doctor's in time to stop it. According to the doctor, you have around a 10- 30% chance of having a repeat blood clot. Since Derek is not able to move is legs, his chances are increased. The second option is to stay on blood thinners for life. The benefit is obviously hopefully no blood clot. The downfall is that blood thinner makes your blood thin, therefore you bleed easily. The doctor said if he ever got a knot from bumping his head, we would need to go straight to the hospital to make sure he did not have a brain bleed. Obviously, as a 29 year old, he IS going to bonk his head or fall out of his wheelchair at some point, so this option is scary to us as well.  We head back to the pulmonologist in January and are currently still praying about which option is the best.

 On a final note, there has been something on my heart these past few weeks.

I was telling Derek how our society loves before and afters. We want to see how bad something was and then how beautiful it becomes! All within 1 hour...thanks a lot Chip and Joanna Gains! Well, unfortunately real life isn't quite like that. There are so many tears, celebrations, laughs, fights, and raw emotion that happens within that before and after  reveal. And what if I was to tell you that our AFTER is sometimes really hard to imagine being as beautiful as our BEFORE? God makes all things new in His timing and we are leaning on that promise. We are also realizing there is always a little pain in this life. Whether it be big or small, none of us can avoid it. So what if our after isn't as wonderful as our before? Does that mean we just drew the short stick or God isn't still good? No. And honestly, I don't know WHAT it means at this point but I am praying that along this journey, we get the joy of figuring it out together.

P.S. Please continue to pray for Derek's blood pressure and heart rate. His blood pressure tends to be scary low and his heart rate slightly scary high. Also pray for our decision on the blood thinners.

67410_10150288113565405_504265404_15096462_8127042_nWe hope you are having a wonderful holiday season!

With Love,

The Lavenders

Our Journey to Healing Day 152


Ecclesiastes 3

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,     and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,     a time to plant and a time to uproot,     a time to kill and a time to heal,     a time to tear down and a time to build,     a time to weep and a time to laugh,     a time to mourn and a time to dance,     a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,     a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,     a time to search and a time to give up,     a time to keep and a time to throw away,     a time to tear and a time to mend,     a time to be silent and a time to speak,     a time to love and a time to hate,     a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Hello friends! I am writing from the comfort of our new power reclining couch we were able to purchase from the generosity of basically everyone reading this blog. Thank you! The power recliner is huge because it helps Derek put his feet up and allows him to sit in a different position.  It is a sunny, chilly day here in the city and it just felt like the perfect time to catch everyone up on our journey and what we have been learning.

Can you believe we have been home for almost 4 weeks? We have our routine basically figured out and have been working on getting faster at the daily tasks. There is a lot more that goes into paralysis than most people would ever think. In fact,  we are learning new things almost every day.

For our average day, we head to bed around 9:30-10pm and try to allow time for Derek to lay on his stomach a bit and do lots of stretches. We then wake up a couple times in the night to move in order to prevent pressure sores. When we get up in the morning, we work on getting ready for the day which usually takes a few hours, depending on how the morning goes. Lunch is served at noon and then we head out for an afternoon of either doctors appointments or physical/ occupational therapy sessions. By the time we are finished with appointments, we will run errands and then head home. We have LOVED getting re-connected with our friends and the new apartment really allows us to host dinners easily.. After we finish up with the meal, we go over the next days schedule and then start getting ready for bed!

Along with our daily routine, let me take a second to fill you in on a few things that make life way easier on us and how you can help:

  1. Please try your very hardest not to stop your car on a pedestrian walkway when you are at a red light. If you look at the sidewalks, they have specific cutouts in the curb for wheelchairs. 99% of people can just walk around your car but we cannot. We have had to sit and wait for lights to turn and for cars to move before being able to walk across the street. It isn't a huge deal but it is something I never thought of before! You are going to feel really awkward parked in the pedestrian walkway with me just staring you down, trust me :)
  2. Handicap parking spots are also very valuable to us. I always just assumed they were nice because they were closer to the store but never stopped to think about the lines next to the spots. You know the lines. There is a handicap space and then an empty space next to it with lines. Well, we really need one of those spaces so no one parks us in. Derek needs to be able to get his wheelchair up to the side of the car to be able to transfer in and out. If anyone parks right next to us, he wouldn't be able to get in and I would have a hard time getting his chair into our backseat. So, next time you are tempted to park in one of those spots, please don't. We really need it. And if you see a car double parked in the back with a handicap tag, they are double parked to avoid cars parking next to them for the same reason.
  3.  Moving to and from his chair can also be a little tricky. Unless the surface Derek is transferring to is EXACTLY the same height, he usually uses a slide board. This board is long and narrow with a cutout handle on each side. He will place one end under his leg and the other end onto the surface he is moving onto. Then leaning forward and doing a "push up", he will slide over. He is getting better and better at this and eventually will just be able to "pop over". But for now, the slide board goes everywhere with us.
  4.  We are fairly easy guests! At first, I was nervous braving anyone's house because it was just "unknown". Now, we know what to look for and what to ask. For the most part, most individuals in wheelchairs travel with portable ramps. These ramps just go in the trunk of our car so we can get almost anywhere! But, if you just have one step into your home, it should be totally fine! One way to make your house a little more accessible if you are having a handicap guest would be to pull up the loose rugs. We can get through most carpet (although low profile is the easiest) but rugs tend to be a little tricky.


One final thought. I have really been challenged with the above set of verses. There is a time and season for everything. I find it so fascinating that in each season of life, there are different joys, challenges, sorrows, and stories. I remember as a child I would walk WAY behind my mom in the grocery store because I wanted people to think I was old enough to be there by myself shopping. And then as you grow up, you realize grocery shopping is NOT fun because food is expensive. When I turned 18, I remember telling my mom that THIS was going to be the best time of life because I wouldn't have acne anymore and there wouldn't be anymore drama (insert eye roll). At 23, I finally was out of college and making money, so  let the living begin. I then got married and boy, that was way better than all the other stages of life I had experienced. Now we have nieces and nephews, an amazing family circle, fantastic friends, the joys of being together for 7 years, and I am convinced THIS is the best stage yet. So although the stage you are in will bring difficulties (like paying for groceries and your metabolism slowing down), think today on how much better this stage is than the previous one. Praise God for making every season of life better than the one before.

Ps. Mark- This blog post is for you!


With Love,

The Lavenders