Hurry Up & Wait

Sydney-Oncology ApptAs some of you know, the last 3 weeks of my family’s life have been very difficult. As a child, my wife had a rare form of cancer when she was four and my 3 and a half-year-old daughter went to the doctors for a regular check-up and her labs indicated she had the same cancer. My world was rocked, my parents were on the other side of the world, and I felt powerless!

The very thought of losing my little angel left me broken inside, the tests we had to subject her to left me in tears as I watched the tears roll down her cheeks, and knowing I was unable to do anything made me want to desperately change places with her.
parents prayer
I never fully understood a parent’s love until I became one and I would do anything for my daughter. Being a parent can provide the best of times and the worst of times, but as much as I love my daughter, it is unfathomable to comprehend that our heavenly Father loves her even more, so why would He allow something so horrific to happen to her and all the other beautiful innocent children? Dwelling on this began to rock my faith boat as I watched children and their families in the pediatric oncology department coming out after chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.

The doctors have been amazing and I have been satisfied so far with their diagnosis, but I and many other prayer warriors have been seeking the Great Physician for His diagnosis and miraculous cure. After the first test came back positive for neuroblastoma, I pleaded with God to spare her from going through what her mother had to endure and I asked God for the strength to endure whatever the outcome might be.
Great Physician
It felt as though life had stood still until we knew for sure what we were dealing with and some days we raced from hospital to hospital for this lab and then another test, and then we would wait days with no answer. Hurry up and wait turned into wait and pray. Waiting is never fun, unless death is what you are trying to delay. keep-calm-and-hurry-up-and-wait-4

Our circumstances reveal our true character by how we respond to the adversity they are surrounded by. When facing trials, the first thing you must do is take your thoughts captive because our thoughts determine the direction we are headed. The second thing you must do is begin reading and speaking the Word of God. It will bring you peace as you find all the promises of God and it will give you strength to walk through any season. The third thing you must do is maintain a pure heart, so that you don’t allow fear, bitterness, or resentment to set in.

The very things we allow into our lives shape our heart and our way of thinking. Then as we all go through difficult seasons what we have allowed into our lives will determine our response. Do you get down on your knees and pray to God, or do you turn angrily away from Him when times get tough? It would be nice if every season we walked through was a season of harvest, but if we didn’t walk through the harder seasons of plowing, planting, and watering, we wouldn’t be prepared for the harvest.

Over the last three weeks, the soil of my life has been tilled to the point of feeling scattered and broken, but it has been in this season that I have been able to draw even closer to the Lord. Learning to survive where you are is hard enough, but if you can learn to thrive in any situation, you will never lose ground and you will move one day closer towards your victory and breakthrough.

Learning how to thrive in any season begins with learning how to be thankful in every season. Knowing my daughter may have cancer made this extremely difficult, but as I watched all the other children with amputations and terminal cancer, I began to thank God and it was in doing so that I found peace in whatever the Lord’s will was. An attitude of peace in the midst of a storm allows you to see the rainbow on the other side. Peace ultimately allows you to be at one with God regardless of what you are walking through.
rainbow through storm

Peace leads to joy even in the midst of uncertainty and suffering and the joy of the Lord is our strength. Real joy is formed in the midst of some of the most difficult seasons of life. The sad reality is most will never grasp this principle thus paralyzing them to move forward or to see the good in a negative circumstance. God causes all things to work together for our good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose so if we believe the Word of God to be true then He promises to use our pain, our fear, and every tear we shed to bring forth countless blessings. Those who don’t believe the word of God to be true are only living a facade and their joy is nothing more than artificial harmony.
every season
Knowing and believing you are who God says you are is paramount because the second you start listening to negative reports or what others say about you or your circumstances, you allow them to determine and dictate your actions and reactions. People are finite with limited understanding and power while God is omnipotent and limitless. Despite what is going on in your life, you must trust that God has you in the palm of His hand and that He has a plan and purpose for your life. Each of us has a calling, gifts, and talents and it’s often in seasons of extreme adversity where these skills are perfected either in us or through us.

