Friday, 27 March 2015

Remembering Christianna in light of Easter.

(The following is the story of the day Christianna Joy entered Heaven)

My family had just finished lunch, and our kids went outside to play in our yard in our family’s home in Zambia, Africa. My wife and I were talking on the couch when our oldest daughter, Acacia, came running in, franticly calling us to say that there was something wrong with Christianna, our second-born child. We found her laying in the yard, unresponsive and not breathing.

My wife, a doctor, immediately went into action. We began CPR and started praying loud, desperate, and frantic prayers for help. There was no 911 to call, no paramedics in our area, no hope of immediate medical help except for what we could do on our own. I called for a helicopter, but it was 35 minutes away at best.

After almost an hour of CPR and prayer, we stopped. She was gone. This beautiful 10-and-a-half-year-old girl who loved Jesus, her family, and caring for orphans had entered eternity.  The tug-of-war between us and Heaven for our treasured princess ended in total exhaustion.  All we had now was a the hope she would return to us by some miraculous act of God. The miracle never came on this side of eternity.  

The moment we stopped trying to resuscitate Christianna, I had a choice: to trust God or not. Kneeling over her lifeless body, I looked up to heaven and told God that, if this was his answer to our prayers, we would trust him. Little did I know how powerful that declaration would be in our healing process.  With tears streaming out of my eyes I looked down on her lifeless body and declared that we are not a people of despair but of hope.  Then I reached out and stroked her hair moving it away from her face and  bent down and kissed her forehead and whispered how much I loved her and that I will hold her again when Jesus calls me home. 

We chose to sing praises to Jesus for the next three hours as a family. Our oldest daughter grabbed Christianna’s journal and read an entry that proclaimed her love for Jesus. It may not be the way people usually process death, but by choosing to trust the Lord in this, our children were able to find hope: in eternity, in heaven, and in Jesus.  

Our youngest daughter now talks about how wonderful heaven will be when our whole family is back together. While we would have chosen a different path for ourselves, we have learned the depth of Christ’s love in a tangible way that has given our faith wings to soar.  I would give anything to have Christianna Joy back but if it meant losing the depth of hope and joy I have discovered in Jesus, I am content to wait until I see her on that beautiful day when we will celebrate the wedding feast of the Lamb.  

You may or may not face this kind of journey on your life’s journey. Still, I wanted you to know that how unexpected things affect us depends largely upon our level of trust in our heavenly Father. After going through this experience, I have a rooted strength to face whatever comes my way.  The intimacy that I know share with my Savior has bloomed into a radiant legacy of grace, brokenness, hope, joy and expectation of what Easter was meant to be.  You see, Christianna is more alive today than ever!  I am in the process of dying in this world as is everyone reading this.  She walks with Jesus and dances on rainbows.  

Today, we continue to celebrate her life within our family and close circle of friends. "Christianna Joy" means, she who walks with Christ with joy.  Boy I wish I could peek into Heaven this Easter and see just a second of what that worship service looks like.  Because we who are found in Christ, his Body, are one, death cannot separate us as Paul tells us.  I still get to be close to my daughter.  Every time I enter the sacredness of worship, I know that my daughter and I are doing the same thing at the same time.  As a matter of fact, worship is the only thing I can do with her until we meet in Glory.

I've heard people say many times that God never gives you more than you can handle. That is a lie. If we could handle it, there would be no need for God, no need for grace, no need for the empty tomb.  This Easter, remember you can not handle what life throws at you.  Rejoice, Jesus can and will.  Trust.  I have discovered that He is everything He claims to be and so much more.  So much more.

(This blog post is a selection from the book "Flipping Missions" that I co-authored with my good friend Tony Myles.  To check the book out you can click the following link: )

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

My little blessing

May 31, 2009 (year seven)

Dear Christianna,

We are now living in Zambia, and I am blessed to have you here with me.  You seem to have grown into a young lady in the past month.  You are a beautiful girl, full of grace and joy.  I love how you show your affection - you make Daddy and I “I love you Mommy” drawings - usually with lots of hearts, or you write it wherever we are - like today you wrote it in the sand of the path we were walking.  

You have already made good friends with our neighbors, learning about the different fruits, games and even going to school with them one day.  You like to help around the house - which is such a blessing to me.  We enjoy cooking together (your favorite right now is jello), watering the strawberries, doing the dishes, and making people’s beds.  You are very good at making things neat and orderly and usually have your bed looking so nice. 

I just enjoy being with you - you are quick to find the good in others and in life.  Your favorite part of the day is usually about loving someone, kissing Mommy or Daddy, or holding baby Mirah.

I love you my little blessing,  Mommy

Monday, 2 June 2014

My Delight (Year Six)

March 4, 2008  ( five and a half)

Dear Christianna,

You are my delight.  Each moment spent with you brings me joy.  I admire the way you take care of Katriya and Isaiah as their big sister.  You had your first "babysitting" time yesterday - so you looked at books with them, built block towers, and took them for rides in the doll stroller.  My favorite is when you dance ballet for them at night while I sing "Jesus Loves Me" and make sure you give them goodnight kisses if I happen to forget.

God has gifted you with joy, and love abounding.  Right now you are learning your alphabet sounds and to write the letters in your preschool and love to play for hours with polly and playmobil people.  You do miss Acacia playing with you, though, when she is doing school.

