Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Anastasha - One Year Later

We celebrated Anastasha's 1st/Tonya's 37th birthday this week.  As you might expect, it was a bittersweet day.  We looked back with fondness on the gift of Anastasha's life.  But there was also a heaviness in realizing that she has been gone from us for an entire year.  The memory of her life is still very vivid, as is the memory of her loss.

The day began with the kids making Tonya breakfast (which is a tradition we've done for years). This time, instead of bringing it to her in bed, we brought it to the nursery, which is where Mommy has spent most of her free time these days...nursing the twins.

We gave Tonya her presents, which included a pendant that I bought her that has an engraving of a Anastasha's actual footprints.

From 12:39 PM till 1:29PM (the 50 minutes that she was alive), we all sat in the living room together as a family.  We prayed together, thanking God for the gift He gave us in Anastasha.  The kids then read cards and poems that they wrote for her.  After this time was over, we went outside and planted two Magnolia trees in Anastasha's honor.

Later that evening, we went to the cemetery to visit Anastasha's grave.  The girls made her a birthday cake, which we brought with us and ate there.  We sang "Happy Birthday" to her.

Finally, we brought and released some paper lanterns (like from the movie "Tangled").  The kids enjoyed this better than balloons.  We couldn't believe that it actually worked!  You can watch a short video of it below.

Overall the day was a blessing...filled with smiles and laughs and plenty of tears.  We are so thankful to our Father for our sweet little princess.  We can't believe she has been gone for a year already.  But we are so glad that she has spent every moment of that time in the Presence of the King.

Letters to Anastasha on Her Birthday

My Sweet Anastasha...

I can’t believe it has been a whole year already since you were with us.  This year has brought about many changes in my life, but my love for you has not been one of the things that has changed.  It has remained constant and strong.

I think of you so often, my little love.  Every morning when I wake up, I see your beautiful face in a picture above your mother on her side of the bed.  I think of you when I see one of my several patients who are your same age.  And most recently, I think of you when I hold your baby sister, Anabella, in my arms.  Oh how I love you and miss you so.

There are sounds of new life in our house again these days.  Anabella and Caleb are a sweet fragrance to us, a gift from our Good Father.  And while they are a great double blessing, they do not replace you in our hearts.  There is still a spot reserved for you there.  Your absence is still felt in daily ways at our house.

Your mother and brothers and sisters love you so much even though they never really knew you.  You are still talked about like a living, breathing member of our family.  I bless you each night as I bless the other children.  If I ever slip up and say we only have ten children, I am quickly corrected (usually by 3 or 4 kids at once) that we in fact have 11.

I think what has made your loss most bearable to me is knowing where you are and Who you are with.  I know you are with a Daddy Who loves you much more and can love you much better than I ever could.  For that I am so grateful.

Your life has mattered here...a lot.  I still meet people who tell me how you impacted them.  There is even a young man who may be in the Kingdom someday because of you.  And your life has mattered to me.  I have known greater fellowship with Daddy because of you.  I love Jesus more because of you.  And I long for Heaven in ways that I never have before.

So on this first “birthday”, my precious Anastasha, please know that you are loved immeasurably here.  I wish I could hold your little body in my arms again.  I wish I could smell you and kiss your cheeks.  I wish I could watch your little legs carrying you, stumbling across the floor.  I wish I could hear your sweet giggle.  But I know that someday we will embrace again, this time with perfect bodies.  And we will walk together in His Kingdom that has no end, singing of His Goodness forever.  You may have beat me there, but I’ll be there soon. 

I love you my precious one. 

Your Daddy

A Poem from Amalyah:

A Poem from Ariana:

A Note from Charis:

A Card from Corban:

A Picture from Caelan:

A Note from Niyah:

Friday, September 23, 2011

Introducing the Twins!!!!

Anabella Tonya and Caleb Martin DeLisi!!!!