Our adversity often leads to pain and while our pain is not optional, being miserable is. Trying times are not the time to stop trying; they are the time to pull your shoelaces tight and hold on to God. Yesterday we received the latest test results back and they showed no tumor and even the labs were now within normal ranges. The doctor who has been doing this for over 30 years said he had never seen two tests so drastically different, so we are believing God has provided a miracle. Miracles are a great and wonderful thing, but you rarely want to be in a place where a miracle is the only thing left to save you, but we are believing and praising God for this one. Please continue to keep my family in your prayers as we continue the protocol and remember to praise God no matter what you are going through.


Through a Child’s Eyes

There is something so marvelous about seeing the world through a child’s eyes.  As I went in to wake Syd up this morning, she had the biggest smile on her face and I as looked into her beautiful blue eyes, every thought escaped my mind and all I could do was smile back at her.  After I picked her up, I began to realize that she was not only happy to see me, but that she solely trusted me and cast all of her cares upon me and I began to wonder how better our lives would be if we did the same with our heavenly Father.

Due to the nature of our history with the NICU, I feel a tremendous bond with my little angel and I realize that she is more than I could ever have hoped for.  God knew exactly what my heart longed for and he blessed me with a miracle that gives me such joy.  During this painful chapter of our life, God showed up in a big way; He provided in ways not possible for me to and He interceded for me in a time where my own strength was not enough.  Being a fixer, this was a very hard time, but in it I learned to trust God despite of all my inadequacies.

Every time the doctors would tell us something else was wrong, every time they told us we would have to stay another week, every time we had to sign another consent form to run more tests, I learned to trust God even more.  The choice was up to me if I wanted to fight alone or if I was going to allow God to reach into my life.  When we choose to give our situation to Him and we trust in Him alone, there is no limit to what He can do in and through us.  Then it is up to us to give God all the praise and all the glory and to share with others the miraculous things that God has done.  It doesn’t matter so much when this happens, but that it happens.  Many of us fail to complete this last step and it is one that is vital to bringing glory to God and accomplishing His will.  Recording what God has done is a great way to look back and see where God has brought us and is a testament of His goodness and faithfulness, but it is also a way to give hope to others walking through similar circumstances.

While we will never know exactly what someone else is walking through, we can encourage them and be an extension of God’s loving arms.  It’s when we give our problems to God and help others do the same that we will emerge from our fiery trials without even smelling like smoke.  Today, I praise God for what He has brought our family through and when I look back in the sand and only see one set of footprints, I know that it was God carrying me through it.  God heard my cries and my little princess is living proof that God answers prayers.  It truly humbles me to know that the love I have for her is a mere fraction of the love her heavenly Father has for her.

Based on a True Story

It is hard to believe that we have been home for three weeks now and looking back at a chapter of our lives called NICU; I am filled with a flood of emotions.  For starters, I have a much deeper respect for parents, I now know first-hand what sleep deprivation is, and I have felt a new kind of love only a parent can understand.  Recently, God has been bombarding me with this thought: when we hear something is based on a true story, it has greater significance and it hits deeper than stories based on fiction.  The correlation I believe He wanted me to understand is that we all have a personal testimony that is based on a true story: His and ours.

Currently, our life feels like some bad dream that won’t end because we just got back for the pediatric ER where we found out Sydney now has viral pneumonia.  Although, we are thankful it was not RSV or something worse, we were still very discouraged.  As we were sitting in the room waiting for the test results, I was already playing out bad-news scenarios when I finally caught myself and remembered that the same God who was with us during our time in the NICU was with us now and all the fear and anxiety I was being burdened with were wasted emotions.  God was already at work and even though this chapter of our life seems to be turning into a book; it is one based on a true story of God’s goodness and mercy.  He has supplied for all of our needs and I know even in this latest development, He is at work.  No matter what we are walking through, He is waiting to lead us out and even in our darkest hour and deepest heartache, He can make a way where there seems to be no way.  God knows the heart of a parent; His heart breaks when ours do and I have to believe that He would not allow any of this to happen without a divine purpose.  Even though I cannot always see Him at work, I know He is accomplishing more than I can fathom.  All I can do is trust in Him and tell my true story…

Answered Prayers

Today is my birthday and it is hard to imagine wanting anything now that my daughter is home from her month long stay in the NICU.  During our time there, I saw God do some amazing things and I know that He has a plan and a purpose for everything we had to endure.  Through the pain and suffering we lived with every day, seeds were being planted in our family’s life and in the lives of those around us.  God made His goodness and mercy known to us each new day.

