Book Blog - Eyes on Heaven Feet on Earth

Eyes on Heaven Feet on Earth Part 1 – Chapter 8 – Beginning to Surrender Our Child

Chapter 8 Copyright 2023 – Carla J. Wood

“It is wonderful what miracles God works in wills that are utterly surrendered to Him.”

~ Hannah Whitall Smith ~

On a warm September, in 1989, Tuesday evening, my water broke, and we prepared Shawn to go to the neighbors. Explaining to him that his little brother or sister would be coming out of my large tummy put a blank stare on his face. Gary and I locked eyes realizing that his life would be forever changed. Gary prayed for Shawn, me, and the baby. During his prayer an emotion of intense grief along with joy grew in my heart and I began to weep. Logic told me that Shawn’s transition with a new brother shouldn’t cause such an emotion in my spirit, and I briefly wondered if something was going to be wrong with my baby. Trusting my little ones to God, we left for the hospital expecting the best.

At 9:50 AM, September 27, 1989, Taylor Royce Wood graced the world with a loud entrance. He came out screaming with legs and arms flailing letting the world know he was ready for an adventure. Despite his rambunctious arrival, it was obvious that he needed love and cuddling as much as freedom to move while he eagerly snuggled up to me very hungry. He was born healthy, active, cuddly and with a voracious appetite.

Getting ready to take our son home to introduce him to his big brother and start our new “happily ever after,” my doctor came in to check on me to release me from the hospital and shared some concern that I might have a blood clot in my leg. Not wanting to delay going home, I brushed it off as a nothing. He examined me and reluctantly sent me home with strict instructions to call him immediately if anything changed.

Shawn met Taylor with a smile and curiosity. He was glad to have a little brother but wished he could start playing. Shawn was helpful and adored his little brother doing anything to help him stop crying which began to be a regular problem. Taylor seemed frustrated most of the time. It seemed he was only happy eating or in my baby front pack with me moving around. Many of his early naps were spent inside that pack with me vacuuming just to get a break from the crying.

When we had been home for a week, I stood up one morning after very little sleep to feel that deep pain the doctor had warned about. I had a full-blown superficial blood clot in my leg. A visit to the doctor and a Doppler scan sent me home with blood thinners and even stricter instructions to keep my leg elevated above my head. Tell that to a young mother with a two-year-old and a cranky infant. Gary was able to come into the house frequently to help and my neighbors, Judy, and Kathy, were sweet servants making sure I was doing well throughout the day.

I sensed something was wrong with Taylor after the second week with near constant crying. He never seemed to be able to be comforted, so, by the third week so I took him to the pediatrician. His doctor couldn’t find anything wrong and wrote it off as colic. My lack of sleep and discomfort from my blood clot started a slow growing depression for me. I was a youth pastor at the time and felt I should be back to work with my teens. Generally, the push-through-anything girl, I began to feel like a failure as a Christian, mom, wife, and youth pastor from not having enough faith to see the silver lining like I usually did in tough circumstances.

Things were slowly getting worse for Taylor, but we still had intermittent happy moments without crying so I just decided he had colic. Despite my exhaustion, the end of October, we packed up the boys for our church harvest party, not wanting to miss a fun yearly celebration for Shawn. Taylor had cried most of that day and not having his usual daily dirty diaper for over 48 hours, I was starting to become concerned. Arriving at the church soon after feeding him, he started a screaming spell in stiff pain that had me in tears. Gary ran Shawn through all the harvest centers at the party and played a quick game with him before taking us home. It ended up being too long of a night for colic and I was determined to take our baby to the ER the next morning, a Saturday.

Getting him ready early in the morning, I decided to change his clean diaper even though he had not done anything to make me want to change it. Upon opening his diaper, what I saw shocked me. It was obvious Taylor had a hernia and the bulging intestine in his groin may burst at any moment. I asked Gary to get the car warmed up telling him I was leaving immediately for the hospital. Gary came back in after starting the car and I handed him the baby telling him our doctor was on call that night before and I wanted to catch him at the ER on the phone and make sure he stayed there.

I told the doctor Taylor had a strangulated hernia and I would see him in fifteen minutes. Doubting my non-medically educated wisdom, he asked what made me so sure that’s what it was. Leaving my normally professionally polite responses for another time, my mama bear heart blurted, “Well, when he was born, he had two testicles and now he has three and it’s larger than the two he was born with!” He was silent for a moment then said he would wait. I drove as fast as I could then I handed him to the doctor who confirmed he did indeed have a badly strangulated hernia. The surgeon was immediately called in to meet us just as Gary arrived after dropping Shawn off at our pastor’s house.

During most of this I was extremely calm and shed no tears, knowing I had a big God and could trust him no matter the outcome. The surgeon explained the surgery, and the risks involved, normal risks for any four-week-old infant. He thought they had caught it in time, but Taylor was at risk of his intestine rupturing. We watched them wheel our tiny helpless baby through the flapping surgery doors trusting Taylor into God’s and the doctor’s hands.

Our pastor and his wife, Karon and Weldon, were keeping Shawn and had called the church prayer chain and our surrogate parents, Paul and Neva, to go to the hospital to be with us. They arrived soon after Taylor went into surgery, prayed with us, and kept us company for the hour plus surgery. We felt at peace but were counting the minutes before the doctor returned to tell us the outcome. The kind surgeon came out stating that he had caught it in time and Taylor was doing very well for a little guy and said it would be a little while before we could see him. After he answered a few questions for us, he commented that he had never seen such a calm young mother of sick baby. I smiled and told him that I had a big God. He walked out the door as relief hit me and I burst into tears. Gary, Paul, and Neva laughed at the young tearful mom with the big God.

Giving Taylor to God officially at his dedication two weeks later meant more to us than it would have had we not been through the surgery with him. We started to realize that we had to intentionally trust God with our children at each stage of their lives. Taylor still did not sleep well, and it began to take its toll on my emotional health. Not wanting to be a “bad Christian” I kept most of my postpartum depression to myself. I had to quit my youth pastor job because of my health and felt like a failure with no one else to watch over the teens.

Making time to walk in our beautiful park at the power plant, while listening to worship music, curbed my depression. When Taylor was eight months old, two things changed. He began to crawl, and it was as if the whole world opened up for him. He was finally happy and able to keep up with Shawn. Shawn was happier too as his brother could play with him and throw a ball. The other thing that changed was Taylor’s playing hard led him to sleep more. One night he fell asleep in our bed with me and slept all night for the first time. It was a major prayer answered. I finally started feeling like a happy human again. The only trade off was he wanted to sleep every night with us. This would continue to be a regular pattern in Taylor’s life to play hard, love hard, rest hard. I was thankful for his loving and resting well part and with sleep came the emotional balance I needed.

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Eyes on Heaven Feet on Earth Part 1 – Chapter 7 – Building our Family

Chapter 7 Copyright 2023 – Carla J. Wood


Building our Family

But the love I have for

my children is the only

love that split my soul

with each birth, and still

miraculously multiplies

with each year I am

their mother

~ Alfa~

I finally decided to go to a school a lot of my friends attended, Northwest Nazarene College. Leaving my family was very difficult, but I was convinced that nothing I could do would heal my mom and their marriage. So, in September 1980, with most of my belongings packed into the car, I tearfully kissed everyone goodbye, and Dad drove me to Nampa, Idaho. The ten-hour trip was the longest time I had been alone with my dad in many years. Much of the time was spent listening to the radio or in a companionable if slightly awkward silence. I could tell he wanted the time alone with me to reconnect, but neither of us knew how.

We arrived late in the day and after moving my things into a dorm room I’d be sharing with a high school friend, Julie, Dad retreated to a hotel for the night before returning the next morning to have breakfast with me at the college cafeteria. Despite my desire to break out on my own, I had a renewed sense of a loving connection with my dad and felt sadness at a lost opportunity to deepen the bond. I was gently reminded of the moment he had rescued me from drowning as a little girl. Dad hugged me, then handed me a present to be opened when he left. Kissing him on the cheek, I watched him get into the car and drive away, then carried the gift to my room to open it. Carefully wrapped was a book, Letters to Karen: A Father’s Advice on Keeping Love in Marriage, by Charlie W. Shedd. Inside was a sweet message sharing Dad’s heart and how the things he had not had time to teach me were in this book. He added how much he loved me and would pray for me daily, which he has continued to this day. I treasured his heart reaching out to me in this wise book with his loving words so carefully penned. One more source of help towards a godly family, coming from my dad meant the world to me.

