By S.R. Waters

There is nothing more heartbreaking than the loss of a child. We are pleased to have S.R. Waters, author of Explore Who You Are in Christ, share how she endured such a loss and explain how to overcome grief with God’s help.

What do you do when you know God can perform a miracle, you expect God to perform a miracle, but the miracle does not come? Read Ms. Waters enduring testimony:
I grew up in a large family. Both of my parents are Christians. My family was not rich by any means. We loved each other and my parents worked hard to provide for my siblings and I. I was a young child when I prayed to ask the Lord to come into my life. I credit my mother with leading me to Christ. She taught children at church and she use to practice her Bible lessons on my siblings and I. When I was six, I remember, we were at home. My mother was practicing to give a lesson to her class. She presented the story of Daniel in the lion’s den and how Daniel kept his faith in God even to the point where he believed he was going to be killed. In that case, God performed a miracle and protected Daniel. After hearing the story of Daniel, I believed God could come through for me like He did for Daniel.

When my mother led me to the Lord, she started with a verse out of the Bible:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. - John 3:16 (NKJV)
She did what I think of as ‘she laid out the plan of Salvation’. As she continued to read different Scriptures from the Bible, it was clear that to have a relationship with God, you must admit that you have sinned and not lived up to God’s standard.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. - Romans 3:23 (NKJV)
Even though we have sinned, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross and pay the price for my sins and your sins. The Scripture tells us:
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. – that is from Romans 5:8 (NLT)
that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures - 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (NKJV) 

Once you have admitted you have sinned, accept the death of Jesus on the cross, and the resurrection of Jesus, you can be assured of eternal life. A Scripture that relays this is:
that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. - Romans 10:9 (NKJV) 

I finally made the decision to pray to receive Jesus Christ into my heart after my mother told me Jesus had ascended to heaven but would return one day. She said He would appear in the clouds. A Scripture that describes this beautifully is:
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. - 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (NKJV)

My mother asked me if I wanted to meet Jesus in the clouds. After hearing the Scriptures, I said ‘Yes’. And I prayed a prayer to accept Jesus into my life.
Accepting Christ as a child, I came with childlike faith. Having Christian parents to guide me, I experienced God as a loving father who I could always count on, as a protector who kept me from harm, and who would let good things happen to me. That was my prospective during my formative years and as I moved out on my own. As I experienced life, however, I found that having a personal relationship with God will not exempt me from trials.

As I stated, during my early years, I experienced God as a loving father who I expected to protect me from harm. So, imagine my bewilderment, and how disheartening it was for me, as I got older and started experiencing unexpected trials. I questioned God. “Why are you letting this happening to me? Aren’t you supposed to protect me? Don’t you love me? If you love me, you should not let me experience this hurt.” The trials were eye-opening. My faith was tested, in a way I had not foreseen.

I credit my father with teaching me a lot about how to trust God to overcome difficult times. I say that because my father was hit by a car while crossing the street and left paralyzed from the waist down. The faith in God my father displayed after his accident was incredible to behold. When he was left paralyzed, it was actually the second time he had been in a life-threatening accident. The first time, he was in a car wreck that left him in a coma, for about a month. He had to learn to walk again and write again. But, he never once complained, or questioned God, or was depressed. It was amazing to see after his first accident.

Take a moment to think about the things you complain about, the things you let bring you down or the things you get depressed about. Well, imagine if you had to go through a life-threatening accident not once but two times, but the second time you are left paralyzed. Would you complain? It is easy to think an experience like that would bring any person down. However, when it happened to my father, he always had a smile on his face. He never complained. He never once became angry or depressed. He never questioned God. Instead, he read his Bible even more. He let the experience draw him closer to God. During his time of trials, not only did he always have a smile on his face, he was encouraging to others who were going through their own struggles.
I asked him, “How are you able to keep so positive?” I asked him, “How do you keep such a good attitude?” His answer was, “My faith in God.” He believed God was with him in every circumstance. He believed it enough to live out his faith, even during traumatic situations. My father provided a great example of how to trust God during times of suffering.

My time of trial came after I graduated college and eventually married. Because I came from a large family, I did not think I would have any trouble becoming a mother. However, my husband and I did struggle with infertility for seven years. It was very heartbreaking and frustrating. It was a very long taxing experience. We decided to go through invitro fertilization. I finally found out I was pregnant with twins. My husband and I both were so excited. Our friends and family who knew about our struggle were very happy for us. Unfortunately, it was not long before it became clear it was a troubled pregnancy. Once I found out there was trouble on the horizon, that is when I began to pray, my husband began to pray, our family and friends all began to pray.

