Where do you go when life as you know it is turned completely upside down? It happened to me. The life I knew and loved vanished on August 7, 2013 when my college sweetheart and husband of 33 years chose to end his life. There are not words to describe my shock and devastation. Though I was surrounded with wonderful, loving people, none of them could restore the half of me that died that day. This was a God-sized task! This is my journey through shock, grief, mourning and healing. It is the very personal and profound journey I took to ultimately discover that no matter how deep your pain…God is always there and He is enough. If you are grieving, God Is Enough will give you hope. I understand what you are going through, and I am here to share my message of hope, healing and faith.
Summer in our family is synonymous with gardening. However, there was a distinction between my husband and myself as to which type of gardening. In this excerpt you see our nicknames. Bob (Tate) preferred a vegetable garden and M.E. (Boo) preferred a flower garden! For each of us there was great joy in our individual preferences of gardening. The vegetable garden required a lot more work. There is the making of rows prior to planting seeds. Tate was a perfectionist when it came to making the rows...they HAD to be straight. That was asking a lot when we used a hoe, each working on opposite sides of each other in pulling up dirt to form a row!!! Tate's quote appears in this excerpt. Tell it like it is!!! We certainly ate well during summer months.
I began to journal in high school and continues today. I never even thought about writing a book, until my husband Bob took his life on August 7, 2013. I wanted to share my difficult journey with others and how I discovered that God is enough. An author friend told me about Bublish. I knew nothing about writing a book, much less publishing one! I had lots and lots of questions. I called Bublish and to my surprise the CEO, Kathy Meis answered the phone. Wow..I did not expect that! Over the next year we had several phone calls and every time I spoke to Kathy, it was like she had nothing else to do but talk with me that day. My favorite part of publishing was seeing the book cover design. It was incredible to hold My Book in my hands. Kathy said, "When you receive your book, you move from a writer to an author!"
This introvert prefers small gatherings and preferably ones where I know some of the people in attendance. The more I have in common with people the more comfortable I feel. For example, I can relate to widows whether I know them or not because we share a common bond. In other situations I have to admit that I am very uncomfortable when it comes to introductions. Most people introduce themselves by reciting a litany about their family. Since I am a widow without children there isn't much family about which to speak. I was discussing my dilemma with a friend recently. She said that I have a lot of things I can say about myself. For instance, you are a published author, you love the outdoors and enjoy traveling. She has a point. From now on I am going to introduce myself outside the box!!!
As I contemplated what topic to use in a book bubble, I read the introduction of God is enough and it hit me right between the eyes! I have been riding a depression roller coaster for the last several weeks. I was viewing and processing everything through the lens of what I have lost rather than what I have gained. God has been my guide since I was 16 and God isn't finished with me. Therefore I will do the following: 1. Focus of God's promises. 2. Dwell on God's character. 3. Realize that there is purpose in my suffering. God is and always will be enough!
Community is anyone whose life intersects mine. Some people intersect my life more frequently than others and thus we develop a close relationship. I call those in my inner circle "pilgrims". I started using this term "pilgrims" after I heard bible study leader, Beth Moore of Living Proof Ministry, use it. She explained that pilgrims walk shoulder to shoulder as they experience life together. There is rejoicing and celebrating when we life is going well! However, when bad things happen a pilgrim allows you to lean on them for support. That is why they walk shoulder to shoulder. Let me introduce you to three of my pilgrims. Marilyn approached me with a question: "Would you like the tree Bob used, to be removed?" "Yes," I responded. She expressed her desire to create a room in the house that would make me happy. She would be joined by two pilgrims, Teresa and Vonnie. Today, my bedroom has lilac walls and Bob's closet has been transformed into a cove with a transom window and book shelves where I go to escape. I typically write in my daily journal as well as book bubbles there. Thank you sweet pilgrims for your love and active support.