Spring of 1981 came upon me so quickly and my parents separated, spiraling me into a depression. There were many things going on in my mind. Loneliness hit, some broken relationships had occurred and now having an unknown unstable home waiting for me was a huge hit to my spirit. I cried out to God and at the same time told my roommate I was not going to date one more guy until graduation. Julie’s response to my declaration was humorously blunt.

“I thought you were going skiing with five guys and four other girls tomorrow. You might marry one of the guys.”

“No way!”

“Well, lets see who you are going with?”

Knowing all the guys in the group, Julie analyzed that the only guy I could possibly marry was the “Gary guy” who neither of us knew.

That night I had a dream that I married the “Gary guy” and he looked like Robin Williams as “Mork” with soft wavy medium length brown hair. Intrigued, I looked forward to seeing the “Gary guy”.

Upon waking, I got a call from one of the girls saying none of them would be joining us on the ski slopes. Hesitating to go alone with five guys I still decided to go since I had new skis that had never been used and it was the last ski day of the season. Plus, I was curious about this Gary.

The guys arrived outside my dorm. I only knew three of them so was unsure who Gary might be but the driver stepped out of the car looking like “Mork” dressed in ski pants and rainbow suspenders with buttons on them just like Robin Williams! It took a half an hour to confirm he was indeed Gary Wood. He stole my heart that day with his patient ski instruction as I was a fairly beginning skier. A perfect gentleman who treated me like a princess.

It took him two weeks to get the guts to ask me out and the rest is history. The next two years were trying for me in so many ways, but I was stretched and challenged to really put God first in my life. I would end up running for Miss Boise, winning and being in the biggest tug-of-war with God pulling me upward and the “nameless enemy” pulling me down.

God won! Gary was faithfully forgiving, and we both drew a line in the sand for our love for each other and our commitment to Jesus when we married in 1983.

~

            My greatest desire in my life work was to be a stay-at-home wife and mother, but our finances would not allow for this. Gary’s dream job with the power company would require he work in power plants for a few years. When a job finally came open to work in Hell’s Canyon on the Snake River, Gary got it. This job was the answer to my lifelong prayer to be able to stay home with our children.

            For eighteen months our life was living an extended honeymoon in the wilderness. We learned to experience the Idaho and Oregon outdoors with camping and reservoir swimming adventures. Living out in the middle of nowhere, Gary and I grew closer in our marriage as we were away from our parents and families.

After sixteen months of adventures, another job came up. I was eagerly expecting our first child in six months, so the move to a town that had a hospital closer than 75 miles sounded very appealing. Friends of ours attended a church that needed a choir director which sparked my passion and sounded like a nice diversion to my lonely days at home. So, we moved to Kimberly, Idaho. The village power plant families were amazing, and the church welcomed us warmly. It was my 25th move in my 24 years and I soon realized this time I really felt I had moved to the next best thing to Heaven.

In 1987, God brought Shawn into our hearts and home. In a new community of friends and with Gary’s family now only two hours away, we couldn’t be happier. My experience in helping with my little brother, Matthew, made the transition to motherhood so smooth and fulfilling. Shawn was such an easy baby. I learned having a child was a bond deeper than I had ever imagined. Someone at church told me to take moments each day and look into my baby’s eyes and just enjoy his presence. I took her seriously and, starting with Shawn, spent many moments just absorbing my children into my heart, something I am now so thankful I did. Shawn was so happy and a fast learner. He seemed extremely smart and satisfied. His laid-back way of life made me want to continue to have children. I thought if they could all be like him, I’d for sure have six babies.

Our roots continued to grow in Kimberly. I did work part time work, substituting, piano teaching, and in the music and youth ministry at church. Two years into my parenting role, God blessed us with another pregnancy.

This second child let us know from five months into the pregnancy he would be the opposite of his brother. From the very beginning I knew he had the personality of Tigger from Winnie the Pooh combined with the drummer “Animal” from the Muppets. Where Shawn’s womb movements were strong, slow and assured, like his personality, this second child’s were bouncy, rocking and punchy. I announced early on that, girl, or boy, this one would be a drummer. 

Many of our friends were allowing God to plan their families and not use birth control. Gary and I had only talked about having two kids until we experienced parenthood further. While I still liked the idea of having six children, I had also learned that I wanted God to clearly tell me what to do and not just follow the local status quo. I knew that not everyone was called to have a whole passel of children.

Seven months into this pregnancy, I received a call, that a little boy from one of the other power plants had been killed in a car accident. Kurt and Jonie and their three blond boys, Derek, Caleb, and Bryce had been introduced to me once while living in Brownlee while they visited a neighbor of ours. Their middle and second son, Caleb, three years old, was killed on their way to a family wedding. A hopeful day of joy suddenly turned tragically sorrowful. As I contemplated this sadness, Taylor, not knowing he would be a boy yet, strongly quickened in my womb. It was like Elizabeth experienced as her soon to be born son, John the Baptist, quickened as she greeted Mary who was carrying Jesus. Remembering the observations, I’d made throughout my life of families who lost children, I immediately thought, “We must have more children than this. If I lost this child, I wouldn’t want Shawn to be alone.” It was a done deal; I knew that no matter what we would have more than two children. My thoughts left to God’s will, I went on praying daily for Kurt and Jonie’s loss, some days imagining walking through that journey myself. We ended up moving back to Hell’s Canyon where Jonie became one of my good friends that would later prove to be a faithful empathizing prayer warrior for me.

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Eyes on Heaven Feet on Earth Part 1 – Chapter 6 – First Glimpse of My Humanity

Chapter 6 – Copyright 2023 – Carla J. Wood

First Glimpse of My Humanity

I used to think my weakness
Was something I should hide
I used to see my value
Through other people’s eyes
I used to think my failures
Were how I’d be defined
It took some time to break through
The lies that I believed
But You showed me my savior was never really me
You’ve always gone before me
And You are with me now
You’ve never let me down

I used to think salvation
Was based upon my works
I thought that my acceptance
Was something I had to earn
But now I have assurance
No I am not afraid
You already made a way

Yeah, the hero of my story has always been You

Always Been You

By Bryan Fowler and Ryan Stevenson

The lessons from this song I only began to learn in my teen years. As those years unfolded, I trusted God more than the average adolescent, but that didn’t mean there weren’t struggles. My mom’s traumatic childhood, with an angry abusive alcoholic stepfather, led her to find Jesus in junior high but she lived a lot of her life with fear and a desperate faith. I believe this caused her to parent me as a teen frightened that the same terrible things which happened to her would happen to me. So, everything I did was overly scrutinized and criticized. Trying to maintain great faith and be a “good girl” was my constant exercise. Between my mom’s judgement and anxiety and my own realization that I wasn’t perfect, times of extreme highs and extreme lows became my routine.

For the first time, I began to learn that having faith didn’t always remove the disappointments in life and keep me from making mistakes. That bothered me at times, thinking I wasn’t a “good Christian”.

At the end of sixth grade, we moved again, a very difficult move for me to leave precious friends of three years. Then at the beginning of eighth grade, I had just started to feel at home at another new school when we moved again. This time, my parents decided to take us to the new town first for a visit to a small farming community about three hours away. Dad and Mom thoughtfully let us have a part in the moving decision. Strangely, after visiting the church and schools for a couple days, Carolyn and I fell in love with the tiny community. We were so warmly welcomed and sensed it was a beautiful place full of love.

It was here I was given wings to fly in music and confidence with good friends. God touched me in many ways during this season, but I really thought I would be more perfect by the time I was in high school. The struggle began with “not being enough” started to grow.

