Monday, January 30, 2012

Dedicating Anna

Yesterday we dedicated Anna to the Lord.  At our church, when you dedicate a baby, you have to come up with five things that you specifically want to pray for your child.  We cheated and chose six.  :)  They encourage us to pull them out every year at the child's birthday and see how we as parents are doing at instilling these values in our child.  It's a great idea.  Here is what we are praying for our Anna Pea.

Our Hearts' Desires for Anna

Anna means "full of mercy, grace, and prayer."

Mercy -- We pray that Anna would be full of mercy, that she would exude compassion, kindness, gentleness, and tenderness for all people -- both those "to whom much has been given" (Luke 12:48) as well as "the least of these" (Matthew 25:40). 

Grace -- We long for Anna to be full of grace.  We pray that she would receive Christ's gift of grace (Ephesians 2:8-9) and would in turn demonstrate it willingly and unconditionally to those around her.  We want for Anna's actions, words, and thoughts to be seasoned with grace.

Prayer -- We hope that Anna's life will be marked by prayer -- that she will go to God in prayer over everything: joys, thanksgiving, hopes, fears, trials, pain, longing, uncertainty, and doubt (Philippians 4:6-7).  We long for her to know the intimacy with God that springs from a prayerful life and pray that her first inclination in all circumstances is to go on her knees before Jesus -- for herself, others, and the world. 

Wisdom -- We pray that Anna will be a woman of wisdom, that she will embody the Proverbs 31 woman, "When she speaks, her words are wise, and kindness is the rule when she gives instructions."  We hope that Anna will be able to discern what is wise and what is foolish and that she will firmly place her feet upon the path of wisdom (Proverbs 4).

Faith -- We pray that Anna will put her faith in Jesus Christ from a young age, that she will be ever confident that God is with her (Zephaniah 3:17), that she will trust that His ways are higher than her ways (Isaiah 55:8-9), and that she can take refuge in the shelter of His wings (Psalm 61:3-4).  We pray that she will have the peace of God that accompanies a complete and genuine faith in Him.

Love -- We want Anna's life to be characterized by love for God and people.  As she is the recipient of the greatest love imaginable (John 3:16, I John 3:16, I John 4:10), we hope she will extend love to others, caring more about them than about herself.  As Christ loves her, we hope she will love those around her.

One of the things I love about Anna is the roundedness of her profile -- round head, round button nose, round cheeks, round chin...adorable.

Happy, loved girl
With the fabulous Thiels (minus Dave).  The Thiels are the people who are moving away, incidentally.  Dave is already in Texas.  I still can't stand to think about it.  Jonathan and Emily (the "kids") will still be in Georgia as Jonathan has a job here, and Emily is a junior at UGA, but losing Dave and Colleen will be a mighty, mighty blow.  They're the only family we have in town, and we are so crazy about them.

Love Bugs

Friday, January 13, 2012

Dear Anna

Dear Anna,

Oh, sweet girl, I am crazy about you.  I can't begin to tell you how very much I love you because there just aren't words for it.  You are an incredible blessing.

Right now we're in the middle of "just-Anna-and-me week."  The boys are all in Texas, and I'm loving every minute of my week with you.  I look at you and tear up because my heart is bursting with love.  You are the baby I longed for, the one I begged God for.  You are the answer to my prayers.

On June 25, 2008 I found out I was pregnant for the third time, but it wasn't until three years later to the day, June 25, 2011, that I had a healthy baby of mine in my arms.  In those three years we had two miscarriages, sweet Samuel, and a year of trying for you.  Though full of growth and God's faithfulness and presence, those three years were really, really hard and heartbreaking.  I wasn't sure we would ever be able to have another child, and how desperately I longed for one.  And then God gave us YOU.  You, Anna Patricia Apinis, are my answered prayer.