Comebacks are exciting and people love to hear about them because they are stories of redemption and restoration. Two comebacks happened recently in the sports arena. The University of Virginia men's basketball team, who was a number one seed in the tournament, won the NCAA National Championship game, after losing last year in the first round, when they were also a number one seed. Tiger Woods won the Masters Golf Tournament after struggling for ten years. . I also have experienced a comeback. It has taken three to five years. I have discovered a new normal and a new me. I could not have done this on my own. Many people traveled this uphill journey with me. God has been my anchor. I held onto Him when I was overwhelmed and drowning in sorrow and pain. No matter what the circumstance...God is always there and He is enough. He is the epitome of a comeback!
A GOD story first of all involves GOD. The events surrounding a GOD story can only be explained by the activity of GOD. It involves divine intervention. I want to tell you a GOD story that happened yesterday at work. When I arrived at the hospital near Virginia I walked up to the nurses station and was greeted by Michelle. She and I have worked together for many years and she knows about my book. Michelle said,"I have someone I want you to meet. I told her about your book. Her sister's husband committed suicide two weeks ago." My hear sunk. Michelle walked me down the hall and introduced me to Tracy. Tracy described the details of her brother-in-law's death by gunshot and that her sister discovered him. I spent an hour with Tracy listening to her describe the event and talking with her about my book. Only God could have orchestrated all of the details so that we would meet. Did I mention I only visit this hospital once a month!
I have been writing in journals since high school. I never thought about writing a book until Bob's death. I felt God was prompting me to write a book about his suicide. When I began writing I used purple legal pads and a purple pen. You might get the idea that I like PURPLE! The first words of the story came easy because I described in detail what happened that dreadful August 7, 2013. Every detail was etched in my mind. Every time I closed my eyes at night, I could see him hanging from a tree. One of my friends said after reading the book, "You need to tell people the beginning of the book is graphic." It never occurred to do that, it was just part of my story. Writing the book was therapeutic. It forced me to get my feelings out on paper and helped me process the horrific event. Part of the process involved reconciling Bob's death with God's love for him. The journey was long and painful. But through it all, I can say that I came to the same conclusions that Jennifer Rothschild and Elisabeth Elliot did.
One of my favorite scriptures comes from Psalm 56:8. "You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in Your bottle. You have recorded each one in Your book". This verse causes me to tear up and smile all at the same time. It impresses me that the God of the universe cares so much for those who are grieving, that He literally keeps track of every tear and writes each one down. I never get over trying to process how special and meaningful this verse is and how much it speaks to God's character. I can trust Him because He is trustworthy! Life has become much easier to maneuver when I release issues, relationships, or difficult situations over to God to handle. This lightens my load! Many times I reclaim those things that I earlier handed over to God. Trust isn't easy even when it involves the God of the universe! Often I have to release things over and over again to God.
I received the following text message from my sister-in-law (Bob's older sister): "I finally read your book this past Sunday, February 24. I read it from beginning to end in one sitting. I had not been able to open it before, because I was afraid it would be too painful. I have never really allowed myself to cry for Bob. I just stuffed it down inside and told myself that he was in Heaven and would not want to come back and that I would see him when I get there. I have been afraid that if I ever let go and started crying, that I would never stop. So over the past five years I have withdrawn into myself and away from others. God is truly making beauty out of your ashes. The book was a blessing and a wake up call for me. You and Jesus did a wonderful job writing it. Love you."
God is enough was written to help those whose lives have been turned upside down just as mine was. Thank you readers for your emails. I want to share with you one of those emails. The reader writes, "As I write this email the surroundings belie my true feelings amid this impossible situation I find myself in now. It is getting close to the one year anniversary of my husband's suicide by gunshot to the head. I spend time weekly or so at the cemetery where I talk to him, yell at him, or just cry. I don't know if that's normal or not but I still do it. It seems the only place I can let go of what I'm feeling or thinking so I continue that practice. My pain and severe anger drive my daily depression and seem to be the only thing that gives me energy to move from day to day." We corresponded with each other several times. The last email I received stated, "I do appreciate your response to my email. Your resources have been of immense help to me and I can't thank you enough. I pray that I am able to help others as you have been able to do in time."
