Four Years Later

As Paul and I prepare to celebrate Isaiah’s 4th birthday (yeah, we can’t believe it either), we wanted to thank you for your love and prayers and support of both our family and our foundation over the past incredible four years! We also owe you a blog post… so here goes!

Earlier this week I was with my dear friend Amber chatting about God and life and love and kids. In our conversation, my heart kept being drawn to a bible verse that I really love:

I sent that verse to Amber the following morning, and began to really think about that verse and all the times I have referred to it over the past 4 years. I remembered that the night Isaiah was born, Dowd sent us that exact verse. She reminded me and Paul that God was strong enough to withstand anything Isaiah, and we as his parents, had to endure. That through God, we would be stronger than we could ever imagine or hope.

I was reflecting on those conversations with Dowd from 4 years ago and realizing not only how significant that verse was that day but how important it has become in our lives ever since. That night, 4 years ago today, doctors we didn’t know came in the room shortly after Isaiah’s birth to try to prepare us for the worst. To ask if we wanted to have a chaplain called (for last rites). To try to explain something to us that’s they were unable to medically explain with his lab work and the way he presented as a newborn. Things didn’t add up, but they feared the worst. We made calls. Wanda was already with us as she had been in the room when Isaiah was born. Isaiah’s pediatrician, Dr. Bonnie White, rushed to our sides to try to help us navigate the medical chatter we didn’t understand. Meg & Wes Ridout waited. Family waited. And Ann & Jack Millwood were there in a heartbeat, as we declined the hospital’s offer for a chaplain and instead, brought Pastor Jack in to pray over our son with us. It was probably the most scared Paul and I have ever been in our lives. And yet somehow, it was also the most at peace. God had this. Whatever “this” was, we knew God had it. We prayed over our son before they rushed him to another hospital better equipped to care for his urgent needs. The room was filled with our friends, the nursing staff at Baptist South, and also with the rescue staff tasked with safely and urgently transporting our child. These angels were going to be handed our son, our son Paul had not yet held, our son that I had only held for a brief moment. Their task? Get Isaiah, alive and safe, to Wolfson. ASAP. And at that moment, silence. Then prayer. We prayed for Isaiah. Every single person in the room prayed. We hands held. My hand inside Isaiah’s little incubator, holding his tiny little fingers. We told him how much we loved him. And we assured our tiny little miracle baby that as much as we loved him, we knew God loved him infinitely more, and that His plan was perfect. It was there that Paul & I witnessed the first two people impacted by God’s plan for our son’s life. We watched two of the three paramedics, two men standing somewhere around 6’4″ held hands and wept as they were moved by God’s words coming out of my mouth as I prayed over our little boy.

And then those three stranger angels wheeled our son away. We had no idea if we’d ever see Isaiah alive again. And yet somehow, through the fear and the pain and the unknown… peace. Immense peace. The kind of peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7). God was with us.

And over the coming days, we prayed more than we’ve ever prayed in our lives. As part of that prayer time, Dowd and I discussed Isaiah 40:31 and its significance several times. We waited on the Lord. And I can confidently say that regardless of those first fear-filled days, God fulfilled his promise. Here we are, FOUR years later. We have the most incredible gift in Isaiah. A happy, joy-filled, boundary-exploring (boundary-testing?) 4 year old. A child doctors prepared us to say goodbye to. I can assure you, as I’m watching him as I type this, he’s flipping over his therapy swing in his room, attempting to hang on like a monkey with one arm or suspend himself from underneath it like some kind of acrobat. Isaiah is very much alive and well. The joy that Isaiah has brought to us in the past 4 years is immeasurable. But more than joy, what God has done through Isaiah is to revive my relationship with Him. That gift is something far more valuable than even our little Isaiah himself. For through the gift of our deepening relationships with Christ, Paul are able to provide that model for Isaiah so that he, too, can deepen his.

