Disappointed with Adoption – Lowlights and Lessons Learned From Our Infertility and Adoption Journey

Adoption is all about the moments.

There have been many wonderful adoption-related moments over the past two decades of adding children to our family through the miracle of adoption.

Here are just a few of the highlights:

I remember the first moment I received a random package in the mail and opened it up, only to find a framed photo of a baby along with a note.  The note stated that we had been selected by a birthmother to parent her recently born baby girl!

I remember jumping up and down and screaming: “We’ve been selected! We’ve been selected” to my cat, who was the only other living creature home at the time. I immediately called Erik (my husband) at work and together we rejoiced over the phone.  A few weeks later, we drove down to Lynchburg, Virginia and met our new baby for the very first time (see photo below)! That little baby girl turned out to be our wonderful daughter Claire, who is now a very mature, kind, smart, and resourceful eighteen-year-old young woman who is taking on-line college classes and has a bright future ahead of her.

One of the best moment of my entire life!

Then there was that moment a few years later when we had been selected by a birthmother to parent her baby boy. However, we learned that the birthfather would not relinquish his parental rights. Nine long months ticked by. But then one day, we received a phone call from our social worker letting us know that a judge had ruled against the birthfather, which was basically a small miracle of God, and that we could come get our baby at any time!  

That one phone call was yet another moment of pure joy for my husband and me. Logan is now 14 years old and is very athletic and social. He is doing great in life and in school.

Another joyful and memorable moment occurred the first time I laid eyes on Khloe, our third daughter whom we adopted from Ukraine.  At the time, we were sitting in a small, 1980’s style office in a random orphanage in Poltava, Ukraine. The orphanage director brought in this extremely tiny (like size 4T tiny) blonde-haired eight-year-old girl with a huge bow in her hair. This little girl looked up at us with wonder in her ocean blue eyes while she suppressed a huge, awkward grin.  This was the first time that anyone had ever visited her! Khloe is now 19 years old, in community college, is a great basketball player, and is doing very well in many areas of life!

These moments are probably the highlights of the last twenty years of adding children to our family. 

Sadly, there have been at least three times the number of lowlights in the area of infertility and adoption over that same period.

In this post, I want to “highlight some of the lowlights” of our adoption and infertility journey, because not everything about adoption is peaches and cream.

These difficult experiences have taught me many lessons over the years, and I will share just a portion of them with you in this post.

My hope is that I can encourage you, my Dear Reader, if you find yourself in a similar place of disappointment or difficulty, even if our circumstances are different.

Spoiler alert: this post will have a happy ending, so make sure you read all the way to the end!

Our IVF Story:

The first lowlight I’d like to highlight goes way back to the beginning (2007); back to when my husband and I were still grappling with infertility, which affects about 15% of all couples.

A few years after our adoption of Claire, Erik and I attempted two IVF procedures. At the time, these procedures were considered “cutting edge” for those who were struggling with advanced infertility. We were reluctant to even attempt an IVF procedure, but we felt like God was directly guiding and even leading our every step with many signs to keep going along the way. He even raised up a member of our family to pay for the entire first procedure!  God continually gave us full faith that this was His will and even that the IVF procedure would lead to a pregnancy.  We went out on the “faith limb” and believed that God would work through this procedure to give us a biological child, even though our fertility doctor assured us that our chances of becoming pregnant were “zero to five percent, with the emphasis on zero,” (his exact words).

In order to even attempt an IVF treatment, both of us had to undergo medical testing to make sure that there would be enough “material” to work with for the IVF procedure.  Thankfully, I had enough eggs to work with.  A biopsy from a urologist confirmed that Erik had a small number of sperm available; enough to make something happen. The clinic technicians froze that sample, and I started on some medication to make me produce many eggs. We were off to a good start!

When the “big day” of egg retrieval and fertilization arrived, the clinic technicians thawed Erik’s sperm sample to be ready for my egg retrieval.  However, upon thawing the sample, they were shocked to find that all the sperm material had completely dissolved!

The technicians looked for hours and couldn’t even find a single sperm to work with, even though there was a small number present before freezing. Remember, for fertilization to occur, you literally only need one sperm and one egg.   

I still remember the exact moment the doctor called us.  Erik and I had been waiting all afternoon and into the evening for a phone call from the clinic.  In order to pass the time, we prayed and listened to Christian music, in full faith that the procedure would work out.

When the phone finally rang, I could tell in the very first nano-second that the procedure had been a failure, just by the tone and inflection of the doctor’s voice.

We were devastated.  We were also confused. 

Why had God seemingly pushed us to do a procedure and then have it completely fail?

We were spiritually wounded and ready to give up.  We prayed again that God would guide our steps, and that if it was His will for us to do one more IVF, He would make it clear. 

To make a long story short, God made it clear that He wanted us to yet again pursue another IVF procedure. 

We met with our IVF doctor about options, and he told us that a “new doctor” who did a more advanced procedure had just moved to the Washington, D.C. area (where we lived at the time) and that we should at least agree to meet with him.  We had actually read about this procedure prior to this, but it was only being offered in New York City at the time and cost $30,000 (too expensive for us). 

We met with this new doctor, and he told us more about the advanced procedure he offered. He stated that this new IVF procedure used new technology which could locate individual live sperm (no more freezing and thawing), and that we were good candidates with about a 40 percent chance of a successful procedure. He also told us that it was much more affordable than the procedure done in New York.

Erik and I felt comfortable and even hopeful at this news and agreed to one more procedure.

The big day came and once again, the technicians could not even find one sperm to work with.  Not even one!

After the procedure, the doctor came in and said he was deeply sorry.  We could tell he had actually been crying! We thanked him for trying to help us, and then I cried all the way home in the car.

This experience was deeply disappointing and in fact, devastating.  And again, I was confused as to why God would lead us to do a procedure that He knew would not be successful.

We moved on from ever attempting to have biological children using modern medicine and decided that adoption was, once again, our best option. A year later we adopted our beautiful son Logan, and then later we adopted Khloe from Ukraine. 

To learn more about our struggles with infertility, please see the link at the end of this post.

After our adoption of Khloe, things have gotten “stuck” with our attempts to add even one more kiddo to the family. 

In addition to getting stuck and not being able to complete our family with one more child (a heart’s desire that remains for both Erik and me to this very day, after years of prayer and fasting), we find ourselves at the start of 2023 with more questions than answers, and with a slew of disappointments under our belt.

Here are just a few of the lowlights and disappointments we have experienced over the last several years:

Disappointing Hosting Experiences:

We have hosted several kids from Ukraine and Latvia with a heart to potentially adopt one or two of them, and while hosting is extremely worthwhile and is an excellent form of ministry (and really is a lot of fun), it has not led to an adoption of any of the children we have hosted. The reasons are numerous and multifactorial but include the following: our host kids were not even available for international adoption after hosting staff assured us that they were, hidden siblings we knew nothing about, undisclosed severe autism and incorrect/misleading information with one of our host kids, and caregivers being unwilling to give up the host kids’ guardianship status.

Hosting has, however, brought us to Nina, the girl we are presently trying to adopt from the country of Ukraine (which I will get to in a moment). It also brought us to Lasma, the older orphan from Latvia, whom we love like another daughter and have an ongoing and close relationship with.

I am so thankful that there has been much good that has come out of orphan hosting and I highly recommend it.  However, it has not led to an adoption of any child at this time.

Here is a great hosting moment: backpacking in the great state of Idaho a couple of years ago with our three kids and two of our host kiddos!

Failed Latvian Adoption:

After we adopted Khloe, we decided to adopt a boy from Latvia as Erik’s mom and dad are descendants from that small Baltic country. Latvia also had a solid and dependable program at that time.

In our minds, with the adoption of this one boy, our family would be completed, and we could all move on with our lives!

We finished all the paper and other physical work that went into an international adoption and sent our dossier to Latvia.  At the time, we were told we would receive a referral after six to nine months.  Many months flew by, and still no referral.  We changed our parameters to include a sibling group of two, special needs kids, older kids, etc. in order to increase our chances of any adoption at all.  Erik even obtained his Latvian citizenship as we were told that it would help our chances.

Three years ticked by, and we never received a referral! 

Then one day we received a letter from Latvia stating the following: “due to the popularity of our domestic adoption program, we do not anticipate sending you a referral of any children.”

After three years of wasted time and prime real estate ages for my other kiddos, Latvia was a closed door.

So frustrating and disappointing and yes, even devastating!

This was the photo we used for that year’s Christmas card! Great photo for sure, but sadly the sign that Logan was holding was inaccurate.

Difficult situation with a Birthmother:

Another recent difficulty occurred with one of our birthmothers.  To make a long story short, she has basically decided to have more of a closed adoption with our family after we had enjoyed an open adoption with her for many years.  She had previously accepted this child as a part of her family, but more recently, she no longer desires to be a part of his life (and he is not welcome into hers).  There is more I could say about this, but I will stop here. Suffice it to say, this situation has been extremely hard on our entire family and especially for the impacted child.

Stalled Ukrainian Adoption:

This one is still in process, so I am hoping and praying for a happy ending.  After we decided to adopt Nina (the host girl I previously mentioned), we had completed all the paperwork and physical work of our home study and dossier and sent everything to Ukraine in February of 2022.  Two days later, Russia invaded Ukraine.  Unfortunately, we learned later that Ukraine decided to not work on any adoptions, even those already cleared for international adoption or to even consider those dossiers that were sitting in-office, which included our dossier as well as the dossiers of two other women I knew personally. Ukraine has also refused to let U.S. families with connections to Ukraine orphans either sponsor, host, or allow respite housing for any Ukrainian orphans. It seems Ukraine is nervous about all of us American families just permanently keeping their orphans here and not returning them after the war (even though that would never happen).

All adoptions are still suspended one year later.  Nina is now displaced in Germany. 

Will we ever get to adopt Nina?  Will Ukraine make us redo all the paperwork and physical work of our adoption and start from scratch?  I really don’t know.  I remain moderately hopeful that someday Nina will join our family, even if she comes here as an older teen.

But either way, this situation is also hard and disappointing to say the least.

We would love to add Nina to our family! (Nina is the dark-haired girl in the center.)

Very Difficult Child: One of our children has been especially difficult to raise on several levels.  This child struggles with attachment disorder and many other delays and difficulties. I would love to report that after several years of pouring into this complicated kiddo, that much progress has been made.  Sure, progress has absolutely been made on many levels, but this child has plateaued on many more, especially in the areas of kindness, loving other people, desire to change, executive functioning, selfishness, and anger.  

Miracle Pregnancy Letdown:

Finally, for two decades I believe that God spoke to us and invited us to believe Him for a miracle pregnancy.  God spoke to us using the Bible, prophetic words from pastors during church, and many other unique and powerful methods and words.  However, to this day, I have never been pregnant once, and I am at the age and stage in life where this would be even more impossible to happen than it was before (if that’s possible!).  This deeply disappointing and confusing chapter of my story has been a long journey, and I admit I am still struggling with it. Why would God speak to me for 20 years about something amazing and then never provide it?  I don’t really know the answer, but I believe in heaven there will be a child or children waiting for me and my husband. Or there will be some sort of explanation from God as to why we have walked this difficult and head-faking road.


The above stories are several examples of the ways that despondency, dejection, discouragement, delay, difficulty, devastation, and the mac daddy that ties it all together – deep disappointment — has reared its ugly head for my husband and me in the area of building and completing our family.

But I have learned a thing or two over the last twenty years and I can honestly say that, considering lessons learned, I am doing much better in all areas of my life, whether we ever adopt another child!

So without delay, here are four lessons I have learned about disappointment and difficulty, and what it produces, as it pertains to infertility and adoption.  Perhaps you can grab something in here for yourself.

Lesson One: The root of my disappointment is a disappointment in GOD.

At the root of all my disappointment is that I am secretly disappointed in God. Specifically, God and His ways, His timing, His methods, what He allows or ordains, and for a perceived lack of Him answering my many heartfelt prayer requests.

The remedy I have learned over the years is very simple but also very difficult: absolute (almost) blind faith and trust in God–faith and trust that God is good and is always working for my good in ways I somehow cannot see at this time.  I have faith that somehow, as I look back over the years, all the delays, disappointments, and difficulties will make more sense.  If it never seems to make sense on earth, it will eventually make sense in heaven. 

I have learned the value of praying the prayer of relinquishment, which I first learned about from Catherine Marshall (a well-known Christian author).  In her books, she states that we should always be in a continual mindset of “God, I want this, but I want Your will more.  May Your will be done,” with basically every area of life.  She states that not only is this a key to answered prayer, but it will help us to be at peace with every hardship God may allow for us.  Jesus prayed this prayer right before He died on the cross. When I pray this prayer, it is my way to be completely submitted to God’s plan for my life, whether good or bad, because I believe that God will use it for my good and for the good of my family, and that in the end, it will all make sense. 

Lesson Two: Disappointment is a tool that draws me closer to God and develops deep character within me (that I really need but don’t necessarily want).

I read a book years ago by Kay Arthur, where she claims that life’s disappointments are “God’s appointments” to make us more like Christ. I agree with this and would add that infertility and adoption have been God’s primary shaping tool in my life in the area of personal and character development, pride-slasher, introspection-builder, patience-developer, judgementalism-exposer, and sin-and-weakness-revealer, to name just a few of the positive traits that have been forged in the furnace of affliction. 

These ocean-deep character qualities are underdeveloped in most humans and require certain chiseling tools which cut very deep and are often very painful.  For some reason, God has allowed me to go very deep with my personal character development over the last twenty years.

What has been the result of all this chiseling?

I am a much different, and dare I say better, version of myself than I was twenty years ago

I can handle more hardship.  I am a better listener.  I am more empathetic and others’ oriented. I can handle stress and large amounts of pressure.  I can handle disappointment.  I don’t stay in a constant depressed state.  I am more joyful, happy, and free deep inside. I sleep well at night without constant racing thoughts.

I am a more spiritually mature Christian.

I used to run away from God in hurt and anger.  Not anymore!  I run to Him and ask Him to help me and to heal me.  I always feel better after I pray. I have more peace and calm about literally everything!

An example of this lesson applied to real life pertains to the above-mentioned very difficult child. I have learned many lessons over the years with respect to this kiddo, which include but are not limited to the following: realizing that I struggle to love difficult people consistently, that I truly need God’s greater grace to love this child in a way that they need to be loved, and to let go of secret expectations, hopes, and dreams for my relationship with this child going forward, and to leave all of that in God’s capable hands. Raising this child has been a shaping tool in my life for my personal and spiritual growth.

The bottom line is that much good has come from these last very difficult twenty years. Maybe someday I will look back on them and be very grateful.  I am not in that place yet, although I can certainly see many benefits for me personally that have come from the last two decades.

Lesson Three: Sometimes God gives you a version of what you are praying for (but not exactly what you are hoping/praying/looking for).

Sometimes God gives you a “version” of what you are praying and hoping and believing for.  An example would be that we are licensed foster parents but have not yet accepted our first placement.  Maybe we will form a tight bond with our foster kiddo, and he/she will be a wonderful addition to our family, though not a permanent one by law.

Another possible example pertains to Nina.  I have decided that even if we only get her over here on a student visa, having her live with us and go to college here, that that scenario would be a “version” of my heart’s desire to have her in our family.  After college, she might be able to live in the U.S. permanently. Bottom line? Maybe we will be able to have her in our family (of sorts) for her older teen years and beyond.

Not what I would prefer, but much better than nothing for sure!

Lesson Four: God is always doing a new thing, so expect good things from Him in the future!

A few weeks ago, God spoke to me using a pastor on YouTube about how past disappointments can lead a person to not being able to have expectant faith in the goodness of God.  As soon as he said those words, tears sprung to my eyes and I cried out, “Yes, Lord! I am afraid to have faith in your goodness in the area of children, because I am so afraid of being let down!”

I went home and decided to clump all of the old prayer requests together–the ones that have yet to be answered–and labeled them “The House of Shit and Pain.” 😊 That house included other prayer requests I had been hoping to see progress with for years, that sadly seemed to go unanswered by God. 

I then lit the whole house of unanswered prayer requests on fire in my mind. The entire thing went up in flames metamorphically.


I needed a clean slate. I wanted to start over with God.  I wanted to believe that He is truly good, and to expect good things from Him going forward.

I can honestly report that after the “house burning,” I feel much better and much more at peace. 

