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God Never Fails

I was jolted awake by the sound of the telephone. It made me mad and my mind screamed “who could be calling so early?  Make it stop.” All I wanted to do was nestle back in bed next to my husband, Eddie, instead of waking up already.

As soon as my eyes opened completely, dread overwhelmed me because anyone calling this early would have a serious reason. With my heart racing, I ran to answer the phone attempting to focus my mind on the caller.

Eddie’s youngest brother John was speaking, his voice full of emotion. He was saying, “Nicole is dead. She killed herself.” My brain simply could not connect with his words.  I could not comprehend, was he really telling me my 28-year-old niece committed suicide? What could have happened to bring her to such a decision? To leave behind twin toddler daughters?  I was in shock and disbelief at what I was hearing.

John pressed me so I quickly woke up Eddie, handing him the phone.  In a blur, I went through the motions of getting ready for work while Eddie gathered himself together.

When Nicole was a teenager she was tortured by lies and insecurity in greater depth than the typical teen who craves love and acceptance.   She strived to be productive, to make good choices, to practice better-coping methods and still life remained extraordinarily challenging.

At times, there were glimpses of vulnerability when she was open to family and friend’s guidance and support. Yet the suffering would move in waves and become overpowering at moments in time.  She kept us all on the fringe, unable to be fully transparent.

Life appeared brighter for Nicole when she became a mom, she was so proud of her girls. It was like sunshine through the clouds.  Once again family and friends surrounded her with love and support.  She wore a smile, posed for photos, spoke the right words, and posted her best self on social media, all the while remaining silent, keeping us at a distance and hiding the anguish that was building.

Unbeknownst to us, the internal battles continued until they were uncontrollable and in hopelessness, she made another choice.

Everyone is fighting their own battle; some are visible and others are not.  Mental illness weaves into one’s life and so often does not let go. It is a challenge to drive the road of life, full of construction and potholes. Without guidance for changing lanes, navigation can appear to be impossible.

Losing a loved one to suicide leaves so many unanswered questions.

As I made the hour drive to my office my emotions went on a roller coaster ride, sitting in the seat of sadness and confusion my tears would not stop. I was moving on automatic pilot when I arrived at my office. Upon hearing the news and seeing my puffy eyes, my teammates insisted I go be with my family.

Even as I walked in confusion, God remained faithful and completely understood that I needed to be rescued from feelings of guilt.

God is greater than our feelings, and He knows everything (1 John 3:20b).

He is unchanging, supreme and our perfect creator. Our feelings shift, impacted by external influences or faulty thinking. He remains, even when we are unaware.

After arrangements and details were made there was an afternoon when I had the opportunity to sit in my rocking chair, journaling on our patio. Our backyard is my place for solitude and quiet; full of shade trees, bird feeders and an array of colors bursting from flowers. A safe haven where I could be alone to unpack my thoughts, dialogue with the Lord and dive into His Word.

God met me in this space. He understood I needed to be comforted. He reminded me Nicole was not alone, not abandoned and He did not fail her.  He will not let me down or walk off and leave me either (Hebrews 13:5 msg).  As waves of emotions flooded my soul once again, I was overwhelmed with peace visualizing God sitting with me.

Can you grasp the truth that you are never alone?

He further impressed upon my heart truths from Lamentations chapter 3:20-23 (NLT) and Psalm 30:5b (NLT):

I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness. His mercies begin afresh each morning.

Weeping may last through the night but joy comes with the morning.

Each of us experiences grief in our own unique ways.  Jesus experienced this when his friend Lazarus died. The shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35 Jesus wept.  Yet it speaks volumes.  Even though He knew He would raise him from the dead He responded with great emotion and deep sorrow.

Though Jesus knows and sees the joyful ending He still gets down in the middle of our sorrow and holds us close, mingling His tears with ours.

Do you feel alone or confused? Are you grieving from loss or carrying a heavy burden?  Is life overwhelming?

Did you know the Bible says God is always thinking about you? (1 Peter 5:7 TLB)  He watches everything that concerns you.

He already knows your heartache. 

He may not deliver you from the pain but will you allow Him to be your Deliverer in the midst of it?

Even when all hope is gone, His promises remain.

