~ by Cara Whitney
I pray that God, who gives hope, will bless you with complete happiness and peace because of your faith. And may the power of the Holy Spirit fill you with hope. — Romans 15:13 CEV
Within two short years Erin walked through the “the valley of the shadow of death” twice — first losing her unborn baby, Mike, and then her mother. Her heart was crushed, and her faith had taken a beating. Yet just hours before her mother’s passing, Erin’s mom shared something miraculous: She talked about seeing Jesus. “He has hair on His face,” Erin’s mom told her. “Just a little. And He wears a crown that is bright. He is good... and His hands are taking away my cancer and my pain. Oh, how I really, really love those hands!”
Erin’s mom died five days before Erin’s birthday. Her mother had loved celebrating each child’s special day — always wanting to be the first to say, “Happy Birthday!” At 2:00 a.m., just a couple of hours into Erin’s big day, her two-year-old daughter, Paisley, came into her room, gently tugged on her arm, and then made an announcement that caused Erin to bolt out of bed: “Grandma came into my dream and told me to wake you up and wish you happy birthday. She said she loves heaven. Oh, and she told me that she is taking care of baby Mike, so you don’t have to worry about him! Good night, Mommy.”
Tears rolled down Erin’s cheeks. Baby Mike?! she thought. Oh, dear Lord, You are amazing. Your love comforts us at just the right moment — and You never cease to deliver one miracle after another!
Erin’s thoughts flashed to the dark valleys she and her husband had walked through over the past several months... and all the “why” questions that rolled through her mind over and over. Yes, her heart was broken, yet she hadn’t lost her faith. And in reality, God was blessing her. “I’m choosing to keep putting one step ahead of the other,” she prayed out loud. “And I’ll continue to seek You through the crushing moments as well as the good ones. You’re healing my heart — just as You’ve taken away my mom’s pain. And I know I’ll get to see her and my sweet baby someday. I know Mike is well cared for. Thank You, Jesus. Thank You!”
One of her mother’s dying wishes was that Erin would have a baby boy. On July 23, 2019, Erin and her husband welcomed Jeter David into the world. Their boy — and the very child her mother had prayed for just a week before she passed into eternity.
Erin still smiles when she imagines the joy on her mother’s face whenever she would talk to her about Heaven. Even though their time together was cut short, Erin felt as if she had gained a lifetime of wisdom from her mom. And through her mother’s death, Erin has received an eternal focus. Today, she’s convinced that eternity isn’t that far off for any of us. “The space between this life and Heaven is very thin,” she insists. “It’s almost palpable.”
- The Holy Spirit heals our pain and fills us with joy.
The Lord pulled my friend out of despair and filled her heart with joy and wonder. For Erin, it was her amazing “God encounters” that changed everything.
“All of these events have built my faith,” Erin told me. “I believe in miracles. I have seen them with my own eyes. I believe in Heaven. My mom is there with our sweet baby boy Mike and with so many other loved ones.”
Her story has shown me the difference between being broken and being blessed.
I first met Erin a few years ago when I became middle-aged enough to start pulling muscles in my sleep. She is one of the most tender people I know, and she’s both a physical therapist and a Pilates instructor. I decided to start Pilates training with her as a way to become stronger and more limber. I thought, Hey, if I ever slip and fall, I can use my new strong and limber body to avoid breaking something.
And being who I am — an evangelist — I also thought this would also be a great opportunity to witness to someone new.
When I walked into the Pilates studio for the first time and met Erin, she was surrounded by bouquets of flowers. “Is it your birthday?” I asked.
As it turned out it was actually the one-year anniversary of her mom’s passing, so the flowers were there to cheer her up. As she put it, “I have great friends.”
It got me thinking as I started my stretching routine: Maybe God put me here to be a witness and to give her some encouragement.
As I started my usual prying into her personal spiritual life (nope, I just can’t help myself), I quickly concluded that Erin was a follower of Jesus. A strong one. And before you could say, “Let’s do the Hundred, followed by the Criss-Cross and Single-Leg Circles,” the tables had turned. Erin became an encouragement to me. A big one.