I attended three different churches of different evangelical denominations, not because I felt I had to but because I had friends at each church and loved being at each place. This experience of immersing myself in several different congregations would end up being helpful later in life, especially as a teacher and worship leader in a Christian school with many denominations represented.

Beautiful encounters began to happen with God on an even more personal level than I had before. The Jesus movement of the late 1970’s was inspiring people who were mentors to me. They had a huge impact on my spiritual life introducing me to a deeper personal relationship I could have throughout my day with the Holy Spirit. I realized time with God was not just reading the Bible and trying to live by it, but it was sitting quietly thinking about what I’d read in the Bible and telling God how amazing he is, sometimes through worship music. I would then listen for his quiet voice whispering into my mind and spirit wisdom and his love for me. When I practiced this and gave space for those quiet moments with God, his love and wisdom began to help me stop and think before I made decisions and gave me peace in not being “perfect”.

Finishing my sophomore year, I had a closer relationship with God, a great job at the golf course pro-shop, three very close friends plus many others, and three great churches where I felt loved unconditionally. Life outside our home felt almost perfect. Then another whammy hit me after my junior year as we had to move again back to the Seattle area. This time re-framing my disappointment was more difficult and the thoughts of ways to stay in my happy precious community life began to form in my mind. My parents would not even begin to consider me living with friends with our family moving away. So, tapping into my desire for musical success, they offered to move us to a town south of Seattle that had one of the best high school music programs in the world.

In, this, my last move back to Seattle, my junior year, transitioning from a secondary school with 500 students to a high school with 2,000, was difficult. Rather than get depressed, I began to devote more time to my new church, studies, and music. Although great friendships were made through my new community, I struggled with attaching myself to another group of people knowing I would graduate in another eighteen months, only to go to college and be painfully pulled away from one more community. The resolve in my heart to make sure my children would have one place to remain rooted in their teen years was established that year.

As I wrestled with the pain of the most recent move, my parents’ marriage became even more estranged. An eagerness to learn as much as I could about growing a healthy marriage and family began to develop. Praying for my spouse-to-be began when I was twelve but during my senior year of high school, my prayers were upped a level. The tug-of-war between what God wanted for my future and what I wanted began in earnest at that moment. Sometimes I got so frustrated with myself, knowing what I should do but letting my wants pull me in the opposite direction. Throughout the remainder of high school, I longed to be loved.

So, you see how it is: my new life tells me to do right, but the old nature that is still inside me loves to sin. Oh, what a terrible predicament I’m in! Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature? Thank God! It has been done by Jesus Christ our Lord. He has set me free.

Romans 7: 25b TLB

I could write a whole novel on my struggle for identity and love in the new high school, but suffice it to say, I wasn’t perfect and had a rollercoaster relationship with God where he always reminded me he was faithfully close to forgive and strengthen me.

Home was not a peaceful place so filling my life with any activity I could find outside of home continued. School, church, and work were my safest places. Glimpses of God’s deep love from my sporadic quiet time did keep me from getting totally off track but I always felt like I was treading water with God. I continued to see myself in my weaknesses as being “not good enough”.

Of course, God never treads water; he saw my desire to be his child and put good people and teachers in my life. As my senior year was ending, our church began a spring Sunday night film series that re-focused my life. It was James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, which clearly defined God’s perfect plan for family and marriage. From these enlightening videos a determination to be a loving seeker of truth – and raise a godly family was established in my heart.

My plan was formed: Go to a Christian college, find a Christian man, have the perfect family environment that would produce perfect children – basically, expecting the idealistic Christian Cinderella story. Every book I could find on marriage and family was added to my books on Heaven. I dove into the Bible deeper than I ever had before, expecting that if I did everything God asked me to do, my life on Earth – especially family life – would be perfect. My ideas about this idyllic outcome didn’t allow room for disobedience and sin in family life. Time would soon reveal that he doesn’t call us to a perfect life, he calls us to him. We humans and our world are hopelessly fallen without Christ our Overcomer. Nevertheless, God was so good to provide me, as a very young woman, with solid wisdom and insight that birthed in my heart the beginning of a great foundation for a healthy family.

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Eyes on Heaven Feet on Earth Part 1 – Chapter 5 – The Desires of My Heart

Chapter 5 – Copyright 2023 – Carla J. Wood

The Desires of My Heart

If you remain in Me and My words remain in you (that is, if we are vitally united and My message lives in your heart), ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
John 15:7 AMP

I don’t know if I consciously applied this verse in my next year of life, but I did know that every perfect gift came from God. I believed if I wanted something to happen in my life and it was what God wanted to do for me, it was very likely that God would love to have me ask for it to grow my faith as I received his desired gift.

God answered multiple prayers in the next year, sometimes with “no”, many times with “yes” and “in time”. He started with a prayer for my friends in my Campfire Girls group. I wasn’t sure where my friends were regarding faith, but I was acutely aware that everybody needed to hear the good news of Jesus. At church we had a visiting evangelist who was an illusionist – he would perform “magic” tricks that were object lessons about Jesus, and he shared the story of God using these and flannelgraphs with black lights. So, praying for Jesus to touch their hearts, I invited my friends to go with me to the nightly services that were held for a week.

One friend, accepted Jesus that week, thrilling my heart and expanding my faith. Jesus answered that prayer with a yes! Seeds were planted in other hearts that night and eventually God got ahold of all of them as I prayed for them for years afterward, showing me that “in time” answers were precious and exciting. It was so amazing, years later, to connect and find out how God had worked in their lives. That whole experience taught me that our job is simply to be faithful in planting the seeds with love – that it is God who does the work of growing in his time. Those girls are still precious friends.

~

With our faith growing, my sister and I decided that maybe now, in the spring of my fourth-grade year, it was time we pray for the baby brother I had wanted for quite some time. I was old enough to know that God doesn’t just give you everything you ask for, but I felt pretty strongly about a baby, even sensing it was God’s plan that we should have a little boy to love and hold.  I knew that Carolyn and I would really enjoy helping my mom with a baby, too. So, we prayed every night that if it was God’s will, he’d send us a baby brother – a real life “living doll.” In the back of my mind, my parents’ arguing concerned me and I also thought a baby might be just the ticket to help them be happy again.

Shortly after fifth grade started that September, just five months after we started our baby prayer requests, Mom and Dad sat us down with a very serious look. We thought we had done something wrong. But instead, they told us… that in May we would have a baby brother or sister. It’s likely that the entire state of Washington heard Carolyn and I jumping and screaming, “We knew it! He answered our prayers!” We then informed our parents that it WOULD be a boy. Mom and Dad were shocked at our enthusiasm, and we told them we had been praying since April for this surprise baby – well, not a complete surprise to us!

May came quickly. One day we arrived home from school to find that we indeed had a baby brother. “Our Matthew” was the greatest blessing our family had in a long time and was far better than any baby doll. I fell completely in love and couldn’t stop looking at him. Carolyn and I both thought we had died and gone to baby heaven. My Campfire Girls group even held a surprise baby shower for me, where I got to open the gifts! I felt so grown up and so loved – so blessed to have this precious answer to prayer.

~

The unique spiritual/emotional part of this answer to prayer is how God used Matthew to help me grow in a huge way. I was becoming a woman rapidly – already 5’7” tall and eager to be a surrogate mother for my baby brother. I wanted to be with him all the time and make sure he was happy. Our whole family fought to hold him. He was the joy our family needed in that season of life.

Mom struggled with postpartum depression when she had to go back to work the following month. She hated leaving Matthew and already had emotional struggles on top of hormone changes. One night, Dad asked me for help that would continue each night for weeks. I slept in Matthew’s room that summer and got up for his nighttime bottle feedings. It was so special having this sweet baby I’d prayed for to cry for me. I’d change his diaper after getting the bottle started in the kitchen and help ease his cries for food. Feeding him was the most satisfying experience I’d ever had with a baby. I even loved burping him and didn’t mind him spitting up. I felt loved, needed, and grown up with a new kind of love I hadn’t experienced before.

