It’s a delight to introduce you to my dear friend and fellow Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas author, Norma Gail. We first met several years ago while promoting our works on Twitter. You might say hashtags brought us together! And I’m so glad they did. We have been close friends and prayer warriors for each other ever since.
Norma lives high atop a mountain near Albuquerque, New Mexico which, in itself, astounds this little lady from the south. Who would ever think I’d have a close friend in New Mexico? But God knew how much I would need Norma in my life.
She has a strong faith rooted in God’s Word that carries her through the difficult places of chronic pain and illness. She learned this faith through her father, Lyle, whose story she shares below.
Her father once joked about wanting to die, fly rod in hand, in the middle of his favorite river … and that’s exactly what happened. Yes! Lightning took his life at age 65 while doing what he loved.
I know Norma’s testimony of God’s faithfulness and longsuffering during this tragic time will touch you deeply and give you strength for the journey.
Welcome to Faith Notes, Norma!
“Blessed is the man who fears the Lord…His children…will be blessed.” Psalm 112:1-2
I crawled into bed, curled into a fetal position and cried. The pain, grief, and sense of surrealism was beyond explanation. The most vital, active, loving man I had ever known was gone. His vibrant, outgoing faith touched the lives of everyone who encountered him, filling the largest church in the city to standing room only for his funeral.
But two weeks following the death of my 65-year-old father, I only wanted my daddy back. My screams of “WHY?” bounced off the ceiling.
While fly-fishing on his favorite river a bolt of lightning from a storm 20 miles distant struck my daddy below the collarbone and killed him instantly. Under a clear, blue sky, his joking comment about wanting to die, fly rod in hand, in the middle of his favorite river came true.
My children were the only ones out of what would eventually be eight grandchildren to remember him. His bigger-than-life influence in the lives of family, church, and community ended in a second, or so I thought.
Mounds of cards, flowers, food, and hordes of friends with kind words couldn’t ease the pain. Having lost my own grandfather just prior to my 10th birthday, I wanted my children to grow up knowing theirs. Neatly written in my new prayer journal were the words “That God would protect Daddy and allow him to live a long life and see his grandchildren grown to maturity.”
Where was God in that storm? Had he not heard my prayer? Did he not see what a powerful ministry my father had and what a wonderful influence he would be on his grandchildren?
I served as a Discussion Leader in Bible Study Fellowship (BSF), a position previously held by both of my parents. I lived and breathed Bible study lessons during the hours my kids were at school. In the first hours after the news of his death, I turned to the scriptures, finding solace in the Psalms, but as days and weeks passed and reality set in, it became more difficult to open my Bible when it seemed God had let me down.
My grief ran the whole gamut from numbness and disbelief, to anger, and the inability to eat or sleep. My Daddy was gone. My mind knew God was real and active, as present on that river as he was with me in my room. In my heart, I felt abandoned. How could this have happened?
Face buried in my pillow, the sobs grew silent and I lay with eyes closed, longing for peace—for answers. I wanted the world to go away, however, no mom in the days before cellphones and Caller ID would let the phone go unanswered.
A fellow BSF Discussion Leader whose father died a few months previous was checking in to see if I needed anything. Yes, I received my lesson in the mail. No, I hadn’t looked at it. I didn’t know when I would return and couldn’t concentrate well enough to study.
“Read the lesson.” She said. “I think it might help you.”
I dragged myself out of bed, gathered my Bible and lesson, and curled back up among the pillows. My eyes skimmed over the material without expectation from a heart that felt frozen solid. Then I reached a phrase that remains clear almost 23 years later. I went back and read it again: Sometimes God causes us to pray a prayer so that we will clearly recognize the answer when He sends it.
Could God have prompted me to pray that my dad would live to see my children grown so that I would understand it was not in His perfect plan? How was it even possible that having a godly grandfather was not for their best?
Yet there it was. The Lord wanted me to understand clearly His answer to the prayer in my journal. It wasn’t a wrong desire or a bad thing to pray. It was logical and good, but not God’s will in this instance. His plan was different from my desire.
I did not have immediate peace. Instead, my mind filled with more questions. Daddy’s death seemed pointless—a powerful testimony for the Lord cut short. But I knew that God’s ways were not my own. His plans were far higher and better than I could understand.
Yet I could answer my children’s questions with honesty. We can’t comprehend the ways of God but we can trust His love, knowing that someday we will know why He allowed this tragedy in our family.
A few weeks later, my best friend, a former Bible student and employee of my dad called and shared Job 36:32, “He fills His hands with lightning and commands it to strike its mark.”
A childhood fear of lightning, compounded by two of my parent’s homes being struck by lightning had grown into an uncontrollable fear of what it might do to my family.
I began to study lightning in scripture and discovered God, and only God controls it. Satan does not possess power over lightning, and it does not appear to be a random event.
The scripture in Job and similar verses meant that God directed that lightning bolt to carry my father home to heaven at that specific moment in time.