We are very excited to introduce our new son and daughter, born on 9-10-11 (the day Tonya was hoping for – since we went from 9 kids, to 10 and 11).  The birth was a both a great blessing and the most difficult that we have ever had.  It was the easiest labor that Tonya has ever had, and it was a joy to see the twins born.  Anabella came out relatively easy, despite being "sunny side up".  When she came out, Caleb flipped from transverse (sideways) to breech (feet first) and was delivered vaginally.  If you have never seen a vaginal breech deliver, consider yourself fortunate.  Our OB was very skilled and did a great job, but that was absolutely the roughest looking delivery I have ever seen.  There is a reason that breech babies aren't delivered that way routinely. :)

Anabella Tonya was born at 10:35 AM and weighed 4# 12oz.  "Anabella" means "God has favored me".  "Tonya", of course, is after my lovely bride and her precious Mommy, who I am so glad we are finally able to honor with a birth name.  The "Ana" in "Anabella" was chosen because we wanted to honor her big sister in Heaven, Anastasha.  We will likely call her "Bella", which is the Italian word for "beautiful".  And she is…absolutely breathtakingly beautiful.  Even by this Daddy's objective standards. :) 

Caleb Martin was born at 10:41 AM and weighed 5# 12oz.  "Caleb" was chosen because of who he was in the Old Testament.  More than once in Scripture when his name is mentioned, it is followed by the phrase, "who served the Lord wholeheartedly".  We pray that will be the same for our little fella as he grows into a boy and someday a man.  "Martin" is a family name – my middle name, my uncle's and great grandfather's first name.

Despite being the bigger "little brother" to Anabella, Caleb (in premie white boy fashion) had respiratory issues that began shortly after he was born.  It culminated in him being intubated and flown by helicopter to Dallas, where he spent 7 days in the neonatal ICU.  Once his breathing calmed down, we were grateful that he breast fed vigorously.  That resulted in us coming home a couple of days earlier than we expected – praise God!  There are many details and specific answered prayers – getting to 35 weeks gestation, having them spontaneously on 9-10-11, and many others -  but I am usually WAY too wordy with my emails, so I'll keep it short.

We are enjoying the twins and rejoicing in God's faithfulness to us.  We are really in awe and feel completely undeserving to be entrusted with these little lives.  We know there will be some unique adjustments to life with twins.  Tandem nursing is going well.  But having 3 kids in diapers again isn't much fun.  We'll be on "germ lock down" mode for the next few months since they are premies, and Caleb in particular is more vulnerable to infection because of his respiratory distress.  So we'll be keeping life simple, and hopefully slower paced than usual. 

Thank you for praying for us on this journey.  We are tired, but so, so thankful. 

May our Great and Loving Father bless and keep each of you!

Craig, Tonya, Ariana, Charis, Adoniyah, Amalyah, Corban, Caelan, Cale, Caius, Anastasha, Anabella and Caleb (isn't that craaaazzzzzyyyyyy????!!!!!) 

Monday, September 5, 2011

34 Weeks and Counting...

Tonya was 34 weeks gestation this past Friday.  We are so thankful that both she and the twins are doing well.  Here is an updated picture.  We're just wondering how big her tummy can actually get.   You'll notice this week that she is so big now that her stretch marks actually disappeared!  :)

The quote of the week in our house was from Corban (age 6).  The dialogue went something like this:

Corban - Mommy, if the babies came out right now would they be able to breathe.
Mommy - We don't know yet, but we think so.
Corban - They've been holding their breath for a LONG time!

I have to include a close second by Caelan (age 5):

Caelan - Mom, when I get to Heaven will I get a gun?
Mommy - No son, why would you need that?
Caelan - Because I'll need a gun to shoot all the demons that are there.

Hmmm, I'm thinking that we need to do a little more teaching on who is/isn't in Heaven.

Thanks for praying for us!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Anastasha - 10 Months Later and Twin Update

Tonya at 33 weeks - at least 2 to go!

The last couple of weeks have been challenging but blessed.  Friday marked the 10 month anniversary of Anastasha's birth and death.  Tonya and I watched her birth video for the first time together since that day.  It was difficult to watch and relive both the joy and pain.  We were both struck by how brief her life was.  It just seemed like a moment that she was here and then gone.  Our memories are brief, as well, because of that.