Now that we are home, all I can think about are all the prayers that have been answered.  A new day has dawned and it is one filled with life and new beginnings.  This chapter has been one of the hardest we have had to endure, but it is one in which we grew closer to each other and closer to God.  When I was weak, I would pray for strength and God would carry me when I could walk no more.  When I was scared, I would pray for courage and God’s power would rise up in me.  The more I hurt, the more I would seek the Lord.  When I didn’t know what to do, I would pray and even when I did know what to do, I would pray.

When we begin to look past our own circumstances and trust in God, we get a glimpse of the bigger picture and of the Master’s plan.  As we set out on this journey, we had no idea what God was going to accomplish in and through us; all we did know was that His way was the only way.  Over the last month, there were many scriptures that ministered to me, but one of the most comforting verses was Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”  There were so many times that my heart broke for my little girl, but I knew that I had to be strong for her and for those around me.  Without Jesus to carry my burden, I would have been lost and crushed by the pain I felt.  Looking back, I know that God was the only way we were able to stay strong.  Now that we are home and somehow even more sleep deprived, I still look to God because no matter our circumstance, He promises to refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.  To Him be the glory now and forever!

Dealing With Change

This entire journey with our daughter being in the NICU has taught me a lot, but one of the biggest take-aways has been adapting to change.  We are currently scheduled to be discharged tomorrow, if she has another good night and being in this same spot two times before has me so excited I can barely contain myself!  Even though change in inevitable, it is one of the hardest things for most people to cope with.  Growing up in a military family, moving all the time and traveling all over the world regularly introduced me to change at an early age, so as a result, change is something that I have become accustomed to, but something that is still hard to deal with.

When we can learn to trust God, even in change, He can use us in a mighty way to reach those who are paralyzed by it.  Mark Twain once said that, “The only people who like change are wet babies” and even they don’t like it all the time, especially if the wipes are cold!  In times of change, God is doing a new thing and when we are open to it, we will thrive because when there seems to be no way, He will make a way.  Isaiah 43:19 says, “He will make a way in the dessert and streams in the wasteland.”

Even though every day is different, these past 26 days have begun to run together and there has been a constant battle with emotions, heartache and pain.  Dealing with fear and anxiety daily while having our world turned upside down has truly shown me that my God is the same yesterday, today and forever.  Some days we were praising God, while others we were crying out to Him to spare our daughters life, but we never lost faith that she was in His loving hands.  God’s greatest opportunity to shine is when there seems to be no way; the problem is we often wait until there is no way before we will turn to God.

Even in change, especially when it is painful, we must look for God’s goodness because He will take our weakness and pain and use them to strengthen us.  Psalm 28:7 says, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him.”  Not being in control has been hard for me, partly because of the unknown, but mostly because I like to be in the driver’s seat.  The problem with God being in the driver’s seat doesn’t happen until there is a bump in the road or a sharp turn where we must trust in Him alone.  I have learned along the way that roads traveled where God seems to be in the way or where He is nowhere to be found are not the roads I want to be on.  It ultimately comes down to trust and whether we are going to rely on God at all times.  We must surrender to His will and allow Him to be in control of everything we do because when Jesus takes the wheel we won’t be disappointed!

A Father’s Love

I just got back from feeding Sydney and I saw the most beautiful thing.  When I looked down at her, she opened her eyes and looked right at me.  At that moment, our eyes met and I could see my reflection in hers.  It warmed my heart as I truly saw myself in her and it made me think of God and how He feels as He looks at us and sees Himself in us.

A father’s love is something I can now fully understand and it is sad to me that there is a generation among us known as the “fatherless” generation.  How is a child supposed to believe their heavenly Father loves them if their earthly father abandoned them, or worse abused them? Here at the Ronald McDonald House, we hear heartbreaking stories every day.  Currently, there is a family here who are fostering a child whose parent broke almost every bone in his body.  The growth plates in his legs are broken so he will never be tall.  To give him just a little extra height, they will have to break his legs over and over again to put spacers between his bones.  This makes me so sad to think that someone could do that to a defenseless child and I know that it makes God even sadder to see one of His children abused.

