Christi and I are proud members of Friends Church and blessed by the relationships and lessons we feel we have learned during our time as members of the church. Christi and I are from Brenham, Texas and were wed just a week after graduation from Texas A&M University. Following our wedding we started our life together as a military family.  14 years and 10 moves later we found ourselves living in Friendswood.

Multiple deployments as an infantry commander gave us unique insights into life and the experiences of combat and the responsibilities of command made us a much wiser couple. We believed we had seen it all, could never be closer as a couple, and thought we knew all we needed to about being Christian and our faith.

Life was good.

We were in control, on track with our plans, and had nothing but optimism regarding our growing family…or so we thought.

In June 2009 our second daughter was born with some exceptional special needs. We knew well before her birth that there were going to be complications and that she would have special needs.

Lily was born on June 23, 2009 to a room filled with medical professionals and after three short minutes was taken into the neonatal intensive care unit. Six days later she underwent her first open heart surgery.

Our lives as a family, our identity, our belief in faith and friends and family were all turned upside down. We lived with questions, fear, anger, sadness, and at times guilt. We even questioned our faith.

We were helpless. Absolutely helpless and didn’t know what we could do for our precious child. We vowed to each other and to our 2 year old (Eliana) that we would do our best for our family. Life changed completely.

Over 2 years in the pediatric intensive care unit of Children’s Memorial Hermann, 38 operations, and one miracle after another…

Lily defied the odds and built a reputation of unbelievable courage and was truly loved in the hospital. Doctors, nurses, technicians, cleaning staff and even the ladies in the cafeteria knew Lily and we knew them. Our lives were spent in the hospital yet we had a responsibility to keep a balance and continue to work and raise Eliana. It tested our personal relationship as a husband and wife and strained our own immune systems, minds, and our spirit. Sleepless nights and stressful days were the norm. Although everyone told us they were praying for us and for Lily we rarely took time to process our own feelings and faith. We questioned much but what we knew with complete clarity was the love and example displayed by Lily.

She was amazing, had a purpose, and helped change the lives of countless people during her almost 3 years on earth and on May 14, 2012 earned her heavenly wings.

She and Eliana showed us how to love completely and unconditionally and taught us three lessons that we seem to see displayed through the lessons learned during our time in Friends Church and our study of our faith.

First, no matter how bad you think you have it…it can always be worse.

Second, no matter what trials you have been dealt, deal with it. God is in control and expects you to continue to learn and live and give back.

Third, Life is short, give back and make a difference in someone’s life when you can. No matter how trivial it may seem to you it may make all the difference for that person.

This Friends Journal entry is written by Tyson Voelkel.