From Where I Stand {Great is Thy Faithfulness}

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Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

This is one of the songs on Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ piano recording called Be Still.  Let me tell you how I came to receive her piano meditations CD.  Before Damon was born, we took a tour of St. Vincent Women’s hospital and their NICU. We met with one of the neonatologists. She went over what to expect after Damon’s surgery and the details of having a child in the NICU.

Once Damon was born, the neonatologists were doing their rounds, when the same one we met with stopped me after noticing my True Women bag. (True Women is a Christian women’s conference by Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ ministry, Revive Our Hearts that takes place every 2 years in Indianapolis). She told me how much she loves Nancy and the True Women conference. I agreed. She remembered meeting with us and gave me a hug.

The next day was Damon’s surgery and she came by to tell me she was praying for me. She asked me how I was doing. I honestly said I was anxious to get the surgery over with, in which she asked, “And what are you doing about that?”  I said praying. She smiled and gave me a hug.

The following day she handed me the Nancy Leigh DeMoss piano CD and told me how she had 2 copies at home. She had no idea how she received 2 copies, but when she saw them, she heard the Holy Spirit tell her to give me one of them.  And the hymns on the CD has been such a comfort to listen to back and forth to the NICU in the car. Be Still My Soul. Be Thou My Vision. ‘Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus. Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting. Great Is Thy Faithfulness.

This is one way that God has proven faithful in our lives during this trial. A small gift but a huge blessing. I have been on the other side many times watching people go through very hard circumstances in life. Especially people from my church and other members of the Body of Christ. I’ve prayed, helped deliver meals, etc.  Yet this time we were on the receiving end. And wow, Brett and I were overwhelmed with the prayers, encouragement, and support. Not that I didn’t expect any less. I thought how this is what the Body of Christ looks like in action; fellow believers helping one another. It has made me even more sympathetic to other people going through trials.

Damon’s surgery and recovery could have been so much worse. As I mentioned in a previous post, he could have had Down’s syndrome and/or heart disease. The morning of the surgery we received a call from a nurse practitioner getting our consent to do surgery. We had not arrived yet at the hospital (we didn’t know for sure what time surgery would be until she called us).  All along we thought Damon had duodenal atresia and it would be a pretty easy fix. The NP told us that after doing several tests over the weekend, they still were unsure of his condition and the extent of it. She went over possible problems from the best case scenario (duodenal atresia) to the worst case scenario (possible dead bowel where he would need a bowel transplant).  Again, Brett and I got off the phone and stared at each other speechless. We were still going into the unknown. And all we could do is trust God. Trust that He is good regardless of the outcome. Trust that He is faithful.

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Fortunately, it was duodenal atresia. The surgeon did a bowel bypass where the part in his duodenum was blocked.  The surgeon also found that Damon had a condition called, Meckel’s diverticulum. Apparently, this mass of tissue could cause havoc later in life and starts acting like a second stomach. The surgeon removed it, had to reposition Damon’s bowels, and also took out his appendix.

Once out of surgery, it was the waiting game.

Waiting for his bowel to start working.

Waiting for his output from his stomach through his mouth to lessen.

Waiting for poop.

The doctors said average was 7-10 days post-op until his bowels would start moving again.  The same neonatologist would come by from time to time to see how we were doing. “Waiting” was always the reply and she would answer, “Be still and wait on the Lord.”

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9 days post-op the initial waiting was over. Damon was pooping, had bowel sounds, and less output was coming out of the tube through his mouth.  They proceeded to give my milk through a tube down his nose. And then from there he kept progressing positively. They gave him such a small amount at first and slowly increased to see if he tolerated it and the bowels moved it through his tract.  He did not regress once.

The next day he was bottle feeding and the tube came out.

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A few days later I was able to breastfeed him twice a day. Doctors started saying he could probably come home soon if he kept doing well. Then, after 20 days in the NICU, Brett and I walked out of there hopefully to never ever return.

