So, because of the severity of a disease called rheumatoid arthritis, Chris hasn’t been able to wear his wedding band for over three years. It was several months after Christiano passed that Chris started to experience excruciating pain in the joints in his knees, ankles, elbows, and, most severely, his hands. The doctors began running crazy amounts of testing to rule out things like Lyme, Lupus, and other autoimmune diseases. In July of 2014, Chris was diagnosed with R.A. The doctors said it was one of the most intense cases they’d ever seen, especially in such a young person. There was a long period of time that just picking up a pencil was too painful for Chris. He was immediately put on methotrexate- which is chemotherapy in pill form. This made him even more sick… He lost a ton of weight and began to wither away before our eyes. Because this made him so ill, finally, after about 7 months, they switched his meds. They also added prednisone as an anti-inflammatory. That was tough on all of us. It made Chris feel physically better, but emotionally and mentally he began to suffer. He would space out while we were in mid conversation or have random angry outbursts. It was really hard on all of us. It was hard to stop taking the only medication that actually provided some physical healing, but, eventually, Chris did that. Because, in reality, he loves us more than he loves himself.
The next year was a tough one. Physical strength was something Chris always had, so it was immensely difficult for him to walk day after day in this new normal. After talking with Chris’s doctor, we all came to the conclusion that it was his grief that has brought this on so severely. Chris cried every day for the first three months after Christiano passed. Then, one day, he just stopped. He refused to allow himself any more cry days, as he was determined to ‘move on.’ The doctor said there was irreparable damage done to Chris’s joints. His hands had begun to curl in and his wrists, too. She tried him on some more new meds, but these also had some crazy side effects. One day, Chris approached me and said he wanted to stop meds altogether. He felt that he was finally ready to trust God for his healing. I was ready, too. It took us awhile to bounce back in this area after the most desperate heart cry and plea to God for our son to LIVE and not die went, what we understood to be, unanswered. Before you get all super spiritual on me, We know Christiano lives forever in heaven. But, truthfully, that’s not what we asked for. We wanted him here for many, many, more years. Eventually, we both came to the revelation that there is no ‘moving on’ from the devastation of loss. There is only moving forward, and that’s exactly what we choose to do day in and day out.
We also decided together that Chris would get off all meds and try a more natural approach to healing. His doctor was pretty darn furious with us. Chris began to dig into the Bible for every single healing Scripture he could find. I wish I could report that he was healed miraculously, right then and there. But, he wasn’t. Instead, his symptoms worsened. It was very frustrating, but we continued to stand. One morning, a few months after our decision, Chris awoke with one of the worst flair ups he’d ever had. His knee was swollen up to three times the size it should be. We went to the rheumatologist, and she drained his knee. Seven tubes of fluid, some lecturing from the doctor and some blood work later, we headed to the car. We decided we needed to go see our Pastors.
As Chris poured his heart out, they each poured our every blessing they had as they laid hands on his body. Chris told them he felt like he was at a crossroads with either deciding to go back on meds or to stick this thing out. What I’m most grateful for is that each of them met Chris where he was. They offered no shame or condemnation and told him that whatever he decided, God was in it and would bless him. That night, Chris and I talked. We decided we needed to keep fighting with this natural approach. The attacks on Chris’s physical body intensified greatly. But, he kept going. Every morning, he got up and lifted – not weights, not dumbbells and not a lifting bar – but, he lifted a staff, a part of the attained from the tree that claimed our son’s life. It was just a couple pounds, but he lifted it every morning while he fed himself with the Word of God.
Every day since he began this journey to trust God anew, he’s gotten stronger and stronger. And, although he isn’t a hundred percent, he’s better. He’s not in constant pain, and he’s able to do things he couldn’t a year ago. Some of the deformities in his wrists and hands seem to have diminished, and he doesn’t have knee problems anymore. Unfortunately, he still cannot wear his wedding band because of the swelling that still exists. That’s why it was so cool when yesterday, Chris looked down and saw this in the yard. Immediately he thought, this could be my temporary wedding band. He put it on and it fit! Last night, he asked me to take this picture.
At first I thought it was silly, but the more I look at it the more reminded I am of what a wedding ring really represents. It represents the union of two imperfect people who promise in sickness and in health, until death. Death knocked at our door, kicked it in and ran us over in ways that made us wish it would just take us already. Marriage is a union that replicates in the most humanly best possible way the relentless love that our God has for us. Sometimes, in marriage, we fail each other. We hurt each other by saying things we don’t mean or even sometimes things we do mean. No matter how much we are taught not to expect our spouses to be our everything, we do go into marriage with expectations. Sometimes, they’re kind of outrageous, but more often what trips us up are those subtle ones… comparison can kick in, leaving us feeling lonely and empty. While we are staring at the green grass across the street from ours, we can miss the little weeds that have invaded the garden of our souls. It’s happened to me. It can happen to anyone.
Sickness takes a toll on the person who is sick and also on the loved ones of the inflicted one. I know that, personally, I mourned for the husband I once knew. Our roles had to reverse in so many ways. I became the one who had to open the impossible jars and lots of other little things like that. Chris was disappointed, and so was I.
I bring this to your attention because, I think if we are all very honest, we sometimes feel disappointed in God. For so long, Chris and I were sort of afraid to admit this truth. How can you be disappointed in a God who is perfect? A God who never changes? Who Forever keeps the vows He made? Because LIFE happens, that’s how. We expect God to fix everything around us, but He doesn’t always do that. He doesn’t always change the situation or do things on our time table. Incredibly, this doesn’t at all change who He is. He’s promises to fix us internally in the mess that life makes all around us. He promises to provide His light on the darkest days. Life doesn’t always go as planned. I mean, come on, I really felt like the loss of a child was enough to ruin us. Sprinkle it with a chronic disease, the loss of our business, auctioneers bidding on our home, our kids school closing when it has been such a safe haven for all of us, financial CHAOS, many more losses of people we love, and so much more… well, woah is all I can come up with.
But, there’s also been so much good! We are walking in destiny and purpose, but most of all we are walking in the peace of God which holds us when nothing makes sense. We have so much to be grateful for and so much to celebrate. Rheumatoid arthritis is not our portion. We are so bless and have so much to look forward to here in earth and in heaven. I refuse to let circumstances dictate me, whether good or bad. I’m a child of God. Many people think that means nothing hard will ever come my way. That’s a lie. What it does mean is that I am covered by grace, love and abundant mercy, and that I get to take a precious hand photo featuring wedding bands with my main man.