Choosing Praise & Giving Thanks

Turkey is in the oven, the boys are at the Townie Football Game, and my girl is getting herself ready for the day. Worship has been on all morning, and I’m choosing to praise today. Through tears, through pain, through questions, and through unwanted feelings, I will give thanks to my God. His grace has carried me through the deepest of waters and kept me from drowning. An only good God, who is holy and righteous,  has joined me in the darkest of valleys and the murkiest of pits. He stays as long as I need Him, for He will never ever leave me or forsake me. In this moment, I choose to be thankful for what I do have…

-I’m thankful for the grace and mercy of my God. His compassions never ever fail me.

-I’m thankful for my Savior, Jesus, who gave His life so that I can live. 
-I’m thankful that because of that great sacrifice I will not only see my boy again, but I will be with him forever.
-I’m thankful for my husband who has carried me through the fire and held me in the storm. He has shown me that unconditional love can exist when you have The Lord to show you. 
-I’m thankful for the eighteen years I spent with my first born, Christiano,  for all of the joy he brought to my life, and for teaching me so much.
-I’m thankful for my daughter, Gabriella. She has shown me how to be strong and compassionate at the same time. She is a defender of what is right and makes me want to be better in every way. 
-I’m thankful for my son, Brian. He is a true worshiper and his heart for The Lord, and for people, blesses me everyday. He is strong and faithful to stand up for the truth, and I marvel at his courage.
-I’m thankful for my youngest child, Natey boy. He is funny, sweet, and he loves with his whole being. He is always the one to check up on me and ask if I’m ok, and he melts my heart. 
-I’m thankful for friends and family and the friends who are like family. We could not do this without you, all. God has sent some of you at just the right time, all the way from Florida to across the street and many places in between. We are forever grateful. 
-I’m thankful for my Pastors, Joseph and Jennifer Bosco, and their amazing children. You have been a light for our family in the darkest times. You stayed with us and prayed with us beyond what we ever expected. You’ve shown us the love of God, and you’ve been constant. We love you guys. Barboscos for life. 
-I’m thankful for our church family, old and new. We have found some of our best friends in both of these places. We love you, all. Though we are many, we are one body.
-I know I thanked my family, but I have to say a special thanks to my brother Shane and his wife, Jessica, who will be joining us today. We love you, both, and we are thankful for your unfailing commitment to our family. 

A Time to Break Down, And A Time To Build Up

Ecclesiastes 3:1-22 says, 
‘For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; …’
‘A time to break down, and a time to build up…’
I shared with a friend yesterday, then  I shared later on with my counselor, that I have been having a hard time allowing myself to ‘break down.’ God is a good God who has filled me with His joy and I want everyone to know that about Him. Sometimes, I feel the need to protect or hold up the image of God for my family and friends. I become determined make sure that everyone around me sees God for who He is – a good, loving, forgiving, merciful, and full of grace God. My friend reminded me of something I already knew in my heart; that God doesn’t need me to hold Him up. in fact, by trying to do that, I’m not letting Him hold me up. Right now, in this season, when everyone is preparing to give thanks, I am grieving, I am mourning, and I am sad. I am broken, I am hurting, and I am sick. The good news is that Jesus came to comfort the hurting,  to give joy to the  sad ones, and to heal the sick. Although, I posses those truths now, it will take me some time to KNOW them again. In time He will make my heart brand new, but right now it’s still broken. Last night, my counselor reminded Chris and I that Jesus cried when Lazarus died, even though He knew that he would be raised from the dead and walk on this earth again. Our son, Christiano, did not get to get up and walk on this earth again, and we’re still crying; and that is ok. Jesus understands our pain. He understands what it’s like to hope for a different outcome and plead for there to be another way. Jesus relates to us in every way, and He promises that there will come a day with no more tears. But, today is not that day for us.Today, we will cry, we will hurt, and we will grieve, but today we will also give thanks because God is near to our broken hearts and ever present help to the needy. He is with us, ALWAYS and promises never to leave us or forsake us. He will get in the miry pit with us, He will bend His ear to listen to our cries, and in time, He will wipe every tear from our eyes, but until then we will lift our eyes and we will give thanks for every blessing. Happy Thanksgiving to all. 

