You didn’t hold Christmas back from my troubles.
You slipped into my dirty world on a crowded
night of cares, with a star and angels as a birth
Chubby fingers curled around my broken
heart before I knew I needed you. The earthy
the fragrance of shepherds, a stable, a carpenter,
and a young girl seems an unexpected
entrance for a king.
You lifted my tear-stained cheeks to
take in the wonder of Your presence.
My soul, crushed by a million fears,
found joy and peace in a tiny dependent baby—
God dependent upon a woman, the words
twist in my mouth as sacrilege. Yet you
upended my every flesh-tainted notion
of your holiness.
God with me, so that
I know that I know my sorrow
is not in vain.
A tangible God, for a flesh and bones sinner,
nestled in strips of cloth. I can hardly take
the majesty of your complete love.
While we recognize that Christmas is the time believers celebrate the birth of Jesus and family and friends gather, we also acknowledge the heartache many of you are experiencing today. Some of you have just lost a loved one to suicide.
That is why our guest blogger, Pam S. Walker’s testimony is so moving.
She uses both the sorrow from the loss of her mother to suicide and the joys that emerge out of her choice to live life to the fullest. She encourages us to do the same.
Jonathan brought Pam and me together through his death in 2014. As we mourned and comforted one another, we discovered our mutual love for writing ministry.
May you be both challenged and encouraged this Christmas as you walk through all circumstances in life.
Merry Christmas, from Turning the Page on Suicide.
“Does God still care for me? Does He even exist?”
It has been 36 years since I celebrated Christmas with you. Yet, not a year goes by that I don’t miss you or wonder what life would be like had you not chosen to end your life 11 days before your 41st birthday. Your birthday, so close to Christmas, keeps your decision fresh in my memory each year.
During this month, I often think of the famous letter that a young girl, also named Virginia, submitted to the New York Sun in 1897. She asked if Santa Claus was real. Instead of asking about the existence of this jolly St. Nick, I think you must have asked another compelling question throughout your depressed state: Does God still care for me? Does He even exist?
So many questions were unanswered back then. With no note left behind, we had no choice but to draw our own conclusions. Sadly, as a sophomore in college, I was too consumed with my own life to see the depths of your despair. You hid it well. Always wearing a smile for others, and yet wrestling inside with sadness.
I thought your suicide would draw me back to God. Back to the childhood faith, you shared with me. I remember feeling His presence so strongly during that long car ride from college when Uncle Mike and Aunt Camille came to pick me up. The radiant sunlight bursting forth through the dreary Indiana winter sky seemed like God’s own hands reaching down to tell me that things would be okay. Although much of the week that followed your death was a blur, several things remain forever etched in my mind.
Attempting to console Grandma after burying her youngest daughter. Seeing Daddy’s tears and blank stare. Wondering if I could grasp the depth of pain Gary would have to deal with for the rest of his life after being the one to find you.
Why would a loving God allow one of His own to choose the path of suicide? Instead of seeking answers from His Word and other Christian brothers and sisters, I ran.
For nearly 10 years, I turned to unhealthy coping: stuffing my emotions, drinking to numb the pain, but thinking I was brave. When I finally stopped running and surrendered my life to God, I moved back to my Indiana home. Only then, I realized that God’s hands protected me every day since losing you. His love, care, and protection have been so evident throughout the seasons of my life.
If only you were here for me to speak of His unfailing and extravagant love. I would tell you, “Yes, Virginia, there is a God. I experienced His love when He saved me from my hell-bound race and turned my eyes toward Him. I learning to live one day at a time without numbing my pain through alcohol.”
God was there when Daddy walked me down the aisle on my wedding day to my beloved, David, where we committed to spending the rest of our lives together until death do us part. And God comforted me when David took his last breath six years ago after losing his battle to cancer but winning his eternal prize; everlasting life with our Lord Jesus Christ.
He was there when I experienced the miracle of birth through my two beautiful daughters, your granddaughters, and the sadness of a miscarriage in-between. I experienced firsthand how fearfully and wonderfully we are made.
God was there when Gary and I discovered your closely guarded secret. You sacrificially gave a baby up for adoption before you were married. Lisa is now a part of our family. She looks so much like you with her curly hair, short stature, and spunky personality. And she was raised in a Christian home just as you requested of the agency.
God was there when He gave me the desires of my heart, allowing me to live my dream job of combining writing and ministry. And He was there when Uncle Mike walked me down the aisle to join hands with the new love He had brought into my life, Michael.