We watched her funeral with all the kids.  That was also difficult but precious.  We've gone through some of her things, including her receiving blanket.  It still smells like our baby girl.

It is a very strange emotion to be in the middle of anticipating new life again.  Anastasha's death still feels fresh to us.  That is one reason we watched her videos.  We wanted to embrace her life as we look forward to life that is coming.

Tonya is still on bed rest.  As of Saturday, my parents are now here, which is a great blessing.  Life is hectic, but Tonya is still here (and not in a hospital room in Dallas) and  the babies are still in her tummy (and not in a NICU in Dallas).  So we are NOT complaining.  We both feel VERY blessed that both of the above are true.

The twins measured 4 pounds and 4.5 pounds one week and a half ago.  Tonya is still having contractions, but the medication she is taking seems to be holding them at bay somewhat.  She got some steroid shots last week because the fetal fibronectin test (anticipates whether or not you are likely to go into labor in the next two weeks) was POSITIVE this time.  It doesn't mean with certainty that she will.  It just means that we can't reliably assume that she won't.  Make sense?

Tonya had a baby shower on Saturday, given by her dear friend Joy Griffin.  It was a blessing to see many friends who love her.  And it was her first time out of the house (other than for her OB appts) in 2 weeks.  Can you say "stir crazy"?

We are hoping to get to at least 35 weeks gestation with the pregnancy.  That will be sometime around 9-10-11.  That will allow us to (hopefully) avoid Dallas.  jAnytime BEFORE that will likely land us and/or the babies in Dallas.  Anything AFTER that is icing on the cake, so to speak.  Please pray with us for God's mercy during this time.  And that His perfect love will cast out fear.  Thanks for praying for us.  We'll keep you updated.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I had the opportunity to preach at church last week.  This time it was on the topic of authority and our submission to it as believers.  You can watch here.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Ring and Twin Update

It has been a while since I've posted anything.  Sorry, I'm a bad blogger...:)

On Father's Day this year, Tonya had a ring made for me.  It is a signet ring that has a picture in relief of Anastasha's hand from the ultrasound that we took (picture is on the blog page).  The ring was my father's when he was a teenager.  It had his (and my) initial's - CD.  I've worn it for years, but my Dad said that he would be honored for us to convert to a ring in honor of Anastasha.  We melted down gold from one of Tonya's old charms, a charm from my grandfather, and a cross from the woman who raised my mother (Sangootz, we called her).  It is very precious to me.

Tonya is currently 31 weeks pregnant with the twins.  Things have been remarkably smooth up until this past week. On Tuesday at a routine OB appt, Tonya's cervix was noted to be 2 cm dilated.  The OB wasn't alarmed, but that has never happened to Tonya in the past.  Tonya has only dilated in the past when it was time for delivery!  So we were a bit concerned.  Wed night she and I spent overnight at the hospital because of contractions every 5 minutes.  They were able to successfully stop them and sent her home on a medication that she takes every 6 hours.  She is also now on modified bedrest, which means that she can't be on her feet for an extended period of time - no cooking, cleaning, driving, etc.  And due to the relative lack of mobility, she is on heparin (blood thinner) shots twice daily to prevent blood clots.

So life here has been....well...interesting.  Ariana has handled breakfast for everyone.  I come home for lunch and make lunch for the kids, and then dinner when I get home.  Tonya has been homeschooling from the couch.  I've basically been in charge of running the home, something my very competent wife does MUCH BETTER than I ever could.  Tonya talked me into going to Walmart yesterday.  It was a 3 1/2 hour trip, complete with a 45 minute "price matching" check-out (I'm not exaggerating).  I told Tonya that trip was just a step short of hell for me.

