Beauty for Ashes

The most amazing thing has happened to me in the last month that truly shows how God makes beauty out of ashes!! A series of events took me down a path I never saw coming…

A short background for those of you I haven’t met yet in our PCF family. My sister was killed in Feb 2017. The heart wrenching part is that it was at the hands of her son, my nephew Nathan. He and his brother were taken by their father at the age of 10 and 11. They lived on the streets and in drug houses as their father was Bi-polar and on drugs. He became a drug lord and was on America’s Most Wanted FBI List. It wasn’t until he was finally caught that the boys were returned to Debra. She would drive the streets at all hours of the night and down the darkest allies, through the worst neighborhoods and spoke to some scary looking gangs. By the time they were returned they were 15 and 17 year old strong men. Nathan had been in and out of trouble and jail for violent things but Debra was always there to plead his case. She was highly intelligent in financial matters and basically bought him out of trouble. She was mourning the little boys she lost and over compensated Nathan because she felt so much guilt for not finding them. He was diagnosed with different mental illnesses as well. He lived with her and she did everything for him. She loved him with a love I didn’t understand at all. He was mean and controlling and down right scary at times. He was this 36 year old man who ended the life of the only one that would ever have his back without question!
That series of events starts here…
I got an email from the Arizona Prison Rehabilitation Center .. that simply said Nathan had requested contact and to call or email his Prison Caseworker. I was shocked.
I immediately spoke to my husband Keith as I felt panic rush through me and he has always been able to bring me down from the clouds and calm me. He basically said either call or email and take the mystery out of it. So I called but was only able to speak to a general information desk. The man on the phone did say that a request for contact was for many reasons but the main two was the family of the prisoner can be interviewed as part of an appeals process or the prisoner wants closure i.e. forgiveness. Either way I had to email the caseworker to get answers.
By this time I just wanted to ignore it all together, however God had a different plan.
Day by day I would fight the urge to even think about it and day by day God made it harder and harder. I once again told Keith I didn’t want to forgive or help in any appeals so I don’t know why I should respond.¬†We decided I needed my pastors council so I emailed Vijay to set up our video chat.
This is where it gets good ….
The video chat was my morning and Vijay’s afternoon. After we had the chit chat of catching up I began explaining the details of the most recent events as we have spoken before about this tragedy. He told me the most profound thing .. he said, Susan you need to forgive him – not to condone his behavior but to let God have the opportunity to heal you AND him through you!! He said I need to give up the need to punish him and when I do God can use that door of opportunity to shower him with grace and mercy!
Wow .. I just went from I can’t, won’t, never will, forgive him or help him to forgiveness and witnessing!
That night I stayed on my knees quite a while. I told God I heard His message and I know it is truth but I still had that part of me that was protesting and feeling like I somehow was betraying my family! I prayed for understanding. I prayed for strength. The next day I sent out an email but all I could say was … Why?
I sat most of that day feeling emotionally drained. My mind played over each scenario and was baffled as to why me.. why now?
Then it hit me ….
That love I mentioned earlier that I didn’t understand .. it was about to become understandable.
I realized if she was sitting next to me she would be pleading with me to forgive him. What kind of crazy was that? Why would she love someone who blamed her for every evil he had done and then killed her in such a violent and heartless way?
As clear as day I heard in my spirit … The same way I love you while you killed me!!
I just sat there in shock!
What I didn’t mention earlier was I asked God to send me a sheep fleece ..
“.. look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.”
Judges 6:37
My sister did what was done for her. She loved the purest unconditional love she could humanly give!
Her life mattered. I suddenly began to recall the times I would rock Nathan to sleep and his silly grin when he would cheat at Go Fish. God allowed me to see him as He does … one of His lost children. God also helped me remember the innocence that was lost and the dysfunction of his youth. I started seeing him as my troubled nephew not a cold killer.
The next day I received a reply to my email. I opened it and it explained that he just wanted contact for closure. I did reply stating that I would be willing to communicate via written letters or emails with him but let the record show I believe he is exactly where he needs to be and I would never advocate for his release. If he would still like to communicate after that understanding is conveyed then so be it. As of today I haven’t heard back but I feel certain that I will.
God took a heart wrenching tragedy and provided an avenue for healing. He spoke through Vijay to my broken heart and allowed me to come to terms with my sisters death.
He moistened my wool fleece…