I was put on bed rest. I prayed and read scripture. I thought of the many times I had asked God to help me with little things and all of the time He had come through regarding those little things. So, surely, He would answer my prayer and come through for me when it came to saving the lives of my two babies. I made the decision not to worry. I knew I could trust God to fix everything. I knew that God could and would come through with a miracle, and I would end up with two healthy babies to hold and to love. However, my faith was dashed when I gave birth to the twins at 23 weeks, too early to survive on their own. The devastation I felt at losing my babies is indescribable. It is the worse sadness I have ever felt. My faith was shattered.

What are you supposed to feel, when you know God can perform a miracle, you expect God to perform a miracle, but the miracle does not come? I wonder if there is anyone who has lost someone they loved and the loss was so painful, it made you question God.

Psalm 147:3 reveals of The Lord; He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. That is what happened to me. Through the most difficult time in my life, the death of my twin babies, God brought Christians in my life - those I knew and some I met for the first time – who surrounded my husband and I with love, and provided encouragement through those dark days. They were God’s hands. They were God’s feet. My husband and I could feel God’s love because of them, and we could see God’s love through each of them. It was a reminder to draw near to God during times of suffering, believe the promises in Scripture, and to make the truth of the scripture real in my life. 

The lessons I learned are there will be trials as you live life, but God will meet you where you are in your suffering. He will provide what you need.

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. - James 1:2-4 (NLT)

God also provides hope. The Scripture says:
 1 Corinthians 15:26 (ESV) - The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
That is so powerful to think about. If you have experienced the loss of a loved one, I hope you let God’s Word comfort you as it has me. Revelations 21:4 promises; And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.
No more death, or sorrow, or crying. God provides that hope for us.

From my story, I want to relay, the truth is, the Lord cares about those who are hurting, and He cares for those who are brokenhearted. Drawing from the Scriptures in the Holy Bible helped me during the time of my deepest grief and continues to help me. It can help anyone who is suffering and grieving a loss. If you have experienced heartache or you are experiencing heartache, I encourage you to draw closer to God and not turn away from Him. God wants to speak to you, during those dark times. So, read Scripture from the Holy Bible. My prayer is that you let the Word of God renew your spirit, and my prayer is that the Word of God, bring you peace.  – S.R. Waters
Would you like books that map out biblical truths about who you are in Christ and provide details to help you learn about God? Look for Explore Who You Are In Christ by S. R. Waters and get workbooks, a devotional, and a coloring book. Available on Amazon.com