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God is faithful. God’s people were faithful in praying daily for Damon. We could feel the prayers and the peace that comes from the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. The doctors and nurses were very impressed with how quickly Damon progressed and was able to go home. Most babies with similar conditions may be in the NICU for several weeks to a couple months. God is our Healer.

Now, I have to ask myself and maybe you have found yourself asking the same questions:
If God didn’t heal Damon… If his condition was the worse case scenario… If I was still sitting and watching Damon today in the NICU and for several more weeks… If God allowed Damon to die…

Would I still say He is good? He is faithful?

I think about the story of Job. I believe that sometimes Satan comes before the throne of God and asks God to allow trials and hard circumstances in our lives to test us to see if we will turn from God. Satan did it with Job and took away everything Job had – his family, possessions, wealth.  Yet Job did not curse God to His face like Satan thought he would. Instead, he fell to the ground and worshiped God saying,

“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

Wow! What faith! What trust in who God is and will always be: Faithful. Good. Trustworthy. As I look back on the trials in Brett and my marriage the past 6 years, it’s amazing to see how faithful God always is to us.  We’ve been through health problems, loss of job, financial uncertainty. Brett has taken a leap of faith in starting a wedding film business and a non-profit Christian film company, in which 2 films have been created. And when I think about when God has used us the most to further His kingdom, that’s when we had the most trials. During the final steps of making The Board, I was severely sick with histoplasmosis and hospitalized.  And now when we are at the final steps of releasing The War Within, we have a baby in the NICU.

I wonder especially in these times if Satan was before God asking Him to allow Satan to throw some fiery darts at us to see how we would respond.  Sorry Satan.  It’s actually made our faith stronger than ever.  We will continue to fall down and worship Him at all costs. And God knew that.

Jesus said, “…in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

As followers of Christ, we will have trouble and trials. But we also can have peace knowing that God is good. He is faithful. Do you believe it? Can you say the same thing when you face trials? Trust Him. I promise you won’t regret it.

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto Brett, Christina, Kherington, and Damon!

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To read how God has been faithful to my friend Megan and her family, check out her blog.

Stay strong…

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This is Brett Varvel and it’s my first time writing on the Varvelicious Blog. I cannot compare to the INCREDIBLE writing talent of my wife, but I wanted to share my perspective about the recent news of our son’s condition. If you haven’t read my wife’s recent post about this you should start there, Your Baby has a 1-in-3 chance of having Down’s Syndrome so you can get a background for this post.

Christina and I sat quietly waiting for the Genetic Counselor after we just received the truck load of what-ifs from the OB specialist. “Duodenal Atresia, Down’s Syndrome, Stay strong… Heart Disease, additional Intestinal problems, Stay strong.” Those two words continued to repeat in my head. I felt numb. I felt confused. However, I didn’t want Christina to see that. I felt that I had to be strong for her.

The next two days were the hardest. I felt pain and was stricken with guilt for feeling that way. I know God is Sovereign. I know He is in control. I know that He loves my son more than I ever could and that however He created Damon was perfect. However, I couldn’t shake the fear. I couldn’t resist the urge to research (even though we were advised not to do so). I wanted answers and as a father I wanted to fix the problems. The thought of my newborn son being cut open to fix a defective portion of his intestines was so overwhelming that I couldn’t handle it. At the moment when my emotions were so great and I thought the floodgates of my soul were going to be opened, I would quiet myself and hold it in. “Stay strong!” However, fear is stubborn and wouldn’t go away. I began to worry about finances, the hospital bills, fathering our two year old daughter, being there for Christina, and staying close to the Lord.

