One of our favorite family places is the ocean. And….Anytime we ever visited the ocean, my Gianna was a bit reluctant to go too close to the waters of the ocean, even when holding our hands or letting us carry her…..
she wanted to stay back on the dry sand where she felt safe and secure and comfortable and warm. But, I wanted so badly for her to discover all the beauty of dipping her feet into the deeper waters with us all!
I kept reminding her that there is so much wonderful goodness and SO MUCH fun to be had by going into the waters and splashing and jumping waves with with mommy and daddy!
We could never convince her because Gianna is head strong and when she did not want to do something , then she would absolutley NOT do it! She rationalized that she had everything she needed for fun and joy on dry land!
There was no changing her mind!
She was convinced that she was better off on the shore!
It made perfect sense to her! After all, sand castles can keep her busy for hours!
That is, until we were in our beloved Nicaragua!
Nicaragua is a very very special and sacred place to my family. It does not surprise me AT ALL that this was the place that GOD would choose to give Gianna a whole new perspective and miracle of goodness in her great step of bravery!
It truly was amazing to witness!
She suddenly got very courageous in this new way, and decided it was time to step out into the deeper waters to find her treasures!! I still cry when I remember her ecstatic joy mixed with fear as she stepped forward!!
SHE CHOSE SURRENDER and trusted me!
I am SO thankful she did not miss the blessing of this special treasure cove in the Depths of the Pacific Ocean in Nica!
Her courage, joy and blessing will always be a visual in my life of how we want to live in our faith!
I do not every want to miss the treasures of true KINGDOM LIVING!
JUST imagine her delight when we were able to find so many beautiful seashell treasures on the sea floor together by putting our hands down in the deep dark waters…treasures that were not able to be found on dry land!
Sparkly Treasures of all sorts of colors and shapes!!!! A treasure feast!!!
We spent all day searching for the most beautiful treasures as we walked deeper and deeper into the ocean, splashing and playing together in absolute JOY of faith winning over fear!
….and Nica has the most BEAUTIFUL sea shells I have ever seen!
I am so thankful for this memory!
…our Gia-Bia was discovering that there is such a reward in walking out into the deep!
With each brave step, we would unearth even more BEAUTY!
Our favorites were the amazing sea dollars, unicorn horns and pink shells and sea glass!
This day, this week in the oceans of Nica was amazing and such a picture of our faith walk in life!
I miss playing on the beach with our girl… I miss our seashell hunts and her squeals and cheers every time we found a new treasurer!
It never got old… There was always a new goodness to be discovered….always a new miracle to behold by stepping out!
I weep and smile as I imagine the treasure cove and dolphin filled waters she must be playing in right now in heaven! Takes my breath away!
One of the biggest truths that God has allowed our eyes to see over the years, even despite our deep heartache, is to not ever settle for the comfortable dry shore-life (where it is safe and predictable) and to continue to go deeper and deeper ….
We know God has SO many treasures for us out in the deep waters of true KINGDOM LIVING as we walk towards the light of ETERNITY….
God’s kingdom is like a treasure hidden in a field for years and then accidentally found by a trespasser. The finder is ecstatic—what a find!—and proceeds to sell everything he owns to raise money and buy that field.
“Or, God’s kingdom is like a jewel merchant on the hunt for excellent pearls. Finding one that is flawless, he immediately sells everything and buys it. (Matt 13:44-46)
I think about when Peter was called out to the deep to bring His empty net…. He had nothing to offer, only failure and desperation and emptiness and a long night of nothing-ness.
But, God was not done!
Peter was invited to surrender in faith to the only One who truly fills us up.
He was called out to the DEEPER WATERS to let down his empty nets and to catch his miracles.
It looked SO impossible. He had been fishing all night with no results.
He had nothing. I get that feeling….that defeated hopeless feeling.
BUT look what happened!!
His net broke with the overflowing bounty of blessings and treasure!! Sure, it was just fish, but it was a visual of how we can discover the MORE by being out in the deep!
In our great emptiness, We have learned that God uses our empty nets to show His glory and that true and real miraculous filling does not happen on the shallow safe waters.
Peter was at the end of himself when he bravely answered an invitation.
When we are at our lowest and most desolate moments (basically at the end of ourselves) that’s when we are asked to surrender and that’s when we are invited to walk out where our eyes can’t see.
When we have nothing left to give or offer, that’s when Jesus enters.
That moment was life changing. LIFE CHANGING!!!
Basically, the whole trajectory of his life changed in an instant.
He allowed Jesus’ words to be louder than human reasoning.