Yes, Virginia, there is a God. And I know that you are with Him now. While suicide ended your life on this earth, God’s love for you is eternal. I hold fast to His promises in Romans 8:38-39: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I know that nothing can ever pluck you from His hand!
Your Pamela Sue
Pam S. Walker is the former National Editor of Answers magazine, a publication of Answers in Genesis, and is a freelance writer living in the Cincinnati area where she writes for various Christian publications.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3 ESV).
Turning My Page: Lean In To Hope
Nativity displays beneath the canvas of night.
Where a mother sings, and chosen father dreams.
A candle, lit by God, twinkles in the heavens and
announces salvation has arrived.
And hope, swaddled in tender flesh,
sucks his thumb.
and the wise lean in, to wonder, are you my king?
And I, an offspring of His coming,
testify 2,000 years later, He is
Emmanuel. God With Us, leaning
in to shape my spirit.
Turning Your Page
Have you ever contemplated the vast effect of those first moments with Jesus? Many lives have been changed over the centuries because one baby was born. Two thousand years later, men and women are still willing to lay down their lives for this child gifted by God to redeem us. Read Luke 1-2:40.
Take about ten minutes to contemplate the sights and sounds of the nativity.
Which person do you identify with most?
Do you have questions for Jesus?
What images and pictures of His arrival catch your attention?
Try to use your senses to write a description or poem interacting with aspects of the nativity.
How has your life been changed by the birth of Jesus?
Leave a link to your poem in the comments or pingback to this post: Lean In To Hope
Jesus, I am in awe of your birth. You are a God I often want to make distant, and yet you took on my struggles. I too can endure sorrow upon sorrow because you love me and are with me and I find joy in this life because my hope firmly placed in you. Amen
No one plans on unwrapping depression during the holidays.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1 KJV)
Depression is a gift not easily returned to a store. I say gift because, as I work through despair I also discover my capacity to fight it.
Twenty-two years ago depression became a training ground for my faith. I hoped for what I could not yet see. I stretched weak, underdeveloped spiritual muscles. And survived attacks from the enemy. Beauty emerged from the ashes of my life.
We don’t have to have it all together to survive Christmas. But, we do have to have certain habits in place that are not optional. I am conditioning to be fearless and embrace discipline, compassion, and determination. Like a drill sergeant encouraging failure, depression stirs instead, my will to live.
Grief doesn’t take a hiatus, and physical pain may have no relief. The strain is constant, but we also experience joy. We can hope, remain open to new possibilities, step outside of our own thoughts, and engage the world. Not based upon feeling, but upon the basic way, humans were created. We were built for relationship. Based on that understanding, isolation is not an option.
Below is a Depression Survival Kit that I use on a regular basis. These habits help me to get through and even gain new ground through holidays.
Feel free to comment on anything that helps you to get through the holidays.
1-2 scriptures to read on a regular basis, call to mind when thoughts spiral
List of safe people (of the same sex) that I can call in case of an emergency
1-2 old traditions I will do (not based on feeling)
1-2 new traditions I will create with family, friends, strangers
Go to Christmas events
Signal designated departure friend to aid in a smoother exit
I don’t have to do all events
Stay engaged with the community (not an option)
Volunteer to help others
Encourage someone else who is struggling
Allow 1 or 2 people to take you out of your comfort zone
Laughter is good medicine (welcome humor)
Set goals and take steps to be as healthy as you can
Extend grace to yourself and others
My prayers are with you as you find joy this Christmas.
Have you ever
completely geeked out over a celebrity? I have.
It was 15 years ago when my husband and I attended a Toby Mac
concert. We were huge DC Talk fans and
seeing Toby Mac perform with his new band Diverse City was just as
After the concert, he set up a table outside the auditorium to sign autographs. We didn’t feel like standing in line so we went across the street to Wendy’s and bought some food. At the last minute, we bought some extra food to give to Toby Mac. When we returned we only had to wait a few minutes in line before we were able to talk to him. We gave him the extra food and then had a great conversation about race relations in the church and adopting biracial children. I think I managed to stay calm during the conversation but afterward, whenever I would talk to anyone about it, I would become overexcited and talk very fast. Many years later it is kind of embarrassing to think about how I was on cloud nine simply because I had a conversation with a famous Christian musician.
Oh, and don’t get
me started about the fact that I graduated from the same high school as
Jennifer Garner. My kids groan whenever
I start to mention it. They have heard
it too many times before.