Preparing To Give Thanks While Grieving

Every little thing reminds me of him.
From seeing a box of frosted flakes to matching pairs of socks to lounging on the couch and watching tv. For the most part, I’m clinging to every memory – desperate for them to replay over and over, and waiting for a new one to fill me at any given moment. Unfortunately, since my emotions aren’t balanced, there are those times that it hurts me to remember him. With hope, I’m longing for the day that the memory of Christiano will bring me joy and comfort in place of tears and heartache. I don’t like that remembering him is, often times, associated with more pain than pleasure. 
This past Sunday evening, I had to go to the grocery store to do some shopping for Thanksgiving dinner. I had been dreading it, but I knew that time was running out, and it had to be done. This was only my third time being at the grocery store since my son went to heaven and only my first time going by myself. Like I wrote earlier, everything reminds me of him, but food seems to be a biggie. Christiano loved all food, and I enjoyed cooking for him because he was always so grateful. He would constantly tell me what a great cook I was, and when I’d come home with groceries each week, he’d be so excited to see what I got. Frosted flakes and Oreos always won his heart and caused him to say, ‘Thanks, Mom. You’re the best!’ Walking by all of his favorite foods posed a slight challenge for me, but nothing  compared to the task of picking out our Thanksgiving turkey. As I lifted it up to put it in the carriage, memories of Thanksgiving past flooded my mind and led me to Thanksgiving future almost instantaneously. But, I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t see our Thanksgiving table without Christiano sitting there, and  I still can’t. I can’t hear a Thanksgiving football game on the tv without him commentating. I can’t taste a pumpkin pie that he won’t get to eat. I can’t smell the yummy food without him asking when dinner will be done. I can’t feel him at all because he won’t be here. How can this be? I want to wake up from this awful nightmare and go back to the way things were. I want to pick my son up from school on Wednesday, give him the biggest hug and tell him about all the festivities we’ve got planned for the week. I don’t want this anymore. I just want my baby boy back. 
Just the shopping for this upcoming holiday broke my heart all over again. Things seem ‘back to normal’ for so many, and I wonder, ‘Will we ever be back to normal?’ Will we ever just move on? I know we will never get over this, but sometimes it feels like we won’t even make it through. I don’t ‘see’ how we will go on, but deep in my heart there’s a knowing – a knowing that God is helping us, a knowing that we can do this through Him, a knowing that He is embracing Christiano this holiday season, and that somehow and someway, He is embracing us, too. We ask our friends to pray for us as we come upon our first holiday without our Christiano.   
Some Good News: Uncle Shane and Auntie Jess will be joining us this year! The kids are excited and welcoming the change. My brother and his wife will be a great addition to our table, and we are happy they’ll be here with us this Thanksgiving. 

A Letter For My Son

My son,

It has been four weeks since I last touched your face and held your hand. In some ways, it feels like yesterday that you were here and making us all laugh so heartily, yet some days it feels like forever has passed since that awful night. There is so much that I regret about the morning of your passing. How I wish I could just go back and  hold you in my arms for the last five hours we had you with us. Dad was so brave; he never left your side unless he was asked to by the doctor, and it was always only for a moment. He held your head in his palms and kissed your face; he ran his fingers through your hair, and wiped blood from your mouth. He just couldn’t leave your side. Me, on the other hand, I wasn’t so strong. I felt like if I looked at you in the condition that you were in that I was going to have a hard time standing in faith for you to live, so I purposely stayed away. I did all I could to resist that image from making itself at home in my mind. I wanted to imagine you alive and well, free from all pain, swelling, bleeding and distortion. The last thing a mother wants is for her child to be hurting, and I was determined to pray your pain away without any physical image getting in the way of that. I only went into your hospital room to pray over you and to speak life to your body, and then I would leave to pray more outside your room. The doctors had told us very early on that there was no hope and that you had sustained an unsurvivable injury. But, I could not give up – LOVE never gives up. As the night progressed, your condition only worsened. They had to resuscitate  you with the defibrillator, at least, seven times. Dad told me I should join him in your room to spend some time with you. Eventually, I did. After I spent a few minutes, I knew I had to bring your brothers and your sister to see you. Somehow, I got home to tell them what had happened and got them back to the hospital within forty minutes. I’m forever grateful that they were able to come in and say goodbye to their big brother. After I took them back out into the waiting area, I went back to be with you. I held your hand and told you I how much I loved you; I wiped some blood from your mouth and stroked your hair and face. I was so hopeful for a glimpse of movement from your body, but it never came. The very last part of your body that I touched was your left foot. It was poking out of the blanket, so white and so cold. I couldn’t resist rubbing your toes and placing them back under the blanket. A few minutes after that, you were gone. I’m thankful to you for waiting until all of us could see you before you left this earth, but isn’t that just like you… Always thinking of others before yourself. Your brain might not have been working, but you were always led by your heart, anyhow. I’m sorry I didn’t stay with you the whole time. I truly wish that I had; But I promise to be more brave from here on out. Because of you, I am forever changed. I love you, Christiano, and you truly are the best earthly blessing I have ever received.

