Start here. In
the shivering nakedness
of not knowing but
being known. A rebirth.
Where your heartbeat
nestles under the Father’s. Listen.
His voice secures
your every anxious thought when
He calls you by name. Beloved.
Finally, you can rest in His
I was planted in the parched desert of suffering.
Others scoffed at The Gardener who sows
in such unforgiving ground.
“Nothing could ever grow in that graveyard.”
They think they know better how to be fruitful.
Scattering seeds in shallow
soil of rich pleasure and ignore the weeds
that will one day choke them out.
But joy grows in this barren land
chosen for me.
I can’t depend upon myself to sustain.
I look to Him for rain.
Lean into His whispering wind for understanding.
Open my heart to the sunshine of His love,
Hope in the fruit I cannot yet see.
Faith and trust grow here.
I know that I know, The Gardener loves reaping a harvest.
Even in deserts
There are reminders that He is near.
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.
You didn’t impatiently check your watch like
you had someplace more important to be.
A God who listens.
You didn’t stare down my vulnerability
in disgust. As I poured out my broken heart,
you grabbed a tissue and sobbed with me.
A God who cries.
Your counsel didn’t come down from a distant marble throne.
You stepped into the crowd, looking for me.
A God who draws near.
ME—A single lost sheep.
You took my hand
into your callused carpenter’s hand,
and walked the journey of hope with me.
A God who touches humanity.
Turning My Page
I have had counselors of all sorts through my healing process and God used every single one of them to grow me. There remains only one counselor, the Holy Spirit, who has changed me from the inside out, while all the world’s counselors have the power to do is to change me from the outside in.
Just today I was tempted to bitterness and hardness, but God softened my heart with the following words, “I know it hurts. I see you.” We live in a messed-up fallen world and we are all prone to hurt one another. It was comforting to know that He knows my pain and gives a way for me to live differently than my sinful nature. The Holy Spirit has helped me to keep a short account of the wounds I have caused and the ones received. It has taken practice, oh so much practice, to listen and discern the crowed voices of self-help advice versus the genuine voice of the Holy Spirit in me.
I have learned that the Holy Spirit will never contradict scripture. His goal is to reveal truth and testify about Jesus.
“But I will send you the Advocate—the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me.
John 15:26 NLT
What a comfort to know I have an advocate who walks this journey with me.
Turning Your Page
List some of the voices that currently direct your path. Anyone or anything that steers you in a direction away from the voice of truth. They may come in the form of critics, well-meaning friends, religion, or enemies.
The world will always tell you that there is always peace in following the Holy Counselor. This is a false direction. The Holy Spirit has led men and women throughout history to stand against enemies, lay down a life for a friend, and took Jesus to the cross. Test spiritual direction against scripture and if you mishear, as all the original disciples did, pick yourself up again and try again.
Romans 8 lists what the Holy Spirit Does and Does Not Do on our behalf:
Not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved; but hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he can already see? But if we hope for what we do not yet see, we wait for it patiently.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know how we ought to pray, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans too deep for words. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Lord, tune my heart to your voice. I have so many negative and destructive voices vying for my attention. Your love and direction come in a still small voice. Amen
Words of yesterday slammed
into my chest, mocking the
rhythm of will.
Why do I till the rocky
soil of relationships for hope
day after day, I start again.
Let go—an impossible smile
appears on my battered tear-streaked face.
I look you boldly in the eye
strengthened by forgiveness. Whether
you ever embrace my love, I know I
have embraced His.
Turning My Page:
Embracing the love of Jesus is changing how I love. Quick-tempered, I replay events, fantasize what I would say to those who have hurt me. I am the hero of every story. But, the truth is, I am often the villain, speaking words that cause heartache in my husband and children’s lives.
My daughter reminded me of this truth last week as she interrupted my son and me in a heated argument. Instantly the following happened:
I looked at Daniel and really saw him.
Recognized that what I was so defensive about mattered far less than my son.
To Natalie it didn’t matter who was right, it mattered that we love one another.
I prayed: God help me to love my son as you love me.
We apologized to one another.
Forgiveness strengthened our relationship.
I am different because Jesus said, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Thank you, Lord!
Turning Your Page:
Forgiveness strengthens us because it takes our focus off of self and places it squarely on Jesus. Jesus was dying on the cross when he said the above words. He had his eyes on the prize. Reconciliation between his Holy Father and the wretched sinners placing our only hope on the cross.
When another person hurts you can the wound be filtered through forgiveness? Maybe all you can manage now is to pray for them. That is okay. Ask God to help you.
