We experienced one of the most beautiful things last night. We saw Alicia smile for the first time. It was adorable. I tried to get some pictures of it, but I was so excited, I only got a few blurry shots. Our little girl, so precious.
Our little girl seriously has this way of just winning hearts. One of the nurses told us today that when she saw her smiling for the first time, she called some of the nurses over and they were all crowding around Alicia's incubator just watching her. I love it.
Alicia is also filling out more and more, which is really great to see. She's up to 798 grams today, up from 784 grams yesterday and 770 grams the day before. She's averaging about 14 grams a day. If she keeps growing at this rate, in two more weeks she'll break the 1000 gram mark. (1000 grams = 1 kilo = 2.2 lbs) Her chest has smoothed out a lot and is no longer concave and her limbs continue to get thicker. She continues to move around a lot and can even lift her head a bit now. We're really delighted at her progress.
Her breathing is getting stronger. She's still on the ventilator, but the settings today were pretty low. We pray and ask the Lord to get the ventilator settings lower and lower and to quickly get her weaned off it as soon as possible. She still has some trouble breathing when she eats but she's getting better at keeping her oxygen levels up with less and less help from the ventilator. Our little girl is growing up. =)
Definitely, I'm learning as I said in my last post, it's all relative. Alicia fluctuates up and down and what I'm finding is that as long as her fluctuations remain within a certain range, the doctors aren't too concerned.
Today, during our morning visit, the nurses greeted all the parents informing us that some of the incubators have been moved so to check the posted list. Alicia wasn't on the list. And I thought, of course, she wouldn't be. She's still small. There's no reason to move her. =) But now Alicia has a bunch of new neighbors. Several new kiddies were born in the past few days and have moved into the NICU, making our little section of the ICU packed with activity. All of these kiddos came out at a later gestational age, so they are much bigger than Alicia, and will probably move out of the NICU sooner. And even though it seems like we're being left behind, it's OK. We trust in God's timing. The important thing is that our little girl is getting healthier and stronger each day and we're thankful for that.
I'll be honest, though, it's hard not to compare. Seeing other kids coming in and out, here one day and then gone the next, I have to wonder when it will be our turn. It seems like kids are transitioning in and out every week, yet we are still in the same spot. As I was thinking about it just now, I was like, why does this situation seem so familiar? People coming and going, but us still in the same place, doing the "same thing." And then I realized that our time in Taiwan has been very much like this. Taiwan is a very transitional place, especially for foreign friends like ours. People come and go, friends are in and out of our lives. We're constantly meeting new friends and saying see you later to old ones. And for years we've asked God when it's time for us to go. When do we get to go "home"? And his answer has always been, "Not yet." Meanwhile, we've got friends who were here before us, leaving and moving back. We've got friends who came after us, packing up and leaving. And there's a constant flow of new people moving in. Everyone else seems to be moving on, but us.
But then I look at reality and I realize, we're not in the same place. Perhaps physically we're in the same spot - in Taiwan, in incubator number 13. Outwardly things may appear to be the same, but nothing is the same. We are making progress, slowly and steadily. Great news with Alicia is that she will come home, we will eventually move out of incubator number 13. As for going home to the U.S., I don't know if that will ever happen. But that's OK, we've kind of made a new home here in Taiwan. And again, things are completely different than when we first arrived. Alicia too is very different and her condition is leaps and bounds ahead of when she first arrived in this world. So we thank God that even though it seems like we're "stuck" that he's still working. And that even though it seems like nothing has changed, the truth is everything is always changing all around us.
So I want to encourage those of you out there reading this who feel like, "Where is my miracle?" When do I get to move on?" Maybe all of your friends are getting married, having kids, getting on with their lives, but you're still single with no prospects. Maybe all of your peers are finding their callings and gaining success in their careers, but you're still lost and trying to figure yourself out. Maybe you're still living at home, wondering when it will be your time to get out into the world on your own. God has his timing. And just because it doesn't look like anything is changing, that doesn't mean that God isn't working. And that doesn't mean that things aren't moving forward.
Our job? We stay faithful. We continue to do the things that God calls us to do, and press on day by day. We continue to pray. We continue to trust. But we stay faithful. For Linda and I, it's faithfully going to the hospital every day, twice a day. It's praying for our little girl. For Linda, faithfully expressing the milk for Alicia to drink. For me, to faithfully write this blog and to keep connected with everyone. For you, it may be to be faithful in a job that you hate, doing the best that you can and offering your all for God. Or it may be about maintaining your relationships, and learning to enjoy the phase of life that God has placed you in right now.
