Thursday, November 25, 2010

One Month

Today marks the one month anniversary of Anastasha's birth and death.  She is gone.  We're still here.  And we hate that.  There are many days that we wish we weren't here either and that Jesus would return to take all of us who are in Christ with Him and end all pain and suffering once and for all.  But He tarries, so we wait...

In the month since we said good-bye to Anastasha, we have:
  • 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
So how are we doing one month later?  We're hurting.  We're sad.  We're emotionally spent.  We don't have the energy to put on a happy face and "pretend" to others that all is well.  If our journey with Anastasha was a marathon, and the days and weeks leading up to her death were the "kick" at the end, then we are in the cool down period right now.  And neither of us has the energy to sprint, or even to jog.  We aren't crumbling.  By God's grace we are standing up under the pain.  But all isn't well.  Our daughter is dead.  We can't hold her or kiss her.  We can't watch her grow up.  We know she is with the Lord.  But to be truthful, we want her here with us.

As the colorful life of summer gives way to the dreary death of winter, so it is in our hearts.  The world seems a bit duller.  Things that are usually attractive and appealing have lost their shine.  And I don't mean that in a depressed, anhedonic sort of way.  I mean that in a "seeing-things-for-what-they-really-are" sort of way.  Money, "stuff", sports, achievements - its all gonna burn someday.  The truth is that this world is temporary.  We were made for another home...a heavenly one.  And the things we often run around chasing in this world by and large have very little meaning or purpose for that home that is to come.  What matters is what will last - the lives we impact for God.  And most importantly, how we love Him while we are here.  Because when the day comes that He calls our name, none of that other stuff will matter.  He won't ask us what car we drove, how much money was still in our bank account, or what degrees we earned.  He'll ask us how we responded to His Son.  That's all that will matter, and the day is coming for each of us sooner than we realize.

Yesterday at Thanksgiving, there was an obvious absence in our home and at our “table”.  We felt great thankfulness for Anastasha, but at the same time this feeling was almost overshadowed by grief that she isn’t here with us.  There is a void there, one that I suspect will never be truly filled this side of heaven.

Grief is a process that looks different for everyone.  It looks different for Tonya than it does for me.  God is present in our grief, guiding us through the journey with this unwanted guest in our lives.  But we won't rush it.  We couldn't if we wanted to.  We are determined to let the Lord lovingly take our hands and lead us through this to the other side, in His timing.  And we desperately want to emerge on the other side more like Christ than when we started.

God is still good.  Christ still reigns. 

It is well with our souls.  We’re pressing in to Him.  We’re still trusting.  We’re still hoping in His unfailing love. 

But we hurt.  A lot.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Created to be Loved

A dear friend of mine from medical school emailed me a portion of his journal from the day of Anastasha's birth.  It rings of truth and blessed me tremendously.  He gave me permission to share it.  I hope it will be a blessing to you and help you see what not only Anastasha's purpose here on earth was, but what yours is as well.
"Praise God for all things, even for those things beyond our understanding that work for His glory!  We understand such a small fraction of His greatness, His plan, His universe, yet He knows each of us intimately.  Why are we made so limited, so inadequate for the tasks that seem laid before us?  Or do we have it wrong?
        Have we as a people misjudged our task, our purpose?  Are we here (and fully equipped) to simply love God, and worship Him?  Why then, are we saddled wth reason?  Why do we have the capacity to even realize how limited we truly are, how little we understand?
        October 26th, 2010, at 1239 CDT, a minister was born, a "prophetess," maybe.  Her name is Anastasha Kalil DeLisi, and she lived for 50 minutes.  She had anencephaly.  Her parents, our good friends from long ago, Craig and Tonya DeLisi, carried her to term and chose that 9 months and 50 minutes of life for her.
        I feel ministered to by her already. She, the "least of these," sends a profound message that all God's children are equal in value.  Her parents' witness, to do something "countercultural," "tore the veil" on what we often think reality is to see God's reality.  We should celebrate life ALL THE TIME, but celebrate it as a precious gift in an open palm. 
        That, as beautiful as it is, is not the most radical message that this tiny miracle shows us.  She makes our mission crystal clear.  We each have a purpose here on earth, all of us, for whatever time we are here.  As Anastasha shows us, maybe it has nothing to do with our abilities, our well intentioned ministries, or ANYTHING that neatly fits into the construct of western thought, or even superficial Christian doctrine.  It may not even be to "love Him" in the terms as we define love.
        It is to RECEIVE GRACE, freely, without pride, without pre-supposition of worth, but to be objects, recipients of the perfect, everlasting love of the Almighty God through Jesus Christ His Son.  ALL can receive, none is inadequate for this task.  Anastasha is an incarnational reminder of the ONLY thing that is important.  To be loved by HIM.  She was unable to let her will get in the way of His love, unable to rest on her gifts as they would be defined by our society.  All of the unimportant things were stripped away in her, and what was left was that which was necessary to be an object of that precious gift of God's love - her soul.
        God bless my friends for being her parents.  Only they were up to this monumental task, in His strength.
        God, thank you for Anastasha.  She is showing the way to us all.  Many would define her as less, or last, but we know she is so much more. 
        Matthew 19:30 "But many who are first will be last, and the last first."  She stands first among us today, complete in the resurrection, an object of God's love."