I pray your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight and that you may be kept blameless until the day of Christ Jesus, pure and holy before Him, your beautiful Savior.

I love you, my precious one,


My little love (Year Five)

November 2, 2007  ( almost five!)

Dearest Christianna,

You are my little love - with a heart filled with big love!  We were making sentences out of word cards yesterday in preschool.  You said you wanted to write "I love my mommy" for your sentence.  You and daddy have been practicing your bike riding and today you rode all down our street by yourself! You were pretty excited and I was pretty proud - before you are even five years old!  You have been helping Katriya lately when she wakes up by going to her crib and singing, playing or reading books with her.  She is even learning how to play "Polly" dolls with you and you always get her blanket for her when she cries.

I have really treasured being able to watch you and Acacia be sisters and best of friends.  You spend hours imagining with the farm or Pollys.  But even more than that you are learning and delighting in serving one another and helping with each other's chores, or getting something for each other from the table, or getting each other's clothes.  It delights my heart and even more Jesus' heart.  Thank you for being my daughter.

I love you,

Novermber 4

You rode your bike again today all by yourself - and I wish I could somehow capture the pure delight and excitement and determination all rolled into one that was on your face - you literally zoomed past Acacia pedaling as fast as your little legs could carry you with daddy trying his best to run and catch up to you.

Wow!  :)
Teaching "little ones" preschool

Friday, 30 May 2014

Just by being who God made you to be (Year Five)

September 22, 2007 (four and a half years old)

Dearest Christianna Joy,

Your spirit so beautifully reflects your name.  You spread the joy of Christ everywhere you go - just by being who God made you to be....

- In the way you dance and twirl and sing in praise to God - like at our family chapel today when you danced while we sang "Praise to the Lord".
- In the way you so quickly serve our family and friends like when you offered Sofie the blue popsicle today because that's your favorite and there is only one, and how you offered to pick up Acacia's pajamas for her because she was already in bed.
- In the way you radiate joy for life and love for people like when you say your favorite part of the day is "kissing mommy" and "everything".

You broke your finger bones a couple weeks ago jumping on the trampoline with Acacia and Uncle Nate.  You cried hard, but since the initial pain, you have just not given your broken hand and subsequent cast a second thought.  Well, actually it has become a nice accessory to play super hero and whap the bad guys and be stylin' with people signing and decorating your cast.  You just go for life and don't let the details slow you down.

You inspire me, and fill me with joy to be your mommy.

I love you, my kissable Christianna,

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Giving and Singing (Year Four)

June 9, 2006 (three and a half years)

Dear Christianna,

You have a new big sister, and now get to be both a big and a little sister.  You have nick-named her "Katriya Rose cutie butie Murphy" and call her "adorable".  You ask frequently to hold her and kiss her and tell her you love her.  It is very precious to behold.  When she cries you bring her stuffed animals and sing to her.  She is blessed to have you as a big sister.

Wednesday we were at Oma's by the lake and had wild strawberries for dessert.  It made my heart glad when you came over with four strawberries, as you had picked one to share with everyone.  Your giving spirit flows over into everything you do.

You love to dance, and are quite excited to start ballet in the fall, but I think you'll be ahead because of how much you do at home with Acacia showing you what she has learned.

You love to sing and lately have been making your own songs of praise and love to God to sing.  It is the best kind of song of all.

Daddy says your joy is contagious, and it is true.  You have such a lively, overflowing spirit, you are truly a joy in our life and to the Spirit of God.  We praise God for you, my little love.


August 30, 2006

Dear Christianna,

You are my little joy with love overflowing.  You frequently tell me you love me, daddy, and Acacia, and Katriya (and sometimes even Zeus (the cat) makes it into the love).  At night I ask you your favorite part of the day and you say "you mean night?"  I say "Sure!" and you say "giving you a hug" and give me a great big strong hug -so strong you ask if I can still breathe after it is all over.

Your favorite book by far right now is "There's a Monster at the End of this Book" starring Grover - I tickle you each time it says "Monster" and pretend I'm scared to turn the page.  What fun we have.

You've started 'preschool' this week and are anxious to do school like Acacia so we have lots of fun workbooks for you and you help Acacia with her experiments and crafts.  The hardest part is you miss being able to play with her now that she's in 1st Grade, but played together tonight for over one hour putting on a funny show.  I thank God for your love for each other and how much you enjoy just being sisters.  Most of all, I thank God for you and that God gave us such a special joy in our life.

love, for always,

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Little Sweetie (Year Four)

January 1, 2006 (three years old)

Dearest Christianna Joy,

You are such a joy.  Today at church you were dancing for Jesus in front of our pew - so gracefully to the music, twirling and dipping with your arms out.  I wish we could all give so freely to God our worship.

For Christmas you got a tent from Opa and Oma and you and Acacia have already spent hours in it making up stories about mommys and sweeties and friends and bad guys.

Last week we had our second ultrasound for our new baby - you are so proud you get to be a big sister. My favorite part was you patting my belly and singing "Jesus Loves Me" when you saw the baby.   You check up on the baby regularly making sure he has enough food to eat, is warm enough, and give lots of "I love you hugs and kisses to my belly."  My heart overflows with joy each time I think of the beautiful creation God has given us in you.

love to my little sweetie,