2012 is a year I will never forget. There aren’t many years in my life that really stand out, but 2012 is a year that does. 2012 is the year I met my 2.5lb inspiration. You have already read Lindsay’s posts about Hunter’s birth and how difficult things were. We moved, lived in the hospital for a few months and lived apart from each other as we did what we had to do to keep our family together and moving forward.
I’m going to fast forward through our two and a half months in the NICU to one of the toughest things I have ever experienced. The day we were supposed to bring Hunter home from NICU number 1. The day they told us he was going to die.
As we got closer to the day Hunter was supposed to go home, we became more and more excited. We had seen Hunter overcome so much and in our eyes he was growing and doing great. The day Hunter was supposed to be discharged Lindsay went to the hospital early in the morning. I got to there late the night before so I slept in that morning. I had just gotten up and got moving when I received Lindsay’s text. “You need to get here right now”. All I could think was, something bad happened to Hunter. Lindsay had been essentially living by herself for the past 6 weeks so she could be near Hunter and she had been so strong. I hadn't gotten a text like that from her so I knew something was really wrong.
When I got to the hospital I went into the NICU and Lindsay was sitting there crying with Hunter’s doctor standing in front of her, his hand on her shoulder. I walked up to the doctor and asked him what the problem was. He began to explain that he had discovered something with Hunter’s most recent medical tests that he had not seen before in Hunter's tests and had only seen a handful of times in his career. He proceeded to tell me that Hunter would live a short life and his quality of life would slowly decrease As Lindsay was trying to hold it together I was trying to understand where this had come from, why it had not been seen before and I felt desperate for more details about this diagnosis. The doctor left, saying that he would call a meeting that morning with us and all of Hunter's specialists, and that we would learn more then. Lindsay had run out of the NICU already and before I could find her I had to collect myself. I picked up Hunter, kissed him on the head and laid him back down. I walked out of the NICU as fast as I could as I felt myself falling apart. I did not want Lindsay to see me. I had to hold it together. I walked into the courtyard and called my mom. I explained to her what the doctor said and she started crying on the other end of the phone. I asked her make the trip to come help us. I didn't know what we needed but I knew we needed family there. I also know my wife and I knew she was already on the phone with her mom. I knew her mom would come as soon as she could, too.
All I could think was “We have to get home.” I had to get my family and son home to some kind of normal life and to some of the best specialists in the country. After I hung up with my mom I called our adoption agency. Hunter was in their custody until discharge and they needed to know the latest news.
Our agency is small and we have built a great relationship with everyone that works there. When I called 'D' (the agency director) I explained to her what the doctor had just told us. 'D's response caught me off guard. "You don't have to keep this baby." Bad choice of words. Still, she was in shock, too and her intentions were pure. I don’t tell you this that to be negative. I say that to tell you that she was willing to do whatever she could to support US and what we thought was best for us and our family. We had another child to consider. We had to decide what was best for our family. I immediately cut her off and without thinking, the words just came out…”This is our son and we aren’t going anywhere. We are not leaving him. I just have to figure out how to get him home. Quickly.” Hunter had fought so hard to get to this point. What kind of person would I be if I gave up on him now? How could I look at myself every morning or explain to Hannah what happened, what WE did, if we quit on him? I have never had to make a decision like that. One that involved life or death. Lindsay and I didn’t need to discuss it, we were both on the same page. This was our son. I said it the first time I held him and I knew she felt the same way.
I hung up the phone and reaction mode kicked in. Now I have to figure out what to do. I have to get Hunter to home. That is where we have support, friends, family, church and that is where one of the best children’s hospitals in the country is. It’s time to be a man and make big decisions. I pulled myself together, got a drink of water and went back into the NICU. Lindsay was already back with Hunter, holding him. I couldn't make eye contact with her yet. I looked at the doctor who had just given us Hunter’s death sentence and told him to call the hospital closest to us and arrange transportation. By this time, some family members who had connections at that Children's hospital had already called and spoken to the hospital administrator. They sent a jet and team of people to pick Hunter up. Hunter was on the plane and in his new NICU in less than 2 hours. (Read Lindsay’s post about the first time Hannah met her brother). We cancelled our meeting, requested that every single medical record be sent IN PAPER to the next NICU, and we loaded up the cars and made plans to get home as fast as we could.
In my hurry to get to the NICU that morning, I had grabbed my ipad on the way out the door. After the phone call with our agency I picked up my iPad and opened Pastor Steven Furtick’s book “Sun Stand Still”. I had read the book three times before and I always got something new out of it. This time I was reading for specific phrases. I was looking for a promise that everything would be ok. I read the same verse over and over again....
Joshua 1:5 5 “No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
I have loved this verse since I was young. I like to consider it my life verse. But this time it had a whole different meaning; Whatever the outcome, good or bad, God was going to be with us. He alone would get us through anything. I had a responsibility to trust him and listen. He would tell me what I needed to do to help my family. To help my son. He had brought us this far and he would take care of the rest. He would never leave us or forsake us. This was His plan for our lives at this moment and that was all that mattered. Everything else was secondary. It was like God kept telling me to be still…just be still. Then I read another verse...
Exodus 14:14 “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still”.
Hunter would be ok. I didn't know what that looked like at that moment but I had to trust the God who had already saved my son too many times to count. He would be ok.