A Vessel in the Potter’s Hands
By Ily Tatum
It all began when I was a child of 3 to 5 and was sexually abused.  I tried to tell my mom and other family members but no one would believe me so I hid all those feelings deep inside.
 At 24 years old I married a man that knew the ways of our culture and therefore, got my parents’ approval.  However, this man turned out to be very abusive. It began on the first night of our honeymoon when he tried to suffocate me.  Another night he beat me badly and told me that a recruiter was coming over and I was to sign the paper to go with him into the military.  Since it was always a dream of mine to join the Army, I was actually excited. However, the beatings got worse and an Army officer saw the signs and asked if I needed help.  I practically screamed, “YES!”
For three years after our divorce I kept trying to find myself but I began to make all the wrong choices and decisions.  I began to drink and party and landed into another unstable marriage.
Then December, 1986, came and this was the beginning of a new life for me. That’s when I became a new creation.  2 Corinthian 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation and the old has gone and the new has come!”  God met me where I was then, saved me, and baptized me in the Holy Spirit.
As a new Christian, I read Proverbs 31, which is about the wife with a noble character. Since I desperately wanted to make my marriage work I tried to make myself like this noble wife, but soon discovered that I couldn’t make myself like her. 
In 1995-1996 I took a giant step of faith and walked away from my second marriage of 16 years. My husband was an adulterer over and over again throughout our marriage.  The exact day I left, his new young pregnant girlfriend moved in. 
Let me assure you that I do know divorce is not the answer of God.  I spent years praying and I didn’t pursue divorce until I was absolutely sure I was in God’s perfect will.  The word clearly states in Matthew 5:31-32 that divorce is not in God’s plan.  I prayed and did seek God’s direction before I finally took that step to get a divorce.  He faithfully took me through each step and I had a peace that surpassed any peace I had ever felt. That’s when I knew I was doing the right thing.
As I walked away with my son, I was scared to be on my own, and to make things worse, I was leaving my stepson whom I raised since he was 15 months old.  I asked him to come with me but he decided he needed to stay with his dad, which put daggers into my heart.  I knew that it was a wrong decision he was making but I could not force him and had to respect his wishes. 
Fear gripped me but I knew in my heart I had to trust God. The Lord gave me yet another promise from Isa 40:11 (NIV). It says, “He tends his flock like a shepherd. He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart and He gently leads those that have young.”
Every day I wrote in my journal and the Lord would give me verses of encouragement and speak deep within my heart.  Many times I wanted to give up and I even thought of ending it all, but God always met me where I was.  God knew I couldn’t do this on my own and so He placed people in my life who would love me, help me grow spiritually, and even sometimes help  financially.
The Lord promised me that if I remained faithful to Him, He would return back to me everything that was taken.  Slowly the Lord started to replace what I had lost and left behind.  I worked three jobs until the Lord spoke to me once again and reminded me that I was to trust him. I did. 
That’s when things began to change. I went from three jobs to two jobs. The Lord blessed me with a promotion at work which enable me to go to just one job.  I was driving a 1985 Chevette with no brakes, windows falling down, and doors about to fall off, but my son and I and our new friends kept praying. With God’s mercy I kept driving the beat up car.
Finally, one Saturday after praying all night, the Lord showed me exactly where to go and what to say.  I went to the dealership and the manager told me that all I had to do was to give him my broken down Chevette. I had no money for a down payment and explained to him exactly how much money I was able to pay each month. To my amazement, 4 hours later, I walked out of the dealership with a used 1995 Ford Escort in great shape that looked brand new. In fact, it was the dealer’s show car with very few miles on it.  And the payment was the exact amount the Lord told me.
This is when I learned to completely trust God. There were times I didn’t know how the rent or the bills would get paid, but the Lord did and He always provided it. 
The Lord blessed us with a home, a miracle of itself.  But nothing is impossible for God.  With the help of my VA (praise the Lord for the Army benefits) I got a home with 0 down payment and I moved in with 0 cost. And to top it all off, my mortgage payment was small enough that I could afford to pay it.
I thought life was going good but Satan still wasn’t happy. My son, after graduating from high school, announced that he felt he needed to become a man and move out.  My world shattered.  I was so devastated and I had a hard time letting go of him.  As I was praying, the Lord dropped into my heart the verse so many of us know in Proverbs 22:6. “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  I knew then that I had to let him go and trust that the Lord would carry him through each trial he was going to encounter.
