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Oct 21, 2020: Please come tomorrow

At prayer time during nightly tuck-in, Caleb has more and more frequently begun praying for Christ to "please come tomorrow, and if not then, soon."  After hearing this multiple nights in a row, I finally asked Caleb why he was so excited for Jesus' return.

"Well, when Jesus comes again, he will take all of the believers back up to Heaven with him," came his reply,  "and everything will be made right again."

His answer was very different from my prayer as a 14-year-old.  I distinctly recall as a teen having a conversation with Him about Christ's return: "God, I know that when Your Son comes again, we who believe will get to go to heaven.  And Your timing is perfect, but can You please wait to come until after I graduate high school?"  As the years went on, I occasionally would pray, "Your timing is perfect, but, could You please wait until...."  After high school graduation, it was marriage, then it was getting a job, then having kids, and on and on.  In short, I was asking God to adjust to my timeline, because I wanted to experience all the good things here before I leave for the great things there.

What was I thinking?  Heaven will be wonderful beyond my wildest dreams (which seem so petty by comparison).  Now, as a more "mature" believer, I understand that...or do I?  If I really examine my heart, do I think and act as though I am ready for Christ to come tomorrow?  Do I praise God like no one is watching?  Am I concerned with what others think of my ________ skills?  (Fill in the blank: parenting, cleaning, Bible knowledge, etc.)  Do I chicken out of a conversation about Christ because I'm worried that I might offend someone?  Do I spend my time on activities that are important to God?  Do I pray with expectation?  Do I look forward to Heaven?

Since the accident, I'm much more aware of what Jesus meant when He said in John 16:33, "In this world you will have trouble."  Life's not so peachy all the time, and the more trouble I see and experience, the more I'm okay with the concept of Christ's timely return, despite what "good things" I would still like to experience.  But, to be honest, that's a totally self-serving conclusion.

Oh, to have the perspective of Caleb.  If I really lived as if I were ready for Christ to come tomorrow, my daily life would look different; it's a pretty good litmus test indicating what's important and what's not.  The most drastic impact would probably be my worry about the future, which Jesus has already spoken about in Matthew 6:25-34:

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? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 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. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Ah yes, worry.  While we're mentioning  the perspective of the kids, I remember riding with Morgan to the hospital to see Caleb when he was in the PICU.  I had just been released from the rehab hospital myself, and my anxiety over the severity of Caleb's injuries was climbing as my awareness increased.  Tearfully, I expressed my fear to Morgan, who so succinctly said, "Mom, he's in God's hands.  We don't need to worry, God's got this."  How could I argue with that?

It might take some work, but I'm going to start praying like Caleb, and demonstrating faith like Morgan.  I'm going to leave my worry at His feet and look forward to His coming.  Speaking of prayer, we continue to covet yours:

  • The cochlear implant is proving to be a game changer for Caleb.  His latest hearing test shows his left ear in the "normal" range, praise God!  Now he is working on rehab activities to teach his brain how to interpret the signals.  He's beginning to understand speech, and can even sing along to some of his favorite songs when the signal is sent only to his implant!  We're already seeing improvements in his sound localization.
  • Pray for all of us as we navigate the daily challenges.  At times it's easy to get bogged down in worry.  I find myself saying, "If only we were dealing with just the TBI, or just the blindness, or just the hearing challenges, but the combination of all of them...ugh." 

If you'd like to take a look, here is a link here to Madonna's magazine, The Independent.  After receiving such wonderful care there, we were pleased to be able to share a small snippet of our journey in their Fall 2020 edition.  As you'll see, ours isn't the only story of healing...their approach to rehabilitation is quite revolutionary.  God certainly works in and through Madonna's people!


Sept 8, 2020: I don't mind the dark

Labor Day weekend marked the 1.5 year point since life took such a sharp change of direction for us.  1.5 months into it, one of the doctors told us that in the unlikely event that he ever wakes up, he may not have any eyesight...God knew His plans for Caleb and prompted my immediate response of “That’s ok, we can deal with that.”  I have often reflected on that moment, as there are days I’m not sure I can uphold that statement that came so quickly and confidently.

