Glory To Glory

God tells us to be fruitful and multiply here in the Earth, so the loss of a child feels backwards in every way. It is physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually devastating. There is not a place within us that the pain does not reach. We discover parts of ourselves for the first time, because there is no place that does not grieve. Partly, because we’ve lost something that is absolutely irreplaceable, and partly because a child is a gift from God in the first place. It’s just unnatural. 2013 had already been the worst year for our family for many reasons, even before Christiano left us. I remember a few weeks after Christiano had passed, I got so mad at the enemy, and I shouted out loud ‘Everything we lost in 2013 will be restored in 2014!’ And, lately I’ve been wondering, ‘what does that even mean? Is it even possible?’ Nothing will ever replace Christiano; not any thing and not any one. God talks about bringing us from glory to glory and we, as a church, talk about it, too. We sing songs about it, preach messages on it, and we say it to one another. I always understood it to mean that our life here on Earth would keep getting better and better; better jobs, better cars, better houses, and a better life. Don’t get me wrong, I know that God can do that, and He delights in the blessing of His children, but I don’t think that is what ‘glory to glory’ means.

2 Corinthians 3:18 says,
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
The NLT version says,
So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord–who is the Spirit–makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.
I think going from ‘glory to glory,’ means that those who know The Truth are daily being transformed into the image of Christ, and this can happen at any time. It can happen when life is going well, and it can happen when life is a mess; on the mountain and in the valley; in times of blessing and in times of suffering. Things can be in shambles on the outside, but nothing can stop the glory of God from flowing in our lives. I know that through this suffering, God is with me. He has shown forth His glory, and He has activity loved me. Even when I don’t feel Him, I know He is with me. He is being glorified in my weaknesses. Paul emphasizes this over and over in the epistles. I believe God is restoring some things for us, even now. He is restoring my hope, my intimacy with Him, my faith, my sanity, and most of all, my heart. Just like Paul, I’m willing to admit that I have nowhere near arrived. There are many things I don’t understand and, today, in this moment, I am ok with that. I don’t profess to have all the answers, but I know that God is showing Himself to me through this and that somehow He is empowering me to ebb and flow to His unforced rhythm of grace. So, from glory to glory I go, praying and believing that Christ is being glorified. 
‘I may be weak, but Your Spirits strong in me, my flesh may fail, but my God, You never will.’ 

A Special Love

Anais is very special to me and has played many roles in the lives of my family. She is important to all of us for individual reasons, and she wears many hats. However, she’s worn the most hats for Christiano: youth leader, mentor, spiritual confidant, stand-in aunt, ministry director, fellow comedian, and, of course, the hat she wore best of all – friend. They had a special love and a unique and unbreakable bond. Anais has been a constant blessing to all of us, both before and after this tragedy. I am overwhelmed with love and gratitude for her, as I watch her keep Christiano alive for all of us. Here is her heart in and through her loss. Christiano would call this, ‘Beautiful.’ 

If someone were to ask me, “If Christiano ever passed away, how would you feel?”
I would innocently and honestly say, “I’d feel so sad and I would definitely miss him.” Little did I know how much I’d miss him, how much my heart would ache for his family, how much I’d miss him at random moments in life.
I see how I feel and how much I miss him and multiply it by 1,000,000,000 and imagine that is a glimpse into how much his mother, father, sister, and brothers feel.
My imagination runs wild; therefore, I’ve imagined myself interacting with Christiano several times. Sometimes it’s really nice and I find myself laughing, then sometimes I get in the weirdest lull.
I’ve imagined getting to heaven and trying to fillChristiano on all the things he’s “missed” in heaven: my wedding, my niece’s birth and how beautiful she is, my job, my family, friends, his parents receiving his college degree. He’ll listen, like he always has, and pulls me to show me all the amazing things in heaven. Without words he tells me, “ Anais, I didn’t miss anything! All that is great, but look where I’ve been!” We’d forget the rest and enjoy ourselves.That one made me smile.
I’ve imagined him at my sister’s baby shower: dancing, playing games, poking fun, talking to my brother-in-law, chit chatting it up with everyone and anyone willing to talk, making people constantly laugh, and unintentionally being the star of the show. That one made me cry.
I know he often felt misunderstood. I often feel misunderstood. I think about having that conversation with him, about being misunderstood, about it being OK to question. We would touch upon it every now and then, but I just want one more lengthy conversation. I think I forget about all the really good conversations we had, how many hugs we shared, how many laughs we’ve had because I want just one more.
I think we had more in common than I originally thought. Even if we didn’t, I’d like to think so and remember that…forever.
Someone asked me if I’ve ever felt grief like this, and I haven’t—not a death like this, not a passing that would probably affect my very being. Christiano changed, brightened, and inspired lives. What an honor to know a young man who loved like Jesus, what a pleasure it was to know him.  

It’s So Far From Over

It’s so far from over.

Almost every single morning, since Christiano’s passing, I’ve woken up with a severe headache. It takes me quite some time to even be able to pull myself up out of  bed, and when I do finally manage to get up, it takes me some more time to find my bearings. I’m never quite sure how I’m actually doing, until about an hour or so after I’m up. This tragedy has also brought on random stomach aches. I believe they start off as mental anxiety then change over to full fledge physical symptoms. Actually, my belly has felt squeamish most of the time, since October 24, 2013.
It’s so far from over. 
Tonight, Chris and I were able to snatch some much needed time to talk. We got about fifteen minutes in, when we heard one of our children crying from his bedroom. We had him come to us in the living room, where he just wept and wept for his brother. Chris and I did our best to comfort him, but it is so hard because it hurts so badly. When one of our kids is upset, it’s as though the wind is knocked out of us and there’s no way for us to catch our breath. For me, it starts with a knot that begins to form at the top of my stomach.  I have to speak to my body to get it to calm down and not head into full fledge panic mode. Anxiety is something that has tried  to creep up on me constantly. It is the worst at night, when all else around me is silent. The more quiet my surroundings are, the more nagging and forceful it becomes. I’ve been doing my best to make my mind think about something good, but this is never an easy feat. I, eventually, fall asleep from the utter exhaustion that follows every battle in my mind. 
It’s so far from over.
Seeing our children hurting is like experiencing the loss of Christiano over and over and over again. All a mom wants is for her babies to be alright; to have absolute peace and ultimate joy. And, all Chris and I have ever wanted, as parents, is for our kids to know God and to experience a wonderful life in Him. We have always trusted God to provide that for them, and we believe that somehow He is still doing just that. 
It’s so far from over, and life is messy. We went from being whole to feeling broken – from being full to feeling so empty. This isn’t the life we wanted… Not by a landslide. 
But, life.
 It’s so far from over. 
And God has a plan for us.