Sunday, December 26, 2010
Maybe it was because there was a stocking hung on our mantle with Anastasha's name on it, but it remained empty. Or maybe it was because we baked her a birthday cake for Jesus too (all the kids make one), even though she wouldn't get to lick the frosting. Or maybe because we couldn't tie a little Christmas bow on her head like I've seen on so many cute little baby girl patients of mine in recent weeks.
I'm not really sure why, but I suspect the main reason is because, for us, Christmas is such a "huddling up" time as a family. We really try to minimize outside distractions and, for a least a few days, spend some very good quality time...as a family.
Yet this year there was a void...her void. Yes, I know we have 8 other children. That should be enough, right? It isn't a numbers thing. We are of course so blessed with the living children that we have. I often tell Tonya that she has made me richer than a king because of them. It is just that one that we love deeply isn't with us, and we desperately wish she was.
Christmas is, first and foremost, a time to remember Christ's incarnation and look forward to His second coming. And we did both...with joy. But is also such a sweet time of family fellowship - tender, giving, selfless, and innocent. And to do it for the first time as an "incomplete" family was just plain hard.
We visited the cemetery where our baby girl is buried. I kissed her cold, hard headstone and said "Merry Christmas" with tears in my eyes. The kids wondered how or if Christmas is celebrated in heaven. I suspect it isn't, but I also know that everyday there is more glorious than we can ever imagine.
May Jesus return again soon. Come, Lord Jesus.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
We were delighted when we discovered that our favorite Bible teacher, John Piper, wrote an illustrated poem on the Book of Job. We were blessed by it. You can find some excerpts under the section of this blog called Precious Quotes.
Below is a portion of the forward of the book. It describes God's role in our human suffering. Piper eloquently expresses that regardless of who the afflicter is in any given situation (Satan or God), that God is ultimately responsible and, therefore, in control. As a result we can trust in His Omnipotence and Goodness. We pray that whatever difficult situation you are in, you will find comfort in knowing that God is in ultimate control.
"It is a great sadness when suffers seek relief by sparing God his sovereignty over pain. The sadness is that this undercuts the very hope it aims to create. When all forty-two chapters of the book of Job are said and done, the inspired author leaves us with an unshakable and undoubted fact: God governs all the things for his good purposes.
The text says Job's brothers and sisters 'comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him' (Job 42:11). This is the author speaking, not a misguided character in the drama. Whatever Satan's liberty in unleashing calamity upon us, God never drops the leash that binds his neck.
Jesus' brother James rounds out the picture with his interpretations: 'You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful' (James 5:11). In other words, the Lord is sovereign, and the Lord is sweet.
Pain and loss are bitter providences. Who has lived long in this world of woe without weeping, sometimes until the head throbs and there are no more tears to lubricate the convulsing of our amputated love? But O, the folly of trying to lighten the ship of suffering by throwing God's goverance overboard. The very thing the tilting ship needs in the storm is the ballast of God's good sovereignty, not the unburdening of deep and precious truth. What makes the crush of calamity sufferable is not that God shares our shock, but that his bitter providences are laden with the bounty of love.
I have written for sufferers. I pray that you will be helped to endure till healing, or to die well. One who suffered more than most wrote: 'To live is Christ and to die is gain' (Phil 1:21). Which of these will be our portion, God himself will decide. 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that' (James 4:15).
The great purpose of this life is not to stay alive, but to magnify - whether by life or by death - the One who created us and died for us and lives as Lord of all forever, Jesus Christ. I pray that his sovereign goodness will sustain you in the unyielding joy of hope through every flame of pain and flood of fear."
Thursday, November 25, 2010
- laid her body to rest in the ground
- enjoyed special time with numerous precious family and friends
- received her social security card in the mail
- returned to work (Craig)
- returned to the same Labor and Delivery to be with friends who were having their first daughter
- went to Tonya's postpartum checkup (first time back to the place of "life" 5 times for us)
- resumed homeschooling (Tonya)
- signed Anastasha’s death certificate as the physician of record (Craig)
- rejoiced in the births of FIVE babies born to local friends in the last month
- cried daily
- read to the kids more, played more kickball with them, and hugged them more tightly
Monday, November 22, 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010
Below the video is the poem that Tonya wrote to tell me that she was pregnant. She gave me 9 stones with the poem, each one representing the life of one of our children. We believe that each of their lives were cast in the "pond" of the world by God, with the purpose of making eternal ripples for Him.
It seems that God was preparing our hearts for what was to come before we even knew about Anastasha's diagnosis.
