segun aiyegbusi - deadlines

I had a vision 9 years ago.

The vision was of a full-on dramatic production where I told the story of my first encounter meeting Jesus Christ. I was so jazzed about the idea that I told friends about it, wrote down a bunch of key scenes, and went to see some live productions to generate some inspiration.

Every month and every year, I kept saying excitedly, “Man! This is gonna be sooo huge!” and every month and every year I kept imagining it would come to fruition the following month and the following year. For 9 years!!!

Then one day, I met a friend named Cindy TeNieck. Cindy is not only a creative who has actual stage production experience, but Cindy is a time-management totalitarian. One of the first things she did was set a DEADLINE for when this production would take place, then we worked backwards. She set deadlines for when my 9-year-old script had to be finished, deadlines for when we had to have figured out a budget, cast the play, run rehearsals, secure a location, and advertise the event. We wrote it all down on paper, because in the words of Dave Ramsey, “when you force your thought process through another layer and verbalize your thoughts, you reach a higher level of understanding. This escalation of your thought process happens yet again when you WRITE out your problem.”

Almost immediately, something awesome began to happen.

I began to see with amazing clarity my 9-years-ago-dream slowly take shape. As we worked hard to meet all our target dates (which we did), I developed a close new relationship with Mr. deadline. Turns out, he’s not too shabby! He actually cares about my hopes and dreams and is just as invested in my future as I am.

I’m telling you, he’s the real deal! Some might say he restricts creativity. True. But most creative people will probably tell you that without deadlines, we’re almost content to just keep dreaming!

So, my point? Start a new relationship with deadlines. Heck, impose a (realistic) deadline on yourself if there isn’t one already built into a goal you have. Write it down on paper and place it where you can see it daily as a motivator. You’ll probably be a little afraid about setting a date on paper because it suddenly means you need to start working harder, but trust me, deadlines will get you to your desired destination faster. In the words of the ever-hilarious, ever-awesome Jon Acuff, “if there’s one thing fear fears, it’s paper.” In that same light, you know what procrastination fears more than anything else? Yup. DEADLINES!

Lemme get all spiritual on you for a moment. Did you know that God also has deadlines? Yeah. For real. Acts 17:31 says, “For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man [Jesus Christ] he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” Here’s another one in Matthew 24:14, “And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.” So as it turns out, God is not just in heaven twiddling His thumbs. He’s on the move to and fro throughout the earth, rallying men and women to Himself through faith in Christ. When the last soul gets saved, (God’s DEADLINE) then the veil between heaven and earth will be removed and God’s plan for eternity will begin to unfold.

So if the creator of heaven and earth finds it necessary to have deadlines for His sovereign plans, then guess what? “Arise O Sleeper and set a deadline for your dreams!”

If you happen to work at a job where deadlines are a dreaded way of life, rather than allow it to work against you, consider turning it into an ally. So, your boss says a project is due on the 31st? Break it down into manageable pieces. Set smaller goals like coming up with 3 things that you can easily knock out by the 15th (that will make the end goal more reachable). Once you hit those 3, set 2 more you can knock by the 25th, and so on. I realize it isn’t always that easy, but you kinda don’t have any options!

I leave you with this quote from Adam Savage (the not-so-bearded dude from Myth Busters), “Deadlines refine the mind. They remove variables like exotic materials and processes that take too long. The closer the deadline, the more likely you’ll start thinking waaay outside the box.”

I repeat, DEADLINES ARE YOUR FRIEND! (Oh, by the way, that dramatic production from 9 years ago? Totally nailed it! It resulted in a 2 weekend showing (packed house at all 4 shows) titled, “ON THAT DAY” – CHECK OUT THE VIDEO HERE – Starts at 03:24)

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I am perplexed and comforted by David’s words in Psalm 31:22: In my alarm I said, “I am cut off from your sight!” Perplexed because, if anyone had deeply experienced the goodness, and faithfulness, of the Lord, it was David. Comforted because I feel David’s words are my own. I hear my heart crying the same: “God, you cannot hear me!” Because surely, if He heard me, I would not be suffering from this or that, feel pressures from work, or have difficult relationships. Surely, if He heard me He would intervene immediately and change my circumstances.

I’ve been realizing recently that I am my own obstacle to experiencing God’s goodness. My perceptions, my expectations, and my belief that I should be the one calling the shots have created all these preconceived notions of what life should be like. And, when I don’t get the job; when I’m tired; when I don’t see progress; when money is tight; when the things I keep praying for don’t happen, I don’t feel good. When I don’t feel good, I am tempted to believe He is not good. The truth is that I often confuse God’s goodness for a feeling.

It is not natural for me to equate the heartaches and challenges I find myself navigating through with His love for me. Honestly, I’d like for my life to be more like a numbered connect the dots and less like a maze. I want to know the plan, where I’m headed, and why. I want to know why. There are days where it feels like more of an act of will than anything else to affirm and trust in His goodness. In my distress, I often feel He cannot hear me.

I hear words from Isaiah, resounding in my ears:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

I wonder if changing circumstances would really solve the problem, or problems. Maybe there is something happening in me, or others, as I stumble through the struggle. Maybe God is doing something greater than I can perceive, something that is greater than my limited expectations afford. Maybe it really is good. I’ve heard that the mark of an authentic Christian is the surrender of the will and I’ve got to believe that’s what all this is about—that as we walk through unknowns and insecurities, our hands would be loosed from what they hold: that we would yield our expectations to His.

But, what do we do with the days, months or years, when life pushes in on all sides, and we feel He cannot hear us?

Remember who He is.
God’s existence—His sovereignty over us, His full-knowledge and love for us is objectively true. He is, and always will be. My subjective perspectives of Him is what changes. Filling our minds with scripture, meditating on His words, reorients us towards His character. It’s not just reading, it’s a reminder.

Spend time with His people.
I recently attended a bible study where we were confessing our inaccurate views of God; someone spoke up: “maybe in our conversations of God’s grace and goodness, your words will start to silence my own thoughts.” I think that’s true. The more we speak of Him, and what is true, the more accurately we will begin to view Him. Sometimes we need to be encouraged by others’ presence and hear talk of His love and beauty.

David goes on to say, shortly after in verse 23: “yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help.” Despite David’s feelings, his misperceptions and alarm, God had not left Him. He had, in fact, heard David. And, He hears us; we just might not see it, or feel it yet. A.W. Tozer, spoke well, when he said: “With the goodness of God to desire our highest welfare, the wisdom of God to plan it, and the power of God to achieve it, what do we lack? Surely we are the most favored of all creatures.”

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I’ve really bonded with my two-year old friend, Regan, as I’ve cared for her and her brother this past year. Our conversations make me love her even more and usually I’ll come home at the end of the day eager to share one of them, yet the majority of the time no one else finds them funny but me!

And every so often, God uses her in my life to teach me lessons that I need to be taught.

We were playing in the sand box and I began to build a sand “mountain”. She was enthralled in her project but had looked over to see what I was building. She asked, “How did you do that, Christine?” So I proceeded to show her and give her simple instructions. She replied, “Oh no, I can’t build that.” I asked her why and she just shook her head saying, “I can’t build that. Regan’s not good enough.”

It broke my heart.

More than anything I wanted to grab her arms, shake her and say yes you are good enough! And then I remembered– she is two. But what I found so interesting is that at two years old, she has this ability and tendency to compare herself to someone else. She has this innate compulsion to look away from her own mission and parallel it with what other people are doing. And then proceeds to make assumptions about her own performance.

I do this all the time. It’s exhausting, debilitating and ultimately selfish. I’m so focused on where I want to be, who I want to be and the fact that someone else got there first that I forget my true identity.

Have you experienced this? I’m pretty sure we’ve all been there. You scroll through your Facebook feed to find picture-perfect families, chat with co-workers about workout routines and pretend like yours exists, see your friends buy the most beautiful home only to remember that you have to go back to your tiny apartment.

May I suggest to you that our eyes are on the wrong things. Earthly things (Philippians 3:19). Our gaze should be on Jesus. Comparing ourselves and fixing our sight on temporary things hinders us in this life from being effective servants in the Kingdom (Hebrews 12:1-2). Once we place our faith in Jesus, He gives us new eyes to see Him and to recognize Him working in our lives. However, we aren’t perfect and our eyes occasionally shift.

So how do we fix our gaze on Him and keep it from shifting?

1. Study Him. It can be anything about Him! Study all the questions that Jesus asked people. Study His responses to questions that people asked Him. Find patterns that he lived throughout His life and question why. Study the promises that He made and the prayers that He prayed.

2. Remember that Jesus took hold of you for a purpose (Philippians 3:12. And like Paul in Philippians 3, we must remember why Christ took hold of us. “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” As we do this, the comparisons between us and others can end because we know the Lord is faithful to complete His work in us. And it’s good work. Not only is it good, it is perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4).

3. Invite others into the work He is doing in your life. Knowing him and remembering what He has done is only the beginning. As we obey His calling to share the Gospel, we become more focused on His plan, His glory, His will and His heart.

After Regan’s self-comparison, I saw that she lost joy in her task at hand. She lost confidence in her own work. This may be you in your ministry, your leadership, perhaps even your parenting. Whatever it is, take heart! Because our righteousness does not depend on God comparing us with others or His law but is found in the perfect work of Jesus Christ. Fixing our eyes on Jesus is how we will stand firm (Philippians 3:17-4:1) in the work that God has called us to, the talents he has birthed and developed in us and protects us from the lie of inferiority.

lightstock_65127_xsmall_user_2976985Leadership Lesson #5  Lead Up, but Lead Gently

I’ve been working on the Fruit of the Spirit with my kids, and admittedly one of the most challenging for me is Gentleness. It hits me as a gut check for the way in which I speak, and the words that I use to communicate a point. And like so many other indications of growing in Christ-likeness, it must be rooted in humility.  It’s taken me 30+ years to get some healthy clarity on this, but as I’ve grown in emotional intelligence and self-awareness I’ve accepted that I have to grow in this area, because my natural tendencies are too abrasive, revealing the prideful bent of my heart. Not only will that abrasiveness cost me dearly in relationships, but it can seriously weaken my effectiveness as a leader. Specifically, at times when God calls me to “lead up.”

Jon Maxwell explains a leader who leads up as one who is adding value, supporting the leader above them, and setting themselves apart. In roles of strategic communication leadership I’ve had opportunities to lead up. Like all aspects of leadership, this is a stewardship. Not only of the influence, but of the other person’s heart. When given the opportunity to lead up, we can strengthen the heart or damage the heart. If I was damaging too often I need to determine why. So, part of understanding my often abrasive nature was examining its root. Yes, it was pride, but that pride was manifesting itself through an intolerance for perceived incompetency – things that I was too quick to point out in a not so gentle way when the door opened. It took God humbling my heart in a pretty serious way, to reveal my own incompetencies and soften my rough edges. But that allowed me to have the context I needed to approach new opportunities to lead up, in a different way.

See, here’s the thing.  At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter how strong you are as a leader – the top spot is always, always, difficult. People constantly want more of you, someone (often lots of someones) is always unhappy with you, and you are ultimately responsible for more than anyone else in the organization. The burden of leadership is heavy. In most cases, the leader above me already knows the mistakes they wish they could correct, the gaps that need to be filled, and their personal shortcomings. What they need from me is to come alongside and lighten the load with insight, care, and clarity shared in gentleness. Isn’t that what we would all want from a leader on our team?