I cry out to you Jesus! Help me to forgive as you have forgiven me. I am a wretch hating another wretch. Lord help me to keep my eyes fixed on you, and to love my enemies, no matter how my soul is battered by this world. Amen
Form of a condemned caterpillar, known by a Creator who loves the despised. Chosen to shed the itchy filth and red rags of hopelessness And emerge into a purple cloak of hope–You delight in me!
Turning My Page: My Cloak of Hope
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
2 Corinthians 5;17 ESV
Sometimes, I don’t want to change. I want to stay secure in my chrysalis and avoid life. I’ve experienced a lot of trials, right? I deserve to check out of my troubles for a while. Let others fulfill Christ’s purpose. Metamorphosis isn’t the climax, it is the tomb. The resurrection of a caterpillar to a butterfly is what makes the butterfly so spectacular. I can’t remain in the chrysalis, I must trust God, use my wings, and fulfill the purpose God has for me.
Jesus spelled out my purpose from the moment I accepted him as my Savior. I am to proclaim the good news, but don’t always feel like I capture the depth of God’s transformation in my life. Before I met Jesus, I used the words worthless, failure, and mistake. I searched for meaning in every place but a relationship with God. Then Jesus pursued me with great fervor and delight and convinced me of his love. Now, I love God’s truth and desire life, not death. God custom made a new wardrobe for my attitude.
Too often I catch myself looking through the old closet of thoughts and actions. Colossians 3:10-12 says that God has given me a new cloak of hope as a believer and follower of him. The chrysalis feels safer, but it is like living in a grave while your heart still beats. I am a transformed butterfly, meant to glorify God by sharing the reason for the hope I have, and fear does not have the final say.
A believer in Christ should truly look different.
When God removes our filthy garments of sin, and despair, and places his love and attitude on us, it should be noticeable. Not perfect. God immediately took away my suicidal ideations and desire for alcohol, but many other areas took, stretching, sacrifice, and growth.
In scripture, we see examples of immediate physical changes and in others a turning from sin when Christ entered the room. Immediately, the disciples dropped what they were doing to follow Jesus, but the transformation of their spirit and attitude did not begin until the resurrection. They were in the chrysalis of transformation. I don’t want to end the story, still caught in the in-between of faith. The cloak of faith in Jesus’ revealed that I am a butterfly. Oh, the joy to display his spender!
Turning Your Page
Custom Fitted Cloak of Hope
Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ. So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline.
Colossians 3:10-12 MSG
What garment do you wear? Are your words, your heart, your thinking transformed by God’s love for you? When we wear new garments of salvation and belief, there is a heavenly glow. Just as Moses radiated in the Old Testament because he spent time meeting with God, so too, will you as you sit at the feet and apply the love God has for you.
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, describe how has spending time in scripture, fellowshipping with other believers, and loving your neighbor as yourself changed your garments? If you do not yet know this Jesus I talk about, describe your current garments? How would you like others to perceive you? What current attitudes are you struggling with?
Snap a picture of a butterfly and post it to my Facebook Page. What do you know about how a butterfly is transformed? How would you describe a transforming moment in your life?
Lord, bring me out, place on me the full cloak of your glory. Amen
Do you feel like a broken butterfly? God has purposed you to fly no matter what you have experienced. Broken Butterflies: Emerging Through Grief is a collection of poems that illustrated in vivid details that the blow I received would not stop me from flying to God’s glory.
Healing among the Tombs emerged from time studying the demon-possessed man described in Mark 5. I wrestled with and even hesitate to post anything in this arena. I have edited this intro repeatedly, but a wise friend suggested, “If you could tell your audience anything, without hindrance, what would it be?”
I would tell you:
There is hope, no matter the reasons for your mental health struggles.
We have an enemy called Satan who seeks to separate us from the love of God in any way he can.
As Mark 5 shows, nothing will ever hinder Jesus, not even a legion of (approximately 6,000) demons.
We need to be as equipped by the Holy Spirit with discernment of the needs of those around us.
We fight the spiritual battle with scripture, allies, prayer, fasting, and by knowing whose authority we speak.
Many are terrorized by despair right now and I can’t just advocate for the physical fight.
The people of the town had tried everything to subdue the man. Nothing in this world could save or relieve him of his torture.
He made his home among the tombs and was so violent that he broke through chains repeatedly. It seems that no one could possibly help this man. Had they given up? How did he come to be possessed? Did others bring him food? Did he have a family? Who chained him? What was the man’s family feeling? They may have even been the ones who chained him so that he would stop his self-harm.
The bottom line.
It took a divine encounter with Jesus to free him.
It took a divine encounter with Jesus to stop my self-harm and place me on a different path.
We have an enemy seeking to destroy us all and it is a spiritual battle as well as a physical one. I have witnessed spiritual attacks firsthand. I can’t pretend the problem will be only solved with physical solutions.