For the reader:

I don’t believe that God didn’t hear my cries for help. I believe that what I was praying for came to pass, just not in the way I would have liked. I wanted, more than anything, for my son to be alive and well, free from all pain, swelling, bleeding and distortion. I wanted him to have a new mind to replace the one that had been damaged in the accident. I do believe he received all of that and more – in heaven.

With Everything

‘With everything, with everything, we will shout forth Your glory, Lord. 
With everything, with everything we will shout forth Your praise. 
Our hearts they cry, be glorified, be lifted high above all names.’

These are the lyrics to a worship song that was instrumental in Christiano’s life, here on earth. This is the song that first brought him to his knees before The Lord. His youth group, d2L (darkness to Light), hosted an overnight event called ‘Flooded.’ It was offered to the students for the purpose of drawing closer to The Lord through teaching, drama presentation, spoken word and times of intimate worship. Christiano was part of planning the event and was eager to attend and participate. One of the bands that came to perform was Fighting the Influence. They began their performance with a few of their hit songs and everyone was having a great time rocking out with them. But, towards the end of their set, the band transitioned to this beautiful worship song, ‘With Everything.’ The whole atmosphere shifted, and we all began worshiping our Heavenly Father in spirit and in truth. After some time, I happened to glance over to my right. At first I didn’t see him, but as I shifted my eyes down lower I saw Christiano on his knees before God. Within minutes, I saw other young ladies and gentlemen falling to their knees, also. It was a beautiful sight, and it will never leave my heart. 
The next day, Christiano and I got a chance to talk about the conference and, more specifically, that moment. He shared with me that he had no control over what had happened; the Holy Spirit had taken over and he was impressed to kneel before The Lord. He knew it was a pivotal moment in his relationship with God, and he explained that he had never felt so close to Him. It was in that moment that he knew without a doubt that God was real. When I think about him being in the presence of God in the way he is now, I’m reminded of that moment. I’m reminded of the peace and joy he felt to have had that connection with The Lord. In that moment, when he sang out ‘with everything, with everything,’ there was nothing separating him from God, and now he holds that position permanently. It’s no longer just an experience, it is his constant place. Now he truly knows the fulness of those words he uttered at his water baptism. ‘JESUS IS MY CONSTANT.’ 
Remember, that the most intimate times we have with The Lord are just glimpses of what it will be like in eternity. We are transients, just passing through. And, as we pass through, let us love others and show forth the glory of The Lord, ‘with everything’ we are. 