But God knew, and Caleb knows...I don't see how he does it.  Blindness hasn't slowed him down in many aspects of every day life.  He's learned daily self-care tasks and navigation around the house, even grandparents' houses, and is now learning how to do the more complex day-to-day tasks like making his breakfast and throwing together a sack lunch for school.  

Despite his advances, it's still a bit of a bitter realization that as we walk into Caleb's bedroom or past the bathroom noticing the light is off, we want to turn it on for him so he can see better, then it dawns on you that it doesn't matter to him.  

We went on a walk at dusk recently, and Caleb wanted to continue on, but as the twilight was rapidly fading, Dad suggested that we turn around to make sure we got back before dark.  Happy to continue the stroll on such a nice evening, Caleb's quick reply came like a light switch, with a flood of illumination on several different topics: "But I don't mind the dark, Dad."

The light of his positive attitude is, at times, strikingly convicting.  Since day one of his awareness of his injuries, he hasn't complained.  Not once.  He has questioned to learn more about his situation, but never in an attitude of "Why me?"  Instead, he offers deep gratitude to God for His miraculous interventions and to whoever might be the subject of the account he is asking about.  He is humbly surprised that when he asks, people remember the details of key moments in his progression, such as the multitude of people crammed in his PICU room the time he said his first words.  

He has accepted the fact that his vision is temporarily gone, but he has the light of hope that it will return, if not during his lifetime, then in Heaven.  He rarely shows frustration when he can't do something, he simply asks for help.  He trusts that God, his friends, and his family, will help him through whatever may come.

Caleb’s unrelenting positive attitude is an incredible beacon of light, often illuminating the darkness we are tempted by, whether it be temptations of anger, frustration, debilitating sadness over the situation, or other comparatively insignificant issues we might be dealing with.  God continues to protect him and encourage those of us around him through Caleb’s reflection of His Light.  It is pretty hard to get too far down one of those darkness holes with Caleb’s example keeping your perspective anchored.  

While he still has no measurable visual light perception, Caleb’s hearing shows a marked improvement.  After the second cochlear implant surgery last month, we were pleased to learn that it was a success; he is back on the road to “stereo” hearing!  The electrode re-implantation was "a bear" due to the fractures in his head, according to his surgeon, but we are incredibly grateful that it was achieved! 

The initial activation was tense for mom and dad, but a flood of relief came when Caleb indicated that he could hear the test tones.  We're at the tip of the iceberg with the cochlear implant: there are months ahead of us with fine tuning and therapy to train his brain to correctly interpret the electrical impulses as sounds. 

In the meantime, school is off to a great start!  Both kids are enjoying time with their friends, and doing something other than chores around the house.  We are so grateful they are able to attend in person, and for the blessings of the school staff seeing to their success.

Attached you'll see a few pictures of what's been happening with the Tobias Tribe.  We were able to make a quick camping trip to Yellowstone the second week of August, not only an amazing place to see, but also plenty of unique sounds and smells for those who can’t see it.  Mom & Dad had their first ride in the BACK of the car with the kids up front!  Finally, the obligatory first day of school photo.


Aug 7, 2020: Try Again

After 11 successful surgeries, Caleb made it through #12 smoothly, however we received some disappointing news last week: Caleb's cochlear implant doesn't work.  After the initial surprise, we all are taking it in stride...shoot, even Jesus had one bad one in his dozen!

A CT scan showed that the electrode was kinked, causing it to short out. This means surgery #13 will happen in the near future, where the surgeon will remove the first unit, and replace it with a new one.  We are hoping the re-do goes as smoothly as the 1st, and that he'll be hearing with the replacement implant by the time school starts again.

In the meantime, God continues to do some heavy lifting in other areas of our life, as the pictures show!  With all of Caleb's incredible progress, it's easy to overlook Kim's continued miraculous recovery...the trauma staff said she may not make it after the wreck, and when she did, she certainly wouldn't have "full function" of her right leg ever again.  Water skiing is pretty close to full function in most books!