I am reminded of this verse found in the book of Isaiah (43:18,19):

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”

More lessons:

Here are a few more nuggets of wisdom, forged in the flames, in bullet form:

  • I am a much stronger person after enduring these trials.  As the saying goes, ‘you are only as strong as your weakest link.’  I have had decades to strengthen faults and weaknesses along my fence-line, so to speak.
  • I have learned to be content with the family I have and to treasure them. I have three beautiful kids and one awesome husband!
  • When things are hard, it draws me closer to God, which is what is best for me. 
  • God is looking for tested faith and my free choice to love, trust, and serve Him.  If things are easy and going well, there is not much testing going on.
  • Sometimes tests are used to reveal whether or not God truly is the most important thing in our life.  Other times tests just show you where the breaks are along the fence-line of your life.  Lastly, tests are also used to show you how bad-asterix you really are in a pinch, and then you can feel confident that you have actually grown as a person, which feels awesome!
  • All of the hardships over the years have forced me to experience tested faith in God.  I have been faithful to Him even when it’s hard and confusing, and I will believe in Him and trust in Him until the very end.  And someday it will all make sense!  Even if complete perspective and knowledge comes in heaven.
  • For some reason, God is primarily interested in tested faith.  It seems to do something “special” for Him.  He tends to put me in situations where I need to cling to Him with a blindfold on. 
  • I believe I will “see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13), even if it’s later and different than I would prefer.
  • Life makes sense looking backward but must be lived walking forward. This is true with all aspects of life. I have faith that someday I will have a much broader perspective, which will bring understanding to these confusing decades. For example, we look back and see that, had IVF been successful, we most likely would not have adopted either Logan or Khloe. We love them both and they belong in our family. Another example would be if our Latvian adoption had worked out, I am not sure we would have hosted all of those beautiful kiddos. We never would have met Lasma or Nina. They, too, are a part of our family now.
  • It’s ok to not give up praying about something.  Some prayer requests take decades to get answered or to find resolution.  I also keep reminding God that I am open to whatever His will is for our lives, and I continue to ask for guidance in my prayers. We continue to desire more children in our family in whatever form that looks like, and we also have the ability to adopt them (financial and otherwise).  If one of these two criteria changes, we will reevaluate.

And many more minor and major lessons have been learned over the years.

In closing, the other day I was shopping at a store and found a little wooden plaque that piqued my interest.  The plaque said:

“God makes happy endings. So if it’s not happy, then it’s not the end!”

I burst out laughing at the insanity of that little plaque.

 “That’s terrible theology!” I mumbled to myself as I remember the story of John the Baptist, whose life ended in a beheading. The Bible is filled with many other non-happy endings, and I can look at my own life for more raw material.

On impulse, I ended up buying that little plaque because I sense there is some truth in it for me.

Here is the truth that I believe is contained within that cliché-laden piece of wooden inspiration:

I believe in the goodness and kindness of God.  I believe God when He says: “I know the plans I have for you.  Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.  Plans to give you a hope and a future.” –Jeremiah 29:11

God has a plan.  I don’t know how it will all end up, but I know that one day, it will all make sense.  I hope that it will make sense on this earth, but even if it does not, all things will work themselves out in heaven, and everything will be made clear at that time.

I also know that God is in control and using all the disappointments of infertility and adoption to shape me to be more like Jesus.  This benefits me too, because the more I become like Jesus, the more I will be filled with peace, depth, and wisdom as I live out the rest of my life.

I can be filled with expectant faith in the goodness of God, but maybe let go of the specific expectations of how that might exactly look.

I can still be happy with my life by looking around and being content with what God has already given to me: my husband, my three kids, my three pets, my extended family and friends, and my beautiful home.

Lastly, even if we never adopt another child, I will be ok.  But here’s hoping for either another adoption or at least a “version” of more children in our family in the future!

In conclusion, here is some wisdom from the little wooden plaque as it pertains to our adoption situation and really, all areas of life:

God makes happy endings, so if it’s not happy, then it’s not the end.

Even if the end is in heaven!

“I remain confident in this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” –Psalm 27:13


A note from Heather:

Thank you for reading about the difficult aspects of our infertility and adoption journey.  I am considering writing a short non-fiction book about this topic.  My desire is to help men and women who are in the throes of disappointment as it pertains to this topic, in order to encourage them and to give them hope.  Please comment or like this post if  you think this type of book would help either you, My Dear Reader, or someone you know.  I would like to see how well this post does before I commit the time and effort into this project.  If you could send me some love please, I would certainly appreciate it!  Either way, I hope this post helped you in some way.  Thank you for reading my story. Take care!


If you would like read more about our failed Latvian adoption: From Latvia: “No, you cannot adopt.” (An update on our adoption situation)

If you would like to read about our stalled Ukrainian adoption: Russia Little Crazy, But it’s OK

This is how our infertility journey began: Infertility and Adoption – How I made peace with both

The list goes on: Orphan hosting (and hosting to adopt) – Ten Things You Need to Know; A long awaited mother’s day (Claire’s adoption story); Little Boy Lost (Logan’s adoption story); My Adoption Story (by Khloe, Age 13); and this is a good one about God’s timing: What the Star of Bethlehem Tells Me About Our Upcoming Adoption. There are more adoption-related posts on my site, so feel free to dig around. Take care! Thanks for reading!

Russia Little Crazy, But it’s OK

An update on our adoption from Ukraine 

My family and I have been communicating over video-chat with Nina and Masha, two orphans we love from Ukraine, ever since the Russian invasion which occurred during the month of February, 2022.  We have hosted both girls several times in our home and, most recently, have experienced the Russia/Ukraine conflict through their eyes. 

In this post, I will share with you the current situation of Ukraine through the eyes of the two girls and our adoption coordinator, an update on our adoption journey, and a personal update from yours truly. 

But first, the necessary quick back-story.  We were first introduced to Nina over two and a half years ago when we watched a 24 second video of her on youtube. Nina was a nine year old orphan who was available to be hosted through an international hosting program. As we were already set to host a little boy from Ukraine through this program, we decided to add her into the mix at the last minute as well.  My husband and I were drawn to her cute and spunky spirit, and our hosting coordinator described her as being a strong fighter and a “great kid.”  We fell in love with Nina and decided to host her again and again.  We also met her younger cousin Masha who is like a sister to her, and decided to host her as well (Masha is not available for international adoption at this time).  We flew to Ukraine and met with Nina and Masha’s family and connected with Nina’s grandma (also named Nina) and extended family.  And then more than a year ago, we decided to start the very long and tedious adoption process from the country of Ukraine.    

Our family vacationed in Idaho last summer, and Nina and Masha are seen front and center.
We took a back-packing trip this past summer and had a great time! The kids had a great time playing Phase 10!

Adopting from Ukraine is nothing new to us.  Ten years ago we brought home our adopted daughter Khloe from Ukraine.  We started a blog about our journey (https://erikandheatheradopt.wordpress.com), and Khloe wrote an entire post by herself, found here: My Adoption Story (by Khloe, Age 13). On this most recent trip to Ukraine, we brought Khloe back to her home country and even visited her orphanage with her. Some of her teachers were still there and remembered her well!  It was a great trip.

The Russian invasion from the perspective of two children we care about:

We have been in contact almost daily with the girls and have observed the war through their eyes.  Below are just a few of the highlights of what we learned while talking with them:

  • When the invasion began, all the orphanage kids noticed it, but they tried to just go about their lives.  However, school stopped for them a few days into the invasion and they really had nothing to do all day long.  They might play outside briefly, but they were mostly inside, playing and watching movies. Thankfully, they had electricity, food, and water at their orphanage.  
  • As the invasion progressed, they had to sleep downstairs in their little musty cellar that doubled as a bomb shelter.  It was terrible, cramped, and cold, and some of the kids got sick being in the cellar every night.  The official city bomb shelter was 6 km away from their orphanage and not accessible to them. 
  • Their mid-sized city experienced the shelling of buildings, which kept the children and caregivers awake at night. There were also air-raid sirens almost nightly. 
  • Nina is a very even-keeled child, which is one of the things I love about her. One day I called and asked her how the night before had been for her and the other children. In her broken English and breezy way, she explained to me the following:  “Last night there was boom boom.  Russia little crazy, but it’s ok.” 
  • Finally, after much work, prayer, texting, advocacy, working with our adoption coordinator, and learning on the fly how things are done in this unique situation, Nina’s entire orphanage evacuated Ukraine and were safely transported to a city in the European Union (EU).  They made it safely to the Polish border, stayed one night in a hotel due to the efforts of a Christian ministry, and then were on their way to the next country.  Their current residence is like an institution/school/camp. According to Nina, the food is good, there’s still not a lot to do sometimes, they are doing on-line school for about two hours per day, they all get time on their phones, they go outside and play, do some activities, and are in bed by 10 p.m.
  • We are all extremely grateful that the kids made it safely out of Ukraine.  To all of the people who prayed during this time, I want to personally thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Personal thoughts with regard to the last few weeks:

It was a huge effort to get the kids out of Ukraine and evacuated to a safe location within the EU.  I cannot begin to describe the number of hours spent by myself as well as other prospective adoptive moms, all trying to figure out a plan to evacuate the kids.  However, at the end of the day, the Ukrainian government ended up evacuating the orphanage and then directed them to another facility in the EU. I have never been in a “crisis situation” in my entire life, but it was a crisis for me to see the images on TV, hear that the city in which the girls were located in was getting bombed every night, and that they were unable to leave due to mostly bureaucratic reasons (this is a long story that I hope to share at a later time). 

It was a crisis for them, for us, and the entire world to watch on TV. I was extremely stressed.

Apparently, the bus drivers transporting the kids and caregivers were getting texts from loved ones back in their hometowns and wanted to dump the orphanage kids and caregivers out on the side of the road near the Polish border so they could return to their families back in Ukraine.  However, after some back and forth, some other buses came from Poland and transitioned everyone into new buses, and everyone made it safely across the border.

As far as my adoption coordinator goes, it is my understanding that she was getting bombarded with texts and calls around the clock.  Hosting parents as well as prospective adoptive parents continually wanted her attention as they were understandably stressed and scared about the well-being of the children they loved and had developed a relationship with. She also received texts and calls from hosting and adoption agencies, requests from government officials, and the list goes on. She worked relentlessly to get the kids out of Ukraine and out of harm’s way.  As far as I know, she was successful and all of the kids in her portfolio of responsibility are out!  However, as of the time of this writing, this woman is hunkered down in Ukraine trying to survive the war. 

Update on our adoption journey:

Right now our adoption is squarely on hold, and Ukraine is not allowing their orphaned children to travel to the United States.  At this time, Ukraine is only allowing EU countries to provide care and housing for these children. There are reportedly approximately 300 children with some connection to American families (in various stages of the adoptive process), and many of them need temporary care during the war.  Our family, along with several other American families, are advocating the they be able to temporarily come to America to be with the families that love them.  75 Members of Congress have already pledged their support by signing a recent letter from the Congressional Adoption Caucus here calling for the immediate unification of Ukrainian children to their host/pre-adoptive families.  Several of us prospective adoptive parents have also retained a law firm which is working on our behalf with government officials, encouraging them to work with Ukraine to accomplish some goals on our behalf.  For me personally, I am hoping that Ukraine will still somehow work on our existing adoption (even though they said they would not), as well as allow Nina and Masha to travel to the United States, even temporarily.  Please pray for that if you feel inclined!

I will share one brief action item in the P.S. section if you are interested in helping us out.

Before I share my personal update, I want to add that my struggles are nothing compared to what the country of Ukraine is experiencing.  I cannot even begin to imagine the hardships, death, and displacement of millions of Ukrainians at this exact moment. I am only one person who is experiencing the war through the eyes of two girls we care about.  

Like every other person on the planet, I have been glued to the TV over the last few weeks and praying fervently.   I am qualifying what I am about to share and admitting that my hardships are small potatoes compared to what the people of Ukraine are facing on a daily basis.

Personal update:

I vacillate between a calm peace, knowing that God is ultimately in control and on the throne of the Universe and in charge of everything, and also a feeling of despair at the thought of not being able to adopt Nina ever due to circumstance beyond my control.  Erik and I are caught up in a very difficult situation that is so above our pay grade that it’s hard to put it into words.  The thought of all the time spent (or possibly wasted) on a very long and tedious adoption physical work journey (I don’t call it paperwork anymore because that is so demeaning to its complexity) makes me want to pull my hair out in frustration.  Especially since this could be our second failed adoption (our first failed adoption took place here: From Latvia: “No, you cannot adopt.” (An update on our adoption situation)).  

It feels like we have been on a “failed adoption journey” for about seven years now.  So frustrating!

Along with feelings of frustration, there is also sadness at the prospect of not being able to adopt Nina, at least in the immediate future. We were just on the phone with Nina yesterday who informed us of two things.  First, she misses us and wants us to come to visit soon.  Second, that Masha, who is only nine years old, “got married” to a boy in the institution yesterday.  This government institution is fine as a temporary place to care for children, but kids belong in families that love them, will guide them, will nurture them, and protect them. 

Nina is already 12 years old and time is ticking!  We hope to still be able to bring her into our family.  If things work out to eventually be able to adopt Masha (who is currently not available), we are open to that as well.

Which leads me back to the title of this post.  

Russia little crazy…

Yes, it is.  And it’s frankly scary to watch.  I remember the night when the news was reporting that shelling/bombing was occurring at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.  Thank God that blew over, but with the President of Russia either needing an off-ramp and not finding one (at least as of the time of this writing), or not even wanting an off-ramp in the first place as he just wants to take over parts of Ukraine, I am nervous about what he might do out of desperation.  

But it’s ok…

It is only ok because God is in control and on the throne.  I believe that God is good and according to what he has promised in Scripture, He works “all things” both for our good and for us to be more like his son, Jesus (Romans 8:28).  I have to believe that God will eventually work all of this for some sort of good, both for the country of Ukraine and Russia, as well as for Nina and Masha and the other children, and also for us.

In addition to praying for Ukraine, I have been giving everything over to the Lord, including our adoption of Nina and any other child that I may wish to add to our family.  I have also prayed the “prayer of relinquishment” which I learned about years ago.  I am praying something like the following: “Lord, I give Nina over to you.  We would love to adopt her.  Nevertheless, not our will, but your will be done.” 

I have also been praying that God would heal me of my sadness over this situation, and I believe that my healing journey has begun.  I now have an inner peace that I didn’t possess during the months of February and March.  My peace stems from the fact that God is good and in control, and that he loves those girls so much more than I ever will. If it’s God’s plan for us to adopt Nina, then He will make a way for this to happen.

If you feel so inclined, please pray for us. And do the one action item listed in the P.S. section. But prayer is more important.

I am also constantly praying for the people of Ukraine and that this conflict will end as soon as possible.

And, I never thought I would say this, but please pray for world peace, too. 

Thank you for reading this post and for following along on our long and arduous journey.

We are in the middle of a really hard chapter of the story right now, but we are trusting that there will be a happy ending in here somewhere. 

“I am still confident of this, I will see the goodness of God in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13


P.S: I could really use your help. On April 7, 2022, we are hoping to blitz the U.S. House and Senate with calls and letters from constituents asking for them to put pressure on the State Department to please work with the Ukrainian government to allow 300 pre-adoptive children (a very small fraction of the orphans in the Ukraine) to be able to come to America on a temporary basis.

Here is what you can do. First, go look up your one U.S. Congressman (or woman), and then look up your two U.S. Senators. Second, find their phone numbers and call them (see text below for what to say), or look for an on-line contact email form for the three of them. They all have them. In the subject heading, write: State Department matter pertaining to Ukrainian orphans. Then, in the content section of the email, write something like the following: Dear Congressman or Senator ______________, Please work with the State Department to encourage the Ukrainian government to allow approximately 300 children with some connection to American families (in various stages of the adoptive process), many who need temporary care during the war, to be able to travel to America on a temporary basis. 75 Members of Congress have already pledged their support by signing a recent letter from the Congressional Adoption Caucus calling for the immediate unification of Ukrainian children to their host/pre-adoptive families. I am only asking that you allow this small percentage of Ukraine’s orphans to be reunited with the families that love them until things stabilize in Ukraine. We know personally of one American family who are caught up in this situation, but there are at least two hundred, and they would love nothing more than to bring the children they love into their home, even for a short period of time. Please consider this request, and kindly send a reply to this email. Thank you!

You can send them a link to this blog post and feel free to write to them anytime after April 7th, 2022. I truly appreciate your support. God bless!

“The Woods went Silent”

Stories of people who go (almost) missing in the woods under very strange circumstances

(#Missing411 backstories)

Many backpackers, hikers, campers, dog walkers, hunters, etc. go missing in the forests (and national parks) under strange circumstances. Still, others go almost missing in the woods. After they safely exit the woods, they tell roughly the same story. Read on.

When I was a teenager, I worked at a Christian summer camp/resort, located in the rural foothills of the Adirondack mountains in upstate New York. One night very late, like 2 a.m. late, several of us teenage kids snuck out of camp and found a dirt road out in the middle of the woods, where we proceeded to engage in some underage drinking. We were all sitting around in a small circle, just talking and laughing, when suddenly, an extremely loud and terrifying scream split the quiet night air just off the path where we were all huddled on the ground. 

It was the most terrifying moment of my entire life!