When you’re like me however, adopting a spirit of gentleness is almost a complete 180 to your natural wiring. It’s a heavy process of learning and refining, and walking in the Spirit for wisdom. It’s a practice of laying down my pride, and seeking to truly minister to those I’m following. Growing in gentleness is teaching me how to speak truth, while affirming the heart, and building trust. And it’s totally worth it. Speaking and acting in gentleness has fostered better working relationships, healthier culture, and better focus on what really matters – the relationship, not being right. So next time, before you speak up to lead up, remember – gentleness.

Side note:  I would be remiss if I didn’t also acknowledge that being married to one of the most gentle, but effective leaders I know, has helped tremendously. I’ve seen the way people gain influence with him when they are not only correct, but gentle. And I’ve seen him consistently lead up, (and as a result be given more and more influence) and even disarm difficult clients, by carefully and gently guiding them towards the correct course of action. Don’t get me wrong – he can be firm and direct, but he’s able to make and keep good relationships easily because of his approach. He’s way better at gentle leadership than me – grateful I get to learn from him!

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It wasn’t unusual for my sister and I to find ourselves driving together, en route somewhere. We often went places together, having only two years between us and many of the same friends. One particular Saturday, years ago, we found ourselves headed to a friend’s graduation party a few towns over. The car windows were down and the humid summer warmth brought a certain calmness. Kristen’s legs were up on the dashboard. It was the kind of day that was so nice, you hardly felt like talking. We were intrigued by our surroundings, catching glimpses of the shops in Hackettstown, and watching passer-bys on the sidewalks. Kristen seemed a little tired that day. She rubbed her hand over her stubbled legs, took a quick glance in the mirror at her eyebrows in disarray, and looked out the window again.

“Sometimes I think maybe I should try to be more girly,” she said, still glancing out the window, “then, I think… maybe instead, I should be more concerned with my character, and whether I’m a person that’s patient and kind.”

I remember looking over at her, appalled, surprised, and proud, as she continued her gaze out the window. Her words caught me so off guard, and had me thinking so intensely, I believe I only mustered a, “yeah, I think you’re right.” And, we continued down the road.

That moment was a formidable moment for my sister and for me, as well, witnessing her utter candidness. I’ve told her the story several times. “I said that?” she asks me. “Yes, Kristen, you said that.”

The reason I believe I remember this day, and the reason I’m sitting here writing about it, is because it says something about what is important; it speaks about what should have value and significance and priority in our lives. I think that’s the question we ask a lot or, at least, need to be asking. How should I spend my time and energy?

C.S. Lewis put it as clearly as I think I’ll ever understand it in his Principle of First and Second things. He explains that things have different values—some greater than others. And, whenever we reverse the hierarchy, treating a second thing as a first thing, we not only lose the first thing, but the second thing, as well. “Values are related to each other like a chain of rings,” explains Peter Kreeft, “…the attempt to put second things first can never work.”

“If you look for truth,” said Lewis, “you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.”

Jesus said something similar, in Matthew 6:33: “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” To reverse it can never work. There is an established order, and value, just as 1 is greater than 0. If we make the second things our pursuit, we won’t find those things; and, what’s worse, we won’t find His kingdom or His righteousness. God needs to be our first thing, not money or relationships or a safe neighborhood to live in. God. All else comes from Him.

In the case of my sister, she understood character had greater value than appearance, and as such, needed more attention. It’s a conclusion that’s easy to state once or twice—another thing to live. Yet, the reality of our lives is that we’re constantly making decisions regarding value, whether we realize it or not. Which, is why it’s better to realize it, lest we put a second thing first. We need to make a habit of asking, and adjusting… How do I spend my time? How do I spend my money? What do I think about? What do I care about? “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

August 12th: Joshua Luke Update: Happy 11 Months B’day, Joshua Luke: Many of you readers and people who prayed for Joshua Luke know about this year’s Collyde Summit theme: OVERCOME. It’s based on John 16:33 ““In this world you will have many trials and sorrows but take heart, I have overcome the world”. We had no idea when the theme was released that this was about to get personal. But isn’t that the way God works in our lives? The last 16 months have been one of great heartache, great joy and great testing of our Faith. God has used all aspects of this trial to build our marriage, make us dependent on Him and truly understand the meaning of what Jesus said, as He was looking to the Cross himself, “Take Heart, I have overcome the world”. Joshua Luke’s story is a story of Overcome and so is yours. If you find yourself in a season of deep heartache and personal challenges, please know God is right by your side and as a Christ-follower, He has already Overcome for you in many ways, you may not yet understand.

Today is a happy day for us. Happy Birthday 11 Months B’day, Joshua Luke!

11 months

 

July 24th: Joshua Luke Update: Another Miracle: Great news! Our prayers were answered! Yesterday was a very hard day for Joshua Luke but today he seems more himself. It’s amazing how resilient the warrior prince is and it’s a testament to God’s sovereignty and mercy in his life.

July 24

We think he knows he’s been through something traumatic and he’s trying to process it but for now, we’re thankful that he’s doing better and has no complications from the procedure itself. In fact, he’s doing so well and all his testing returned to normal levels that we’ve been discharged home!! Yay!  God has done it once again! All glory to God! Thank you dear friends for standing with us in prayer again. Please pray that Joshua Luke will recover fully as he rests at home.

July 23rd: Joshua Luke Update: Post-op: Thank you everyone, for all your prayers! JL just came out of the cath lab. We just met with the interventional cardiologist. They saw some narrowing of his arch with a gradient and dilated it with a balloon, so no stent placed (thank God) and no coils needed. Thankfully there were no complications.

Jully 23 Update 2

We just saw him in the cardiac recovery unit. Poor Joshua Luke. He’s swollen and crying and disoriented and his voice is hoarse (we think from the intubation). His cry is weak. They say he’ll be fine but it’s hard to watch him struggle. They also had a hard time finding his pulse in his leg initially but it appears to be slowly improving. Please join us in praying for a quick, easy, complete recovery without complication. Thank you, Jesus for your healing through medicine and your mercies!

July 23: Joshua Luke Update # 1: Heads into OR

Jully 23 Update 1

So thank God, all Joshua’s blood work including his kidney function all normalized. Joshua’s catheterization was delayed because the baby before him had some complications. At 3:30 pm, Joshua Luke was taken into the cath lab for his cardiac catheterization. The procedure normally takes 3-4hrs and we’ll be getting updates every 30min-1hr. Please continue to pray – for Joshua Luke and the other baby also. 

July 22nd: Joshua Luke: Needs a Cardiac Cath: Dear Friends, it’s with a heavy heart that we wanted to share that Joshua Luke will be undergoing a Cardiac Catheterization tomorrow.

Jully 22 Update

From all the Joshua Luke updates, most of you are familiar with this procedure. The team of doctors aren’t sure what exactly is the cause of his symptoms so the only diagnostic and (hopefully) therapeutic intervention is a cardiac catheterization. Please pray for discernment, wisdom and skill for the doctors treating him and performing the procedure. This time, now that he’s older, Joshua Luke will have to be intubated and go under general anesthesia and there will be two access entry points which increases his risk for complications. Please pray for God’s mercy, healing, protection and favor on Joshua Luke. Tomorrow is going to be a tough day for us, somewhat knowing what to expect but we ask God to have mercy on Joshua Luke. Now that he is older and he’s more aware of what’s going on around him, we ask for mercy. On a good note, Joshua Luke is his happy, playful self and is only slowed down by all the wires and gadgets they’ve attached to him during this hospital stay. I think he views them as challenges and funny enough, he always finds a way around the obstacles (the IV access in his arm, the heart monitors and his crib) to still play and investigate his environment. Thank you all for the prayers and love! Please keep praying! Your prayers make a difference! We will keep you updated. Lots of love, The Thomas family :)

July 21/22: Joshua Luke Update: Emergency Update: Warrior Prince in ER at CHOP

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July 21st: Emergency Update: Joshua Luke: dear friends/prayer warriors, due to decreased oxygen levels, Joshua Luke is back at CHOP emergency room :( We ask for your prayers tonight for our little warrior prince.

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July 22nd: Joshua Luke Update: Joshua Luke was admitted to CHOP last night. They’re doing some testing to figure out what’s causing his episodes of turning blue. He had his echo (ultrasound of his heart) this morning. We are awaiting results. They found one more issue in his blood tests. Blood showed elevated creatinine. (Kidney function)- so they’re doing more testing to figure out if anything is wrong with the kidney. Joshua Luke is hanging tough and is a subdued version of himself but doing okay, thankfully. Please keep praying and we will continue to share updates. (Lots of love from Warrior prince.

July 12 2014: Joshua Luke Update: Overcomer: Happy 10 month birthday, Joshua Luke, our little “warrior prince.

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Since our last update, Joshua has started to crawl, stand and cruise, now says “mama” & “amen”(his version) & is very mischievous! Update on his Neuro Eval: We had his first neuro-developmental evaluation at the end of June and was given an amazing report that he is meeting all his milestones and has “no area of concern”. This is yet another miracle in his little life. When we were given his diagnosis last Spring [(April 29 :)] and we were advised to abort, we were told time and time again that if we decided to “keep”him, he would very likely have cognitive delays and many other issues. So, this evaluation is another miracle and cause for celebration.

So many of you are walking this journey with us, so we know you will celebrate this “milestone” with us. We know we still have quite a journey ahead and God holds our future in His Hands but we have learned to be thankful for every moment and day and blessing we’ve been given. So today, we celebrate! We’re so humbled and thankful to our Heavenly Father for blessing us with this wonderful privilege of being Joshua Luke’s parents and being able to witness God’s faithfulness and power in such a tangible way.

“We love you, our little warrior prince! You are an #overcomer.”

May 20, 2014: Joshua Luke Update: Mixed Results: So Joshua Luke is now 8 months old :) He is a big boy. Here is the latest picture of him – taken by Heidi Lee Naylor. Ann and I are definitely blessed with a happy baby boy and it’s been so amazing see him grow up.

Joshua Luke cute

Cardiology Appointment update: As we took him for his cardiology appointment yesterday, we realized it’s been 3 months months since his last visit . The cardiologist said he’s clinically doing well and the echo showed good heart function. Unfortunately the echo also showed persistent narrowing of the aortic arch. This could cause his heart to have to work harder than it needs to. She advised to have the interventional pediatric cardiologist who did his previous catheterizations, to take a look and see what he recommends.  JL’s cardiologist thinks he may need another catheterization to help dilate the narrowed area. We are hoping to hear the consensus of what the next step should be, by Friday. Can’t help jumping so quickly to this old familiar feeling in the pit of my stomach “here we go again”, but then just as quickly remembering that we still have so much to be thankful for and we know God is in control and is Faithful.

We need your prayers again dear friends and prayer warriors – as we wait to hear from Joshua Luke’s cardiology team at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia.

April 29, 2014: Joshua Luke Update: April 29,2013 – A day that changed everything: It’s been 12 months. April 29, 2013 is a day we will never forget. The only thought on our minds, as we drove to our 20th-week anatomy ultrasound was – Is it a boy or a girl? As the Ultrasound tech started the scan, we were excited, joking around, laughing and could not wait to find out who would win the bet – boy or girl?  Little did we know that dark clouds had surrounded us. 12 months ago, this day, our 20 week old unborn baby boy, Joshua Luke, was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (left ventricle missing). That day our hearts broke into a million pieces. That day our faith met head-on with our fears. That day everything we believed in, was challenged.