After about a month of these long nights, I was beginning to drag. One early morning in particular, Matthew had already been up at 2:00 and his screaming had me up again at 4:00. In 1973, feeding a baby formula was a little more complicated. I poured liquid formula into the glass bottle, set it in a pan of water, and waited for that to boil, hoping I didn’t get it too hot. All this time Matthew was still screaming. At age 11 ½, without enough sleep, worried about waking my parents, I was crying, telling God, “I just can’t do this anymore!”

Moving toward the sink to get some tissues to wipe my tears, I noticed a Bible verse we had posted in the kitchen –

Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

The words from that verse immediately gave me strength. I quit crying, got the bottle, and fed Matthew with renewed peace. It was a couple weeks after that when he began sleeping through the night. My first life verse was established in that kitchen. I began to believe I could truly do all things with Jesus.

Many years later when I gave birth to our first child, Shawn, I was not nervous about being a mother. Peace filled my whole maternal experience because I had learned so much about having a baby through helping raise Matthew. (You can be sure I nursed my children; I was not going to mess with any bottles!)

Matthew has continued to be a blessing to me throughout my life and grew to be a wonderful husband and father himself. His love and support have proven especially strong since losing Taylor. God knew I would need him now as a best friend, even back in 1972 when he prompted me to pray for a baby brother.

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Eyes on Heaven Feet on Earth Part 1 – Chapter 4 – Hope in Heaven First

Chapter 4 – Copyright 2023 – Carla J Wood

Hope in Heaven First

“The first requirement to be ‘realistic’ is to have seen the ultimate reality.”
~ Juan Stam, Apocalipsis

Not too long after my hospital stay, we moved again to a town north of Seattle, which would set the stage for a firmer fixation on God’s big picture and his power available to us in all situations in our lives. What I learned in the next two years of my life would develop further what some may call a “Pollyanna” look on life. Recent and further reflection has shown me this constant search for God in everything and seeing his power proved to be crucial in my adult life. Having great faith prepared me to be able to handle what it truly means to be human.

This next move involved living with my grandmother again for a few months while my parents found a place to live in our new town. The experience continued a pattern that would remain consistent throughout my life – lots of moving, discord in my parents’ marriage, and general upheaval. It was difficult for me in those early years to switch schools and homes so often, but it eventually would prove to be a blessing as I learned to make friends quickly and developed many precious lifelong relationships as well.

God continued to encourage the habit of looking for the positive and his fingerprints in all the good and bad my life. At the same time, I began a habit of neglecting to grieve my losses in my moves and my relationship with my mom, some which eventually built up without resolve until later in life. While many people are imbalanced by falling heavy into grief in our earthly states, I did the opposite, and looked forward to Heaven and eventually thinking I could fix earth as well. He knew I would have to, one day, deal with the griefs in my life, but he also knew, as a child, I needed the foundation of an eternal heavenly perspective to be developed well before I needed to learn to deal with grief.

In March, we found a rental in north of Seattle, and I began attending my third school of third grade. I was beginning to realize that a new school could mean a new adventure and finding more people to love for Jesus. Our new church showed our family much grace and love as well, along with some exciting Bible teaching. After attending for just a couple of weeks, a family with two children around my age invited our family to dinner after church. I had no idea how large a role in my life Bud and Nan Childs would play, although I only spent a few visits with their family.

While we ate in their elegant dining room, I noticed on their wall a picture of a peacefully sleeping baby. I remember thinking it was uniquely set apart from the rest of the family pictures. My mom apparently had the same thought, because while doing dishes she asked which of the two children was in that picture. Nan explained that it was their son who had died as a toddler from a childhood disease. I was standing near the picture, listening as Nan told the sad story, all the while absorbing the hope and strength she got from Jesus as she walked through life without that precious baby.

Noticing her peace and trust in God, I distinctly remember thinking, “When”– not if – “I lose a child, I want to be like her.” Bud and Nan soon left for the mission field, yet they started a pattern that would repeat in my life as I observed how different people handled the loss of loved ones – especially children. With a peaceful attitude, I began to believe I would lose a child someday, so I was very aware of the difference between those who rested in Jesus and those who did not. Starting with Nan, each grieving smile of hope, each word of faith and trust, each vision of Heaven, every treasure, I would tuck away in my heart, soul, and spirit.

From that night on, anytime I went to a cemetery, I wandered away from our family to look for gravestones of children and pray for their families. At each grave, I’d wonder if I might have to visit the grave of my own child and thought about how it might feel to bury a child. I’d play out the story in my head of how I’d cling to Jesus to heal the incredible pain I was already beginning to feel. Even at a young age, more than anything, I wanted a large family and wanted to be a devoted mom to my kids, so I knew I’d need Jesus in a big way.

~

My mom struggled in so many ways, yet she always pointed me to Jesus and taught me to pray with faith. Shortly after the move North, since the previous landlords’ piano did not move with us, we began wondering if we would ever have piano lessons again. Mom told us, “If God wants us to have a piano, we will get one! I don’t know how, but he can do anything. Let’s pray!” So, we prayed – for about a week.

Then Mom got a call from an old friend, who, not knowing our prayers, asked if we would like a piano. She knew of an upright piano that was available for only $50 – gas money to move it. Stunned, Mom caught her breath and, of course, said yes. We all did a little happy dance and praised God! Our parents scraped together the $50 (which included some spare change my sister and I found in my dad’s recliner). To top it off, when our pastor’s wife heard about this miracle, she offered to give us free lessons. God was so good – and my faith grew enormously again.

So many special memories were made through that old piano. Bach and Beethoven, In the Garden, and The Entertainer sounded amazing on that tall black instrument, but my favorites were the Christmas carols. I heard Silver Bells, The Christmas Song, and Carol of the Bells for the first time on those keys.

Although eventually we would sell the upright and purchase a spinet piano, the seeds planted from those early days bloomed into a lifetime of music for my sister Carolyn and me, including my music teaching career. Every time I see an old upright piano, it reminds me of God’s loving and careful attention to our smallest desires, as well as our biggest dreams.

~

My sister and I spent most of our summers at Grandma’s. She always had a wading pool at the end of her slide on the swing set which was a source of great enjoyment for us and our cousins. Her beautiful half acre lot in the middle of Seattle was a little oasis with a rose garden and a camellia tree which grew into a cave-like shape that created a hollowed-out fort for us.

My grandmother didn’t talk about God, and I was never sure what she thought about Jesus, but she didn’t mind me talking about him. Bored one afternoon, I asked her if I could read some of her grown up books. Going into the fourth grade, an avid reader, I felt ready to tackle something more challenging. She said I could read anything in the basement bedroom. My dad and his brother had grown up in that large room paneled with cedar, and it was full of books – a reader’s “heaven.”

I’m not sure how many I thumbed through to begin with, but I finally was drawn to a book authored by Dale Evans Rogers. She and her husband, Roy Rogers, were in some of my favorite old movies and I knew they were Jesus followers. I remember being happy that Grandma had a book written by a Christian author and actor.

The small book, Angel Unaware, was about their little girl, Robin, who had Down’s syndrome and died at the age of two. Already intrigued with eternity, I was drawn deeply into the story as it was partially fictitiously told from Robin’s standpoint, in Heaven. I sat in that cedar-scented room reading it from cover to cover. Close to dinnertime, I finished and went up to eat. Grandma remarked that I must have found a good book and was astonished to hear I had finished it already. A gentle smile graced her face as I told her the title and she responded that she liked it too. I was so comforted knowing she had read a book about Heaven. From that little book, I was forever convinced that we didn’t need to be sad when anyone died and went to be with Jesus.

That same summer, my growing desire to learn more about Heaven and to love God more became a huge source of comfort as I watched storms brewing in my parents’ marriage. I saw early on that Mom was emotionally volatile and it scared Dad so he would pull away. I felt safe reading the Bible and longed to be closer to God. If I was home my time was spent reading a book or my Bible or playing LP vinyl records and singing my heart out to Donny and Marie and John Denver. My parents loved me, I knew this, but even at that young age I could tell their marriage problems kept them from knowing how to love me the way I wanted to be loved. A deep desire to see the hand of God in every life circumstance grew in my heart. When there was evidence of God’s face I was elated as if I had experienced a miracle. When situations didn’t make sense, I searched deeper and prayed until God gave me peace. I began to listen intently at church and Sunday school and in my Bible reading for answers to help me get closer to God.