The scream, or shriek, was so loud, long, intense and creepy that our entire group spontaneously lifted two feet off the ground and flew off the path, away from the scream. We tumbled down a small incline and landed together in a heap.

As we were all crying and freaking out in a little clump together, we were left with the following question:

What the hell was that scream in the woods?

We never did figure that out, but I remember that the scream was a sound like I had never heard, it was too long and loud and other-worldly to be an animal, and it was definitely not a human scream. There were no footfalls preceding the scream, or after the scream took place. Looking back, I believe it was supernatural or paranormal in nature.

Fast forward to my adult years. I love the outdoors and my husband and I have been backpacking to very remote, forested locations for 25 years annually. For the last several years, we have also brought our three kids out with us into the middle of nowhere for our family’s annual three day, two night backpacking trip.

We camped at this lake last year (2020) in the beautiful state of Wyoming!

And although we have never had any major problems in the woods, I was shocked to learn that there are a disturbingly large number of hikers, campers, and people just out walking their dogs or hunting in the forests near their home, who either go missing, or almost missing, in the woods under baffling circumstances

You can learn all about this phenomena by googling Missing 411 and David Paulides.  He has written several books available on his website (https://www.canammissing.com/page/page/8396197.htm) and produced two documentaries. David is a former police detective who was approached by a forest ranger several years ago about very strange disappearances in the woods.  Many of these disappearances occur in National Parks (where we regularly hike!) and in clusters around the United States (in other words, disappearances will occur in the same general area). These disappearances also share common traits, such as the person who goes missing has some sort of a vulnerability (like a physical disability), and bad weather events often accompany these disappearances. 

To be clear, I’m not talking about missing hikers who go off trail and end up lost in the woods, who are later found.

Instead, I am talking about people who are right in front of their loved ones one moment, and then the next moment they vanish into thin air, never to be seen again.  Or, they are found many miles away (sometimes alive, sometimes dead) from their last location, in a place that is absolutely impossible to reach.  Or, even more eerily, not a trace of the missing person is ever found, but their clothing is found months later in a random cave in a place that is extremely difficult to get to, several miles from where they were last seen, folded into a neat pile (please see my P.S. at the end of this post for more information on this). 

In one story, a 12 year old boy disappeared after telling his dad he was going to change his socks and shoes after they got wet. He proceeded up a well-marked trail a short distance to get back to his boy scout troop and his tent, and was never seen again. His one wet sock, and only his one wet sock, was found extremely far away, wedged into a crack between two boulders. 

And that’s just one story among hundreds of similarly bizarre and eerie stories that make no sense and leave us all wondering what is going on in the woods.

In a future post, I will write about Missing 411 stories and give you my take on these events.  But in this post, I want to write about the other very real phenomena of people who go almost missing in the woods.  

Just like with Missing 411 stories, these eye-witness stories share common attributes that cannot be ignored.  

Consider this post the prequel or back-story to the Missing 411 stories.

In order to illustrate the common themes that I have heard (and read) countless times (based on internet searches and multiple podcasts I listen to), here is just one story that I believe encapsulates the common attributes of most of these almost missing stories. I have bolded the commonalities for ease of reading. 

Almost Missing Stories:

The following stories are retold by Nic Ryan on his Paranormal Mysteries podcast #66 (and others), found here: https://tunein.com/podcasts/Paranormal-Podcasts/Paranormal-Mysteries-Podcast-p990107/. 

This particular story comes from a reddit user named u/cacophonica who lives in the state of Missouri. 

“The minute I stared trekking through the creek bed, my pit bull Fatty started whining. I ducked under the trees, shushed Fatty and stopped to listen to the woods surrounding us. I heard nothing. I heard literally nothing. No wind, no snapping twigs, not even any birds. Then, I began to feel really weird. I can’t really describe it as a gut feeling, but suddenly my body felt very queasy and over sensitive, and worse, I had the distinct feeling that I was being watched. Fatty was scared and trembling. Call it being an edgy teenager or anything else, but I felt this strange pull into the woods. There was no sound but I felt like something was calling me, luring me deeper into the woods. I walked forward, aware that my dog had firmly planted himself at the fallen trees. He was shaking all over and yelped at me as I walked away, but he didn’t come with me. He also didn’t leave, which I believe potentially saved my ass that day.

I left Fatty behind and eventually got to the part of the creek that I had never been to. It was a clearing with a ring of trees surrounding it, with the creek stretching far ahead and going around an unseen corner. The sun hadn’t moved and it was still silent. I stood in place for a minute and considered turning around. The clearing was creepy and felt devoid of everything. I felt like if I walked around that corner, which was just about 100 feet away, that something terrible would happen. It felt like something was just waiting for me to walk into it, unsuspecting.

I took a couple more steps, and suddenly I heard my dog yelping frantically behind me. He kept lunging forward, but wouldn’t move any distance forward. I finally realized that something was very wrong. I turned around again to look back at the clearing. It was pitch black outside. I shit you not. Seconds ago the sun wasn’t even close to going down below the horizon, and now the stars were out. No sun. No light.

I stared hard at the trees around the corner, seeing nothing but elongated shadows. I heard a twig snap. All of a sudden my ears started to ring, and panic flooded my entire body.

I whipped around and shot back towards the fallen trees, sprinting towards my dog. He was snarling and barking like mad, and when I ducked under the trees, both of us sprinted back towards the house.

The entire time I felt like I had death on my heels, and Fatty never once ran ahead of me, staying right at my side the entire way back.When I made it home I checked the clock. During a walk that usually took ten minutes, I had been gone three hours

To this day I have never felt so prowled upon in the woods. I don’t know what wanted me in the woods that day. I didn’t see what it was and it said nothing to me, but I ignored every natural instinct I had to run until it was almost too late. My dog being there may have been the reason I didn’t wander deep into the woods of (Seligman) Missouri and succumb to someone or something in the dark. I have never told anyone in my waking life about this.”


From another reddit user called uclathemach, and also recounted in Nik Ryan’s Paranormal Mysteries podcast #66, comes an experience that happened on a camping trip with his youth group in the state of New Hampshire. At the end of the two day trip, he took a walk by himself down a hill to an area with a make-shift archery range, in order to tear it down. He made a pile of garbage to bring back to camp, and was about to head back, when he says that all the sounds in the forest just suddenly ceased, as if a curtain of silence had just fallen down behind him. He then says that he could sense some sort of a humming sensation.  He goes on to relay the following:

“For some inexplicable reason I had snapped my head to the right, and noticed there was an area with thinner brush, like an opening, and I started walking toward it, like I was being drawn. I could feel the pull to go deeper into the woods grow much stronger.  Looking ahead, the woods were in deep shadow, with a strange group of four trees about 75 feet away, lit by a shaft of light, beaming at an angle from above. The light was a very strange golden color. The bases of the trees were glowing, in a beckoning way, with the rest of the woods in shadow, and the trees lit up.  The compulsion to investigate the four trees was almost overwhelming. The thought of “come see; come quickly; come right now!” was insistent.  My head was pounding, like a headache without the pain. As I was about to take another step forward, another separate feeling from the depths of my being started screaming at me to stop immediately. In an instant, viscerally, I knew that despite how enticing this call was, if I proceeded forward towards those trees, I would be lost to the world.”


The following three mini-stories are the highlights from longer stories written in by eye-witnesses and then retold via Nic Ryan’s Paranormal Mysteries podcast.

“The trail markers suddenly disappeared, and a wall of silence fell on the forest. The silence was broken by a large, startling snap! There were trees I didn’t see. Certain plants that I know for sure that weren’t there before. My eyes started to fixate on a particularly un-nerving dark section of the forest. Every alarm bell in my head was pinging. My senses were not working anymore. Whatever light was in this area seemed to bend around this central point, somewhat like how a cloaking device works. It was a minor distortion, but enough to make it strangely obvious. I then noticed how I hadn’t heard a peep from the forest this entire time, and I was feeling very cold. I couldn’t shake the feeling of impending doom.”


“That was when things began to feel very weird. I no longer felt uneasy. But instead, I felt this deep peace, like I was asleep and dreaming. I kept putting one foot in front of the other and climbing the mountain, but it was like I was in a trance, not making the decision to continue, but instead, being drawn upwards. We kept walking in total silence. That sound (like a drum-beat) was pounding and getting louder. I looked at the (water) falls and felt an intense longing to continue on further up the mountain. We were still for such a long time, until finally my cousin said “I think if we keep going, we don’t ever come back.”


“So I’m taking pictures of wild horses, and I hear “hey, come here,” seemingly to come to the right of me.  I look and that part of the forest is deeper, and I couldn’t see anything standing or hiding that way.  Sky (the writer’s dog) on the other hand heard it and jerked that way in the lead.“Come closer, this way!” I focused myself to look through the trees and long grass and there was now a simple stone path that weirdly didn’t have any grass or growth around it. But I could clearly see a cobbled path. So, Sky and I started making our way down the path.  I didn’t notice anything at the time but I could hear Sky whimpering and nothing else.  It was like all the other sound was muted. I was in some weird sort of haze. “Just a bit further,” a woman’s voice whispered to us while giggling. Sky then shook me out of my trance by stopping, putting her hackles up, and growling at something. I shook my head and suddenly the haze and confusion disappeared.  We were still on the path, but I had a very weird sense of dread starting to creep over me and we ran back to the clearing.“Come back!” A woman screamed at us, as it seemed to follow and echo around us. We made it to the clearing and back to the cabin. We were only in the woods for what seemed like an hour. But it was now 9 p.m. and I have no recollection of the missing time we had encountered” (Nic Ryan’s Paranormal Mysteries podcast number #128)


“One night I was heading back from an after-school walk, when I heard someone say my name.  “Johnny come here!” It was like my mom’s voice, but distorted.  I wasn’t far from the cabin, so I assumed maybe she was calling out for me.  So, I rushed home but once the house was in view, I stopped. I noticed that the sound was still going but was angry now. “Johnny, come here, now!” I knew then that the voice was not my mom’s.  I could have sworn I heard crunching leaves behind me but I turned around and nothing was there.”  (Unexplained Encounters podcast: (August 5, 2021 podcast).  Source here: https://www.audible.com/pd/Darkness-Prevails-Podcast-TRUE-Horror-Stories-Podcast/B08K57L776)

As you can see, the above stories have common threads of weirdness that some have encountered in the woods. And here are those similar threads, in bullet-point form (as I love bullets):

  • The woods will suddenly go silent
  • Your dog (or animal) will start acting weird, stressed, or scared.
  • You feel like you are being watched. You will also feel dread or fear.
  • You may feel confused, locked in a strange trance, or under a spell.
  • Your surrounding will seem “off.”
  • A new path that you have never seen will suddenly appear.  
  • You will have a strong sense, or even an overwhelming urge, to explore deeper into the woods. 
  • You might take a few more steps, but then something will stop you.  
  • After you exit the woods, you will encounter the problem of lost time. 

Let me get into detail about a couple of the common attributes above that I believe are important to highlight.

The forest becomes strangely silent:

I realize that the forest can and will go silent if a large predator is in the area (like a cougar, bear, or wolf, etc.).  I am not saying that this is not the case at times.  In those events, there are still a few sounds to be heard (like crickets, the wind, etc.).  And usually, there are no other mysterious occurrences that go along with this silence. I am talking about a creepy, all-encompassing silence that brings along several other mysterious signals with it. 

Your surroundings seem off or strange:

Here are just a few of the occurrences based on several stories I have heard. The trees or the surroundings will look or act strange; for example, you may notice new plants you have never seen or a beautiful tree in the middle of a clearing that looks particularly enchanting. You might notice a bad odor, for example the smell of blood, matted fur, sulfur, wet dog, rotting corpse, etc. You might hear a strange sound like a low and deep growl, the snapping of a twig, a whistle, a baby crying, a person whispering, or a drumbeat.  You might even hear a familiar voice calling to you from the woods (the voice of your wife, mom, friend, sister, husband or your camp counselor. I have heard all of these and more).

Something will stop you:

I believe this is the Spirit of God who is trying to protect you. Or at the very least your own gut instincts trying to protect you. Maybe you get scared. Maybe the bark of your dog pulls you back to reality.  Maybe you develop a sense of sudden clarity about the insanity of this moment. Maybe God speaks into your spirit and tells you to TURN AROUND AND RUN. In one of the stories above, the young camper had the impression that if he kept going deeper into the woods, he would be “lost to this world.” Lost to this world is the exact phrase that kept pinging around in his head, so he decided it was time to turn back.

Lost Time:

Once you safely exit the woods, you might experience the real and unexplainable phenomena of lost time.  Lost time is, in a nutshell, not being able to logically account for the amount of time something takes compared to what it normally takes. For example, walking your dog on a trail you have walked many times which normally takes you one hour, after the bizarre event, will take you four hours to complete. You will have no logical recollection of that time period.  

Before we move on to what is going on and what can be done, I will summarize the common themes for ease of remembering: 

Woods Silent/Dog Crazy/Dread or Fear /Being Watched/ Weird Trance/ Can’t Think/ Trees Strange/ Bad Smell/ New Path/ Twig Snaps/ Name called/Feeling Drawn/Something Scary/Something Odd/Something Alluring/ Don’t Keep Going/Turn Around/Yay You’re Out/Lost Time.

What is really going on in the woods?

Before I give my theory, consider the following: David Paulides (the police detective I mentioned earlier) does not give an answer or opinion of what he thinks is happening with respect to all of the Missing 411 stories he has investigated over the years, but he theorizes that something is hunting or stalking these missing men and women in the woods. I just ordered two out of seven (or nine) books he has written so I can’t wait to figure out what he has figured out.

But after listening to and reading countless almost missing and missing 411 stories, I believe that this is a paranormal/supernatural/spiritual problem and needs to be handled using spiritual methods. Sure, be cautious.  Sure, bring a rifle. Sure, bring a map, compass, extra flashlight, extra food, extra water (or water pump). Do what you need to do to feel safe.  However, if this is a spiritual problem, which I believe it is, then these items I just listed, while wonderful, will not be enough.

There are two power sources in this universe; the power of God, and the power of the devil.  I believe that in some of these cases, people are being lured, stalked, hunted, frightened, or just plain watched and observed by demons or demonic beasts or someone using evil methods in the forests and beyond.  I also believe that in some of the cases, it is the work of a serial killer. However, for those cases that occur in the middle of the woods, I believe that the chances of a serial killer lurking and waiting 12 miles off grid is extremely rare. I will get more into all of this this in my next post.

What can you do?

My first suggestion is to pray.  Pray that God will protect and help you and/or your family (or friends) before you head into the woods. Pray specifically that God will protect you from the evil one and his evil spirits. Secondly, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, there are additional things that you can do using the power and authority of Jesus Chirst. You have the authority to rebuke demons and make them go in Jesus’s name. You can also anoint your campsite with olive oil or even cooking oil and pray for God to seal and protect your campsite. 

And now that you know the first sign of trouble (hint: the title of this blog post) pray out loud right away if things start to get weird. 

I plan to write a follow-up post on Missing 411 stories, and I will get more into practical advice at that time. I will also dig into demonic creatures and what they are. Did you know that demonic beasts are actually a very real thing and there are Bible verses about these creatures?  Unfortunately, it is true. 

My goal for writing this post is not for you to never set foot in the woods again.  I love the forest, and I love hiking! I plan to keep hiking well into my 90s if I am able. My desire is that you continue to enjoy the woodlands but be kept safe while you do so.

And to be clear, I think it is a very rare and unusual thing to have any of these weird supernatural events occur on your family’s backpacking trip, or if you are out walking or hunting in your woods. 

However, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that we are living in very strange times.  Things are changing rapidly and many things that were once considered “normal” are gone, and our “new normal” is here. 

I would rather be prepared for any event. I hope you feel this way as well. So please, keep on enjoying the beauty and serenity of the deep forests of the U.S and Canada and beyond! 

But my one take-away for you is to ask God to protect you before you venture into the woods. And if something crazy starts to happen, stop right away by praying out loud, right there in the middle of the forest.

Pray something like this: “God please protect me from whatever weird thing is happening right now. In Jesus name, Amen.” That’s it!

Stunning. This is why we go!
This past summer (2021) we camped at Hell Roaring Lake in the Sawtooth mountains of Idaho.

I will close with a story that I believe illustrates the direct intervention of God in an almost missing story. 