So here are the 3 things we learned (big picture) about suffering and struggles that will remain with us as the journey continues:

  1. Suffering is inevitable here on earth. In John 16:33, Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble”. So, firstly, do not be surprised when hard times hit. Take heart because you are not alone. Take comfort in the fact that there are many brothers/sisters around you that are going through similar trials. 
  2. Secondly, God allows suffering to come into a believer’s life because it is through suffering that we come to know Him. Philippians 3:10 says “that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings,…”. Suffering is a part of the overcome story of Jesus and it is a part of our overcome story here on earth. Suffering allows us to identify with our savior, Jesus. He endured the cross because it was through suffering LOVE was revealed.  
  3. Lastly, suffering allows you to relate to others and reach out to them. I have heard it time and time again through many sisters and brothers that because of their personal hardships, they are now able to relate to others going through the same or similar struggles and are therefore prepared to pray, serve and be there for them. This has been so true for Ann and I. We have literally received hundreds of emails, Facebook messages and prayer requests that clearly show us that Joshua Luke’s Story has a purpose. Suffering ends in Hope. Always. (Romans 8:28 – “All things work together for good. to those who love the Lord and who are called according to His purpose.”)

 

April 29

Ann and I can truly say that our faith is stronger today as a result of going through this journey. We also experienced what it is like to have many brothers and sisters standing right next to us in prayer through the journey. Amazing view of what life, on this side of eternity, is supposed to be – a journey with friends, who often become “family”.  Today, 12 months later, Joshua Luke is doing well but there are still miles left in this journey. If you can, pray for our little family today.

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Prayer Request: Dear Prayer Warriors, please pray for Evenlyn today. She is a cardiac baby as well and she is not doing well. Here is her mom’s blog: http://growinggromlichs.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/just-when-i-thought-we-were-out-of-the-woods/. Please join us and let’s lift Evenlyn to our heavenly father. 

April 3, 2014: Joshua Luke Update: A Happy Boy: In 8 days, Joshua Luke will be 7 months old. Geez. Slow down, little man :) … It’s amazing to see our little warrior prince growing up. When we look at him, sometimes, our eyes fills up with tears – truth be told – there were times in the last 6 months, when weren’t sure we would make it this far. But God, in His amazing grace and power, spoke life and we are happy beyond measure to see Joshua Luke – our happy baby boy – growing up, smiling, giving us hugs & looking into our eyes. He is truly a miracle. Thank you to so many of you for praying  and even fasting as we walked through the tough moments. Here are some of the most recent pictures of Joshua Luke (the pic on the right is his first time on a swing, which he loved, by the way.:))

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Update: Next major CHOP appointment will be in May. We are however planning to take him down to CHOP to start his Neurology assessment. More updates to come. For now, we enjoy moments of laughter and happiness with Joshua Luke – as we continue to believe, think and pray for what lies ahead. God is authoring a story in Joshua Luke’s life and we are humbled that God considered us worthy to be Joshua Luke’s parents. He is a gift..

Special Note to our friends at Zarephath Christian Church: Joshua Luke will be coming to church for the first time on Sunday, April 13th. Many of you fasted and prayed and dropped off meals, gifts and so much encouragement during this journey. (Disclaimer: the following request this may sound crazy but over the past 6+ months, we’ve learned that we have to be wary of even the simplest of infections because they can be life-threatening for Joshua. So, thank you in advance for understanding.) We are asking that no one touches him on April 13th because his risk of infection remains a concern but we are excited to worship our God with you and Joshua Luke. Joshua Luke is looking forward to seeing you all!! :)

March 3, 2014: Joshua Luke Update: Write Your story on my heart: In 9 days, Joshua Luke will be 6 months old. Wow! Our baby boy is 1/2 year old and he has weathered many storms in the last 6 months! He fought with all his might and through it all, has stayed a happy, playful baby. God has brought us far on this journey. So today, before the update, I wanted to share a video of Joshua Luke. This video is a really a THANK YOU to all our friends and loved ones who prayed for “warrior prince”. God, not only heard your prayers and did a miracle for Joshua Luke, but your prayers gave Ann and I courage when we had none. We can never forget all those moments of brokenness, tears, laughter and celebration. With this video, we release some of the pictures NEVER seen before from the hospital and home.

Update: Last update mentioned the intervention that needed with Joshua Luke. Great News – After checking blood pressures at the cardiologist’s office, the whole team at chop – cardiologists & surgeon discussed Joshua Luke’s case and the final consensus was that it wasn’t a significant difference and shouldn’t affect him clinically.  He’s growing well and clinically looks great. It’s great to be home for this long of a period without any hospitalizations and or interventions. God has heard our hearts and answered our prayers. So the next scheduled major appointment is in May with his entire team at CHOP! Continue to pray for Joshua Luke as we head back to CHOP in March to meet with the Neuro-developmental team. More updates to come.

Feb 10, 2014: Joshua Luke Update: Pressing Forward: So it’s been 30 days since the last Joshua Luke update. Thank you for the many emails, facebook messages, phone texts inquiring about how Joshua Luke is doing. We are so blessed to have friends that don’t give up praying for our little “warrior prince”. In three days, Joshua Luke will be 5 months old. We are so very thankful for such a precious gift. He is truly a miracle and we’re reminded of that daily.

 

Thankfully, Joshua Luke has been doing very well. His oxygen levels have been great, he is hitting all his milestones, his pulses have been steady and he is growing up.  Ann and I have been extremely cautious not to let our guard down during the FLU and viral season due to the fact that congenital heart babies have serious problems if they get an infection.  So, Joshua Luke has not met many people and hasn’t yet had a play-date with all his other baby friends.

Last Tuesday was Joshua Luke’s third CHOP Cardiologist visit after his open heart surgery six weeks ago. The doctor said she thinks there is an issue.  We noticed during the visit that his blood pressures were elevated.  During the visit, they performed an ECHO of his heart, which has become routine during his cardiology visits, and upon reviewing the study, the cardiologist thinks there might be a problem with the pressures or velocity of bloodflow to the upper body.  The increased pressures are a concern as they can affect the brain.  (Remember during the first and second surgeries, the blood flow was re-routed, thereby altering pressures to the brain and body).  This upcoming week, all the other cardiologists at CHOP will review the study and determine the next step.  Joshua’s cardiologist thinks he may require a repeat study under sedation and if he truly has higher pressures in the blood vessels, then he may need another catherization.   We have been praying that another intervention will not be needed and no more hospitalizations until his third and final surgery.

Please join us in praying and believing for the same.  God has done many miracles already and we know He has will never leave Joshua Luke’s side. He promised. Thank you once again for praying and believing with our little family.

Jan 12, 2014: Joshua Luke Update: 4 months old: It’s tough to say it but it’s true…. Ann and I weren’t sure if we would be given the privilege by God to see Joshua Luke doing so well on his 4 month old birthday. We celebrate today. Joshua Luke is doing well. He is growing, his oxygen saturations are above 80, his scar are healing well, his headaches are doing down and his teething has begun. :) As terrible as teething is, he is constantly in pain, this time, we are happy that it a “normal baby” occurrence. :)

4 months

Thank you, friends for standing with us through the storm. We heard from many of you even in the last 7 days, checking up on Joshua Luke with heavy hearts. It takes a little weight off our hearts to see that you love Joshua Luke so much, that you went to war for him in prayers. It is my prayer that this will cause a chain reaction of folks prayering for each other as we share our stories boldly and ask Him to move. I leave you today with a rather confusing verse that Jesus says in Matthew but I believe he was talking about bold prayers.

Matthew 11:12 = “And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.”

If you’re interested about hearing more about being a prayer warrior, click here to see a must-see video from Dr.David Ireland at Collyde Summit 2013: http://vimeo.com/71779883

Jan 4th, 2014: Joshua Luke Update: Slow Recovery: So it’s been three days that Joshua Luke has been home. Recovery is slow. Joshua Luke has been struggling with a lot of headaches and he cries a lot and puts his hands on head – as though he is trying to tell us. We also realized that he is teething and this adds much more to the recovery process. He tries so hard and he’s normally such a happy, light-hearted soul but it all is so much for a little baby to take. So, he has his good and tough moments/days.

jan 4
I, personally, [so it's Jinu's theory :)], also feel like he was over medicated with drugs like Gabapentin, which was supposed to help with pain. The over-medication (7+ drugs) that were pumped into him with all the other IVs, anesthetic drugs, etc, gave him a bad stomach ache as well. I think a little body can handle only so many chemical drugs. He still receives 3 drugs at home on a daily basis for his heart.

Please continue to pray for Joshua Luke. He has a long, hard road ahead of him. Our “warrior prince” is a fighter, though and he endures everything with tears and a smile on his face (sometimes only seconds apart). The great news is that his oxygen levels are doing ok and his surgical site across his chest is healing well. His O2 sats are above 78 percent. We pray that God would continue to keep His mighty hands on him and allow him to recover well and completely so he can be a baby for the next 2 yrs before his third & final open heart surgery. Please also pray that he will continue to reach all his development milestones and trauma of the surgeries will not hold him back. “Father, we pray that you allow Joshua Luke to grow up, physically, mentally and spiritually, in favor before God and man.”

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Friends, we’d LOVE to pray for you. If you have a prayer request for your journey or something we, the collyde team, could pray for, please send it to lynn@collyde.com or leave a comment below on the blog and we will make sure we pray for you. Our next fasting and prayer day is January 18, 2014

Jan 1st, 2014: Joshua Luke Update: Great News!!! Day 7 and we are heading home :) :) :) We still can’t believe it. In 7 days, God has done a miracle. Joshua Luke has been off oxygen machines for 24 hrs and he is doing ok. He still needs to recover and rest and come back to himself 100% but our “warrior prince” is fighting hard and his God has touched him and has shown him favor. Thank you, God.

Jan 1st

Thank you, to our friends and family, from the bottom of our hearts. Your persistent prayers and unending love & support has uplifted the three of us through this journey.

Happy New Year!! January 1, 2014 – we OVERCOME – because Jesus has overcome everything. This New Year – BELIEVE! God loves you much, much more than you can imagine. You are not alone. He fights with you. Invite Him to join your journey.

Psalm 97: “The Lord reigns; Let the earth rejoice; Let the multitude of isles be glad! Clouds and darkness surround Him; Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne. A fire goes before Him, And burns up His enemies round about. His lightnings light the world; The earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the Lord, At the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. The heavens declare His righteousness, And all the peoples see His glory.”

Dec 31st: Joshua Luke Update: Some wise person once said “all good things come in waves.” :) Certainly true with Joshua Luke’s story. After coming to the Cardiac Care Unit, Joshua Luke had been slightly more irritable due to the blood flow changes and his body adjusting to the new hemodynamics in his chest. Pressure building up in his head is giving him severe headaches during recovery. Lastly the most important thing: Oxygen. Joshua Luke is struggling to come off supplemental oxygen. We tried two times to wean him off but his oxygen saturation falls below 70 percent (an average person has a saturation of 97 to 99 percent – HLHS kids after the second surgery range from 75 to 92 percent).

Could you please join us in prayer for another MIRACLE, friends? We’d like to see Joshua Luke fully off supplemental oxygen and for him to breathe on his own on room air. Please pray for his headaches and upper chest blood vessel “rearrangement” so his body can adjust. The same God who did so many miracles in the Bible and in Joshua Luke’s body and life, this past year is able to heal him again. Thankful for friends who pray, fight and overcome. We will overcome together.

