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Journey to Joy: How Giving Back Brings Hope and Healing to Hurting Hearts

Journey to Joy-How Giving Back Brings Hope and HealingI am so thrilled to be able to share another part of Rick and Tammie Wommack’s story here at Espressos of Faith. I know these dear friends from my time spent in the Marshall Islands, a time when their world shattered into unbearable heartache. For anyone knowing or currently mourning tragic loss of any kind, this blog is for you. It’s also for others to understand the journey the heart takes in these hard circumstances—and the hope and healing that come through giving back. Thank you, Tammie, for being vulnerable so that others know where to get their bearing again and what life looks like on the other side, each day offering a choice as to how we will let ourselves be used for good. Tammie’s honesty and humility are so refreshing. What she offers us here brings my heart to this exact place, and I can’t wait to bring yours there too, if you’re willing to give it a read:

Psalm 27:3, King David speaking, NKJV 
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.

[After losing their son to suicide, Tammie and Rick made a choice to forfeit regular income and steady jobs to travel around the country volunteering. For Part 1 of this story, please refer to “Honoring Josh: A Mother’s Heart in the Aftermath of Suicide.”] 

Blessings!
Bonnie Lyn Smith, author of Not Just on Sundays

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Here’s Tammie….

The Interview

HOPE through FAITH and SERVICE to Others

Most of us travel through life just trying to get through it, not really realizing how what we do impacts others. We would like to think we are kind, generous, trusting, and all the things the Bible tells us a good and godly person should be.

The reality is we are busy: with work, families, finances, commitments, appointments, shopping, daily chores, and so many things on our to-do list that we are too tired to even think about how our actions, words, and deeds might be affecting others. I am confident that if you really contemplated this question and took the time to think about it, as I did this morning, you would find that most all of us impact others in our daily lives, no matter how busy they seem.

The questions then become:

Are we impacting them in a positive or negative way? 

Are we showing them an example of Christian love?

Can they see Jesus in us?

The other day while we were traveling through Iowa, I received a phone call from someone who wanted to write an article about Rick and me. They wanted to know how we got started on our Volunteer Journey: how we find volunteer jobs, what motivated us to choose this lifestyle, how we fund what we do, etc. Most of all they wanted cute, heartwarming stories about the people we helped—something that would really tug at the heartstrings of the readers.

I didn’t have any of those—heartstring stories to share. We do not really see the impact of what we do, but we know it does not diminish the importance to us on our journey.

This morning, as I was doing my devotional, I thought about her questions and my response (I’ll share my response later). I still couldn’t really think of any heartstring-tugging moments that are a result of what Rick and I do. Most of what we do is rarely even seen by other people.

It does, however, have a impact on us. And that is the real story.

We are healing and growing in Christ, learning every day to be more like Jesus and to help others just as Jesus would if He were living an everyday, “normal” life.

We are simply living a lifestyle that allows us to find joy again—a joy that we thought would never be ours.

In our hearts, we believe that we are saving lives when we teach water safety to young children.

We are keeping God’s house clean and getting it ready for visitors when we are working at the campground.

We enjoy doing all the little, behind-the-scenes details that have to be taken care of so that ministers and counselors can share the Word of God and lead children and adults to Christ.

So many of our volunteer jobs are just that: jobs. But in the work, we find hope and healing, God’s grace, and, yes, joy. We find joy in everyday living and in the wonderful people we meet, in the places we visit, and in the personal and quiet knowledge that what we are doing makes a difference and is part of God’s path for us.

By societal standards, we are not successful: We live in a camper, drive a very old truck, own few possessions, have very little money, and, yet, we find ourselves happier than we can ever remember being. We are rich in the knowledge that we are saved by grace and are following God’s plan for our lives. Through this grace, we have found:

Hope
Love
Forgiveness
Healing
Joy

So my response to the interviewer that day was more or less:

“This is not that kind of story. We are not outstanding people on a mission to help others. We are not looking for praise for all the wonderful things we are doing. We are certainly not missionaries.

It is not a story about the people we have helped. It is a story about how giving back has helped us.

We are simply ordinary people who have suffered a tragic loss and found healing through giving back. The story is really just that simple! We did not start out feeling that God had called us to go forth and help others. Our journey is one of evolution; we started out just running away from home and memories, not really sure what we were seeking but still very much stuck in our grieving. We finally realized (not both at the same time) what we were doing each time we were volunteering was actually helping us to move forward through our grief in to a life filled with purpose and hope. We began to heal and find joy again. It was not overnight; rather, it was a gradual process. We are still traveling that journey but believe that if we have any kind of story to tell, it is one of hope through Jesus Christ and healing through giving back.”