Here’s the thing though, Toby Mac and Jennifer Garner are just everyday people, sinners like everyone else. It is only our culture that has elevated them to the high caste called talented and famous. And if I can be honest with myself, I know they aren’t above anyone else despite what our culture leads us to believe. I also know that Jennifer Garner has never met me and has no idea who I am. Likewise, I am fairly certain that Toby Mac does not remember me, the conversation or the meeting.
become excited about meeting someone simply because they are famous, rich,
powerful, or popular. Even though in our
heart we know they are simply human like us.
We might wonder what it would be like to be friends with them. We think it would somehow make our lives
better if we were to have them around.
Let me share
something astounding with you. There
is someone who is rich, powerful, strong, and wise who desires a relationship
with you. In fact, HE wants more than
just a casual friendship or a shallow comradery. He wants an intimate, loving, no holds barred,
kind of relationship. He wants to not
only know about you, but He wants to be known by you.
Amos 4:13 says this about Him:
He who forms the mountains, Creates the wind, And reveals his thoughts to man, He who turns dawn to darkness, And treads the high places of the earth- The Lord God Almighty is his name. It is mind boggling to think about this.
Someone who formed the mountains
desires a relationship with you. The one who creates the wind, he reveals his
thoughts to man!! (That is, you and me.) He treads the high places of the earth,
causes the sun to rise and set and he reveals
his thoughts to man!!! Talk about
having friends in high places, that is a truly powerful friend.
Jeremiah 33;2-3 says “This is what the Lord
says, he who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it- the
Lord is his name: ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and
unsearchable things you do not know.”
So yes, the Creator of the world wants us to call out to Him, to seek
Him, and to ask Him questions.
Try to grasp the big picture. He wants to have a relationship with
you! He desires to share things with
you. He also cares about you, though. Did you know that Jesus said in Matthew 10:30
that his Father knows how many hairs are on your head? Is it sinking in yet? He wants to be a part of your life, not just
on Sunday morning, but every day, every minute, every second, all the bad parts,
all the mundane trivial parts, all the exciting events. He wants to be there.
in his infinite wisdom though, knew it would be difficult for us as humans to
know an abstract being on a deep level. He wanted us to understand that he was
a compassionate, powerful, and just God.
And he wanted us to know Him on a
Philippians 2: 6 explains his solution. (Jesus)” Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but made himself nothing taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness”. He came to be our Redeemer but he also came that we may know him and understand him better. He left heaven to walk on this earth for you and me. He experienced cold, hunger, thirst, cruelty, and temptation in a human body so that you and I might know him fully and so that he could more fully understand us.
As this Advent season winds down, keep your eyes focused on him. The next time you feel disconnected from your co-workers at an office party, or feel like the black sheep at a family gathering, or if you just feel anxious or lonely because the holidays aren’t quite what you thought they should be; remember Jesus is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. Christmas is a celebration of Emmanuel – God with us.
Jesus’ greatest desire remains the same as it was 2000 years ago in the crowded town of Bethlehem. He desires to be with us no matter who we are, what we have done, or where we are. Praise God! He is with us, He knows us, and He loves us! That is worthy of a celebration!
Grieving Christmas is a list of juxtapositions. We are celebrating the birth of our savior, but we have lost a child. We are connecting with family members, but there is always one missing. We are opening gifts, but feel guilty for moving on without Jonathan.
God shaped the tangled vines of grief into beauty, by coming into our brokenness through Jesus, and he means for us to do the same. We display His identity, through joy, in the harshest of times. I’m not suggesting a forced, faked happiness, but a love that bubbles up in your pain, not in spite of it.
Christ didn’t come when everything was hunky dory in the world. He came in our desperate hour, when our losses outweighed our gains, and when the boot heel was on our throats.Israel was crying out for a savior, and as God in flesh took his first cry of humanity, our grief was changed to worship. Hope was born to the wise and the lowly, to shepherds and kings, to women and children, and to the poor, sick and needy. He was born in grief and raised us to new life in love.
That love enables me to shape grief into a new story. Not of what is lost, but what is gained. I fix my eyes ahead because Jonathan lived. His life is still changing mine. What I see as I grieve with hope:
God’s presence with us
Laughter is good medicine
My kids comforted
My family growing
Love poured out to the downcast
Souls saved from despair
Hope shaping my grief into joy
Open the gift of grief and allow beauty to be formed from the ashes of those things we cherished most on this earth.Loosen your grip on what isn’t and open your hands to the gift of what is and will be. What hope do you see this Christmas?
In the sidebar, there are now a list of links for mental health resources. I am hosting a Christmas Keep Collective, 25% of the profits will go to support the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI). I have created two bracelets, specifically to honor my son Jonathan, but you can create your own as well.
Please share the link, and let me know if you plan to shop.