Even though the love I feel for my daughter runs deep, it pales in comparison to the love God has for her.  I can only show her a glimpse of the love the Lord has for her because His love is everlasting and never fails.  God is the perfect Father and every good gift we ever receive comes from His hand.  His plan for our future is filled with hope, no matter what has happened in our past.  I pray that this young child will know love from an earthly father, but more importantly from his heavenly Father.  As a shepherd carries his lamb, so God carries us close to His heart because we are His treasured possession.  One day He will wipe every tear from our eyes and He will take away all the pain we have suffered here on earth and nothing will be able to separate us from His love.  Each day that passes, I tell myself we are one day closer to going home and beyond that, I put my trust in the Father’s love.

Trust in Jesus

Waiting on God has taught me patience and to be ready at any moment for Him to act. Every day I am here with my daughter in the NICU, I see God working in and through me, as I watch Him restoring people’s faith and comforting those who have never known what true love is.

On my morning visit to see Sydney, I found out that she did not have a good night and that she stopped breathing twice. The bad news never gets easier to hear, but I know that she is in the palm of God’s hand and that He will not allow anything to happen to her unless it is according to His will and He will not allow us to endure more than we can bear.

I trust in Jesus because He is my great deliver and I know that He is walking right beside me during this storm. I trust in my strong defender because I know when I can walk no further, He will carry me and be my blessed redeemer. On my own, I would be hopeless and lost, but by the grace of God, I have peace that God is in complete control. There is no other way I could walk through this without complete faith in God’s sovereignty. Daily, my faith is being tested and ultimately strengthened and in our times of need, the best thing we can do is draw near to God; He in turn will draw closer to us.

Our faith is our trust in God, especially when things don’t happen according to our plan. He alone is the great physician and He is the Lord who heals. I am choosing to walk by faith and not by sight, even though I do not understand why this is happening. We want to take our baby home so bad and seeing other people taking their newborns home is becoming increasingly hard to watch, but I know God is accomplishing more than we can imagine. Our tests and challenges refine us and reveal what is in our heart; if it’s God, we will find peace, but if it’s anything else, we are missing the greatest comforter who exists. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, so I encourage you to taste and see how good the Lord is. His way is perfect and His word is proven. He is a shield to all who trust in Him and when we pour our heart out to Him, He will be a refuge for us.

Finish Well

I want to finish well and finish strong and I know firsthand the last part of running a marathon is the hardest and as we near the end of this race, we are doing our best to stay motivated and positive.  This was especially hard because I just received word that Sydney did not have a good night and that she stopped breathing and required stimulation to start breathing again.  The news was very disappointing because we were scheduled to be discharged tomorrow and even though we know that she is exactly where she needs to be and is getting the care she needs, it did not make the news any easier to bear.  Hearing that her 7 day A & B watch countdown was going to begin again was like crossing the finish line only to find out I had to run back to the beginning now.

Being strong and courageous in the presence peril is impossible on our own, but through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to overcome any adversity.  Through Christ, we have the strength and perseverance to finish any race strong, but so many times we start our races strong, but along the way we hit the proverbial “wall.”  Hitting this wall often leads to pain or discouragement, but these don’t mean what we are walking through is no longer God’s will because sometimes the race God calls us to run is filled with them.

The longer I am here, the more I pick up on subtle things that I had not previously noticed.  Obviously, one of the first things we could tell was the sex of people’s babies based on if the parent’s bracelet was pink or blue.  Also, if they had multiple ID bracelets, it meant they had twins or triplets.  One thing I noticed today was what a brand new bracelet looked like and as I looked down at mine, I could no longer read Sydney’s or mom’s name.  What used to be vibrant pink is now faded and all you can read now is her birthdate: 1/19/12.  One of the saddest things I have seen during my time here was a mother who had two bracelets one day and then the next day I saw her, she only had one.  I later found out that one of her babies had passed away during the night.  No matter how worn my bracelet gets or how beat down I feel, I never want to have to take my bracelet off.

