“God uses our trials to build our faith, draw us closer to him, and give us a testimony of His faithfulness for others to see”
They say a testimony is someones story of how Christ changed their lives. How Christ works through them, and how they came to find Christ. I wanted to share my testimony because it is a little different than most.
I have fought God longer than I have loved Him. From a very early age I remember hating going to church. I hated the dresses my mom would make me wear, I hated the tights, and I definitely hated those black buckle shoes. I hated having to be quiet during sermons, and I hated the way my Sunday school teacher’s breath smelt. I did like the donuts after, that was always a plus. I grew up in a small rural Presbyterian church. There was never any excitement in the sermons, everyone sang along to the hymns in a monotone fashion. I learned the “Christian Basics” as I like to call them. The story of Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses, the Birth of Jesus, and the death of Jesus. I learned why we celebrate Easter, and the Ten Commandments. What I didn’t learn though, was why it was all so significant.
I began my rebellious stage (well, I am still sort of rebellious) when I was in Middle School. The pre-teen angst was strong in my soul, and I would not conform to how I was supposed to be. As most troubled teens I started drinking and hanging out with the wrong crowd. I started fighting with my parents, and I started to hate who I was becoming. By the age of 15 I was pregnant, and by the age of 16, I had a tiny little human in my arms who would be the first to call me “Mommy”. I was young and naive in what being a mom was, and I wish I could say that having her changed my life. Instead, it made that teenage angst even worse. I would blame everyone but myself for my problems. I started drinking more, skipping class, and honestly I am pretty sure my mom paid off my high school because I have no idea how I graduated. By 19, I was in love. Never having been in true love before, I jumped at the fact of having a family, being married, and settling down. The plus side, he was older, so he could buy me beer. By 20, I was holding my second child, and by 22, I was the proud mommy of 3 beautiful children. My mom would lecture me about going to church, raising the kids the way I was raised, but my husband was an atheist, and I was full of excuses.
It is funny now looking back at that point in my life. The void I was always trying to fill, was just God knocking at the door I refused to open. I am going to spare some details of my life during that time in respect to my children’s father, and one day I will share the entire story, but, by the age of 26 I was divorced, single, and trying my best to raise 3 children alone. I kept feeling this tug in my heart, it is really hard to explain. I had been to church a few times in those years, a new church, with loud music, an excited pastor, and messages about God that I had never heard before, and for some reason every single time I went, I would cry. I am a crier, I cry in every single movie, commercial and you tube video of soldiers coming home. My kids make fun of me, it has become a house joke these days. I just didn’t understand at the time just how much my broken soul needed the Holy Spirit. I didn’t want to understand because understanding that, meant actually taking accountability for things, and I was not ready to do that.
The next two years were a mess, just a mess. I was drinking a lot, I was trying to raise three kids, while working, while trying to date, while trying to even figure out who I was. I had been a teen mom, then a teen wife, then a wife, and I never took the time to figure out me. The tugging though, that tugging was getting stronger, it was like an actual game of tug of war on my heart. The harder He pulled, the harder I pulled back. It was like a struggle of God vs Satan working inside me, and let me tell you, it was exhausting. The guys I was dating at the time were not religious men, so the path I was comfortable with was the path I was staying on.
Then one day, road construction hit. Dominic walked through my office door and the rest is history. He WAS a religious man, and he knew things about God I had never heard of. He was raised Evangelical, converted himself to Catholicism, and he actually KNEW the bible. He had been through life tragedies as I had, and we connected in a way, I had never connected with someone before.
I was still fighting though. Not only am I rebellious, I am stubborn and it would take more then a bearded, tattooed man to change my ways. But, I started pulling back less, and I started listening more, and I started asking questions, and I started going to church with him. I started understanding a little more about the word of God, instead of the stories of what I was told. I bought a bible, and started flipping through a little bit here and there. I was slowly unlocking the door, but I was not ready to get rid of the key yet. There are a few things I had learned in my life, and that was you never let your guard down, once you let that guard down you will be hurt, and I had been hurt in ways I could never understand, and still do not understand. Then we got the news, we were pregnant!
It was the first time in my life that things were falling into place. I was engaged to the man of my dreams, I had a successful job as a Property Manager, I had a beautiful house and three healthy children. We were living on cloud nine, nervous, but excited to welcome this new addition into our home. The pregnancy was by far the easiest pregnancy I had ever had. It was what doctors would call “a dream pregnancy”. The baby was growing, healthy, mom was growing, healthy, there was not one warning sign that something was wrong. I got tested for all the normal tests, we went to the ultra sounds, there was not one indication of what was going to come.
Nico Michael Petrucci was born on October 27th, 2016 weighing in at 6lbs. He was beautiful, and perfect. He had all 10 of his fingers, and 10 of his toes. He was a little peanut, and he was loved by everyone. He had some issues right when he was born, but no red flags. We were released from the hospital after 24 hours and we brought our little bundle of joy home. A few weeks passed and I started to notice that something was off. He wouldn’t eat more then a few ounces at a time. He NEVER slept more than a hour or two during the night. He would cry and cry. I would take him to his pediatrician and they would say he is growing and his healthy. But, mommy’s have intuitions and mine was telling me, something is not right. Christmas came, and went, and the intuition was getting stronger. I was chalking everything up to being “because of the holiday’s”. He is tired from traveling, maybe he has a allergy to the milk, maybe he is just colicky. Any excuse I could have, I gave. By New Year I had had enough. I called his pediatrician to get him in, thinking maybe he had an ear infection that went unnoticed, but she was full that day, and said he has his vaccinations in 2 days she will see him then (I know guys, I am mad reading that too). So, I took him to the immediate care. The minute the doctor saw him, he told me to go to the emergency room. That, is when our lives would be forever changed. This is also the beginning of my official journey with God.
