This morning on the way to the hospital, Linda took my hand and said, "Let's praise Daddy." So we started to pray. We thanked him for his faithfulness, we thanked him for the peace that he's been giving to us. We gave him praise for being our rock and our shelter. We thanked him for the work that he has been continuously performing on Alicia and on the two of us. Then this song popped into my head and Linda and I started singing it together.
I've probably sung this song at least a hundred times, but in the light of Alicia's birth the words became more real and alive to me than ever before.
Jesus, You’re my firm foundation
I know I can stand secure
Jesus, You’re my firm foundation
I put my hope in Your Holy word
I put my hope in Your Holy word
I have a living hope
I have a future
God has a plan for me
Of this I’m sure
Of this I’m sure
Your word is faithful
Mighty with power
God will deliver me
Of this I’m sure
Of this I’m sure
Over the past 2 weeks, Jesus has indeed been our firm foundation. Linda and I have really felt like we've been standing on solid ground. While, yes, we were well aware of the storm raging about us, we felt safe, we felt confident, we felt secure. We knew that God had a plan.
Now here's the thing. Having a solid foundation underneath you doesn't mean that you don't ever feel any negative emotions. There were definitely moments over the past two weeks when Linda and I felt sad, anxious, or scared even. But each time we began to get unsteady, we were able to readjust ourselves and stand sturdy again. I think in circumstances like this, it's easy to spin out of control. You get worried, you get anxious, sad and you go on a downward spiral. But with Christ as our foundation, Linda and I had hope, we trusted in his plans for us, and therefore we were able to bounce back. And overall, I would say that the general emotion over the past week was one of peace and confidence.
Yesterday, I wrote about how it felt odd when people congratulated us after Alicia's birth. I need to clarify that I don't think it was wrong or inappropriate to congratulate us. In fact, I should say, "thank you!" Thanks for your words of blessing and acknowledging the joy of the event. We have a new addition to our family, definitely something to be congratulated over. What I was writing about yesterday was the mixed emotions that I felt at the time of her birth. The feeling that I should celebrate, but at the time it felt odd to be celebrating. This morning, on our way to the hospital, however, I felt like rejoicing. I mean, Alicia is still in the hospital, and she's still tiny. But I felt like rejoicing because I am confident in my Heavenly Father's provision and his power to heal. And Linda and I have faith and confidence that sooner rather than later Alicia is going to be home with us, healthy and strong.
As we were driving, I was commenting to Linda how great, yet odd it felt to be walking in such faith. Linda and I have been kind of reclusive the past couple of weeks, so we haven't seen many people, but if you were able to observe us, you'd see that we haven't been moping about or ridden with anxiety. In fact, we go about our day with a lot of joy and we really don't have too many moments of stress. In fact, it's to the point where I get in trouble for making Linda laugh too much, because right now it hurts when she does. This isn't to say, look at us, we're so great! I'm saying this to give testament to how amazing our Heavenly Father is. And as we trust in him, and stand firm upon his promises, how we can have joy in the midst of storms, and peace in the midst of chaos.
This is something that I've preached about, taught about, and spoken about to many, many people over the years. And we've experienced it in little dosages before, but never in such a way as these past two weeks.
God's really putting us through a time when we need to, to borrow some cliches, "walk the walk and not just talk the talk," "put our money where our mouths are," and to "put up or shut up."
We talk a lot about trusting God through all circumstances, and now it was time to see if we could really live up to our own teachings.
And by God's grace, we've been doing it. It's hard to explain the feeling, but it's really as if we have been living in a time when Alicia is out of the hospital and out of danger's way, as if our reality were that we had a perfectly healthy child who didn't need to be hooked up to machines and tubes in order to survive. I feel like we're really living out Hebrews 11:1 in the Bible where it says, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." What is our hope? Our hope is that our daughter will come out of the hospital healthy and strong. That she will live a life better than that of a child born under normal circumstances. And in our hearts, we are sure that it's going to happen, and certain that this will come about even though at this point we don't see it.
Earlier this afternoon, I was watching the movie "Back to the Future" on TV. And I think that movie is a great way to explain what we're experiencing. It's as if someone from the future has come back to the present and told us that our daughter is going to be OK. And we really just believe it to be true, even though we haven't quite seen the complete fulfillment of that promise yet.
