Praise in Action

While I was getting ready this morning, a disturbing thought ran through my mind: Would I still serve and praise the Lord if He decided to take my little girl home.  Tears rolled down my face as I even pondered this reality, but the question was still valid.  Unconditional and unwavering faith means in all things, I will trust God completely and praise Him no matter what happens.  While I don’t believe this is His plan during this trial, I really had to answer this question in my mind.  In all things, we are to praise the Lord, but the very thought of losing my little princess breaks my heart.

Sydney is almost 2 weeks old and while these have been some of the happiest days of our life, they have also been some of the saddest.  The waves of emotions have taken us to the highest mountain tops and to some of the lowest valleys.  I can only imagine the pain God felt as He watched His Son be sacrificed for our sins.  When I think of sacrificial praise, I believe it means that it must cost us something.  It means even when we are hurting and in despair, we must praise the Lord.  As our praise is lifted up despite our hurt feelings and pain, it becomes faith in action.  When we praise God, even in our times of despair, we release His omnipotent power.  When we can praise Him regardless of what we are walking through, we will see His goodness and know that His love endures forever.  Our praise is a weapon and when we can praise God, even in our trials, we will begin to understand what sacrificial praise is.  It’s easy to praise God when everything is going great, but the true test of faith comes when we can praise Him regardless of our circumstances.  II Corinthians 1:3 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”  I know that is what God is up to and I know that as I praise Him, He will come alongside me to comfort me, so that I can in turn comfort others.

Faith in the Storm

The spirit of faith is in our words and when we have nothing left to hold onto, it is our faith that we cling to… We got some bad news tonight about our little Sydney and some breathing complications she continues to have.  Shortly after her 5pm feeding, our little princess had another breathing episode which required stimulation and now she might have to spend another week in NICU.  We have to wait until the morning for the doctors to look over the numbers and tell us what they will recommend.  Initially a spirit of anxiousness came over me, but the more I looked at how far the Lord has brought us, the more I knew He will not forsake us now.  We are praying for wisdom and discernment and that there be no doubt about the decision the doctors will make.  Even with this disappointing news, I choose to praise God for where He has brought us.  It’s a tough place to be because we want her to come home as soon as possible, but not before she is ready.  If I didn’t have complete faith in God and His plans for my entire family, I know this news would be so much harder to handle.

In spite of this difficult news, I am choosing to offer my sacrifice of praise with thanksgiving.  When we chose to praise instead of complain, we open the door for God to amazing things.  I know beyond a shadow of doubt that God is working for my good and for the good of my family.

If I’ve learned one thing during this chapter of my life, it is that we should always find a reason to give thanks because there is always a reason, regardless of what we are walking through.  Going into the hospital 7 times a day for 2 weeks, I have seen a lot of very sad things, as well as some very disturbing things.  Without God in their life and working in their midst, I have no idea how they are making it.  I’ve also come to realize that someone always has it worse than we do, so at the least, this is something we can be thankful for.  I love the saying: Complain and you’ll remain, but Praise and you’ll be raised.  Complaining gets us nowhere fast, but our faith in God assures we will arrive where and when He wants us to get there.  I am trusting God with whatever the doctors are going to say in the morning and I am believing in Him for the complete restoration of Sydney’s lungs.  I am praying that Sydney will be filled with His Spirit at an early age and that she will know as soon as she can that the Lord is the reason she is alive.  It’s pretty cool when you think about it, getting to know and meet the person who saved your life.  Keep us in your prayers and hopefully very soon, we will have some great news to report!

Tribute to Ronald McDonald House

Life can be hard, Jesus told us it would be, but this chapter of my life is one of the hardest I have ever had to walk through.  For those of you who do not know me, my name is Jeff Davis and I am currently staying at the Ronald McDonald House here in Pensacola, FL.  On January 19th 2012 my wife was brought to Sacred Heart by ambulance with severe preeclampsia and they deemed it medically necessary to do an emergency C-section at 12:25 in the morning.  At the time, there was a flood of emotions I was feeling: I was now going to be a daddy for real, I was very concerned for my wife who is a cancer survivor as well as a type 1 diabetic, and I was scared that my 34 week old baby would have complications with her premature delivery.

Sydney Paige Davis made her grand arrival at 12:25 in the morning and the delivery went very well and I even got to cut the cord: I used scissors and not my teeth for those of you who were wondering!  Soon after, it became evident that Sydney was in distress and they were unable to register a blood sugar which meant she was below 20.  Then she began to have breathing complications and they were unsure of the cause.  A new chapter of our life was about to begin and what we thought was going to be parenthood had a preface called NICU.

