Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and the one who knocks, the door will be opened. -Matthew 7:7-8
About four years ago at a woman's Bible study, the leader told us to make sure that when we prayed, we were very specific in what we were asking God because he always answers your prayers. She started with the common phrase “Be careful what you pray for!” then continued with her story. She had asked God to help slow down her life because she and her husband were having difficulty growing their family. He did give her more children, another of her own and two more they adopted, but shortly after, they found out her husband had cancer and that God was calling him home. “God what are you doing?” she wondered “How is this answering my prayer? I can't possibly slow down being a single mom!” She remained faithful to God's plan for her and her family and looking back, realized that even though it seemed chaotic, God truly had answered that prayer!
Her story, her faithfulness to God and that simple suggestion, to be specific in prayer, has stuck with me. As much as I can be, I am specific in my prayers but I add something Jesus himself taught us and that I often heard my dad say as well “... not what I will but what you will.” I know God has a plan for each and every one of us, and that it may not always be our plan. We must trust in the Lord even if it's difficult to do sometimes. This for me, required much patience, especially in the area of our children and growing our own family.
God had graciously given us two beautiful children, a son and a daughter, and I prayed God would give us more children. That wasn't exactly my prayer, though. My prayer was that God would give us a sign, show us, when it was time. I needed to know loud and clear when to grow our family according to God's plan. This was mainly because a lot happened after we had Vanessa. I quit my job to stay home with the kids, Paul got laid off, he decided to go back to school in a town two hours away, and then my mom started having more health issues and I was most available to help. I learned a lot from those life experiences, mainly to put more trust in God and give Him control. But something was missing! Maybe Paul and I need to pray about this together! As most men think, Paul wanted to be sure we were financially able to have more children and I couldn't tell if he was ready. I took him to a Couple's Date Night at the Spiritual Life Center where the topic was “Learning to pray together as a couple.” I got my answer there, but not in the way I expected! As I sat and listened to the speaker, taking notes and coming up with a plan to work prayer into our already busy schedule, Paul was busy smiling at one of the other couple's baby. Then when he got to hold her, I saw the love in his eyes and it warmed my heart. “Thank you, God, for that answer!”
I continued to pray for God to tell us when it was time and I kept my eyes and ears open. I had my hands full taking care of my mom and I wasn't sure I could handle another baby now, but God knew what was in my heart. If God wanted our family to grow, which I was pretty sure He did, I needed to trust that God had a handle on my life. I decided to sit down with my mom and tell her what was on my heart and that I was starting to see “baby fever” in Paul. Yet, I knew I couldn't take care of her and a new baby at the same time so something had to change! After a long afternoon chat, she agreed to start taking better care of herself so she could enjoy a new grand baby. “God, was that it? Was that the sign?” Still, I didn't feel like that was it!
We decided to plan a family trip to Michigan to visit Paul's family and to just relax! It'd been a tough past several years and we just wanted to have some fun! Mom was doing much better and she assured me that she'd ask my siblings for help when she needed it. I didn't want worrying about her to interfere with my time with my family. I continued to pray my prayer and even got the kids involved because they had started to tell me they wanted a baby brother or sister. I told them, God always answers the prayers of little children! I thought maybe God would speak to me through my kids.
One thing I enjoy about traveling, is visiting other churches. We had taken a side trip to Mackinac Island on a Saturday, planning on spending the whole day there and coming back late in the evening. Surprisingly, there is a Catholic Church right there on the island and they had a Saturday evening Mass, but attending Mass didn't quite work out. I found out the next day, at a little church in Frankfort, that God had a plan for me to be right there, in that pew, at that particular moment! I prayed my same prayer again and thanked God for giving us the opportunity to spend this much needed time as a family. As I listened to the priest's homily, my heart was full and my ears were open. That's when I got my answer! Not what I had expected at all! Right in the middle of his homily, as the priest joked about the summertime being the fullest the church is throughout the year because visitors come here to renew and relax, he told the congregation something, but somehow it was just for me! “Go home with new life within you.” A month later, I found out I was pregnant! Our baby was due April 1st!