Dec 31

Dec 29: Joshua Luke Update : Another good day: Yay! Good News! Joshua Luke was stepped down today from the Cardiac ICU to the Cardiac Care Unit – a unbelievable recovery in 48 hrs. His oxygen saturation seem to be going in the right direction. He is eating well and sleeping well. Our prayer is that in the next 2 days he is able to maintain his oxygenation levels on room air and no supplemental oxygen is required. He smiles today and responds for us as he did before surgery. What a gift. God is so good. Thank you friends… Keep praying for his oxygen saturation and wouldn’t it be a miracle if we are home on Jan 1st. Believing. As a good friend texted us today “Man, I love God and how He is showing himself to you guys”.

dec 29

Dec 28: Joshua Luke: Through the eyes of God: As I stared into the open blue sky this afternoon, I started thinking – “what if God did not allow storms to come our way”? What if we did not have “uncertainty” and “heart-ache”? Would we truly understand the LOVE that our Father in Heaven has for us? If we did not walk through the dark moments, would we truly understand the power of walking in the light? Just some random thoughts that started crossing my mind and heart as we begin to process what truly is happening in this journey with Joshua Luke.

Dec 28

Today was a great day for Joshua Luke. Ann and I are so thankful for the direction this day has taken. It’s started with the good news of “no stroke” and ended with him coming off of some medications. Today is the 1st post-op day he slept for 2-3 hrs straight with no interruptions. The road ahead has many challenges. Tomorrow is a big test. Will Joshua Luke be able to sustain breathing normally on the newly created blood flow to his lungs? We continue to believe and walk one step at a time by holding on to the promises of God. Here is the one that began it all — Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Dec 28th: Joshua Luke: “Repeat that again”: Many of my updates began this way – so let me start off this way again. “You won’t believe it” but… the top neurologist at CHOP, Dr. Licht – arguably one of the top pediatric neurologists who specializes in cardiac babies- in the world, came at 9 AM today to review and do his own testing today. After 30 mins with a large Neuro team analyzing the “stroke” in Joshua and after looking to the CT Scan and Ultrasound and actually examining Joshua Luke’s pictures from 2 weeks ago, he turned around to us said “I don’t think he had a stroke”. Repeat that again.? Over 4 experienced cardiologists (from CHOP) concluded yesterday “he had a stroke”. But today, things turned around 180 degrees.

Miracle

Our thought: Maybe – just maybe – with an army of friends praying fervently (& violently) overnight – God in heaven had something to say about this diagnosis. Maybe the feet of the very One who created Joshua Luke walked beside His bed last night. All we can say “Thank you, God, for being our God”. His mercies are new morning. Our hearts are overwhelmed – this time – with joy. We could hardly speak. This day we celebrate. This day we overcome. #onlybelieve

(((oh man, we don’t know how to begin to say thank you to our friends… We love you all and cannot wait for you to meet and play with Joshua Luke, face to face – so you can say hello to warrior prince and he can say thank you with a smile :)))

Dec 27th: Post Op day#3- Joshua Luke Update: Something bad happened: Today was the day we wish never happened. Joshua Luke had a stroke and the left side of his face seems to droop. Another day our hearts broke- more than ever before. Seems like there are more ups and downs and we are begging at the feet of the Cross for mercy. Joshua Luke was taken immediately for a CT Scan of the head and then a brain ultrasound. So far they did not find any hemorrhage and no blood clots. They are planning to do an MRI to be conclusive. We need prayers. The name Joshua means “God is my Salvation” and tonight we pray for God to save our little”warrior prince” from any more problems.

stroke

Dec 26: Joshua Luke Post-op Day 2

post surgery day 2

Joshua Luke: Post-surgery day 2 – Update # 2: FAITH: This day continues to be a hard day as well for Joshua Luke. His recovery is really slow. He was kept pretty medicated most of the day. He still needed the CPAP machine to support his breathing. He has started to eat a little whenever he is awake for few minutes but not anywhere close to the amount he usually eats. Basically the cardiologists are taking a “wait and see” approach. Tomorrow becomes a really crucial day to see how Joshua Luke has progressed overnight. Please continue to pray for a miracle. This whole journey has been a summation of small miracles from God. His hand is evident in everything. Some days are harder than others but isn’t that what Faith is all about? You believe when things don’t look good, you fight when the storms of life come to overtake you and you press on when you have no strength left to keep going. God is there in the midst of it all. Friends, thank you for encouraging our hearts with prayers and love when we need it the most. Isn’t that what Faith is all about? We’ll keep walking and keep believing – together.

Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”

JLJPG

Joshua Luke: Post-surgery day 2 – Update # 1: Thank you dear friends for your emails, texts and FB comments of prayers and words of life. Joshua Luke had difficulty breathing last night and his oxygen saturation dropped to the 30’s, so they had to put him on a CPAP machine to help him breathe easier. It’s so hard for him. They did a lot of testing to see why he is having such a hard time but they can’t figure it out. They said today all the cardiologists are discussing his case to figure out what to do. Please pray that God would give the doctors wisdom and please pray that God would keep His almighty hands on Joshua Luke. He promised “I will never leave you nor forsake you”. Believing.

Psalm 91:14-16 – “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him My salvation.”

Dec 25: Joshua Luke: Post-Surgery Day: Rough day for Joshua Luke: So this Christmas Day Joshua Luke had a really rough day. His face is really swollen, he currently has 2 IVs put in and 1 Arterial Line, he had over 3 Echocardiograms because the cardiologists feel there is a narrowing in the pulmonary artery, one of his lungs have collapsed small airways and his oxygen saturations fell below 55 percent (dangerously low) at least 10 times today. The cardiologists think something is wrong but they want to wait and see. Ann and I feel really heart-broken to see Joshua Luke go through this day. We pray and believe that God will move the mountains for him. Thank you for your continued fervent prayers. It gives Joshua Luke the courage the fight and Ann/I the strength to stand with him. We love you guys

post surgery

John 16:33 “… In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Dec 24th: Joshua Luke’s Update: Day of Surgery – 3 Updates from the CHOP

Update 3 surgery

Update 3 of 3 – Praying for a Miracle – Joshua Luke is making progress but is still not out of the woods. His blood drainage has decreased but he has miles to go. PWe beseech your continued prayers as we pray for a miracle for Joshua Luke. Miracles do happen to those who believe. 2000 years ago – this day – the Greatest Miracle took place – as the Savior of the world was born in Bethlehem and today in our hearts. Thank you today for standing with us and asking for a miracle for Joshua Luke. We pray that overnight he would become much better. They predict that after this procedure, each baby has a very difficult and painful first 2-3 days in recovery. Please pray for an easy, quick recovery free of complications.

Update 2 Surgery

Update 2 of 3: Prayers Needed – Joshua Luke’s surgery was a success but immediately after he began oozing blood.  We, including the doctors, are worried. He’s currently receiving blood products. We ask for our prayer warriors to continue fervent prayers and please pray with us for all bleeding to stop. We know God had His hands on our little warrior. Our “warrior prince” is fighting with all his might. Thank you for the prayers. We will keep you friends updated.

Update 1 Surgery

Update 1 of 3: Joshua Luke in OR Room – This morning at 7:10 AM they took Joshua Luke to the Operating Room. The surgery will take at least 5+ hrs. Dr. Spray informed us this morning that he will be doing the modified hemi-fontan on Joshua Luke. In this procedure, the venous blood from the upper body is connected directly to the lungs and a patch is placed from the right atrium to the pulmonary artery. They reminded us of all the risks again and in our minds, we reminded ourselves how Big our God is and the fact that He has planned out all the days of Joshua Luke before he came into our lives. Praying for our little “warrior prince” to rise and fight. He has a long road of recovery ahead. Thank you for all the prayers this Christmas Eve, friends.

Dec 23rd: Joshua Luke’s Update: T’was the night before surgery: So tomorrow at 6 AM Joshua Luke will be wheeled off again for his 2nd open heart surgery, the Glenn procedure. All the pre-tests were done today and we signed all the consent forms that all have a very long list of risks and complications. This will be a longer surgery – roughly 6 hours. Recovery is estimated to take 7 days if there are no complications. Joshua Luke is sleeping as I write this update.

2nd surgery

Jinu’s personal thoughts: Today is a hard day for me. There is a lot going on inside of me. I know I am supposed to be strong and courageous but can I be honest with you friends? I think my heart is weary. I feel like there is a lump in my throat and a fear in my heart that I have not been able to shake for the last couple of days. Just the thought of my little baby boy going through another open heart surgery overwhelms me. In the midst of the fears, I felt God’s voice whisper in my heart – “I am with you. My hand is on Joshua”. We don’t feel alone; we know there are friends praying and fasting and standing with us. This morning I was reminded by my heavenly Father  — who feels the same way for me (even much more, actually) as I feel for Joshua Luke — and who loves Joshua Luke much much more than I ever could:

Psalms 139: 7-9 : “Where can I go from Your Spirit?Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning,  And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.

Thomas 009

Dec 15th: Joshua Luke’s 1st Christmas: Open Heart Surgery # 2: Joshua Luke has been OFF oxygen since he left the hospital on Dec 7th. Yay! God is so good – He has had favor on Joshua Luke due to the prayers and love of so many friends. As most of you know by now, Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome babies go through three open-heart surgeries in the first few years of their life: Norwood, Glenn and Fontan.  Joshua Luke underwent his first open heart surgery, the Norwood procedure, on Sep 16th (further down on this blog is the pics/updates from that day) and usually the next surgery, the Glenn, happens after 4 months but there is an EXCEPTION being made for Joshua Luke (now 3 month and 3 days old). We received a call last Tuesday, Dec 10th, that Joshua Luke’s second open heart surgery, the Glenn Procedure, which was scheduled to happen on January 23rd of 2014 by Dr. Spray is now on December 24th – Christmas Eve. We believe this is a GOOD thing because the Glenn procedure decreases the pressure/work load of the right ventricle, which is better for the long term.  Also, as most of you friends know that Joshua Luke’s heart was already showing signs of wear and decreased motility and so he is taking Digoxin to help his heart beat stronger.  Ann and I are happy but honestly, feel a little overwhelmed as well.

Baby Joshua Luke just came back from the hospital and this time it took him seven days to recover and get back to “normal” feeding. Now, again, seven days from now – we will be driving back to CHOP for his 2nd open heart surgery.  Our hearts are heavy for him. Please pray for us. We know and believe in Romans 8:28 – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”. This Christmas Eve say a prayer for Joshua Luke, as our “warrior prince” weathers another storm, another battle and another fight.  We know we are not alone – that God is with us (Emmanuel) and all you friends – who read the blog, pray, text, write notes, we know you all are standing with us. As we look at Joshua Luke on Dec 24th, we will not forget another Baby who came into the world for us – to remind us – how much we are loved and how far a Father will go to whisper into our hearts, I love you. Believing for a miracle – whether it comes through the surgery or through His touch.

Dec 15

Dec 7th: Cardiac Cath Day – Update # 3: IT HAPPENED: We can hardly believe what we heard this morning – “He does NOT need Oxygen”. Wow!!!! Could it be? IT HAPPENED. Another miracle. All signs pointed the wrong way but when you are a son or daughter of the Most High God and you have 1000s praying (brother/sisters in Rwanda, Uganda, US, Australia, India, Europe, Canada) – Jesus had compassion on Joshua Luke and healed him. Our hearts and eyes weep tears of Joy today. We could NOT have walked this road without our friends/family and army of prayer warriors. Thank you – thank you – thank you – from the bottom of our hearts. We love you all. You have given us the best gift this Christmas season – your Love and Prayers. The journey still has miles to go – but today we celebrate. “Thank You, Dad. We LOVE you”.