So please pray for us and these two little blessings.  We are hoping to keep them in until AT LEAST 35 weeks (approx 9-10-11) - one month from now.  That will allow us to deliver locally instead of in Dallas.  Every day counts as far as morbidity and mortality is concerned.  Here is a picture of Tonya's belly over a week ago.  Can you imagine how big she will be if she carries them for another month or more?!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day 2011

Mother's Day ten years ago was the hardest one that Tonya (and I) has ever walked through.  That was the day that we found out that our first born, Ariana Ann, had leukemia.  She was 22 months old and I was an intern in residency in Tulsa, OK.  I found out about it while finishing call at the hospital.  I came home, climbed into bed with Tonya and Ariana who were still asleep.  And I told her that we had to take Ariana to the hospital.  Our lives were radically changed on that day.

Every Mother's Day since has been filled with blessing and joy. Mother's Day last year, Anastasha was growing in Tonya's womb.  Unbeknownst to us on that day, she was developing without most of her brain.  We were excited about our new child that was coming.  And we waited for her arrival with joy.

One year later, we spent the day in usual fashion.  It began with breakfast in bed for Mommy, prepared lovingly by many messy hands.  Then we went to church as a family, followed by a piano recital for the four oldest children.

But this year, the same little body of the little girl who one year ago was active and growing inside Tonya's womb was instead buried beneath the ground.  And as we visited her grave today as a family, it was with sadness moreso than joy.  Tears were shed by both of us, wishing she was here with us...even moreso today.  And walking away from her grave as all of her siblings (including the two in the womb) climbed into the van to leave,  In every way.

A special happy Mother's Day to all of you mommies today.  And may God's peace and special blessing be upon those of you who walked the incredibly difficult road of watching one or more of your precious children pass on into eternity ahead of you.

Craig and Tonya

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Six Months In His Everlasting Arms

It has been six months today since we held our youngest daughter in our arms.  And just as long that she has been with our Savior.  I am thankful that our memories of her are still vivid.  The pain is still present, but more like a dull ache now than a sharp, suffocating pain.

Several times a day we see her sweet face on the picture above Tonya's side of the bed.  I gaze frequently at the photo on my nightstand of her in her mother's arms.   Occasionally we snuggle with the blanket she was wrapped in immediately after birth that still smells like her.  We visit her grave often.  We talk about her daily with the children and bless her as a family every night before bed.  Every remembrance is with thankfulness for her life but sadness that we don't get to share our life here with her.

We still feel her loss...daily.

We imagine what she'd be like as a little brown haired, blue-eyed, six month old cutie.  She be starting to sit by herself.  We would be feeding her baby food soon.  She'd probably be very petite like her older sisters and brothers at that age.   Her cheeks would be constantly wet from drool and kisses.   We would just have celebrated our first Easter with her and would be preparing for her first Mother's Day.  She'd hardly ever be put down by her siblings.  And Tonya and I would be a lot more tired from the demands of an infant than we are now.

Oh Lord, how we wish we were more tired.

It is a strange journey for us mourning a life that we never knew.  In reality we grieve something that never was meant to be - her life on earth.  The truth is that she was not created to be long in this world.  God created her to live here briefly, touch our lives deeply, and then worship Him forever.

But we are so blessed and honored to be the vessels that the Lord chose to bring her forth, to give her life.  Every time that I hear worship songs that describe worship of God in Heaven, I cry thinking about her little voice joining with those of the angels and saints who have gone before.  I feel like part of us is there with her before the throne of the King.

We are obviously very excited about the twins coming.  We feel blessed and overwhelmed that the Father would give us this gift, especially so soon after we gave our daughter back to Him.  He is such a good Daddy.  But we don't feel in any way like these lives "replace" Anastasha.  I don't think we are getting this "double blessing" because we lost her, as many have lovingly suggested.  We will love these two new babies deeply and joyfully, but they will not be Anastasha.  Her place in our heart is permanent, as is her absence. 

Heaven seems more real to us because of Anastasha.  Our redemption through Jesus' death and suffering means more.  The Resurrection seems more real.  So does the brevity of this life.  We long for His return more now than we ever have before.  May it be soon - Come Lord Jesus!

The twins at 15 weeks - they're already roomies!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Call to Surrender

I (Craig) had an opportunity to preach at church this Sunday (actually my first time ever preaching in a church).  The message, "How Much Does It Cost?", was really a call to fully surrender to Jesus.  Included were many of the lessons that I have learned with our journey with Anastasha. 