One Sunday, I heard in church that if we read the last book of the Bible, Revelation, we would be blessed. Revelation 1:3 (NIV) says, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” Carolyn and I were latch-key kids during the school year and part of the time in the summer, often with whole days to ourselves. So, on a summer day my audacity rose and I sat six-year-old Carolyn down at the kitchen table and informed her we were going to get that blessing and read aloud Revelation together! I think we did it in two days. Despite being so young and Revelation being perhaps the most difficult Bible book to understand, I remember seeing that vision of end times, Heaven and the new Earth, the Lamb, Jesus going to the throne being the only one who could open up the scroll, thinking about how sad it would be for those who did not trust Jesus, and realizing I did not want anyone I knew and loved to miss out. Heaven and the New Earth became a real place deep in my being. Even more than ever, I wanted to tell others about Jesus.

Sr. Juan Stam explains so well the effect seeing God’s fingerprints in my young life and reading Revelation had on my young heart, in his Spanish commentary of Revelation, Apocalipsis – Tomo 1 (capitulos 1 al 5), “The constant human temptation is to see our immediate reality as the final reality and to suppose or fear the grand truths of the faith are remote and small or secondary to the force of history. This we wrongly call ‘being realistic, with our feet firmly on the ground.’ But John reveals to us here that, if our eyes are not firmly fixed in the ultimate reality of the throne and its occupant, then our feet will never be ‘firmly set’ on the ground. The first requirement to be ‘realistic’ is to have seen the ultimate reality. (Juan Stam, page 198, English translation by Douglas Gamble)

God continued in my early years, with this foundation of faith and his reality, to challenge me and prove to me, even more, his power and love. There would be a day when he would help me learn what it means to be human with my feet on earth, but first he helped me fix my eyes firmly on the eternal.

Book Blog - Eyes on Heaven Feet on Earth

Eyes on Heaven Feet on Earth Part 1 – Chapter 3 – The Great Adventure Begins

Chapter 3 – Copyright 2023 – Carla J. Wood

The Great Faith Adventure Begins

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.

2 Timothy 4:12

As the next school year drew to a close, a family from our church asked if we would rent their house while they went to New Mexico for a couple years. They would store most of their furniture but leave their piano so I could take lessons from our church pianist. I was so excited! I had watched Lawrence Welk every Saturday night, many times at Grandma’s, drinking root beer floats and munching popcorn, dreaming of being a singer and piano player. Now I could finally have piano lessons. The house also had a fire pit, swing set, four-person teeter totter that moved around when you went up and down, a drinking fountain and trees to climb. Could life get any better than this?

Third grade started that fall at my new school, with an evening roller skating field trip for the whole school. My parents dropped me off and were to pick me up two hours later. I have always been a dreamer. Loving anything musical, I daydreamed I would immediately be a perfect roller skater (despite having never been on skates before), that I would then be encouraged to switch to ice skating, then move right into the Olympics and win a gold medal. Sadly, before I had even circled the rink twice, I ran into someone else and fell with my left leg twisted underneath my body like a pretzel. Excruciating pain erupted – like firecrackers going off inside my leg – and my crying soon brought my teacher and the roller rink manager to my side, along with more than a few gawking fellow students. After eyeing my twisted leg, and straightening my leg, the manager advised my teacher to get me home immediately as it looked serious.

At home I encountered a “girl who cried wolf” situation. As I had been known to carry on and over-complain about various mild scrapes and bumps, Dad said they would wait until morning to take me to the doctor. That night was the longest night of my life. No matter which way I moved, it hurt.

In the morning, Mom took me to the hospital for x-rays. The doctor pulled her into the hallway to tell her the news privately. I had two fractures in my left leg needing to be set. Mom was horrified that they hadn’t believed my complaining!

The doctor told me that they were going to help me go to sleep, and that when I woke up I’d have a cast on my leg. This was exciting news, as I’d always wanted to have a cast for people to sign. So, smelling ether, I eagerly began counting backwards from 100. When I woke, my hand immediately went to my left leg, to see if the cast was indeed there. It was! But my mom was nowhere in sight. I was told she’d had to go to work, as she had just started a new job and they wouldn’t give her time off.

Feeling totally abandoned, I felt tears welling up at this unwelcome news. In those days, hospitals tended to keep children one or two nights for the type of injury I’d had, and parents generally didn’t stay overnight with them. I was sure I did not want to stay without my parents. But I did know that Jesus was with me, so I prayed, and felt myself “toughen up” a bit.

I shared the room with three other girls. Two of them had just had their tonsils out and the one next to me was going to have eye surgery to correct her crossed eyes. I took it upon myself to help call the nurses when they were crying or feeling sick. The little girl who was to have the eye surgery told me her parents were getting a divorce and she was very sad. I prayed for her, too.

To keep myself busy, I made cards for each of the girls in my room. I was disappointed when my mom called and said she couldn’t come see me but that she would be picking me up when I was ready to go. Feeling sad, I remembered the story of Paul and Silas in prison, in Acts 16:16-40 just the Sunday before. If they could praise God while they were scared and lonely in prison, surely, I could praise him in the hospital. I didn’t understand why my parents weren’t visiting me, but I did know I could trust God to help me be brave and help me share his love with others.

“Dear Jesus, please show me how to love others for you in this place and please help me not to be so lonely and sad.”

The next morning, a tiny, cheerful lady with bright red hair came into my hospital room and introduced herself. This physical therapist said she was going to help me learn how to walk on crutches. My leg was still hurting, so I wasn’t sure that I wanted to learn about crutches then and there, but I thought I should at least try to be brave. As soon as my leg came down off the bed, it landed on the floor with a loud THUD. My involuntary scream both scared my roommates and embarrassed me!

I immediately discovered that this cast was very heavy – not surprising since it covered my entire leg. She patted my back gently and encouraged me to go slowly. As I hobbled slowly down the hallway, I became aware of several more hospital rooms inhabited by what seemed to be very sick children. I could hear the sound of crying coming from one of the rooms, and my heart hurt for the other kids.

The physical therapist realized I was exhausted and brought a wheelchair to finish the return to my room. As she lifted me into my bed, I had an idea about using that wheelchair – would I be allowed to wheel myself to those other hospital rooms and ask the parents if I could pray for their kids? I asked her, and she said she’d ask the charge nurse.

I was nervous, thinking I may have asked a weird question. But my courage came back as the nurse returned the wheelchair to my bedside. She told me she thought I might be an encouragement to the parents but cautioned me to make sure I had permission before going into their rooms.

As I ate lunch before going on my prayer adventure, I asked Jesus to help me not say anything stupid! Upon finishing my macaroni and cheese, I promptly hit my buzzer and asked to be helped into my new “prayer-mobile”.

The first room I visited was dark. A mother sat with her head bowed next to a small red-faced little girl asleep in the bed. I approached very slowly and asked the mother what was wrong with the baby. Looking unsure as to why I was there, she hesitantly explained how the girl had pulled a hot pot of water off the stove and burned herself. As she told me what happened, the mother began to cry. I asked if I could pray for her daughter, and she agreed.

“Dear Jesus, please help this little girl get better and help her mommy to not feel so bad.”

I left the mother quietly crying as I moved out and on to my next assignment, a room with a sleeping young boy, with parents sitting in different corners of the room. When I asked to come in, the dad gruffly replied, “What do you want?” I very nervously explained I wanted to pray for his little boy and asked what was wrong. The father was less patient than the parent in the first room had been and informed me it was none of my business – but that he supposed a prayer wouldn’t hurt.

Very nervously and quickly I prayed, “Dear Lord, please help the boy!”