Prayers are appreciated! We continue work and try to patiently await to see what tomorrow will bring, as we are reassured and grateful that God has all of this under control! 


July 12, 2020: Can you hear me now?

With the loss of his vision, we want Caleb to be able to recover as much of his hearing as possible. The best option we've found seems to be a cochlear implant. Hopefully sound localization will be restored, as well as overall hearing improvement. Please pray for his surgery, number 12 overall, that will happen this week. 

But hearing and listening aren't synonymous. Many kids and virtually all parents can attest to that. For me, it's not usually an auditory processing issue, it's an attention issue. God knows I have a listening problem, a lack of attention, that impairs my judgment. Sometimes I imagine God asking the same question (with ultimate patience) as the Verizon guy on the TV commercial: "Can you hear me now?"

Sometimes we tune out God's still, small voice. Oh, he's speaking, alright, we just can't hear Him. His voice may be imperceptible for many reasons: sometimes it's because of consuming circumstances, or a sin problem, or a heart-hardness issue. We might need a heart alteration in order to hear God more clearly. I've found a couple of verses that speak about MY hearing impairment.

In John 8:31-47, the Jews are arguing with Jesus about true descendants, and he says in vs. 43, "Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say." He goes on to explain more in vs. 47, "Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

This convicts me because so often I have my own agenda & I don't stop to ask God, to yield to His will, to actually listen to what He may be trying to say...it's more about me. Then I complain about not hearing God. 


Am I acting like His child? No, I'm acting closer to what Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:3-4: "For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths."


"What their itching ears want to hear..." oh how I see this in myself and the world all around me. 


I guess my prayer for all of us, for our nation, and our families, is for God to help heal us of our hearing impairment: to tune in to God's voice above the distracting noise of the world around us. I don't want God to have to say, "Can you hear me now?" because I'm already listening to Him.


June 12, 2020: Summer Break!

S- After seemingly two seasons of winter, it is finally SUMMER! Our family spent last spring & summer in the hospital, so we are happy to do some things we haven't been able to in a while: riding bikes, going to the lake, and more.

U- Aaron & his team had an UNBELIEVABLE first flight of the SkyCourier in the middle of May.

M- MORGAN is tackling college classes, online camps, and projects around the house, including fixing an engine! In her "spare" time, she's raising more chickens.

M- MUSIC is still a big part of our lives. Caleb enjoys listening to all sorts of music. Recently, I've been reminded that life is like a piano: the white keys representing happiness & the black keys show sadness. As we go through life, it's important to know that the black keys help make music, too. Check out Chopin's Fantasie Impromptu Op.66, https://youtu.be/Gus4dnQuiGk which is a classical piece that features the black keys. As we've experienced, God can make a masterpiece out of our lives by intertwining the melodies from the happy times and the sadness. 

E- Caleb has started summer conditioning and weights at the high school in the EARLY mornings. It's pretty amazing to watch him be able to do things with his teammates, even if it's on a different level. 

R- RENOVATIONS are going on in our house. The bathrooms are finished, and now we're redoing the kitchen floor.

B- We are totally BUMMED that we won't get to go visit Didrik's family in Norway this year because of the coronavirus. It sounds like he and his family are getting along well.

R- Morgan had her wisdom teeth REMOVED this week. Joining the family surgery club was not something she was excited about, but she's been a real trooper.

E- We're examining options to help Caleb with his left EAR hearing. Please pray for us and him as we figure out the best course of action.

A- Caleb's brain function continues to slowly but surely improve, which is an ANSWER to prayer. 

K- We are constantly looking for ways to KEEP Caleb engaged with what we're doing. It's a challenge to figure out how we can adapt things so that he can participate in a meaningful way. Attached is a picture of him mowing the lawn: Aaron was talking to him through an ear bud over the phone, giving him directions. Pray for us in this area, too: it takes a lot of creativity, patience, and & intentionality.