Like a tiny stone…
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
|Front Close Up|
|Back Close Up|
It was a BEAUTIFUL day outside - sunny, wind blowing, harp music being played. Cale (3 years old) is sitting on my right, Caelan (4 1/2 years old) on my left (very strategic...that was for "containment").
Cale - "Daddy, is this Heaven?"
Dad (thinking, "awww, that is so sweet..") - "No buddy. This isn't heav..."
Caelan (interupting from across my lap...and very matter-of-factly) - "No....This is hell!"
I wasn't sure what do say or do, other than laugh. In some ways, it felt like a bit of both.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Monday, November 1, 2010
Click here to watch it in 6 parts (ads-free, number 5 is her birth and life)
If you don't read or look at anything else on this blog, PLEASE listen to this message. It was incredible.
Click here to listen (or download mp3 here). You will be richly blessed.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
It was the best labor Tonya has ever had. We saw the Lord answer specific prayer after prayer after prayer. It was remarkable. Tonya said Anastasha was the best birthday present she could have hoped for.
Tonya, the kids and I spent several hours with Anastasha after her death. Yesterday was one of the most profoundly painful and profoundly peaceful days we've ever had.
Tonya and I are home. She is recuperating well. She was able to labor completely naturally, which was a blessing and always seems to allow her get better more quickly.
Her funeral will be this coming Saturday, Oct 30st at 11 AM at First Baptist Church in Pittsburg. We invite ANY and ALL who would like to come to attend. We would be honored to have anyone who reads this to come celebrate with us.
In lieu of flowers or gifts, we would be blessed if you would consider making a contribution to Harvesters Reaching the Nations, a nonprofit ministry that serves orphans in Sudan. This is a wonderful work of the Lord that our family is blessed to be a part of. Click here to watch an endorsement by Franklin Graham. To give, you can go to this web page and put Anastasha's name at the bottom where it says "in honor of". The money you give will be used not just to bless us, but to advance God’s kingdom in Sudan by caring for and blessing some very precious children, whom we love.
We love you and thank you for praying for us. More details and pictures to follow in the days ahead.
Monday, October 25, 2010
We were at the same hospital earlier today visiting a friend who just had a C-section. It was really eerie walking past L&D, knowing that just hours from now we will be in that same place and will be experiencing the greatest pain we've ever known. I am thankful that our Savior had similar anguish the night before he was crucified, and yet completely trusted His Father (and was without sin).
The "tomorrow" that we have been dreading/fearing/anticipating has finally come. In just hours, it will be our "today". Pray that we (Tonya, me and the kids) will trust Him to be the Lord of not only tomorrow, but of TODAY. Our hearts are heavy, but there is joy as well. Fear, sadness, excitement, relief..all bundled up together.
Pray that our faith would be increased and that we would not fear. We are expecting our God to show Himself mighty to save for all of us tomorrow. He is a GREAT DADDY and so good to us.
Thank you for loving us and walking this broken road with us. We are so blessed by the Bride of Christ...YOU!
Craig and Tonya
Saturday, October 23, 2010
We are near the end of Tonya's pregnancy, very grateful that we have had as much time as we have been given. If Anastasha does not come on her own (and she might - Tonya has been contracting regularly), then we will induce labor this coming Tuesday, Oct 26th. Not only will that date mark the longest Tonya has carried any of our other children in the womb, but it is also Tonya's birthday. She has said from the beginning that she would be so honored to share that day with her daughter if the Lord would allow.
We trust our great God and Father wholeheartedly as we move forward. We are honored that he called us to be Anastasha’s parents. We find rest in the fact that He is Good no matter what may come. If the Lord chooses for her to return to Him, then we will be celebrating God's goodness with a memorial service next Saturday, Oct 30th at the First Baptist Church here in Pittsburg.
There is not much I haven't said already. If you can believe it, I think I am out of words. But I do want to thank each of you who have journeyed with us, from both near and far. Please pray for us in the coming days, especially on Tuesday.
Tonya wanted me to end with this excerpt from Mary’s song from the Gospel of Luke when she was told she was going to bear Jesus as her son:
And Mary said:
"My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers."
Craig and Tonya for the whole darn big crew :)
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Throughout this pregnancy, I've been particularly drawn to read about how Jesus himself handled trial and suffering. What did His emotions look like? Was He stoic or emotionless? Did he stand above the emotional roller coaster that many people experience during trials? How did He relate to His Father during these trials? I know He did not sin in these times, so I am particularly curious what the range of His emotions were.