The quick backstory is as follows: a young boy became lost in the woods near his home in Europe. This boy had played in these woods his whole life and knew them like the back of his hand.  He had a feeling that something was compelling him to go deeper into the woods. He then heard what sounded like crashing branches and it sounded like something heavy was walking around. He writes:

I was praying while searching my way around desperately. Something in my head was screaming at me to turn around, and I listened.  And what I am about to tell you, it’s true, but it’s going to sound very bizarre. When I turned, I saw a man in a white long dress, with long white sleeves and dark hair. When I saw him, I felt even more of a sense of relief. It was like I was safe as long as he was here. He raised his hand and pointed to the left of where I was standing. “That way?” I said.  He nodded.  I looked at where he was pointing and back at him, but when I tried to face him again, the man was gone. Scared out of my mind, I started running in the direction he pointed and, five minutes later, I broke through the trees. When I was finally out, I realized I was on the opposite side of the forest. Somehow, in that short time, I had walked several kilometers in the wrong direction. I made my way back home and later told this story to my grandma, and of course she told my parents, who were not happy about what I did. For a long time, I was not allowed in the forest. However, when I did tell my grandma about the man, she looked at me, and said that maybe it was my guardian angel.  (Unexplained Encounters podcast, number 207.)

I think that Grandma could be right!

Let’s all stay safe and continue to enjoy the forest!  

And if the woods suddenly go silent, you know what to do.


UPDATE: I have just released (as of October 6, 2022) my brand new Missing 411 post, which is the next post in this short series! What is happening with hikers, campers, and normal everyday people who go missing under strange but similar circumstances? Find out here: Missing 411: A pebble in my hiking boot

Common elements of Missing 411 from Reddit user xofiate:

  1. People who go missing usually do so in National Parks, around large bodies of water, or near boulder fields.
  2. People from both ends of the intellectual spectrum go missing (e.g. people who have intellectual divergencies or disabilities go missing, as well as individuals who work careers as scientists, etc).
  3. People from both ends of the physical spectrum go missing (e.g. people who are physically disabled and cannot walk long distances, as well as individuals who live extremely active lives and are very fit).
  4. If the missing individual is found alive, they usually have memory loss about the entire event. Children sometimes tell weird stories about how they went missing. I recall one where a toddler went missing on a rather cold night and somehow survived. She claimed a wolf fed her berries from the palm of it’s hand and that’s how she survived.
  5. If the missing individual is found deceased, the cause of death is almost never determined. Often seeming as though they died without a cause at all. Medical examiners usually write that they died from “exposure” if they do not have a better answer to give.
  6. The missing are found in areas that seem difficult – if not impossible – to reach by foot, or in the time that has lapsed. Such as a child being found many miles away in just a matter of a few hours. A common example is children as young as 2-3 going missing and being found in high elevations, such as mountains, 2,000 ft in the air. Sometimes the children have their clothes on backwards or inside out, and their parents claim that they can’t even dress themselves yet.
  7. The missing are found in an area that’s been searched by Search and Rescue teams numerous times over a period of days (usually a week or longer). Sometimes they’re even found on the trail that’s used to access the area they’re searching. Almost as if they’re placed there intentionally in order to surely be found by SAR. Search and Rescue teams are meticulous about their searches.
  8. A lot of cases involve people who go missing for a week, but only died a day or two prior to being found, which begs the question of where they were during their time missing as well as what happened to them.
  9. The shoes tend to go missing, either just one or both. Many people are found in bizarre places at high altitudes or in tough terrain, and their socks or the soles of their feet don’t have a spec of dirt or wear on them. This is true for children too.
  10. Search ans Rescue dogs will be unable to pick up a scent, or if they are, they’ll follow it a few feet and then begin acting bizarrely. They’ll circle and then sit down. This is not common behavior for SAR canines.
  11. Investigators do not find any tracks nine times out of ten. If they do, they seem to stop inexplicably and lead nowhere, as if the person just vanished into thin air. Animal attacks are rules out by experts.
  12. Paulides will not investigate a case where an individual has a known history of mental illness. He usually won’t investigate cases where there’s a likelihood that this person left and disappeared by their own accord.

Hope you enjoyed your rabbit hole for the day and thanks for reading and your ongoing support!

Mountain sunsets are the best!
After we ‘safely made it out the woods’ this past summer, we immediately sat for a family photo shoot!
Our three kids and our two host kids from Ukraine!

Private Eyes are Watching Me

Taking a Closer Look at my Fears and Dreams as a Surveillance Investigator

Yep, that’s me, pretending like I am good with a video camera. It’s actually quite challenging to hold a small camera steady and zoom in and out quickly and effectively. I am still getting used to it! That little camera holder is a must though! So are my binoculars. I am wearing a hat because I have not showered yet. Why bother? I am sitting in a hot car all day. I’m also dressed like an athletic soccer mom because soccer moms look more normal and less suspicious. Want to learn more about my job and what it’s teaching me about myself? Read on!

It’s 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning and I drive into a sleepy suburban neighborhood.  The sun is shining and the birds are chirping.  It’s going to be a beautiful and sunny day!  

Too bad I will be sitting in my car all day.

The first thing I notice about the neighborhood is that there are no mature trees.  Shady spots are great to have for less glare, less heat, and more blending.  I slowly drive my elderly, nondescript SUV past the subject’s residence and quickly check to see if his vehicle is present.  

Unfortunately, there are no vehicles parked in his driveway.  Could they possibly be in his garage or did he leave already?  

I don’t know.  

A pit of doubt begins for form in my stomach.  Does the subject even live here? He has another recent address on a utility report.

As I turn from looking at his house, I see a man walking his dog who is already eyeing me suspiciously.  I can almost see him whipping out his phone and taking a picture of my license plate later, so I make a mental note to call the local police and let them know I will be working in the area today, but not be too specific with an exact location. 

I drive around a little more and try to find the best spot to park my vehicle to conduct surveillance, but then notice a “no parking this side of the street” sign and inwardly groan.  I pull a u-turn and try to find a less obvious spot to park my vehicle on the same side of the road as my subject’s residence, but not too far away, because I need good quality video.  I will have to pull a fast and stealthy u-turn in the event he becomes active and I need to “conduct mobile surveillance” (fancy phrase for following him in his vehicle).

I check my video camera and make sure I have the date and time stamp working properly. 

Finally, I ease the front passenger seat back, so that if a nosey neighbor walks past me, they will be able to look through to the other side window and not be able to easily see me sitting super upright in the driver’s seat.  I am thankful that at least I found one mature tree and that I have decent tinting on my windows.  

A new walker lady is heading straight towards my vehicle.  I shrink back into my seat, turn off my car, and hope she walks right on past me without looking in.  

I breathe a sigh of relief as she briskly walks past, engrossed in whatever she is listening to on her Air pods.

I settle back and take a long, cold stare at my subject’s garage, front door, and windows.  I watch and wait for even the slightest hint of activity.  I might wait for eight hours, or I might wait for 8 minutes.  The moment I take my eyes off that garage and front door is the moment I miss something interesting that I should be getting on video tape.  Good quality video tape is very important in the world of surveillance investigation.

I am finding that this part/full-time job is hard, interesting, boring, complicated, exciting, satisfying, and nerve-wracking at times.

This new career field is two years in the making and very different from my former career of working on public policy/politics in the public and private sectors. Blame in on Nancy Drew, Encyclopedia Brown, or the TV show Hunter back in the 80s, but for whatever reason I have always been interested in figuring sh*&%$^t out in general, and PI work specifically.

I’m finally giving PI a try!

But here is where things take an interesting twist: 

What I thought might be a means to an end (gaining my PI license) has turned into something more than that: God is using this job to show me that I have many unhealthy fears that are subtly ruling over me.  I believe He wants to change me into a person who is not ruled by fear, able to let things go more easily, and is comfortable with less control, more change, more imperfection, and the unknown.  

But before I get into all of the introspection, below are a few things I am enjoying about my job as a surveillance investigator:

  • I am paid to spy on people and determine the truth about a subject.  My job is to record (and hopefully videotape) the activities of people who are alleging that they are unable to work.  Do they claim to have an elbow injury that renders them incapable of work, yet they have a job lifting boxes out of the back of a van?  Do they have a landscaping truck parked in their driveway yet claim to have a back injury and are getting paid worker’s compensation by another landscaping company?  I try to figure out if people committing insurance fraud, among other things.
  • I am learning a ton about the PI world and investigation in general. From finding information about the subject on public sites, to figuring out what a recent utility report means, to learning how to successfully perform mobile surveillance, etc.
  • I have learned the importance of living an honest life.  My job is to prove the truth. Sadly, so far, most of my claimants have not been truthful.  One man was walking with a visible limp due to a knee injury. Good for you bro!  Seems like working would be hard for you.  But most people I surveil seem to healed of their injury yet are still enjoying free money (and some are working other jobs).  This position makes me so grateful for the simple and honest life that I live.
  • Speaking of reports, I have learned how to write them!  More than that, how to serve a subpoena, how to read a comprehensive report, how to use my MacBook Pro and iPhone to my advantage, how to use Wondershare, how to use a covert camera disguised as a key fob, and the list goes on.  Do I love this tedious technology work?  Nope, not at all.  In fact, I hate it!  But it’s been good for me.  Using my brain in this way has made time go slower for me and it’s good exercise for my mind.  
  • There are great and helpful men out there!  Although my manager is a woman, I work with all men.  All of them have been so wonderful and helpful.  I have one co-worker who will literally read through all of my cases and help me figure things out.  Another one taught me a lot of little nuances that have been very beneficial to me when conducting mobile surveillance.  One sat with me on the phone for probably two hours trying to help me to figure out Wondershare.

So while I am thankful for the good things about this job, there are many more difficult aspects of this job as well.  I will not be writing about the difficulties of the job in this post, but rather, how this job exposes my many areas of weakness, most specifically my discomfort in the area of uncertainty and loss of control. Here are just a few areas of fear that I am currently becoming aware of:

Fear of a loss of control

I asked a very seasoned Surveillance Investigator what he loved about his job and he said “it’s different everyday.” You know what?  I am learning that I like things to be the same, so I can feel more in control of the situation, and so that I can navigate my job better and be more successful. 

This feeling of a loss of control is the hardest part about this job for me.  For example, I have no way to control what my subject does, his level of activity, or whether or not I will be able to obtain him performing various activities on video.  I can’t control if my subject drives his BMW 110 mph on the highway and quickly loses me struggling to keep up in my somewhat elderly SUV, or if he loses me in traffic due to a slow driver in-between us.  I can’t control if my subject’s version of “being active” means he goes to three different drive-through windows and then zooms right back into his garage, never to step one foot outside and I obtain zero video footage.

I am finding that the less control I have, the more anxiety it produces within me.  I kept noticing how my “stomach felt off” for several months before making the connection that I was just very anxious due to the lack of control I had over my job.  

Fear of the unknown  

This fear is the twin sister of the fear of loss of control.  If you don’t know what your subject is going to do that day, or if he is even actually living at the address you are surveilling, how can you feel confident and comfortable in your job?  Once your subject enters his vehicle and takes off, you have no idea where he is going and how far he will be driving.  He might even drive out of the state!  In our field, you need to “stay on your subject” even it means driving to a soccer tournament in Missouri. Yikes!

Fear of my own incompetence

This job has exposed that I have perfectionistic tendencies and that I don’t like learning a new job because it makes me “feel stupid.”  I have made many (usually) minor mistakes which I find embarrassing.  Although I have worked many part-time jobs over the years, this is my first almost full-time professional job in many years.  I am finding that I am behind the technology of our modern era, and in need of a major upgrade on all of my professional skills. 🙂

Fear of bosses

I like my boss and she’s great at what she does, but I sometimes find her style of communication to be difficult to read.  The way she communicates sometimes makes me “feel dumb” as she can lack grace or a sense of kindness as she communicates with me (or at least that is how I am perceiving her to be).  As a person who uses the smiley face emoji when I communicate via text in order to keep a positive vibe, this is hard for me.

Fear of wasting my time with this job  

I am also learning that it will be very hard for me to eventually get my PI license in the state of Illinois were I live. Why? Because I have to work full-time for one to two years (depending on how much time they knock off for my eduction) with a licensed PI firm or individual before I am even eligible to sit for the difficult PI exam. I am learning that surveillance investigation is one of the only ways to gain that investigative experience that I need before the exam. The other way to gain investigative experience is to latch onto an individual local PI (or local PI firm) who will train me on different forms of investigation and give me cases under their direct supervision.  I already tried that route and found it not feasible, though I am still open to going this route should the opportunity present itself. The bottom line is that if it turns out that surveillance investigation is the only way for me to gain the experience I would need, I don’t think I will be able to do it because I have been struggling with scoliosis my entire adult life, and sitting in my vehicle for long periods has been terrible for my back, legs, and overall health.

I sure hope that this job will not be a huge waste of time. But honestly, I have learned so much about both PI and myself that it will be worth it no matter what.

Fear of letting things slip with my kids

I am finding that the more hours I spend working, the less time I have for my husband and kids, and the management of my home (i.e. housework, which never dies). I find this to be stressful and the running to-do list in my head is always sending me mental text reminders.  I am always thinking about things I need to catch up on when I get home and how to connect with my kids.  I know every working mom knows how I feel and my troubles are small potatoes compared to some.

Which leads me to a conversation I had with my husband the other night.  

The other night Erik asked me if becoming a PI was my dream.  He said “if this is your dream, I will support you all the way.  If this is not your dream, it’s taking up a lot of time and it’s a strain on the family.  Time is flying and we are not getting any younger.  Figure out your dream and do it!”

Maybe his words were not that direct, but his words pierced directly into my heart.  He is correct.  If becoming a licensed PI is not ‘in the cards’ for me, or it’s too difficult for me to obtain in this season of life, then what am I doing?

His question led to other questions.  Here are four more:

If this job will not lead to my dream, why continue?

But what if I don’t know what my dream is?

Is PI work simply a part of a broader dream?

God, can you please show me what the heck my dream even is? And quickly please, because my back hurts.

One “potential dream” I have had in the back in my mind for many years is in the form of an idea to run for a political position one day.  I am currently doing nothing to advance that goal. Recently, the Alderman who lives in my neighborhood, whom I am friends with and have supported and worked for in the past, recently won her seat to our city’s Mayor position.  Good for her!  She encouraged me to apply for the Alderman position as she had to appoint one to take her place.  To make a long story short, I was not selected. Not getting selected threw me off and made me question what I am doing right now and whether or not this job is where I am supposed to be.  

So while I am waiting for further clarity, here is what I do know:

I am making progress on my many issues of fear, control, people-pleasing my boss, and more.

I am mainly doing this by asking myself deep and probing questions such as:

Heather, what are you really fearing?  What is the root?

Why are you trying so hard to stay in control?

What is the absolute worst that can happen if you cannot maintain control or you mess up in some way?

These questions have helped me to realize that my root fear of loss of control deals with my discomfort with not being good at something. That root boils down to a fear of rejection and my desire for acceptance from other people. I then apply what God would say about that fear.

God’s truth is that He loves me, He accepts me without any condition, He will help me, He is with me, and that He will work all things together for my good (even a job loss).  The worst that can happen in my job is that I will get fired and someone will completely reject me. I am trying to be comfortable internally with that possibility, even if it never happens.  

I can already tell a huge difference in my life since starting surveillance work over a year ago. I am no longer stressing out about things I cannot control. I just do the best I can and then pray about all the other areas that either don’t get done, don’t get done well, or that are above my pay grade. I can only be in control of myself. Everything else is not really my problem.

I can give everything else over to God and trust that He loves me and is working all things together for my good and His glory. Even when I think I have some level of control, it’s only a veneer anyway.

I will experience more peace if I do my best, and trust Him with the rest.

The bottom line of this post is this: I really don’t know where this job is going long-term, but I do know that it is being used in my life right now to change me into a more chill and relaxed but still a marginally Type-A person with goals and dreams, who is still trying to figure it all out. 🙂

In the meantime, if you see a nondescript car just sitting in your neighborhood with tinted windows, and it seems suspicious, it could be me just sitting there while I try to evaluate my life, my fears and my dreams. 

So come on over and knock on my window (everyone else does!) and say hello!

I probably need to use your restroom and stretch my back anyway!


When It’s (not) Your Time to Go: A Closer Look At Beating Death

I can’t believe it has been 21 years since the Final Destination movie made its debut.  I enjoyed watching probably three of the five movies (FD2 was my favorite) and I used to clip and save miracle survival stories from newspapers and kept them in a file.    

The movies reveal humanity’s innate desire to be in control of all aspects of their life, including their appointed time of death, and even whether or not that appointment can be moved to a later date, or avoided altogether!

Lots of freak accidents that ended badly in these movies. (photo credit: final destination movie)
Watch out for them log trucks! (photo credit: final destination 2 movie)

This post is a shallow dive of all things related to time of death and whether or not it can be moved to a later date.  I also take a peek at a few of my favorite miracle survival stories, near death experiences, and one recorded instance of someone beating death in the Bible.

I will start this post with a personal story, add in some other amazing miracle survival stories, and then dig into the topic.

Several years ago, I was traveling with my three kids from the Washington, D.C. suburbs, where I lived at the time, up to Syracuse, New York, to visit family.  I was driving in my Acura SUV on Route 81 North, through the very high hills of the Scranton area of Pennsylvania.  I was driving about 65 mph down a very curvy mountain road when suddenly I rounded a blind corner and observed with horror that traffic had come to a complete standstill and in only one lane of traffic. I immediately slammed on my brakes and narrowly avoided hitting the car in front of me.  After my initial feeling of relief, another emotion quickly emerged and this exact thought entered my brain: “If an 18-wheeler rounds the bend after me, I am toast.”