When I Am Weak, He Is Strong

Just when I think there are no tears left, out pour rivers more of them, and I thank The Lord that He pulled us through this weekend. It was by His grace, for sure. In dealing with the loss of our son, we’ve heard all sorts of things meant to prepare us for the life ahead. We’ve heard that it would be hard to perform our daily tasks and functions or that there will be some days we won’t even want to get out of bed. We were warned that it would be hard to go through Christiano’s things or to see certain pictures of him, and we were also told it would be especially difficult to get through special occasions and holidays. So far, we’ve met with each one of these things, and they’ve all brought some level of heartache. This past weekend we celebrated, our daughter, Gabriella’s fifteenth birthday. I woke up determined to take a day off from grieving, so I set some rules for myself: no crying, no talking about the passing of Christiano and no thinking about him, either. This was Gabriella’s day, and we were going to celebrate the goodness of God in her life. She had gone through enough and I desired for her to have the day off from the hurt. Now, this may come as a big shock to all of you, but my plan was a bust. The harder I worked to push him out of my mind, the more frustrated I became, and by two-o’clock, I had a mini-meltdown while mopping the kitchen floor. I was so troubled knowing that my eldest son was not going to walk through our door to wish his sister a Happy Birthday. We had never spent one single birthday without all six of us in attendance. This birthday, I wouldn’t see him outside playing football with the guys, making jokes or getting birthday cake all over his face, and I thought,  ‘How am I ever going to do this?’ But, God was faithful to answer, ‘You don’t have to.’ The pressure coming down on me to ‘be strong’ wasn’t coming from God or my husband; it wasn’t coming from Gabriella or my other children, but from me, myself, and I. One thing I’ve learned is that when we put pressure on ourselves to ‘be’ anything, it’s gonna fail every time. This goes for all situations, not just grieving. Of course, we can ‘be strong,’ but not from trying or striving. We can only ever truly ‘be strong’ when it’s’ in The Lord. 

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” Ephesians 6:10 (KJV) 
And, we do this by putting on His armor. His armor is ready for us to step into at all times, so we never have to go it alone. God can handle our pain, our hurt, our anxieties and our every tear. In fact, there will come a day that He’ll wipe every one of them away. It is ok for me to cry if I need to. I can cast every anxiety on The Lord because He cares for me, for it is then that I will be sustained. (1 Peter 5:7) 
Of course, I miss him and everything he brought to our lives. I miss his silliness and his stories that went on for days. I miss his voice and his laugh. I miss his ability to make us feel like we were the best family in the universe. I miss his effortless naps and his clumsy feet. But, mostly, I miss his embrace. Christiano gives the best hugs and he always knew when I needed one. There was a spot made just for me on his chest where I would lay my head and listen to his heart beat into my ear. What a sweet, sweet sound it was. 

A Brothers’ Heart

I don’t know what to do with this pain of not having a brother to talk to and look up to. I sit in school with a smile on my face, but on the inside it hurts. I wish I could go back to the times we spent laughing, playing, fighting, and arguing, just to tell him I love him. I know he knew I loved him and he still does know I love him.
It’s hard to go back and think about the memories I have of him. He was my role model – someone I looked up to and I learned everything from. Over the past weeks I have been broken like a piece of me has been ripped out, and I know it is going to take a while to heal, but it still hurts. On the inside I am scared of having to go my whole life as the (BIG BROTHER). I do not blame God because I know this was not His plan. God’s plan was for man to live forever in peace. I know that there is a war happening and the devil is just trying to take out warriors of God, and Christiano was for sure a warrior. I want to be just like my older brother because he put others before himself. God has given me two dreams about my brother because I prayed that I would have assurance that he was in a better place, and I know for sure he is in God’s hands. 