Everyone was so excited as we told our family and friends our news! My prayers changed to those of thanksgiving and a specific prayer of dedicating my baby to God and for Him to use my baby for His purpose. Use me, too. This baby was His, not mine, just as I am His. God also knew I had another prayer deep in my heart and that was for things to slow down so I'd be able to take care of this baby. I found it amusing that the answer to that was to keep me sick at home the first trimester! I had constantly been on the go, so it really did slow me down! Even after I started feeling better, I kept things at a slower pace and asked for help more often. Looking back, that truly was in God's plan because it allowed me to take one day at a time and really experience this pregnancy, the good, not so good and the not so pretty!
That is the main reason I knew something wasn't right on the afternoon of March 21, 2015. We had found out we were having a girl and had just picked out her name a couple weeks before that: Anastasia Lily. Anastasia means “resurrection” and she was due just a few days before Easter so we thought the two names together were perfect! Anastasia was a lively girl and we joked that she would take after her big sister, Vanessa, and be on the go from day one! The kids enjoyed placing their heads and hands on my belly and getting a swift jolt and only Paul was able to calm her down. She would be still when he spoke to her! But, we were so busy on that afternoon, that I didn't even stop to think about the last time I had felt her until early in the evening. I remembered laying in bed in the morning, seeing my belly dance, but after that I wasn't sure. I tried to calm myself by remembering that I'm only a couple weeks from my due date so she's probably resting and getting ready for her grand entrance into this world. The kids sensed my fear and worry and asked if a baby could die in my belly. I said they could but I didn't think God would take my baby! After the kids were in bed, I sent a message to a nurse friend, asking her what I should do. I didn't wait for her to respond though and drove myself to the hospital. That was the longest drive as I prayed that God wouldn't take my baby but deep down I feared He already had.
My fears were confirmed when the nurses and doctors couldn't find a heartbeat and showed me her lifeless body on the sonogram screen. I could see compassion on their faces as they apologized and started talking about the next steps. I told them I wanted my husband there before they proceeded so they left me alone in the examination room. I wasn't alone though! I truly believe God was with me at that very moment and took control as I arranged for my sister to come over to watch the kids, called Paul to tell him to get to the hospital as quickly as he could and then had to call my sister-in-law because she was throwing me a baby shower the very next day. Those were the hardest phone calls to make and I know I didn't make them by myself! God was there.
He was there, a couple hours later when my friend came up to pray the Rosary with me. He was there when my priest came up early the next morning, March 22, to anoint and pray over me before my C-Section. God was there when all the nurses and doctors performed their duties professionally, only to be left in silence as they finished. God was there in the recovery room as we loved on Anastasia and held her beautiful body, still warm, against our chests, praying that somehow our heartbeats would transform to hers. He was there as the recovery nurse wrapped her arms around me and let me cry as I had to hand Anastasia over for her precious pictures and our goodbyes. God was there in my hospital room as things slowly started to sink in that we'd be going home alone. God was there in the mortuary as we made our final decisions on how to handle Anastasia's services and as timely words were spoken by Paul's pastor about the promises of Easter.
God was there at the memorial service and at the grave site as my priest prayed for our family and reminded everyone present that this isn't the last time we will see her or any of our loved ones who have died. My silent prayer of “help me through this” has not gone unanswered. He has led me to people who have been there, including my recovery nurse, who cares deeply for me, and who have not lost hope or faith in God. It's what has happened in the months that followed, that helped me realize that God never left us and continues to be ever present and has been answering my prayer of “use Anastasia; use me” all along! I now feel that it is my turn to help those who are hurting, to share my story, even if it means telling them I don't have all the answers! But I know someone who does, and God will answer them in His time, by His will. We only need to have our ears, eyes and heart open in order to receive the answers because they won't always be answered when and how we hope.
Written by Christina Peek, Anastasia's Mommy