Family Photo 2015

Family Photo 2015

Friday, January 29, 2010

Through the Gift of a Child...Assurance & Faith is Restored!

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 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 So I found myself becoming withdrawn from people, and even my relationship with God.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 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 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!

Friday, January 22, 2010

We are not Handy Men...But we did an OK Job!

As I mentioned in my previous entry, we have almost completed the baby room/guest room! Here is a sampling of the what we have finished at this point! We are getting closer!

Visions of Afro Puffs & Tiaras

So today we are at 26 days and counting until our baby girl arrives! Our house has been a mess as we have gone into nesting overdrive with planning. And when I say we, I do mean both me and Ashley! Is it weird that the father can go through a nesting phase? The baby room/guest room is almost complete and I am super excited about it! And now we are waiting...and wondering what kind of kid this little lady is going to be! Which leads me to the title of this entry!

The other night I was up late...because I could not sleep. While I was laying on the couch, an episode of that show "Toddlers and Tiaras" came on! If you have ever seen this show, you will totally agree with me that it is a parental HOT MESS! I am amazed and sad to see what parents will put their children through for the sack of competition. And for some of these parents, if not all of them, it is clear that they are living vicariously through their children! So of course since that was the last thing I saw in real dreams were reflecting the same thing. Yes you guessed it! I was that crazy parent in the back of the ballroom doing mirror image choreography while my daughter was on stage! I even remember the TV cameras following us, because we were a part of the next season of the show. They wanted to follow us because our little girl won 15 pageants in a row! Basically, the world wanted to know what was our secret to success! The dream went on with more trophies, tiaras, and tantrums... naturally, the trophies and tiaras were from our kid. The tantrums were from the other children! LOL

I woke up from that dream feeling dirty and ashamed! I always knew that woman were subjected to the world's opinion of how they should look and what they should wear! I did not realize it started so young! The more I thought about the dream, the more I found it humorous. I know that I am not like those parents on that show. And the fact that I am a some sort of performing musician, I have worked hard at keeping my "Show Dad" personality in check with Keller. My prayer is that my daughter can be comfortable with who she is and not conform to what the fashion magazines and news media tell her she needs to be! My prayer for myself is that I do not impress upon her my unreal expectations of who she is suppose to be. Above all, my prayer is, that as a family, we can reflect the Love of Christ in our comings and goings. Whether that be soccer games, band concerts, dance recitals, etc. In my heart and in my mind, I will always see visions of Afro puffs and tiaras...because just as her mother is the queen of my heart, she will be my little princess!


Saturday, January 16, 2010

We Bring the Sacrifice of Praise

Every time I hear that title, "We Bring the Sacrifice", my mind immediately goes back to my home church in Oklahoma and to our worship leader who would encourage us about every 3 weeks to take our hymnals and "Turn to hymn #41!" And of course we would kick into that that classic tune by Kirk Dearman. As the praise and worship drama of the 90's was unfolding in churches across the country, I can remember that this was a chorus that was deemed"acceptable" for our little church to sing! As a kid, I never thought to much about the song...other then it having a good beat and the people really liked it. But now, as my heart for worship and my ear for worship music is growing and being tuned, I find myself looking at this song and this concept of bringing the sacrifice of praise in a different way! Take a moment and refresh yourself on the lyrics:

"We bring the sacrifice of praise, into the house of the Lord.

We bring the sacrifice of praise, into the house of the Lord.

And we offer up to You, our sacrifices of thanksgiving;

And we offer up to You, our sacrifices of joy."

If you are like me, when you start reading those lyrics, you cannot help but start humming the tune. I have to be honest and confess that when I would sing this and read the lyrics, something did not sit well with me. I felt like the lyrics, and tune were not in tune with each other. Why would a person be joyful about sacrificing something?

To me, when I think of the word sacrifice, I don't think about a feel good song with a good gospel beat...but i do not want to downplay this song that Mr. Dearman has published. To me, sacrifice means that you are giving up something. But not just anything...something of great importance and of great cost! I realize that all people, Christian or not, can experience trials, struggles, and turmoil. There are times in our lives that it feels like there is no end in sight and no light at the end of the tunnel. Our Senior Adult pastor uses this statement all the time"Lord willing...if the creek don't rise." Now for people in my generation, they may not understand what that means, but for Pastor Gary and his generation, they totally grab the meaning of that statement. Now if I take this statement and apply it to this concept of sacrificial praise, and the fact that people are going through their personal trials and struggles, some one may ask "What happens when-according to our standard/needs-God is not willing yet? Whet happens when the creeks of our lives start rising?"

When I thought about those questions, my mind and my heart went out to the people of Haiti. I was watching a news segment the other night and they were talking with some Haitian people and several of them expressed how their faith was sustaining them through this tragic time. The thing that captured my heart were the images of people out in the middle of streets in the midst of the rubble and the mess...and they were praying! Not only were they praying, but they were worshiping...they were offering a sacrifice of praise! Seeing these people helped me understand the importance of the statement "sacrifice of praise." Bottom line, it is truly that...a sacrifice. I believe that God knows it is a sacrifice when say "Praise the Lord' or "Glory to God", when it feels like we are going make it or when or our circumstances are not changing, or we find ourselves standing in the wake of natural disaster. But His word reminds me that these sacrifices are "pleasing" to the Lord.

"Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God,

that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name.

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have,

for such sacrifices are pleasing to God."

Hebrews 13:15-16

Nothing is more pleasing to his heart then when we offer him our sacrifice of praise. For it allows Him to see the depest parts of our hearts and it reminds us of our dependence of Him. So when find ourselves in a corner, and not sure what to do...we praise the Lord. When we feel like we have prayed and surrendered our issues, and have asked for guidance and it feels like there is no answer...we praise the Lord. A chorus we sing at our church puts it best:

"I will sing praise, I will lift my voice,

I will sing praise, I've made my choice.

I will sing praise in all I do, I will sing praise to You.

No matter the storms that come my way,

No matter the trials I may face.

You promised that You would see me through, so I will trust in You."

written by Michael Popham & Regi Stone

As a church musician, worshiper, and worship leader, I have seen how praise can have such an impact on the lives of God's people. Our praise, both corporate and private, is our way of expressing our trust, hope, and faith in God. So as the Dearman song states, we offer up to our sacrifices of thanksgiving & offer up to sacrifices of joy because we know in spite of what is happening, we can thank Him for who he is in our lives and we do it with joy because we know that he works all things for good.