This continues to be one of the hardest races I have ever had to run, but I know that the work God has begun, He will finish.  I know He is at work right now and I know I am fighting the good fight.  I want nothing more than to keep the faith and to finish this race well.  Victory will be mine, once I do and it will all be because of the supernatural power of Jesus Christ.  My pain will not be in vain because I know my faith and witness here are accomplishing things I cannot even fathom.  However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if I only finish the race and don’t testify to the greatness of God’s grace and mercy along the way; they are new every morning and they are giving me exactly what I need to finish well.

Our Refuge

If God is love and love never fails, we can be assured that with God all things are possible.  There is nothing that is too difficult for Him and things that are impossible for us are effortless for God.  On my morning visit to see Sydney in the NICU, I saw something so precious, but at the same time a bit frightening.  As I was walking down the corridor, a newborn was being brought to the nursery where the “normal babies” go when they are born.  All of a sudden, ahead of me a grandmother was making her way to lay her eyes on that baby.  If I were to come between her and that baby, it would have gotten real ugly, real quick and would have been like coming between a mother bear and her cubs.

The same is true with God and His children!  No matter how big our opposition is or what we are facing, our protection comes from the Lord and no weapon formed against us shall prosper.  God is our ever-present help in time of need and His heart breaks when He sees ours break.  I love reading Psalm 91 when I am feeling alone, afraid, or vulnerable.  In this chapter, we read that we can abide in the shelter of the Lord and that He will be our refuge and His faithfulness will be our shield.  In the midst of our peril, when we call out to the Lord, He will reach out and put His arms around us to give us comfort.

One parallel that gives me great peace is realizing that God is my rock and that same rock runs from our lowest valleys to our highest mountain top experiences.  He is the same God yesterday, today and forevermore and He is with us no matter what we are walking through.  When David would go into the mountains for his safety, He would find his true protector.  God promises us His supernatural protection and even though He allows the trials and tragedies in our life, He gives us the spiritual strength to not only endure them, but to overcome them.  When we trust God, He will never let us down and when opposition seems to attack us from all sides, He will cause each of them to flee in seven different directions.  When you mess with God, you are going to get more than just the horn!

Godly Perspective

How we chose to see things will dictate how we react to them.  Dealing with our daughter being in the NICU has been hard, but at lunch today this sweet girl saw my pink bracelet and asked if we had a little girl.  I said yes and she asked if she was born today and I said no and told her that she was born on January 19th and that she was in the NICU.  She quickly said she was sorry, but I quickly told her not to be because the way I saw it was that I got to hold and kiss my daughter 41 days before I should have been able to and that God knew the exact time she was going to enter this world.

What we must realize is that nothing ever happens unless God chooses to allow it to happen.  We can never fully understand why He allows them to happen, but we can try to always look for the silver lining.  Tragedies happen every day and when we become fixated on our trials, we can’t see past them and we potentially miss out on something great God is trying to do in or through us.  I truly believe it is a little bit of both during our current chapter of life, but as I look back and see God’s faithfulness and provisions He has provided, I am assured of His sovereignty.

If given the choice of allowing good or bad things to happen in our lives, most of us would choose to allow only the good.  There is nothing wrong with only wanting the good, but in our times of trials, we truly get the chance to see God in action and our faith has the chance to grow exponentially.  When we trust that God has a plan, even in our pain, we grow closer to the Lord and a transformation occurs in us.

In the midst of our circumstances, it is sometimes hard to see the big picture.  As I was leaving the hospital today, I ran into a friend of mine whose young son has been in and out of the hospital since birth and has already lived beyond when the doctors said he would.  That in itself is profound, but what he said to me was even more.  His father asked him who was taking care of him and his response was Jesus and that he was going to see Him soon.  This was such an encouragement to me and a reminder that God can and will use everything we walk through to better His kingdom and accomplish His will.  I want to encourage you that whatever you are walking through to always look for the good, especially when it only seems to be bad.  Even though this young child knew his time here was limited, he made sure that I knew that Jesus was his heavenly Father and that he would see Him soon.  This was exactly what I needed to hear, so I would realize that even in our pain, God can and will use everything we endure to better His kingdom.