Moving as fast as I could to the door, I wasn’t sure I should attempt the last room. But remembering that Jesus was with me and determined to finish my mission, I breathed a little prayer of my own – Jesus, please don’t let these people be grumpy.

A soft light in the corner of this room shone on a crib covered by a clear plastic tent. A sweet-looking baby inside was dressed in a pink nightgown and had tubes going into her. The parents sat close by, the mother holding the baby’s tiny fingers under the tent and resting her head on her husband’s shoulder. As I approached, he looked up and said hello to me, and as I absorbed his kind voice and the peace in the room, all my fear ebbed away. I told them my name and asked what was wrong with their baby.

The mom smiled at me and explained that her daughter had pneumonia, a terrible disease for one so young, and how it required the oxygen tent. These people were so nice to me that I was very glad to ask if I could pray for their baby, and they gratefully accepted my offer.

“Dear Jesus, please take away the sickness in this little baby’s lungs and help her to breathe. Please help her mommy and daddy not to be scared.”

Looking up to see smiles and teary eyes, I knew Jesus and I had done the right thing, although I wasn’t sure how much I had helped. But I was confident Jesus would do the rest of the work. The mom and dad both encouraged me to come back the next day to see them.

The next morning, I was gently awakened by the parents of the baby with pneumonia. The mom had tears glistening in her eyes and I was afraid her baby had died. However, handing me a vase with a pink rosebud, the dad said they wanted to thank me for praying for their baby. The doctors had expected she would be in the hospital for at least a week – but she had miraculously been healed overnight and they were able to take her home!

The parents told me that they were Christians too, and that they knew that Jesus brought me to help them pray for their little girl. They wanted me to know that God had used me and my faith to encourage them and to help heal their baby.

After they left, I stared into space, amazed that just a little prayer and a little courage with Jesus could actually make a difference. For the first time in my life, I knew that God was super real. I also realized that He had answered my prayer to be with me, take away my loneliness, and help me to be like Paul and Silas. Wow, it didn’t matter how young I was. He was great and adventures with Jesus were going to be awesome!

While I was sitting in my bed smiling at Jesus, a nurse came in and told me if I could pass my crutches test, my parents could take me home that night. The physical therapist came back and helped me maneuver the crutches and my heavy leg down the hall, and I passed. As I left, the nurses thanked me for visiting the other families and told me all the children were doing a little better. I left the hospital in wonder at the great things Jesus and I could do together! Life with Jesus was more than a free ticket to Heaven; it was an adventure.

Book Blog - Eyes on Heaven Feet on Earth

Eyes on Heaven Feet on Earth Part 1 – Chapter 2 – Evidence of Him

CHAPTER 2 – Copyright 2023 Carla J. Wood

Evidence of Him

All throughout my history
Your faithfulness has walked beside me
The winter storms made way for spring
In every season, from where I’m standing

I see the evidence of Your goodness
All over my life, all over my life
I see Your promises in fulfillment
All over my life, all over my life

Evidence

By Ed Cash, Josh Baldwin, and Ethan Hulse

I was born in 1961 to newly committed first generation Christians who were eager to point us children to Jesus yet were struggling to figure out how to lead a Christian family in the last half of the 20th century. My parents liked to tell me God really wanted me to live because, after 36 hours of labor, without an epidural, my mother lost it and they had to knock her out and push on her belly to push me out. I was born completely purple/blue and my great Aunt Anne, the nurse on call, was afraid I would have brain damage. While some would like to call me crazy, I didn’t have brain damage, but was the ugliest baby I have ever seen. Really!

Due to financial problems, I spent the first six months of my life living with my parents from Friday night to Sunday evening, then at my Grandma Barkley’s from Sunday night to Friday evening. I bonded deeply with my grandmother who had always wanted a little girl. My mother, already struggling with a mental illness, probably from her childhood trauma and/or a high functioning autism, did not bond with me. While growing up, I knew there was a wall between me and my mom but didn’t understand why until I had my first child, Shawn, and she told me about our first six-month separation and how blessed I was to be able to stay home with my baby. This sad lack of bonding would be what would later push me deeper into the arms of Jesus in my childhood.

One of my earliest memories involves our move from Seattle to Santa Maria, California. Along the way we stopped at hotel for the night. Mom stayed in the room with my baby sister, Carolyn, and Dad took me to the pool. He visited with some other travelers while I played on the corner steps of the pool. I slipped into the water and, twirling around, clearly saw the drain at the bottom of the pool. It seemed to me I was floating down towards the drain. Fear was not part of this experience; instead, I felt peaceful, but it was seasoned with a little concern that I might go right down that drain. This experience of peace came back to me clearly when Taylor drowned and was a great comfort to me. Dad noticed I was not on the steps and reached in for my hand. While in the water, I didn’t sense I could not breathe, but as he lifted me out, the choking began. After clearing my lungs, I asked, “Daddy, who pulled the plug?”

~

We lived in California for two years, then moved back to Seattle because my dad’s father, Grandpa Matt had a stroke and Grandma needed help with his care. I loved being close to the two people who I had spent most of my beginning of life with.

For the first nine years of my life, aside from our California years, I grew up in a wonderful grace-filled Bible-believing church in southwest Seattle. It was a loving, caring, fun, musical church and my dad was one of the worship leaders, playing his trumpet when not singing. This church taught in a real-life way how much God loves us, no matter what, and how to walk with Jesus in His truth. I knew unconditional love in this church and others to come.

During my first Vacation Bible School experience, at the age of five, our pastor taught our Bible lessons. It was the summer of 1967, and I was completely taken with the fact that Jesus loved me so much that he died and suffered so I could go to Heaven someday. I remember thinking my pastor was so kind to share that with me. I pondered the rest of the day how amazing it was that a loving God would send his Son for me. He cared for me as an individual and wanted to be my best friend! I couldn’t wait for prayer time that night.

“Mommy, I want to ask Jesus to be my friend. I want to go to Heaven!” With my mom’s quiet tears flowing, we kneeled near my bed, and I told Jesus I was sorry for my sins and wanted to go to Heaven. I could tell Mom’s tears were happy tears and even at that young age, the Spirit showed me why she was happy. Shortly after this, I would experience Mom’s joy myself.

We didn’t have a television, but our neighbor lady did. I thought it strange when my mom mentioned to her that she wanted to see Billy Graham that night. We usually went to my grandparents’ house when we wanted to watch something. The kind lady was not particularly interested in Billy Graham, but perhaps she was a little curious – in any event, she was kind enough to let my mom and me watch the preacher on her TV. Before we left for her house Mom sat me down and suggested we pray to ask Jesus to touch our neighbor’s heart when she heard Billy Graham speak. That sounded good to me, but I wasn’t sure this lady would listen. She was nice so I doubted she would need Jesus. My Grandma didn’t like to talk about God either, but she was a good lady. I had been concerned that Grandma and Grandpa, and people like our neighbor would not get to go to Heaven. It seemed to me that people who were pretty good on their own didn’t feel like they needed Jesus.

 For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 TLB

At the end of the show, when Billy prayed the sinner’s prayer, our neighbor bowed her head and asked Jesus right then and there to be her Lord. I was amazed. Jesus let me be a part of sharing His love and I liked that. I began to pray even more for my grandparents and family who weren’t sure what to do with Jesus.

Two months later, my Grandpa Matt had another stroke. He was moved to their home from the hospital after a couple weeks. Then for my birthday, I opened my grandparents’ memorable gift next to Grandpa’s in-home hospital bed. Grandpa Matt and Grandma Bernice gave me a beautiful shiny floral raincoat, rain hat, boots, and matching umbrella. These were very necessary items for Seattle school girls. I loved my outfit, mostly because Grandpa and Grandma gave it to me. However, I had just seen Mary Poppins that year and knew that if God wanted me to, I could fly with my umbrella. I prayed before one windy school day that Jesus would help me fly just a little. Waiting for the crossing guard at the school corner, the wind was blowing hard. “This is it!” I told my friend. I caught some wind under my umbrella and really believed I lifted off the ground. I’m not sure if I did, or just slid off the curb, but I believed my umbrella was very special because my grandparents gave it to me.

