Family, Holidays, Ryder's Heart

our Christmas card

It’s Christmas week but it doesn’t feel like Christmas week.

For starters, it’s so warm that I wore flip flops to Kroger today.

But really, the reason it doesn’t feel like Christmastime is because it’s the first time in my life that I’m not going to be home in Tennessee for Christmas.

In fact, it’s the first Christmas in my entire life that I won’t be waking up at my parents’ house on Christmas morning.

Dang. This might be harder than I thought. Today I really started missing my parents. Like really really missing them.

All that being said, I’m so excited that we get to stay home this year.

For the first time in our marriage (7 1/2 years!), we are going to start our own traditions with our little family at our little home in Texas. And I simply can’t wait for that.

I am still in the process of sending out Christmas cards (sorry they are late!) and of course can’t send one to everyone because postage is so expensive. The best way to share with everyone is to post it here and you can save it to your computer from here!

Merry Christmas from the Harris’!

I also had planned on writing a Christmas letter this year, but fell short on that too for many reasons. First of all, I simply ran out of time. But mostly its because reliving this past year has been more painful and much harder than I thought it’d be.

So here is a Christmas letter of sorts for all of you.


I hope that as you are reading this your hearts are full of love and happiness this Christmas. And if you are reading this and you are struggling and going through a trial bigger than you know how to handle, know that God sent His Son for YOU. He sent His Son to comfort you, to protect you, to love on you this Christmas and every Christmas. Cling to His promises of comfort and joy in the midst of your darkest days.

This year has been the year of struggles and storms for us. The year started with nonstop ear infections with Rory and her eventual procedure to have tubes. God was preparing us for something even bigger and more crippling to come. (And believe me, that time in our life was HARD.)

In February, we had our 20 week ultrasound to find out if we were having a boy or girl. During the ultrasound, they noticed something different about Ryder’s anatomy. We were sent to Dallas thinking that Ryder didn’t have some of her parts (bladder, urinary tract, etc) but when we got there we realized that she just had a fluid filled cyst. We are still praising God for this! By May, the cyst was gone and we were released from the specialist. Again, we were being prepared for something bigger to come.

Then around April/May we were, again, crippled by the news of Andy’s mom’s cancer. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and we were all devastated. When you hear pancreatic cancer, fear creeps in like nothing you’ve ever seen because the statistics are never good from what you know. In June, Marlyce had the whipple procedure done and it was a very hard surgery and she had a very hard time recovering. But we are praising Jesus’ sweet name because she had the rarest form of pancreatic cancer you can have and is now doing wonderfully, especially considering all her body has endured this year.

On June 26th I went to the hospital having contractions every two minutes apart. Because I wasn’t “changing fast enough” they gave me a really strong sedative/pain pill and sent me home. The next day I spiked a 105 fever (just like I did with Rory) and had to spend four days in the hospital trying to get my fever down. It was so scary, just like with Rory, and the unknown infection went away without us knowing what was exactly wrong.

On July 1st, I was induced. During labor, Ryder’s heart stopped at the height of every contraction. It was scary and no one knew why. But after an extremely easy and fairly quick labor, Ryder Amelia was born at 2:15 pm. She was the most perfect baby, just like Rory was, and so beautiful and sweet.

While we were at the hospital after her birth, Andy and I talked a lot about how she didn’t eat. The nurses complained that she was a “snacker” and told us to be on a strict schedule with her. We just thought she wasn’t ready to eat yet or something, we weren’t sure what was going on.

At Ryder’s two week appointment, Dr. Scott heard her murmur. I still question whether or not this was the first time anyone had heard it… but thats a whole ‘nother story for another day. We went to the hospital and had a chest xray and EKG done. Four days later, I was told there was a small defect but we could wait to go to the cardiologist because it wasn’t any big problem.

During that time, Ryder was diagnosed with colic because she screamed all the time and we couldn’t get her on a schedule and couldn’t make her eat. It was tough. It was exhausting.

On August 11th, I took Ryder to her first cardiologist appointment. I immediately knew something was way wrong and was scared out of my mind. There I was, all alone (Andy was out of town on business and I didn’t think I’d need him since I was told it was no big deal), hearing huge medical terms and getting the run down on the many defects of Ryder’s heart. I was so crippled with the fear, I literally didn’t know if I’d be able to walk to the car with Ryder. We immediately scheduled Ryder’s first procedure in hopes to fix her heart without any huge medical intervention.