((I know we were privileged that many of your shared stories of the storm you are going through. Just wanted to say…. Trust in Jesus – He loves us more than we can ever imagine – Make Him a close friend and He will walk with you. Ann and I and Joshua Luke love you and we are praying for you))

Dec 7

Dec 6th: Joshua Luke Update: Cardiac Cath Day – Update # 2: The “warrior prince” is out of the Cath Lab and sedated and sleeping. Joshua’s in recovery now. The Cardiac Cath Specialist said they found some narrowing close to the previous conduit (Sano Shunt) placed and he dilated the area. No new additional stent was placed. He’s extubated and we’re watching his oxygenation now. So far it looks OK but has had a few dips and needed some supplemental oxygen but not continuously. They say that could be because of anesthesia still wearing off. Please keep praying for his oxygenation, fluid status, quick recovery without complications and no need for supplemental oxygen at home. That is the miracle that we’d like to go home with this weekend – No Supplemental 24/7 oxygen at home. Thank you friends for prayers and walking with us. We know God is able and He will perfect that which concerns Joshua Luke. He was fearfully and wonderfully made by His creator.

Dec 6b

Dec 6th: Joshua Luke Update: Cardiac Cath Day – Update # 1: After an unexpectedly long wait this morning and 4 attempts to get an IV line (poor baby – but he’s a trooper), at 10:20 AM, Joshua Luke was taken to the OR for a Cardiac Cath. Ann and I don’t feel alone at all. Thank you for your texts, emails and prayers. We feel your love. Though our heart aches this morning for our “warrior prince”, we feel God’s presence with us. We are blessed to have you with us. Thank you. We will update soon.

dec 5a

Isaiah 46:4 – …. I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you”

Dec 5th: Joshua Luke update: Prayers Needed – Cardiac Cath tomorrow: Here is the latest on Joshua Luke. CHOP doctors could not figure out why his oxygen saturation is low, so Joshua Luke is having a cardiac cath tomorrow, Friday, Dec 6th tentatively at 6 AM. It is an invasive procedure with many risks but it’s necessary to get to the bottom of Joshua’s low oxygen levels. Here is the hard part – if the cardiac cath does not find anything, it’s actually really bad. This means Joshua Luke will need to stay on oxygen until his second open heart surgery (the Glenn procedure) on January 23rd. There is also a small chance that the Glenn Surgery will NOT solve the issue. This is extremely bad news because Joshua Luke will be oxygen deprived and will require a O2 tank with him permanently. We need your prayers – now more than ever. God sees and hears from Heaven. The Bible is full of stories where the prayers of His people were answered. This is no exception. God can answer our prayer. Please join us tomorrow – Dec 6 – Friday – as we seek His face – as Joshua Luke is wheeled again into the operating room. May His presence walk into that room and guide the hands of the doctors.

Cath

 

Dec 4th: Joshua Luke update: Parents at CHOP: Everyone has a story. As we walk in and out of all the buildings at CHOP, there is a common sight. It’s a mom or a dad sitting down to catch a breath – some in tears, some gazing out through an open window and some waiting for one glimpse of hope in the midst of the storm. Where do you go when your world comes crashing down?

Today I was deeply moved by a prayer request on a wall by a dad or mom. I feel strange to share a note on a wall but friends, could you pray for the person in the note that God would move and heal and restore strength and courage. Maybe our prayer will change a world today. Can you join me? ((Bonus pics of Joshua Luke))

Parents at CHOP

Dec 2nd: Joshua Luke update: 2nd – Cardiac Catheterization: Joshua Luke will be undergoing another cardiac catherterization.  After a series of tests and hypotheses, the doctors at CHOP could not figure out – why Joshua Luke’s Oxygen Saturation is still at 68% to 71%? In HLHS patients, like Joshua Luke, they’d like to maintain an oxygen saturation between 75% to 80%. (remember in kids without congenital heart disease, this should be closer to 98%). There is also a new discussion that was introduced – should Joshua Luke’s 2nd open heart surgery (the Glenn procedure) be done earlier than planned – from January 23, 2014 to sometime in December 2013.  We don’t yet know what the plan or recommendations will be. According to the doctors at CHOP, the catheterization will likely show stenosis or narrowing of the shunt that was created during Joshua Luke’s first surgery and if so, will need further intervention.  Please pray for Ann and I.  We are thankful that we caught his drop in oxygen saturation sooner rather than later but we are scared to send Joshua Luke through another invasive procedure yet again with all it’s possible complications.  But we take ONE STEP AT A TIME knowing that God has this path already mapped out for us.

During times like these, you look back and realize how far God has brought you.  Ann and I looked through the 1000’s of pictures we have taken and are reminded of how faithful and good God has been to Joshua and us.  Because we know, many of you love us and having been praying with us, here is a collage of how much our little “warrior prince” has grown in 2.5 months.

Dec 2nd

Dec 1st: Joshua Luke update: Cardiac Cath?: So Joshua Luke is still requiring oxygen and all tests so far have been negative. Depending on what Joshua Luke’s Cardiac Team (his surgeon, his interventional cardiologist, his cardiologist and his cardiac anesthesiologist) decides tomorrow, the path will move ahead. It seems like there is only one earthly option left on the table. So we wait for the Expert Team to discuss tomorrow.

Dec 12

Thank you friends for your unwavering and long-suffering prayers for Joshua Luke and us. We will update everyone soon on what this team decides. Of course, we believe there is always an heavenly option on the table :)

Nov. 30th: Joshua Luke Update: Cannot figure out what’s wrong. Thank you so much to our friends who have risen as prayer warriors alongside us. Your prayers, words and love mean the world to us.

Nov30

In the last 12 hrs, Joshua Luke has undergone many tests to figure out why his oxygen saturation is low but we still cannot figure out what’s wrong. His chest is clear of obstruction, his CBC (complete blood count) is ok and his ECHO cardiogram shows all is ok with the stent that was placed and shunt that was created in his heart. He is on 0.5 liters of oxygen. We are waiting for a test to see if he has a Viral Respiratory Infection. There is one big option we are heading towards. On Monday if all else fails, we will have to do an invasive procedure, a Cardiac Catheterization.

Please continue to pray God would give the doctors wisdom and lead them to the right solution.

Nov. 29th: Joshua Luke Update: Joshua Luke Admitted at CHOP? At 7 pm tonight, Joshua Luke was admitted to the Cardiac Care Unit at CHOP. His oxygen saturation has been fluctuating a lot and his cardiologist believes something is wrong. Please stand with us in prayer again.

Dec 1

It was very emotional to walk back into this place (many memories/many tears) but we continue to believe that God has great plans for our little warrior prince. God is Faithful.

Nov. 27th: Joshua Luke Update: Might be back at CHOP? Happy on Tuesday, November 26th, Joshua Luke went to his Cardiology appointment with a Children’s Hospital at Philadelphia specialist. The good news, first – the ECHO cardiogram showed a slight improvement since starting the medication, digoxin, but the apex of his heart is still not contracting the way we would like. The not-so-good news is, his oxygen levels are extremely LOW. We have noticed that he is eating less and has not been himself for the past 6-7 days. So we are not sure what’s going on.  After speaking with his cardiologist today, we will monitor him over the next 24 hours and if this persists,  Joshua may have to be directly admitted to CHOP on Friday for a full evaluation.  Of course, we would rather him not be in the hospital, so we beseech your prayers this Thanksgiving. We are praying his appetite increases, he gains weight and his oxygen levels go back to his normal levels.  Thank you to all our family and friends. We are thankful for Joshua Luke and our friends and families, this Thanksgiving.

back at chop

Nov. 20th: Joshua Luke Update: Trouble in Paradise. Happy two-month B’day, Joshua Luke! On November 12  – our baby boy, Joshua Luke, turned 2 months old. It was a precious day and a great reminder to cherish moments we have together and to look back and see how far God has brought us.  Prayers, emails and texts still keep pouring in for our “Warrior Prince”. It melts our hearts to feel your love for him – so, thank you friends.

photo

On Tuesday, Nov. 4th, a routine bi-weekly ECHO with Joshua Luke’s Cardiologist from Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia revealed some major concerns. It showed decreased contractility of one of walls of his ventricle. During the ECHO as Joshua Luke was crying a lot, the cardiologist noted that his heart didn’t move or contract as robustly as she would have liked.  Most babies that have Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome have some degree of decreased motility after surgery but usually they recover. Joshua Luke’s heart is not recovering as expected. We have starting him on heart medication – Digoxin – to help it pump stronger, in order to decrease the work or effort of the one ventricle, so it doesn’t tire out. Hopefully, the medication will only be need to help until the second open heart surgery, which is  scheduled as of now, for Jan. 23, 2014.

It was a hard day to say the least. Ann and I felt like the waves of despair kept hitting us and just when we thought for 30 days, all is well, this news was discouraging. But hope is never lost because His creator, our God, who specializes in mending broken hearts, physical or spiritual, has Joshua Luke in the palm of His hand.

We’re praying that God strengthens his heart muscle.  Please also pray for his feeding. He was doing well and increasing his intake but over the past 10 days, he’s eating less too. Not sure if it’s because it’s hard work for his heart and he’s tired or if he’s just being a normal baby and being fussy on and off.  So please pray about these things.  Thank you one again for all the prayers!

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  (Galatians 6:9)

Oct 12th: Joshua Luke Update: Happy 1 month Birthday, Joshua Luke. Yep, it’s been 30 days since our “warrior prince” came into this world. It seems like the longest 30 days of our lives but today, we celebrate! God has been good to us. The emotions are still sometimes raw – just to think what we left behind. Today it’s tears of joy. We look ahead.

Mohawk

Joshua Luke is doing really well. You can guess what is missing in the picture above – yep, zero tubes :) :) His feeding tube is out as well. His o2 saturation is doing well and he is growing well. [(in his picture - we were experimenting with a mohawk to complete his "warrior prince" look :)] His first cardiology appointment was few days ago and the ECHO showed that everything is working as expected. As we looked through the screens to see his heart and his new aorta and archways carrying blood in and out – we realized – Joshua Luke is a miracle baby. “God has plans for Joshua Luke. He formed you and made you uniquiely and fearfully. Your journey has just begun but may you always realize, as you put your hand to your heart – He is with you and you will never walk alone”.

We know – many of you are celebrating this special moment with us. You walked this journey with us. We never felt alone because you showered us with love, support, prayers and words- words of encouragement, words of testimony and words of battles won. It strengthened us, gave us courage to look beyond and made us expectant to see His hand move. He did. And so, we rejoice, God has turned our mourning into dancing.

Invitation: Hey if you are going through a storm/hard time, can we pray for you? Use the comment feature below – to share your story or to just share your name and “please pray for me”. Go ahead. We will stand in the gap for you. This is what this journey is all about “everybody needs help and everybody can help”. We were never meant to walk alone. Let’s do life together.

Sep 29th: Joshua Luke Update: Home - Sleepless in Bridgewater. I should have listened to all you parents with newborns/kids :) – “Sleep now Jinu.. when Joshua Luke is here you can forget about sleep”! Oh, how I wish I could have stored up sleep like Sully and Mike Wazowski stored up screams in Monster’s Inc :) :) [wait... this might be my sleep talking]

mike sulley

First ride towards Home: We had a lot of emotions driving down with Joshua Luke for 1.5hrs towards home. I think at one point, we were listening to Matt Redman’s song, “Never Alone” and we literally bawling and crying. We realized we had gone through a battle, we had witnessed that God never leaves us alone and we believe God stooped down from heaven many times to wrap us up in His and reassure us that He loves us. He was always there.