Growing up I attended a private school in Durham, N.C.from first grade until ninth grade. Later on, my parents decided that I should attend the local public high school in Chapel Hill to start my sophomore year. That was NOT good news for this introvert! It was a difficult year to say the least. Slowly and surely I began to make friends. Several of my new friends invited me to attend Young Life and I decided to go. Young Life is a christian organization led by students attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. We played games and sang songs as the leaders played their guitars. It was fun and I enjoyed it. After attending several times, I decided to sign up for Campaigners which was another group. Campaigners met at a local church in downtown Chapel Hill. When I arrived I realized that I was the only sophomore there and it was a much smaller group. It was a bible study led by Liz Skillen. I had never been to a bible study before. One night, Liz described God's plan of salvation for the world. Later that night while in my bed I prayed to God and became a Jesus follower.
The day following my husband's suicide I walked outside and up to the tree where he had hung himself. I angrily said to Satan, "You meant this for evil, but God meant this for good. You messed with the wrong woman!" The first portion of the above quote is not original. It comes from Genesis 50:20 in the story of Joseph, who was mistreated by his brothers and sold into slavery. Joseph's story ends well and God used him to prepare for a famine that saved many lives. After the passage of many years I can now see how God has used Bob's suicide for good. Because God is in control He knows everything. He knows how our stories will end. While my life story is being written I will trust God to use it for good.
Every New Year that came after August 7, 2013 I hated. Many people around me were making resolutions or starting a new endeavor. I, on the other hand, had neither the strength nor the desire to start something new. I just wanted to get my 'old life' back. What was so happy about a new year anyway? This was my pervading thought every new year thereafter until January 1, 2018. On January 1, 2018 it dawned on me that my perspective on the arrival of a new year was backwards. Instead of dreading the next 365 days to come, I realized that with each new year I was getting closer and closer to going to heaven. Now the thought of that idea makes me ecstatically Happy!
My father died August 28, 2011. My husband knew I had trouble remembering dates. So he came up with a creative way for me to recall Dad's date of death. He asked, "What passage in the Bible has the address 8:28?." To which I replied, "Romans 8:28. Thanks for thinking of that." It worked. For I have not forgotten the date even though seven years have passed. Not only was it Bob's thoughtful idea to help me, but what this scripture says, applies very aptly to his own death. Romans 8:28 states, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, and who have been called according to His purpose." This scripture passage is a hard verse to accept when you are in the midst of a difficult circumstance and are trying to make sense of it all. In my situation, it took several years before I could agree with the statements made by Jennifer Rothschild and Elisabeth Elliot. Now I accept Bob's suicide as something God used to change me from the inside out and to make me more reflect Him. I now have a privileged purpose - to help other dealing with a suicide.
Dates are important because they mark a special event like a birthday, a wedding, or a holiday. Sometimes these dates are celebrated with a party, a cake, a gift, a meal or a balloon. Other times they are marked by a funeral. For me, the dates that in the past were once celebrated, have now become a source of sadness and pain. There are three dates that are particularly painful now. They are Bob's birthday, our anniversary, and his date of death. Typically as one of these dates approaches, the tears start rolling down my cheeks and I spend more time than usual in the bed. Bob's birthday is November 6. I began crying about a week before his birthday this year. However, when November 6 arrived, in the midst of my sadness, I began to pray to God saying,"This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it." I continued thanking God that on this date my future husband was born. I thanked Him for this wonderful relationship and 33 years of marriage. I was shocked and amazed at the change in my heart. Thank you God. You have done this!
November 25, 2018 will be the one year anniversary of God is enough! It is hard to believe a year has gone by since its release. Thank you to those of you who have written me. It has been both a humbling experience as well as an encouragement to me as I read your stories and how the book helped. I hope this journey we have taken together has caused you to know Jesus in a more intimate way. As the holidays approach, be honest with others about how you are doing. The way you celebrate now may be very different than previous years. Embrace a new normal. To embrace it does not mean you like it. Remember - if there was no love there would be no grief. Carry on...one day at a time...one step at a time.
My massage therapist, Barbra Galavotti also doubles as a good counselor and listener. After the hour I spend with Barbra, I feel better physically as well as mentally. She not only has removed the knots from my muscles but also has allowed me to process new normal life happenings with her. When I leave, the load I came in with has been lightened! On one occasion I was telling Barbra that I decided to write a book about my experience following Bob's suicide. She listened intently and then said, " I have a client who has written several fiction books. I will give you her name and contact information. I know she would be more than happy to help you with this project." This author's name is Pamela Poole. I discovered Bublish, Inc. from this unlikely referral during a massage. Pamela was kind enough to meet me at various restaurants for hours at a time, acting as my tour guide through the book writing and publishing process. I owe Pamela a huge debt of gratitude!!!