Again, I need to emphasize that I'm not writing all of this to say how strong and amazing Linda and I are. In fact, as I write this, I sense that there may be a test in this faith coming soon. But I write and say this because God has been faithful to us. Without his Holy Spirit guiding us and his presence with us, this faith would be impossible. Without a relationship with the Father, this faith would be nonexistent. It's only because of God's immense grace and love over us that we can even have this faith. So if there's any glory due, it's due to our loving Heavenly Father.
As for Alicia, our little girl is doing really well! Praise the Lord! Today is the eve of her two-week birthday. You'll remember that doctors had previously said that the first two weeks are very telling in terms of how a premie will fare. And this morning Alicia's primary care physician came and said that she's doing well. Her blood pressure and other vital signs are all stable. Her breathing is still not ideal, but everyone feels that that's more because she's really young and doesn't know that she needs to breathe yet, and not necessarily any physical problem with her lungs. Also, she's doing well with her milk intake. They upped her intake from .5 ml to 1 ml per feeding and she seems to be digesting the milk well. In fact, she's started to poop on her own! So that's great news.
My dad was able to come for another visit with Alicia and during his time with her, a second doctor came and filled him in on her condition, and again confirmed that she's doing well. In fact, she said that if Alicia keeps progressing the way she has been, she'll grow pretty quickly. Yay!
Also, the mystery of Alicia's constantly-morphing appearance has been solved. She hasn't been growing or maturing, she's been losing water, which means her swelling is going down. Over the past two weeks she's been losing a lot weight consistently and while at first Linda and I were concerned, the doctors explained that this is a good thing. It means that she's getting rid of the excess water in her body. So her body is less swollen now, which explains why she was looking so different.
Alicia had her blindfold off again today, and was awake for some of her visit, so we got to see her open her eyes and look at us. Guys, I'm in love. My little girl is beautiful. =) Haha. Far cry from what I was saying yesterday, huh? Well, not really. I think what I was trying to say yesterday, is that right now Alicia looks like a baby size-wise, but because she doesn't have any baby fat, her face and body look incredibly mature. Very much like a mini adult and not a baby. But that's OK. Now that she's drinking milk, she'll pack on the fat in no time, I'm sure.
So keep praying friends. Your prayers are making a huge difference. The joys and victories Linda and I are experiencing are as much yours as they are ours.
Specific prayer requests, pretty much the same as yesterday.
1. Now that she's taking milk, pray that that would continue and that her body would receive and thrive on it. And that they won't need to stop it for any reason.
2. Pray for her senses. Pray that God would protect her hearing, her sight, her sense of touch, taste and smell, that none of this would be damaged or impacted in any negative way by her stay in the NICU. Premies have a hard time dealing with the excess stimulation that our bodies have learned to tune out.
3. Pray for her breathing. She's been breathing steady the past few days, but I think that's more because they haven't really pushed her too hard with the ventilator and have kept it pretty stable. Right now, I think the air that she's breathing is 50% oxygen. Regular room air is about 21% oxygen. Her body needs to get efficient at pulling oxygen from air that's about 25% oxygen before they can take her off the ventilator. So pray that she can start to do that. Also pray that the part of her brain that regulates breathing would develop quickly. That part of the brain hasn't really matured enough to recognize the body's need for air, which is why she sometimes forgets to breathe.
4. Also pray for her lungs. She's got a significant amount of mucus in her lungs, which is normal for a kid her size and age. Most healthy kids and adults get rid of this mucus on their own, but she's still too small to do that, so they need to do it for her. Pray that her body will start to clear the mucus out on its own.
5. Pray that she can rest and sleep. She really needs to develop a good circadian rhythm for her body to know when to produce growth hormones and basically for overall health. So pray that she'll be able to rest enough and also sleep deeply, despite any noises or distractions around her.
6. For the most part, in observing Alicia, we've sensed that she's got a great deal of peace. I remember my dad telling me that he's been at a lot of people's bedsides when they pass from this life to the next, and he can usually tell where the person has gone based on the expression on that person's face after they've left. People who go to heaven tend have a look of peace on their faces and look like their sleeping. And that's really how Alicia looks. She looks like she's at peace. I don't really see her fussing or flailing about all that much. And when she does move it's more the kind of movement that you would see any normal person doing when they're asleep -- the slow stretch or the slight shift in body weight. She doesn't seem scared or anxious, which we're thankful about. Please pray that she would continue to be at peace and that the Holy Spirit would just cover her with his presence. Pray that she would just be enveloped in such protection and not be disturbed or distressed in any way.
Alicia is on the mends, friends! Can't wait for you guys to meet her.
Lots of love.