Three Step Process to Healing a Broken Heart, Starting Your Life Over, and Walking in Faith

Even as I type this I am asking myself, why would I share the most intimate and painful moment of my life with a world full of strangers on the Internet?  Even as I ask this I hear my reply, because it is Message Monday and this is your message to share.  So, that being said, I open myself to you in the hopes that you will find something in my story that rings true for you and that you can possibly use to heal your broken heart, start your life over, and walk in faith.

It has been three years now but at the end of every July I still find myself anxious with the memories that were created years before.  It was a typical day at work, which means that we were incredibly slow and were cutting hours.  I was notorious for going home early but, on this day, I decided to work my full shift; funny how we can replay one choice in our heads over and over and over again.  I often wonder what the outcome would have been if I had decided to go home early.  Around 4pm I received a phone call from my apartment complex informing me that my apartment had been struck by lightning and was burning down.  I remember falling to my knees and crying, “But my cat’s in there, Peter Pan’s in there.”  I couldn’t believe that this was actually happening to me.  I had no idea what I was supposed to do or how I could fix this.

My boss got me into her car and drove me home.  As soon as we reached the city limits we could see the massive plume of smoke guiding us to our destination.  I knew what that smoke meant.  I had been a Disaster Relief Volunteer for the American Red Cross for five years.  I had responded to enough house fires to know the difference between enough smoke to show that there was damage and enough smoke to show that all was lost.  So I knew, before we got there, that all was lost.

When we reached the fire, my worst thoughts were confirmed.  The lightning had struck the unit right next to mine and had burned through our roof and all the way across our building.  As the flames burned across, they dropped burning drywall down which made the fire burn from the top and the bottom at the same time.  Mine and my neighbors unit were completely destroyed, as were some of the other units on the second floor.  I stood there and watched the life that I had created for myself (I had moved to South Carolina only two years before) float away on the ashes.  I felt, not angry, not sad, but completely and utterly empty.  The wind blew and I was assaulted with a mixture of clean earth that had been freshly rained on and the smoldering remains of my home before me.  In that mixture I felt my heart stir, and the words to a song were lifted up:

I was sure by now

God You would have reached down

And wiped our tears away

Stepped in and saved the day

But once again, I say “Amen”,

and it’s still raining
As the thunder rolls

I barely hear Your whisper through the rain

“I’m with you”

And as Your mercy falls

I raise my hands and praise the God who gives And takes away


And I’ll praise You in this storm

And I will lift my hands

For You are who You are

No matter where I am

And every tear I’ve cried

You hold in Your hand

You never left my side

And though my heart is torn

I will praise You in this storm

Never before in my life had I received such a clear and loving message from God.  I knew, without a doubt, that I was not alone.  Even as I cried myself to sleep each night, I would still hear that song and I would know that He had not abandoned me.  Even when I had to put my darling Peter Pan to sleep, due to the burns he sustained, and my heart was darkened with anger, I still heard that song. I believe with all of my heart that this fire was meant to be a part of my story.  I also believe that God put me in South Carolina so that, when I lived this part of my story, I would be surrounded by His people who knew how to touch me with their prayers, their love and their grace.  To this day I still feel indebted to the people who showed me what faith really means. 

Step One to Healing a Broken Heart, Starting Your Life Over, and Walking in Faith:  Believe, with all that you are, that you are never alone.  He is with you and He will guide your way, if you let Him.

(If I were better at computers I could embed this video.  Alas, I am not. So click the link to check out Casting Crown’s “I Will Praise You In This Storm”.)

The day after the fire I returned “home” to see what, if anything, was left.  The maintenance crew was going through the apartments to assess the damage but they said that I was not allowed up, due to the potential danger.  I stood there with tears streaming down my face as I begged one guy to please let me up; and if he couldn’t, to please just bring me anything down that was still there.  He looked at me with such sadness in his eyes but he agreed to go back up after the rest of his entourage had left.  When he came back down he was carrying what was left of  my grandfather’s Army footlocker and one tiny piece of paper.  As he placed the footlocker at my feet he held the piece of paper out to me and said, “I don’t know how, but this was still on the refrigerator. Everything else is gone.”  As I reached my hand out to him, he took it and squeezed it in his own.  He looked down at the paper again and I could see the tears well up in his eyes.  He handed the paper to me, smiled a sad smile, told me that he would pray for me, and then he walked away.  When I realized what was in my hand I understood his reaction. I also understood that it was yet another message, hand-picked, just for me.  I held a poem that my friend J. had sent to me quite a while back.  It was something that I put up on my fridge so that I could see it every day until I figured out what it meant to me.  Until that day, I had not decided on it’s meaning in my life.  On that day, I no longer had any doubt as to what it meant for me.