I have nothing but good things to say about the entire staff at Sacred Heart; they are all wonderful, but no parent should ever have to see their children subjected to the painful tests and procedures I consented to in order to find out why she was in distress.  My wife and I were an emotional hot mess and when they asked to do a spinal tap to rule out meningitis it only made matters worse.  While all this was going on, we were also being discharged from the hospital with no idea where we were going to go.  Leaving was very hard, especially when we were watching other parents leaving with their newborns.  Not living in the local area presented a serious problem for us.  Niceville is over an hour away and financially there was no way we could afford a hotel room and the last thing I wanted to do was leave my little princess in the NICU by herself.  Then, I truly believe God heard our prayers because our nurse, knowing we were not local, asked if we had contacted the Ronald McDonald House.  I had heard of the Ronald McDonald House previously, but beyond that, I did not know the extent of their tremendous outreach.   I called and spoke with Jordan, who immediately put my mind at ease and arranged a check-in as soon as we were ready.  I was amazed by her professionalism and the friendliness of the entire staff, as well as the beauty of the entire facility; it was like something out of home makeover!

During our last house meeting, the staff asked if anyone would be willing to speak about their experience and I knew immediately that I had to share how much the Ronald McDonald House has meant to me and my family.  Without this wonderful provision, I honestly have no idea what we would have done.  As the main bread winner and the spiritual head of my house, not being able to provide for my wife and newborn was a very powerless and horrible feeling coupled with tremendous guilt.  I so wished I could do more and not being able to was very hard for me to deal with.  The facility is truly amazing and is so much more than a roof over our head; it feels like a home away from home.  We have made some wonderful friends who are going through similar challenges and it is very nice to know we are not alone.  The way the house is set up makes it so easy to interact with other families and share in each other’s stories.  It is such an encouragement to know that people care so much about us and are willing to volunteer and do whatever they can to help.

Being so close to the hospital allows mom to pump and go back to sleep or rest.  Then I am able to go over and do all the feedings and care for our daughter and just spend time with her.  Several nights, when it was really life or death, I just had to put my eyes on my daughter and I was able to do that due to the proximity and it was a tremendous relief to see she was okay.  A phone call would not have sufficed; I had to see her for myself.

The vision of the Ronald McDonald House Charities is profound.  You have directly impacted my life and the life of my family.  On average, NICU children with direct contact with their families go home 7-10 days sooner than children without that contact.  Because of the Ronald McDonald House, my daughter has had that chance and will hopefully be able to go home sometime this week.  I will never forget what you have done for me and my family and I will take this awesome experience home to my community so that they know the incredible impact you are making.  Passing on the love and care I have received here will be my personal mission.  For love to flow in a community it has to originate from somewhere and that place is here!  I hope you know how much what you do here means to me and my family.  The role you played in making this dream a reality has made the traumatic experience with our baby in the NICU a much less painful experience.  Without the Ronald McDonald House and your faithful giving, volunteers, and sacrifices, this sad story would not have had a happy ending.  I thank you from the bottom of my family’s heart and I pray that God blesses you and your organization and that you will be able to continue blessing families as much as you have blessed mine.

How to Swim in the Deep End

One of the hardest and scariest things we can learn is how to swim.  When we venture into unchartered waters and end up in the deep-end, where we can’t touch the bottom nor grab the sides or see the shoreline, it can be a very helpless feeling.  In Psalms 107:24 we read, “They saw the works of the Lord, His wonderful deeds in the deep.”  It is in times that we are powerless to act that we oftentimes see the wonders of God, especially when He has called us to represent Himself in the deep-end.  Being in the deep-end, where you can’t see the bottom or shoreline is like not being able to see how something could possibly turn out for good, let alone for greatness and this can be as scary as learning to swim in the deep-end.  It is in these times that we must realize that we are not alone and the Lord’s best by far outweighs our best and if He has called us to be here; His glory and mercy precedes any trial or adversity we might face and His Spirit will provide a way where there was no way and He will never make us endure more than what we can handle.  These are some major promises you should never forget!

When we feel powerless, or like we are drowning, treading water, or unable to swim anymore, we must have the faith and trust to believe that all we need to do is reach out to Jesus, our strong deliverer and defender and take hold of His hand.  Isaiah 41:13: “For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you; Do not fear, for I will help you.”  That is the Lords words, straight from the source, but it is still difficult to have faith in something or someone who you have yet to see act in your personal life.