I work for a medical supply company and travel to different nursing homes in North Carolina and South Carolina. My job entails visiting a nursing home every month to bill Medicare Part B for patients' supplies. Some of the information needed in order to bill I obtain from an employee that works in the Billing Department. Her name is Kathie Matthews and we became good friends over the past ten plus years. After Bob died I was scheduled to travel to South Carolina. I called Kathie very upset and asked, "What am I going to do? There won't be anybody to call and check on me at the motel." Kathie without hesitation replied, "You're going to stay with me." I was dumbfounded by her response that day and have continued staying with Kathie every month for the past five years. Thank you for this surprise gift.
I love the story of Gideon. If you want to read this amazing story, check out chapters 6 and 7 of Judges in the Old Testament of the Bible. I can so identify with Gideon. I had never written a book and was intimidated by the thought of it! The first page I wrote came easy to me because the details of August 7, 2013 are indelibly etched in my mind. And just like in Gideon's case I had no excuse for what God had asked me to do. God knew that I could write God is enough. God wrote the story through me to help others walk the path of difficult things in this life. He used me to accomplish His purpose.
My good friend Vonnie was one of many people who encouraged me while writing the manuscript for the book. She, however, possessed one thing that the others did not. Vonnie was an author. She confessed to me that there was one thing she regretted not including in the book, her email address. For that reason I included my email address. I am so glad I did! God has given me the opportunity to correspond with readers. Shortly after the book was published I purchased a bulletin board where I could post emails received from readers as encouragement of my newfound purpose. I also posted names of those family members who took their lives as well as those left behind. I consider it a privilege to pray for these people as they travel this very painful journey. I hope along the way they discover that God is enough.
The owners of a local funeral home attended the church where my husband was pastor. They became good friends during the 7 years we were there, as they did many funerals together. I specifically sought out the embalmer at this funeral home following Bob's death. I hugged him and said, "You have given me such a gift. The last time I saw Bob he looked awful. He looks wonderful now. Thank you." Several close friends would accompany me on the many funeral home visits. Following his death, I visited the funeral home because I wanted to talk to him like I did when he was alive. We would pull up chairs to the open casket and I would talk to him for hours. I did this every day including the morning of his cremation. I told a fellow widow, "I would have liked to have taken Bob home, put him in the corner of the bedroom, then I could talk to him every day." She totally understood what I meant. I miss sharing life with him.
The box that contained the puzzle was white. There was no picture on the cover that revealed what the puzzle would look like. The same was true of the situation I found myself in the day my husband ended his life. There was no puzzle picture to direct me through this tragedy. My life was a blank page because everything I had ever known previously had disappeared. I attempted to place together the edge puzzle pieces. I was frustrated that the first few pieces I tried to put together did not work.
I recently attended a church woman's retreat at Oak Island, N.C. This was the second retreat I have attended since Bob's death in 2013. I was reminded that at the first retreat in April 2014 was when God gave me the title of the book, unbeknownst to me at the time. Here is an excerpt from my journal dated April 12, 2014. "I am attending a woman's retreat at Oak Island with my friend Amy. Several Sundays ago Amy approached me and asked, 'M.E. if we room together and I drive, would you go to the retreat? To which I replied, 'Yes. I would.'" "It is divine intervention that one of the activities at the retreat is to make a poster of one thing God has done in your life. One side of the poster states before God and the flip side states after God." My poster read: LOST HUSBAND TO SUICIDE ....... FOUND OUT GOD IS ENOUGH God gave me this title two years before I began writing. The book was written in less than a year.
God knows everything. He knew that I would write a book, which still blows my mind! He knew that Bob would take his life. The word everything means all. That word all encompasses a lot of things, ie. my health, my future, my dreams, etc. Anything I can put in this blank ____ God knows it. This concept radically changed the way I do life now.
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