Last night we arrived safely in Orlando, Florida. With the recent passing of our beloved son, we decided it would be best for the three younger children to get away to the most magical place for Christmas. It started with a decision, and God made the entire way for us. A friend blessed us with a place to stay, and, hours after we purchased our airfare, we received a gift in the mail covering the entire amount, plus some. God covered it all; even down to a family gift pack of tickets to Universal Studios and Disney World! After we arrived and got our rental car, we were all pretty hungry for dinner. We also knew we needed to get some things for the condo, so we quickly decided on Applebee’s and Target because they were right across the street from one another. I won’t say who, but, for some reason, two of the children and I were having a pretty hard time. I’m thankful that I can always tell when something is bothering them and that they, too, can pick up when I’m feeling sad. One child expressed that they really didn’t want to be in Florida without their brother because it didn’t feel right. (Talk about taking the words right out of my mouth.) Another child was simply feeling sad and missing home. Our third child was doing ok, and Dad was doing his best to keep his smile, even though I could tell he was feeling displaced, as well. The fact is – we all were because we all ARE. We are displaced from the life we’ve always known. Christiano isn’t here anymore; to talk to, to laugh with, to hug, or to be silly with, and we all miss him terribly. Life as we’ve always known it has forever changed, and I don’t know how we will ever embrace this new normal. So glad we are not left to figure this out alone because God is with us, and He is showing us minute by minute. 

After we were finished with dinner at Applebee’s, we went across the street to Target. None of us wanted to, but we had to pick up the necessities for our stay. Soap and toothpaste are a must and, for the Barbosa family, so are salty snacks and chocolate. We ran through and grabbed what we were there for as fast as we could and checked out. However, after we had checked out, I realized that I forgot one of the main items we needed – toothpaste! Chris offered to take the boys and the groceries to the car while Gabriella and I went to get the forgotten toothpaste. The place was packed, so we created a quick strategy plan – she would get a spot in line while I scurried for toothpaste. I was back in a flash and got in line behind a woman who had just done some Christmas shopping. I happened to notice that she was putting some things she was originally going to buy on the top of the soda cooler. It was a plethora of Disney Princess items. When I looked down at the belt, I saw that what that mother had kept on the belt were all the necessities for her children; tank tops, underwear, socks, etc. Then IT happened. It happened for the first time since Christiano passed away. I felt that tug at my heart that comes straight from The Lord; the tug that exposes me to the Love He feels towards His children; the tug that reminds me that His compassion is constant and He cares for every finite detail of our lives – the big and the small; the tug that prodded me, right then and there, to show that woman just how much God loved her. So, I picked each item up, gently and discretely, to add up the total cost. I took the money out of my wallet, and then I lifted them all off of the cooler. As I did that, this mom looked at me with a slight sadness in her eyes and sweetly said, ‘Are you gonna buy those?’ She wanted to know if I was going to buy the items that she had to put back for myself. I said, ‘Not for me, for you.’ I laid the items on the belt and handed her the cash while looking into her eyes. All I could say was, ‘this is from The Lord.’ She smiled big and kept saying, ‘WOW, thank you!’ I wished her a Merry Christmas and was reminded of the very Love that came down for all of us on that very first Christmas. It felt so good to put the Love of God into action, again. In that moment, even if it was short, I was reminded of all the times God has shown me His love through others, and how He has provided over and over again. 

Then, I thought about Christiano and how we won’t spend another Christmas with him; how we will never get to pick that perfect gift for him and how we won’t see his face light up as he opens it. Acknowledging that breaks my heart over and over again, but it also forces me to make a decision about who I want to be. Do I want to show the world this loving God who is walking this whole thing out with me? Or, do I want to close my heart off to love? Love can be painful, but will I take that chance? Brokenness can either leave us bitter or it can make us beautiful. Many choose to become bitter, but I want to choose to allow God to make me more beautiful, in His time. Christiano saw beauty in everything. As most of you know, one of his favorite things to say was, ‘BEAUTIFUL!’ He said it so much that, on our last family vacation to Florida, Gabriella and I were texting tallies back and forth to keep track. Oh, how I long to hear him say it again. 

Ecclesiastes 3:11-12 says this:

He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 

Yes, Lord. Let my brokenness become Your Masterpiece; let my ashes be swept away by Your beauty; let my pain be overcome by Your mercy; and let my failures show forth Your grace. Make me beautiful – just  like You. 

Here is a picture of some of the text tallies Gabriella sent. LOL. 

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