What a joy to have our “Warrior Prince” at home. The feeling cannot be described in words. Joshua Luke has been doing well. He needs to gain a little weight but we are keeping a close watch over him. Everday we record his weight (he needs to gain 20-30 grams per day) and record his oxygen saturation. Every week, on an alternating schedule, he needs to meet his cardiologist (from CHOP) and pediatrician/primary care (from Hunterdon Family Practice & Obstetrics – Ann’s work place – Thank you to these awesome ladies, our friends, who loved us beyond measure with their words and love). 

Here is Joshua Luke with his mommy in his room for the first time.

jl room with mom

Hey moms and dads reading this blog – have any advice for us Newbie parents?

Sep 26th: Joshua Luke Update: It happened. You won’t believe it if I told you :) Ready?

finally

The MIRACLE we prayed for happened late last night. The doctor’s words “Joshua’s recovery has been one of the fastest we have ever seen”. His O2 saturation has been great after the stent placement. He had been growing in weight a little so we took Joshua Luke home. Super fast! Has to be God’s grace and the power of prayer of family/friends. It’s been an emotional 14+ days but we can truly say we saw His hand. It came in the form of literally hundreds of people rising up to pray with us and for us. Friends, you prayed Joshua Luke home and we cannot thank you enough. Joshua Luke still has quite a road ahead. We were discharged home with equipment to measure various parameters for our congenital heart baby. Infection is the greatest inter-stage risk before his next surgery in January so he won’t be at public places and will not have many visitors. But we know God has a plan for our “warrior prince”. We love you all so much for what you gave us: love, peace and courage.

Sep 25th: Joshua Luke’s Cardiac Cath:

Update # 1: Another long and tough day has begun. Our “warrior prince” was whisked away again for a cardiac catheterization. Our hearts are broken today. It was so hard to look at his eyes as he looked at us as we walked him towards the OR again.

cardiac cath

Thank you friends for your prayers today. We need His grace, strength and His peace today – as we continue to “only” believe. Please pray that God would move His hand and heal Joshua Luke. [one more update in few hours] [one more update in few hours]

Update # 2: Another tough day. Another battle won. Small victory but heading again in the right direction. Joshua Luke was found to have a narrowing of his heart repair (shunt) and required a stent (5mm) to be placed for increased flow to his lungs. He’s in recovery right now and doing well. Improved oxygenation but we have to pray and wait until the anesthesia wears off.

update 2

Joshua means “Yahweh is my Salvation”. Joshua Luke is learning through trials even as a baby – a promise from God – “Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

Ann and I are experiencing this promise and have found it to be true in this journey. Never alone. [thank you to all our prayer warrior friends]

Sep 25th Update: Joshua Luke Post-Surgery: Major Problem – Need Prayers Today.

baby pt

Two of the most critical things for Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome babies during recovery is: weaning off of the OXYGEN slowly (so they can breath on their own) and the growth of these babies. So Joshua Luke has been doing well in the later. He has slowly been gaining weight. It’s been slow but the trajectory is positive. The problem however has been his oxygenation. Joshua Luke has been sitting at an O2 Saturation range of 70-74 and this is low, with low levels of supplemental oxygen.  Since early this morning, he has dipped down to the 60’s and has needed more oxygen support. So today they are planning to do another procedure: Heart Catheterization – to see if there’s some obstruction or if he needs a stent to open/dilate the vessels. This means he will need anesthesia again and another intervention with the heart.  Of course, this comes with it’s own risks and possible complications.  It is scheduled around 2 pm this afternoon. So please pray with us. Pray for wisdom for the team and God’s mercy on Joshua Luke as he’s been through so much already. Thank you all. Feel free to pass this request to others who have been praying for Joshua or will pray. Love you all.

Sep 21st Update: Joshua Luke Post-Surgery: Good news! Joshua Luke is now stepped down from Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) to Critical Care Unit (CCU). Yay!!!! “Warrior Prince” is fighting hard and winning battles one victory at a time. The Lord has been good. He still has a little fluid around his heart – so we can continue to pray for complete healing.

release

The Plan: The plan is for Joshua Luke to be weaned off of oxygen and allow him to learn how to feed while coordinating breathing. The trauma of the surgery has set him a little back on normal things he would learn in the first 10 days of his life. Joshua Luke is among the very few kids that have recovered this fast – so if all things work well and no unforeseen things happen, Joshua Luke will be HOME in 7-10 days. Once this miracle of going home happens, Joshua Luke will take some time to get accustomed to the home because he is “congenital heart disease” baby. There many things to monitor while at home and numerous follow  up appointments that need to take place on a weekly, bi-weekly and monthly basis. He has a great risk of infection so you can expect Ann and I to be “Purell” parents :) – super cautious and protective parents in keeping germs away from him. If the next 4 months are uneventful, then Joshua Luke will be back for the second-of-three open heart surgeries, the Glenn Procedure.

The road has just begun but we are so thankful to God for his favor and mercy on Joshua Luke and us. Thank you to the many friends who have joined us on this journey to pray and storm heaven’s door to plead for mercy.

Sep 20th Update: Joshua Luke Post-Surgery: It’s the 4th day since Joshua Luke’s surgery and things have been looking up. He has all this tubes/lines out except his blended oxygen tube. He has begun feeding, he’s pooping :) (yep, so important) and his vitals all look good.

We did have a little problem yesterday because the ECHO of his heart showed some blood surrounding his heart. He is under observation to see if the level of blood is increasing or decreasing as his body absorbs it. He still sometimes has some decels in his oxygen levels but it is getting better.

family

Joshua Luke will be in Cardiac ICU till Monday, Sep 23th and he will hopefully be “stepped down” into CCU(critical care unit). Everyday is a small victory. Yesterday he had milk via his mouth for the first time :) … Yesterday, Ann and I were able to hold him in our arms for the first time since his surgery. It’s amazing to see how much we feel for Joshua Luke and how we want to FIGHT his battles for him…. but we know – we can only pray and be here with him. .

Just being here at CHOP and being surrounded by sick children is heart-breaking. But you see hope and beauty in life. I look forward to posting a small blog tomorrow (Saturday) about things that are shaping my heart and things that need some RE-thinking in my own life.

“God can take the tears of yesterday and transform them into the miracles of tomorrow. He can restore to you in all abundance what you have lost. He can cause all things, even the painful events of your past, to work together for your good” – Joseph Prince

Sep 18th: Joshua Luke’s Surgery: First post-op picture of “warrior prince”:

postop

It’s been 60 hrs since Joshua Luke’s surgery and today was a good day. His swelling is down and his breathing is good today. 80 percent of all the wires/tubes are out and one important one remains: right atrial line and pacemaker wires. They are planning to remove these wires tomorrow. We were told that one complication is, if this line, that goes directly into the right upper chamber of the heart, has issues with bleeding, then they may need to open up his chest again. (Worst case scenario). Prayer warrior backup requested. [Since so many of our friends were standing with us, we wanted to post the first post-op picture attached]

Sep 17th: Joshua Luke’s Surgery: Day after Surgery: 2 Updates

Update # 1: It’s been 24 hrs since Joshua Luke’s surgery and he did extremely well through the night. Thank you for prayers. All his vitals were catching up … Except maybe Urine Production (sorry for the details :) This morning at 8 AM, the second part of his surgery started. They need to close up his chest – which was left open yesterday for swelling and bleeding issues. It’s a quick 45 min surgery. Another day … Another Fight. “Joshua Luke, be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid – for the Lord your God will be with you.”

Bridgeway

Update # 2: Update from the bridge-way at Cardiac ICU (Picture above): It’s been 36 hrs since Joshua Luke’s surgery and there is some good news Because his vitals began stabilizing, they just extubated Joshua and so far he is breathing well on his own – yay! They are watching him closely tonight to make sure he can maintain his own breathing. So Joshua Luke, our courageous one, is a FIGHTER. As they pulled out the wires, he did not even make a peep :) So as we continue to pray … we pause to CELEBRATE God’s goodness! He has Joshua Luke in the palm of His hand. Ann and I sat at the bridge-way ( picture) for a brief moment – looking up to the sky to say – “Thank you, Dad”. Please continue to pray as there are many more things we have to overcome before we can take him home.

Sep 16th: Joshua Luke’s Surgery: The Day of Surgery: 4 Updates through the Day.

surgery 1

Update # 1: This AM Joshua Luke was taken to the OR at CHOP to first get an Echo (as we had requested) and if the diagnosis remains, the 4 hr surgery will begin to mend his heart. We are praying for His Will today. We will continue to update all our friends who are praying for Joshua Luke today.

Update # 2: The ECHO shows that the diagnosis remains. Joshua Luke is a HLHS baby. At, 9:05 AM, Joshua Luke was taken into the OR for his first of three open heart surgeries. The first step of the surgery has been successful.

Update # 3: The surgery was a SUCCESS :) God is so good. We met with Dr. Thomas Spray and he said “All is well. The next 24 hrs is the critical recovery period”. Thank you, dear friends for praying for Joshua Luke. Your love and prayers mean the world to us. The journey has just begun but we are thankful to God for today’s victory. Please continue to pray for his recovery. We’ll keep updating from time to time.

Surgery 2

Update # 4: It’s been 12 hrs since Joshua Luke’s surgery and our “Warrior Prince” seems to be pulling through ok. The next 12 hrs over night is crucial. He did have a little bleeding and right now has low pressures that they’re adjusting and monitoring.

Many of you have emailed, texted and FB messaged Ann and I asking how we are doing. First, thank you for all the support & love. The last 4 days we have gone from worry to joy to worry to great shock. We are trying to process bits and pieces but seeing Joshua Luke with hundreds of wires/tubes/drains will change us forever. We are taking one tear and one victory at a time. We believe Joshua Luke has a great destiny ahead of him… he will rise. Thank you for your love with concern. We love you guys for standing with us on this tough day. Please continue to lift Joshua Luke up in prayer to our Heavenly Father.

Sep 15th Late Update: Last Step of Faith. It’s hard to describe in words how Ann and I were feeling today – 24 hrs before Joshua Luke’s scheduled first-of-three open heart surgeries. Joshua Luke is scheduled for his surgery at 6:30 AM, Monday, September 16. There was feeling of helplessness, fear, many tears, many kisses for Joshua Luke and some moments where we felt our faith rise – even though it feels like – it’s so last minute. Could God show up the way we want Him to, by healing Joshua Luke’s heart? Afterall, the Bible is full of examples when God shows up at the last moment. Lazarus was 4 days dead when Jesus raised him from the dead. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were looking at sure death by fire when suddenly the feet of the 4th person, that looked like the Son of God, landed in the midst of the fire. Paul and Silas were beaten and put into the jail when all of a sudden the gates of the most secure prison flew open. Jairus’s daughter was healed a little late – she died. So emboldened by all these stories, we did something today.

Last step of Faith: Call us foolish :) …. but today, Ann and I, sent a personal request to the Surgeon, Dr. Thomas L. Spray (Chief, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, CHOP), a  personal favor/request from the baby’s parents. Let’s do one last ECHO before his surgery. This is considered extremely strange but we feel like we want to take ONE LAST step. If God chooses to intervene, He can because He is almighty, we will see his heart fully funcational. If God chooses to walk with us through this surgery, He can because He is almighty, we’ll accept to walk by faith the road He has prepared for us. But one act of defiance, one last step of faith.

jl me

Please pray with us. Tomorrow is a really critical day for Joshua Luke. Thank you for the love everyone has poured on us. We have received hundreds of texts, emails, facebook messages, comments and cards. We still believe.