Reports came to us from the local Christian store of people buying Bibles because they knew my dad and of those who accepted salvation due to the testimony of his life. Our family had opportunities in restaurants, soccer practice, and work situations to share our faith in Jesus Christ. Over the years, his death has perhaps influenced more people than his life.
Our family lives on in the desire to daily honor both our heavenly and earthly fathers in all we do and say. All eight grandchildren have come to salvation in Jesus Christ, and perhaps more from the absence of their grandfather than anything, they strive to be like the grandfather portrayed to them. Each one serves the Lord in their own, individual ways.
I taught the Bible for over 21 years, having inherited my dad’s love of teaching the Word. My faith is stronger because I know that even in the midst of the darkest trial God is so near that what touches us comes from His very fingers. He knows our sorrow and seeks to reach through it to grow us into more than we would be without having experienced it.
Whether we understand in this life or not, we believe that all things “work together for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Twenty-three years later, lightning storms still frighten me as blinding flashes assail our mountainside home. Yet, I continue to grow in the understanding that God is very close in the storms of this life.
I rely on the fact that “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” (Psalm 46:1-3)
I can praise the Lord that students my dad taught in Sunday School over 40 years ago, as well as adults who knew him through business and church, recall his lasting impact on their lives. God brought my family to a greater knowledge of Himself through the trying ordeal of my father’s death.
I have grown in the confidence that He “loves me with an everlasting love” and “will never leave or forsake me”, no matter what trials come.
Whatever we face, God is the ever-present, all-knowing Comforter who longs for us to seek Him in the worst times of life and praise Him for the “everlasting arms” that undergird us, giving us the strength and faith to face the worst trials life brings. “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12)
© Copyright by Norma Gail Thurston Holtman, May 10, 2018. Used by permission.
More about Norma Gail:
Norma Gail’s debut contemporary Christian romance, Land of My Dreams, won the 2016 Bookvana Religious Fiction Award. A women’s Bible study leader for over 21 years, her devotionals and poetry have appeared at ChristianDevotions.us, the Stitches Thru Time blog, and in “The Secret Place.” She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, Historical Writers of America, and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. Norma is a former RN who lives in the mountains of New Mexico with her husband of 41 years. They have two adult children. If you’re interested in connecting with her, follow her blog where she posts weekly 2MefromHim Devotionals, or join her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Goodreads, or Amazon. A sequel to Land of My Dreams is in the works! Within Golden Bands will continue the story of Bonny and Kieran. Also, watch Amazon for the audiobook of Land of My Dreams, coming sometime in late 2018!
Land of My Dreams
Alone and betrayed, American professor, Bonny Bryant longs for a haven of peace. She accepts a position at a small Christian college in Fort William, Scotland, craving escape from her painful past. The passionate love which develops when she meets fellow professor and sheep farmer, Kieran MacDonell, is something she never anticipated.
Kieran harbors a deep anger toward God in the face of his own devastating grief. When Bonny’s former fiancé reenters her life, Kieran’s loneliness draws him to a former student.
How will Bonny decide between her rivals? Can they set aside the past to make way for a future, or will it drive them apart?
Land of My Dreams spans the distance between New Mexico’s high desert mountains and the misty Scottish Highlands with a timeless story of overwhelming grief, undying love, and compelling faith.
Land of My Dreams, available on Amazon.
Thank you so much for stopping by. I would love for you to share what’s on your heart in the comments below. Scroll a little farther down and you’ll see where you can leave your comments. Together, we can find the nearness of God in our darkest moments.
Sweet blessings to you,
Thank you for hosting me, Nan! Our friendship blesses my life in so many ways!
It was an honor for me to share your story Norma. You are precious to me, as well.
I count it a blessing to have “toured” your mountainside home, Norma, filled with photos from your family’s past. This painful time in your life surely packs a lot of power…thanks for sharing your story here.
Thank you for stopping by. One day I hope to tour Norma’s mountainside home. I wish she wasn’t so far away.
Wow, Norma. What a story! Amazing how your father joked about how he wanted to die and then it came true. I relate so much to your words of loss and feeling abandoned and overcome with grief, losing my dad 8 years ago. Also, I was a BSF discussion group leader for a few years. 🙂 Oh, and I didn’t know that about the Lord and lightning. It would make for an interesting study in Scripture. This is a powerful thought. “We can’t comprehend the ways of God but we can trust His love, knowing that someday we will know why He allowed this tragedy in our family.” Amen! Thanks for sharing, Nan. Hugs to both of you beautiful, godly women.
Karen, I actually wrote a biography of my dad for family and friends. At the end, I included a Bible study I did on Lightning in scripture so the kids would understand God’s power displayed in their grandpa’s death.
Sounds like a book to me 😉 Maybe even a kids’ book!
I can’t say I have totally come to terms with it yet. My fear still gets the best of me at times, no matter what I know to be true.
Karen, I didn’t know you were a BSF leader! Norma has shared so much about that experience. She did it for 21 years! Thank you for stopping by and encouraging our Norma. This is a powerful story that I believe will touch many.