“He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. Mark 14:33-34 (Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane)
“Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came into this hour. Father, glorify your name!” John 12:27-28 (Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane)
“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” John 11:33 (Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus)
In these three accounts, it mentions that Jesus was "troubled". All three times this phrase is translated from the Greek word "tarasso". A Greek dictionary translates this word as "to disturb, disquiet in body or spirit, to make anxious". Hmmm, so our Lord was disturbed and maybe somewhat anxious? It does seem like He was in each account, especially in Gethsemane. What a wonderfully human emotion that the Creator of all things Himself experienced. I am so thankful that we have a God who is not some distant deity, who set the world in motion and then watched history unfold from afar. Instead we have a God who took on our humanity WITH US, and as a result, can empathize with us perfectly in any given trial.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” Hebrews 4:15
It is almost blasphemous to compare what we are feeling right now to how our Lord felt in the garden the night before his betrayal and crucifixion. But Tonya and I do most certainly feel "tarasso". It isn't purely fear, because we trust in God's sovereignty. It isn't purely doubt, because we have faith in His goodness and love. And it isn't completely disturbed because we do have peace. But our hearts are heavy for what lies ahead. And so was Jesus’.
It is also important, though, to look at how he responded to his distress in the garden…
"Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." Mark 14:36
He acknowledged God’s unlimited power, knowing He can do all things, including deliver Him from that trial. He told God the desire of His own heart. But, and this is the clincher, He willfully submitted His will to that of His loving Father because He trusted that His Abba knew what was best. That pretty much sums up where we are right now –believing…asking…submitting…trusting…
We are learning even more now to let God be our "God of the present moment". Living in "tomorrow" is painful and doesn't come with the grace that "today" does. However, I am so thankful that God, Who sees the end of a thing from its beginning, is already in our tomorrow (and the next day, and the next day...). That gives us peace.
So please pray for us that we won't be consumed about how this will all end. How will we handle her death if it comes? How will the children handle it? Will the funeral honor the Lord? So many unknowns. We don't have the grace for these things because we aren't there yet. But today? Yes, we have the grace for today. With God's help, we can get up today and make it through until "tomorrow" becomes the next "today". Pray that we will live in each moment with Him.
This will almost certainly be the last email I send before Anastasha comes.
Craig and Tonya
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you with me that you may also be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” John 14:1-4
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
We've decided on a middle name for our littlest princess. Kalil (Kah-LEEL) is a Hebrew name that means "complete". We've known of and liked this name for over a decade, but it seemed fitting to go with Anastasha (Greek name for "resurrection") since she will be made "complete" at her "resurrection".
Since our last email, we've been blessed to have some special events for our daughter. The first one was an evening of prayer and worship with some friends locally. It was very sweet and intimate time for us to cry out to the Lord for strength and mercy. We were very blessed by the love of the Body of Christ, manifested by our dear friends who attended. Most of the women who attended have lost children themselves, including one who gave birth do a daughter with anencephaly just over one year ago.
The second event we attended was a baby shower last week given by some very special young women. “Living Alternatives” is a home for young women who have a crisis pregnancy and have decided to carry their child instead of having an abortion. These brave young women have followed our story and wanted to do something tangible to bless us, so they invited Tonya and I down to their home near Tyler, TX. We were so blessed to meet them and be allowed to share our story with them. They showered us with gifts, as well as with love and prayer. We were indeed very blessed and so thankful that they each have chosen to give their child a chance at life.
Tonya is 35 weeks pregnant now. We had Caius at 35 weeks and 5 days gestation. So based on our history, we assume Anastasha is coming soon. Tonya has been contracting very regularly, but hasn’t gone into labor yet. Anastasha is doing well, growing and active in the womb. She is head down, engaged and ready to come out and meet us. We both assume she’ll be born within the next 2 weeks.
As it gets closer, it is clearly a bittersweet time. There is increasing joy and excitement in our hearts for the time to meet her and be with her. But there is sadness not knowing how long we’ll have with her. We know that however long it is, whether minutes or years, it won’t seem like long enough.
As our journey nears its pinnacle, we are learning by necessity to trust more in our Heavenly Father. Tonya and I were talking today about the fact that in this life we struggle much LESS with trusting God with the “big” things – life, death, illness, jobs, etc. But where we really struggle is in trusting Him in the “little” details. We are both control freaks (what a mirage that is!), and like to know the details before they happen. Even with Anastasha’s life, we ultimately trust Him in “what” He decides. But the “how” is stressful to us. Will she be born alive? How long will we have? What will we do with the kids during labor? Who will come visit and when? None of these are big details in the grand scheme, but the cumulative effect is to cause us angst. And this is mostly because of our disbelief and lack of trust, which is sin. Would you please pray for us that we would TRUST more?