He got to see a miracle!! He was blown away, humbled, undone and blessed with absolute abundance.
We have seen with our own eyes this reality!
That is what happens when you are face to face with God’s glory in the deep shores of dependence on His strength alone.
God’s incredible unbelievable blessings follow and fill us up only after an act of great trust and surrender in the God who can do the impossible.
This truth just sings so loud in our hearts as we reflect back over the last five years, when my family was graciously invited out to the deep to run to our baby girl in China who had a very broken heart.
It was logical to let fear win.
Her medical needs were scary and we felt so unequipped.
However, in God’s gracious mercy, He gave us the faith to surrender and say a brave, “yes.”
It was only after that step of forward faith into the deep that God would begin to remove all our fears and begin to overflow us with His abundance.
To imagine the miracles our family would have missed had the comfort of “shore-life” won!
He filled our nets with 4 overflowing years of hope, joy, miracles, hugs, kisses and abounding love.
The earthly story is not what we would have written and I still wrestle every day with the story, or rather, this chapter, …..
Jesus abruptly took our precious daughter home to heaven at 6 years old to fully heal her heart in a way that earth could never do.
and now we are the ones who wear our own forever brave scars.
Our hearts are deeply Broken on earth
However, We are incredibly blessed forever…
right into eternity.
We are forever changed by our beautiful daughter, our forever treasure in heaven because we were invited to surrender to the deep and to experience “more.”
Gianna’s favorite song was Oceans by Hillsong.
We have a video of her singing it with her biggest sister….it is an anthem in our life!
Many of you know it….it is a powerful song about stepping into the unknown and a song about unwavering faith and stretching our trust to allow GOD to work HIS GLORY in our lives.
How fitting that her favorite song is what her brave beautiful legacy has become in our lives and so many others’ lives.
The gift of her life taught us about living out in the deep under a banner of GODS GREAT unfailing LOVE, which brings a sense of BRAVE BLIND HOPE and FAITH and a FIGHT FOR LIFE and HOPE regardless of RISK!
Knowing what we know now, even after having to lose our precious Gianna Lilyfaith… after her 6 year long battle with her very broken heart…
…even knowing the pain and ache and broken hearts that we will carry on this earth forever, until Heaven…
if given the choice….knowing the story ahead of time.…LET ME TELL YOU THIS:
we would ABSOLUTELY do it all over again and again and again and again……and again.
Because had we not run to our precious Gianna, we would have missed all the JOY, LIGHT and LOVE!
BECAUSE LOVE WINS! BRAVE LOVE ALWAYS WINS over fear!
Jesus teaches us this truth through HIS surrendered life to the cross to bring US our eternal LIFE forever.
HIS LOVE CHANGES EVERYTHING!
How could we live any other way when we know the ending (beginning) of the great story?
When we know the treasure that is ours forever!
How could we choose any other path, when Jesus chose life for us.
Because JESUS lives, I can face tomorrow and we can RISE up from the darkness and face the coming light (even through tears and wrestling)…because we know we will hold our Gia again!
JOY OVERFLOWS and overflows forever because of the forever undeserved gift of our Gianna and the promise of Eternity with her!
I can wrestle all I need to but, Gods promises of ETERNITY always hold me and bring me close as I bang on His chest. These promises quiet my heart in the struggle.
Eternity is our coming sunrise…our coming light! And that is the light we walk towards….
LOVE IS SO WORTH THIS GREAT BRAVE RISK JUMPS into the deep ocean of JOY towards the rising light!
This is true life. True living. Life to overflowing.
God is always working….in the UNSEEN!
When gianna was refusing to go out in the deep, she could not SEE all the beauty God had already planted on the sea floor for her to discover!
She had to believe for the unseen!
However, sometimes she got a glimpse of the bigger picture when a random jewel would roll onto the dry shore…..
It was a such a peek into the JOY that was coming!
and sometimes He gives a small glimpse into the UNSEEN….and it amazes me the story that God is weaving into the secret dark places…..
The greater stories of beauty that we have no clue of while we are actually living it out and walking in blind faith among the waves….
HE IS ALWAYS MOVING….always working…ALWAYS moving mountains and parting seas and planting treasures where we can’t see!
He is so MIGHTY!!!
And….Sometimes, (in hindsight) He graciously lifts the curtain to give us a bigger glimpse of HIS workings and it leaves us in absolute awe and wanting more faith to trust HIM MORE!
He is SO BIG and gracious!
It is in those blind faith jumps and surrenders out into the deep to the harder paths, to the higher mountains…to the deeper darker seas which bring the most beautiful treasures.
