This coming Sunday will be Keller's 4th birthday!!!!! I cannot believe that it has been that long! It seems like yesterday we just found out that we were expecting him....and now here we are! This past week, I have been reflecting and remember things about the week he was born.
For those that don't know, Keller was born at 26 weeks, weighing in at 2lbs. 4 oz. To add to that we had only been in Florida for maybe 3 weeks and the weekend before he was born, we were moving into our house.
But let me take you back a little further. The summer/fall of 2005 was a not a great time in my life personally. I had made some personal decisions that were not for the best, and when you couple that with emotions of poor self-esteem and lack of confidence...you find yourself without a job...or at least I did. At that point, I struggled with the understand of God's will for my life because I thought that leaving my desire to be a teacher for ministry was what he was calling me to be...and it all of a sudden blew up in my face. So I found myself becoming withdrawn from people, and even my relationship with God. It was truly a dark road I was going down....you can reference my wife and my journals for proof. I was not a fun person to be around. There was a lot of anger, mostly at myself, and to be completely honest and humbling, at that point in my life I was not use to losing...at anything! It was a big blow! But I praise God that he did not give up on me!
In that fall, I had started getting calls from a couple of churches...which I was not sure if I was ready to venture back into that process. In addition, we found out we were expecting our first child! This is where I think God has a sense of humor because I can remember being procrastinator about calling back churches and looking for a job...of course finding out you are having a child would motivate anyone to find a job! But was I ready to return to ministry!? So with a desire to care for my family and a small amount of faith, we packed up and moved to Venice Florida!
What I remember most about being here for the first time is that people were and are super friendly, and loving, even though at that point, I had a lot of walls built up for fear I would find myself in that similar position! We were all excited about doing ministry together and even more excited about the fact our first child was coming in May! Yes, May not January! Since our house was not ready, we were staying in a hotel for three weeks! I remember one night in particular I was feeling really uncomfortable about being here! Nothing felt secure or safe. I remember laying in the bed of that hotel room praying to God for a sign that we had made the right decision, that we were staying in line with the plans he designed for us. A couple of days later, we got the call that we could move into our house! I remember it being a wild weekend and a lot of people helping us get all of our stuff in the house! But at last, we were home and a feeling of security washed over me....then came Tuesday!
January 31st was a really long day! It started early at the hospital because Ashley had some discomfort. We went in to get checked out and all was supposedly okay. Nothing that could not be treated with medicine and rest. Later that morning we went back to the hospital to meet with Ashley's new OB. With the discomfort still happening and an oversight on her medical chart, we were rushed to the labor & delivery floor. At this point, there was a lot of people coming in and out of the room, giving Ashley medication and doing checks on the baby! Eventually we found out that she was in labor and that the team was doing everything they could to slow down and stop the labor from progressing. I do remember the Doctor telling us that we would have a baby by the end of the week. In the few quiet moments we had, I remember us both praying that God would protect them both, and that he would reveal himself to us in a mighty way!
The next few hours were quiet and calm. It appeared that the labor had stopped and that Ashley was going to be in the hospital for the remainder of her pregnancy. Who would have thought that her pregnancy was ending that evening. A nurse discovered that the baby had moved down further then they expected and they moved her to the OR to begin the c-section. That evening, Keller Colbert Gage came into the world. To our surprise, we learned that he weighed more then that Doctor expected! Later, as I was watching the nurses make adjustments to one of the many tubes coming from his body, I heard the Lord say to me, "I am with you. I have been with you. I am not leaving."
At that point, I did not fear for Keller's life any longer. My attention focused on how we were going to parent a child who may have development issues...physically, mentally, etc. From that point, every health decision that was made, every procedure that was performed on him was an answer to prayer. The call of giving our child back to God was never more true for us then those 80 days in the NICU. In making that surrender to God, He restored my soul. He restored my calling to ministry, and gave me assurance like never before. I will forever remember these moments, not just because our son was born in these circumstance...but because I had never felt the presence of God so strongly in my life at the point in time!
So as I reflect upon our lives with Keller these past four years, I am extremely grateful and indebted to him. Not just because he brings amazing joy, laughter, and even patience. But because God was able to use Him to remind me that we are not alone! To Keller I say, that I love more then words can tell! You inspire me to be a better man, and father! I pray for God's continued blessing over you as you play, laugh and grow! My heart is overjoyed!
You are Loved!