As a parent with a child in the NICU fighting for her life, I feel powerless to make her better and the guilt from this makes me feel like I am drowning.  A few days ago we had to make some crucial decisions regarding some painful diagnostic tests for our 4 day old child.  At this point we were broken and we both started praying in tears: “I called out to Jesus saying this is your child whom was brought with a price, she is marvelously made, her name is written on you palm, you have knit her together in her mother’s womb and I pray right now you breathe the breath of God into her and that you fill her with your Spirit.  I dedicate her life to you, I plead your precious blood over her life and I promise You that as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  I know that God can do anything beyond my wildest dreams because I have seen Him make a way when there was no way.  I’ve seen Him work in ways I could not see or understand at the time and have totally come to the conclusion that with God, all things are possible.

Since we found out we were having a baby, I have been keeping a journal, tracking all of her development.  Each week, I would pray over whichever organ or body functions were being miraculously formed, so I feel very in tune with our precious daughter.  I know first-hand that there is power in prayer and even right now, I know that He is restoring and healing my little princess who will be an amazing testimony of God’s goodness, grace, and mercy.  A major part of walking anything out is giving praise where it is due and helping other people who are walking similar challenges out.  I promise you will find purpose, happiness, and belonging if you will do these things.  Take a step of faith today and believe God for a miracle and stand in the gap with someone who is going through something you can relate to.  Just remember, we are not the answer, but we serve the one who is.  To Him be the Glory Now & Forever!

Rough Seas Vs. Eternal Glory

II Corinthians 4:17, tells us: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”  Praise God our trials are only temporary and when we stand strong in our faith during these times of adversity, we are achieving eternal glory.  When we look to and trust Jesus, we pass the test and blessings will flow.  You see, our faith sets the course of our life and our attitude determines how much the boat is going to rock when the seas get rough.  With Jesus on our side, all He has to say is, “Ocean, be still” and it will become smooth as glass and not a care in the world will bother us.

It is hard to imagine that Sydney is 6 days old, especially when you factor in that God created the heavens and the earth in 6 days.  In the scope of things and the fact that a day to the Lord is like 1000 and 1000 days are like one!  Knowing this, what we are walking through with Sydney is such a minute blip on the radar and in the scope of God’s master plan, it is a small part, but one in which He is accomplishing much in my life, Sydney’s and all the lives of the people who we are coming in contact with.  I’ve found when I can relate to people who also have their children in the NICU, they feel less alone and want to know why I don’t.  I explain that I can simply cast all my cares and concerns to Jesus.  I tell them that children are a gift from God and that He forms and knits them together in their mother’s womb.  In fact, I tell them, the kingdom of heaven belongs to the children and that God has set them apart.

I let them know that even in the face of fear, adversity, and disaster myself included, we must never give up.  Even when on the outside it may look and feel like things are falling apart, on the inside God is making all things new by pouring His Spirit and blessings out.  God makes new life by pouring out His mercy and grace that transcends all understanding.  The hard times we walk through pale in comparison to the good times we have coming, since as followers of Christ and children of God, we will get to share in eternity with our heavenly Father.  Things we are walking through now will be gone tomorrow, but the things we can’t see will last forever, so if you want to dwell on something, dwell on the thought of spending eternity with Christ and trust in Him whose mercy and grace are new every morning!

Trusting God

Psalm 23:4 says, “Though I walk through the valley of shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me.”  What we are currently walking through with Sydney fighting for her life in the NICU, I would classify as the valley of the shadow of death.  What I find encouraging about this scripture is that is says: Though I walk…  In spite of our recent, unexpected, and traumatic events, it would be so easy to get discouraged but God’s word says, “Do not be afraid” because one of His greatest and most frequent promises is, “I am with you.”

In our church, we have a philosophy that no one fights alone; this coupled with the promise that my God is walking this out right beside me is so comforting during this scary and highly stressful time.  I know that what we are walking through is only temporary and that the Lord is at work as the Great Physician and that He is working in countless other ways I cannot even begin to fathom.  What I can do is have faith that His ways are so much higher than my own and that He has mine and Sydney’s best interest at heart.

Fear has a way of paralyzing us so that we won’t act or when we do, we choose to act poorly, but God has set us up for victory when we trust in Him alone.  Right now, I know that He is giving me the strength I need and He is lining the right people up to help us and Sydney make it through this struggle for her life.

Last night I was having the hardest time sleeping because I kept seeing Sydney hooked up to all the machines and it just made me feel so sad, but then I began to envision all the sweet things I would be able to do with my princess like dancing, tucking her in, teaching her about her heavenly Father and a peace just came over me.  Our God is faithful and every step we take in victory brings us one step closer to the other side.  It is in times like this that we have the opportunity to exhibit our faith in our Savior who is mighty to save.  “Trust God” is easy to say, but actually doing it can be one of the hardest things to actually do.  The amazing thing is that the more we trust and believe in Him, the more He rewards us by pouring His blessings out upon us.  What I find amazing is that the closer I have grown to the Lord, the more I have been able to trust Him in all things.  I’m learning that when things don’t work out the way I would have wanted, there is a greater plan in the future.   In Isaiah 26:3 we read, “God will keep in perfect peace all who trust in Him, all whose thoughts are fixed on Him.”  Not only do we have to trust Him, we have to remember that “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28).

