But let me tell you something wonderful, a mystery I’ll probably never fully understand. We’re not all going to die—but we are all going to be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51 The MSG, Biblegateway)
My son’s birthday and Mother’s Day are irrevocably intertwined. He is my firstborn. The one who taught me both the joys and sorrows of motherhood. I am very intentional about May. I don’t want to forget that as much as eight birthdays without Jonathan hurts, the joy of living these almost nine years with Christ shows me hope is not diminished by the grave.
Turning My Page
Your birthday and motherhood are intertwined
like a wild rose around my heart.
The barrier of death pricks to marrow. Yet, the
sweet fragrance of Hope, salve to my sorrow,
grows tangible beyond the thorns of your grave.
Turning Your Page
Think of a moment when something you hoped for became a reality. Did you know for sure that it would happen?
Hope is tangible, and the more we grow to know the character of God and his son, the stronger and sweeter the fragrance of hope. In Christ, hope is never fickle, no matter how many thorns we experience to the contrary.
List as many moments where hope was realized as you can. Look at the qualities of your hope. What made you confident that the thing you hoped for would happen?
Look up a few attributes of God. How does each characteristic make hope in Jesus more concrete?
Lord, I don’t always see the roses growing among the thorns of my circumstances. Teach me to recognize your ways so that I can see beyond this temporary life. Amen
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.
On this day
You knit motherhood into my soul.
Sweeping away cobwebs
Of brokenness and rebellion.
Filling my world
With vivid colors I grew up missing.
You deepened my breath,
Made me reach deeper inside
For strength I had never explored,
Laughter never expressed,
On this day
You made me a mother.
Not even the grave can swallow
Turning Your Page
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
Birthdays are beautiful opportunities to remember your loved one forward. Below are some suggestions I have done. Feel free to add to the list in the comments with how you remeber your loved one while pressing into making new memories.
Create a memorial garden
Take a family hike
Share a meal at their favorite restaurant
Encourage a neighbor
Visit someone who is lonely
Write a poem or story
Share funny stories
Plant a tree
Lord, this is the special day you made for me to remember my child. May nothing steal that joy and help me to press into the live you have given me. Amen
The cross was necessary for the salvation of many. I have done so many things wrong, and I can never make myself clean enough. But, even saying that I confess I want another answer. I don’t want suffering to be the answer for anyone, not even the Son of God. Yet, Jesus warned that this life will be filled with suffering. But, no matter how much I suffer, it does not define me. Jesus does. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” Mark 15:39, NIV
Turning My Page: The Cross is Necessary for Salvation
I struggled with the cross after Jonathan died. Why did require such a brutal answer for our salvation? From the moment I accepted Jesus as my Savior, I lived my life trying to follow what I knew as the character of God. I know my faith wasn’t perfect, but being a good mom felt like enough for a good outcome for my children. While I knew with my head Christians are not immune to the evils of this world, there was still an undercurrent of grumbling in my heart. And when Jonathan died I asked, why did my son suffer, and how does Jonathan’s death work anything for good in God’s plan?
The Lord answered my questions the first Christmas Eve service after Jonathan’s death.
It was not enough that Jesus came as a little baby. We don’t need a perfect example, we need a savior. Christmas Eve 2014
Jesus came as a baby, grew up among us, performed miracles, and provided good principles to live by. But still, the cross was non-negotiable. Without Jesus’ death on the cross, we are left trying to measure up to the laws of God without grace.
With Christ’s sacrifice, God said to the Centurian standing as witness to the sentence of Christ, there is more to life than our suffering and attempting to be good enough. He didn’t curse His accusers, he forgave them. The Centurian declared Jesus the Son of God before he fully understood his need for that crucified Savior. The cross was necessary to redeem us.
Without the cross, there is no victory over death. My son’s death is not the end of my story because Jesus redeemed the grave and gives power to all who believe. I was worth saving. My son was worth saving.
You are worth saving.
I now celebrate transformed lives because Jonathan’s life mattered to God, and he utilizes our story to encourage others to not give up.
