A Future Hope

‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ 

Jeremiah 29:11 has always been a prominent verse in our home. I’ve prayed  it over my children many times, and my husband and I stand on it, as well. Some may read this verse, knowing that Christiano has passed, and wonder what went wrong. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you…’ That part of the verse has the potential to raise many questions. It just doesn’t seem to add up,  especially for Christiano. Didn’t harm come his way? After all, he was in a car accident that abruptly ended his life here on the earth. How is that a prosperous life with a hope and a future?  When Christiano was here, I would often say things like, ‘I see great things for you’ or ‘you’re going to do amazing things.’ I even said, ‘you’re going to change the world,’ and I meant every word. So, what does this all mean? 
Surely, I don’t have all the answers, but one thing I’ve inherited while going through this is a mind for Heaven. To be real, I had not really given Heaven much thought prior to the accident. I mean, I’d heard about it, read about it, and I knew I was going there one day. That is all I really cared to know because, in my book,  if God made it – it was going to be good. But, after losing Christiano, I needed more. I needed to know some things about where my boy was going to be living, so I listened to some great teachings on heaven. The best one came from my pastor. He used this phrase to describe it, ‘Heaven is unrestrained fulfillment and joy.’ He taught that Heaven is going to be full of life and fellowship with God; that there will be nothing to hinder us anymore; that there will be opportunity and purpose with no stress or opposition. ‘Wow,’ I thought, ‘purpose and fulfillment?!’ And, then I began to think of Adam and Eve. They walked with God and talked with God in the cool of the day. They tended the flocks and cared for the garden, and before sin entered this world, they weren’t bound by time or finances or opposition. They were care free living a life full of purpose! That means, not only is there great purpose in heaven, but the possibilities are limitless. Heaven is the ultimate ‘hope and future’ for all of us who believe. Christiano is being prospered and he will never face harm again. I also see that Christiano DID do great things while here on this earth. He has done amazing things and he has changed the world of many.  One thing is certain, he changed my world forever, and because of him, I will never be the same. I also believe that the memory of Christiano will continue the work he began here – that his story will live on in all of us and the impact will be great. And, although I miss him terribly, knowing He is with The Lord, living a life that is free from anything bad brings me some comfort this morning. And, If he were here right now, Christiano would tell us to keep going. 
Because, for those of us here on earth, we’ve still got work to do. Whether we are on earth or in Heaven, God has great purpose and destiny for His children, and it all begins with knowing Him. 
Philippians 3:10 ‘[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly]…’
As we come to know The Lord more intimately, we come to know ourselves better, because after all, we are found in Him. Some of us may or may not come to a deeper understanding of the world around us, but knowing the one who has all the answers can offer us a peace that only He can give. 