Some other things that we would really appreciate prayer for in the coming days:
Preparation for our children’s’ hearts for what
For Tonya’s body to be strengthened for labor (and the
contractions to settle down until it is really labor time)
That we can
hold Anastasha in our arms while she is still alive
Many of you might be wondering if we are resolved to the fact that Anastasha will die. I can say truthfully that I have been praying more earnestly for Anastasha’s miraculous healing more in the last 2 weeks then probably I have cumulatively the rest of the pregnancy. Do we believe God CAN heal her? Oh yes, with ALL our heart we do. Do we believe with certainty that He WILL? No, we don’t because we don’t presume to know His specific will and plan in this situation.
We do have HOPE. But our hope is not in an outcome that we desire per se, but our “hope is in His unfailing love.” Psalm 33:18. As hard as it is to say or to write, our greatest desire is that God would be glorified and magnified in Anastasha’s life by whatever means. That is the prayer we have for all of our children, and we know it is a dangerous prayer.. He may be most glorified by her miraculous healing and long life to show the world His power and mercy. Or He may be most glorified in her short life and death to show the world her great value despite her frailty and brevity. We don’t know, but we do trust Him…deeply.
Thank you for your prayer and support. We need it now more than ever.
Craig and Tonya
On those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
To deliver them from death
And keep them alive in famine.
We wait in hope for the Lord;
He is our help and our shield.
In Him our hearts rejoice,
For we trust in His holy name.
May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD,
Even as we put our hope in you.
PS. When Anastasha is born, Tonya and I know that some of you may want to show us love in the form of flowers or gifts. And we are thankful for that. But we would be SO GREATLY BLESSED if you would consider instead making a donation to the orphanage and school that I have visited in Sudan several times. Harvesters Reaching the Nations is an awesome ministry of which I am honored to serve on the Board of Trustees (click here to watch an endorsement by Franklin Graham http). To give, you can go to this web page and put Anastasha's name at the bottom where it says "in honor of". The money you give will be used not just to bless us, but to advance God’s kingdom in Sudan by caring for and blessing some very precious children.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Ariana (11 years old, who is helping potty train her soon to be 3 year old brother, Cale) - "Cale, don't go tee-tee on Elmo (on his big boy underwear). Do you know what happens if you go tee-tee on Elmo?"
Cale - "He tell Big Bird?" (which is funny since he's seen maybe 3 episodes of Sesame Street in his entire life)
Ariana - "Right. Then what happens?"
Cale - "Big Bird kill me!."
So our 3 year old is being potty trained in fear of being pecked to death by a 7 foot, yellow bird. What can I say, we get desperate after 6 months of trying.
We got back last week from our vacation to Alabama and Florida. Thank you so much for those who prayed for us. We had a wonderful, peaceful, and dare I say, relaxing time visiting with dear friends. The beach, as usual, was gorgeous and empty. We had ZERO issues with the pregnancy while we were gone. And I got to take my "baby" beach pictures like I have with all of our kids outside the womb (seen at bottom of email).
Coming back home has been difficult in some ways for us. Tonya is now 33 weeks pregnant. If Anastasha follows the same pattern as her other siblings, we anticipate that she'll be born in the next 3 to 4 weeks. The reality is setting in that the end of the pregnancy is upon us and we'll soon get to meet our little girl. As you'd probably expect, it is a completely different feeling than we've had at the end of all the other pregnancies. It has some of the excitement and anticipation of finally getting to hold and kiss the daughter we love. But primarily, there is heartache and deep sadness...and some fear. Not fear in what will come per se, but fear in how we will respond and stand up under the pain of watching and walking through our daughter's probable death. We have nothing in our life experience to compare that kind of pain to. I wish that we weren't afraid, but we are somewhat. We want to respond faithfully like Job, who in his moment of greatest pain, "fell to the ground in worship and said: 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.'" (Job 1:21). Please pray with us that the Lord would turn our sorrow into joy and turn our "mourning into dancing" (Psalm 30:11). And also pray that Jesus' "perfect love" would "drive out fear" in us (1 John 4:18).
We are tired, both physically and even moreso emotionally. It feels like we've been running a marathon, at times at a sprinter's pace. I've been told (will never personally experience) that the last few miles of a marathon are the hardest. When there seems to be nothing left in the tank, the runner makes the final push to the end. That's exactly how we feel. Except that it feels like the final few miles of this marathon are up a steep mountain. We know the summit of our pain and struggle is ahead of us. And we aren't anxious to run there, other than for the fact that we know that is when we can begin our descent. Please pray for our stamina, both physically and emotionally.
