In recent months, I’ve heard these three words spoken to me quite frequently: ‘You are blessed.’
Admittedly, there was a time that I wasn’t sure we’d ever again fall under the category of ‘blessed.’ Three years ago, this week, we went on our last ever vacation as a family of six. That week, I have to say, I felt pretty blessed in every sense of the word. We were in sunny Florida without a care in the world getting in on our last hoorah before our oldest went off to college. Who could have known that just fifteen weeks later we’d experience a tragic loss that has altered our lives forever? A loss that has left my husband and I without our first born son to experience life with and our three younger children without their older brother to learn from.
Most days since, life has felt anything and everything but blessed. Losing Christiano has been the single most torturous hell we have ever faced. Going through that alone was enough, but the losses didn’t stop there. We lost our business, went into major debt, and almost lost our home. Chris was diagnosed with a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis that has effected the function of his hands. He has lost muscle mass and had some bone fusion issues that the doctors says is permanent. (We are still believing for a miracle in this area) The kids recently lost their school, and we still aren’t a hundred percent on where they’re going in September. We’ve lost friends and seen people we love go through some devastating losses, themselves. And, this isn’t even all of it. I realize that many people go through hard things like this. But, for us, nothing can compare to the constant pain of losing our boy. Going through all of this on top of our daily grief, though, has been unbearable some days.
Losing Christiano has left us with a permanent void in all areas of life. Physically, we yearn for his embrace and ache for his touch; mentally we can’t wrap our head around never seeing him grow into a man, a husband, a father; emotionally we hurt everywhere – we cry, we ponder, we wonder, and we cry more; and spiritually, we wonder what went wrong – what we missed or where we fell short. Then we battle against those thoughts that beat us up, knowing full well that not everything that takes place in the spiritual realm is neccasarily from our loving God.
So we fight those thoughts that come from the pit of hell. We wrestle with our own flesh as we stretch our weary arms out to the God who sets us free, the God who heals, delivers and restores. The God who whispers ‘it is well.’ Somehow and someway, He’s able to quiet the lies and drown out the voices that tell me I failed somehow – as a mother, as a woman, and as a Christian. He comforts me and imparts His truth, as He calls me His and reminds me that He’s mine.
Somehow, in this mess, in these ruins, God is here with us. He’s healing our hurt and repairing our brokenness. And, when it’s too hard – He doesn’t quit. When I am slow to listen, He still whispers His words of love for me. When I can’t see a way out, He reminds me that I’ve made progress – that even my baby step brings Him that proud papa kind of joy. When I want to give up, He gives me just a glimpse of what perseverance looks like on the other side of the wreckage, and when I cannot believe, He helps me with my unbelief.
And, somehow, when people look at us they don’t see all of this ugly that I sometimes feel represents us. They seem to see with different eyes. They see hope. They see joy. They see God in us. They see the bigger picture that we can’t yet see. Perhaps, the most important thing they see is God’s glory through our story.
So, yes. I guess you could say we are blessed. Not because we finally got to go on our first family vacation since operation skip Christmas or because I just graduated or because our physical needs are being met. Those things are helpful, but they don’t even begin to scratch the surface of what it means to be blessed. In fact, going to school was hard. This vacation has been hard. There is an empty spot in every picture where Christiano should be. There is an extra package of cookies in every six pack. There’s an extra bed where his body should be sleeping on. We’ve felt the void on this trip. Where are his interjections? Where are his jokes? His words are left unspoken, but somehow we hear them still. His jokes are left untold, but we still find ourselves laughing at what Christiano ‘would’ve said.’ We miss our family all being together, and it never stops being hard.
But, still, we are blessed. We are blessed because being blessed is so much more about God and less about us. It’s when His light can be seen in the darkness of death. It’s when he exchanges our sorrow for joy and our ashes for His beauty, replacing our sad downcast frowns for the radiant glow that comes only from looking to the Lord. It’s when our absolute and utter weakness is exchanged for His power.
It’s when His love is seen more clearly in us than the pain of losing our son and when He alone is given the glory for how far we’ve come. So, yes; we ARE blessed. More than ever before, we are blessed.