Ryder’s first procedure, an attempted balloon cath, was on August 18th. When they went in to do the cath to open her obstructed pulmonary valve, they realized they wouldn’t be able to do it because the holes in her heart were too big. If they were to open the valve, the blood would rush into her lungs and, essentially, drown her. We were sent home on three medications, hoping that they would help Ryder to be able to eat and help her heart to be able to close on its own.

On September 2nd, Ryder had her two month well-baby checkup. But Ryder was not well at all. She had only gained 10 ounces since two weeks old and was struggling with everything in her to eat and breathe. She got her vaccines and because of her crying from them, she went into cardiac distress. In three days Ryder only ate a total of 10 oz of formula. To say this was the darkest moment of my life would be an understatement. She was unresponsive and would barely wake up for more than 15 minutes at a time.

I haven’t shared this before, but it will be my most cherished memory of my sister for the rest of my life. On Thursday morning, Telena called me crying about Ryder. She said she just had to call me because she couldn’t stop thinking about Ryder. She encouraged me to be aggressive for Ryder until someone listened. I will never forget the power she gave me that day.

I called the cardiologist that Thursday morning and got Ryder in the next morning. I packed my bags with a weeks worth of clothes because I knew I wouldn’t be coming home until Ryder’s heart was fixed. We were with the cardiologist no more than a minute and had already decided on open heart surgery as our only option. Ryder was admitted into the hospital to get a feeding tube so that she could be strong for her surgery the following week.

On September 15th, Ryder had open heart surgery to fix four holes and an obstructed valve. The surgery went so smoothly and we will forever be thankful that God gave us Dr. Mendeloff to perform her surgery. Those few days in the CICU were so unimaginably hard and yet, wonderful. We became stronger as a family and it changed our lives forever.

The past three months since her surgery have had high highs and low lows. Each day was either a struggle or a triumph kind of day.

The past two weeks have been triumph weeks though. Ryder is FINALLY eating like a “normal” baby and she has started sleeping through the night.

Through all these trials, there have been such joyous moments as well.

Rory has been our constant comic relief through every single hard day. I don’t know what we would have done without her wonderful spirit and fun personality through all of this.

We have met some of the most wonderful people in the world  and have seen God work through total strangers for us.

Our friends in Paris have rocked our world with their support and love for us. Our church family was such an amazing blessing to us during this time of heartache. They took care of Rory, gave us financial gifts, and care packages. They brought meals, meals, and more meals. We can’t thank them enough.

Our friends from all over sent care packages and cards. They called, texted, emailed, and spread the word to pray for Ryder. Facebook BLEW UP with updates from my friends from every part of the country sharing Ryder’s story and urging their 500+++ facebook friends to pray for our precious daughter.

My parents came for weeks this year and took off many, many days of work to watch Rory. Andy’s parents were ready to come at any time, and did come to help as well. There is no way I will ever be able to repay them for this. When I needed my Mom and Dad most, they were there holding me up and taking care of my other precious daughter so that I wouldn’t have to worry about her well being for even a second.

And I know I have said this before, but you can’t possibly know how much you have impacted our lives with your prayers. YOU changed me forever. I wish I could say thank you in a way that seems worthy because just words simply don’t seem like enough. But, I will say them now, and many times to come- THANK YOU for everything.

If you are reading this and you are facing a trial and are hurting, please PLEASE if I can help in any way at all, let me know. I would love to pray for you, pray WITH you and ask others to pray. Email me at (tiffany{at}theharrislife{dot}com), comment on the link on facebook, or comment on this post. Please leave a link to your blog or care page or whatever. I would LOVE to be able to pray with you and for you.

Again, thank you for everything you have done for my family this year.

I hope you all have the merriest Christmas of all.

Love you all very much,














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5 thoughts on “our Christmas card

  1. What a gorgeous family you have. Your letter is beautiful and your two little ones are precious . . . I’m so glad ryder is finally having victory weeks – yay!!

  2. OMG Tiff! I knew it everything when it was happening, but to see it all wrote out! Wow! My heart hurts and is so glad for you at the same time!

    I love y’alls Christmas card! When we got it yesterday, Clinton said we were such losers to not have done one! lol! Hope y’all have a great Christmas!

  3. What a testimony to God’s grace and power! What else can I say except “Merry CHRISTmas and Happy New Year” to the Harris family! 🙂

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