Faith and family were at the center of a blog started by Renzi and Lee Anne Stone when their oldest son, Jackson, turned 1.
The Web log never veered from that foundation, particularly during a time of tragedy — the death of their younger son, Isaiah, last May.
The Stones' commitment to their faith and family, as evidenced by their popular blog postings, was one of the reasons they were named one of Oklahoma's Most Inspiring Couples by the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative.
“The couple's family blog ministers to others about God's sovereign plan and speaks to their total reliance on Him for comfort and peace in both good times and bad,” read a passage in the letter used to nominate the Stones for the Inspiring Couples honor.
Renzi Stone said he and his wife think the blog at http://renziandleeannestone.blogspot.com is as much a part of their family history as anything else.
“The blog, the Twitter posts (from son Jackson), have been part of the healing for us,” he said.
Lee Anne said it was started as a way to connect with family and friends who live in other places.
“It was a way to keep everybody in touch,” she said.
Although the blog started about the time their oldest son turned 1, the couple's love story began long before that.
Renzi Stone, 33, said he met Lee Anne, 31, when the two were students at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. He said he was a junior and an OU basketball player, and Lee Anne was a freshman. Lee Anne Stone said the two met after Lee Anne had participated in a water polo match and they had an instant connection.
The couple said they dated during the summer months after their initial meeting, but parted as friends. Lee Anne Stone said they became friends again several months after Renzi graduated from OU. They said they dated for five years with Lee Anne living in Austin and Renzi living in Oklahoma City for some of that time.
Lee Anne Stone said the couple honed their communication skills during the time when their romance was long-distance.
Lee Anne said she eventually moved back to Oklahoma and the couple married in 2006. They celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary in May. Renzi Stone is CEO of Saxum, an Oklahoma City-based public relations and marketing firm, while Lee Anne Stone is youth director for Youth Leadership Oklahoma.
The Stones said their family became a trio with the birth of son Jackson, now almost 4, who was followed by his younger brother, Isaiah, born in 2009.
Lee Anne Stone said Isaiah Stone was diagnosed with epilepsy when he was about four months old.
She said the infant had several severe epileptic seizures and his medical treatment became a central part of the family's day-to-day life. He was placed in a medically induced coma for a while, she said. The blog took on a different flavor as Lee Anne began to alert family members and a growing group of community friends of baby Isaiah's medical condition.
“The blog became a place where family could know what was happening,” she said.
Lee Anne Stone said she and Renzi posted both the good and not-so-good times of their lives as they sought to help their child.
“There were still moments that we wanted to record.”
Little Isaiah died in May 2010 after suffering a massive seizure.
The Stones said the blog helped them connect with the many family members and friends who mourned the baby's death along with them.
“If you choose to lean in to the adversity, it actually helps you get through it,” Renzi Stone said.
Lee Anne Stone said the blog came to mean so much more to the family and those around them.
“It's a recording of our lives. It's his (Isaiah's) baby book. It's our marriage,” she said. “We do it for us, and it inspires others.”
The couple said they learned to depend upon one another during their son's illness and in the aftermath of their son's death.
“We had to lean into each other,” Lee Anne Stone said.
Her husband agreed.
He said they decided as a couple to accentuate the positive aspects of the time they got to share with Isaiah.
“That decision allowed us to be better to each other, be better parents, better colleagues,” Renzi Stone said.
“We cry all the time about it (Isaiah's death), but at the same time, we are appreciative of the time we got.”
Lee Anne Stone said their Christian faith (they attend St. Luke's United Methodist Church) helped them through the difficult times.
“When the sun comes up the next morning, you know you can push through anything,” she said. “God taught us that we're stronger than we thought we could be.”
Renzi Stone said he is humbled by the attention the pair has received after they were named an Inspiring Couple. He said they have simply tried to live their lives “by being incredibly honest and transparent.”
Lee Anne Stone said she feels much the same.
“I think we have a fantastic relationship and I'm so proud of who we are as a couple,” she said.
Renzi Stone said he is inspired by the way friends and family and the community-at-large connected with him and his wife through the blog and reached out to support them as they cared for their ailing child and later grieved his death.
“I'm sure in small towns it happens,” he said. “We're (Oklahoma City) big enough to have an NBA team, but we're small enough where somebody has a tragedy and it feels like the entire community reached out in support. We are very blessed.”
Lee Anne Stone said the couple continues to live that mantra.
Renzi and Lee Anne Stone are featured in the “Oklahoma's Most Inspiring Couples” 2011 calendar, sponsored by the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative. Couples featured in the calendar are being profiled in The Oklahoman's Life section. For more about the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative's inspiring couples, go to www.foreverforreal.com.