It makes you want to keep rejecting shore life and comfortable living so not to miss THE MORE….the overflowing breaking nets of goodness!
I think back to December of 2015…..
It was just at the beginning of Christmas season, we had just returned from her Make A Wish Trip…. and our Gia-Bia got very sick.
Her heart was failing her fast ….her mitral valve had failed.
She was basically dying.
Our life was falling apart.
Gia had just arrived at Boston Children’s Hospital via life flight and had miraculously received her emergency Heart Repair surgery and survived the implant of a new mechanical valve which saved her heart and her life.
Miracles. SO many miracles of GOD’s glory!
Here we were, on a cold day in December of 2015… just one day Post-Op from her miraculous life saving surgery and kneeling by her side, and we get the most wonderful email with News about our waiting son in China!
Our beautiful Hudson was waiting at age 6 in China with various unique medical needs that were intimidating (at the time) however we knew without a doubt HE WAS OURS.
He was our treasure out in the deep!
We trusted God with each step into the depths, even when life was messy, chaotic and completely rocked. God does not call out those who have all their ducks in a row, He invites normal, even messed up people, to SEE great miracles!
For those who do not know about our boy! Let me just say this:
Hudson is such an incredible warrior. I am SO THANKFUL God CHOSE US and we did not miss HIM!!!
He is LITERALLY one in a MILLION!
He is a Spina Bifida warrior and every neuro- doc we have talked to says that it is a complete miracle that he walks today. Additionally, he has a very special heart. Hudson has a heart defect called Dextrocardia with Situs Inversus which is an extremely rare heart condition characterized by an abnormal positioning of the heart. In this condition, the tip of the heart (apex) is positioned on the right side of the chest as opposed to his left, which he thinks is the absolute coolest!!!
Additionally, the position of the heart chambers as well as the visceral organs such as the liver and spleen is reversed and like a mirror image. Basically only 1% of the world have this condition. This can be associated with many heart defects and medical problems though our Hud-man has been doing So very well!
He is truly a miracle!
He also LOVES to tell people how he was born with an extra thumb too, which he often wonders why it had to be removed! LOL…
He is SO very special and our Tolly’s BFF!!! I am so thankful they have each other…..they have been a gift of light to our lives in how they NEVER STOP GIGGLING!!!
And, I get a sobering feeling when I think about what could NOT have been…..had we followed what was SAFE and logical, we would have missed our beautiful son.
In fact, this is what I wrote while in the hospital and in the midst of fighting for our Gianna’s life over 3 years ago when so many people were wondering and asking if we were doing the “right thing or TAKING ON TOO MUCH” by stepping out again….
We have also learned that people will always have their opinions, and though we are so blessed by the support and encouragement of others, there’s only ONE true opinion that matters. We live for God…. “the audience of ONE“
I will let the POST (From my Time Hop) below speak for itself. Please take the time to read it…It was written in a dark time in our lives…but Gods light always breaks through!
This is how we live…..
We can not imagine any other way. Some would call us crazy in the choices we have made and will make in the future but we say …..it would be SO much crazier to miss ALL THIS JOY just so we can live the comfortable safe life! It is so much crazier to sit back and do nothing when given the opportunity and invitation to BRING HOPE and light to the darkness!
I wrote this on Dec 8, 2015
It did not make sense….the timing didn’t make sense but when does God ever make sense!!!
It is always a FAITH JUMP…an incredible SKY DIVE into Gods arms!
And, we would not want to live any other way after seeing HIS GLORY out in the deep!
We would rather live CRAZY-LOVE kind of faith then settle for sitting back safely!
Believe me, We aren’t special. We are just regular people who have been ROCKED BY GODS LOVE FOR US!
WE follow an extraordinary GOD who gave HIS SON for us! HE gave it all while we were broken..to bring HOPE!
…We follow our God who calls the normal and scared and ordinary messed up and broken people to GO and fight for the broken and HOPELESS like HE does for us…To Go trust Him and get a front row seat to HIS GREATNESS out in the deep ocean where LIFE ABOUNDS! We get to be a part of HIS plans for redemption! ISNT THAT AMAZING!!!!!!!
Gianna’s life is a reflection of this truth!
If you are praying about an invitation to run and give Hope and bring LIGHT to the darkness…..whatever that invitation may be, I encourage to reject the life of comfort and predictability and just GO and lose yourselves for the sake to FIND your true LIFE and purpose!
We were all MADE FOR the MORE!
We are still here and alive and walking this earth because He still has a big purpose for each of us and our families, a purpose planned for us before the beginning of time!