Sep 14th Update: Fuzzy road ahead. The verdict is in: Joshua Luke WILL undergo his first open heart surgery to fix his hypoplastic left heart on Monday, Sep 16th which was confirmed with a repeat ECHO after birth.  It is again heart-breaking news but we were purposed in our hearts to accept His soverign will – no matter where it led.

3 of us

What lies ahead for Joshua Luke is a very hard road. Three open heart surgeries in the first 4 years of his life. The first step is called the Norwood surgery. The risks are extremely high [because of the type of surgery itself, requiring cardiopulmonary bypass and what that entails, as well as Joshua being so little and will only be four days old] and his recovery may take 3-6 weeks. [For those who want to read a little more details on Joshua Luke's surgeries - here is a link]. Yesterday as we heard the very detailed description of what they will do to his body, we wept. It was hard to hold him and see his perfect face/body and think about the details of what they told us.

Jinu’s Personal thoughts: Yep, in all honesty, I have had thoughts about all those questions. Why did the God of the univserse not move his finger (just a tiny bit :) to mend Joshua Luke’s broken heart? Would he still intervene? Is He waiting till the last minute like Lazarus to surprise us like a dad does? What if He does show up the way we want Him to? What will happen if something goes wrong with the surgery? My mind has a lot of questions this morning as I sit here alone in the waiting room with my laptop looking at the sky. “I know you see me Dad. I know our eyes meet even though I cannot see you physically. If you have chosen this broken road ahead of us to perfect Your will and Joshua’s purpose, please give us courage. But I know even now Dad that you can change the course. You can show up. So I ask you this morning, I beg you this morning, please spare Joshua Luke from going down this journey. Please move and heal his heart. I still believe. The whole world is in your hands.”

Thank you: I just want to say thank you to all our friends and family who have been praying for the last 5 months. I don’t think we could have made it this far in peace without your prayers. Please continue to believe. Thank you for overwhelming us with your love, prayers and words. More updates soon.

Sep 13th – Update: Everyone has a Day 0. He arrived. Freshly wrapped from heaven. At 11:42 AM yesterday, Sep 12, Ann gave birth to our baby boy, Joshua Luke Thomas. The much prayed for and much anticipated baby boy – here he is:

Joshua Luke 1

Words cannot express what it means to see the face of the baby we have cried so many tears for. What a joy! Yesterday was a good day. All of Joshua Luke’s vitals and all the external physical signs show that Joshua Luke is perfectly made. He cried of loud when he was born [(always a good sign but in this special cardiac situation, a celebrated moment :)], he needed no oxygen to help him breathe and a physical check of his lungs/organs shows all is well.

Immediately after birth, Joshua Luke, was whisked away to the Cardiac ICU, where he was given prostaglandin to keep his small heart going. Yesterday, Joshua Luke went through an extensive ECHO Cardiogram for the Doctors Review (cardiologists & surgeons) – which happened this morning. We are still waiting to hear from the doctors. How is Joshua Luke’s heart doing? Does he need the 3 step Open Heart Surgery? (if yes, then Joshua Luke will go into his first open heart surgery in 2-3 days)

Today out of the thankfulness and praise of our hearts, Ann and I prayed, probably a similar prayer that Abraham said – “God, don’t let a BLADE touch our son’s body. Heal Joshua Luke’s tiny heart”.

Sep 10th – Update: It’s time. Joshua Luke is 39 weeks and 5 days old and as planned, he has stayed inside the “oven” :) till 40 weeks. Ann’s induction is scheduled for Thursday, Sep 12th. Yesterday, Sep 9th, Ann and I moved into the Ronald Mcdonald House in Camden. So thankful to Calvary Chapel in Philadelphia and Pastor Jerry for making the needed phonecalls and making annoucements in church. Since the day that Ann and I shared that we needed a place in Philly, close to CHOP, we have had more than 12 offers for us to stay over. Amazing. Overwhelming grace. We were deeply moved by all our friends and their friends who created options for us. Thank you.

Rmh

Today, Sep 10th, we had our Final OB Appt at the Fetal Heart Center at CHOP. The good news is that Joshua Luke went from 13th percentile to 35th percentile :) His growth is really good. We also met with our surgeon face to face, who shared with us about the surgery after Joshua Luke’s birth and the risks that are involved with this “High Risk” Surgery. As the surgeon was explaining many things, I could not help but think about these words “My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed”. Is anything too hard for the Great I AM? Yet in the following few hours, there was a little trepidation. But we celebrate with joy knowing that despite the unknown, His track record in our life has been nothing but “spotless”. Never once did we ever walk alone. He has been faithful. We have to believe. Whether He will protect us and shelter us from the storm or if He decides to walk with us through the storm, we will trust Him.

Here is another 4D image from Joshua Luke to all his friends. :)  Thank you for all the love, prayers and support!

jl7

Sep 4th – Update: Here it is! After 20-25 hrs of work – painting, re-painting, painting the molding, setting up the crib, setting up the dresser and putting on the new decals from etsy – Voila! Releasing Joshua Luke’s Room to all our dear family/friends who have walked with us for the last 5 months.

JL Room

Here is the latest on Joshua Luke:  The last four weeks we’ve had a lot of tough moments. We found out 3 weeks ago that Joshua Luke was in the 13th percentile and was not growing properly. The doctors said “This is common for babies with HLHS” – but Ann and I were really worried. Secondly, Ann was having strong contractions so she was immediately put on full bed-rest for 2 weeks but went back to work on a modified schedule soon. Scary moment. Every time we felt a little down – we were reminded of the verses of Psalm 139 (that is on Joshua Luke’s wall)

“For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them”

Ann is being induced on Sep 12th and we have begun packing up to leave to Philly this weekend. We will be away for 5-6 weeks. It feels like we are going on a journey (like Abraham w/Issac). We know we will encounter God when Joshua Luke is born but the question remains in our heart: Will He show up and heal Joshua Luke miraculously? Or has He chosen a different path for him? Surely God has seen our tears for the last 5 months. Surely God has heard our prayers. Will He radically intervene to heal his heart or will He whisper to us through the storm, “My grace is sufficient for you”. We wait. . . . Stay Tuned.

Aug 21st – Update: Firstly, Ann and I want to take a moment to say “Thank you” to all our friends for your prayers and words of encouragement (via emails, cards and texts). Thank you for your love and lifting up Joshua Luke with us to our Father in Heaven. Yesterday was a tough day at CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia).

JL Luke

Joshua Luke’s growth is displaying concerns as he is in the 13th percentile. This is low. According to the doctors, babies with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome have growth issues during the last 3-4 weeks. Ann and I were a little concerned after the Ultrasound. We will now have weekly testing until delivery.  Having said that, we also had a  Fetal Echo Cardiogram and the good news is that the only ventricle Joshua has, right ventricle, is stable and steady with no issues. Our next appointment is next Tuesday. We continue to pray and believe that God will show up at any moment.

Though it was a tough day, just being at CHOP and seeing so many parents and kids going through storms, made us realize, there is a purpose. We are called to be “Salt” and “Light” and we are called to share the hope we find in Christ to many. So we are thankful that we get to possibly interact with parents/kids going through struggles and this journey with Joshua Luke has already changed us by making us sensitive to pray for these parents and kids.

Matthew 11:28 – “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” 

Joshua 1:9 – Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

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July 22nd – Update: Dear Friends/Family, I want to take a moment to introduce Joshua Luke to you all. Here he is (3D ultrasound photo):

Joshua Luke

Yup!! The little guy we all have been praying for and continue to pray for is above. Ann and I were shocked to see this picture on the screen when we had our last Ultrasound/Fetal Echo at CHOP. Last Monday, we had a scary experience of Ann having pre-mature contractions at 32 weeks. We were extremely worried because we were warned early-on that it was important to keep Joshua in the womb for as long as possible to give him the best chance, to optimize everything including his lungs.  Ann has been put on complete bed-rest with increased fluid in-take to prevent early delivery that would jeapordize Joshua’s life. Ann and I are heading back tomorrow for our monthly tests at CHOP. We are eagerly and desperately praying for God to show up with a miracle. We believe. Thank you for your prayers and faith as we stand strong in Him.
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June 25  Update: Today, Ann and I, went for our 28-week “routine” ultrasound and fetal echo at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The good news is that Joshua is growing well with no other co-morbidities. He is 2.9 lbs already :) God is good. In babies with HLHS (Hypoplastic left heart syndrome), sometimes the tricuspid valve on the right side of the heart can become incompetant and allow back flow, however, thankfully Joshua’s heart is strong and everything looks good. We were also given a tour of the Special Delivery Unit (SDU) – where Joshua will be delivered [(if he is not healed :) which is what we are praying for :)] and the  Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) – where Joshua will be transferred after the surgery. It is expected that Joshua’s first of three open heart surgery’s (norwood procedure) will take place within 3 days of his birth. He will take around 4-5 weeks to recover and come home. Ann and I will be moving to Philly for 6 weeks starting the first week of September.Thank you to all our friends for your continued prayers for Joshua Luke. We believe that God is able to heal Joshua’s heart and we continue to pray for a miracle. Thank you believing with us.

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May 19, 2013: Original Blog

Joshua Luke

We couldn’t have seen it coming.  On April 29. 2013, the only thought on our minds that day as Ann and I drove to our 20 week Anatomy ultrasound was – Is it a boy or a girl? As the Ultrasound tech started the scan, we were excited, joking around, laughing and could not wait to find out who would win the bets we had placed on a boy or a girl? Little did we know that dark clouds had come around us. The tech kept saying “everything looks fine”, “everything looks fine” and then kept looking at something over and over again for 20 mins. Then with a deeply saddened face he turns around and says these words that I will never forget. “We have an issue with the baby’s heart”. Our 20 week old baby boy [(yep, it's a boy :)] was diagnosed that day with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Our little Joshua Luke Thomas – our promise baby we had been praying circles around for years in prayer – was missing the left ventricle in his heart. Our worlds came crashing down as we cried our hearts to God for the next 5 days.

Where do you go when you heart is broken in a million pieces?

There, as I lay in the middle of the floor that night crying out to God, I realized I had been sharing the story of a man named Jairus for 12 months now, whose 12 year old daugher, the apple of his eyes, was dying in front of him. As a dad, he tries everything and then as a last resort, this jewish synagogue rabbi, desperately throws himself publicly at the feet of Jesus and begs him to save His daughter. The story doen’t go as he had planned. She dies. Right before, he could break down, Jesus looks into His eyes and says “Only Believe”. The story of Jairus had become real in my life. The theme of Collyde Summit 2013 just took on a whole new meaning.  Would I believe the words of Jesus? Would I give him the broken pieces of my heart as He whispered in my ears that night “Only Believe, my son. I am here with you.”?

Read the Story of Jairus in Mark chapter 5 – here and see how this story ends. 

 

 

 

lightstock_75205_xsmall_user_2976985Leadership Lesson #4 – Patiently Pursue Progress, Not Perfection

I’ve been wresting with a really frustrating tension – it seems like the more opportunities I have to exert influence and lead, the more aware I become of all the ways in which I still need to grow. Can you relate?

Whether it’s the more practical stuff like time and task management, team communication or meeting structure, or the more people focused matters of organizational culture, conflict resolution or leadership development, I often wish I was make more improvement, and making it faster.

More. Faster. Farther. Sooner. Stronger. Quicker.