A Letter From A Friend

This letter was sent to me from a childhood friend who I have reconnected with through FB. It is heartfelt and beautiful, which is the reason that I asked her if I could share it. Every encouraging word helps us through, and knowing that God is using this indescribable pain to draw others to Him reminds me of His faithfulness.
For you Shannon:
Truth is… I am all over the place, you are constantly on my mind and you probably think I am spending way too much time thinking about your family. I could tell you that I will never know how you feel, but the truth is, I have no idea what God has in store for my life or my family and one day I may face these same circumstances. ~ That said, I can’t, I refuse to believe that God had this planned for your son! I was told God is not the author of death. God only knows if these are true.  What I hold onto is the belief that: God is real, God is love, and God is and will carry you through. (Prayerfully)
Truth is… I feel guilty enjoying my family, while your perfect family is broken right now, and I think ‘This is so not fair’. I think about my family and I can’t help but to think how I would help my other children and husband get through such a traumatic event, let alone myself. Yet, I feel guilty not enjoying my family because you of all people know that time is all we have.  I want to hug more, snap photos more, and love more –
Truth is… for days I heard your cries, your screams- even if they were the inner cries of your heart (literally ~ In my mind, it wouldn’t stop)  Seriously to the point of an almost panic attack – fearful of your family having to face the future without Christiano. I felt weak in the knees at times and a pit in my stomach. For the first time I knew what it felt like when they say ‘When a sister or brother in Christ hurts we all hurt’
Truth is… I listen to music and praise God whole heartedly and I think of you, wanting to do the same and how difficult it must be ~ yet you still find a way. Not because you question God, simple because you are broken and you lack the strength. (There is a huge difference) I listen more attentively to the words of each song looking for the right words ~ Understanding that these same words hold new and different meaning in your world right now. Praying they will bring you peace again sooner than later
Truth is… I am having a hard time returning my life back to normal (whatever normal was). When you are struggling and your life will never be normal as it was. It’s almost as if, I return to normal than I am leaving you and forgetting about what you are going through. Yet you are so far away… One could say distance and time should disconnect us. I look around at the beauty in God creation and I pray that you will see the same beauty because I can only image that your world is tainted right now. I am believing God will restore your family.
Truth is… This tragic event has turned many lives around. Your inspiring testimony is bringing restored faith to many and that is SO incredibly beautiful, yet I can’t help thinking – but ‘Why such a sacrifice’??? … and I am angry. Even at myself, angry, that it has caused me to draw closer to God, when I should have been drawing Him in regardless. Yet, there a whisper that says ‘It was not his death that has changed and is changing people, it was his life’. It was his extraordinary life! ~ Christiano whom I never met, IS AND ALWAYS WILL BE one amazing kid. ~
Truth is… I am sad this situation has sparked more conversations between us.
Truth is… You are not alone, and I will walk with you prayerfully, if you want the company
Truth is… You are the most amazing mother I know (I mean it)
Truth is… I wish I could make it all disappear

Bittersweet: One Step Further & One Step Closer

Each day that passes the raw truth of Christiano’s passing becomes reality. Each thing we do as a family screams that he isn’t here with us. When we do something old and traditional there’s an emptiness; a vacancy that will never be occupied. When we try something new, it feels foreign and forced, and I wonder ‘Will it always be like this?’ I’ve been ministered to by other grieving parents, and they promise that it gets better with time; that your child is never forgotten and that time helps to heal the human heart. Some days I can see how that will happen, and I’m hopeful, but then there are the other days – the days that I can’t see anything but the tears that flood my eyes. Thanksgiving was, overall, a good day. God, with His wonderful grace, was an ever present help to me as I cooked and prepared for the day. My brother, Shane, and his wife, Jessica joined us, and we were more than glad to have them here. We all gave thanks around the table, and each of us were specifically thankful for the time that we had with Christiano – all six thousand, eight hundred and thirty-four days of it. It was surreal not having him with us on a holiday that is so important to our family, but we were so glad Shane and Jess were here. We were able to get through, and we even shared in some good laughs, so those of you who prayed for us, thank you very much. 

The next day, however, came with many more challenges. It is a strange feeling when you wake up and realize you’ve gotten through a big day without your loved one. Oddly enough, pleasure and pain are both present within you at the same time. The pleasure comes when you realize you’ve made it through and, even more so, your spouse and your children have made it through. Some more joy comes when you realize that you’ve all slept through the night. As you sit up, though, sorrow invades. Sorrow invades and sorrow stays. It stays because you know you’re one day further away; further away from his presence, further away from his smile; further away from his laugh, his hug, and his touch. But, then you realize that this also means you’re one day closer; closer to his presence; closer to his smile; closer to his laugh, his hug, and his touch. ‘Bittersweet’ is a word I see used quite frivolously, but this word truly describes my feeling toward moving forward. Moving forward produces pleasure and pain at the same time. It is bitter and and painful not to experience the tangible existence of our eldest son. It is an excruciating pain that runs unimaginably deep. And, just when you think it’s reached it’s  landing-place, the deeper it  moves because there is no final destination. Ultimately, it works to consume and devour, but something inside won’t let it. There’s something so sweet moving through us, attacking all the pain, and it won’t relent; it’s constant. It’s name is joy and it only comes from knowing Jesus. In Him, we find hope when hope can’t be found. In Him, we find  life when faced with the fear of death. In Him, we find truth in the midst of the lies. In Him, we find light when the darkness closes in. In Him, we find strength even when we are at our weakest point. In Him we have faith when all we feel is doubt. ‘Only believe’ is what he whispers. ‘Only believe.’