Seven years after my divorce, and now that my son was gone I began to pray for a husband.  I met a man at church. I was so excited because I just knew that now everything would be ok because I had a Christian man in my life.  I knew of my husband’s past and how he had struggled for many years with drugs but neither one of us thought it would be a problem again. We were wrong. After being married for only one year, that nasty demon showed up and my husband started to use drugs again.  I was shattered.  But God already had a plan, I started looking on the internet to try to understand the effects of the drugs he was using. The Lord showed me a place for him to go get help.  Reluctantly, and with the help of our Pastor, he went and I was left behind broken in a million pieces, afraid to tell anyone.  I got so angry that I even got angry with God.  How could God allow me to marry someone like that?  I couldn’t believe that he would put this man in my life just to have another disaster.  There were days when all I wanted to do was walk away from God and everything.  I kept asking the Lord why after all I had gone through in my life He allowed yet another thing like this to happen.  But our precious Father in heaven, though He knew how angry I was, held me in His arms, gave me a peace, and poured His word to me through the Pastor and my Christian brothers and sisters. 
Deep down I knew it wasn’t God’s fault. I let my own emotions get in the way and because I was so lonely and desperate for love, I really thought I heard the Lord say it was ok to marry him.  Fear, emotions and desperation can get you to hear the wrong voice. 
I could hear the Lord saying trust in me just as you are a new creation in me, so is he.  You will have a new husband, the old has gone and the new has come!  That night I felt a new love and forgiveness for my husband.  The next day he called me to tell me he felt total deliverance and that he knew he was ready to come home to be the husband he knew he needed to be and that he was ready to do the ministry he felt God calling him to do.  I watched him grow in the Lord and proudly watched him putting into action the ministry the Lord had laid in his heart.  
About 5 years into the marriage and watching him do great things with the homeless ministry, Satan stepped in once again.  He didn’t go back to drugs but he found something else to substitute the addiction, alcohol.  It started out with a simple glass of wine after dinner, then, it became a bottle or two.  He began drinking before and after dinner.  As you can image, I was shattered, but my faith in God and my trust in Him just sent me to the throne and I began to pray, fast, and cry out to the Lord.  The more I prayed the further away my husband got from me.  He was a functional drunk. He still worked and was still doing the ministry and was going to church on Sunday mornings but when he was home he spent his time with the bottle.  Then he began to tell me that he loved me but he could never love me as God said in the Bible. He went on to say that he wasn’t in love with me.  We went to counseling, only for him to tell the Christian counselor that he just couldn’t love me and be intimate with me.  Then after 12 years of marriage, this marriage was over too.
I began to seek and research the word of God because I felt I was the problem and that I could not keep a marriage together.  No matter what I did, no matter all the forgiveness I gave, I just could not seem to keep a marriage together.  I kept praying and asking God to change me, to help me understand what I was doing wrong.  But instead he brought back to my memory a verse He gave me when I went through a previous divorce. Isa 54:4-6 (NIV) says, “Do not be afraid, you will not suffer shame.  Do not fear disgrace, you will not be humiliated.  You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.  For your Maker is your husband-the Lord Almighty is His name.” I don’t know why I had to go through all of this pain but I did know that I had to trust God.  My faith in Him depended on it. 
As time moved forward, a co-worker was doing online dating and she signed me up.  It was awkward to me because I was clueless of how to go out on dates.  I wasn’t planning on getting serious with anyone. After a month of being online and meeting some men who would say they were Christians, I was ready to give up on this online dating thing. I was about to call the website and ask them to remove my name when a gentleman contacted me. I checked his profile and it was like we had copied each other’s profile. So I decided to meet him for coffee. Our time together was perfect.  We talked for 3 hours, mostly about the Bible and our beliefs.  We began talking in June, went on our first date in July, got engaged in September, and married in October.
 Both of us had been hurt in the past and had similar stories. We understood each other. 
My husband, the man of my dreams, has a great depth of knowledge of the Word of God.  He loves me as God says a man should love his wife.  He is the spiritual leader of our home.  The love I am experiencing with him is different from any love I have ever had from another man.
Sometimes I do ask the Lord why I had to go through all of what I did. Someday He may show me why, but for right now I’m going to accept the new journey He is giving me.  This time I’ve given the wheel to God and I’m letting Him do what he needs to do because I’m the broken vessel not my husband.
Perhaps you’ve heard this hymn:
Have Thine own way, Lord!
Have Thine own way!
Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
while I am waiting, yielded and still.
I don’t know where you are today or what you are going through but I do know that if you give your future to God, stay faithful to Him, and totally trust Him with your life, you can know that wherever you are, whatever pain you are feeling, or whatever trials you are going through, you don’t have to do it alone.  Jesus died for you and for me and He is willing to carry your burdens – just turn it over to Him.  God has a gift for you. Accept His gift and let His son, Jesus, come into your heart, then trust Him with your life. 
If God can take this broken vessel and transform her into what she is today, He can do it for you.  Broken vessels can be fixed.