Apr. 9, 2020: Adaptation

Week 3 of "stay at home" is nearly complete! Like many folks are experiencing, the adaptation has been fairly easy in some aspects, and challenging in others.

Aaron has been on furlough, so he is taking the opportunity to renovate our upstairs bathrooms. While he's an engineer by trade, he's a pretty good handyman in the off-hours.  It's amazing to see his progress every day, even if we have to endure the short term mess, noise, and scattered tools.

Morgan has been able to easily adapt to online classes, and in her spare time is assisting Dad with the renovations, plus helping with chores around the house. She's been a big help!  In fact, just in the last couple of weeks, she's fixed the rototiller that wouldn't start, transplanted wild sunflowers, spoiled the chickens with attention, baths, and veggie scraps, and even made face masks for our family.

Caleb has been putting up with Mom as a teacher, lunch lady, and therapist! He's been adapting very well to the "new school day," and every day he has a one-hour online class with his Braille teacher and Reed. In addition to the online learning, we're also trying to keep Caleb moving forward with PT and OT exercises. Our days are very full, and while she loves hanging with Caleb, Mom's even more thankful for the dedication of Reed, who has been at Caleb's side daily from November 12 until spring break.

We're sad we aren't going to be able to take part in spring activities, though. Morgan's missing out on softball, forensics & electrorally car. And despite his having an awesome first 3 days of practice before school was cancelled, Caleb's not going to be able to compete in track this year, either. Our calendar suddenly & drastically cleared off! This has made space for some pleasant additions: like reinstating family devotions, 3 daily meals together, game/movie time, and time to relax.

All of us are missing our weekly church time! We're thankful that we can experience worship, a message, and more online!  If you'd like to check out the live services, visit Pathway Church and click on the "Watch Online" button at the top.

I mentioned back in the January post that we had hoped for a calmer 2020, after the distressing events of 2019. No such luck, and that's okay, because the "normal" we long for isn't necessarily God's plan. While the world seems to be spinning in chaos around us, it's been nice to spend time together as a family, and to know that God is in control. We refuse to panic, because He has met and will continue to meet all of our needs so that we can adapt to any situation.  In fact, there are still answers to prayer frequently:
  • Caleb's memory and forward-thinking are improving so much.  A first this week: he's dictated what his exercise program should look like for the day, which displays memory from previous sessions and the ability to create and execute a plan.
  • Both kids' positivity and willingness to work has made these last few weeks easier on us all.
Our prayer requests:
  • Obviously, for the Coronavirus to pass over all of us.
  • Healing for: Caleb's brain, vision, and facial paralysis, Kim's back and hip
  • Continued success with school at home
  • Aaron's job


Mar. 6, 2020: Thankful for the Scars

Today marks one year.  While it is so tempting to weep, wail, and shake our fists in anger, this is not an anniversary of sadness and despair.  Instead, we claim this anniversary as a celebration of survival, and we have so many reasons to celebrate!

First, we can celebrate the scars!  They're kinda cool...kids are even known to count and compare scars.  One of his nurses told Caleb that scars are "chick magnets!"  Didrik & Caleb have matching scars on their stomachs: both of them underwent abdominal surgery, the scars from which look like the plastic that holds a 6-pack of cans together...we say their scars just tie their abdominal “6 packs” together!  Probably the weirdest scar is the one on Kim's upper thigh that was made by the school keys that were in her pants pocket at the moment of impact.  The keys didn't survive any better than her leg...they were bent beyond repair, but at least Kim's leg is functional now.  We'll spare you the pictures!  More seriously, though, every time we see one of the many scars, we are reminded of God's healing power.  The band “I Am They” has a song that tells it well: Scars.  Indeed, our scars can help tell the redemptive story of Jesus' scars.  Isaiah 53:5 tells us that by Jesus' wounds, we are healed, as they are evidence of His paying the price on the cross for our sins.