Not Without My Daughter

Watching people come and then go home with their newborns has been very hard and now having to leave the hospital without my daughter has been even harder.  No parent should ever have to leave the hospital without their child.  It is so hard not to have a feeling of distance between us because of the isolation, separation, and visiting hours.  Add to that our fear, anxiousness, nervousness and you have an emotional hot mess.

As parents, we want to be loving and nurturing Sydney, not subjecting her to painful tests.  Having Sydney in NICU was not part of the dream I had envisioned, but I trust that God will even use the pain and torment I am feeling to better His kingdom.  I have already been taking this opportunity to minister to other people who have children in the NICU.  Some families have had their children in there since October and had birth weights of two pounds or less.  There is such a mix of emotions I am feeling because I feel guilty there is nothing else I can do but make decisions that will hopefully help Sydney get better.  Signing the consent to do the spinal tap was the saddest thing I have ever had to do and it was impossible to keep the tears from running down my face.  This entire ordeal has created such a bond between us that is hard to even begin to describe.  She is mine and I am hers and I would do anything for her and not being able to make her get better is such a powerless feeling.

As long as I stay focused on my God who is mighty to save, I keep it together, but when I don’t, my guilt turns into panic, anxiety, fear, denial, apathy, and loneliness.  In these times, I must remind myself that at my weakest and most vulnerable, my Savior is at His strongest.  It has definitely been an emotional roller coaster and I am doing the best I can to keep it together and to stay well informed on what is going on with her condition, while doing everything I can for my wife.  It is an enormous burden to bear, but I know with Christ all things are possible and I trust in Him alone and I know He has an awesome future for this little angel filled with hope and blessings and this is just part of His master plan!

Breath of Life

Sydney is still having a hard time breathing, so we are boldly praying that the Spirit, Breath, and Wind of God enter her body and that it not only sustain her life, but that it completely heals and transforms her.  My little angel is already a miracle and I am believing God to do something amazing in her life that brings glory and honor to His name.  We are claiming two scriptures over her life and I ask that you stand in agreement with me: “The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the almighty gives me life.” (Job 33:4) & “I will put breath in you and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 37:6b)

I am praying that the Spirit of the Lord be poured out on Sydney and that it encompasses, hovers, and rests upon her very being.  The Hebrew word for Spirit is “Ruach” and it literally means “air in motion” and it’s the same word used to represent breath and life.  I marvel that we are created in the image of God and the breath He used to create all things flows through us.  The Holy Spirit and the breath of God are the air we breathe and when we literally breathe in His presence, our breath fills us with His Spirit.

It pains me to know my baby is in distress, but I find solace and comfort in God’s word and His promises.  I know He somehow loves her even more than I do and even in this, He has a purpose.  Psalm 150 says, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord” and my prayer is that Sydney will have that chance to worship and praise her maker and that I will have the chance to show her a glimpse of the love her heavenly Father has for her.  In all things I will praise the Lord, through Whom all blessings flow.

My Prayer

Today will be a day I will never forget as a new chapter of our lives begins as parents.  Sydney Paige Davis came into this world on January 19th, 2012 at 12:25 am and she weighed 6 lbs. 11 oz.  Hearing her cry and seeing her for the first time is something I don’t think it is possible to prepare for.  Emotionally, I didn’t think it was possible to love someone so much, so quick, but that is exactly what I felt for her.  Laying my eyes on her the first time was like opening a present on Christmas morning only to find out it was exactly what you always wanted.  The coolest thing is that every day of her life we will get to open that same present as we see her life unfold and see exactly how God made her.

Our role in raising her will be training her in the nurture and admonition of the Lord while encouraging her God-given unique characteristics to bear fruit.  It is hard to believe that the love I feel for Sydney pales in comparison to the love that our heavenly Father has for us.  Even though Sydney does not know the Lord yet, He knows everything about her because He knit her together in her mother’s womb.  She was fearfully and wonderfully made and the Lord knows the exact number of hairs on her head, which have caused some major heartburn!  God knew her before she was even conceived and He prepared Kristen’s body and He determined the exact time she would enter this world.  His plan for her future is one filled with promises of hope and blessings.  He is the perfect Father and while I am sure to fail, His love never will.  He promises to neither leave nor forsake her because her name is written on the palm of His hand.  His death was the ultimate expression of His love for her and I can only pray that we as parents will bring honor and glory to His name as we raise this precious child of God.