Posts Tagged: hope

Yes, Virginia, There is a God (Guest Blogger)

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?”

Dear Mother,

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.

Gary, Pam, and Daddy

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!

Love Always,

Your Pamela Sue

Pam S. Walker

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.

Contact Pam at: pswalker1010@yahoo.com

 

 

You Knit Motherhood

You Knit Motherhood

You Knit Motherhood

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,
Hope unquenchable
By death.
On this day
You made me a mother.
Not even the grave can swallow
My joy.

Turning Your Page

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.

Psalm 139:13

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

For Further Reading: Resurrecting Motherhood

 

A Resourse for Grief

The Cross is Necessary

The Cross is Necessary for Salvation

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
Mental Illness Does Not Devalue You

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.

Jonathan’s Confirmation Cross

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 Hope

Freedom Starts With Hope

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

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
  • Rested
  • Fasted

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 in crisis

Parenting an Adult in Crisis

Turning My Page

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:

  • Let go
  • 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 Author

Teresa Janzen Bio:

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. 

 

 

 

You can connect with Teresa at:

Faucet of Hope

Leaky Faucet of Hope

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.
  • Song to meditate on: Come to the Well

Lord, our world desperately needs the ripple effect of hope right now. So much bitterness, hatred of one another, and hopelessness. Equip believers to continue to be a ripple effect of hope. Amen

 

Saturday, January 17th at 7:00 a.m. EST my interview with Teresa Janzen will air here on Turning the Page on Suicide.

 

Reframing our Suffering

Reframing Suffering

Turning My Page: Reframing Suffering

Reframing Suffering

The portrait slumped in the back corner of the attic.
Her head folded in resignation of neglect—abandoned.
“A beginner’s musings,” I guessed, ready to dismiss my discovery.
But something drew me to the forgotten girl. Her eyes
haunted me, pleaded for hope beneath the cobwebs of neglect.

“I reframed my heartache after considering eternity.
Didn’t stop feeling when the world tortured me and laughed, What’s the point, no one cares?
“I reframed my longings, surrendered them to eternity.
Didn’t stop reaching for my creator when the skeptic told me, There’s no such thing.
“I reframed my thoughts to illuminate eternity.
Didn’t stop holding each other up when despair screamed, No way out!

The girl reached out, tugged my heart
closer for respect, kindness—for some granule of
understanding her pain. Her hair fell like flames
around her face. Untamable
beauty.  Maybe with a little work …

Reframing Our Suffering

Pain Looks Different in Light of Eternity

I traded out her beaten frame for a new one,
brought the broken child out into the light. Displayed her as a priceless treasure.
Strange how the new light brushed her cheek and
shared a different story.
Her soul danced with hopes and dreams, passions, and compassion.
Did a hint of a smile appear on her lips?

And in that hope, our joy emerged as a masterpiece of possibility.

 

Turning Your Page: Reframing Pain

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV

The world can be brutal to our mind, body, and spirit. Jesus stepped into humanity to teach us a new way of looking at our circumstances and responding with joy, rather than despair.  Jesus reveals we can withstand so much more than we think. Often we view ourselves through shortsighted glasses and it takes an outside perspective to jolt us to an eternal reality.

  • That jolt can come in the form of scripture, wise counsel from a friend, or the Holy Spirit trying to challenge your thinking? How are you responding to their love?
  • Spend some time walking around your life as if you are looking at them as a stranger. Describe the challenges. Have others shared a similar experience? How did they get through suffering? Who did they turn to for help?
  • What is one aspect of your circumstances you can work on allowing hope to illuminate possible outcomes? Spend time this week asking God to open your eyes to see the possibility for good things emerging out of difficulty.

Jesus, my heart is heavy with circumstances I have no control over. You set the joy of being with your Father in front of you! Help me to endure my cross and have joy because my eyes remain fixed on you. Amen

Holiday Depression Survival Kit

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.

Despair

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
  • Emergency exit
    • Go to Christmas events
    • Shorten stay
    • 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)
  • Be intentional 
    • 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.

You Knit Motherhood

Starving for Christmas

Noses press against storefront windows

and gawk. We watch stars stuff our sorrow

into glib sayings and sitcom outcomes.

But, in truth,

streets still bustle with beggars,

desperate hands outstretched.

Souls starve on golden calves of

overindulgence.

Ears strain to hear the

clink, clink coin of hope.

Unwrap gods, religion or man,

they disappoint our empty expectations.

We are starving for Christmas.

Christmas arrived. God, in plain garments,

pudgy cheeks and dependent

flesh. God, sucked in the

the first stale breath of humanity and loved us.

Inked Hope

Inked Hope: Self Harm

Inked hope everywhere I could. Scrawled it
on bathroom stalls. Doodled, in
the margins of homework. Sketched
fragile bird, freed from captor’s
cage on my binder. Etched freedom
in bright red ink on my arm.

But whether cage or page, freedom wasn’t
tangible. It was a temporary ink, tattooed on
broken flesh. I was chained to a demon
past that roared and laughed
at all attempts to write a new story.

You took the pen from my hand, rewrote
my story with your love. Inked,
BELOVED
CHOSEN
BRIDE
FREE
on your own wrists, side, and feet. No more
ink left. My well drained dry of any possible sacrifice.

You inked forgiven into my soul and
hope became firmly impressed into my heart.

Turning My Page: How God Inked Hope Through Jesus

Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.

Mark 5:5, ESV

I attempted to ink hope into my life in a multitude of ways. Abused, I tried desperately to take control of my circumstances through self-harm. So hard to express pain, when I didn’t have words for the emotional, physical, and spiritual wounds I experienced. There is simply something I needed that this world could not give me.

Inked HOpe
You Gave Me Freedom

Like the man who cut himself and cried out, nothing anyone has done has brought me relief, and then I saw him. Getting out of the boat, and something in my spirit stirred in recognition. Is this the one everyone talks about? The one who heals the sick and casts out demons. Maybe, just maybe he can ink something different into my soul. Hope. Oh, hope that will finally bring relief…

From the moment I met Jesus, twenty-four years ago, my self-harm ended. The yanking out of hair, the cutting, the anorexia, and the drinking. I have no other reason or explanation to give you, but a real tangible encounter with Jesus. It started with Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen” (NIV). God showed me what that verse meant through tangible provision.

I still feel pain, but I no longer want to escape what I feel, because Jesus has written something different in my life. He wrote hope, faith, and love into my soul, and nothing I experience in this life will ever compare to God’s love in my life.

Turning Your Page: Where to Find Hope

Self-harm can become addictive and therefore very difficult to break. It relieves for a moment the pain you cannot express. You are not alone, and if we are honest, there are many that attempt self-harm in small and big ways. Look for the transforming love of Jesus. His truth about your identity is etched on a cross. You were worth dying for and your pain is not the end of his story for you.

Here is an excellent resource to begin connecting with a God who cares for you and your suffering:

Help For Cutters and Others Who Self-Injure in Some Way

Free Gift

Embrace hope in dark places.

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Suicide Hotline

National Suicide Hotline

If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call the National Suicide Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or go to the website at  SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.