Friday, November 12, 2010

Ripples in a Pond

Here is the video clip of the announcement Tonya and I made to the children that she was pregnant (on March 1, 2010).  It is a sweet video that shows how excited they were about a new sibling.

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.

My Abba Father,

Rejoice!  Rejoice!  I rejoice!
For You Lord promise only good to me
And assure Your will is not to harm me.
You promise to give me hope and a future.
You cannot tell a lie.
Your Word is Truth.

You are my Abba, Father.
In your lap Daddy, I lay my heart.
You protect me from what I cannot see.
You prepare me only for Your best.

Help me resist the lies bombarding around…
Promising what looks good
Yet only giving peace for a fleeting moment.
The lies cannot satisfy.
Only Your will can satisfy me.

You alone bring nourishment.
You give whole healing.
You pursue me even though I hide.
You love me for who I am in You.
You give yourself for me to know You more.

What You think about me is Truth.
What You feel about me is unwavering.
What You desire me to be is only of You.

A life created inside me in Your image.

Like a tiny stone…

Tossed into a smooth lake.
The single ripple starts out small…
And yet, the entire lake is transformed...
Forever reflecting the beauty of Christ

Rejoice!  Rejoice!  I rejoice!
For You Lord promise only good to me
And assure Your will is not to harm me.
You promise to give me hope and a future.
You cannot tell a lie.
Your Word is Truth

Heal my unbelief Daddy.
Guide me on paths of righteousness…
That I may trust You.
That I may believe this life is given
Simply to radiate Your love.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Heaven or Hell?

I wanted to post a few pictures of Anastasha's tombstone/monument.  Tonya a I spent quite some time on its design and the wording on it.  Even though we know that it is just an external, temporary marker for where our daughter's body lay, even her little body is so precious to us that we wanted to mark it with something meaningful. 


Front Close Up

Back Close Up

I wanted to relay a conversation I was in the middle of during Anastasha's burial at the cemetary.  This was while the reverend was praying and reading Scripture.

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

Nine Days Later...

It has been nine days since our precious Anastasha was born and went to be with Jesus, and five days since we laid her sweet body in the ground.  The days that have followed have been filled with tremendous grief, but also with joy and peace.

Anastasha's birth was an amazing experience.  The Lord answered so many specific prayers regarding the labor and delivery itself - to be on Tonya's birthday, that Tonya could deliver naturally, that our OB would be in town, that she would be 6 cm dilated when we got there, that her labor would be her shortest (and it was only 2 hours), that her water would stay intact until the end.  All of these were answered perfectly.  And the Lord also saw it fit to answer my prayer that she would be born alive.  Amazingly, even though she never took a breath, her heart beat for 50 minutes before her peaceful passing.  Tonya, the kids, and I each got to hold her in our arms while she was on this side of heaven.  That was a precious gift to us.

Her funeral was also an awesome time for our family.  We were able to worship the Lord with family and friends from all over the country.  The funeral message delivered by her godfather and our dear friend, Michael Gaertner, felt like it was spoken from the mouth of God to our very ears.  We were overwhelmed with the love from our community here, as well as all of those who traveled to be with us.

Parting with Anastasha (both at the hospital and at the graveside) was the hardest thing I think Tonya and I have ever done.  We obviously know that it was just her fragile body that we walked away from both times, but it was excrutiating to do so.  We grieve, but we do so with hope because of Jesus.  Because of Him, we hope in the resurrection, and we know that our princess is in the Presence of the King.

As a family we are doing well, but we are obviously hurting quite deeply.  It is a terrible feeling not having a newborn to rock to sleep and to nurse, and to know that we will not get to raise her in our home.  I don't think we'll ever fully recover from that.  The children seem to be doing very well, even the older ones.  Tonya, as you would expect, is hurting the most.  Please continue to pray for her most of all.

Moving forward I will use this new website to enter new pictures as they come, as well as to record future thoughts as we continue our journey with the Lord.  The hardest part is behind us now, but we are far from being out of the valley. 
Thank each of you for your love and encouragement along the journey.  We are grateful for each of your lives and contribution to ours.

May our Lord bless each of you.

Craig, Tonya, Ariana, Charis, Adoniyah, Amalyah, Corban, Caelan, Cale, Caius, and our precious Anastasha

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Memorial Video and Slideshow

The video and slideshow presentation of the Life and Birth of Anastasha Kalil DeLisi, as presented October 30th, 2010 at First Baptist Church in Pittsburg, Texas.

Click here to watch the entire 18 minute video & slideshow (with ads)

Click here to watch it in 6 parts (ads-free, number 5 is her birth and life)
Click on the video below to watch one small portion of it (Birth and Life) directly

Funeral Message

The funeral message as delivered by Dr. Michael Gaertner, October 30th, 2010 at First Baptist Church in Pittsburg, Texas.

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.