Second, we can celebrate the progress made toward recovery!  Here are a few numbers:
  • 1: the total number of prescription medications that our family is now taking as a result of the wreck.
  • 33: the number of pounds Caleb has gained since he was at his lowest weight.  He'll also be quick to tell you it's his football and basketball number.
  • 400: the number of meters Caleb ran with Aaron guiding him around the track this week WITHOUT stopping!
  • 2: the number of play performances that Morgan nailed in the school's spring drama production, her 1st on-stage part.
  • 12: the number of months that we have been sustained by others' generosity, encouragement, and prayers.
Third, we can choose to celebrate the future, even though it's unclear.  At times it is difficult to move past the emotional and physical pain, but God's word encourages his children to keep their focus on Him.  Isaiah 43:18-19 "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland."  Don't be misled, we're not saying that it's easy.  In fact, it's easier to wallow in self-pity than to turn our attention to God and trust in His plan.  The only way we've found to do this is to choose to see the good things He has done, and is still doing.


Feb 19, 2020: Growing

Hanging on the back of the laundry room door are two growth charts: one for each child.  We've never been regular about recording height increases, but every now and then, when someone senses that growth has occurred, a kid or parent will suggest we take measurements.  Mom is okay with eye-balling it, perhaps because she's trying to postpone the inevitable.  Dad and the kids, however, are much more scientific about it: pulling out makeshift framing squares (i.e. kleenex boxes) and even bubble levels to record the exact height.  They'll discuss variables such as sock thickness, hair fluffiness, and whether the measure-ee is, in fact, standing flat-footed.  Both kids officially have Mom beat, and while she may grow a bit yet, Morgan is pretty close to her full adult height.  Caleb, on the other hand, is just getting started with his height dominance over Mom.

Caleb's future growth had great impact on yesterday's appointment with the oral maxillofacial surgeon.  We went into the appointment anticipating another facial reconstruction surgery this summer, but the surgeon suggested postponing the procedure until Caleb's face, specifically his lower jaw, has finished growing.  This is good news: first, his current bone structure is stable and working, and second, he doesn't have to have another major surgery so soon.  The only bad news is that some of the minor challenges that he currently has with eating will continue for a bit.  However, we're okay with short term pain for long term gain.

We can update the prayer request list:
  • Pray for Caleb's chewing challenges at meal time.
  • Pray for healing of the paralysis on the left side of his face.
  • Pray for Caleb's continued brain healing and for his vision to return.
  • Pray for Caleb's friends & peers as they interact with him.
  • Pray for Morgan and Caleb as they navigate school and extra curricular activities.  Morgan will begin softball soon, is in the school play, and is performing in pep band and jazz band.  Caleb still plans to run track, which begins after spring break.
  • Pray for all of us as we continue to process what has happened, especially as it comes up on the one-year anniversary of the wreck.
We continue to see answers to prayer weekly!
  • His memory improvements often catch us off-guard.
  • He's working diligently to learn how to use his cane, perform daily tasks without sight, and use Braille.
  • He's catching up in the 8th grade school subjects, and memorizing a snare drum solo!
  • He's interacting more in conversations, as well as understanding and using humor.
  • His strength, endurance, and agility are improving.  In just the past couple weeks, he's reached enough strength to even snap his fingers with his right hand again!
The kids' physical growth has us thinking about spiritual growth, too.  As much as we'd like to snap our fingers and have Caleb completely healed, it doesn't work that way.  The end goal of Christ-followers is to be more like the perfect Jesus, and while we'd like to snap our fingers and make ourselves automatically "perfect," it doesn't work that way, either, despite how good we think we are.  James 1:2-4 says there's more involved: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."  Wait, what? Trials = joy?  James must have forgotten the / through the = sign (as in does NOT equal), and we have to WAIT for perseverance to finish its work?!?  How in the world are we to accomplish that?  How are we going to know how to persevere?  Well, verse 5 helps with that: "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him."

So now we're taken back to the previous entry's point: it's not us who can control anything...it's God.  Through His sovereignty He allows the trials, offers the joy, provides the wisdom and healing, and invites us to persevere, trusting in Him.  Mom should quit feeling bad about being short...in one way or another, we're all still growing.