Jesus came for me, not when I had my act together, but when I didn’t even know that I needed him. My son’s death does not limit God’s power. Life is still full and possible because Jesus chose the cross. The cross was necessary for the salvation of many.
Turning Your Page
Open each day like it is a gift, filled with joy that transcends your understanding. God does things that don’t make sense to you in human judgment because he is sovereign. He rescued you, not as baby Jesus in the manger, but as Christ, the Savior on the cross.
Have you ever walked around the cross? Take time this Easter to read each of the gospel accounts of the trial, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus. Put yourself in the characters involved. What did you see differently through each person’s view of the cross?
Journal any new insights God reveals as you place yourself in the crucifixion story.
Gracious Savior, I need you. Amid painful suffering, I know You are truly the Son of God! Amen He is enough. The cross has made you Flawless. My story.
Freedom starts with hope. Realizing the power of trust, belief, and faith, inherent in the word has kept me reaching out and allowing others to reach in no matter what crisis comes my way. I have been struggling lately. Sometimes I forget to keep my hope in Jesus and start looking to others or my own ways of self-medicating. These are moments. Despair has an end and knowing that I can turn from sin and embrace the truth of God’s promises, come what may.
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
Romans 8:20-21 ESV
Turning My Page: Freedom Starts With Hope
I have struggled to write for months, and the excuses have piled up.
My house is a mess
I’m not sleeping
My physical health is deteriorating
Grieving my grandmother
I am a burden to others
This week, the Holy Spirit interrupted my unconscious mantra and reminded me that I have a vast vocabulary–start with one word. Moving beyond writer’s block, depression, or any other block in my life starts with HOPE.
I may not see the fruits of my hope right away, but the seeds exist. I write one word, and then another, and another and before long I am looking back at the obstacle rather than having it firmly planted in front of me.
My hope in all things is found in Jesus Christ, so yesterday and today, I confessed my depressed state and tuned my heart to my Savior’s voice through scripture.
Worked on memorizing Romans 8
Prayed for my family who is grieving the loss of our grandmother
Acknowledged I am substituting food and mindless activities for the comfort of Christ in my grief
Went to bed and trusted that God would give me the needed rest
Set healthy boundaries with my children
Chose a few small ways to attack the mess of my home
One of the first things the Spirit of Despair attacks is the healthy habits I form.
Notice my list above. I stopped having time in scripture. The house was a deep hole of undone chores, so why try. I avoided grief through food and TV. While these things give me temporary relief, they will never give me lasting help or draw me from the pit of hopelessness because I will always need more and more of those things and accomplish nothing by escaping through them. They do not feed me, mind, body, and spirit.
I know this because at age twenty I almost succeeded in taking my own life. That moment was the cumulation of all my attempts to deal with life’s hardships and pain by burying it and not pressing into hope. At that moment I recognized, rightly, that nothing in this world would make me feel better, but did not press into hope in Christ until the following year.
Only then did my life begin to look more hopeful. I started recognizing Christ died for all of the hardships I experienced and He would faithfully take all experiences and use them to lead others, and offer hope when others can’t yet see the potential. Placing hope in Jesus Christ meant my ultimate failure was not an option. No more throwing in the towel. I do not do this perfectly, but when my footing slips I gain it back more quickly and easily because hope has become the pattern of my life rather than the exception.
Turning Your Page
Freedom starts with hope.
That hope does not disappoint. You may not yet see the fruits of pushing back against the doubts or feel anything will change. Hope is powerful! It gives you space and opportunity to discover resources, mankind to reach in and help, and develops muscles of trust. We will get to the other side of our experiences because nothing separates us from the love of Jesus (Romans 8:28). Nothing and no one will ever be able to steal that freedom from you.
What are some of your favorite promises in scripture?
Look at the definition of the root word of depression and compare it to the definition for hope.
Journal about the difference and similarities between the two.
What are some antonyms of each?
Pick an antonym of “depress”, such as rejoice, and begin practicing daily.