In the days and weeks and months that followed, I would marvel at how that one tiny piece of paper survived.  The microwave had melted into the counter, the pantry door had burned in it’s jamb, the mail on the counter had disintegrated.  Yet this one, tiny bit of paper had somehow survived the flames that destroyed everything around it.  Unbelievable!  Unbelievable only if you do not believe that God will speak directly to you if you are willing to listen.  I was willing to listen.

Step Two to Healing a Broken Heart, Starting Your Life Over, and Walking in Faith: Have faith that the answers which you seek are out there, if you are willing to seek them with an open mind and an open heart.  Give yourself the freedom to simply let go.  “Let all go dear, so comes love.”  I did.  I let it all go and I was rewarded with a love like I have never known.  I will never be able to explain what it felt like to have my heart feel like it was going to shatter under such sadness but that it was also on the verge of bursting with the outpouring of love that my family, friends, co-workers and community had shown to me.  In the aftermath of the fire I truly understood what it meant to have “my cup runneth over”.

(The white square is where the magnet was that was holding it to the fridge.)

I made the eventual decision to leave South Carolina and take a job transfer to Cleveland to start my life over.  We were opening a new location and I knew that that would be the perfect time to blend into the crowd, as everyone there would be new, and I wouldn’t have to share much back story.  Just over two months after the fire I joined my co-workers and brothers in faith for our last lunch together.  When we were ready to leave I hugged them with everything that I had as I tried to fight back the tears.  They had, without a doubt, changed me and I knew that I would hold them in my heart forever.  I had almost reached the state line to cross into North Carolina when I received a text message from C.  The text was simply a radio station.  I quickly turned to the station and heard these lyrics:

And today you know that’s good enough for me

Breathin’ in and out’s a blessing can’t you see

Today’s the first day of the rest of my life

And I’m alive and well, I’m alive and well

I had to pull off to the side of the road because I was crying so hard.  This was it!  This was exactly what I needed to hear as I drove away to begin my new life! I finished the ten hour drive to Cleveland, with tears every now and again, and set about starting over.  About two months had passed when I found myself humming that song.  I had never actually heard the entire song but I was sure that I would like it.  So I went up to the store and treated myself to the new Kenny Chesney c.d.  When I got home, I cuddled up on my bed while clutching my pillow, and pushed play on the c.d. player.  And that is when I finally heard the beginning to the song:

It’d be easy to add up all the pain

And all the dreams you sat and watched go up in flames

Dwell on the wreckage as it smolders in the rain

But not me, I’m alive

I immediately was reduced to a fit of giggles mixed with tears.  How ridiculously, insanely appropriate.  Once I calmed myself down enough I dialed C.’s number.  As soon as I heard his warm southern drawl I said, “You rotten son of a bitch, you!  You are such an asshole!”  He immediately burst out laughing and said, “I was wonderin’ when you was gonna hear the rest of the song!”  Even as I listen to the song now, I still can’t shake the feeling that it was written just for me. I love the fact that I heard what I needed to when I was leaving South Carolina, but then I heard the rest of it when I was ready to.  You can’t force moments like these in life, they are simply part of life’s amazing wonder.

Step Three to Healing a Broken Heart, Starting Your Life Over, and Walking in Faith:  If nothing else in life, allow yourself to laugh!  Sometimes laughter is the only thing that can break though a shell to let the real healing begin.  C. helped me to put things in perspective.  Yes, for all intents and purposes, I had lost everything; but I was still alive and well, and that’s good enough for me.  Some days, the simple fact that you are still alive is going to be the best thing that you have going for you, allow that to be good enough.

(Yep, couldn’t do it here either.  Click to see Kenny Chesney and Dave Matthews perform their song, “I’m Alive”.)

In closing, life is rarely going to work out exactly as you had planned.  There are roadblocks and hurdles and obstacles for you to overcome.  Believe that you are never alone.  Give yourself the freedom to “let go” and create space in your life for love to enter.  Laugh as often as possible and appreciate that being “alive and well” and “breathing in and out” is a blessing that is denied to many but that has been shared with you.

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