Nancy Helms is a mother of 4, grandmother of 4, lover of the sea, connoisseur of chocolate, and a constant work in progress. She has been a minister within The Salvation Army for 28 years and loves spending her life helping others in a variety of ways. She lives on the coast of California, and often escapes to the beach for sanctuary and rest. She loves to explore nature, read a good book, go for a run, and spend time with friends. She grew up in the Northwest and has great memories there.
Her second child, Cameron, is her biggest hero in life. He was born deaf, with other needs, and is inspiring in every way. He has played a pivotal role in helping to bring understanding to what it means to persevere and not give up. At the end of the day, the one thing Nancy hopes to accomplish is to express her faith through love.
Yesterday, I took some pieces from my sea glass collection and used them to make a new serving tray, which I love. It’s not perfect — giving me even more cause to love it. I enjoy taking old, broken and discarded things and restoring them to a new purpose.
For me, there is spiritual element to the process of creating treasures out of waste. With sea glass, this is especially true. The sea glass in my newly created tray was once sharp and unsightly — dangerous. Its fate depended on my willingness to pick it up and give it another chance. After years of being thrown here and there in the ocean, through storms and calm, the ugly ruin has been formed into something beautiful.
Sometimes, when you pick up certain glass, you know exactly what it was used for in the past. Other times, it’s a mystery. Either way, it feels good to give it a new identity. I keep sea glass on my desk at work so that I can see and feel the transformation. It reminds me of the good God has done with my life, and what He still can do, in and through me.
They say that time heals all wounds. I would say that isn’t always 100 percent accurate. Some wounds will always be there, and certain seasons of life can cause the pain from those wounds to resurface. Like sea glass, though its brokenness softens with time; upon close inspection I can still see little imperfections in every piece that remind me it is still frail in places. One drop of a nearly perfect piece of glass can cause it to shatter again, requiring years more of being tossed in the ocean.
The serving tray I made this week
I had a monumental sea glass restoration moment in my spiritual journey this week. God took a time in my life that was shattered and showed me how truly beautiful and good He can make things – through time, prayer, patience, hope, love and faith.
The more I think about this monumental moment, the more surreal it seems. I lost my spouse and best friend in a fatal car crash nearly 25 years ago, and there are times the pain from losing Drew is still so raw. There are days and seasons where the pain and loneliness from the loss can still come back to grip me, and I’m reminded that God is still doing a good work in me, softening the scars and tending to my brokenness. Having said that, there has also been a lot of restoration that has taken place, and a lot of “good things” that have come from a tragic and painful chapter in my journey.
The car accident Drew died in occurred because a young man and his friends had been drinking and decided to drag race down a busy road. They ran a red light of the intersection Drew was turning into. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The ER doctor told me that the impact was so strong and the injuries so severe that it took Drew in an instant and he never knew what happened. In one second, a beautiful life was taken from this world — a life that seemed to have so much hope and so much left to accomplish. More than once, I have wondered what good could possibly come from such a senseless calamity.
Following the accident, I had many heart-to-heart talks with my father-in-law, Gordon. We talked about the accident and the fate of Jose — the man who had been behind the wheel of the other car. We agreed that one redeeming factor would be if Jose turned his life around and was saved as a result of the tragedy. We both committed to pray for Jose and his salvation. We also both had a chance to speak to Jose at his sentencing, emphasizing that we forgave him; but reminding him it was God’s forgiveness he needed in order to experience redemption.
“We agreed that one redeeming factor would be if Jose turned his life around and was saved as a result of the tragedy.”
I have thought about Jose through the years, wondering where fate had taken him. Was he a changed man?
I knew he was to be deported to Mexico, following his release from prison. I have tried a couple times to find him on Facebook, to no avail. This past week, I was talking to some family members and one of them asked me if I ever thought about Jose, to which I said I had on occasion; although his life and his actions that day didn’t consume my thoughts.
Following that conversation, I decided to try to find him on Facebook one more time, since it had been a few years since the last time I checked. I keyed in his long name and was surprised to see it pop up this time. Could it really be the same man whose life had intersected with Drew’s on that fateful day in February 1996? The man in the profile picture looked like he would be about the right age, and he looked somewhat like the man I remembered seeing in the courthouse all those years ago.
I have told myself that if I ever found him, I would want him to know that God has been really good to my family, and that we had all forgiven him.
I would tell him that none of us had harbored resentment or condemned him for what had happened and that we had prayed for him over the years and sincerely hoped that his life had turned around. There was a phone number on his Facebook page, and I decided without question to text the man I guessed was the same person I had seen 25 years earlier at superior court in Oakland, CA. Yesterday, I received a text back confirming that it was indeed the same man. When I saw the first line of his text, “Yes this is mi,” I froze for just a few seconds, never really imagining I would really be in contact with him again and wondering what he might have to say to me.
Would his words cause more pain, or would they be a salve that would help with further healing – both for my family and for Jose’s? The words that followed flooded my soul with hope and the reminder that God is faithful and really does work all things together for good when we place our trust in Him alone.
Jose: “Yes this is mi. I’m sorry for all the pain that I caused to you and your family! I don’t know if they ever told you that somebody went and prayed for me. I received Jesus in the hospital and it’s a very long story after that. I made my life here in Tijuana got married with Christian girl. I got one girl and two boys and we are serving the Lord. I tried to get my visa to go over there to ask for forgiveness to all the people that I hurt, but they denied it. But the Lord knows everything and here I am writing with tears rolling down!. Thank you! And I’m sorry again! If I ever get my visa, I would like to go and say it in person so everyone can see what the Lord has done in my life!” For every person that hoped Jose’s fate would turn out for the good – be blessed and thank God. I know I am!
“The Lord knows everything.” One intersection — two men – two fates – one God – one fate. I believe there is one God who is infinitely perfect and who is the creator, preserver and governor of all things. I believe He works all things together for good if we love Him and live according to His will. In the intersection that day, there were two fates – one man died and one lived. With their faith in God their lives intersect again. There is one fate, and both men live because of God’s great love for us. I don’t doubt this truth for a second.
We never know what God will do with the difficult circumstances we face. I truly believe that if we have faith, God will bring beauty from ashes and restore brokenness. We may suffer tremendous loss during the process, and the pain might be excruciating; however, if we persevere, God can and will make all things beautiful in His time.
I’m not going to lie; I would love to have Drew back, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, Drew would be rooting for Jose to find salvation and be restored to the Father. In fact, I believe Drew would have laid his life down for the salvation of another.
I really can’t describe how my heart feels today; but suffice it to say, it feels rewarded, renewed and restored. Thank you, God!
Written by Nancy Helms for The Anchor Journal
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