This man needed Jesus. I need Jesus to stand against a spirit of despair that has led to over 48,000 suicides in the US. He will turn the tide, and my prayer is that you and I can be a spark of hope.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can make your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Turning My Page: Among the Tombs
Forgotten, I greeted you from the remembrances. My home is hollowed from wealth, ready to entertain kings and demons. You crossed the unclean threshold of my grave, your royal robes billowing in the sea sworn breeze.
A crown, only seen by our eyes, testifies to us who you are. Naked, we claw with rocks at our putrid vulnerable flesh, mutilating your earthly jewel. We’ll make you unrecognizable too. Rip the flesh off God.
My God, why have you forsaken me?
I screamed for release from day and night horror. While they cried out to remain fast. I was a scarred lamb within, and a roaring lion without.
Mighty Samson would not tame we beating beasts.
But You, the Son of God, entered my tomb and knocked the breath out of me. What man chained you commanded freed. Clothed in righteousness, I now cling to you.
I am a demoniac commissioned to share the truth of your love for mankind.
Only God raises the dead.
Turning Your Page
You may have a loved one wrestling with mental illness. Whether demonic in nature, physical, or spiritual is not for us to determine. Only God can do so. Yet, God gives authority and discernment for man to cast out demons. Jesus used scripture to fight Satan; we can do the same.
Start with prayer. Ask God to equip you with His Holy Spirit’s guidance.
Begin listing out scriptures that speak about the spiritual battle we fight.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5
Lord, I acknowledge that I feel ill-equipped to catch glimpses of the heavenly battle, yet you have chosen to open my eyes to the unseen attacks of Satan. Father, train me from head to toe to trust your will and shut the mighty lion’s mouth that seeks to devour our world! Amen
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
Turning My Page
What would happen if God took the contents of your heart and spilled them out on a table like security at an airport checkpoint and conducted a spiritual heart check? What would it reveal about you as it ran through the x-ray machine?
My son packed his metal airplane in his suitcase. Security had a chuckle as they ran it through security and questioned him about what type of plane it was and where it was flying today. Lately, God has turned my heart inside out and is examining the contents. Once again, I am facing my emotional nemesis: anger, bitterness, envy, and self-loathing.
But this time feels different, not a sudden revelation of my emotional baggage like it was thirteen years ago, as I accused God of being unjust. No, this emptying out feels like healing and putting into practice a deeper trust.
Healing because God wants to remove the sin that keeps tripping me up from running the course he has marked for me. This season is about trusting God’s character, submitting to his plan, and not leaning on my own understanding. He wants me to surrender to my weakness. Does it hurt? Yes. Will I be perfect in my execution of God’s will and purpose? No.
Just as God deemed David a man after his own heart when no one else could see David’s heart–not even a prophet–God understands what my heart needs. I am nervous, but also a tad bit excited. God reveals his plan and purpose to use me in mighty ways, not despite my weaknesses, but because of them. He activated that purpose from my mother’s wound, not when I get my act together.
Turning Your Page: Kathy’s Spiritual Heart Check
I met Kathy Collard Miller at Rebound Your Highest and immediately felt a connection. Scripture, personal experience, a sense of humor, gentle spirit–all the elements of a woman after God’s own heart were there. What does that mean, to be “after God’s own heart”?
So if anyone cleanses himself of what is unfit, he will be a vessel for honor: sanctified, useful to the Master, and prepared for every good work. Flee from youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
2 Timothy 2:22
Any of us can pursue God, but it requires a turning away from those things that drag us down, hurt us, and separate us from God and for us to turn towards what pleases him.
Kathy thought she was alone in her out-of-control anger. She cried out for help and her life would never be the same. God taught Kathy how to turn away from sin and turn toward his love for her. Hear her testimony of transformation, and join us for a discussion at 7 pm on godly ways to deal with anger and any other emotion that feels out of control.
Lord, you are with me. Inspect my heart, find anything that hinders me from walking closely with you. Amen
I came to mend broken boards on a porch–just being neighborly– and found my own clay restored within your arthritic hands. “Lemonade, dear.”
Your voice, a windchime in the quiet breeze, drew me away from the incessant ding of my fast-paced phone. So much unfinished work, on top of Jessica nagging John Jr. needed new shoes and my layoff pressed into my soul like a branding iron. I never planned on being the neighborhood handyman, I thought bitterly. “Sure.”
But even as I sipped your cool offering, the tension eased from my shoulders. “What did you put in this?” I asked warily. “Nothing the Good Lord didn’t make. Sugar and lemons,” you respond, slowly working your bones into rocking chair shape with your own glass on the wrought iron table beside.