2 Samuel 22:29, author unknown, ESV
For you are my lamp, O LORD, and my God lightens my darkness.

I suspect that our story was not what she was looking for, although she did say she would send it to her editor. We are not looking for the spotlight to shine on us.

Isaiah 66:2, Isaiah the Prophet speaking, ESV
All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

The only story we have is how this journey has helped us and, in turn, has helped others. That is what we hope to share and what we would like to spotlight for other parents and family members who are lost in the grieving process. Hope through faith and service to others will help you heal and find your joy in life again.

1 Timothy 4:10, Apostle Paul speaking, ESV
For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

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A great resource for suicide prevention is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

To find out more about Tammie and Rick, you can read part of their story at http://www.gofundme.com/Giving-Back-For-Joshua.

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Count It All as Pure Joy: A Tale of Heartache and the Gift of Adoption

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Espressos of Faith welcomes another guest blogger today. I don’t know Joan. I was sitting at breakfast the other day with a very dear friend sharing my vision for this blog site, which was to feature stories of hope, faith, healing, and endurance in tough trials—at the end of them, or even in the middle. From time to time, this involves bringing in guest bloggers/writers, or even just courageous non-writers willing to send me sketches of their personal stories to share God’s hope with the world. Upon hearing this, my sweet friend shared Joan’s story with me, and I knew, if she was willing, it could touch others who have walked, or are walking, a similar path. We live all the way around the world from each other; I will likely never meet Joan in person. But, I am honored to meet her in this space and share a piece of her inspiration with you. I think you will find her heartfelt honesty refreshing. She begins with a poem she wrote during her struggles with infertility. Without any further introduction, here is Joan…

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Treasure

Treasure the flutters of first life
For those whose wombs will ever be empty.

Treasure your bump
For those whose bellies will never swell.

Treasure that sleepy 3 AM hug
For those whose sleep will never be disturbed.

Treasure every “Mommy, I love you!”
For those who will never hear the words “Mommy” or “Daddy.”

Treasure your mad and cluttered house
For those whose house will ever be tidy.

Treasure your children
For those who dream of having children every day.

 

With celebrating Nicole’s adoption day on Monday, I wanted to write about our adoption story and what I learnt about God along the way.

Our journey began Oct 1, 2001. That seems so long ago. We decided as young married couples do, we would start trying for a baby. So full of optimism and hope, we started trying. In December, I was convinced I was pregnant, so off to the doctor I went. The result was negative. I remember thinking, oh this was not how it was supposed to be. But, it was it how was going to be.

Many months of negative results, wondering, hoping just maybe this month will see me pregnant. The niggling thought: What if I never do? In the end, I was diagnosed with unexplained infertility. In other words, there was nothing wrong with me; I just could not fall pregnant. And so began a journey of tears, heartache, and shattered dreams.

We began fertility treatment. Every cycle I would pack up my broken heart, put it a box, go for the treatment. For two weeks, we would hope. Then, my heart would break, I would be angry with God, cry and pick up myself up again.

And we would try again.

It was one of the most difficult times of my life. I know some people wonder why infertility is so hard. If you are a parent, close your eyes. Imagine your child comes running to you calling you “Mommy” and gives the biggest hugs. Every couple dealing with infertility dreams that dream, but in their world, it’s just a dream. Never becoming reality. You have a monthly reminder you are not pregnant. Everyone around you is falling pregnant, and your body is not doing the one thing you were designed to do: carry life. It is heart-wrenching and devastating.

For many, it is a silent pain. What I learnt about God is: God knows our pain. It might feel as if He is far away, distant, but He is right there holding us in our darkest hours. His plan is not our plan, but He holds us in the unfolding of His plan as a mother eagle holds her babies. He sends His angels to watch over us. I count several dear ones as our angels during this time. They cried with us, prayed and ultimately celebrated with us.

Two turning points occurred. One was that I suffered a miscarriage. During that hard time God gave me a glimpse of eternity. And the second was my final treatment. After it was negative, I was broken and empty. I let go and let God. When we can longer carry on ourselves, God can. We get in our own way, and when we let go of holding on with our own strength and let Him carry some of the weight, we can rest and just breathe. When James mentioned the option of adoption, for me it wasn’t a second choice; I knew it was God’s choice. I knew this was the way it was supposed to be.

After several months, we were matched with a little girl. When we held her for the first time, it felt as if our hearts were lit up from the inside. I am the picture of the girl standing in front of the Cross holding her suitcase full of her hopes and dreams for her King, not knowing that what He has in store for me is far more than I could ever have imagined!

At Nicole’s dedication, I stated that if God had given me a choice, one road with happiness and biological children and a road with suffering and Nicole at the end, I would choose the road with suffering and Nicole.

Because God’s plan is perfect. And because He loves us.

Psalm 121, King David speaking

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

 

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