DO not miss what He has for you! Do not be afraid of the broken non-traditional way! Do not miss the chance to bring HOPE to the HOPELESS!
Do not turn away from the deep!
Trust and obey!
…go even when you are scared!
Do not let fear keep you from HIS GREATEST STORY in your life. Let the spirit lead wherever that may be!
Our gift of Gia teaches us THIS TRUTH!
We have discovered that It is in the most broken places that GOD most boldly reflect HIS brilliant LIGHT!
We do not need normal … we were not meant to blend in and look normal and live a normal life!
We need GOD.
We were put on this earth to SHINE HIS LIGHT in the darkest places.
He gave us all a great purpose to LOVE BIG AND BOLD and Fierce and to forsake it all to find HIM.
We get ONE LIFE to make a difference and store up treasures where NO moth can destroy!
Living for God does not make life always feel good or easy. In fact, the waves are harder and stronger out in the deep…but the pearls are worth it! …it is a life worth every tear and heart break and hard road. The high cost will NEVER compare to the TREASURE!
the truth is that when we ran to our Gianna, we were not promised tomorrow with her (though we NEVER gave up HOPE for each and every tomorrow….NEVER!)
But really….not a one of us are promised tomorrow, are we?….but, we were promised that GOD would be our strength and never leave us as we walked the unknown towards our greatest blessing. Every day, every month, every won battle, every miracle was an undeserved gift…She taught us that every day is a gift to be LIVED intentionally with exuberant JOY!
God is always working miracles of Life, even out of ashes….even out of brokenness. He is teaching us to SEE and take a hold of these good gifts….even while our hearts break and while we wrestle with the story. He is a God who uses broken hearts to shine His light.
He is teaching us to never stay in the darkness, but to always follow the LIGHT to life!
He brings LIFE from ashes through Crazy miracles and radical faith that allows us to SEE all the BEAUTY….
And what is even crazier…..
He has shown us an even bigger glimpse to HIS story….an even deeper glimpse into what He was doing three years ago behind the scenes, in the very dark depths of the ocean floor….
…our 8th child was entering into this world with a very special body that would appear as a broken body to her birth family…. arms and legs that would need medical attention….
And, that apparent hopeless situation would eventually lead this precious child to us in a holy and broken story that only our God could write.
three years ago, Our 8th blessing was being born into a family in China that could not care for her because of her complicated medical needs and so this sweet baby would be left to be found in a “baby hatch” outside a filled busy orphanage.
In Love, she would be left to be found by HOPE.
Hope that saves her.
Hope that reaches for the broken.
HOPE that only God can orchestrate.
HOPE that we graciously get to be a part of.
…and….We would learn three years later, in the depth of our wilderness, that she was ours.
God has used the most heartbreaking loss of our lives to rip our hearts open ever wider for the orphan, defenseless and abandoned and lost and He has invited us to another miracle of LIFE.
We are saying YES.
He is pursuing us with Goodness, and mercy and teaching us how to SEE miracles of life AND LIGHT and BEAUTY that are growing around our greatest loss……because death does not win.
We will share more details later of our newest blessing, as this story (a story we have treasured in the secret places of our own hearts for quite some time) is much too sacred and much too special and holy to dump out all at once….. It is a story woven together with many anointed threads of great joy and of great sorrow….but, it is a story of absolute LIFE and HOPE.
It is a story only God could write.
And we are just so thankful our Gracious God opened our eyes to the miracles.
It is ALL HIS grace, and it humbles us. We do not deserve this gift….but, we get to be the ones who say “YES.”
Gianna’s miracles of LIFE go on forever…..
and….His stories never end in ashes.
because….Are we not all just a bunch of broken and busted up people who desperately need the HOPE AND LIGHT of Jesus and HIS promises!
Our Gianna will forever reflect Our Living HOPE!
Her brave heavenly heartbeat is her legacy and our forever gift of GOODNESS….
Her BRAVE heartbeat is the testimony of a GOD who is NEVER done showing off His glory, even in the depths of darkness!
Her brave heartbeat will forever shine the HOPE and LIGHT of a LIVING GOD who teaches us to keep loving big and to invest in the things that are ETERNAL!
Eternal over the temporary!
LOVE WINS ALWAYS!
The underserved gift of Gianna’s BRAVE FOREVER LIFE TAUGHT US THIS BOLD TRUTH….and that is how we will live!
WE ARE CHANGED FOREVER by a little missionary daughter of the King that always LOVED AND LIVED BIG for GOD!