Unlearning the Lies
By Dr. Lynnette Simm
What memories come to mind when you think of your school days? Did you love school? Did you have a special subject you enjoyed? Can you think of a person, teacher, or coach that changed your life?
          School can bring back many memories: good, bad, fun, or horrible. I remember playing on the monkey bars with my friends and swinging off them, like gymnasts, landing perfectly every time…ok, maybe not perfectly and maybe not every time. Many of us learned countless lessons both inside the classroom and out.
          After spending over thirty years of my life in a classroom, I earned a Doctorate in Education. I loved school, and I loved learning. I’ve learned about writing, history, psychology, motivation, gender differences, learning disabilities, and on and on; but as a dyslexic, obsessive-compulsive, attention-deficit, anxiety filled, abandoned, and abused young woman, I wasn’t always an easy student to teach. It took a few very special teachers to help me understand some difficult life changing subjects.
          In The Acorn Story, written by J.K. Montgomery she wrote, “The lies I tell myself are true.” At least we believe they’re true. My first lesson was the hardest. I had to unlearn the lies that I told myself and the lies that held me captive in a victim’s role.
          I was born into a large family on my father’s side. He was the eldest of 10 which made family gatherings feel more like major events. The noise from kids could nearly break glass, with the food prep taking days to prepare whether tamales, lasagna, or barbeques there was always enough for everyone. But my teenage mom and 20 something father, were not prepared for married life and children. By 4 years old, I was abandoned – thrown away and discarded by my biological father and his family. Then my new father and other family members sexually abused me for nearly five years – from ages nine through fourteen years old. Lies permeated my mind, body, and soul constantly.
          I am not worth keeping.
          I am not valuable; nobody wants you.
          I am weak or pathetic; you deserve to be abused.
          I am ugly, stupid, lazy, fat, needy, and on, and on, and on.
          The lies kept spinning in my mind so I was in a constant state of confusion. These lies enveloped my soul, crushed my heart, and held my mind captive. They tramped my happiness, my joy, and my peace as they attempted to destroy my life. As the lies kept swirling, they were breaking me down until I nearly ended it all.
          My actions mimicked my lies. Feelings of being without value and unworthiness resulted in thinking premarital sex was acceptable. Feelings of being weak and pathetic resulted in thinking an abortion was okay. Feelings of being ugly, lazy, and fat were exacerbated by overeating and weight gain. Feelings of being stupid and needy resulted in constantly seeking validation. And the feeling that nobody wanted me resulted in adultery.  
          As my life crumbled before my eyes, I was given an amazing therapist, whose personal relationship with Jesus Christ allowed her to heal from her abuse and then reach out and help others with the same hurts. This gifted counselor with insight from her healing relationship with God, worked on each lie, replacing them with truth. She put bandages on every wound I had. She filled me with love and acceptance. She went beyond work to care about the little girl that God loves. As I moved on in my life, I had to continue the fight, sometimes moment by moment, to keep the lies out, yet I was fighting two other demons…guilt and shame.
The second lesson I had to learn was that guilt and shame are lies that kept me stuck in my own prison. Another Christian therapists walked me through this battlefield. She taught me that the Lord, Jesus Christ, promises freedom through forgiveness and love.
          In the Bible we are told that “The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him.” In another part of the Bible we are promised “He gave us knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of our sins.”
          I was filled with guilt over the sins I committed. I was shamed of being abused. I was confused by the abuse itself. How can someone love you and hurt you, and why was sex the so painful yet it was meant for so much love. I was drowning in anxiety, depression, and pain. It was like I was in a bathtub with my head under water. Guilt and shame laughing as they held me down, but I could hear voices. Sweet voices of love and mercy. There was grace and salvation, truth and forgiveness all around me, but muffled.
          I CRIED OUT and the Lord took my hand and pulled me out of the water a new person.
          I was washed cleaned.
          I was remade. I walked down the aisle of my newly found church and confessed my sins and asked for forgiveness. God saved me right then and there. He restored me; He renewed my heart for Him; He loved me unconditionally. Again, the Bible brought hope to me with this promise, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation, old things have passed away, behold all things have become new.”
My life began to change in so many ways. I had tools to fight the lies. I had words to command the enemy to let go of me. I had LOVE to protect me. I began to share this forgiveness, love, and joy with my husband, with my daughters, and with my friends.
Yet there was more forgiveness needed and the Holy Spirit sent me to work. I remember reading in the Bible that “Now all things of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” That’s when I began the difficult work of forgiving my parents and biological father. I had to forgive their abandonment, their abuse, and their neglect. As I did, I became more and more free because forgiveness was cutting through the chains! Truth was shining a light in the darkness.
Everything is not perfect; I still struggle. I am learning school is never really over. I continue in therapy, with another amazing Christian therapist,  as issues arise. I still fight the enemy, but not moment by moment. Each day I grow stronger in His ways. God is continually showing me new things, increasing my capacity for compassion, and renewing my heart and soul. I find myself seeking His wisdom in His Word, in worship, and from people of wisdom. The Bible says we are to “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind…and be made new in the attitudes of your mind.” I have also learned the importance of surrounding myself with wise women and men who have gone before me. “Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” Scripture reminds us that wisdom originated from God.
Our job in life is to continually learn, to seek Him continuously, feverishly, and passionately. The freedom of forgiveness is available to everyone. As a student of the scripture, I know and accept John 3:16. I know that God loves us all. I know that He sacrificed Son, Jesus Christ for each and everyone of us. I learned that we just need to cry out for Him and He promised to raise us washed clean. I love that I am still learning.
I know I will forever be a Doctor of Education for the Lord.
Dr. Simm is a mother, educator, wife, author, volunteer, coach, and child of God. She is a Doctor of Education, psychologist, and a layman forgiveness counselor, who shares her story of restoration of her own family’s trauma with many who she has helped heal and thrive. She is a wife of over 24 years and mother of two daughters in college. She is a literary award nominated writer, sharing life’s experiences and faith in her book, “And The Day Came,” magazine articles, and weekly blog supporting various ministries.