You can watch it here if you are interested.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

"11" in 2011

Here is another letter that the kids received from Anastasha yesterday:

Dear Ariana, Charis, Adoniyah, Amalyah, Corban,
Caelan, Cale, & Caius~

Guess what? I got to play with Gabriel again today.
He had another message of something amazing God had to say.

Tucked away in Mommy’s tummy safe, and cozy until the growing is done….
Are TWO new tiny, tiny souls…not just one.

Your Father in Heaven heard your hearts’ pleas for not one but TWO…
He says for you to WATCH closely now and see ALL He’s going to do!

God is mighty…the strongest ever in power and love.
He has given you my big brothers and sisters not one, but TWO amazing gifts from above.

I can feel your joy, hear your gratefulness, and rejoice in your excitement
At these TWO glorious miracles that God has sent…

I love you so very, very much,

Isn't God good!!!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How We Told the Kids

A lot of you asked how we told the kids about the baby, so I thought I would share.

We drove to the cemetary on a sunny, but cold Saturday afternoon.  Snow was melting on the ground from the day before.  Tonya went there earlier in the day and had tied 10 helium balloons on Anastasha's headstone (and placed the letter there too).

When we pulled up and could see the balloons from the car, the kids were so excited.  I told them that maybe one of my patients had tied the balloons there for the kids since they knew they would love them.

When we got out to look closer, we "found" the letter.  We told them the kids to read it to see who the balloons were from.  Ariana (age 11) took it and started reading it.  As soon as she realized that it was written as being from Anastasha, she started sobbing.  I (Craig) held her (now crying too) and passed the letter to Charis (age 10).  He read the rest of the letter and stopped when he got to the "big sister" part and said, "Are you kidding me?".  When they all figured it out, the kids were SO excited.

Then we cut each of the balloons off and let each child write a message (or color a picture) with a sharpie marker.  Then they released their balloons to the sky.  Except for Cauis, who hung on to his balloon for dear life until he accidentally let go.

We are excited, as you can imagine.  But it is a strange dance of joy mixed with grief that is still fresh in our hearts.  God the Father has had us on a journey of surrender for the last 10 months or so.  We feel like this is a continuation of this journey.

We always give our baby in the womb an acronym - BIB (baby in belly), BIT (baby in tummy), BOW (baby on the way), BCS (baby coming soon), etc.  This one we are calling B.L.T., short for Baby Living in Tummy (or baby living in Texas!).

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Letter from Heaven

My Sweet Brothers and Sisters--
Ariana, Charis, Adoniyah, Amalyah, Corban, Caelan, Cale, and Caius,

I can’t wait for you to see everything that God has put here….
To play with thousands and thousands and thousands of children, to feel God’s hug that is not far away anymore but so, so near.

I am laughing and playing on the roads of gold with a royal blue sky above and rainbow sparkle colors floating all around me.
Gabriel, God’s messenger angel, came to tell me he had a message and a gift for me to see.

I thought for a second that maybe one of you were coming to play with me,
But I knew only a very short time has gone by since I got here, so that could not be.

O guys, Gabriel is very big and so brave to carry messages for your Shepherd up here down there to you, His little sheep.
Just wait till you see Gabriel’s huge wings and Michael’s big, big sword that guards you from the devil and protects you guys when you sleep.

I saw Noah, David, Elijah, Sampson, Peter, Luke and Paul too.
They told me all the amazing stories about their lives that Daddy & Mommy read to you.

Ariana, Adoniyah, and Amalyah, I can’t wait to show you all the colors of pink diamonds here that sparkle and shine--
And the tiara that your King has for you, His princesses, just like mine!

Charis, Corban, & Caelan Jesus showed me the pretty, white snow and the fort-walls that you made.  I could see your smiles and hear your laughter below.
Wait till you see the snow we have here that is so soft and sparkly.  It makes the bestest snowballs, and Jesus even made one for me to hold.

I saw Cale and Caius licking their snow in cups…so, I licked mine too.
It is so yummy and sweet, and it made my tongue tickle.
When you come, I will give all mine to you.