Nico was sent to Lurie’s Children’s Hospital in Chicago. We were there for about 7 weeks trying to figure out what was wrong with this precious baby. The doctors could not figure it out, I will save you from all the medical details because this is about how I found God not how sick he was. By, week 6 a very detailed genetic test found that Nico had something called YARS2. He was the 11th child in the world to ever have it, and the first in the United States. The genetic condition, is always fatal.
During the time in the hospital I began to write. I also, began to pray. I had prayed before, but I had never opened up my heart to God. Desperate times calls for desperate measures, right? My prayers were more like pleading. I was pleading with God to save my son. I was hurt, I was angry, I was confused, I was not understanding how or why this was happening to us. My husband would come on the weekends, and he would attend Mass every Sunday. I refused to go with him. God and I were not in a good place. I had started to let my guard down with him, and He was hurting me. I was building a wall. What God was doing though, he was working through me. Even if I did not want him to. I was making Facebook posts to update everyone, and the more I wrote the more faithful my writings became. Even though I was angry with God, I was hopeful. He was filling my heart with his words during this time, and through it all, I was calm. I had peace. It is weird to say now, but He was with me and He was protecting me, even if I was angry at Him.
Nico took his last breaths on February 11th in the very early morning. I remember kissing his little cheeks, and handing him over to his daddy, and praying. Praying for his soul, praying that God would watch over him, praying for our three children at home who had just lost their baby brother, and most importantly praying for my husband. During this time, during this tragedy I gave my full heart to Jesus. I had just kissed my son as he took his last breaths, and now I finally understood “How God gave us his only son, for our redemption”. It was time to stop fighting.
God works in mysterious ways doesn’t he? You never fully understand his motives until you understand Him. I had spent my entire life fighting Him. And during my darkest days, I relied on him.
I have said it numerous times. I do not know how anyone could get through loosing a child, without faith. To think that is it, I just couldn’t imagine. My faith grew because I was beginning to understand his promises to us. I started reading the bible more, I started devotionals, I started going to church every Sunday. I started learning more and more stories about God, and the tests he gives people. I started to understand His word and his love for us. I then realized, everything I had ever been through, all of the dark times, and the fighting Him, all of it, it was all for this moment. It was his path for me, to fully surrender to him. To spread his word, on loss, and then on faith.
You see, the story doesn’t just end there. We didn’t just loose a son and then I became a follower of Christ. No, when I fully started allowing Christ into my heart, He showed up with his promises. When I started actually praying, and repenting, and living the life he had always hoped for me, He showed up.
When Nico was diagnosed with his genetic condition we were told never to have another child. When we found out we were expecting again, that is when my faith was truly tested. Do I give it all to God, or do I continue what I have always done and try to handle it myself? So, I prayed. I prayed, and I prayed, and I told God that this is in his hands. I gave in, I put all of my faith in him. Doctor after doctor told us to terminate, and time and time again we refused. We put it in God’s hands. I put it in God’s hands. This pregnancy, was not so easy. We had some complications in the beginning, and we were pretty sure we were loosing him at one point. Due to genetics, there was a 75% chance that our new baby would also be born with what Nico had. This time around though, we were prepared. Not only medically, but spiritually.
I was on my way home from work the day my phone rang. It was the doctors with the genetic results. This was the phone call that would tell me if my son was going to survive. I was 25 weeks pregnant. I saw the number, and just bowed my head. I said “Lord, whatever your plan is, I promise you that I will not shut you out again”. Then the words came over the phone “It is a miracle, but your child, is completely healthy”.
Praise the Lord!!! Am I right?
Gianni Nico Petrucci was born on June 4th,2018. He was close to 9lbs, a chubby, healthy, perfect little boy. We were extremely blessed. God, had blessed us with a miracle.
I made it my mission at that time to fully commit to the Lord. My eyes had been opened to him, and I was never turning back. My faith has grown even more the past 19 months, and even though I am still learning, asking questions, and figuring things out. I know no matter what God has planned for me, I can get through it with his promises, and my faith in him.
Looking back on my life I do not regret walking away from Him. I do not think that my faith would be as strong as it is now, because it took the worst tragedy to fully understand his greatness. I get to see my son again. He blessed me with another. He is working through me and my talents of writing to spread his word, and to life up others. I still struggle with some of my anxieties life has given me, the doubts, the fears, the unknowns, but now I give those up to the Lord, and he calms my heart. That is something I am forever thankful for.
I had a dream a few months ago, I was having what my husband and I refer to as “A hard Nico day”. It is a day where the pain of him not being with us is stronger than normal. I put my wild child toddler to bed, and was nodding off to sleep myself when I saw my husband’s dad. He had passed away when my husband was 11 so I unfortunately never got the pleasure of meeting him. He was holding a baby, rocking him back and forth, and said “Don’t worry, we have him”. I know that was a message from God to let me know our boy is okay, just as he had promised.
Where are we now? We have been married for 2 years. Our toddler is the greatest most exhausting gift from God. I am confident, happy, and I am finally figuring out, who I am. God has been trying to work through me my entire life, and now that I have finally opened my heart to him, he has created a warrior, just like he had always intended. A warrior full of faith, his word, and love.