A couple days later, Grandpa got very sick. His liver was failing, and he entered the hospital again. A week before Christmas, our pastor accompanied my parents to the hospital on December 18th. He asked Grandpa if he believed in Jesus and wanted to go to Heaven. Grandpa cried, nodded his head, smiled and a few minutes later took his next breath in Heaven.

When Dad came home and told me what happened, I was really happy for Grandpa. He got to be with Jesus! I couldn’t understand why Grandma was so sad and didn’t like Christmas very much that year. I tried to help her understand but of course as a child, I didn’t understand her sorrow – and she didn’t understand my hope. We both did understand, however, that we loved each other, and we grew even closer as she kept me each day after school and on holidays. I never stopped praying she would make Jesus her best friend. Now, I’m in awe of how much faith I had when a man, whom I loved so deeply was taken from me.

Soon after this, my faith began to grow as I saw God moving in my life. I began to look for more opportunities to see what God would do and how I could help Him.

Book Blog - Eyes on Heaven Feet on Earth

Eyes on Heaven Feet on Earth Part 1 Chapter 1 Praise You in this Storm

CHAPTER 1 – Copyright 2023 – Carla J. Wood

Praise You in This Storm

And I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

Praise You in This Storm

Written by: Bernie Herms, John Mark, Mark Hall

Saturday, July 20, 2013

On a blistering hot summer day, I sat watching a detective show while waiting to pick up our youngest of four and only daughter, Bethany, from her new barista job. We planned to drive together to a late afternoon wedding in a little town near our home of Boise, Idaho. In the heat of our non-air-conditioned home, I decided to ignore my frazzled house and just relax. My husband of almost 30 years, Gary, had left home in the wee hours of the morning for his 12-hour day shift at the power company. Our eldest son Shawn and his wife Angela, who had recently moved in with us with their sweet baby, Josie, were enjoying a family day at home and catching up on laundry. Drew, our third son, waited for Shawn to take him to his afternoon shift at the sandwich shop. Our newly married second born, 23-year-old Taylor, was river surfing on the Boise River. His recent Maui honeymoon had inspired our always-adventurous son to find a way to surf landlocked Idaho. His wife Michelle was planning a celebratory dinner for Taylor and his friends after the river surf adventure. Earlier that week I’d cautioned him to wear a life jacket during this newest crazy adventure, but he’d assured me there was no need for worry. My life of parenting was a constant practice of trusting God with Taylor, who had been cliff diving and undertaken several other wild pursuits that would give any parent cause for alarm.

The anticipation of seeing Taylor and Michelle the following day floated in the forefront of my mind as I thought about attending another wedding, just about a week after our new couple returned from their honeymoon. I was excited and eager to hear about their trip, see their photos from Hawaii and receive the gifts they’d brought home for us.

Later, driving to pick Bethany up for this wedding of our children’s good friend, I reveled in the new memory of Taylor and Michelle’s wedding less than a month earlier. Many who attended the event noted that the wedding seemed “magical.” I labeled it a “holy-anointed-joy-filled evening”. It was the happiest day of my life! A strange statement to say in light of all the good things God had given to me, but never before had I felt such joy. At the time, I even remember thinking This must be what the joy in Heaven will be like.

When we arrived at our friend’s wedding location, Bethany and I roamed around the beautiful riverside setting, eager to see that radiant look on the bride that we had so recently seen on Michelle. Like Michelle, our friend had planned a lovely outdoor wedding. Looking around, I envied the owners of the wedding event center, which boasted two houses, ponds fed by the Boise River and landscaping that would compete well with any English country garden.

My friend, and high school principal of our school, came and sat by us. I had been the music teacher and worship leader for years at our Christian elementary campus, and I was waiting for approval from her and the superintendent to become the worship director for both campuses. With school starting in just three weeks, anxiety for me (a planner by nature) was rising, but patience in waiting on God’s perfect timing was something I had been learning.

But as we got caught up on our summer activities and news, the secondary principal surprised me by giving me the much-hoped-for news that I would indeed be worship director for both campuses. After six months of studying worship and thanksgiving at a deeper level, I was elated at the opportunity to take my new vision of worship and what I’d learned about God to the students at the secondary campus. I had taught most of them from kindergarten through grade school and cried every year when they left sixth grade – I was ecstatic to now be allowed to “grow up” with my older “graduates.” I would soon find out why my study of worship was so important in my life.

With my heart full of joy, we enjoyed a beautiful spirit-filled wedding ceremony. Afterward, Bethany went to get a cool drink, and I visited with the bride’s family. Her cousin Tom had just been killed in Afghanistan, an event that had shaken all of my children who attended school with him. Tom’s aunt was about to introduce me to his mother, when suddenly, out of the sea of happy faces, our eldest son, Shawn – who had not attended the wedding – appeared stiffly in front of me.

“Where’s Bethany?” he asked. I pointed to where she was, and he said, “Go over to that porch, Mom, and wait for us.”

I waited only a few seconds, but a whole novel of thoughts raced through my mind as something obviously was wrong. I knew it was probably Taylor. After all, hadn’t Gary and I had dreams about him drowning? But I had prayed he wouldn’t drown in Maui, and he didn’t even have a close call. Maybe I didn’t pray enough this week. But I did give him to God, so it can’t be that. Or maybe it was just a fire at the house, and no one was hurt. Or maybe someone was in an accident, but they would be okay, and we just needed to get the hospital and pray and see God glorified in their healing. Was it Gary? He had high blood pressure. But in my heart, I knew it was Taylor… because all his life, God had been preparing me to let him go.

Shawn found Bethany and they came together to the stairs of the old farmhouse where I was standing. Shaking, Shawn slowly explained to both of us.

“Mom, you need to sit down.” I sat obediently, knowing it wouldn’t matter if I was standing or sitting.

“There was an accident on the river and Taylor is gone.”

“Is he at the hospital? Is he on life support?”

“No, Mom, he drowned. A policeman is in the parking area ready to take us to the hospital.”

Bethany and I both cried out. “No! No!” In complete shock, we hugged each other. Almost immediately, I felt we had to go to be with Michelle, Gary, and the rest of our family.

But first, I needed people praying. I had to tell my principal friend why we were leaving. Running to her, it seemed I was in a nightmare. I couldn’t move fast enough, the reality was a foggy wave, then it slammed me again as my head throbbed.

“Kim! Taylor drowned and he’s dead!” There – I said it! It pierced my heart.

I don’t know what she said in response. She was in disbelief too. It was such a shocking thing to happen.  Tom’s aunt saw me and asked what was wrong. I remember telling her that it was crazy, but that our son had just died. I apologized that we had to leave the wedding and left to cross the acre of garden between me and the parking lot. Holding hands with both Bethany and Shawn, I felt someone run up behind me and tap me on the back. Theresa – the mother who had just lost her son – hugged me, crying, and said she’d be praying for us.

Arriving in the dirt parking lot, we walked past my van. As you would expect, I wasn’t allowed to drive it because I was in shock.  Standing next to the police SUV was an officer, who was also a respected parent and friend from our school. This first kiss from God in this tragedy – He sent a familiar face who understood our faith and our family. I sat in the front, Shawn and Bethany in the back. We headed to the hospital.

From my recent deep journey in worship and thanksgiving, I knew it was imperative that I pray and worship our Lord in that police car before anything else because I knew in His presence was the only place I would find peace.

“Father, we thank you for the strength you promised us. We thank you that Taylor trusted your Son as his Savior and is with you. Please be with us. Be with Michelle. Oh, Michelle! Carry us through this storm. Help us and be glorified as we trust you with Taylor.”

After that prayer, I knew this was where the rubber met the road; I had to make a clear decision to trust God and commit to basing all my responses on that defined truth. I drew a line in the sand with my soul and knew on which side I was standing.

Jesus, now is the time for me to decide if everything you have promised me, everything you taught me and everything I have taught others is what I really believe… Yes! I believe it and just like Job, I will praise you no matter what. I know you are in control; my son is in Heaven, and many will be saved and changed from this. I know now, from my birth, that you have prepared me for this moment. The enemy will not have victory in this! You will be glorified in this!

