I am Christiano’s mother, and Christiano is no longer with us; therefore, I am a grieving mother.

For most of my life the odds have been against me. Statistically speaking, I should be an absolute wrecking ball. All that society has told us about children who come from a fatherless home and live below the financial median is enough to count me out. Add unwed pregnant teenager and high school drop out to my resume, and forget about it. Throw in married at eighteen, and four children by twenty-three in there, you might as well call me doomed, or call me labeled.
But, that’s not at all how it’s been. Those labels have never stood a chance.  Every irresponsible choice I have ever made, along with  everything that has been thrown at me, have not been allowed the power to overtake or define me. Why? Because the grace and mercy of God has kept me and pushed me to overcome. My strength and determination to beat every odd, blast every statistic, and shred every label has come from God. Graciously, He provided me a way out of the life I knew before Him. He has established me and my household, and He has provided all that we need. He removed every stronghold and shredded every label that I had been wearing. He made me brand new, and for fifteen years my life was beautiful.
But, on October 24, 2013 that beautiful life came crumbling down around me, when my eighteen year old son died in a fatal car accident. I never thought this could happen to us, and who does, really? My husband and I had been through so much in our young lives, but it seemed as though life was smooth sailing now. We love and worship God, we love and respect one another, and we love and adore our children. We look at parenting as our highest calling from God, right  after knowing Him. We didn’t understand how this could be happening; how this could be our reality. How did we go from loving parents to grieving parents in a matter of minutes? And, how could we avoid it? How could we change it? How could we go back? We couldn’t. There wasn’t a way for us to undo what has been done. And, now we would have no other choice, but to live with it. Chris was now a grieving father and I was a grieving mother – forever.
This is a label I will have to wear for ever. I will always be Christiano’s mom, therefore I will always be grieving him. If you knew my son at all, you’d understand that it is impossible not to yearn for him in some way. Just to hear his laugh or to see his smile; to have him listen to your story or tell you one of his; to lay your head on his chest and be held by him. These were all such gifts, and I grieve them, too. With The Lord’s help, I can overcome the statistics  and beat the odds that grieving mothers face; such as: long lasting health problems, severe depression, sleep disorder, disruption or failure of marriage, inability to love my other children, eating disorders, suicide, etc.  But, I will never be rid of the label ‘grieving mother.’ Why? 
Because I am Christiano’s mother, and Christiano is no longer with us; therefore, I am a grieving mother – until I meet with him again and remain with him for all eternity. And, I look forward to a life where there will be no labels, and all we will be is children of God. 
‘ And regarding the question, friends, that has come up about what happens to those already dead and buried, we don’t want you in the dark any longer. First off, you must not carry on over them like people who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word. Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus.’
1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 MSG

And Then There Were Three…

And Then There Were Three…

Three sets of lips to kiss goodnight. Three sets of hands to hold. Three mouths to feed. Three hearts to shape. Three minds to help mold. Three bodies to tuck in. Three souls to pray for. And, three Easter baskets to lay out. 
It’s not getting easier because the missing him is getting stronger; the yearning much deeper. I ache in places I never knew existed, and I feel an actual, physical ache in my heart. I didn’t want to spend Easter weekend without him.
Every year since he was born we’ve colored Easter eggs with him. Every year, we’ve bought new Easter outfits that accent one another, and we take a family picture. Every year I’ve bought all his favorites to fill his basket – Milk Duds, Cadbury mini eggs, Laffy Taffy, Starburst, and Reese’s and Tootsie Rolls ( he always called them twitsie rolls). 
We feel robbed. We were robbed. Families are supposed to grow not shrink. Christiano is supposed to be with us, and it’s not fair, and it doesn’t make sense. But, lots of things in life are not fair, and God has felt our pain; the pain of loss and suffering; the pain of injustice and evil. God had a rough Easter weekend once, too. The first Good Friday was full of pain for God , for Jesus, for his disciples, and for his followers. A spotless and blameless man sent to be slaughtered in my place; crucified for my sins. But, then Sunday came. Jesus was raised from the dead for all his disciples to see, and He was reunited with His Heavenly Father. Death could no longer hold Him because Love had won and death was conquered. I’m so thankful for my God and Savior.
But, I’m waiting for my Sunday to come; when I’m reunited with my son, and I get to be with him forever. My weekend is lasting a lot longer than I would like it to, but just like Jesus, I have some things to do here on this earth. God has a purpose for me, and it’s not my time to be physically seated in heavenly places yet. 
Easter weekend was full of joy and pain at the same time. When the joy over took me, the pain was still nagging, and when the pain over took me the joy still found me. But, more than ever before, I’m in awe of Calvary. I’m in awe of the love that was displayed on the cross for me. I’m seeing God’s sacrifice more clearly now, and for that I am grateful. That very first Easter weekend was similar – full of joy and pain at the same time. But, joy won that weekend; just like joy wins for me. Whether I feel it or not, I know it – and its full in me. That joy comes in knowing my Sunday will come, and that I will be with my boy and my Savior forevermore. Oh, what a glorious day it will be.
“These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might abide in you, and that your joy might be full.” JOHN 15:11