Gabriel played on the slides and pushed till my feet could touch the clouds on the swings. 
My toes could feel them.  I touched them, and they are as soft as the angels’ wings!

The clouds tickled my toes.  They made me giggle.  Gabriel asked me if I knew what a big sister was—I said, “Yes!  I have three!”
He took a tiny gift from under his wing and sat it in my hand—a message from God.  What could it be?

I pulled the silky, golden ribbon so slow as Gabriel watched with a grin.
Inside was a note from God that said, “Anastasha, today you are the big sister!”  My eyes asked him, “When?”

Gabriel told me the most amazing way God put a tiny new soul in my Mommy’s tummy, and how He cares for the baby each day.
And that my big brothers and big sisters will hold the baby soon--and with them it will stay.

So rejoice my sweet brothers and sisters! 
Dance around like crazy! 
Shout for joy as loud as you can! 
He is giving your world a life to show His love
and to glorify His name again!

Gabriel said you guys would teach her all the big sister stuff since I am here, and God says you are the best ones for the task. 
The Holy Spirit will help too until we play hide-n-seek in Heaven and are together at last.

I am the big sister in Heaven—O, I am dancing and spinning round and round holding Gabriel’s hand.
Jesus wants me to tell Daddy and Mommy that like God’s love for them, His children’s praises will outnumber the stars and all the beaches’ grains of sand.

I am something new—the big sister now!
Tell of Gabriel’s message and tell of God’s sovereignty! 
Proclaim He is good in all things!
I am so grateful that God gave this gift to us!
From your lips may God’s heart for children ring!

So rejoice my sweet brothers and sisters! 
Dance around like crazy! 
Shout for joy as loud as you can! 
He is giving your world a life to show His love
and to glorify His name again!

I love you so much my big brothers and sisters,
Anastasha—the new BIG sister!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Grandma's Poem

Craig's mom wrote this sweet little poem that she sent on a Valentine's Day card to Anastasha:

Sweet Lil Lady of heavenly birth.
Your short life on earth (though too brief),
Is of infinite worth.

Kathleen DeLisi

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sorrow Is Better Than Laughter

Ecclesiates 7 states:

"A good name is better than fine perfume,
and the day of death better than the day birth.
 It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of every man;
the living should take this to heart.
 Sorrow is better than laughter,
because a sad face is good for the heart.
 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.
 It is better to heed a wise man's rebuke
than to listen to the songs of fools.
 Like the crackling of thorns under the pot,
so is the laughter of fools."

This verse penned by the wisest king in history, King Solomon, certainly flies in the face of the wisdom of our age.  For us, our happiness is often the highest virtue. We seek pleasure, fun, toys, "stuff".

But it appears the Lord sees things differently.  It seems He is more concerned with our humility and obedience more than our pride and happiness.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Trusting in Hard Times

Like anyone who is honest with themself, I have numerous opportunities daily to trust God.  Whether it is an encounter with a difficult patient or safety in travel, for as long as I can remember I have believed that "God is in control".  Being a parent allows for so many "extra" opportunities to trust Him.  Tonya and I have to trust the faithfulness of God's Holy Spirit to draw our children's heart toward Him.  We trust that in season we will see good fruit in their hearts and lives from our consistent discipline.  And, as the parents of 5 young boys, we have to trust (seems like daily) that they will literally survive another day. (I'm remembering as I type this that just TONIGHT, Cale (3) was going down our large wooden staircase riding...a sit-n-spin wrapped in a blanket...sheesh!).

As I've thought more about trust lately, I realize that it has never been particularly hard for me to trust God the Father.  I presume this is mainly because I've always known that He is Good and Loving.  But, if I'm honest, I must admit that the large majority of the time I am "trusting" Him for things when life is really going well...smoothly, if you will.  It isn't hard to trust Him when I don't have any real financial "needs" per se.  Or when all my kids are well.  Or when I drive a car that runs smoothly and the house is in good repair.  Or when I have a great job.  In fact, I'm really not sure how much I am trusting Him most of the time and how much I am running on "autopilot".

