One way God extended a hand of mercy to me was through my community. The grief journey is strange and unpredictable. I will forever be grateful for the dear friends who stepped onto the windy, uphill path of grief with me — including a man named Shawn.
I had met Shawn at the same time I met my late husband, Ericlee, on a mission trip to Haiti. Shawn and Ericlee were good friends from high school who shared many interests and passions. Shawn became my prayer partner on that trip and eventually was instrumental in bringing Ericlee and me together.
Shawn was a groomsman in our wedding and offered a toast at the reception. We traveled with Shawn. He visited us and celebrated the births of our three children with us. Through the years he supported our nonprofit in Haiti both prayerfully and financially.
Two years prior to Ericlee’s death, Shawn was sitting in church and his pastor was preaching a series about God’s heart for widows, orphans, refugees, and the poor. Something pricked Shawn’s heart as he thought about his own mother, who was a widow living in California. Shawn lived in Maryland at the time but felt like God was calling him to move back home to help care for his mother. Ericlee and I prayed for Shawn as he looked for jobs in California, which was where we lived.
Ericlee was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in May of the following year. The news hit us all like a sucker punch to the gut. Shawn came to visit that summer.
We didn’t realize that was the last time we would all be together. Ericlee graduated to heaven that September.
The week of Ericlee’s funeral Shawn got a call from UCLA. They wanted to interview him for a position. It just so happened he already had tickets to travel through Los Angeles to the funeral and could do the interview in person. The following Monday they offered him the job. This wasn’t a coincidence. In fact, this was just the beginning of how our sovereign God orchestrated every detail of Shawn’s life to join with mine.
We kindled our relationship over many months. Shawn was the person who listened to me cry on the phone. He prayed over me. This was God’s mercy — sending me a friend who loved Ericlee dearly and didn’t put expectations on me through the grief journey.
Shawn drove from Los Angeles to Fresno to visit us on the weekends and spent quality time with the girls and me. Eventually, I began to look at him in a new way. My heart was opening, and those seeds of hope sprouted as God began to unfold His wild plan for our future. Despite my worries, our friends and families gave us their resounding blessing.
On our wedding day, our Author-God invited my three young daughters and me into a redeemed story only He could write. Out of our brokenness, God was bringing abundance.
More than seven hundred people filled the church to celebrate with us. These were the people who had prayed for Ericlee’s healing and grieved with us. These were the people who stood by my side on my darkest days and lifted me up. That day in January was not just our wedding. It was a glory story our community wanted to be a part of because it spoke volumes about God’s mercy and grace.
Shawn and I exchanged our vows under a painted red sign that proclaimed the word glory because we wanted everyone who attended our wedding to know that God was the one who deserved all the glory for bringing us together.
When I look back over our wedding pictures, joy and wonder still bubble up in my spirit. We laughed, we cried, we feasted, and we danced. God provided for all of us in a way we could not have imagined. He brought beauty from the ashes.
Friend, we serve a God of mercy. It’s part of His character. Not every widow’s story will turn out like mine. Not everyone will experience grief the same way my family has. But I know that the God of mercy is longing to meet you in your circumstances too.
I return to the words of David: “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!” (Psalm 30:11–12).
I’m so excited to share with you Create in Me a Heart of Mercy.
It’s the final study in our series of four transformational Bible studies. If you loved Heart of Hope, Heart of Peace, and Heart of Wisdom, you’ll love this! But you can also just jump right into Heart of Mercy, which is now available wherever books are sold, including:
This Bible study was heart-and-life-changing to write, and I believe it’s going to help you encounter God and fall in love with His Word in fresh ways too.
Get your copy now because our online Bible study starts MONDAY! (I can’t wait to talk together about all things wisdom and Jesus with you!) FIND ALL THE ONLINE BIBLE STUDY DETAILS HERE. And be sure to SIGN UP so we can send you the first week of the Create in Me a Heart of Mercy + a printable of Scripture memory verses for FREE! You’ll also get first access to the teaching videos and more.
Join the online study and let’s seek hearts of mercy — together.