As the days passed, I was working from home a lot trying to finish a freelance project and my daughter, Kherington, was testing me and Christina to a whole new level. It seemed as if she was prompted by Satan to behave at her worst during this trying time. Again those words came back… “Stay strong!” I tried to keep calm and discipline in a Godly manner. The harder I tried to win the battles with Kher, the more I felt like I was losing. One night at my parents house, Kher threw the biggest temper tantrum I have ever seen from her. I felt lost, confused, and scared. We got her calmed down enough to get her in the car, but the battle continued when we got home. I began to wonder if spanking was doing anything at all. I was searching for a glimmer of repentance before I gave up. Finally, I saw something that resembled repentance and knew it was time for bed. We put her in bed and I crawled into bed with her. Christina and I performed the nightly routine (singing songs and praying), Christina kissed her goodnight, but I stayed in the bed with her. Christina closed the door and I held my daughter to my chest. I prayed for my daughter’s salvation, for strength, for peace, for His will to be done and for the fear to be taken away. Tears began to form in my eyes and I heard those words again… “Stay strong!” Only this time I heard something else, “Let me be strong for you.” I knew that the Lord was speaking to me. He was telling me that He is in control, that He is strong in my weakness, and that He will be glorified through this. I began to lay all of my fears and worries at the feet of Jesus, but didn’t feel free from the circumstance. I kissed Kher on the forehead and she placed her hand on my cheek. I told her that I loved her and she nodded her head, Yes.

I went into my bedroom and sat on the bed. I realized that I didn’t feel free because I had not let go of one final fear. This fear had been lingering since the day we first heard that Damon would be having surgery… I was afraid my son was going to die. Christina came up and placed her hands on my shoulders and asked me if I was OK. I grabbed her belly and began to weep. I couldn’t stay strong anymore. Through my sobbing I begged God to protect my son, and I asked him to free me of this fear. I praised the Lord for giving this incredible GIFT (Damon) to us because it was a gift that we don’t deserve. I realized that no matter what the outcome that God would be glorified through this situation. It was in that moment of weakness where I finally felt strong.

As Christina mentioned in her post, we began feeling the prayers of the saints. It’s really hard to put into words, but I knew our loved ones were crying out to Jesus on our behalf. The peace of our Lord began to wash over me, and I realized that I was being given an opportunity to point others to Christ through this trial.

In my most recent film “The War Within,” we challenge the audience to believe that God is Enough. That in the best moments and the darkest moments of life, He is Sovereign and Loving. In this trial of uncertainty I was given the opportunity to live out the very message I was trying to share with the world. However, it’s easy to tell others what they need to do in these moments and it’s entirely different to live it out. We always want to see a miracle. We always want to see God at work… That is until the situation happens to us. In that moment of brokenness I gained a better perspective on our situation. That is, I gained a revived eternal perspective. God is Enough. He is all I need and He knows what is best for me and my family.

Finally, after the longest two weeks ever, we learned that our son is at low-risk for Down’s Syndrome and Heart Disease. Aside from the surgery he will have, he appears to be a perfectly healthy baby boy. I Praise GOD for this answer to prayer! I have been able to reflect and meditate on why God let this happen. While I don’t have all the answers yet, I do know that in these past two weeks I have grown closer to the Lord then I have been in years. I Love Him more. I am more thankful for the little things in life and I have a deeper compassion for those with Special Needs. They are a beautiful creation and gift from our Creator. I also have grown deeper in love with my wife and children. I am a very blessed man and don’t deserve them. However God, in his infinite grace and mercy has blessed me with my family.

Last week we met with the pediatric surgeon and visited the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where we will be spending a few weeks with our son. At this point all signs point to a normal delivery. Praise God! Once he is born he will be cleaned up and prepped in his NICU bed. They will do tests to confirm his duodenal atresia diagnosis. Our family will get some brief time with him before his surgery, which will take place sometime between 24-48 hours after birth.  After his surgery, it is pretty much going to be a waiting game. The time it will take for him to heal and be able to eat is not set in stone and will depend on when the intestine starts to work again. Christina and I are so blessed to be able to have such a great medical team surround us and help us through this period in our lives.

My life verse is Proverbs 16:9: “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” Was this my plan? Absolutely not. Now all I can do is continue to rest in the Lord and wait patiently on His timing. I can’t wait to hold my son and tell him that I love him. Christina and I continue to covet your prayers.

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