It’s strange that in a few short months we’ll be on the doorsteps of January 2017. In case you aren’t caught up on the ride, THIS January was when Kelly gave birth to our first child: a boy named Abel Paul Crawford. Eight months ago this morning, in fact, we watched our son fight to take his first breaths outside of the womb in an earthly body complicated by Trisomy 18. And fight he did, defying expectations an hour at a time all the way up to the last breath that he took in our home on February 6th.
It’s a futile thing to try and articulate verbally what it’s like for a parent to watch their child pass away, so I won’t try. But a few words we shared back in February still ring true: our two weeks with Abel were simultaneously the hardest AND the richest that we have known in this life.
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him.” –Matthew 7:9-11
It seems like it should be awkward, if not a slap in the face, to apply those red letters to parents grieving the premature death of a little boy. And yet one thing we believe with increasing confidence every day is that Abel’s life truly WAS and IS a GIFT. So we personally hold to the conviction that our Father in Heaven is faithful to give good gifts. And this little gift, it seems, is one that keeps on giving as the ripples expand.
To attempt to wrap our arms around what Abel’s legacy has/will be feels like an endeavor too big for us… which is a pretty neat problem to have, knowing that we can’t even see the full picture of the here-and-now, let alone have a perspective that peers toward eternity. With what our pea-brains can track, we know that you are one of the 100,000+ unique visitors to Abel’s blog, which has a quarter-of-a-million views. We know that dozens & dozens of phone alarms still fire off on a daily basis to lift up this family and to pray for LIFE. We know that it is still our joy to be regularly engaged with in one-off conversations involving our son. So while we can’t know to what extent the Lord has sovereignly chosen to impact people through Abel’s story, we do trust that the gospel of God’s only Son has been illustrated in a painful yet beautifully tangible way through the life of our only son.
In any capacity, we can say with certainty that Abel’s life has changed ours, and continuing to steward his story (really His story) even after death is something we take very seriously. We hope to do that in word, and we hope to do that in DEED with increasing measure…
So one major development that we are trusting the Lord with is the founding & launching of a nonprofit: The Labor of Hope Foundation, created by Kelly and two other women (Kiesha Baker and Melissa Mathis) who have been faithfully connected to the LIFE conversation, and to our experience of advocating for Abel.
The truth is that since difficult diagnoses like Abel’s so commonly & tragically result in abortion today, we were shocked to discover how difficult it was to assemble a team of professionals that could properly prepare & equip us medically, informationally, and emotionally. Even while the Body of Christ shined in its provision, our pregnancy & birth experience showed us that choosing life in the face of a critical pregnancy diagnosis requires a HOLISTIC SUPPORT NETWORK that currently does not exist. Simply put: The Lord absolutely came through for Daniel & I in profound ways, but practically speaking we didn’t know what we didn’t know. And so Kelly, Kiesha & Melissa were sold on two things: (1) there is a huge & unmet need for families in situations like ours, and (2) if they didn’t step out to start meeting that need, who would??
This mission statement embodies what has become Kelly’s passion and, Lord-willing, her vocation: “The Labor of Hope Foundation (LOH) is a Christian non-profit that exists to come alongside families who are impacted by a critical or life-limiting diagnosis during pregnancy…Whether the child, mother or both are at-risk, LOH seeks to serve & advocate for our clients by providing prenatal guidance, professional labor services, and postpartum support.”
If you’re interested in hearing more details about their vision and/or how to partner & serve with Labor of Hope in some way, I’d encourage you to check out the landing page for the awesome website they are building! www.laborofhope.org/
I could do much much more to brag on my wife, but will just say that I am extremely proud of the time & intentionality she has put into Labor of Hope, and can’t wait to see the ways that God chooses to use it.
To wrap things up for now, we continue to be graciously approached about how our little family can be prayed for. Thank you for that! Some of our personal requests include (but are not limited to):
(1) The ongoing process of finding the rhythm of our ‘new normal’ – the grieving process may take on different forms at different times as we navigate our loss, and we acknowledge that this will be a lifelong endeavor.
(2) Thriving relationships with & among our extended family and loved ones.
(3) Above all, pray that we will continue to lean into the Lord, pursuing intimacy with Him & with each another in our marriage. We’ll both be walking through Re:generation over the next 8 months. This is a biblical 12-step recovery program that works through the process of healing given to us in Scripture. We are hopeful & optimistic that the Lord may continue to reveal Himself to us in new ways, opening our eyes to our own patterns & pitfalls as we fight to fix our gaze on His Son.
Finally, to end with a different note of praise, we have some other relevant news: Abel has a little sister, and Mayfield James (M.J.) Crawford is expected to be born on February 12th, 2017. We can’t really anticipate what our headspace will feel like in those weeks approaching her arrival, but we imagine it’ll be a gospel-like blender of emotions. Heavy nostalgia from missing our first child (having walked through our time with Abel almost exactly a year prior) and knowing they won’t get to know each other in this present life, and yet a humbling joy that God has seen fit to bless us with a second child…
So you can please pray for our daughter. We’re approaching her big 20-week anatomy scan this upcoming Monday, which is where abnormalities are often identified, so please pray for peace and continued trust in the truths we’ve been given in God’s Word… that He is faithful, that He loves us and cares for us, that there is freedom in being fully & authentically known, that children are a blessing, that every life is intentionally created with all wisdom, that the Lord gives good gifts, and Mayfield James is as fearfully & wonderfully made as her big brother was.
– Abel’s dad