Taking a step back to ask “why do I feel this way?” and “where is this pressure really coming from?” has revealed a couple of things:

1. This is the prevailing mantra of today’s American mindset. I feel the push for more/faster in just about every aspect of my life – parenting, home management, personal finances, food/nutrition and fitness, ministry, and leadership. I’ve learned enough about myself to know that it’s partially my wiring, but in a culture that is constantly offering up more information in more places about how we all can do more, faster and better, we’ve become a people whose pressure valve is nearly always up against the breaking point. It’s critical that for me to discern and guard against this cultural influence become a controlling influence.

 

2. I have unrealistic expectations. As easily as I can put unrealistic expectations on others, I can demand them of myself. So I have to reset my thinking to acknowledge that progress, not perfection is the goal. Perfection is unrealistic, both for myself and for any aspect of an organization. Excellence does not require perfection. Excellence requires the patient pursuit of progress that is well-defined, attainable and significantly contributes to the long-term growth of a leader or team. Too many times I believed that those around me and above me expected perfection – expected me to have all the answers. It was scary to say, “I don’t know” or “let’s work on this together” because I thought leaders were supposed to have it all figured out. What I’ve learned is that “I don’t know” breathes truth, life, space and margin into my leadership. It keeps me approachable to my colleagues and patient with myself which replicates across the organization, producing a healthier culture.

3. In the absence of long-range planning and vision, near-term life is frenetic and pressure filled.  There is no shortage of things we can work on. If you don’t know where you headed and how you’re getting there, it can easily feel like you have to work on everything all at once. This is as true for an individual as for a team. What I’ve needed most, and what I’m excited to embrace in a new season of life this fall, is the space and margin to craft out what my own personal vision is and a plan for getting there so that I can make better decisions about what I need to work on and when, and release myself from the pressure to be perfect in all areas all at once.

If you’re feeling the frustration of More. Faster. in your leadership, let me encourage you to think about how you can release yourself and those around you from unrealistic expectations to cultivate safe and humble environments that celebrate patiently pursuing progress towards excellence, not perfection.

17 reasons v2

Reason #1: Jeremy Camp. BAM! Done. (here is his song “Overcome”: link)

Reason # 2: Speaker lineup –  Pastor Eugene Cho, Dr. David Ireland, Rebekah Lyons, Pastor Tim Lucas, Naomi Zacharias, Brad Lomenick and many other speakers. (here are all the speakers)

Reason # 3: The Leadership Track “Leadership Essentials: Becoming a Better Leader”. If leadership, vision, skills and clarity is your thing, this track will inspire you. Our speakers: Brad Lomenick, Will Mancini, Jenni Catron and William Vanderbloemen (see graphic) (you’ll be taking notes on this one!)

Reason #4: Our theme “OVERCOME” based on John 16:33. Here’s a snippet  – “God uses hardships to build character, challenges to create dependence, obstacles to ignite faith and suffering to establish identity.  Read our theme @ www.collydesummit.com

Reason #5: Two of our favorite worship leaders – Aaron Keyes (link) and Jason Yost (link) – leading worship throughout the Summit on both days.

Reason #6:  The Creative Arts Track: “Creative Arts, Media and Social Media”. Our speakers: Dawn Nicole Baldwin, Rich Birch, Stephen Brewster & Justin Wise (see graphic)

Reason #7: Our hosts:  will inspire your hearts – Kristen HamiltonRyan FaisonGian Paul GonzalezChristine Shuey.

Reason # 8: Over 42 Great Organizations under one roof.  A few examples: World Vision, Compassion, Blood:Water, Pillar College, Biblica, Lifesong, Young Christian Leaders and many others (see all our participating organizations here)

Reason #9: FREE Coffee!  One of our favorites!  Land of 1000 Hills Coffee will be served throughout the Collyde Summit. (straight from the farmers of Rwanda to you! -read their amazing story)

Reason #10: Introspection and Encouragement. You’ll realize you are not alone.  Meet and make friends with others just like you.

Reason # 11: The Justice Track  “Justice, Culture, and Redemption”. If the topic of justice moves your heart, then this track is for you. Our speakers: Naomi Zacharias, Andy Lehman, Naomi Overton & Jena Nardella (see graphic).  You don’t want to miss this one!

Reason # 12: Time to rejuvenate your mind AND soul.  

Reason # 13: Worship Track. Calling all Worship Leaders! The track is titled “Worship Experience: Planning, Doing, Becoming”. Our speakers: Jason Yost, Sheri Gould, Matt McCoy(see graphic).  If you are a worship leader or love to sing/write songs, this track is specifically for you.  (You’ll want to take notes!)

Reason # 14: Food-trucks!  Oh yeah! We have some amazing lunch options for you. Come Hungry – Spiritually and Physically!

Reason # 15: This is happening in New Jersey!  When is the last time you went to an event like this in New Jersey?  Register @ www.collydesummit.com while tickets are still available.

Reason # 16: Meet These Guys!  Our Track leaders – Amanda BoleynRich BirchJason Yost Amy Vincent. They are not only amazing individuals but are also experts in areas they are leading. Read more about them at www.collydesummit.com (Follow them on Twitter)

Reason # 17: Last but not the Least: The Holy Spirit. We have been praying for the last 12 months for the Holy Spirit to speak to each one of you. With so much prayer, we expect great things. Our small team works hard to create a great event, but we trust and know that God shows up in unexpected ways and meets each attendee in specific ways. We love hearing stories of life changes, moments of clarity, great conversations and encounters, powerful times of renewal, your walk with Jesus becoming stronger and more than we could ever plan.  As you encounter Him through the words of many speakers, during times of heartfelt worship and whispers of His Spirit, we know He will meet you right where you are.

Welcome to Collyde Summit 2014.

Have you registered yet? don’t wait: Sign-up today.

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I read a blog post a few months back, written by a guy I have great respect for. The post was about learning to listen to God’s voice. “God is always talking,” I remember his words so clearly; words that opened my eyes to the ways God speaks to me in my life. In His word. In silence. In circumstances. In the sunset following a terrible storm.

Metaphors and story seemed to be Jesus’ chief way of communicating to people throughout the New Testament. When I think about it, I’m struck by how far heavenly knowledge needs to stoop to make sense in our minds. Yet, Jesus met us here, using language we could understand. He talked about growing seeds, parent/child relationships, and money—parallels that help us understand what God, and life in the Kingdom, is like.

For the past two years, I’ve been studying Marriage and Family therapy. I’ve heard countless lectures, read book after book, and even observed my professors providing therapy. Though, nothing teaches you quite so much as working as a therapist, which I quickly realized back in May when I started seeing clients. We were taught early on in school, that we all have blind spots in our lives and that pain has a way of blurring our vision. That’s why counseling, by a professional or mentor, is important—it’s enormously valuable to have an outside perspective on situations to increase understanding. Many times in life we find ourselves needing to trust the judgement of a parent or good friend when we fail to see harmful circumstances and decisions clearly.

It occurred to me, knee deep in therapy, that there are times when I need to stop trusting the things clients say. It’s in their best interest that I do. There are times when client’s words don’t match their behaviors, and I need to recognize when they’re not okay—even when they say they are.

He speaks, always.

I saw myself. I heard my words to Jesus, as He prepared to suffer on my behalf, telling Him I was fine; utterly convinced of it. Yet, my life hinged, at that desperate hour, upon Jesus being able to know I was not. He knew the parts of my heart that disdained Him, the parts that would rather live life my way, and He knew what would happened if He listened. That’s what kept Him on the cross. “God shows His great love for us in this way: Christ died for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:8.

If Jesus knew then what was good for me, it means He knows it now. It means I can offer up carefully crafted lip service, but He won’t fall for it. He sees the inner workings of my mind and heart and knows what I really need. At my deepest level, I can rest in that. Moment by moment, I need to be grateful for that. I really, really don’t understand most of it. But, thinking of all He did to rescue me then, when I didn’t want it, reminds me He will do the same now.

He is faithful.

 

field

Poetry used to really confuse me. Not that it doesn’t still confuse me at times—I think I’ve just grown in my appreciation for it, and in my tolerance to not understand. I used to be so quick in reading it and even quicker in saying I didn’t get it. One such poem was about a field where nothing happened. I remember studying it in college and wondering why both William Stafford and our class wasted time on it. Nothing happened.

This poem, startlingly so, came back to me recently, and I felt I understood a little more. Mind you, 4 years after the fact. The poem was about ordinariness. It spoke about a field where no blood was shed, no monuments were built, and nothing heroic happened. It was just an unmarked field, with grass and birds. I can’t say with certainty what brought the poem back to mind, but I speculate it happened sometime amid folding laundry, and the questions I ask about who I want to be.

The end of last month, I spent time exploring Boston with some friends. We walked the Freedom Trail, which highlighted milestones along the way, including the cemetery where Paul Revere, John Hancock and the five victims of the Boston Massacre were buried. The divide between what was above ground and what was below felt so real to me at that moment. I felt very aware that I was alive, that I still had breath in my lungs. They were once walking around up here, like us, I kept thinking. We knew a few names on the graves, those who made it into the history books, but most were unknown, with even their name fading from the stone. They lived their lives, worked jobs, paid bills, made decisions—good and bad—and hopefully loved well along the way. Many didn’t go down in the history books as great, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t.

C.S. Lewis spoke a bit on ordinariness:

 “What is more (and I can hardly find words to tell you how important I think this), it is just the people who are ready to submit to the loss of the thrill and settle down to the sober interest, who are then most likely to meet new thrills in some quite different direction… This is, I think, one little part of what Christ meant by saying that a thing will not really live unless it first dies. It is simply no good trying to keep any thrill: that is the very worst thing you can do. Let the thrill go — let it die away — go on through that period of death into the quieter interest and happiness that follow — and you will find you are living in a world of new thrills all the time.”

I think of this, when I think about those faded graves, when I think about myself. So often we seek out moments of excitement and recognition—some moment of having “made it”. Something that tells us we’re worthwhile. Yet, Lewis reminds us there’s a different kind of thrill that will settle upon us when we give up our adrenaline-pumping concept of thrill, which paradoxically, is more fulfilling than any thrill we imagine. We frequently walk around with skewed perceptions of what our lives should look like, what greatness really is—and as a result, find ourselves terribly unsatisfied with the present, plagued by nostalgia for the past and yearnings for the future. The dishes need to be done and taxes need to be filed and the bathroom scrubbed. It’s not very exciting sometimes, at all. But, I think Lewis speaks of something enormously important, in dying to our concept of thrills. For as long as we keep seeking the thrills, the spotlight, the next-thing, we’ll be dissatisfied with the present. And, the present is important because that’s where we find God.

Jesus speaks about the value of small, everyday moments in Luke 16:10, when he told His disciples: “He who is faithful with little, will be faithful with much.” In fact, His whole life and ministry redefined what it means to be great. He said: “whoever desires to be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26). Which means, for all I know, those faded graves marked unwaveringly obedient people. It means that they could have lived lives of gentleness, kindness, love and joy. They could have been neighbors that brought dinner when a family was sick, or people who offered up their smiles to passers-by. They could have fed the hungry and cared for the widows. They could have been unassuming, but beautiful, just like that field.

(Untitled)
William Stafford

This is the field where the battle did not happen,
where the unknown soldier did not die.
This is the field where grass joined hands,
where no monument stands,
and the only heroic thing is the sky.
Birds fly here without any sound,
unfolding their wings across the open.
No people killed – or were killed – on this ground
hollowed by the neglect of an air so tame
that people celebrate it by forgetting its name.