But what about when that is not the case?  As 21st century Americans, my family and I are beyond blessed.  We don't even know the meaning of the word "need"...we really don't.  But what about when our children are really, really sick (like when Ariana had leukemia)?  Or what about when they are given a terminal diagnosis and then die (like Anastasha)?  What does trust look like then?

Well, I realized the other day that trusting God, truly trusting Him, in hard times is....well, hard.  Really hard, in fact.  Suddenly I wonder if His goodness is really that good.  Or if His promises are true.  It is painful, almost physically, to really wrestle to that place of trust when life is hard.  To totally surrender to Him.  To really believe that "God is good" as we've proclaimed so many times.  But you know what?  He really IS still trustworthy and good. 

Even during the difficult times. 

Especially during the difficult times.

And whether or not we can trust Him during those times, I believe, is a test of what we TRULY BELIEVE.  But I can also say from experience that it is during the most difficult times that our trust in the Father is the most rewarding and satisfying.  Knowing that the One Who made the heavens and the earth is the same loving God who knows and controls every little detail of our life is simply awesome.  He is a trustworthy and good Daddy.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Three Months Later

Today marks the 3 month anniversary of the birth (earthly and heavenly) of our sweet Anastasha.  It many ways it feels like a very long time ago that we held her in our arms. 
So what does life look like for us three months later?  On the outside, it looks pretty normal.  We've resumed most of our "normal" activities - schooling the kids, homeschool co-op, Community Bible Study, piano.  But on the inside we're still grieving.  The tears come less often, but they still come.  The almost unbearable sadness is more bearable.  But we've been changed...all of us.  And I hope that the changes in our heart are of the type that will last until we meet our Savior (and our precious daughter) face to face.  Brokeness.  Humility.  Heavenly-mindedness.  These are characteristics that have been birthed through our pain.  And they are good.
Many of you have wondered about the children?  They still have spontaneous tears about losing their sister.  Sometimes there is uncontrollable sobbing, especially with Ariana and Niyah.  It comes randomly, when something triggers their love and longing for Anastasha.  For the other kids, there aren't as many tears, but they still talk about Anastasha like she is a member of our family.  Even little Cale (3) talks about "going to Haavin to see Ana-tasha" quite often.  Caelan (4) has become very concerned about Heaven/Hell (and which one he is going to!).  Corban (6) tells us that he wants "to go to Heaven when I'm still a kid because I want to play with God and grown ups don't play with God."  Charis wrote on a prayer request card at our church under the "praises" section that he was thankful that his sister Anastasha was in Heaven.  Tonya and I have been blessed by the children's simple faith these last few months.  Even though they are grieving in their own ways, it is tempered by the fact that they know their sister is in Heaven with Jesus. 
We still feel her absence daily.  Every time we sit down at the table to eat as a family and know that either Tonya or I would normally be doing our typical "juggling act" of holding a newborn while trying to get the other children fed.  Every time we get in the car to go somewhere, and it is a little bit too easy.  Every night when the kids all sleep through the night and we aren't being awoken every 3 hours to feed.  Every little newborn (especially girls) that I see in clinic remind me of how big she would be and what she would be doing.  All these "absences" point our hearts to the void of her presence.
This week was Adoniyah's birthday.  Anastasha was her "buddy", a privilege that we have been giving to the older children to help them pair up with a younger sibling.  Niyah's favorite number is 89 (don't ask why, but it has been for years).  We didn't realize it, but her birthday was exactly 89 days since Anastasha died.  Only the Lord could orchestrate that. 
We are still thankful for those of you who have been praying for us.  Please continue to as the Lord brings us to your mind.  Pray that the Lord will be our Comfort and source of strength.  And please pray that He will accomplish His purposes in our hearts and our lives.
We know that Anastasha is with her heavenly Daddy right now, Who loves her more than her earthly Daddy ever could.  And she is perfectThere is so much peace and thankfulness in our hearts because of that.  And we know that the joy of Heaven for believers will be the presence of our LordBut we also are thankful that we will see her sweet face one day.
Blessings to you all.
Craig and Tonya