Let me end with something that happened on our vacation.
Our first day at Panama City Beach, the surf was VERY rough. Even for this East Coast guy, the waves were impressive. The kids couldn't wait and got in the water before the adults did. We gave our "non-swimmers" life jackets to wear, but did not to the other kids. Shortly after getting in the water, Corban, who is 5, drifted off a bit by himself away from the others. Tonya and I were talking on the shore when she noticed that he was out a bit too deep. I could see that he was panicking a bit, so I ran towards him. At this point he was about 40 yards away from me, and it took me probaly 15-20 seconds to run/swim to him By the time I reached him, he was bobbing up and down in water well above his head (about up to my chin). I grabbed hold of him and began to make my way back to the shore, only then realizing how strong the undertow was. I've been in the ocean hundreds of times in my life, and I don't ever remember being in an undertow this strong.
I started back with him and for about 30 seconds really thought I would not be able to get us both to shore. About that same time, Niyah and Amalyah drifted out to me since they were coming to see what was wrong with Corban. Then THEY got caught in the undertow. I managed to get enough footing to get the three of them out of there and back to shore. By the time it was over I was exhausted and emotionally shook up. The whole thing probably lasted a total of 3 or 4 minutes but it seemed like half an hour. It was a scary time for all of us. I really believe that if Tonya had noticed Corban even 30 seconds later than she did, I would not have been able to get him and he would have drowned.
That night I was praying and journaling and thanking the Father for His great mercy. For me it was a great tangible lesson that God is sovereign over life and death. He holds both in His Hands. He could have just as easily taken Corban from us that day, but He didn't. He could just as easily NOT take Anastasha from us in a few weeks, but He probably will. And in both situations He is perfectly just AND perfectly GOOD. He is a merciful, loving God who's way are above our ways. And we trust Him with everything we are.
Blessings to you all.
Craig and Tonya
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
We've taught the kids that the God they love is a good Daddy. Jesus mentions that His "Abba" (Aramaic loving term for "Daddy") is a Father who gives good gifts to those who ask Him. That can be distorted to mean that He gives us whatever we want if we ask Him. Any good Dad knows that ISN'T being a good Dad, quite the opposite actually. But, like a good earthly Dad, our Heavenly Father loves to give good gifts to His children, for our good and His.
I wanted to share one very personal and profound example of God being a good Daddy to us on this journey.
In previous emails I've mentioned a book that I read, I Will Carry You, by Angie Smith. She is a well known lady who is married to the lead singer of the Christian group Selah. Her journey of carrying and losing her daughter, Audrey, had many similarities to our journey. Her book really ministered to me.
After reading the book, I really wanted to ask her a question about something she wrote. I have read hundreds of books in my life and have never tried to contact an author after reading one. I'm not a celebrity chaser and try not to idolize people (okay, Tim Tebow and Danny Weurffel not withstanding...:)).
In my efforts to contact her, I found an email address on her blog. She had over 7,000 Google friends and lots of readers. In reading her blog I noticed that she just had a newborn AND had recently moved. As soon as I sent the email, I got an automated reply back stating that she received ALOT of emails and wouldn't be able to respond. I thought, "Oh well, it was worth a try. I guess this wasn't meant to be." Case closed. No one other than Tonya knew that I tried to get a hold of her. I was slightly disappointed, but life goes on. This was on a Saturday night.
On Sunday, one of my best friends, Jon Betts, called. He is a pediatrician in Nashville and a dear brother in Christ from medical school. It was shortly after Anastasha's diagnosis, so he was calling to check on me. I told him I was doing well and mentioned Angie's book that I just finished. He replied, "You mean the lady I met this week?". I was confused, so he explained.
Angie brought her newest daughter, Charlotte, in to see Jon in his clinic. He is not their regular pediatrician, but their's wasn't available. Jon didn't know who she was, but at the end of the visit Angie mentioned something about Audrey and how they had lost her. The news of our diagnosis was fresh in Jon's mind because he replied, "Yeah, we have some friends going through something similar right now." At that point, Angie said she wondered if we knew who she was or knew about her journey. Jon asked her if she was the wife of the lead singer of Selah, to which she replied that she was. Then Jon pulled up on his computer the email I sent where I shared her daughter's song ("I Will Carry You") just days before. They were both in awe of God's sovereignty.