He will be with you always.

He never fails.

Joy will come.

Resurrected Dreams

No way! I am not a fearful person! Or am I? Is it okay to step into my dream?

These were my journaling reflections as I sat alone at my kitchen table, allowing anxiety to rise like a volcano spewing its lethal contents. Doubts shadowing my thoughts, holding me captive as the rays of sunlight crept through the window.

The slivers of light illuminated the words on my iPad screen, causing me to hold my breath as I clicked the register link on the email. 

That click began a resurrection of a writing dream.

When I was six years old, my family moved from the Midwest to the West Coast. My first-grade teacher began reading Charlotte’s Web to the class. It was a balm to my spirit because Wilbur, the farm pig, became friends with Charlotte, the spider. Wilbur didn’t want food; he wanted a friend. That was the craving of my uncertain heart, and I found friendship in the words of books.

This teacher nurtured and cultivated the seed that she planted with Charlotte’s Web. She was the first-word gardener of my life.

As an introverted child, I escaped into numerous adventures through books. The words sprung out with spirit-fueled power, jolting me to grab a pen. I found myself writing my own words, yet my words were unknown, like the seed under the soil, experiencing drought, and refusing to surface.

Self-doubt creeped in, stunting the seed until a creative writing teacher became another word gardener, pouring nourishment on my parched seed. This time the seed busted through to become a bud, striving to grow, change, and show all the beauty that awaited inside the bud.

My dream was sprouting. 

As the seasons of life unfolded, the sprout became overcrowded with the weeds of unbelief. My budding writing dream remained buried by layers of fear and insecurity.

The internal beauty of the bud stayed hidden until I courageously stepped into the FlourishWriters garden with a click on the screen.

FlourishWriters, gardeners of words, tended to the bud with their tools. Slowly, the dirt shifted as the ground was tilled by spades of coaching, watered by teaching, and fertilized with words of encouragement from the garden community.

From the positive feedback, the constructive insight lifted my heart and provided the opportunity for my budding writing dream to develop once again. 

There was growth in my confidence as I attended the live video coaching calls. During one session, as I was sitting in my family room with my iPad connected to the TV, my words appeared on the screen. I did not realize I was holding my breath as a FlourishWriters coach acknowledged me by name. I braced myself as she reviewed my draft, using it as a teaching example.

Instantaneously, tears sprung to my eyes as the words of my story were spoken out loud. I was seen, no longer invisible with a buried dream. The minuscule sprout that was just peeking out of the ground developed and flourished.

Through the season of cultivation, FlourishWriters gardeners were instruments for the connection to the Master Gardener, who cuts, trims, and prunes to bring life. It was as if a kinked garden hose was straightened, and living water was soaking my dream into a plant.

How validating it was to hear my stories were meant to be God’s stories for speaking truth, encouragement, and a guide to healing.

How could I not believe when God, the Master Creator’s mere words resulted in astounding beauty in the universe? 

If I am to believe Him, that means I am worthy and capable of realizing my blossoming dream. That I was made to come alive, designed, and equipped to move into my heart’s desire.

I wrestled between hope and fear. 

God nurtured and led me to Isaiah 43:1, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (ESV).

Exhaling, as if I was spitting out the anxiety and the lie that I am not worthy, I inhaled the truth that God is still in the resurrection business and is calling me to abundant life.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

As His masterpiece, you are beautiful and beloved; you are a living work of art displaying His creativity and grace. 

He holds your future. Even before you were born, God planned your destiny.  

You are His masterpiece, and He is already in your future.

Sit with that a moment.

Can you remember your dreams? Did you bury them, or are they seemingly out of reach? 

Maybe you poured more dirt on your speck of a seed, or you cannot find the nozzle to the garden hose, or the handles are broken on the gardening tools.

Is it because you feel they are not meant for you?

Mustering up a brave moment will not make you able. You can walk into your dreams because of who Jesus is, and what He has already done.

He sees you as His beloved, worthy of resurrected, unrealized dreams.

It’s time to bloom. 