Unfortunately, that is precisely what happened next.  I looked in my rearview mirror and noted with horror that, indeed, a large “Mack truck” as I used to call them was literally right behind my car, traveling at a high rate of speed.  It all happened so fast that I didn’t have time to react, so I just shut my eyes and braced for the worst.  Within a second, I could hear what sounded like loud pressure being released from the truck and could see huge plumes of smoke rising to the right of my car as the driver of this 18-wheeler barreled past me probably going 50 mph on the service lane, slamming on his brakes the whole time. 

The truck eventually came to a stop, traffic began to move, and I breathed a major sigh of relief and kept driving to Syracuse. I immediately prayed and thanked the Good Lord above for protecting me and my three kiddos that day on 81 North. 

It wasn’t my time to go that day, I am so very thankful to still be here. 

Boy Survives Lake Erie Plane Crash (9/4/2007)

One night a couple was sitting out on a Lake Erie beach, just enjoying the quiet evening.  Out of the night sky they noticed a plane’s taillight plunging into the Great Lake.  The man immediately hopped into his rowboat and frantically rowed out to the approximate place he had seen the lights disappear.  After 15 minutes of rowing around in the dark, a small hand appeared on the side of his rowboat.  He then pulled out a soaking wet seven year old boy, who had miraculously survived the plane crash.  The boy matter-of-factly told him his brother and dad had just perished, and the only reason he had survived is because his seat belt broke during the crash. (source: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/boy-survives-lake-erie-plane-crash/)

Miracle Baby Torn From Womb in Truck Wreck (12/21/2000)

A pregnant woman is involved in a serious truck accident, flies through the truck windshield, is dragged underneath the truck, and is found dead on the highway.  Her baby is found beside her, outside of her womb, still connected to the umbilical cord.  The baby is perfectly healthy and only bears a scratch on his knee.  (source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2000/12/21/baby-torn-from-womb-in-crash-survives/27c0dac6-21e8-4172-95c9-11533d8f96d1/)

Tot Survives Five Days after Car Crashes, Mother Dies (1/28/2003)

A toddler survives five days by herself on little more than crackers (no water) while huddled near her dead mother inside a wrecked car amid freezing temperatures outside of Phoenix, Arizona.  A passing motorist just happened to see the wrecked vehicle, which was partially hidden behind some trees and down a ledge. They found the shivering toddler inside the vehicle. (source: https://www.eastvalleytribune.com/news/tot-survives-5-days-after-car-crashes-mother-dies/article_f3ff5dd2-d8e8-57dc-a64e-c568d1409d6d.html)

Illinois Pilot Walks Away From Plane That Landed Itself (12/12/97)

A pilot, overcome by carbon monoxide fumes, blacks out while flying his small airplane. Said plane flies itself via autopilot for 250 miles, until it runs out of gas, and then lands itself in a snowy field.  The man suffered a broken arm but woke up alive and puzzled, having not realized he had passed out while flying, or that his plane had self-landed. From the pilot: “If the plane hadn’t run out of gas, I probably would have had 30 more minutes in the air before I had died.”  

Crash Survivors Say ‘Prayer in the Water’ (5/11/1999)

Picture this: a plane takes off from an island off the Australian coast during a pounding rain storm and is more than five miles from shore when it crashes into the ocean, killing many on board.  However, there are six survivors who manage to swim to the surface, where they prayed together in the water and swam towards the shore in total darkness.  The small group swam against strong currents, jellyfish, shark-infestation, and blinding rain with only two life jackets between them.  Five of the six survivors finally made it to shore after six hours in open water.  One of the survivors was a pastor who, while treading water, called out to the small group of survivors right after the plane crashed and proclaimed: “if any of you have a faith in God, I would like to pray with you.”  Everyone prayed! (source: https://www.deseret.com/1999/5/10/19444749/5-survivors-tell-of-plane-crash-ocean-ordeal)

Before we dig into the meat of this post, I just need to make two points regarding the possibility of a fixed time of death. 

First, if you believe in a loving God, then you know that He is ultimately in control of everything, including when you are born and when you will ultimately die.  There are certainly things you can do within the context of free will which will lengthen or shorten your life.  For example, a person who commits suicide would have lived longer had he not committed suicide. A person who dies of lung cancer from smoking would not have died in the same way or at the same time if he had not smoked.  God allows much flexibility and free will within the context of His ultimate control over the universe.  

Second, there are at least four verses in the Bible that speak to a time limit we all have on the face of the earth, and the most compelling one comes from the book of Job, chapter 14 verse 5.  It says: a person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.  Also Psalm 139 states: your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.  (Also check out Acts 17:26 and Ecclesiastes 3:1-2.)

There are five points I want to make about the topic of beating death, and I will start with what near death experiences reveal to us on this topic.

What near death experiences (NDEs) reveal about beating death, heaven, and hell:

I recently finished an amazing book called Imagine Heaven (link here:  https://www.amazon.com/Imagine-Heaven-Near-Death-Experiences-Exhilarating/dp/080101526X/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Imagine+heaven&qid=1616615937&sr=8-1) which has numerous miracle survival stories in NDE form.  Some of the men and women telling their stories were clinically dead for as little as a few minutes to as long as eight hours. Eight hours!  The author summarizes the whole of NDE experiences on page 26 of his book.  Here is an excerpt (I have cut and pasted for ease of reading):

“It begins with a dying man or woman.  He finds himself no longer in his physical body but still in the immediate surroundings.  He sees the spirits of deceased family and friends.  Then a being of light appears, brighter than the sun, who is described as uniquely and supremely warm and loving.  This loving being asks questions communicated through thoughts, leading him to examine his actions, often including a living replay of his entire life. Afterward, he encounters some sort of boundary, seemingly the border between earth life as he knows it and eternal life.  

But at the edge, he discovers he must return to earth because it is not yet his time to die.  He protests due to the feelings of peace, joy, and love he is experiencing but somehow finds himself back in his physical body and continues to live (paraphrase).”

Additionally, approximately 23% of NDE stories take the traveler in a different direction and they have a more hell-like experience.  There are a few variations of these horrific experiences, and this is a summary of the least reported variation: “the last type of hellish NDE usually involves feeling locked or trapped in a dark pit, cave, or under the earth, often accompanied by a putrid smell like feces, sulfur, or death. Demonic or evil creatures are often involved.” One NDE survivor had this to say: “Hell is a pit and there is darkness, but there is also fire.  I was in a place that the Bible refers to as outer darkness and it is not pretty.  Some people may just want to laugh this whole “hell business” off, but it is real.” (page 228.) 

Does prayer play a part in life extension?

There was one man who beat his time of death in the Bible, and his name is King Hezekiah (and to be precise, there were more people including Lazarus and Jesus who beat death in the Bible as well, but not in this specific way).  His story is told in Isaiah chapter 38 and also in 2 Kings chapter 20.  Here is a portion of his story:  

In those days, Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz, went to him and said: “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die, you will not recover.”  Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

Isaiah returned and said: “The Lord says, ‘go and say to Hezekiah, thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life.”  

According to the King James Version of 2 Kings chapter 20:3, this is what King Hezekiah prayed:  “I beseech thee, O Lord, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight.” And Hezekiah wept sore.

Beseech is defined as to beg for urgently or anxiously.

So here we have at least one biblical example of someone begging God to extend their life, and God granting that request.  

When God says no to extending your life (Jesus’s example):

God doesn’t typically say yes to a time extension on a person’s life.  Did you know that Jesus himself actually asked his Father if he could bypass his death on the cross not once, but three times?  God said no to that request, but his divine “no” paved the way for millions of eternal souls to be fully reconciled to God through the forgiveness of their sins. 

Sometimes God says no for reasons we may not understand at the time.  During King Hezekiah’s time extension, a son (Manasseh) was born to him who later became king immediately after Hezekiah’s passing.  Unfortunately, Manasseh became Judah’s most wicked king. All the hard work and good changes his father had made were erased under his son Manasseh’s reign.  Like the butterfly effect, the extension of Hezekiah’s life certainly had its downsides. 

On a personal note, I have had several close friends die of cancer.  I prayed earnestly (as did they and many other people) and God declined to extend their life.  Does that mean God will never answer a prayer for more time?  Not at all, and I close this post with the one true life example I heard with a Hezekiah-like prayer many years ago. 

Last point: God may say yes to a time extension just so that a person may come to know Him personally and have a relationship with Him. 

What happens when we die anyway?

This question could take two blog posts, but here is the gist: again, it depends on what you believe but either you go into the ground and that’s it, or your spirit transitions to eternal life -either in heaven or hell. Here is a little incentive for belief in life after life: many NDE stories report a “being of light filled with love” who greets them when they arrive in heaven.  NDE accounts have been studied extensively and offered as proof of spiritual life after physical death.  There is an eternal home waiting for those who know Jesus Christ as Lord.  The ones that reach heaven want to stay because it is so incredibly beautiful, loving, and filled with an indescribable joy. And the “being” (it’s Jesus by the way) that loves them perfectly is there too, as well as many relatives who have passed.  All departed friends and relatives whom they encounter are reported to be “in their prime” physically and very much happy and filled with joy. 

Going to heaven is the mother of all “taking the red pill” analogies and most do not wish to come back to earth (many would like to stay but are torn because of their loved ones).

How to beat death for real:

Jesus came to die on the cross and atone for the sins of mankind, so that through repentance and faith in Him, we can all have eternal life.  Jesus himself beat death.  Here’s the kicker though: he did not actually “beat” physical death – he beat eternal death.  He paved the way for everyone to experience eternal life!   

John 11:25-26: Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die, and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

1 John 5:13: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.”

Two last stories before we close which perfectly blend both delaying our time of death if it’s not our time to go, with a Hezekiah-type prayer for more time.  Both of these concepts are possible with God!

Tom Papania was a high ranking mafia leader who answered directly to Paul Castellano (the head of a prominent mafia family) in the 1980s.  One day Tom had an encounter with a pastor who led him to a relationship with Jesus Christ. Tom was completely changed and left the mafia.  Unfortunately, Paul Castellano put out a contract on Tom’s life but by some miracle, that contract was never fulfilled. Later, while Tom was in prison, he met the three assassins who were hired to kill him and who attempted to take his life many times.  These three professional hit-men relayed to Tom that they had come to his home many times, set up remote controlled bombs under his bedroom window, and attempted to detonate them.  Strangely, the bombs would never detonate.  The three men would then test them later and they would very easily detonate.  They would repeat the process several more times, but not one bomb ever exploded.  

God had a purpose for keeping Tom alive, and it had something to do with the three men.  In addition to a thriving ministry, Tom led all three men to Christ, and each ended up leading many more men to the Lord.  (To listen to his amazing story, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ng_wf89jQBQ.  The part about his assassins is found at the 1:25 minute mark.)

Finally, my friend shared a story about how his mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer but had outlived her doctor’s diagnosis by ten years.  After she had finally passed due to the cancer, her family decided to clean out the attic and found some of her old journals.  They started to randomly leaf through her journals when they came upon a prayer detailing her terminal diagnosis. They read more of her prayers and were stunned to discover this one:

“Please Lord, give me ten more years to live.”

They looked at the date of the prayer recorded in the journal, and then compared it with her date of death. 

The date of the journal entry was exactly ten years before she died.

“I beseech thee, O Lord, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight.”


PS: Below are the five articles I used for this post that I clipped so many years ago! And a bonus at the end!

What I love about this story is that this brave man (Chuck Herndon) just rushed into his rowboat and rowed around for 15 minuets in the dark in open water, hoping that a miracle would occur. And it did! Of course I feel badly for his dad and brother who perished in the crash, but glad this little seven year old made it out.
Even law enforcement called this a miracle story. A person cannot survive more than three days without water.
I clipped this article while I worked on Capitol Hill and showed my boss, Senator Bob Smith. He was such a great guy he would actually write little comments on almost everything I gave to him and then he would give them back to me, to let me know he read them and cared. He was and is a great guy.
Love that the paper actually said “Miraculous Survival.” Can you imagine swimming five miles in the pitch dark through shark infestation, jellyfish, and strong currents? I can’t. Glad they made it out. Several did not.
I agree! The man who survived won the lottery!
Bonus! My cat sat on the articles while I was working! ha

Never saw Final Destination?  The popular movie series can be summed up this way (Wiki): 

All five films center around a small group of people who escape impending death when one individual (the protagonist of each film) has a sudden premonition and warns them that they will all die in a terrible mass-casualty accident. After avoiding their foretold deaths, the survivors are killed one by one in bizarre accidents caused by an unseen force creating complicated chains of cause and effect.

What I am telling myself at the start of 2021

2020 was a hard and unnerving year for many. 2021 is starting out even worse with the events of the breach of the Capitol building, the overall uncertainty for many with the integrity of the election, a potentially worse strain of COVID along with much loss of life, palatable division in the land, dealing with kids at home all the time, and the list goes on.  

I have been texting and messaging with friends and family over the last several weeks about the events of November 3rd and beyond in an attempt to keep up with the latest news regarding national events and otherwise. I don’t think I have ever watched so many youtube video clips or viewed so many twitter screenshots in my entire life!

I believe what I am looking for in these texts and messages is a sign that everything is going to be ok. That 2021 will be better than 2020.  

Scrolling through Facebook the other day, I saw the following meme (or is it GIF?) that made me laugh out loud and yet revealed an underlying nervousness about the start of the New Year:  

I think the above meme reveals what many people are now questioning: will 2021 be another difficult and uncertain year?

Before we dive in, I have just one qualifier. This will not be a political post, but rather a reflective post to point myself back to what really matters. I would ask that you keep your negative comments to a minimum and try to be open to hearing my heart speak.  

The following post is about what I am telling myself truly matters at the start of 2021. If you would like to hear what I have to say, then feel free to read on.

For me, what really matters is this: 

Do I know and trust God? And am I living in such a way that pleases him?

Right after the events of November 3rd, I texted a friend and asked him for his opinion on what would happen in the coming weeks. He skillfully transitioned the text away from the election and on to what really matters. This was his response:

“But take heart, God is in control. And if we are nearing the end, then things will get a lot worse. But in the end, we shall stand before him and none of this will matter.”

I sat there for a moment with his last sentence and let it sink into my soul:

But in the end, we shall stand before him and none of this will matter.

His text reminded me of an interview I did with my friend Marla on how to be prepared for emergency situations. I was really digging her out on practical ways to successfully survive the Zombie Apocalypse (which sadly doesn’t seem so far-fetched anymore). I think my question was indicative of my need for security, and for definitive answers.  

Instead, Marla gave me a non-answer.  Or rather, a God-answer. Here is the short exchange:

Me: “Marla, let’s talk The Walking Dead.  End of the World.  Zombie Apocalypse.  What then?”

Marla: “Honestly, you’re a goner.  I mean, there is nothing you can do for that stuff.  It’s going to be chaos and mayhem.  And you have the Lord; like….that’s it (and really, what more do you need?).  Your days are numbered; he knows when your end is going to be.” 

I remember sitting with that response as well; her words sinking into my soul.

You have the Lord.  Like that’s it.  And really, what more do you need?

So what am I telling myself during the beginning of 2021?  The same thing I told myself all throughout 2020: 

I have the Lord, and he is all I need. I will stand before him in the end.  

As some of you know, I have worked in politics for most of my adult life, minus my stay at home parent tenure and the last two years as I have transitioned into a career in private investigation. Like every person reading this post, I have survived both Democrat and Republican presidencies.  I plan on surviving again (and actively praying for) the next administration.

I recall the time immediately after George W. Bush had won the White House and also had Republican majorities in both the House and the Senate.  I was working on Capitol Hill at the time as a Senate staffer, and watched as many Republicans were elated and popping champagne with the winning hand they had been dealt. The champagne continued to flow until May 24, 2001, when Vermont Republican James Jeffords shocked his colleagues and the nation by announcing that he would leave his party to become an Independent and would caucus with the Democratic Party.  His action returned Democrats to the majority.  Never before the 107th Congress had party control formally shifted within the course of a two-year congressional term. (word for word source: https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/minute/unforgettable_107th_congress.htm#:~:text=The%202000%20election%20also%20produced,breaking%20vote%20on%20organizational%20matters.)

Right after Jeffords announced his party switch, I remember sitting outside and feeling depressed.  

Guess what? That was 20 years ago.  And I survived all these many years later.  

Here are the principles I am keeping in mind as we begin 2021: First, I am called to love God above all else.  Second, I am called to love my neighbor/family/friend/enemy as I love myself.  Finally, God is in control of 2021, even if things seem out of control.  He is a stronghold in the day of trouble.  