Jon never solicited, but Angie told him to please give us her personal email address, and that she'd love to be able to answer any questions we have or be a help to us on our journey. He gave the email address to me. I've since emailed her several times back and forth and she had indeed been a blessing to me and Tonya.
I shared this story to show the power and lovingkindness of our God. I know it may not seem like a "healing the blind man" miracle, but it was miraculous nevertheless. For the first time in my life I tried to contact an author with a question that my heart wanted an answer to. My attempts failed, and I gave up. DAYS BEFORE I was even doing this, the Lord sent this ONE SAME PERSON to the office of one of my best friends in the world to bring her in contact with me. Isn't that incredible? Jon admits that he almost didn't mention anything about Anastasha to her. In fact, he's not even sure why he did. If he hadn't, he would have never even known who Angie was. I believe the Holy Spirit orchestrated EVERY DETAIL of that encounter. I believe God did that just to bless us like any good Daddy, and to build our faith at a time we needed it.
Maybe some of you can explain the whole thing away as coincidence. If you can, you have greater faith than I do. I think it is easier in this situation to believe in a God who knows the desires of our hearts and every hair on our heads. And to trust in a Daddy who loves to "give good gifts" to His children.
Craig and Tonya
Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
A kiss from Anastasha's cute little lips
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
When they told King Nebuchadnezzar that their God would rescue them, they quickly followed up with "But even if He does not, we...will not serve your gods". This is profound to me. I really think that they truly believed that their God could rescue them from their danger and eminent death. But standing there next to the furnace, they also realized there was a really good chance that they wouldn't be delivered and would perish in flames. And they wanted the heathen king to know that even if they weren't saved, their God was still good and true and worthy of all of their worship. Beautiful faith...not presumption in what God was GOING to do, but what He COULD do. We know the rest of the story, God the Son shows up in the fire, delivers them miraculously, and the king made a decree in Babylon that they or anyone else could worship the God of Israel.
We feel the same way. Our "blazing furnace", anencephaly, isn't threatening our lives, but that of our daughter. And even though it doesn't threaten to kill the rest of us, it does threaten to consume us. We believe deeply that God CAN heal and deliver us FROM this. But we also know that even if He doesn't, He will deliver us THROUGH it. Either way, we expect our Jesus to be walking with us in the flames. But regardless of what He chooses, we trust that He is good and worthy of our praise and worship...NO MATTER WHAT.
We had a 4-D ultrasound last Friday. Tonya's parents got to meet their granddaughter via the computer. The whole thing was more emotional than I expected it to be. We've seen Anastasha countless times on the ultrasound at my hospital after hours for fun, but something was different about going to a medical facility and doing it "officially". Everyone there knew about Anastasha's condition and were wonderful. Tonya cried on my shoulder before laying down for the test. It was, as she described it to a friend, "beautiful and painful". I agree. It was beautiful to see her moving around, full of life. But it was painful to see in three dimensions the details of the malformation that will likely take her from us.
Please pray for us. We are going away for a little while. Tonya is about 30 weeks pregnant now and, like all her other pregnancies at this stage, is contracting regularly. I'd REALLY rather not deliver this little one myself, 2 months premature, in Alabama or Florida. Pray that her contractions would settle down please and that she would be more comfortable as she has been having some increased amounts of "normal" pain lately.
And pray that our faith and trust in the goodness and sovereignty of God would be increased in this situation. There are days when our faith seems smaller than a mustard seed.
Anastasha's sweet little left foot, leg, thigh and hiney
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Within a couple weeks of finding out that Anastasha had anencephaly, I read an awesome book called I Will Carry You, by Angie Smith. It is the story of her daughter Audrey, who, like Anastasha, was given a terminal prenatal diagnosis. Angie and her husband Todd chose to carry their daughter to term, as we did. Audrey was born and lived just over 2 hours. Todd is the lead singer of the Christian group, Selah. You may remember me sending the song (with the same title as the book) that they recorded for Audrey. Both the book and the song have ministered to Tonya and I deeply.
Angie mentioned something in the book that we thought was a great way to minister to her kids, and we decided to use it with our own. We told them that Anastasha will likely not be with us for very long or be able to grow up in our house like the other kids. Since the only time we will have with her is right now when she is in Tonya's womb, we asked them if there were any special things that they wanted to do with her before she was born. They came up with "Anastasha's List", a compilation of several things they want to do with their sister. I thought I'd share a sample.