The God that Heals

It had been over two years since our daughter graduated from university, married and moved away. I missed her like any mom would miss her only child. She was my best friend, and in many ways, we grew up together. We shared clothing, shoes, purses, books, life lessons and belly laughs. One day my daughter’s words of truth would pierce my soul causing the protective layers of my heart to strip away.

As parents, we want to protect our children from pain, and often we teach using our own mistakes.  When Crystal was in junior high, God opened one such opportunity during a car ride to a True Love Waits youth rally.

Through tears, I shared a story of my own teenage heartache. At that time, I did not understand how valuable, loved and beautiful I was to God. Because of this I easily gave myself away. These choices resulted in a pregnancy at age 16. Rejected. Alone. Wounded. Ashamed. I ended the pregnancy by abortion.

This was the painful life lesson I shared with my tween daughter.  It was my heart’s desire that she grow up knowing she was treasured, valued and loved.  An unexpected, precious gift from God, one that I did not deserve. I was overwhelmed with gratitude and would do all I could to teach her what I was not taught.

After she married and moved several states away, I eagerly awaited letters from my daughter. When the mail arrived, my anticipation would grow; hoping to see her handwriting on one of the envelopes.

One crisp fall day, I was overjoyed when such an envelope appeared in our mailbox. Our backyard is a haven for birds, trees, and colorful landscape, so I took my treasured letter to the patio, excited to connect, to learn more about Crystal and Jeremiah’s newlywed life of adventure.

As I began reading, her words caused me to stop. My vision become blurred as my breathing quickened, and the tears began falling from my eyes.  She wrote, “Mom, God knows the choices we are going to make and yet He still chooses to love us unconditionally.  God has already forgiven us of everything when Jesus died – it was a future forgiveness that covers all shortcomings. Abortion is sometimes labeled as the unforgivable sin, but that is a lie straight from the enemy. You are forgiven.”

Her words continued, “Mom, there are times where I see something in your face or hear something in your voice that tells me that you don’t like yourself very much. This is a common effect of abortion – women punish themselves for the rest of their lives even though God has redeemed them. You have been redeemed. You are loved and loveable (even if you don’t always feel that way).”

It felt like I was punched in the stomach. I thought I worked through the pain after surrendering to Jesus as an adult, but clearly, the wound remained.

Because of God’s kindness combined with Crystal’s sensitivity to His leading to speak the truth in love, I was able to acknowledge my sorrow and the shame that remained. That day was the beginning of a healing journey with God. It was then I stopped denying that the abortion affected my life deeply.

For 28 years I did not mourn the death of my child because there was no evidence that a baby ever existed. I became aware of the need to grieve the loss of my unborn child when I realized that time does not actually heal all wounds.

On that healing journey, the Lord met me in my sorrow and healed my broken heart.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” Psalm 34:18 (NLT)

When I sank deeper into the fullness of His love, received His unconditional forgiveness, and escaped buried shame, all the leftover guilt lifted.  I finally forgave myself. Jehovah-Rapha, my Healer, tenderly led me through a two-year grieving process of reconciliation.

One Memorial Day, family and friends gathered to plant a tree in our backyard under the shining, bright sun. It was part of a memorial ceremony for my unborn child. A son, who I named Benjamin after Rachel and Jacob’s son. In Genesis 35, with Rachel’s dying breath, she named her baby Ben-Oni, “son of my sorrow,” yet Jacob redeemed the name calling him Benjamin which means “son of honor.”  In the same way that love covered sorrow, I chose to honor my unborn son with the name Benjamin.

My sweet, beloved husband, Eddie, prepared the tree: a white blossoming tree to symbolize purity, cleansing, and innocence for both me and Benjamin. It was fitting that Crystal was also by my side to recognize her brother.

I shared my story, both the beautiful and the ugly – the story God knew He would redeem, the story of His unfailing love and acceptance.

On that Memorial Day, I let go of the sin, shame, and sorrow of my past which was covered by God’s perfect love. I was healed and set free (John 8:36) to fully embrace the future He planned for me long ago.

Each day I remind myself of the truth that I have been redeemed and forgiven. I am loved and loveable.

Do you have unattended wounds? Wounds that you thought you processed, or did you simply tuck them out of sight?

Jehovah-Rapha is speaking to you today.

You are loved and loveable. Receive His love and His healing for you.