Party Of Three by Jessica Perlman McGuire

In March, of 2013, our family was at Chuck E. Cheese celebrating my niece’s seventh birthday. Over the years, I have come to realize that there are three groups of people who go to this establishment: In the first group, there’s the kids (and some adults) who tirelessly run around, enthusiastically playing all of the games, wining tickets for prizes, eating lots of pizza, and generally having the time of their lives. In the second group, you have the parents and caregivers; chasing their kids around, replenishing their token cups, purchasing food, wiping away tears, talking their children out of selecting the caffeinated soda, and attempting to get five minutes of uninterrupted adult conversation before being summoned to replenish the token cup once again.

And there is the third group –my group– the people without children, who are simply there to celebrate family members or children of friends. In my group we play a few games of Skee Ball or Basketball. We eat a couple of slices of pizza, sing “Happy Birthday,” and enjoy some cake. We smile at the birthday boys and girls excitedly opening their presents. We love our family and friends and we are so thankful to celebrate with them; however, we also feel as though we stick out like sore thumbs.
My husband Shane and I were looking forward to seeing our family that day, and of course, giving the birthday girl a big hug! We were also prepared to take our rightful place in the third group. Upon entering the building, we immediately saw Shannon, Chris, Christiano, Gabriella, Brian and Nate. We greeted one another with warm hugs, (there really is nothing like getting together with family!) purchased some food, and took our places in our booth.
Our niece arrived shortly after, and the event officially began. It was a lovely party and all of the kids seemed to be having a great time. The parents were busy keeping those token cups and bellies filled, and Shane and I sat back, visited the family, and observed our surroundings. I soon realized that Christiano had not left our booth the entire time. The three of us had been continuously chatting about movies, music, television programs, books, school, and our upcoming wedding. We decided to play a game of Skee Ball, and yet the conversation and laughter didn’t stop. We were seriously having a blast at Chuck E. Cheese! Shortly after, the three of us and continued to chat and laugh for the remainder of the party. The three of us. It suddenly hit me that we had just formed a fourth group – Our Group. 
Shane and I will soon be entering into the ‘”second group,” as we are expecting our first child in July. I can already see myself chasing our child around Chuck E. Cheese, and probably with lots of hand sanitizer! However, nothing will ever compare to that day that Shane, Christiano, and I formed Our Group. My Chuck E. Cheese memories go back well over twenty years, but that day will forever hold a very special place in my heart. 
Christiano was an unbelievable person. He was funny, empathetic, smart, and so incredibly loving. His heart exuded kindness, and he believed in people. He truly saw beauty in every single person. I miss Christiano every single day. It pains me that he won’t be able to meet his cousin here on Earth, but this child will KNOW him. We will share our stories, smile at the photographs, and laugh until we cry as we watch the videos. Our child will share Christiano’s middle name. We will keep his memory alive, and continue to be inspired by him, because that’s what he is – a truly beautiful inspiration.

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I Grieve

So, I usually write a blog on the 24th of each month. It’s a method for me to express my heart the only way I know; through writing. Today, I woke up thinking I had no words. Every time I think that Christiano will have been gone a year next month, I can’t help but cry. I can’t help but feel like it’s not fair. Our family is still so broken. And, behind closed doors we are all fighting our own individual battles. 
There is nothing worse than losing a child, but one thing comes close. And, that is watching my surviving children try to live through it. Innocent children, who’ve been nurtured and protected; children who have known nothing but complete peace and security in The Lord, have now been robbed of their big brother, and traveled through hell and back. At the tender ages of 14, 13, and 11, they experienced something that is unnatural, unfair, and unfathomable, and they will experience it every day for the rest of their lives. They don’t understand the things they were once so certain of, and they wrestle with the why question. Why was their brother was taken? Why didn’t he survive? Why our family? Why are we going through this? 
To have to look them in their tear filled eyes and say, ‘I don’t know,’ has been one of the most difficult things for this mother. See, some kids have this concept that their parents know everything. They look to us for guidance, and we are called to be their protectors. Instead, I offer no answers and I still feel like somehow I didn’t protect my kids. I feel completely inadequate in all areas of life, these days. I’ve truly come to the end of me. I’m tired, confused, and broken. But, I’m broken before The Lord. I’m knowing His strength because it’s present when I have none. There’s just so much I grieve for. I grieve mostly for my son. I want him back so badly, and the desire NEVER leaves. I grieve for my husband who is going through the fire in more ways than I can count. I grieve for my children who just want their big brother back and who miss their mom and dad. I grieve for myself because I’m missing. I don’t know where the carefree, bible reading, fun-loving, happy, and praying woman is. I don’t even know HOW to pray anymore. I grieve for my family – the way we once were. I grieve for my hopes and my dreams. I grieve. Eleven months, and that’s still what I’m doing… I’m grieving. And, it’s hard, hard, work. 
God is rearranging me. I’m being put back together. I’m being made new. But, it’s a painful process. And, my flesh doesn’t like any of it. My flesh feels like being stuck would be better than being pruned. But, the Spirit in me is strong. For, it’s not by my strength, nor by my own might, but by His Power – working in and through me to will and to do. So, I keep trucking along. And, when I faint, I just wait for the rescue. And, I grieve, and I wait. And, I wait, and I grieve… 

When Did I See Morning?

As I sit here, sipping my coffee, on this early, crisp, and Fall-ish morning, I can’t help but be grateful. You see, there was a time – not too long ago – that I couldn’t get out of bed without a fight. Mornings were spent replaying the last eighteen years of a life that is no longer mine. Very rarely did the mornings come without a wish that they hadn’t come at all.

When did my pillow stop being soaked from my tears? When did I stop sleeping past the sunrise?When did I stop having to take a sleep-aid? When did I stop having night terrors, and when did the replay in my mind stop reeling? The truth is – I’m not exactly sure. But, this morning I’m thanking God for it. The God that I sometimes feel distant from – the God that I often wonder silently, ‘where are you?’ Then I ponder this – could it be that He’s been here all along? That He’s never left me – not even for a minuscule moment?

You may be thinking, ‘Shannon, you know what the Word of God says. You know He is never ever going to leave you. You’ve said yourself that He is with you in this darkness.’ And, you’re right; about all of it. But, sometimes I forget to remember. Sometimes I struggle to know that He is near to my broken heart. Sometimes, I feel lonely and afraid; like I’m hanging on by a thread. And, sometimes… I even doubt God.

But, this morning, I’m thankful. Thankful that God’s faithfulness doesn’t depend on me; thankful that He doesn’t love me the way I love Him; and thankful that He is constant – even in in my wandering. And, I am oh so thankful that, although I don’t feel Him in each moment, I can look back and know that He has carried me; that He never grows weary or tired of me. For, I am His and He is mine. Forever.

Brotherly Love

Little things continue to be the big things. This picture may not look like much at first glance, but for me it speaks volumes. This here is Natey-Boy, our youngest son, walking to the bus stop for the very first time. He is sporting his big brother, Christiano’s, back-pack. He asked us if he could have it, so he could keep a part of Christiano wherever he goes. 

Last October, when Christiano passed away, Nate was never able to fully return to school. Eventually, his overwhelming grief caused him to have to finish 6th grade at home. So, you see, this picture means more than anything seen; it means that the healing has begun. #itsthelittlethings #littlebig #morethananythingseen