Here are some of the things we have ALREADY DONE:
• Go to one of Charis' baseball games (we checked this one off the list dozens
of times, including the Texas state championship game)
• Go on a family bike ride (this was interesting. see picture below)
• Go to the movies (saw Toy Story 3 three times)
• Go to the chocolate factory
• Make family pizza
• Go on a waterslide (it was in our backyard, but it counts for us since we'd never get Mommy to a water theme park)
• Fly on an airplane
• Ride the glass elevator at Embassy Suites
• Go swimming (okay, so this was really Tonya jumping in a friend's pool to save Caius who dove in. I probably shouldn't mention that she went in, shoes, jeans and all.)
I wouldn't mess with this biker gang - all 9 kids!
Here are some of the things that the kids STILL WANT TO DO with Anastasha:
• Go to the zoo
• Go bowling
• Go on a carousel
• Go hiking at the state park
• Take pictures with her at the beach (we've done this we each of our infants)
• Color with her
• Read her a book
• Go to Six Flags and ride a roller coaster (probably not gonna swing that one)
One of the items on this list, flying in an airplane, is happening as I type this. Tonya is returning from her annual "girl's getaway" weekend with some of her best friends from residency (they always follow Beth Moore wherever she is speaking). She left early Thursday morning and returns late Sunday. I always tell her that it is one of my favorite weekends of the year (and not to take that personally). I get the kids, uninterrupted, for the whole weekend. It is VERY good for me, and a LOT of fun for the kids. We pitch a tent and "camp" all weekend (in the living room...it was 105 deg this weekend!). We ate junk food, went to Walmart and Sam's, got snow cones, and watched way more movies than we should have. We even went to Pukey-E-Cheese (uh...Chuck-E-Cheese) for a treat. I did manage to get the whole crew to and from church AND clean out Mommy's van. Lest I try to sound too like to much of a martyr, you realize the reason we did all of the above is because that is WAY EASIER than doing real life. Tonya rocks. I'm no competition.
This year, by mistake, the kids had their semi-annual dentist appointments while Mommy was gone. Not one or two of them, mind you, but SEVEN of them. So that was how we kicked off the weekend. We have a very accommodating dentist with great staff, so the visit went surprisingly smoothly. We pride ourselves on having great dental hygiene (I realize how ridiculous that is as I type it). In fact, with all the kids, we've only had ONE SINGLE CAVITY so far...ever, which I think is rather impressive. So here was the cavity count on Thursday.
Ariana - 0
Charis - 0
Adoniyah - 0
Amalyah - 0
Corban - 0
Caelan - 0
Cale - 9
That last number is NOT a typo (even thought 9 and 0 are next to each other on the keyboard). He didn't have one or two. He had NINE CAVITIES. Wow. Our little guy has something wrong with his enamel it appears. I think the Lord is humbling us for judging all of our friends/acquaintances over the years whose kids have tons of cavities and drink soda/tea/juice all the time. The metal mouth is coming soon. I thought you might get a chuckle out of that.
I gotta run. We need to clean the house (again) before Mom gets home!
PS. Thank you so much for all the responses to my last email. I looked up every Scripture reference that was shared. And I appreciated the thoughts on anger. It is pretty amazing what a wide variety of responses there were among Christians on that one. But I appreciate them all. Please, if you feel like the Lord leads you to a portion of Scripture that would help us on the journey, share it with us.
My little campers (and, yes, that is hard wood under the tent and not grass)
Monday, August 9, 2010
A few nights ago we found ourselves in the ninth chapter of the Gospel of John. It’s a story that many of you know well. Probably the most well known healing in all of Scripture, the blind man.
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. John 9:1-3
We discussed the fact that in Jesus' time many people viewed illness as directly correlated to sin or judgment from God. Jesus refuted this idea, instead stating that God intended this man's life long illness, in this case blindness, to occur in order to display "the work of God" in his life.
We all know what happens next. Jesus spits on the ground (my little boys love the fact that Jesus spits), makes mud, and rubs it on the man's eyes. After the man washes, he instantly sees. The man then gives glory to God.
We talked about Anastasha. We talked about the fact that she will be blind too. We discussed the fact that her anencephaly is NOT an accident. God intended it that the work of God might be displayed in her and our lives. This may be by healing, but likely won't be. Instead, God's glory may be revealed in another way.
The account in John continues...
Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?"
"Who is he, sir?" the man asked. "Tell me so that I may believe in him."
Jesus said, "You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you."
Then the man said, "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped him. John 9: 35-38
I believe that the "work of God" that Jesus spoke about was not just the healing, but the fact that his healing lead to WORSHIP. In regards to Anastasha, we of course desire her healing. But even more so, we desire that the result of her life will be to produce greater worship of God in our lives and others.