However, No matter how much our life grows in beauty and love and NEW LIFE, we will forever carry a Gia-Hole….a hole that will never EVER be filled until we embrace our beautiful baby girl in heaven again.
Growing our family does not fix the brokenness or heal the wound of earthly loss.
That is not EVER possible on this side of eternity.
That is the healing work of HEAVEN alone!
There will always be an earthly void….a deep ache, a missing laugh, a missing tiny singer, a missing notch on our growth chart, a missing car seat, a missing place setting at the dinner table, a missing plane ticket, a missing suitcase, a missing dancer, a missing giggle, a missing pair of shoes to tie, a missing pair of lips to kiss goodnight, a missing ice-cream cone to buy, a missing hug and squish and squeal…..An unexplained constant incomplete feeling and longing for our family to be whole again someday and a belief that GOD is not done and HE WILL RESTORE.
we do NOT live for the things that are SEEN.
We live for the UNSEEN.
..and we know He will make all things NEW.
and that it is that deep deep ache and longing that abruptly untethers us from this temporary earth and boldly and unashamedly anchors our hearts to heaven, knowing that we are still here on this earth because
He still is not done using us and showing HIS miracles in our broken lives…miracles we never want to miss!
We never want to live with a closed heart! If you haven’t, Please take the time to read my PART ONE of Miracles of Life….
Even in our brokenness, we will believe for a blooming and blossoming LIFE around our hole and Loss….
Our prayer is that He always keeps our hearts growing and open to NEW LIFE!
Oh How HE loves us so much to invite us …and we pray each day for the GRACE and Faith to follow Him while we wait for our true Eternal HOME!
Our longing is always for more of Jesus. More of His LIFE…life to the fullest. A purpose to honor God with the life we have been given.
How could we not…after what HE has done for us. He gave HIS life for us.
THERE is MORE in the surrender to the DEEP!
We would much rather be in over our heads with God’s glory and relying on HIS strength alone and living for ETERNITY, then sitting on the safe sandy shores and missing all the beautiful treasures of light that are hidden in the deep dark places !
The deep ocean is where the miracles of LIGHT, LIFE and GOODNESS and ETERNAL TREASURES are discovered!
This BETHEL song is the anthem of our hearts….
…..And further and further my heart moves away from the shore
Whatever it looks like, whatever may come I am Yours
And further and further my heart moves away from the shore
Whatever it looks like, whatever may come I am YoursThen You crash over me and I’ve lost control but I’m free
I’m going under, I’m in over my head
And You crash over me, I’m where You want me to be
I’m going under, I’m in over my head
Whether I sink, whether I swim
Oh it makes no difference when I’m beautifully in over my head….
We covet your prayers for us and our newest daughter as we turn around from the aching setting sun and
walk run into the coming LIGHT straight to our newest blessing…to the things of ETERNITY!
We promise to share more details later (stay tuned for part 3) because as much as we have enjoyed treasuring up in our hearts all this goodness and beauty and sacred anointed JOY just for ourselves, we also want others to see GOD’S GLORY and MIRACLES.
This Is HIS STORY….not ours!
A story woven together of great sorrow and greater JOY….that we could have never written ourselves.
No matter how much we hate that there has to be ashes, we never want to miss HIS story of the rising beauty out of the ashes.
HIS STORY OF HOPE and LIFE and LIGHT….a story we never could have written or imagined ourselves…. But one we desire to live and live to the fullest while we wait for RESTORATION.
Because, here’s the thing: It really is NOT about us. or about our precious beautiful Gia-Bia…or about our newest beautiful treasure waiting in China.
It is and has always been about JESUS….the LIVING HOPE!
Because He lives we have HOPE.
It is all about our Faithful God.
This is ALL GOD….ALL HIS grace and GLORY!
We just get to be a part of it!
Live Gia Grow Forever!
Grow us GOD…forever and ever!
We miss you baby girl, SO SO SO MUCH!
But, we know you are squealing from heaven as we discover the treasures and miracles of your new little sissy that God is revealing…..a sissy you have always wanted!
…a treasure in the deep that you already got the honor to see first because you get to know all the heavenly secrets first!
You are SO LUCKY!!!
Keep sending us all the LOVE NOTES, baby girl! WE LOVE YOU and ache for you everyday more and more….always until our heaven reunion …
when the WHOLE story of LIGHT and goodness will be told and all that is wrong will be made right!
YOU ARE OUR FOREVER TREASURE.
(Gia holding her Nicaragua treasure box that daddy brought home as a gift from one of his mission trips! She loves it!)