Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Happy Birthday Sara!

Driving to the beach! Whose gonna pull over this cute kid?

One year old!

Man oh man, what a year! How amazing, terrifying, difficult, yet thrilling this last year has been. It's strange the emotions and memories that come flooding back to you from last year.

Last May 25th was Memorial Day, we had just returned from a week on the beach. This May 25th we are on vacation on the same beach, in the same condo. Instead of Jennifer being big and pregnant (I will get punched for inserting the word big), we have this little miracle child who brings such delight and joy into our lives each day. Well, I guess we have three of those, but you know what I mean.

Jennifer recently reminded me of a conversation she had with one of the hospital staff who was present during Sara's first few hours. She was telling Jennifer how everyone present was not hopeful Sara would even make it through the transport across town to the more intensive NICU. I remember that scene. The NICU doctor was going to allow me to come back and take a few pics before they transferred Sara. As I walked back everyone was standing around looking at the nurses and doctors trying to prepare her for transfer and the only word I could use to describe that scene was somber. Sad. Despair.

I put a collage of pics from each month just to remind you all of how far Sara has come. As I selected and loaded each one, I could hardly believe it. In so many ways it doesn't seem real. Yet, it has defined our lives for the last 12 months.

Three times we were told - things don't look good. Last June it was, she could die at any moment. One doctor told us in September, if you baptize your children, you might want to go ahead and get that done. In late January, when she had her second infected shunt, as the room filled with doctors and nurses poking and prodding a screaming baby, I stepped into the hall to text Jennifer who was home with our other two. I could only text, I couldn't emotionally talk about the frustration and aggravation of having to go through another lengthy hospital stay or the fear about how bad off she was again.

Yet, those darkest days have been overwhelmed by the glorious light of God's grace in healing and sustaining Sara. It reminds me of what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:17 "For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" The grace of God in healing Sara makes the dark days seem so light and momentary. Just as the reality of heaven will make our short time in this life seem so quick and light. Even when these days are dark and heavy, that's the hope we have because He has "shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4:6). So, no matter what we face - we can be afflicted in every way, but not crushed, persecuted, but not forsaken, struck down, but not destroyed - because of the life we have received in Christ (2 Cor 4:8-10).

We get reminders from time to time how different this could have turned out. One mom spoke at the March of Dimes walk about her baby who lived for about a month last fall. We have a different level of empathy for someone like that now. Praying that mom would know the strong presence of God who walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death.

I guess I sensed God's strong hand the most during the last year on those three occasions when it was bleakest. As I drove home from the hospital trying to live in the tension of a grieving, hurting father and a responsible, get things done father, I actually began to plan out funeral services for Sara. And as I imagined in my mind the scene I dreaded, God's presence was strong, comforting, and a treasure to my heart.

All that to say this - our faith in God that remained intact was not the product of the situation turning in our favor. God did not acquire our loyalty and love because Sara is healthy, happy and whole one year later. Our faith is the product of who God is. Good. Sovereign. Gracious. Merciful. Loving. Powerful. Wise. None of those qualities about God would have changed if Sara would have died or been severely handicapped.

God acquired our love and loyalty when He left heaven, came to earth, took on flesh, lived a perfect life, willingly died on the cross, and rose from the grave. He lived the life we couldn't, died the death we should've, and conquered our greatest enemies - sin, death, Satan. When that glorious reality took root in our hearts at different times in our past, we came alive spiritually, we went from being the enemy of God to being the child of God, and he turned two rebels into two worshippers.

By God's grace, Sara lived. And now thrives. And that only gives us one more reason and opportunity to sing His magnificent praises. We have tried to do that through this blog over the last year. As well as make prayer needs known. I hope that has come through. Thanks again for walking with us - your encouragements and prayers have been a gift to our family. Thanks for being so generous.

Now, back to vacation. A friend of ours, Ms. Patti, gave Sara her first birthday gift a few weeks ago. It was a sweet card and included money for milkshakes. We'll be taking her up on it on vacation at our favorite milkshake place. It's been a milkshake year for sure!

Praise the Lord, all nations!
Extol him, all peoples!
For great is his steadfast love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.
Praise the Lord!
Psalm 117

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Happy Happy Mother's Day

All continues to go well on our front. Sara is continuing to grow and develop with each passing week. Her recent check up with the neurosurgeon went well and he said when we do an CAT Scan in 3 months we should be very pleased with what we see.

Sara continues to eat like a champ. She is eating so much fruit and vegetables that she is actually taking less formula through the day. In fact she gets to a point where she DOES NOT want the bottle of formula, she wants in her chair with some food coming on a spoon. Very cool.

Sara also has quite a volume to her vocal abilities. When Jennifer is teaching the girls, I guess she wants in on the conversation and so she just jabbers LOUDLY! We can hardly hear ourselves. We are noticing some distinct Ma Ma's in her syllables and some Da Da's also, along with some others. There seems to be a much greater proportion of Ma Ma's than Da Da's, which I'm sure is some kind of anomaly and it has nothing to do with parental preference.

Sara is much stronger throughout her body. She just feels thicker and more steady when you are holding her. We are working on strengthening her trunk muscles so she can learn to roll over from her back to front. Her therapist thinks she is strong enough, she just doesn't want to do it. She can go from a sitting position to a crawling position, but hasn't quite figured out how to get up on her knees.

Jennifer has also developed into quite the resident poopologist. Because of Sara's struggles with bowel movements, she has received a few calls from mom's concerning their children and their struggles. She is able to offer some practical advice on what we have done and do to help things run more smoothly. I told her she could start a blog - The Scoop on Poop, or maybe write a book - Jennifer's Groovy Moves in the Bowel. (Ok, that's enough cheese for one post)

How can you pray for Sara? Continue to pray for her health. All 4 of us have battled through some viral infections (sore throat, coughs, fever) over the last 2-3 weeks, but God has protected Sara. Pray for her development, that she will continue to give God great glory for how she is overcoming the odds. And make sure you thank Him for how he has blessed us so much with this wonderful little girl (and the other two also!).

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits Psalm 103:1-2

Oh to be that flexible again

Mother's day, one happy brood

This girls LOVES being outside, and the weather has been awesome!! She really loves our dog, giggles and squeals especially when Bella licks her feet.

What is this strange green prickly substance..

Baby Dedication Sunday, Sara and 9 other babies were dedicated that Sunday. So cool that she was one of them!

March of Dimes walk went great despite the nasty weather. We were the only church and our crew raised more money than the corporations - such giving and generous people! Thanks be to God for them. Our area has the highest percentage of premature births in the nation, 25%. (I think, if I'm wrong let me know)

Sara picking up and eating a cheerio

Sara giggling with mom