"So...Ariana, Charis, Niyah, and Amalyah, who sinned, Anastasha or her parents, that she has anencephaly?"
"Neither Anastasha nor Mommy or Daddy sinned. But this happened so that the work of God will be revealed in her life (and ours)."
Craig and Tonya
PS. Please pray for one of my older children who is really struggling with anger. I know this is a "natural" response to something this heavy, but that doesn't make it any easier to deal with. I don't struggle with anger towards God, and I'm thankful for that, but I really don't know how to shepherd this child through this struggle. I can deal with sadness, fear, even despair. But anger is a tough one that, quite frankly, scares me.
PSS. If any of you have any portions of Scripture that you think might be an encouragement for us as a family, PLEASE send them to us. God's Word has been our greatest source of day-to-day strength and joy.
Monday, August 2, 2010
We’ve heard story after story of women losing children, mostly through miscarriage, but sometimes older children too. I (Craig) have been struck by how painful a loss this can be, even decades later, having listened to patients recalling stillbirths from thirty or more years ago that they still remember daily. This is especially surprising in light of the fact that I think the general population doesn’t regard the pain of miscarriage to be very great. Many view it as something that a lot of women experience and, therefore, just a part of womanhood. It has challenged me to treat miscarriage as a very serious loss, even of those children that are too early to be seen or felt by the mommy.
I've probably had more real, deep ministry with patients in the last two months than I've had in the last two years combined.
Uh oh, I feel a sermon coming… :)
I think that the reason our journey with Anastasha has lead to so many people sharing their pain with us is because of our brokenness. We’re broken. There’s no hiding that. People see it in us, and I think are attracted to it because they are also broken. And guess what?
So are you.
Some of you know that all too well. You don’t need me to remind you that you are broken. You don’t hide the fact, and others know it too. I encourage you that this is a healthy place to be, because that is your true condition.
There are others of you that disagree. You’ve got it all together, or so you think. You don’t need God or anyone else. Maybe you aren’t walking through deep places of pain at the moment (although someday you will), and things seem to be going your way. I think this is a dangerous place to be, one that may ultimately lead to your destruction, both now and in the life to come.
But I suspect most of you are somewhere between the two. You know deep down that you are broken. You feel like a failure or maybe a hypocrite. Your marriage stinks; your job stinks; you're a lousy parent or friend. You think if anyone knew the true "you", they wouldn’t love you or even like you. So you hide it…from others, from God, and maybe from yourself. You might be using your money, your career, your family, your possessions, or even your religiosity as a guise.
My encouragement to you is to STOP. Stop living a lie. Stop pretending. See yourself for the condition you are really in – broken and in need of “fixin” (as any good Texan would say). It's okay to let others see it too. Then and ONLY then can you allow the Healer to fix your brokenness. Run to Him, as we have.
"The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit" Psalm 34:18
The fact that many don’t believe or acknowledge that fact is really the foundation of pride. We pretend. We act like we have it all together. We work harder when the going gets tough. And when we hurt or screw up, nobody knows except us.
But your Father does.
Believe it or not, I firmly believe that the Lord LOVES our brokenness. I think He even DESIRES it. And that is because it is only in that place where we see our great need for Him. If we don’t know we are broken, we don’t acknowledge our need for help.
"A man's pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor." Proverbs 16:18
The gospel (the word literally means “good news”) is that there is a Fixer named Jesus. I need Him desperately. My whole family needs Him desperately. And so do you. And not just to fix our hurts and pains that come from this life, but to save us from Hell. Only He can do that. He's always loved messed up people. Even a cursory look through Scripture demonstrates that - swindlers, prostitutes, sailors, adulterers, liars - these were the people He chose to hang out with and change the world forever through. And the sooner you and I admit that we don’t have it all together, the sooner He can bring you and I to wholeness.
Brokenness is an awesome and terrible place to be. Terrible because it usually comes only through trials and pain. Awesome because it is probably the only time we are viewing ourselves and God in the right perspective. We remember all too well feeling this way almost a decade ago when Ariana had leukemia. Being broken was beautiful to us then, and it is again now. I only wish it didn't take earthly tragedy to lead us here again. One of my prayers is that we will be "given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal bodies." (2 Cor 4:11) - that as we die to ourselves, Christ would be glorified in us. And we pray for each of you that you would acknowledge the true state of your condition and come to know the Savior intimately as you put your trust and hope in Him.
Craig and Tonya
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O
God, you will not despise.