Lord, I want to cease spiraling into despair. Help me to look up from the pit and see that all things are possible through you. I’ll hold on until they happen as you promised. Amen
Parenting an adult child is both a joy and full of landmines and challenges. Each stage of my children’s development has been a pleasure, and when my oldest reached for more independence, I loved watching him gain confidence in purpose and character.
I dreamed and hoped my children would embrace faith, enter adulthood equipped to succeed at whatever job they set their mind to, and live life to the fullest. I had no illusions that life would throw challenges their way; my life had been anything but easy. But couldn’t I hope for better? Was it unrealistic to believe that good would ultimately result from “raising them right?”
No, not unrealistic.
We have an enemy seeking to crush and destroy families, young and old. Enter health issues, unbridled stress, and ultimately the suicide for my barely adult son, Jonathan. Before his death, I had to navigate the difficult world of an adult child who battled mental and physical illness. He held all the rights and responsibilities of an adult and the core of my hands-on care for him was over. He could refuse any help offered, yet he was in crisis.
From those difficult months, I learned to:
Pray and trust God with what I could not see
Recognize that my child’s choices were his own
Parenting is a joy, but when tragedy strikes it cut to the core of my parenting heart. I am grateful others helped by holding me, lifting Jonathan in prayer, and reaching out to him.
You may be in the midst of a similar crisis with your adult child. My recent interview with Teresa Janzen identifies some tools we all can utilize as parents of adult children. I pray God’s wisdom, discernment, and joy for you as you navigate the new relationship that emerges when your children embrace adulthood.
Turning Your Page: Tools for Parenting an Adult Child in Crisis
We hope as parents to raise our children, equip them to the best of our ability, and that their life is full and trouble-free. Scripture makes it clear, that in this life we will have troubles, but as parents, we can take heart. Jesus Christ has overcome the world. (John 16:33).
You may have questions, such as:
How do we care for our adult children who are in crisis?
What does scripture say about our role as parents?
How can we find support and help?
Lord, things are shifting and changing in my relationship with my adult child and my role as a parent is getting redefined. Help me to love them in the same way I love my neighbor. Amen
Interview with Teresa Janzen
Teresa Janzen Bio:
Teresa Janzen is an author, speaker, storyteller, and African explorer. She engages big issues and extends an invitation to thoughtful dialogue. More than 20 years’ experience in non-profit administration and global ministry has ignited this passion for missional living and drives her to share stories that inspire people to action, joy, and gratitude.
Teresa is married to Dan and together they bridge two cultures and continents—serving as missionaries in South Sudan. They have eight adult children and ten grandchildren in the USA.
Jesus answered, “If you knew the gift of God and who is asking you for a drink, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
John 4:10 ESV
I have been contemplating the ripple effect of hope a lot lately, and a recent leaky faucet that filled bucket after bucket until a tiny little gasket was replaced drove home the power in just a few steady drops. I have cards of encouragement from friends, scripture, the Holy Spirit’s prodding, all as constant reminders that Christ is still loving and offering hope to me today.
Turning My Page: Leaky Faucet of Hope
I AM the constant drip, drip of hope, stubbornly
rippling through centuries
of evil, lies, doubt, and fear.
Turning Your Page: The Constant Drip of Hope
For the woman Jesus encountered (on purpose) at the well, hope took the form of an age-old argument between Jew and Samaritan. It was such a bitter, divisive, and evil argument over where mankind truly worshiped God that the factions of believers in the One True God could barely speak to one another. Worse yet, this Samaritan woman had been with many men. In the world’s eyes, Jesus should not have even been speaking to her.
Jesus gave her a drop of water by speaking to her. Then another, by describing Himself as “living water”. Then He opened the door to the place of true worship, repentance, and hope in the Messiah. She didn’t just walk, she ran back to tell others of the Messiah. She is a ripple effect of hope in Jesus Christ!
What is hope like for you?
Does it have a color, texture, scent, etc?
Journal as a poem, prose, questions, artwork, or photography.
Who introduced you to Jesus? Send them a note of encouragement. Describe how they offered you living water.