Many who have had near death experiences say their whole lives flashed before them as they remembered all the key events of their time on earth. Realizing that my son’s body was dead, in that moment in an SUV, my mind was fixed on God’s eternal love as my spirit experienced a confirming flash of all the promises and truths the Lord had planted in my heart since I had made him my best friend 46 years prior, almost to the day.

Book Blog - Eyes on Heaven Feet on Earth

Eyes on Heaven Feet on Earth – Dedications, Acknowledgements and Preface

Eyes on Heaven, Feet on Earth – Copyright 2023 by Carla J. Wood

By Carla Barkley Wood

Dedicated in Memory of our amazing Heaven-residing son, Taylor, who taught us how to love and see people the way Jesus does while he lived life to fullest, not taking any moment for granted.

And to My Family

My servant hearted husband Gary, who loves Jesus and me and has walked life with me for 43 years, supported my ministry, and gave me four beautiful children.

My loving earth-bound children, Shawn, Andrew, Bethany and my lovely daughters-in-love, Angie and Michelle, who all have loved me through the pain and joy and seem to have a gift for making beautiful memories with me along the way.

To my precious granddaughter, Josie, who is my sidekick, delight, and constant source of joy every day. God knew we would need her when we needed joy the most.

To my four parents, my dad – Dan, bonus mom – Mary Lou, bonus dad – John, and mom – Vivian, who loved me and pointed me to Jesus despite their messes in life. Before Mom and bonus Dad John went to be with Jesus a few years ago, they all gave me permission and the blessing to talk in this book plainly about our “not-so-perfect family”. They recognized that God had redeemed their past and wanted me to share God’s hand of grace in our whole family. All four of my parents not only loved us children but they loved each other as sisters and brothers in Jesus. Carolyn, Matt, Candi, Garren and I are so glad God brought us siblings together.
A true miracle of God in a divorced/remarried family.

Acknowledgements

All honor and thanks to my perfect family, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for painting a story of His goodness in my life.

With deep gratitude to my prayer teams for their editing, support and input into editing and giving feedback in my story. Diane, Evin, Grace, Missy, Cheri, Janice, and Karen.
I couldn’t have made it without your support.

Preface

I love Your voice
You have led me through the fire
In the darkest night
You are close like no other
I’ve known You as a Father
I’ve known You as a friend
I have lived in the goodness of God
Oh

And all my life You have been faithful
All my life You have been so so good
With every breath that I am able
Oh I will sing of the goodness of God

Goodness of God
Written by: Jason Ingram, Brian Johnson, Ed Cash, Ben Fielding, Jenn Johnson

This is the story of God’s fingerprints in my life, most say in unique ways, which prepared me for the worst day our family has ever experienced.

I started this book nine years ago. During that time, in the lows, I felt I couldn’t share the story until the “Happy Ending” could be told. I’ve waited and found quite a few happy ways to end the book, only to have another tragedy enter our lives. I soon realized that life is a roller coaster of joys and sorrows and I now truly understand that the only final “Happy Ending” happens in Eternity.

When I asked myself what the purpose of my book is, many thoughts were considered. I prayed today and asked God to reveal a clear purpose.  After meeting a new friend tonight who lost a son and reflecting on our shared stories of God’s hand in our grief, I realized that the simple purpose is to just tell my story of the goodness of God in my life. So, I pray my story will somehow help others look for His fingerprints in their life and recognize His goodness in their lives as they learn to balance Heaven and Earth by finding great faith in their Creator while learning to accept their humanity and confirm their need for a Savior.

Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So, we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV

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On Earth as It Is in Heaven

* For all those who have suffered deep loss and question why…Even if you haven’t had a chance to get to know Jesus like I did as a young child, God is in the business of redemption and I’ve seen God catch up many people in time lost with Him.


A few times in the last nine years, people said they were amazed that I can be at peace with our son’s death, and not struggle with answers to prayers for healing for other people.  

The first thing I tell them is that I am not strong and daily, sometimes moment by moment, need to close my eyes, take a deep breath and ask Jesus to fill me with his healing love and power to make it through all the ramifications of our son’s death. However, when looking at the difficult question of why some people are healed on earth and some are healed in Heaven, I have these thoughts.

The answer is simple when you know God well and His ultimate plans for us. – Our faith. 

The answer is complicated when you throw human emotions and desires into the mix. – Our humanity. 

So how did I awkwardly traverse this emotional dilemma?

What helped me travel the road of grief was to spend time getting to know God and His plans, which started for me in 1971. When I was in the third grade, I met a family who had lost a child at a young age. I listened to Mrs. Childs explain to my mom how Jesus had helped them through his illness and death and how they trusted they would see him again one day.  

At that young age, I immediately said in my mind, not “if” but, “When I lose a child, I want to be like Mrs. Childs with my eyes on Jesus.” It was then I knew I’d lose a child one day! Why God decided to prepare me at such a young age, I don’t know. However, this epiphany started a long journey of being obsessed with reading my Bible, reading books on Heaven, watching other grieving parents, and getting to know my God who loved me so much He gave His Son to die for my sins. From my life experiences with God, others’ examples, and reading as much as I could, I knew He wouldn’t allow me to go through any terrible crisis alone. He would be there with me on earth and with my child in Heaven. 

So, nine years ago today, when Taylor drowned in the Boise River, I knew Jesus reached down into the water with His hand to lead our son to the most beautiful place in the universe, with Him. Taylor was truly in a better place, and I had peace in my excruciating pain. When I struggle with his death, I go back to the image of him holding Jesus’ hand walking over the waves of the river, or of him dancing around the throne of God in worship, or him resting beside some Heavenly river.


A few months after Taylor went to Heaven, one of my junior high worship team students begged us to sing Oceans by Matt Crocker, Joel Houston and Salomon Ligthelm. I knew the song and didn’t think I could get through it without crying deeply. My students were already used to me crying when talking about God or Taylor, so seeing Emily’s eagerness to sing this song, I let it go to the students and they took off with it. We sang it for months and each phrase of those lyrics were a gentle balm of healing to my heart, taking my trust in Taylor’s Creator to a deeper level. I could envision Jesus lifting him out of the water with Taylor singing in his struggle,  

You call me out upon the waters 
The great unknown where feet may fail 
And there I find You in the mystery 
In oceans deep 
My faith will stand 
 
And I will call upon Your name 
And keep my eyes above the waves 
When oceans rise 
My soul will rest in Your embrace 
For I am Yours and You are mine…” 


This is not to say the human side of me and the pain it has brought our family has not been miserable. Watching my husband and other children suffer from this lost has been as painful as Taylor’s death. My heart felt stabbed and twisted with a knife when our eldest son had to tell us Taylor was gone. There were a couple years of searing pain missing him, and now it gently aches today typing those words with the common soft tears that still flow, but I’ve learned that joy and sorrow can dance together, and we can be content on earth when God chooses to heal on earth or in Heaven.  He is God and I am not.

Three days after his death, one of his friends asked if we could lay hands on his body and go before God to ask for Taylor to be resurrected like Lazarus, so we did. I was hopeful but doubtful knowing that God had been preparing me for his death for 41 years. However, in that prayer time, our family and Taylor’s wife and friends committed to glorify God in a miracle of resurrection or trust Him if He chose, instead, to be glorified in our hope with grief should Taylor remain in Heaven. At the end of our allotted time in the funeral home, I felt a deep peace and the hands of the Holy Spirit gently rested on my shoulders whispering to me, “It will be okay.” I knew then that Taylor, being healed in Heaven, was God’s very best for our son and God would walk with us through the mess of grief on Earth.

When our friends and family are healed on earth, we greatly rejoice! We get to have them with us and we know God has great plans for them on this planet. But when they are healed in Heaven, we can still greatly rejoice knowing they have received the best gift of healing in the finest place of all.  

Until then, we live as humans, struggling at times with our feet on earth, peaceful in our spirits with eyes on our Heavenly hope.