We have all been amazed at how you ease the ache in our souls, how you make life brighter, grief lighter, and hope more tangible.  You are a healing force in our family -- we can't help but experience healing when we look at you, hold you, and kiss you.  I've seen you transform all of us -- Daddy, Caleb, Joel, and me.  It's miraculous what God has done through you, and I can't thank Him enough.

But Anna, I want you to know that we don't just love you because you're Samuel's baby sister.  We love you because you are you.  We love YOU -- who you are, how you are, just the way you are.  I love your huge smile, the way you stop crying the instant you're in my arms, your deep, guttural laugh that seems to spring from the depths of your belly, your delight in your big brothers, your gorgeous big blue-brown eyes that strangers regularly compliment, your adoring looks at me and Daddy, your sweet turned up nose with its tiny divot, your love for your bunny, your cry that is impossible to ignore, and your heart-melting dimples.  Anna, I love the way God made you.

I pray for you every day, Anna Button, and I pray that your life would reflect the meaning of your name -- that you would be full of mercy, grace, and prayer.  I long for you to know and trust Jesus, to follow after Him all the days of your life.  I pray that you will be a woman of wisdom, love, kindness, compassion, honor, purity, and faith.  I pray that you will find your identity in the One who created you and not in what the world says of you, that you and I will have a great relationship through each stage of your life, and that your relationship with your dad will keep you grounded and confident of your worth.

Do you know you have the greatest daddy in the world?  It is impossible not to like him; he is funny, personable, and kind.  But more importantly, he loves Jesus with all his heart.  He is a man of truth, compassion, faith, integrity, honor, wisdom, courage, and generosity.  I pray that someday you will marry a man who will treasure you like your daddy treasures you and me, who will point you to God, who will shower you with love, who will make you feel beautiful even on the days when the mirror tells you otherwise, who will put you before himself and serve you willingly and joyfully, who will rejoice in you just the way God made you.  Your daddy does all those things for me, and I hope and pray your future marriage is as enjoyable, loving, and real as ours is.

Anna, I will love you all the days of your life and beyond no matter what -- regardless of who you become, what you do, what you believe, or what you think of me.  There's nothing you can do that will make me stop loving you.  You are my amazing and beautiful daughter, and you always will be.

I love you, Anna, and I always will.  No matter what.  And I will thank God for you all the days of my life.

Love, Momma

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dear Samuel (from Christmas 2011)

Dear Samuel,

Your brothers are currently snuggled in their sleeping bags downstairs under the Christmas tree, and soon your daddy and I will be joining them.  Your baby sister is snug in her crib.  If you were here, I wonder where you'd be -- under the tree or tucked in your bed?

We have 6 stockings hung on the mantel, and your daddy keeps commenting on how that seems like a lot.  4 kids.  We have no idea what having four kids to care for is like, and when we see all those stockings we notice your absence a lot.

We miss you, Samuel.  Just yesterday Caleb told the check out lady at Publix about you, and he said, "We miss him a lot, but we have a lot of great memories of him."  I was so proud of Caleb for sharing that.  All of us miss you, sweet boy.

This year we used your Christmas money to help the Stanley family put together baskets for the families of CICU kids.  They put together 20 baskets for those there over Christmas.  We also wrote 20 notes and made some pretzel/hershey kiss/m&m snacks for the baskets.

Samuel, you continue to bless me so much.  Your life refines mine.  I can see so many "refreshing springs" and "pools of blessing" that have come from our Valley of Weeping.  You have made me a better woman, wife, and Momma.  I am so, so thankful for you.

Every week now I hear about a baby fighting for his or her life.  It's practically common place, but it hurts every time.  I remember the terror we experienced and the pain we felt, and I hurt for those walking through it now.  I pray for those families and children a whole lot, and I spend a fair amount of time writing them -- on their blogs, facebook, or emails.  I feel like God called me to love and encourage others who walk this path when He gave us you.  Though it's exhausting and stirs up pain, I am glad for the chance to bless others because of you.  It makes me feel like your life still matters, and I find comfort in that.