There is something very special about both of our children. Hannah has the sweetest heart of any child I have ever known. She is an angel. Hunter is tough as nails. He is a fighter. He is not going to give up. God brought him this far and he didn’t bring him this far to let something bad happen. He didn't bring him this far so he could die. I like to think I realized all of this the first time I held Hunter, but the truth is, I had thought about it, but I didn’t really believe it. I didn’t have enough faith to truly believe it. I couldn’t guarantee that something bad wouldn’t happen. I didn't find that guarantee but I did find God's promise to never leave us and to fight for us. Hunter had fought hard already but now I knew with all my heart that God was in the fight with him.
As you know now, Hunter is growing and thriving. I'll let Lindsay finish the story of this miracle in another post. As a husband and father there are no words to describe what it’s like to see your family in turmoil. The worst part is that you are expected to be the strong one and the one who holds it together for everyone else. I have bared the weight of that responsibility since I was a kid. I have to tell you, I have never prayed and trusted God more at any other time in my life than I did when we decided to take our son home. To top it off, we were taking him home against the advice of the doctor's who had known him since birth. I was terrified. What if Hunter doesn’t make it? How are we going to explain all of this to Hannah? How is Lindsay going to hold up through all of this? How much more can she take?
Then I realized….we don’t have time to worry about these things…..and we don’t need to. God was telling us to trust him and let him show the world how big He is.
“….… don’t you dare let the magnitude of your fears send you back to dry land. Keep moving out deeper. Keep reaching up.”
I have learned more from Hunter than he may ever learn from me. He is a strong young man with determination, fight and perseverance. He will go far in life. I have no doubt about that. He will accomplish whatever he wants in life. I will never forget the late nights I would go to the hospital and hold him because I had been gone all week and just wanted to see him. I would have held him all night if I could. I always told him to keep fighting and that Daddy was here and I would do anything I could to take care of him. The thing I didn’t realize is that I needed Hunter more than he needed me. Hunter personifies the faith of a child. The faith God calls all of us to have in Luke 18:17. God had placed his hand on this baby and promised him a future. Now God was using Hunter to show me that he had a plan for us. His plan would grow my faith to levels I have never experienced and he used and is still using Hunter to do that. I prayed Sun Stand Still prayers many times when Hunter was in the hospital. I prayed harder than I have ever prayed for anything in my life. I tried hard to hide any emotions from Lindsay and Hannah because I was afraid if they saw me worry or be afraid it would bring everyone down. I had to remain positive and upbeat even when we were all physically and emotionally exhausted. But I also had to learn how to be vulnerable. The emotions were real and I needed to feel them. I learned that Lindsay needed to see me feel them, too. Then I would go to the hospital by myself, hold my son and pray. Pray for him, pray for strength, pray for understanding and pray that God would get us all home soon. To whatever 'home' he chose.
Every time I hold Hunter I think about where he came from. I still see that little boy fighting for life. But the thing that will always stand out to me is the audacious faith that Hunter has in him and the faith he has brought out in everyone who experienced this time in our lives. I've seen Hunter's story bring out the faith of people who read this blog, too. Hunter lives a Sun Stand Still life. God used this 2.5 pound miracle to turn my life upside down and radically alter my faith.
Through all of this, the biggest thing I have realized is that God isn’t the one who tests our faith. People and circumstances test our faith. God never changes. He never has and never will. He has promised us that. Faith is believing that our God is bigger than any circumstance. The hardest part of faith is remembering that when you are staring your circumstance in the eye, God won’t blink.
I would encourage each of you, no matter where you are or what you're going through to read Sun Stand Still by Pastor Furtick. I hope that at some point in your life you experience a time that will be etched into your memory as a time that grew your faith exponentially. If you have already experienced that time, I hope you will continue to build on it. Never forget the promise we have been given...
Exodus 14:14 “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still”.
God doesn’t promise that everything will always be “ok”. Sometimes the outcome isn’t what we want but it is the outcome God wants. I had to be ok with that, too. Despite the circumstances or outcome he will never leave us. He is always there and will always fight for us. He fought for Hunter and he will fight for you. Not only did he fight for Hunter, he brought Hunter home and at the same time he brought me home. So when you feel like you have gone as far as you can and the world is testing your faith….LET IT!! Because the more your faith is tested the more God can show off. Keep going, keep moving forward and you may just witness a miracle.
- ~ Joey
** I am very proud of my wife and the thousands of people she has reached through this blog. Lindsay is blessed with the gift of writing and reaching people through her words. I know God is using her in mighty ways. She is a wonderful wife and such an amazing mother. I am very lucky that God chose her for me. **
And Lindsay is lucky that God chose you for her!!ReplyDelete
Both of you?! I am so jealous of the gift you BOTH have for writing. Hunter's story is unbelieveable and Lindsay, you have written is so beautifully. But hearing part of the story from a Daddy brings another element to the table. Thank you for sharing so much of your faith. You've caused me to stop and think about mine many times.ReplyDelete
Joey, I agree with the others! Your version of the story just adds a new depth to this story. Reading the story from a daddy's perspective and seeing the way you allowed God to lead you in this journey is just beautiful. You and Lindsay both tell the story so beautifully! God definitely sent Hannah and Hunter to the right parents!ReplyDelete