Her faith journey reminded me that
- Jesus still allows us to witness and to participate in His miracles.
And her testimony is so healing. It’s such a blessing to those of us who wait with broken hearts to be reunited with those who have gone before us into eternity.
Erin’s story takes my mind back to the farm and how God used a horse to show me the difference between being broken and being blessed. It’s a reminder that all will be healed and restored at the end of this race.
What’s the difference between breaking a horse and training one? About eight years ago I purchased a horse that I didn’t understand. I liked him; then I didn’t like him. And I’m almost positive he didn’t like me. I just could not figure out what made Gus tick. A friend of mine recommended that I take him to a barn where an old cowboy named Smokey taught natural horsemanship methods. Together with Smokey, I learned how to speak the language of horse.
I asked Smokey where he’d learned this magic method, assuming that, much like in the movies, he had some wild story, like he was raised on horse milk and ran off to live on the range among the wild stallions, like Jane Goodall with chimpanzees, but with equines instead. But no such story existed. To my surprise Smokey told me that natural horsemanship was actually very new to him. Up until the last decade, he’d done it his dad’s way: the old cowboy method of using fear and pain to break the horse’s will into submission.
Smokey recalled a time when he saw his dad on top of a horse. His dad was pulling the reins tight, and the horse had blood coming out its mouth. He remembered times that his dad withheld food or left a horse tied up for hours. By basically dominating the horse with fear and pain, Smokey’s dad would psychologically get it to a place where it no longer wanted to buck, bolt, or rear.
I’m so thankful after hearing these stories that there is another way to get our horses to a place of compliance. I would rather have Gus’s respect and confidence than for him to be afraid of me.
During that year that I worked with Gus and with Smokey, I fell in love with Gus. I learned to understand what Gus was trying to tell me the whole time. I could read in his eyes when Gus had hit his threshold for the day, and Gus learned that I could be trusted.
I could tell Gus with my presence, “I’m going to put pressure on you, friend, so you know what I am asking you to do. But you can still trust that this is what’s best for you. I am your safe place, Gus. I am where you find your rest.”
Over time, Gus and I formed a partnership. A true and genuine union.
- Like the cowboys of old, those hard “whys” of life try to capture and break us. We bolt, and we try to dodge all the problems of this world so they don’t catch us.
We buck and we rear because even though we are made in the image of God, we were also created with these wild human hearts. Although God isn’t obligated to give us an answer to our life questions, He does train us through them to achieve a true and genuine union with each of us individually.
- Jesus is our mentor. He is the Way.
He shows us how He submitted to God and asks us to do the same. He is the pioneer and the perfecter of faith. Jesus doesn’t try to break us with cruelty or intimidation. Instead, He tells us, “Do not be afraid.” He wants our wild hearts to submit to Him willingly; He wants us to bring our trauma, and He will train it into hope.
Jesus trains us to be strong and limber so we can carry on His work here on earth. While we run toward our eternal home, we can use our training to proclaim the gospel. His sweet assurance that miracles happen. His promise that we will see our loved ones again. The message that even though we slip and fall, we will not falter, because we know all will be healed and restored at the end of this race.
That’s how it is for my friend Erin.
She says the gift of eternity has given her new eyesight. She believes that every struggle, every challenge, every gift we receive is from God. Together, they allow us to shift our focus to the big picture and can remind us that no matter what we face today, the journey we are on is bringing us one step closer to eternity.
This perspective has allowed her to take risks, to love stronger, to forgive more, to quiet her mind so she can sense God working in her life. “Life is truly a gift,” she added, “but I’ll be honest: the gift of eternity in Heaven is one that I am really looking forward to.”
Lord, thank You for meeting me at my darkest point. Thank You for wiping away the tears and restoring my hope. Now let me use Your example of love to shine some light into a darkened world. Amen.
Excerpted with permission from The Country Soul by Cara Whitney, copyright Cara Whitney.
Is your wild heart submitted to Jesus? Have you brought Him your trauma and allowed Him to train it into hope? Come share your thoughts with us. We want to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full