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Finding Faith While Facing Loss

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Rosanne: "’Why? Why me? Why this?’ That's still my biggest question. ‘Why?’”

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” ~

Rosanne: “Mark was our firstborn, he was a happy, full of wonder little boy.”

Rod: “There was a lot of delight in Mark. He loved the world. He fell in love with Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings story. He had a real active, imaginative mind.”

When Mark was 14, a classmate introduced him to pornography.

Rosanne: “It-it just – it changed him. Wonder and imagination just vanished it seemed like.”

Rod: “It just shut him down and shut all the light out of his eyes in a lot of ways.”

Rosanne: “And everything became about that obsession. We'd take away anything we found that were his sources, and we locked the computers the best we could, and we made rules. We made ground rules. And they were broken in, over and over again.”  

The following year, Mark began using marijuana and dropped out of school.

Rod: “He took on a-a very, very combative nature. It was him against the world and him against us. And every step of the way where I had to take a hard stand, I had to close off a portion of my heart.”

Rosanne: “’Help me to love him’ was my biggest prayer. ‘God, I'm having a hard time loving this boy, my own son. I’m having a hard time loving him.’ God was faithful to remind me that he is in my son's life and he loves him more than I ever could imagine.”

They tried counseling and a private boarding school, but neither helped their son.

Rosanne: “It was hard cause over time it felt like we were losing him.”

Rod: “We had tried, we had tried everything and in every case I thought I had hope. And at every step I thought, ‘Well, he surely won't push it to the point where he has to leave the home.’ But he did.”

Rosanne: “He flunked out of school, and he was even stealing from us at some point to get money to buy drugs.”  

Rod: “I had no question about what I had to do. There was nothing repentant about him. By the time he turned 18, I said, ‘You're going to have to leave.’ He never ceases to be your son, and that's the hardest part. It was hurting me. But I had to let him live with the consequences of what he chose to do.”

Mark became addicted to LSD and ecstasy. Over the next four years, he frequented jails and homeless shelters.

Rod: “He was like a zombie – wandering the streets at night and-and stepping out in traffic. And he disappeared; I remember having to go down and look for him, and not finding him. And how do you – how do you deal with that? That's where I felt the lowest…I had no plan.

Then, in May 2011, they heard from their son – he was finally ready to change and enrolled into rehab.

Rosanne: “We didn't think he was going to stay or make it, but he did! And after a few months he actually made a strong commitment to the Lord and was baptized. We saw light in his eyes we had not seen in a long, long time. We were so encouraged.”  

But after years of drug use, Mark had become schizophrenic, and he dropped out of the program a few months later.

Rosanne: “He called us a few times – sometimes up. ‘I can do this.’ Sometimes crying, ‘I'm a loser, I should have never left.’ But I told him, ‘Honey, you always have second chances because God is a God of second chances. And you can do this. I love you. We love you. Jesus is with you. Just don't forget that.’ And he said, ‘I love you, Mom’ and he hung up.”

Mark disappeared in November 2011, leaving only his backpack on the front steps of a church. Four months later, they received a call — police found Mark's remains. He had jumped the fence of a nearby park and climbed into a covered slide, where he overdosed and never woke up.

Rosanne: “There's always the question of ‘Why didn't you stop him? You know you could. I know you could. You're the God of our hearts, right? You can call us out of darkness, why not?’…I remember our pastor at Mark's memorial service said, ‘You may ask the question: 'Where was Jesus when Mark took his life, when he took those pills?’ He said, "I would suggest to you that he was there and he caught him when he fell and took him home to be with him.’”

Rod: “We were all together as a family to receive that call. And it allowed us to grieve together as a family. The kids – they could see us grieve together about it and grieve in faith and grieve in trusting God. Each in their own way came to faith that they'll see him again, they'll see Mark again.”

Rosanne: “I know that God loved him all the way up to the end. I know that I can trust him with my children. And I know that what he does is right and good.”  

Their faith kept the family together. Then, three years later, they were tested again when Rosanne was diagnosed with a brain tumor. It was benign but fast growing, and it was destroying her hearing, sight, and balance organs.  

Rosanne: “What went through my mind was ‘Really, God?! I don’t understand why.’”

Still, she knew that trusting God was more important than knowing why.

Rosanne: “What he's shown me is that when he takes away, he gives something better in return because He's given me Himself. In all the losses that I've gone through, I have sought him and I've found him.”  

The tumor was removed, and while it left Rosanne with double vision, loss of balance, and complete deafness in her right ear, she chose to be grateful.

Rosanne: “As I learned to thank God for the little things and for the things I have left, it gave me joy. I began to understand what James meant when he said ‘Count it all joy, brothers, when you go through trials of many kinds.’ How can you otherwise recognize God's goodness in every part of your life? I thank God that even though I've lost part of my hearing, I can still hear a bird song in the mornings. And I thank God that I can still look through my camera and see his beauty. I have a husband who loves me and cares for me. I have three beautiful children, and now two grandsons, and another on the way. I have a church body that came around us during the time of Mark's death that just blew us away with their love. How can I not be grateful?”

Through their sorrows, they have found the meaning of joy. And through their passions, they have found the beauty of God.

Rod: “I find that I fall in love with the pottery when I make it. I can put my thumb in and it shows. I can put a stamp in it; it shows that pattern. And then I cut it off the wheel and I set it aside and it dries. And it’s not soft and pliable anymore. It's hard. And it's kind of lifeless. Then when it comes through the final firing, it's just like ‘Wow!’ It takes on a whole new life. There is almost a pathway of death and rebirth in that whole process that I think is reflected in what we've come through – what each one of us goes through as God brings us through death, really into new life in-in Him and it’s His work. And He brings you forth into something that really, really glorifies Him.”

Rosanne: “I love capturing light. I love the way God has created light and the way it filters through things, the way it changes colors…the way the landscape changes. I get up in the mornings and I look out and the first thing I see is a sunrise. It's just a constant reminder of his faithfulness. Every day the sun rises. He's there – every day, he's with me. He never fails, never ever fails.”

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