Here are a few verses I am dwelling on as we begin this new year:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul…love your neighbor as yourself.  Matthew 22:37

The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. Psalm 103:19

So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Romans 14:12

So given the fact that God is in control, am I trusting that he is in control of what is happening in our country and praying for things that need to be prayed about? Am I letting fear rule over me?  

And in the vein of loving my neighbor — instead of disagreeing with someone on Facebook, am I praying for them?  Am I kind to them?  Do I reach out to build a relationship with them or just leave a comment to prove a point?

I remember sitting down with a family member this past summer and asking him what he thought about COVID and all the ongoing uncertainty of 2020.  I was surprised at what he said:

“I think this is a time for repentance.”

Perhaps that is true!

The other night I woke up with a burden to pray for our country and all of the events transpiring.  I felt led to read out of the book of Nahum (of all random books), and here are the three verses that stood out to me:

The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked.  The Lord is GOOD, a stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him.  But with an overwhelming flood He will make an utter end of its place, and darkness will pursue his enemies.”  (Nahum 1: 3, 7, 8)

I think people don’t realize that God sees all and will eventually judge all.  He will judge the wicked in his time and in his way.  Maybe we will see the results on earth, maybe we won’t. 

All I have is here and now. I am reminding myself that the most important thing is that I know and love the Lord, and my ultimate confidence comes from God. He is an ever present help in times of trouble!  And I will stand before him in the end.

Presidents will come.  Presidents will go.  Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer will eventually retire.  COVID will eventually end (God-willing).  American life may or may not go back to “normal.”  

Maybe you feel that the election was stolen. Maybe you feel that the election was free and fair, and there are a bunch of people trying to undermine the process. No matter where you stand, I still say this: God is in control and has the last word, even with respect to the election.  We can certainly pray and put our trust in him.

For those who are feeling confident, I say to you: do you know the Lord?  Is it possible that God is using the difficulty and uncertainty of these times to open your eyes and draw you to himself and show you that you need him?

For those who are in despair, I say to you: do you know the Lord?  Is it possible that God is using the difficulty and uncertainty of these times to open your eyes and draw you to himself and show you that you need him?

Things could get a lot worse before they get better. 2021 could be more difficult than 2020.

But guess what?  I am choosing to trust!  I will trust the process and trust in God!

So cheers to 2021!  Why?  Because I have the Lord, and my confidence and hope come from him.  In the end, I will give an account of my life.  He will give me the strength and grace to get through whatever may come. I need to focus on what I know I can and should do: love God and love people.  And trust in him!

And that, my Dear Reader, is what I am telling myself. 

And in the words of my dear friend Marla:

You have the Lord.  Like that’s it.  

And really, what more do you need?


To read Marla’s post on emergency preparedness, click here: Interview with a Preparedness Expert/Mom

To read about ways I am finding peace during uncertain times, click here: The Purge, Preparedness, Prayer and Prophets – Finding Peace during uncertain times.

Looking for something a little lighter to read? Here is the story of my unique journey to Capitol Hill many years ago: From the valley to the hill (part 1). By the way, this was my first published blog post!

“The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.” Psalm 103:19

God speaks! How to (imperfectly) hear God’s direct voice – Part I

God speaks both directly and indirectly – directly through his Bible (pictured above, the small purple book), his audible voice (rare), and clear thoughts to our mind, among other ways.

Several weeks ago my husband found himself in a pickle: he could not locate his inflatable camping mattress anywhere.

He asked me if I had seen it and I told him I had not. Being the Godly wife that I am, I sweetly asked him:  “Have you prayed about it?”

No, he had not.  Typical male not asking for directions.  

He bowed his head and said a quick little prayer asking for God’s location services. Within a matter of moments, an answer came back in the form of a clear thought in his head:

“The mattress is at your office underneath your desk.”

He couldn’t believe it. Why would his camping mattress be there?  He did not even remember bringing it to his office. 

He grabbed his keys, got in the car, and drove to the office.

Sure enough, he quickly located his camping mattress, right where God told him it would be.

When he returned with his camping mattress in tow, it got me thinking: 

Does God really speak to us like that – so suddenly and directly?  I know that for me, God usually does not. 

This post is my attempt to help you, my Dear Reader, to hear the actual voice of God. If you have followed my writing, I am a fan of both qualifiers and bullet points.  Bullets help my brain to think properly, and qualifiers are excellent ways to include many angles and possible outcomes.  They are also great outliers of information that need to be considered when forming an argument or thesis. 

A few qualifiers in bullet form before we get going:

  • First, I do not pretend to have a corner on the market for hearing the voice of God.  I would say I am fairly sure I am hearing from God about half of the time.  The following post is a summary of what I have learned over 30 plus years of being a Christian and wrestling with this topic.
  • Second, in my experience, God tends to be more indirect rather than direct. It is extremely rare to hear a loud, booming, audible voice from heaven – although it’s not impossible.
  • Third, if you do not yet have a relationship with God, the number one thing He will be speaking to you about is that he loves you and would like to have a relationship with you. 
  • Fourth, God speaks a bit differently to each person.  He is more subtle with me; he may be more obvious with you.  God may give you amazing visions and dreams in the night.  He may give me nudges and slight impressions. Try to be open to the unique ways he may speak.
  • The Bible says that God is our Shepherd and his sheep (his children) will learn to hear his voice. We have to believe that God wants to speak to us because He is a communicative and loving Father, Shepherd, and King.  It is a process to learn to hear his voice.
  • God desires us to walk by faith, and not by sight. I suspect that this is why he speaks to us in more subtle ways. God tends to speak to us in a still small voice because he wants us to work at our relationship with him, and that means working at learning how to hear his voice. 

God speaks directly and clearly:

The following are several examples of ways God can speak more directly to each of us:

Audible voice: This is how everyone, at first, believes God is supposed to speak to people. I quickly googled “hearing the audible voice of God” and apparently, according to one study, up to 10 percent of Christians have reported hearing God’s audible voice. I have never experienced this and it is my understanding that this is a very rare experience.  Let’s look at the life of Jesus himself.  There are only two recorded instances of God speaking audibly to Jesus in front of other people. On the first occasion, Jesus is being baptized by John the Baptist and is on the cusp of beginning his earthly ministry.  Suddenly, a voice is heard from heaven proclaiming:“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) God again audibly spoke later in the book of Matthew saying the same thing, but added in a command:

“Listen to him!”  

So although it is possible to hear God’s audible voice, it is not very likely.  However, there are several other ways that God tends to speak to humanity.  

Through the Bible: I believe the number one best way to hear God’s voice is to actually read his word to you – the Bible. Not sure where to start? Start with the book of John or Mark in the New Testament. They will both give you a bottom line version of Jesus and his earthly ministry.  When God speaks to me using the Bible, a verse or two will leap off the pages at me and will impact me more than the other verses.  That, or a specific word will stand out to me.  Oftentimes I get a “fragment of a verse” in my head.  When I look it up in the Bible, it is extremely helpful and encouraging and very applicable to some situation.  I believe this is God’s way of speaking to me through his word.

The Bible is a very special book.  When you open its pages, you are handling the medium — the physical object — that God will use to speak to you.  There are other objects out there used by people to communicate with the spirit world: the Ouija board and tarot cards being two examples.  These other objects are all counterfeits and poor substitutes for trying to satisfy the spiritual connection that we all long for.  

But the Bible is God’s.  It is somehow alive and works mysteriously when you read or listen to its pages.  There is a verse in the Bible that speaks to this:

Hebrews 4:12, NIV: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

In my many years of reading testimonies of men and women who have come to believe in God and Jesus, they cite something along the lines of the following thought:

I opened up my Bible and read it, and discovered that it opened me up and read me.

Clear voice in your mind: Sometimes God speaks to your spirit in clear sentence form, as he did with my husband at the opening of this post. This has happened to me probably seven times in my life.

I just finished The Phantom Prince, written by Liz Kendall, Ted Bundy’s former girlfriend back in the late 60’s and 70’s.  One story from Liz’s daughter Molly uses this principle.  

One night Molly found herself in a dangerous situation with Ted.  She writes: 

“At that moment, having seen a physical change in the naked man who was no longer my trusted friend Ted, I started to hear something.  Maybe hear is the wrong word; it was like an invisible typist was typing inside of my head.  The words came out as knowing.  Somewhere deep inside me this quiet presence was feeding me instructions on how to remain safe: “Laugh and smile.  Act as if nothing is wrong.  Tell him you love him.  Tell him this game has been really fun but that you are tired, and you would like to go to bed now.”

Molly survived Ted Bundy that night no doubt due to the mysterious instructions that came to her so suddenly out of nowhere, and she attributed this voice as being from the Holy Spirit himself. On a side note, I studied serial killers and wrote a three-part series on my research.  I read many stories of women reporting a “voice in their head” warning them to ‘not do this, do that, go here, don’t go there’ type of thing. I believe that this is the voice of God attempting to help and protect them.

Still small voice/slightly brighter thought:

Another way that God speaks to people is by putting thoughts in their mind. The thought will always be consistent with God’s word. You’ll never have God telling you to go out and murder somebody, for example. But how do you know it is God speaking to you and not your own human thoughts?  This is probably my number one challenge but this is what I have come to believe paraphrased from a book I read:

The thought will tend to be a little brighter than all your other normal human thoughts. Think of your human thoughts as a 40 watt lightbulb. God’s voice tends to be an 80 watt lightbulb that will pop into your head. The thought will bring you peace and a sense of knowing.  

God also speaks in a small voice to your heart.  It will be quiet but you will hear it.  I know that these two ways seem opposite (a brighter thought and a quiet voice) and I will admit I have not quite figured this out yet.  But both seem to be true.  

In conclusion, my amazing friend Ragan (who is the Editor in Queen of this blog, along with my husband) once had a beloved cat that went missing for over a month without a sighting.  Ragan prayed day after day with no apparent result.  Sadly, Ragan had to move to a different home and was in the process of doing that. One day, she was on her way to a doctor appointment when the Lord spoke to her and told her to go back to the house. Ragan obeyed the still small voice and pulled up to the house.  She was delighted to see her missing cat waiting for her on the front porch!  Her cat was suffering from either a snake or spider bite and was badly wounded. She rushed him to the vet. Ragan later surmised that he was unable to come home because he was recovering from his wounds.  

What I love the most about this closing story is that God showed how much he cared about both Ragan and her kitty cat.  God spoke to Ragan with both a still small voice and a blessing.

God is speaking!  Let’s lean in and take a listen.  

For God does speak—now one way, now another—though man may not perceive it. Job Chapter 33: 14

Stay tuned for part II of this short series where I reveal ways that God speaks more subtly and indirectly.

God speaks in a wide variety of ways indirectly – including speaking through his creation! Yes, that is yours truly,
enjoying the beautiful view. In part II, we will dig into the indirect voice of God. Stay put!

The Purge, Preparedness, Prayer and Prophets – Finding Peace during uncertain times

the purge
The Purge Movie – there was one night that felt a little bit Purge-like for me. (PC: The Purge Movie)

Sunday night, May 31, 2020 is a night I will never forget.  

It was a beautiful and carefree summer evening. Our family was celebrating my son’s 12th birthday and we were having a small celebration with some good friends who live in our neighborhood.  The kids were enjoying what I call “old fashioned 80’s play” somewhere in our neighborhood (probably on bikes), while the parents enjoyed a glass of wine and grilled chicken in the back yard. The isolation, low-grade fear, and compartmentalized depression brought on by COVID19 seemed far away.

A little after dinner, I decided to quickly check my email and saw the following message from a member of our neighborhood HOA Board (of which I am a member):


We were contacted this afternoon to ask the HOA Board to alert all residents of a credible threat of criminal activity in our neighborhood and surrounding region tonight.  Please take extra care and caution for you and your families and DIAL 911 in the event of any emergency.  (I have tweaked the email message for privacy purposes.)

What?  I scrolled through more of my emails and found this from our Alderman (city council woman), who also lives in our neighborhood:

There are several credible threats throughout this city tonight.   I am trying to be responsible and taking these threats seriously and warning my residents.   I apologize that I will not be responding to anymore emails as my phone is ringing off the hook and I have tons of people to contact.  

A feeling of low grade fear came into my stomach just then – and it reminded me of the the movie “The Purge.”  If you haven’t seen “The Purge,” here is the trailer (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0LLaybEuzA).  In a nutshell, it’s a movie about one designated 12-hour night where all crime is legal.  According to the movie, this one night of evil and violence is used for the good of society by bringing about low unemployment, safety, and security the rest of the year.  The movie follows one family as they hunker down in their home for the evening. 

As I was sitting in my back yard and feeling a little bit purge-like, my 16 year old daughter came home from riding her bike with all the other kids and said: “mom, we saw strange cars I’ve never seen before with people I’ve never seen, driving around our neighborhood. Is something happening?”

We took the party inside the house but we were all on edge.  The adults whipped out their phones, trying to get more information about what was going on near our hood.  It was then that I noticed a car just sitting in front of the house next door to us (which was vacant), as well as a police cruiser parked on the side of the road.

Just then my phone vibrated.  It was a text from a friend who lives fifteen minutes to the west of us.  The text said: “be careful – mobs heading your way tonight.”  

How did he even find out?  Word travels fast.

A little later we wrapped up the party and settled in for the night. My husband and I stayed up past midnight, just watching and waiting.  I found myself peeking outside, looking for anything strange or unusual.  I prayed for the safety of our home, neighborhood, and surrounding region.

Thankfully, there was no criminal activity that night in our neighborhood or the next, despite a city-wide 8 pm curfew the next evening.  However, there was criminal activity in our nearby small city.  Many businesses and properties were damaged or destroyed. 

A few weeks later, at our HOA meeting, I spoke to the husband of the Alderman who lives in our neighborhood and I asked him about the infamous night of May 31st.  This man is a slightly older guy and I didn’t immediately peg him to be up on popular culture, so I was frankly surprised when he turned to me and blurted out the following:

“You mean the night of The Purge?  Yes, there was a real and credible threat to our actual neighborhood.  My wife was targeted specifically.  We had two U.S. Marshalls guarding our neighborhood and our home.”

Wow!!  Later I learned that similar events were happening both locally and all over the country.

This leads me to the reason I am writing this post, which is a diversion from what I normally write about.

I believe there is a real possibility that ‘events’ could occur in the very near future, events which will be very difficult for us individually, as families, and as a country. I feel like I need to do my part to alert my readers to this very real possibility so that they can get ready in the way that works best for them.

These potential events include, but are not limited to, both man-made and naturally occurring events, such as the following: 

Civilian unrest that spreads to suburban or rural areas (my story, for example), violent protests over who wins/loses the election (or how long it takes to decide it – I am thinking of the 2000 Gore v Bush election and hanging chads but worse), a rapid rise in COVID cases and the after-effects for both the sick and the well, some sort of power struggle over the Presidency, or an EMP that wipes out society, to name a few man-made options. 

There are also naturally occurring phenomena such as an asteroid hitting the earth (see this link for one that NASA completely missed but came super close: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/asteroid-makes-the-closest-earth-flyby-a-space-rock-has-ever-survived/), earthquakes, volcanos, tsunamis, etc.

Thinking about the above makes me feel anxious. This is what I am doing about it:


This is the number one thing I have been doing with more intensity for several months now.  I am praying about our election, praying that the injustices against the black community will get corrected, praying that bad cops will be removed and good cops will be protected, praying that we will have unity as a country, and praying for protection for my family and friends.  I am praying for the end of COVID. I am praying for spiritual revival in America.  I am also praying that fear will not control me during this uncertain time and that I can be a light in the darkness.  I am praying against Satan and praying that I will keep in step with God and share His love with other people. 

If difficult things are ahead for our nation, I want to be a lifeline for those in need.  In order to be a lifeline for others, I need to get my own house in order.


I am personally acting as though we will need to be (stuck) in our house for three months this coming fall or winter, and I am attempting to get as organized as possible in the event that this happens.  In addition to attempting to maintain three months of food in my home (easier said than done) and checking on our city water supply, I am stocking up on things like batteries, gasoline, fire wood, dehydrated food, powered milk, toilet paper, and the list goes on. We also ordered security cameras that we can easily monitor from our phones, ordered a deep freezer (which is constantly delayed), and ordered ahead on our child’s medication. A quick word on water: you can only live three days without water!  Although we have city water, we have a backpacking water pump and I just ordered Life Straws for the kids (you can find them on Amazon).  My husband periodically complains about the number of Life Straws that continue to arrive.  🙂

I try to do two things each day to get prepared.  As I sit here writing this post, I think of my precious kitty cat Quinny Chi, so I am remembering to stock up on her food. I am also experiencing severe dry eye right now, so I am thinking about eye drops and nighttime eye ointment.  I have two teenage girls (plus me!) who will need tampons and pads over a three month period as well (no pun intended).  