Silence spoke between us. The rocking creak of your chair on the boards was hypnotic. I snapped out of my trance and realized I had long since placed the new boards and my glass drained. “That looks so nice dear, my sweet Paul couldn’t have done it better. Refill dear? Come sit in his chair and rest a while.” I obeyed. “Can I tell you about Paul?” You poured. I listened.
He called me his ‘Rambling Rose’, you pointed at the sweet fragrant roses climbing the trellis in your garden. “Planted those on our wedding day…” The crickets resumed their chorus as she rocked somewhere else. “I miss him.”
Your voice was heavy with remembering. Would I miss Jessica with the same weight in my voice? I couldn’t remember the last thing I planted in my wife’s life. “Got to tend to them daily.” You said as if listening to my thoughts. With that, you got up, went to the basket at the end of the porch, put on gloves, and tended your roses. I slowly packed my tools and returned them to my truck. Reluctant to leave.
But, my job was complete. “Goodby MS Daphnie,” I said, tipping my hat in farewell. You held up a crooked finger. “Wait, son, I have something for you.” You handed me a small pot with a freshly planted cutting from your rose. Your cray paper hand squeezed mine with surprising strength. “It’s never too late dear.” With that, you turned and returned to your chair rocking rhythm, sipping lemonade, and gazing at Paul’s empty chair.
I climbed into the truck and cradled the plant between my lunch pail and toolbox. And as your frame shrunk behind me, my heart suddenly longed for home. John Jr. would be getting off the bus soon, it would be nice to greet him for once. He was getting so big. Jessica’s lopsided grin, came to mind. She playfully splashed dishwater as I read the Sunday paper this morning. “I was irritated she got the sports section wet.” I cried out. I shook my head, shocked at the bitter root I tended. I looked down at the cutting again. Never too late.
The dust trail kicked up behind me as I took the dirt road to our home. I watched Jessica come onto the porch as she usually did to greet me. She held two glasses of lemonade in her hand. Her auburn hair catching fire in the evening sun. So beautiful.
I came to mend your porch Ms. Daphnie but walked away with you mending me. As I swept my surprised wife into my arms. My heart filled with joy. “Can we save up for rocking chairs?”
Turning Your Page: Become a Healer
For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He chastises every son He receives.
Hebrews 12:6 BSB
We need rocking chair healers in our lives. Those men and women who see our brokenness and do not turn away. They are the Ms. Daphnie’s of the world, who in slow and steady quiet, speak truth, and challenge our bitterness. Who do you have in your life that is a rocking chair healer? Write them a note of how their faithfulness has encouraged you. Take the opportunity to cultivate awareness of your neighbors so that you too can speak love, healing hope, and peace into their lives.
Describe a person who has encouraged you in simple or big ways. What gifts and talents did they use?
What areas in your life need encouragement? Seek out a friendship with a person who is strong in those areas. Ask them to mentor you.
Find a person to speak life into. Write a note of encouragement. Take opportunities to sit with, listen to, and be available when they are down.
Jesus you are my rocking chair healer. You sit with me, listen, encourage, and challenge me. Thank you. Teach me to slow down and be present in the lives of other hurting souls. Amen
Here are a few of the Rocking Chair Healers in My Life:
For You have delivered my soul from death, and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.
Turning My Page
Tomorrow is an anniversary no one in my family wants to relive. Yet, every year, July 1st still arrives and we have to decide what to do with it. The sadness swallowed me up today so my husband asked me to share special memories of Jonathan.
Remembering and laughing brought me out of my funk and made me realize that I would have to be intentional about tomorrow.
Lord, I acknowledge that you are redeeming the ruins of my yesterday.
I remember and invite others to remember and share with me their memories of Jonathan’s character, his love for God, family, and friends, and the adventures and laughter
Have lunch at Moes
Sing and record my video on Psalms at the beach
Photograph what brings me joy and peace
Raise our Jarritos in memory of Jonathan
Father, redeem July 1st, and may I honor you, your love for Jonathan, and the perfect peace you give to me. Suicide is not the whole story. Amen
Turning Your Page
Do you have a day you need redeemed? Notice what makes the day hard. It may be injustice, it may be loss, anger. Don’t shy away from what you feel, because those emotions are as much a part of revealing God’s redemption as the good ones. There are so many things in this life that hurt. Learn to feel, but continue to write your story through the pain.
What makes the day hard? Sum up why this day seems to unwind any progress or growth you have made since your first moment of trauma.
Are there others who can help you through this day? List out some activities that bring you joy and pick one to do on your hard day.
Pick a song, psalm, or passage as your focus to read out loud throughout the day or meditate on. Acknowledge your heartache while moving your thoughts towards God’s perspective on your suffering.
Lord on my hardest day, you were there. Though all I may be able to do is cling to you when I remember that day, I know that you care for my every wound and bring healing and wholeness to my broken soul. Amen