Experience can be a brutal teacher; however, it also can be an opportunity to a deeper relationship with God and an impetus to serve others going through similar circumstances. Unfortunately, for some, those same experiences can lead to a lifetime of bitterness, strife, and destruction with a penchant to blame God for all their woes.
For Linda Street-Ely, who experienced the tragic death of her husband and two young children in a Virginia house fire back in 2003, the heart-wrenching circumstances of her life gave rise to a unique understanding of God’s grace along with an abundance of opportunities to share her story of healing with others all too familiar with life’s devastating internal wounds.
Linda’s journey – from love to loss to new hope – is detailed in her book titled “When We Move to Heaven: A family love story”. This 293-page personal account takes the reader from the joys of life as a young wife and mother to the solitude of heartbreak to a new hope discovered through both the truth of God’s word made real in her life as well as the loving embrace and helping hands of Christian family and friends.
From the ashes of painful loss, Linda writes of how she found healing, strength, hope, and joy for eternity along with a peace that passes all understanding. Her book details how God raised a lost and lonely widow from the darkest depths of despair to the new heights discovered soaring with wings like eagles.
As it says in Isaiah 40:31, “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
Concerning the processes and stages of grief, in her biographical account Linda writes that it “doesn’t come in distinct, successive, orderly stages. We don’t leave one stage and enter another, neat and clean and ready to move on. Stages of grief blend and overlap and mesh, so that sometimes figuring out emotions and understanding our thoughts and behaviors adds confusion to grief. For each individual, grief in all its facets takes … well as long as it takes.”
She continues with this lesson on grieving with this hard-earned wisdom, “Seeking God’s will has been paramount. … Fasting, praying, and listening for God’s voice and looking for guidance from the Lord are the healthiest ways to make this journey.”
In the book’s foreword, the late Jimmie Clemmons – Linda’s former pastor – wrote that Linda’s book will “enable you to rejoice in the life-giving grace of God. … Life seems to have no answers for the grieving, but answers can be found in the most unlikely places, when you least expect it.”
Motivational speaker, Bible teacher, and author Kathi Macias similarly praises the book, saying, “This story is honest and personal; you will easily identify with Linda’s hopes, dreams, and fears. This book challenges and enables us all to become messengers of faith and trust, even when the events around us seem to make no sense – a virtual ‘Hebrews 11’ theme.”
Of course, Hebrews 11 highlights a life of faith lived out by some from throughout biblical history who faced difficult circumstances, from Abel, Enoch, Abraham, and Sarah to Moses, Issac, Jacob, and Joseph. It reflects on King David, the harlot Rahab, the warrior Samson, the prophet Gideon, and others who trusted God despite their difficulties and circumstances.
The first two verses in Hebrews 11 reads, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.” Then, after recounting heroes of the faith, the chapter ends this way in verses 39 and 40, “And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.”
That’s right – their testimony lives on even now, thousands of years later, and Linda’s attestation echoes God’s faithfulness to those who call upon His name as well. Their stories give us hope in the upward call of Christ.
Tiffany York – a news director and assistant general manager for a radio station who once interviewed her friend, Linda, about the book – says, “In it, she’s so honest about her own reactions to the tragedy. She truthfully recounts situations like lying in bed curled up in despair. It’s a dramatic story, but she’s honest. It’s difficult to qualify those emotions, to open up that window.”
Despite the difficulties, Linda is able to tell her story in a truthful way – pain and progress, tragedy and transformation, forlornness and faith, grief and grace. It’s why the book can be so impactful in the lives of others living under a black cloud of despair.
In the book’s epilogue, Linda writes, “A phenomenal change has taken place in me, but because I don’t see myself ever ‘getting over’ the fire, it’s only natural and reasonable that I continue to view life through a lens of at least partial grief. My desire to be a courier of God’s love and compassion and good news is based, to a large degree, on the sadness and pain that will always be part of my life. It is the very reason I am willing and able to empathize with others. … I am committed to my desire for God to work through me, to use me for His glory, and to carry the good news of His great love and mercy to everyone who will listen to His promise.”
For many, “When We Move to Heaven” is an awe-inspiring read, a journey through God’s grace and faithfulness. So, if you or someone you know is facing the devastation of loss, Linda Street-Ely’s book may be a comforting ointment for the deep wounds and help bring God’s healing to fullness and fruition.
Sharing her experiences in written word is just part of the story. Linda has also twice travelled to Sudan on mission trips, allowing her the opportunity to speak of God’s love to a wounded and hurting people ravaged by the brutality of war and all too familiar with life’s grievous lessons. Her trips also took Linda to other Central African countries to share her healing message of hope and faith. In addition, she has spoken to groups in the United States and also counseled one-on-one with an untold number of wounded souls grasping for the healing grace she has experienced.
An aviator, author, and ardent Christian woman, Linda Street-Ely has remarried and now lives in Texas with her husband and fellow pilot, Mike Ely, and their rescue dog. Her testimony of healing and soaring to new heights continues by the grace of God and the couple’s plane cleverly named the ‘Elyiminator’.
You can learn more about Linda’s books and life on her website at: http://paperairplanepublishingllc.com.
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