A Praying Friend by Faith Sandel

A Praying Friend by Faith Sandel

One thing that really sticks out to me when I think of Christiano is that he was extremely genuine and had a huge heart. I remember in youth group, our youth leader asked if anyone wanted to be filled with the Holy Spirit. It was something that I really wanted, but was having a hard time with. I was pretty shy in those days, but I got up the guts to go anyways. As the music played and I prayed to God to help me, I remember feeling someone laying their hands on my head. I opened my eyes and there was Christiano, praying for me. I was so surprised! It seemed like a lot of kids at that age would be timid to do anything that bold, but Christiano was far from timid. After praying for me he gave me one of his famous hugs that caused him to pretty much bend his whole body in half just to reach me. That moment touched my heart in so many unexpected ways. It made me want to be more open with my Christianity. It made me want to love more and reach out to my peers more. Christiano has inspired me in so many ways, and I wish I has taken time to tell him what an impact he’s always had on my life. I am so honored to have known him, and I can’t wait for the day that I can finally tell him how much he’s inspired me.
This is an entry from ‘A Beautiful Life’ book project. This book was put together by a friend of mine who wanted our family to have these wonderful stories about our son, Christiano; who in eighteen short years touched the lives of more than we could ever have imagined. We have decided, as a family, to read a few a week before bedtime. Thank  you, Krystal – in doing this, you’ve blessed us beyond what we could’ve hoped for. We love you.
Losing our son has taught us that every day we are given counts. All the ‘live life to the fullest’ and ‘make every day matter’ quotes go from cliché tag lines to absolute heart cries. I am so thankful my son lived that way and that, through his legacy, I’m learning, too. 
‘Our days are numbered. One of the primary goals in our lives should be to prepare for our last day. The legacy we leave is not just in our possessions, but in the quality of our lives. What preparations should we be making now? The greatest waste in all of our earth, which cannot be recycled or reclaimed, is our waste of the time that God has given us each day.’ – Billy Graham

This was the d2L (now named Impact) student staff all dressed up for the Christmas Party. Faith is pictured on the bottom right. 

From Broken to Beautiful

‘I just want to be better.’

I’ve said that quite a bit lately and felt it even more than I’ve said it. It is quite a frustrating feeling to feel. To get better, to feel better, to be better; the thought can be both appealing and overwhelming at the same time. I don’t want to be a broken, grieving mother forever – one who comes undone with the slightest trigger. However, I am broken and I do come undone. 
What I really want, I can’t have right now. Christiano won’t be coming through my front door, so I have lots and lots of waiting until I see him. (Especially when just a minute seems too long a time.) So, I’ve resorted to the hearts desire that’s possible, and that’s for God to fix me. I want my broken heart healed, my mind restored, and my body free from the pain of grief. I want to grow in my love for God and for others, and give freely without expecting. I want to rest in knowing that I don’t know everything and, somehow, find joy in this suffering. I want to be whole instead of broken and cracked. Life has knocked me down hard many times, but each time I have gotten back up. I’ve conquered and overcome many trials and tribulations in my life, starting with my childhood. But, this time, it just isn’t that simple. This time, I can’t stand on my own, so I will need to be carried for awhile. I can’t help but wonder if this is where God has wanted me all along -carried by Him; held through the storm, strengthened only by His might? Is this where He wants all of us? 
So often, we bring our own stuff to the table, along with our own methods, agendas, motives and ideas. We fight our way through this life and hustle and bustle to make ends meet. We get involved in church activities and ministries and look for people to affirm us. We read self- help books, try to keep our bodies in shape, and work really hard just to get by. Because, the truth is, we ALL just want to be better. And, sometimes, we want it so badly that we don’t even see how far we’ve really come.
This morning, I put my kids on the bus without worrying that it would crash, or be run off the road, or flip over. That’s progress. For months, I’ve been plagued with worry that I have had to throw off. And, this morning that little bit of progress reminded me that I am on my way. And, wasn’t it a beautiful reminder of where my help comes from; it wasn’t a method or an idea that delivered me from worry, but The Lord. My help comes from The Lord, and casting my cares on Him will sustain and deliver me. Of course, I still desire to be better, and I’m not where I want to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be. We do not always get to see the big picture, and we don’t know how God will do it, but He does – in time. In time, beauty will replace the ashes of this broken life. Because, in His time, He makes all things beautiful. 
‘He has made everything beautiful in its time. He also has planted eternity in men’s hearts and minds a divinely implanted sense of a purpose working through the ages which nothing under the sun but God alone can satisfy, yet so that men cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.’ Ecclesiastes 3:11