A few last points on preparedness.  First, it’s a a gradual process (in my view).  Just do a little bit each day.  Second, I am not very good at it! What I intend to store, we eat!  Batteries get used, toilet paper silently disappears, and medication runs out.  I just do the best I can.  Third, sometimes I grab extra things not for myself, but for some imaginary neighbor in need (in the future).  I want to love my neighbor in case bad things happen.  


I have been following a pastor out of Kentucky named Dana Coverstone, and I will post all four of his videos below.  He has been having dreams with a “prophetic tendency” which reveal that very difficult times are ahead for our country.  One of his prophetic dreams has come to fruition (at least for the months of March and June).  In the dreams, he sees a calendar that is slowly flipping pages, with a finger pointing to different months (specifically March, June, September, October (especially the 31st), November, and the winter months of 2021).  After the calendar flips to a certain month, he has disturbing visions about what may be ahead for our country, and the words “brace yourself” is what he has been hearing in his spirit for many months.  This pastor believes that these dreams are a warning from God of what may be ahead.  He then urges everyone to pray and get prepared.

I have no idea if what this pastor says will come true, and there is a very real possibility that he is not hearing correctly from God.  It is also possible that God, being very merciful, will respond to the prayers of His children and “change his mind” on the coming events displayed in these dreams.  However, it is also possible that God may be allowing difficult things to happen and attempting to warn us through this particular pastor.  To watch his first video, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jnh5jV3nJyM.  God often allows difficult things in order to bring people to an awareness of their need for Him. God uses difficult things for our (eventual) good and for his glory (Romans 8:28).


While personal preparedness and prayer are certainly helpful, at the end of the day my peace comes from my own, very real relationship with God the Father.  He is in control of my life and the lives of my family members (and friends).  I know where I am going if and when I die, and I can trust in Him because, by nature, God is good.  I want to have peace so I can be a light for my family and to help those in need.  If I let fear rule over me, I am no longer acting in faith and will be less helpful to myself, my family, and others in need.

Dear Reader, if you do not have a relationship with God, consider turning to Him during this uncertain time.  God loves you! If you turn from your sins, Jesus will forgive you and the Holy Spirit will come and live within you.  Jesus will help you, guide you, and give you peace. If things get crazy, He will be with you and give you the grace and resources you need to navigate whatever is to come!

In closing, I hesitated to write this post for many reasons.  I fear being wrong and I fear being trolled for the way I worded this post. But even if nothing happens and we all go back to our normal lives soon, I still believe that preparedness, prayer, and a deep peace stemming from a God who is in control and loves us very much is not such a bad thing!  

“A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.”  Proverbs 22:3 NLT

Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  John 14:27

Here is Pastor Dana Coverstone’s first video from June:

The video for October and then for December 2020:

Stop Ghosting Me! How to deal with unwanted ghosts and evil spirits

Have you ever experienced a ghost or come into contact with an evil spirit?  I sure have, from the ghost who walked up the back staircase of my aunt’s house in the middle of the night, to a spirit who was in my attic for several months, I have definitely experienced many bizarre and ghostly encounters over the course of my life.

During the COVID quarantine, I found myself listening to ghost podcasts while getting things done around the house, and realized that many people have also seen ghosts or have come into contact with something unexplainable and perhaps paranormal.  After listening to months of said podcasts, I found myself pondering the following questions: 

  • Do ghosts exist and if so, what are they? 
  • How do you get them to leave your house (or your life)?  
  • And what about malevolent entities (I call them evil spirits or demons); how do you deal with them?
  • Can ghosts/spirits attach themselves to items you may bring into your home?
  • Can ghosts/evil spirits attach themselves to animals?
  • Where does our spirit go after we die, and why is this important?

I cannot tell you the number of stories I heard where people’s lives were disrupted or destroyed because they were experiencing something ghostly or malevolent in their lives or homes, with little to no recourse.

This post is my attempt to help people get rid of things that go bump in the night so they can stay in their own homes and restore some peace and sanity back into their lives.

So let’s gather around the proverbial campfire and start telling some spooky stories, and after that we will get into the weeds.  

Ahh, a summer-time campfire. My friend took this picture in June as we were telling interesting stories around it. You can almost see a ghostly figure (or an angel!) rising up in the flames!

The first story of the night comes from my friend Kristen, and it involves antique children’s furniture (which I have learned is a big no-no as many people have bad experiences with this, FYI).  

Ghost Boy (Kristen’s ghost story) and the Haunted Staircase (my story):  

One day my friend Kristen went to an estate sale and bought some antique children’s furniture, but after cleaning the furniture and bringing it into her home, “Stranger Things” started to happen.   

The first night, she woke up to what she thought was her young daughter sitting on her legs on her bed.  She then felt the child stand up.  Kristin sat up in bed and reached for her child, only to find nobody there.  The next morning she contacted two mutual friends who had purchased items at the same sale; one said she was also experiencing weird things in her home, and the other had a disturbing nightmare, where children were being tortured and murdered. 

The next day, Kristen’s young daughter approached her and told her a little boy named Jameson had been “talking to her heart” and that he had something happen to him that was “really bad.”  Her daughter proceeded to put her hands on her own throat to denote strangulation. “Mommy,”  she said, “Jameson told me there were chains, choking, and laughter – the bad kind of laughter.”  Kristen was alarmed but stubborn; she didn’t want to believe there was a connection to the cool antique furniture she had just purchased and the ghost boy who was communicating with her daughter.  The next day she experienced the last straw: Kristen’s daughter started having screaming nightmares from which she could not awake.  She then reached out for help.

Kristen asked her father-in-law (a pastor) to come to the house to pray through it. She also contacted me and my friend and we also came through the home and prayed that God would remove the evil spirits/ghosts. Finally, feeling like that just wasn’t enough, she removed all the items from her home and her husband burned everything in a bonfire.  Her husband, previously skeptical, commented to her that “whatever was attached to the furniture made the biggest, strangest fire I have ever seen.”  

After the great burning of the furniture, and the prayers of everyone who came through the house, all was back to normal and peaceful again for Kristen and her family. 

I, personally, would stay away from children’s antique furniture. I have heard too many stories. :/ (P.C. Pinterest)

I (Heather) also have a quick ghost story that I will share with you.  A number of years ago I stayed with my aunt and uncle who live in Massachusetts and who claim they are haunted by what they believe is a friendly ghost.  One night their baby son started to cry and I heard what I thought was my aunt coming up the back staircase to comfort her crying son.  After hearing several footsteps up and down the very loud and creaky staircase, I was surprised that the baby was still crying.  It gradually dawned on me that I had experienced my first encounter with the ghost!  Although I was very afraid, I got up to comfort the baby and prayed over him and his room and he promptly went back to sleep.  

I will always remember the way the baby laid down, tucked his little hands underneath his chin, and closed his eyes immediately after my prayer was finished.  


Evil in the Attic and the Haunted Hotel (my two evil spirit stories):

Another time, many years ago, as Erik (my husband) and I were trying to fall asleep, we would hear what sounded like many squirrels scurrying around in the attic.  The sounds were consistent and annoying, but we were lazy and tired so we let it go on for many months. One day, Erik’s brother Ed came for a visit and Erik and Ed did some work up in the attic.  While they were up there, I asked them to look for any evidence of squirrels and report back.  They came down later and said: “nothing – no squirrels.  And no sign of anything else.” 

That night as we were in bed trying to fall asleep, the racket started up again.  I looked at Erik and said: “those stupid squirrels!”  Right then a thought popped into my head: ‘those are not squirrels.’

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks: could that possibly be a demon, messing around up in the attic?  Then another thought flashed through my mind: I never anointed the attic.  

Let me briefly explain.  Upon moving into the home, I walked around and prayed over every doorway and window in our home – as well as our property line – and touched some olive oil to the tops of all the doors and windows.  I prayed for God’s protection in our home and for all evil spirits to leave, in Jesus’s name.  However, I had failed to anoint the attic because I didn’t realize we even had one at the time. 

I then looked up toward the attic and prayed the following prayer: “Lord, I don’t know if those are squirrels up in the attic, but if they are not squirrels, can you please make whatever it is go in Jesus’s name?” 

Immediately there was a very loud bang that filled up our entire bedroom!!  It was so loud that Erik and I jumped up in our bed in alarm!  We both looked at each other for reassurance and said: “you heard that, right?” After that huge boom there was complete and utter silence.  

The attic was as quiet as a mouse for the next nine years we lived there. The next day I promptly anointed the attic. 

We lived in this house for ten years and it was great!!! Except for the first nine months or so!

My last demon (or ghosts, I’m not sure which) story took place just a few years ago as I was staying in Florida during a weekend getaway.  It was around 7 pm and I was watching TV in my hotel room alone.  All of a sudden I heard a commotion coming from the closet in my room.  The closet was about ten feet away from my bed, near the front door to the room.  I heard loud noises coming from the closet and could see several hangers moving back and forth violently on their own.  This went on for a few moments and then died down.  Of course I got up to investigate and found nothing in the closet (and the room next door was empty). Although I wasn’t sure what was going on and what made the hangers move on their own, I commanded the spirit to leave in Jesus’s name nonetheless.  All was peaceful after that.

I have had many other demonic issues in my home over the years – from sleep paralysis, to strange noises in my bedroom, to a “black bat” that my daughter would see in the corner of her room, to the watcher at the top of my landing that my daughter and my cat would see – all of these incidents were dealt with the same way; by making the evil spirits leave in Jesus’s name, or just by asking God (through prayer) to protect our family and make the spirits leave our home.


Evil attached to animals: Haunted Horses (Dave Appleby’s story)

Dave is my friend who helps people be set free from demonic oppression.  He always has great stories! (You can learn about his ministry here http://www.spiritualinterventions.org/, and read a fascinating interview with him here: https://permission2speakfreely.com/2017/08/24/confessions-of-an-exorcist/)

From Dave: several years ago, I was asked to do a “horse cleaning.”  Somehow a woman got my name and contacted me about coming over and praying over her horse barn and horses.  Her brand new, expensive cutting horses (horses that work with calves) were terrified to be in the horse barn.  They would stand with their heads facing outside through the Dutch doors all the time.  When the doors were open, they would run to the far corner of the paddock and would not return to their stalls unless they were dragged.  They would not eat and were obviously terrified in the barn.  

The woman told me that one of her friends had seen some dark figures moving between the stalls in the barn.  While I had never worked with horses before, I decided to give it a try.  My colleague and I drove over to her ranch, met her, and was given a tour of the horse barn.  Like she said, both horses stood with their heads facing out into the paddock.  It was a rare brutally cold windy day in February.  After warming up after our tour we started to work our way through the barn, stopping at every stall and commanding in the name of Jesus that any demon/evil spirit that was in the stall leave.  We then asked the Holy Spirit to come and bring His peace.  

After cleansing four or five stalls we came to where the first horse was standing, head turned away from us.  I said the same thing that I had said over each of the other stalls.  When I did, the horse turned completely around, put his head up to be caressed, and then started to eat.  The owner said in shock, “His eyes are different.”  The second horse, meanwhile, was still standing in the next stall with his head out the window.  I did the same thing with exactly the same results.  The horse turned around, put his head up so it could be stroked, and then started to eat.  Whatever had been tormenting these two beautiful creatures was gone.  The owner reported a few days later that the horses seemed a bit disoriented the next day (a common experience among people and, apparently horses as well) but were absolutely normal in the following days.  

So as these stories and many others illustrate, there are many people, homes, and even animals that experience unwanted entities. And yes!  Many people experience a haunting that moves around with them!  In other words, an entity that stays with them no matter where they go in life (I heard many stories to this effect).  

But before I give my perspective on what to do, we need to figure out what we are dealing with.  And please bear in mind that this is only my perspective; feel free to take it or leave it.  

What are ghosts?

After months of listening to ghost podcasts (Real Ghost Stories online and Paranormal Mysteries among others), searching the internet, watching ghost hunter-like shows on TV, reading Nancy Drew books :), and reading the Bible (yes, the Bible has one legit ghost story), I have come to the following conclusions about ghosts: 

  • Yes, many are evil spirits or demons – some are demons purporting to be a departed human spirit but are really not, and in some cases, they are an evil spirit that was previously attached to the person who has died.  Sometimes it’s not a ghost at all but just an actual evil spirit who is attached to you, your property, or your possessions.  And yes!  Demons can be attached to objects and enter your home that way.  The Bible says that demons prefer to attach themselves to something or someone and do not like to just wander the earth.  There is even one story where Jesus himself says that demons will return back to their same house with “seven spirits more wicked than themselves” (Matthew Ch. 12). And while we are on the topic, Jesus was the first legit exorcist and constantly removed evil spirits from people’s lives in order to both help people who were tormented, and also to prove that he was the actual Messiah.  
  • There are some that are actual ghosts, but I would refer to them as departed human spirits sent down from heaven in order to help or encourage someone, or in the case of the one story in the Bible (I Samuel ch. 28), to give a warning or a rebuke. I heard several stories where immediately after someone died, someone saw the spirit of that person or dreamed of him or her. I don’t have a huge problem with this scenario if it doesn’t lead to a long-term haunting and it does not cause fear or dread.  And just to be fair, I heard stories where people had ghosts in their homes that did not seem to scare or bother them.  I just know that I, personally, would not want anything in my home unless it was sent from Heaven above.  
  • I heard a few stories about astral projection, where a living person used the powers of the occult (Satanism) to separate their spirit body from their physical body and terrorize someone without the other person knowing that it was an astral projected spirit.  
  • Finally, some stories are not the result of ghosts or demons, but have a logical explanation.  It just might take time to figure out what is really going on.  And some stories do not fit into a neat category and are simply labeled “unexplained.” 


Before we can get to the “how to deal with spirits” part of this post, we need to figure out what happens to a person’s spirit after they die.

What happens to a person’s spirit after they die?

I would say this depends on what you believe.  I believe in the Bible, which says that, after a person dies, they stand before the Lord and give an account of their life.  If that person has received forgiveness of their sins and knows and loves Jesus Christ and has allowed Jesus to be their Savior and Lord, they will enter heaven for all eternity.  If they have not, then they will not be able to enter heaven and will either cease to exist (not standard Christian theology but leaving room for this possibility) or will enter hell for eternity. 

The Bible does not say that departed human spirits come back to the earth and haunt people, places, houses, or animals.  

However, if you don’t believe that the Bible is true, then consider the words and stories of those who have actually died and come back from the dead.  I recently finished an amazing book called Imagine Heaven by John Burke, who interviewed over 100 people who experienced a near death experience, or NDE.  Here is a short blurb about the book on Amazon:  

For decades, Burke has been studying accounts of survivors brought back from near death who lived to tell of both heavenly and hellish experiences. While not every detail of individual NDEs correlate with Scripture, Burke shows how the common experiences shared by thousands of survivors–including doctors, college professors, bank presidents, people of all ages and cultures, and even blind people–point to the exhilarating picture of Heaven promised in the Bible.

(for more information on this book, or to order, click here: https://www.amazon.com/Imagine-Heaven-Near-Death-Experiences-Exhilarating/dp/080101526X/ref=sr_1_2?crid=3D2IK5IECIR20&dchild=1&keywords=imagine+heaven&qid=1596059181&sprefix=Imag%2Caps%2C194&sr=8-2)

Bottom line according to the NDE-ers: departed human spirits do not seem to float around down here on earth – haunting, helping, or harassing people who are still alive (from all of the testimonies I read). The NDE-ers who head in an upward direction report either seeing loved ones who have already passed, Jesus himself coming towards them with great love oozing out of his eyes, colors they have never seen before, amazing music playing in the background, etc. OR conversely, going down down down to complete and utter darkness, with demon spirits mocking them, scaring them, and doing very bad things to them, etc. I did not read testimonies of people who were able to wander the earth for a period of time without heading in one direction or another. Just sayin’.

Please feel free to check out the stories themselves for further information (link above).

How do you get unwanted spirits to leave you alone?  

Option one: you can ask them to leave:

If you are not a follower of Jesus Christ (Christian), here is an option for you that I would not believe had I not heard several stories that affirmed this approach.  Many people sense a ghost and actually say something like this in the direction they believe the ghost is lurking: “Hey, I know you are here.  But you are really scaring me, and you need to leave.  So please leave.”  For whatever reason known to man, this method can actually work.  Many people have reported a peaceful home after asking a spirit to leave.  In my humble opinion, this method works better if the ghost does not seem to be malevolent.  You can also try getting help from a pastor, deliverance minister, or by cleansing your home (more on this in a moment).  

Option two: you can command them to leave (in Jesus Name):

I must qualify this and say that this method will only be effective for followers of Jesus Christ (Christians).  I do not recommend this method unless you are a sincere follower of Jesus. 

If you are already a believer in Jesus Christ, God gives you the authority to command the demons to leave you in Jesus’s name.  Luke 10:19 says this: “I give unto you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and to overcome all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means harm you.”  