You may ask, "What if my day never comes?" "What if I never get that promotion?" "What if I never find my true calling?" "What if I never find my Prince Charming/Cinderella?"
Let me ask you a question? Are you being faithful with what you have been given? Are you listening to God and walking with him day by day, every moment? Are you commiting yourself to remain righteous and pure? If yes, then let me remind you of a few of God's promises to us.
"You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things." Matthew 25:23
"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" Jeremiah 29:11
"The righteous keep moving forward, and those with clean hands get stronger and stronger." Job 17:9
"Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your hearts desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you." Psalm 37:3-5
"Day by day the Lord takes care of the innocent, and they will receive an inheritance that lasts forever. They will not be disgraced in hard times; even in famine they will have more than enough." Psalm 37: 18-19
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6
"Seek first the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need." Matthew 6:33
And many, many, many more.
I can't promise you that if you follow God that you will find the man/woman of your dreams, or that you will be wealthy beyond your wildest dreams. But I can promise you that God is a God of his word. He does what he says.
Numbers 23:19 "God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Does he promise and not fulfill?"
Take care of your business and God will take care of you. Do what he's called you to do. Be faithful with what he's given to you, and he will take care of the rest. As I like to say, "Do your best and give God the rest."
But, what if I've messed up and haven't done what I should have done? "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." Come back to him. No sin is too big, or too bad to be forgiven. No one is too messed up to be loved and purified.
It's up to you. Are you going to keep living the way that you want to and do whatever you want to? Or are you willing to give up control to the all-mighty, all-knowing, all-powerful God? There is a caveat though. God is not in the business of doing things "our way." As the Bible says, "[God's] ways are higher than [our] ways, and [his] thoughts are higher than [our] thoughts." He is capable of doing far more than we could ever ask for or imagine. But will we trust him enough to let go and go for the ride?
I'll tell you, life with God is never what you expect it to be, but you won't be disappointed.
1. Continue to pray for Alicia's breathing. She's making improvements each and every day. She still struggles when she eats. But even in her struggling she's needing less and less help. Thank the Lord for the healing he has done and continues to do in her lungs. Thank God for the report that is to come that her lungs are completely healed from any damage. Pray that God would put protect Alicia's lungs so that it will remain healthy and whole.
2. Pray for her overall development. Again all of the "struggles" Alicia has right now are categorized as issues of prematurity. They should be and will be resolved once she's older and more developed.
3. No news yet of her brain and the damage. We are trusting that it is healed and God has performed a miracle. Pray that the wiring of her nervous system would take place well and that Alicia's motor skills and cognitive functions would be healthy and strong.
4. We praise God that her eyes are healthy. She's got mild ROP, but that will take care of itself once she's a bit older.
5. A team of physical therapists will come and look at Alicia next week. They will recommend some exercises for us to do with Alicia to help her muscles to develop healthy and strong.
6. Pray for our relationships with the doctors, nurses and other NICU folks. Pray that we can be salt and light in that place. Pray that the doctors and nurses would have wisdom and take great care in handling Alicia. Pray that all of their efforts would bless Alicia and help her get healthier each day.
7. Pray for our families and that we can continue to have God's peace reign in and amongst us.
8. Pray that God would give us wisdom to know how to train Alicia up in the way that she should go. Our sense is that God has a powerful and important destiny for Alicia here on Earth. Pray that we would have the wisdom to direct her on that journey to its discovery and fulfillment.
9. Pray for Linda and I to continue to grow in our love for one another. The husband/wife relationship is truly the foundation for a solid family and confident children. Linda and I have really been enjoying our time together and we are so thankful for one another. God couldn't have given me a better partner and best friend. I am a blessed man.
10. Pray that our family can be united and be at home starting our new life together as soon as God sees fit. Pray that Alicia would grow physically and become independant of any need for medical assistance to survive. Pray that as she grows and develops that she would thrive! Pray that she would be full of intelligence, full of wisdom. Pray that her senses would be very keen. Pray that she would have strong lungs and a strong heart. Pray that she would be well-coordinated, well-spoken, and well-equipped. Pray that she would be full of grace, full of beauty, full of character and strength. Pray that she would be expressive, and playful, loving and generous. Pray that she would flourish!
Thanks everyone! Much love and peace.