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.

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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.

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!