You can cast the demon out of your home in Jesus’s name, and it will go away, because it must obey the name of Jesus.  You can say something like this:  “Whatever is bothering me at night doing this and that (fill in the blank), or whatever is attached to me, or whatever came into my home or is attached to this or that (fill in the blank), I rebuke you and command you to leave me and my home in Jesus’s name.”  The spirit will/should leave you in Jesus’s name.  However, if the spirit doesn’t go that easily, try this….

Option three: you can cleanse your house or ask for help:

Again, if you are believer and follower of Jesus, I would recommend anointing your house with olive oil (the tops of the windows and all of the doors, and then the four corners of your property line) and commanding all evil spirits to leave in Jesus’s name.  Pray that God would seal your home with his Holy Spirit and not allow bad spirits to enter.  Then pray that God’s peace and the Holy Spirit would fill your home. You can also call your clergy person or a deliverance minister and have them go through your house to cleanse it of ghosts and evil spirits as well.   And to be fair, even if you are not a follower of Jesus, many people have cleansed their homes with some success (there are many methods I learned).  You would have to google these options for yourself.  


I will leave you with one final thought and one last story before you go:

Final thought: you never have to stay in a scary situation – there are things you can do. That ghost that you are experiencing might be a demon, and God may be using this experience to open your eyes and draw you closer to Himself.  Remember – God loves you!  And He wants to help you, you just need to ask.

Final story: my daughter Claire kept complaining about the “large black bat” that was in the corner of her bedroom that scared her. I let it go for a few days, thinking it was her imagination.  But after a week or so with no relief, I waited until she was fast asleep and crept into her room and looked right at the corner in her room where she said the “black bat” was lurking, and told the demon to get the hell out of my house, in Jesus’s name!

Later, I asked Claire about the bat and she said simply, “Oh, it flew away mom!”  

Of course it did.

And finally, Kristen’s own words, as she reflected on bringing the haunted furniture into her home:

Although what happened to me was probably one of the scariest times in my entire life, I am overall grateful for this experience as it has taught me that demons really do exist, that there is power in the name of Jesus, and that when I was in that fearful situation, God sent people to help me.  Also, this experience was a real turning point for me in my own walk with God and I can now look back and see how it was used for my good and the good of my family.

Trailing spouse – there is hope for you

Moving is hard, but things will get better

About a year after we moved halfway across the country for my husband’s job from DC to the Chicago area, I was having coffee with my real estate agent in our newly remodeled kitchen. We were discussing the move and how hard it was for me, and how I was still completely focused on helping my kids adjust and very busy getting our house remodeled.  I confessed I was still struggling to find my purpose here and lamented that it was difficult to make kindred-spirit friendships.  In a moment of self-pity, I said the following:

“I feel like there is nothing in this move for me.”  

I waited, wondering if she would come back with a corrective/judgmental  comment. Instead, she looked at me with sympathy in her eyes and said the following:

“Yes, it’s always harder for the trailing spouse.”

“What – or who – is the trailing spouse?” I asked her, not realizing that someone in my shoes had an official title.

She explained it this way: “Well, it’s usually the wife, to be honest.  And she is trailing after her spouse.  Usually she moves because her husband got a new job in a new area.  And after they move into the new home she is socially isolated and has no real friends.  And she is trying super hard to help her kids adjust and be a cheerleader for her husband, and to handle all the details of the move and potential remodeling and everything else, but she ignores her own needs to support her family. It’s very hard for her, but she keeps it hidden.  She is still grieving the loss of the move, and there are many losses.” 

Her statement was spot-on for me.

The trailing spouse is defined this way from an article I found: 

Trailing spouses, usually women, end up doing a vast amount of emotional labour, not just for their households and their children, if they have them (helping teenagers adapt to new countries or dealing with toddler jet-lag), but for themselves. In the rest of my life, I’m used to being independent, interesting. I have hobbies. This trip, I’m the addendum, the afterthought.

So yes, moving can be very hard for the trailing spouse, especially if she didn’t want to move in the first place (like me). However, there are many benefits to moving, and my goal for this post is to give hope to those who are faced with an upcoming move, or have recently relocated and are still hating it. In order to write a better post, I read one really good book on moving, conducted some internet research, and consulted with two of my very best friends, Ragan and Sandie, who themselves have moved several times and have experienced the pros and cons of moving, many times over.

I also need to add a qualifier, because not every move is an unwanted move. Many people may be excited to move because they are….

  • Moving to a better home in the same general area,
  • Moving to be closer to loved ones (family, friends), 
  • Moving to a warmer weather climate from a colder one,
  • Moving to a welcoming built-in community (think church, military, or school community with casseroles and deep friendships upon arrival)
  • Moving as a person who loves new adventures or thrives on change

And one more qualifier: I realize that trailing spouses can also be men, and there are a lot of single men and women who also may face an unwanted move. Although I wrote this article for wives who are trailing after their husband’s jobs, please hang with me as I believe there will be something in this blog post for you, too.

So let’s dig into the why…why moving is it so hard for the trailing spouse (and for everyone else, frankly), and then we will discuss the eventual benefits of moving.  

Ah, this moment…when the moving truck arrived. It all suddenly felt very real.

I am going to highlight just three bullet points on the difficulties related to moving, as there is already much written on the topic of why moving is so hard for everyone on the planet.  

First, moving is one of the most stressful life events, on par with divorce:

From the decluttering to the packing to often being a single parent for months before the move (as in our case), you will feel like it’s all on you,  because honestly and sadly, much of it is.  You will have to hold down the fort at your current home, pack it up, put it on the market and keep it perfect, all while you look frantically on-line for a new one. 

One article had this to say:

“Research has shown that moving is more stressful than divorce. Personally, as someone who has moved 17 times in 15 years, I can agree with this 100 percent. Studies have consistently reported that moving is one of the most stressful life events because the amount of tiny details involved in moving to a new home makes a lot of people feel hella bajiggity. British energy company E.ON conducted a survey of 2,000 people, and six out of 10 people cited moving as the most stressful life event with divorce or a break up coming in second.” (source: https://www.bustle.com/p/moving-is-one-of-the-most-stressful-life-events-a-new-study-says-but-here-are-7-ways-to-make-it-suck-less-11832166)

While I am not here to debate the stress level of moving vs. divorce, let’s just agree that moving is incredibly stressful.  

Second, moving is a grieving process with many external and internal losses:

For starters, there is saying goodbye to your family, friends, home, and your neighborhood. It’s also the loss of identity and potential job for the trailing spouse,  loss of a beloved church or house of worship, and loss of all familiar things. It’s like walking away from the warmth and comfort of a warm blanket into a blinding blizzard without a coat.  It’s dealing with fear and anxiety but lacking the regular resources and comforts of coping that you are familiar with.

And this brings me to grieving. Our American society is not very good at this, but in order to effectively move, and then restart your life in a new area, grieving is an important component of our human development and eventual healing. There are five stages, and all of them need to be felt and dealt with properly (and not stuffed deep inside, because you are strong).

Thirdly, moving  is overwhelming (before, during, and after the move):

From Sandie, as she discusses just one aspect of her to-do list: Every state has its own set of rules and protocols, visits to the DMV, driver’s license renewals, and in some cases professional license renewals.  To continue my teaching career, I had to apply for licensure in each state. It took time, money, classes, and patience.  It can be a daunting task to reestablish yourself professionally.  Not to mention navigating where to shop and find the best deals near you.  

Although moving is super stressful, hard, and expensive, there is always a silver lining to every dark cloud.  Below are just a few of the upsides of moving that I have discovered over the last almost two years:

Moving is a clean-slate for your schedule:

I honestly enjoyed this small benefit right away: after the boxes were unpacked, I had almost nothing to do except drive my kids around and figure out design choices with respect to our remodeling projects. I enjoyed not having the usual demands on my time and decided to be very careful and deliberate about what commitments I added back in.

From Sandie: We live in busy times.  Life’s demands pull for our time and our attention.  Usually we have too many commitments on our schedule to manage, but moving gives us a chance to reprioritize. Without restraints on our time, it allows us to be in the moment, to slow down to savor that cup of coffee, read that book, or just take time in the solitude to mediate.  Busyness can rob us of joy.  A clean slate allows us to choose our paths of joy.  Tired of having to run somewhere every night of the week to a commitment? Then don’t, just say no.  I’m reminded that saying no to the good things allows you to say yes to the best things.

Time will go slower because everything is brand new:

Did you know that time moves more slowly when your brain is trying to figure out new things like a new area or a new job?  It sure does.  That’s because your brain encodes new experiences only, not boring and routine ones, and over-represents new experiences, thus making them seem longer.  In essence, when you move, everything is brand new and time slows down.  Here is a post I wrote about this topic.

I strangely enjoyed not having everything figured out already, and I savored all of the many new experiences, sights, smells, and tastes of our new home and area.

It’s a clean slate for your friendships:

After you move away, that change alone will clarify your true friendships and weed out the ones who were not meant for you long-term. As far as making new friends, I was able to decide who I wanted to be friends with in my new area. I was forced to go out of my comfort zone and pursue and invite women into my life, which I have definitely tried to do, as I am a very relational person.

Another blogger summed up another angle of friendships and moving this way: “Focus on the reality that you are not leaving friends and neighbors behind, merely extending your friendship group as you meet new people and develop new relationships in the community.”  (source: https://www.movingmindsets.com.au/emotional-impact-moving-sarah-godfrey/)

And technology helps tremendously with keeping in touch with old friends, and especially for my teen girls who can very easily keep in touch with all of their old friends from DC.

You may find better career (or ministry) options in your new area:

Sometimes moving gives you career options that you never would have where you currently live. As for me, I have always been interested in a career in law enforcement but went another direction in college. After we moved, I started to re-imagine my career as a Private Investigator.  A few months ago, I was connected with a wonderful Christian PI who helped me to navigate the complexity of breaking into the PI world. A couple of months ago, I was able to get a part-time entry level job in the PI field (with his help), conducting residency checks and surveillance for local school districts. I don’t think I could have done this work in the DC area.  In addition, running for Congress or another government position has always been in the back of mind.  DC is saturated with go-getter-government-types, and I believe it would be very hard to win a government seat in that area.

Moving builds character and personal development in many areas:

Moving forces you to broaden new horizons, face fears, be a pursuer, wait patiently, soul-search, look at the agenda going on inside of yourself, mourn losses, deal with loneliness, reach out to new people, and heal.  Moving is much like a much-needed workout.  It might be painful in some ways, and you hate doing it, but it’s super good for you in the long-run.  

And it’s true; I have definitely grown as a person after this move.

Moving builds spiritual development:

Again, this is much needed for most of us. An excellent book on the topic of moving had this to say:

What is God trying to teach me through all of this?

Security does not come from a house (or any other thing, for that matter).

Real security comes only from trusting God.

To grow as a person, you need to move beyond your comfort zone.

Spiritual growth comes in learning to depend on God to meet your needs.

People, places, and things should not be held too tightly. They can keep you from embracing what God has planned for you.

(Source: After the Boxes are Unpacked, Susan Miller, page 17.)

I would say that for me the above rang true, and I would add: moving strips me of things I find security in and helps me to focus more on the two most important relationships in my life: God, and my family. Every single time I moved, much good has come from it, both personally, and professionally.

And spiritually!

Moving is good for your kids:

Dear mama, this will be one of the hardest parts of the move and therefore I will not even attempt to sugarcoat it.  Here is my advice to you: as hard as it is, try to stay calm and positive and point your kids in the direction of “seeing the good” in the move.  Tell them you will go back and let them visit their old friends (and then do it!).  Tell them they will be able to keep in close touch with their friends through technology.  You can be honest with them and let them know that you understand how hard this is for them, but try to keep your kids on the same team as your husband and you.  

I know it’s very hard to watch your kids struggle and face difficulties during the move, but like a butterfly coming out of its cocoon, your kids need some difficulties in life to develop them in well-rounded ways. Moving teaches them (and you, mom) how to make new friends, be flexible, learn new social skills, embrace change, and be open to new adventures. I know that some kids really struggle with moving, and I encourage you to dig into ways you can help your kids to adjust to a new home, school, and life. Technology is a huge help! Our kids regularly keep in touch with many of their old friends through various Apps and video games, and my kids are all doing much better almost two years into this move.

You get to explore a brand new area:

Lastly, you will (most-likely, unless you are moving to Siberia) greatly enjoy exploring your new area. We have loved visiting the Ocean (Lake Michigan), and Chicago is an amazing city with so much to do! Wisconsin (within driving distance) has lots of lakes and, believe it or not, boasts the Water Park Capital of the World (or at least the US).

Chicago has an amazing aquarium!!
My parents came to visit us last fall! We did the famous architectural boat tour (highly recommend).

I want to close this post with two current challenges (for me).

First, I am still struggling with the move in the area of making deep friendships.  Yes, I have made a couple of good friends, but I am praying and hoping to make more.  Second, I am still working on being content, joyful (happy) and grateful for moving and in every area of my life.  The move has forced me to turn to the Lord and develop a deeper relationship with Him and my family.  God has tested me in the area of contentment and trust.  I am clinging to Romans 8:28, where God promises to work “all things together for the good” in my own life, and for His glory. “All things” includes this move. God allowed it and He will work it for my good.

In closing, I am happy to report that almost two years into the move, things are going much better and my “winter of discontent” is now over. I am starting to “see the good” in the move, both for me and my family and especially my husband, as his former company (the one we left and moved away from) is now completely dismantled. There are many good things about the Chicago area (sans the weather) and all of us have made a few friends and are enjoying the area and all it has to offer. I definitely have less commitments so therefore I have more time, and I love my new PI job that I never would have been able to land in the DC area.

I will end this post with some advice given to me from my dear friend Ragan, a military spouse, who has moved eight times in 15 years:

There is no doubt that moving is a pain (and honestly, I hope I have many years to come before I have to do it again), but I also know that attitude and perspective are critical. The motto of the U.S. Marine Corps is Semper Fidelis meaning “always faithful.” The motto of the U.S. Marine Corps spouse is Semper Gumby—“always flexible.” We have no choice but to be flexible as we know we are “likely” posted in a duty station for two to three years. I try to jump in with both feet immediately. Our first goal was always to find a church and get involved as quickly as possible rather than visit several over periods of months to find the “perfect” one.  I went to events and did my best to connect with other wives in my husband’s command.

I made memories, and most importantly, I made life-long friendships. I toured other countries, hosted many friends and family members, and lived as if I were going to be there forever. Sometimes we can be short-sighted or feel sadness at always having to uproot and so we guard and protect our hearts. I trust there is a time for this, and I know that it is natural for us to do so as well. But I also know the joy of going all in and reaping the benefits of vulnerability and effort.

As Heather shared, I too am a trailing spouse, and I never trail alone. I bring family with me. I bring friends with me. And most of all, God is with me. I hope to keep growing in maturity all the time, and the pressure cooker of a move sure is a good way to test that.

Amen! May we all (including myself) grow in the area of flexibility, being deeply rooted no matter what, being open to change and adventure, and being content and joyful in every area of life, including a move!

So trailing spouse, there is hope for you!

Because you never trail alone.


PS: Below, check out the pics of all the wonderful friends and family (in no particular order) who have come to visit us since we have moved (including my parents pictured above)!

Our great friends Erin and Caleb and their kiddos came to visit! Chicago is such a great city!!
One of my very best friends Ragan and her son came to visit! I have known Ragan for 21 years!!
My awesome sister Jessie came to visit!! It was so great to have her!
My wonderful friends Amy, Amy, and Jonalee came for a visit! Check out the Ocean View in the background!!
We have enjoyed having a few neighborhood friends over and have actually become good friends with the ones pictured! Great peeps in our new hood!
Erik’s family came to visit us for Thanksgiving!!
Erik’s (my husband’s) brother Ed was our very first visitor!!!
We have really enjoyed our new kitchen and have been able to do a bunch of orphan hosting in our new house cuz we have lots of room!
My two nieces (Lauren and Kristen!) came to visit, plus some other good friends for Erik’s surprise birthday party!
As soon as we moved, we checked out the new area. Here we are up in Kenosha, WI, enjoying the awesome view. Moving meant a lot of good, quality time with my kids.
We went to our very first CUBS game with some new friends! Ryan was the contractor who remodeled our kitchen and basement. He saw me every morning – gross and without make-up -for a year!! So we naturally became friends with him. 🙂

For further reading: https://www.mymovingreviews.com/move/why-moving-is-hard/

Excellent book on this topic: After the Boxes are Unpacked by Susan Miller. Here is an amazon link (just a link; not an affiliate link): https://www.amazon.com/After-Boxes-Unpacked-Susan-Miller-ebook/dp/B012P62Z5Y/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1ZWJ0YIPZGCTJ&dchild=1&keywords=after+the+boxes+are+unpacked+by+susan+miller&qid=1587505536&sprefix=After+the+Boxes+are+u%2Caps%2C318&sr=8-1