Through that deepened relationship, Isaiah 40:31 continues to be a scripture that is top of mind. I was asked to speak at the YMCA of the Suncoast’s annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast by our dear friend Laura Jolly in November. I actually had most of my speech written, and on the ride to Clearwater the previous night, God changed those plans. Isaiah 40:31 became the focus of the discussion, a conversation about the weight we carry in our lives, weight not meant for us to carry. That day, along with dozens of others in the past 4 years, Isaiah 40:31 has been seared on my heart.

Many months ago, someone forwarded me this incredible article/post:

8 Things I Want Isaiah to Thank Me For In 20 Years

  1. Thank you for putting Christ first.
  2. Thank you for showing me grace, not works.
  3. Thank you for showing me repentance, not false perfection.
  4. Thank you for caring more about my character than my abilities.
  5. That you for knowing that gospelling me was your and Daddy’s job.
  6. Thank you for loving Daddy.
  7. Thank you for giving me a chance to serve.
  8. Thank you for showing me what sacrificial love is.

I printed it out and have it posted in my office right next to my computer. I have read it more times than I can count. God has blessed us with this incredible little human. Through Isaiah’s life and his journey, people we’ve known for years have been introduced to Jesus. Through God’s gift of Isaiah, Paul and I have deepened our relationships with Jesus, and only through Him could we ever follow the command laid out for us in the Bible: “Train up a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6). These 8 steps may seem simple enough at first glance. But they carry a ton of weight. The great news is, we are not called to bear the weight of the burden of parenting alone. God provides us all we need. Our responsibility is actually quite simple: trust Him (Proverbs 3:5-6) and be obedient to His word (James 1:22). Then, and only then, can our strength be renewed, can we mount up with wings like eagles, can we run and not grow weary, can we walk and not faint, and can we knock out those 8 things that, without Jesus, would undoubtedly be an insurmountable list of parenting desires.

So here we are, four years later, celebrating our 6th wedding anniversary and our son’s 4th birthday! Through the gifts of our marriage and of Isaiah, our relationship with Jesus continues to grow. Likewise, our foundation has grown. In 2017, the Tesori Family Foundation had the privilege of giving back over $150,000 in goods and services to the community through our programs like Buddy Baskets, Isaiah’s Smiles, the All-Star Kids Clinic, Hope for the Holidays and more. And it all begins in the same place: God. God before all things.

Thank you for being part of our journey the past four years with our miracle child, our family and our foundation. We are so humbled by the new friendships we have made, the old friendships that have been rekindled and the friendships we have deepened because God trusted us with this little human named Isaiah. After all, Isaiah means “salvation of the Lord”. And when we named this little boy as he nestled snugly in my womb, long before we could ever know the story God had written out for us and for him, little did we know how significant that name would be. Salvation. A gift from God. A gift we cannot earn. A gift that is freely given, offered to us through Jesus who laid down his life on the cross, took our place and paid the ultimate price for our sin: death. Through Jesus, and only through Jesus, can we receive salvation. And isn’t it incredible that God placed this little boy, this incredible little human He called us to name Isaiah, into our lives and into the lives of our friends and our family, to remind us all that salvation begins with God? Before all things.

God bless you all, and Happy New Year! We look forward to another amazing year in 2018 and hope you’ll hang out with us on this journey!

And to you, Isaiah, my sweet sweet boy: I wish you the happiest of birthdays. I pray that God will fill your spirit and continue to ooze the joy of the Lord out of you. I pray that you will continue to be a blessing to everyone around you, a beacon of light and hope and joy in a world that sometimes loses sight of those things. In a society that, especially for you, could be cruel and unkind, I pray that your light will never be diminished, but that it will shine brighter and brighter in the darkness. As our friend Amy Wright said before she was named the CNN Hero for 2017, you are not broken Isaiah. What’s broken is the lens through which we view people with disabilities.* So most importantly, Isaiah, I pray that you will truly understand that God’s unconditional love is greater than anything else in this world, it can overcome ALL things. When you truly know that that love, my son, only then will you be completely free to soar on wings like eagles. I love you!

*Teaser: next blog post will highlight our friends Amy & Ben Wright and Bitty & Beau’s coffee. You won’t want to miss it!

Some of our favorite photos from 2017