Your baby sister has been a huge healer for us.  She brings us incredible joy.  She's full of smiles, and no one can make her laugh like her brothers.  I bet you would be a pro at it.

This Christmas we're hosting Gab'm, Matthew, Ashley, Vivian, Colin, and June at our house.  I wonder how it will be to have Junie here.  I can't believe what you'd be up to at 28 months.  Oh, baby boy, how I love you and always will.  Thank you for changing our lives, for showing us Jesus in new ways, for continuing to grow our hearts and our dependence on God -- or at least our awareness of it.

Merry Christmas, sweet boy.  I know you're enjoying the celebration in Heaven.  I love you, Samuel Erik Apinis, and I always will.

Love, Momma

Monday, January 9, 2012

Dear Samuel (from Christmas 2009)

Dear Samuel,

Tomorrow we will celebrate Christmas in our house.  Next week we head to Gab'm's for Christmas in Dallas.  This year will be a first for us -- our first Christmas as parents who have lost a son.  Honestly I don't want to celebrate Christmas without you, but how could I not celebrate Jesus, in whose very presence you now eternally celebrate?

I miss you so much, but I know you don't miss us.  You're part of the grandest celebration ever.  You are whole, full, well, and joyful.  You sing and dance and play on streets of gold, at the feet of Jesus.  You are blessed.  And you have the amazing joy of growing up in the presence of the Lord.  You lack nothing, feel no pain, experience no sorrow.  For all of this I am grateful.

Samuel, I have learned so much from you and your life.  I have learned to trust God in deeper and more real ways.  I have learned a truer humility and gentleness.  I appreciate compassion and kindness deeply.  I understand genuine joy and how different it is from happiness.  I have experienced God's grace in new and mighty ways, and I have learned to love more completely.  You have taught me these things.

The month I spent by your side was one of the most precious months of my life -- perhaps the most precious.  What a joy and privilege it was to sing to you, stroke your head, hold your hand, pray with you, read The Chronicles of Narnia to you, and tell you about your brothers and how much we all love you.  Those were days I will always treasure in my heart.  You will always be in my heart.

Today your daddy and I went back to Egleston for the first time.  It's part of our effort to honor you and remember you in a way that blesses others.  We took 20 dozen baked goods to the CICU staff to say thank you for how they cared for you and us in August.  Your favorite nurse, Richard, was there as were Dr. Kim, Dr. Jen Brown, Jennifer (you were her favorite CICU patient ever), Sherese, and Lucretia.  And we saw one of your friends, Sarah Beth.  It was hard for your daddy and I to see her and know it could have been you we were smiling down upon.  But I wouldn't want to call you back from the place of wholeness and joy where you are.  But selfishly my arms feel empty, and my heart is heavy.  How I would have loved to celebrate Christmas with you, my sweet son.

Daddy and I have decided to start several traditions to honor you at Christmas each year.  We let Caleb and Joel pick something from World Vision to use your Christmas money toward.  This year Joel chose to buy 5 ducks for a family, and Caleb chose to help orphans.  Your brothers talk about you often -- every day -- and ask about Heaven a lot.  They both miss you terribly and looks forward to seeing you again one day.  As a family we are also giving money to a missionary couple in Indai who work with slum children and to Samaritan's Purse Children's Heart Project which raises money to fly a child and 1 parent to the U.S. for life-saving heart surgery.

Samuel, we have heard so many stories of how you have changed and blessed people's lives.  You've made a tremendous impact on people.  Some people have begun a new relationship with Jesus because of you, and some have come back to Him after a time away.  Many trust God more because of you.  You have touched so many, and you have especially touched my heart.  I will never be the same after having loved and known you.  I love you Samuel Erik Apinis, and I always will.  I look forward to the day when I can see you again and scoop you up in my arms and shower you with kisses and hold you close to my heart.  Samuel, you are a gift, and I love you deeply.

Merry Christmas, sweet baby.  Give Jesus a kiss and hug from me, please, and tell Him Happy Birthday.

I love you!

Love, Momma