The Lord; my Helper

It has been three weeks, today, since Christiano breathed his last breath on this earth. One of the many challenges through the tragic passing of my first born son has been seeing my other children grieve; each one processing the pain in their own way.  They’re all at different paces in this  journey, and I’m doing my best to press them on. One is doing a light jog, without stopping, mindful of stamina. One is walking or shuffling  and needs to take a short break every now and then. One is sitting on a rock, desperate to catch a breath and has no plans to return anytime soon. This is an area where my reliance on The Lord must be constant. He has been faithful to equip me with love, gentleness, patience, kindness, compassion, and strength. But, there are times when  it feels like I’m climbing a mountain with three people harnessed to me. Just when I’m feeling strong enough to climb a little higher, one of them scrapes a knee. I mend it, and I think we are ready to climb. I look over and there’s a scraped elbow to tend to. I wash it and clean it. Time to climb, right? Not so fast, now there’s a bumped head. So, we find a ledge to hold us, and we wait it out in the dark together, until the light shines and the darkness disappears. But, then there are nights like last night – when everyone is hurting all at the same time. The pain a mother experiences when her children are suffering is severe and difficult to put into words, but I’ll try…
Three little broken hearts and only two outstretched arms. How I wish I could bear all of their pain for them. All three of them crying and mourning for their big brother. Anger, doubt, fear, bring the question of  ‘why’ to these three little ones who’ve never known this kind of heartache, who’ve never doubted or questioned, and who’ve never resided in fear. These are the times that drawing on The Lord are the most difficult, but the most necessary. ‘I can’t do this without You, Lord. Help me.’ On those nights, that is all I can muster up. He hears me, and He is faithful. Bedtime seems to come later and later and mornings seem to come even earlier. When they are finally settled into sleep, I, then, have my time to grieve – for me, for them, for my husband, who misses his son and best friend. Finally, I fall asleep.
As I woke up this morning, I was grateful; grateful for another day, grateful that my children and my husband slept soundly, and grateful that in my lack of natural rest, I find my strength in The Lord, my ever present Helper. 
‘I look up to the mountains;does my strength come from mountains? No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains. He won’t let you stumble, your Guardian God won’t fall asleep. Not on your life! Israel’s Guardian will never doze or sleep. God’s your Guardian, right at your side to protect you—Shielding you from sunstroke,sheltering you from moonstroke. God guards you from every evil, He guards your very life. He guards you when you leave and when you return, He guards you now, He guards you always.’ Psalm 121 

Guard Your Heart

‘Guard your heart, for out of it flows the issues of life.’

As most of you know, my firstborn son was in a tragic car accident a few weeks ago. On October 24th, Christiano went home to be with The Lord. It has been the truest, most real pain I’ve ever known. Chris and I had Christiano when were babies, ourselves, and he is the founder of The Barbosa Family. I came to know Christ in 1999, when Christiano was four years old. As the years grew on, Christ became our very firm foundation. So quickly, God became ‘all I ever knew,’ and my old life was put behind me. No longer did I  know the girl I was before The Lord. So, when I say faith is the only life I know, I mean it wholeheartedly. I put off the former things and devoted my heart and entire being to following Christ. As I learned more and grew in the Word, I was coming to KNOW Christ, and there’s nothing like it. Knowing Him has been my true heart quest for years. The more I KNOW Him the more I believe on His word, the more I trust in His promises, and the more I become like Him, and I’ve decided that this tragedy will not change that for me. As a grieving mom, there’s times I’m desperate for answers. The first day, all I could utter was ‘Why, God, why?’ One of the very first things God spoke to my heart was ‘Do not bring me down to a level you can understand.’ I have done my best to listen to that command. When God spoke that to me, I wasn’t exactly sure what he meant. I knew what the words meant, but I wasn’t sure how those words would keep me or help me. A few days later, when I was ready to browse some books or quotes on loss, I understood exactly why God spoke those words; those Words were to save me from a place that many broken people end up. Dealing with the loss of a child is a pain unimaginable, so as parents, we become desperate to understand why God would allow such evil. The temptation is to take scripture and twist it or to try and come to terms with the reason why it could have happened is strong. Truthfully, the only term I desire to accept is Gods’. He is STILL love. He is STILL good. He is STILL faithful. He is STILL healer. He is STILL provider. God doesn’t change. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So, I’m careful – careful about what I read, what I hear, and what I accept. In loss, people are so desperate to be there for us, and they want to say the right thing and do the right thing. Many will, but some won’t. My encouragement to anyone suffering with loss or heartache today: 
-Reach out to God
-Reach out to that like-minded friend
-Find people who don’t mind listening
-Guard your heart and keep His word hidden in it. 
I will write more on the life and passing of my son as The Lord leads me. Thank you to all of our faithful friends. Your love has been a living example of God and His love. Great will be your reward.
Forever in Christ,