Songs of Grace: The Journey Back from Tragedy

Continuing in the stories of miracles, healing, mercy, and grace is today’s blog.

Heather and Family

It is the story of a friend and colleague of mine who is on staff at my church, Torch Church. Heather Venuti has a wonderful story of how God can work and might work on behalf of our loved ones. It might be a slow process, but it speaks to the faithfulness of a loving God.

I have shared this many times before, but for quite some time now I have felt like I was supposed to share again. The Lord is so good, and He is even now working all things together for your good…even if it doesn’t seem ike it. Facebook wouldnt let me share the original note again, but here it is written in 2008.
acebook is great isn’t it?! You can find people and friends you used to know way back when. You can get a peak into their lives with absolutely no commitment. I’ve been thinking about this ever since I first started on Facebook. If this is the only look people, old friends, loved ones, co-workers ever get into my life, what does it say about me? Can you look at my page and know that I am passionately in love with Jesus? Does it convey the message that there is nothing in this life worth living for other than Jesus? How could it point you to Him without coming across preachy or religious or fanatical?

I thought I would just tell you a story, a true story about a girl whose life maybe a lot like yours. A girl who died, and lived to tell about it.

Heather asked Jesus to be the leader of her life when she was 15, and for the next 4 years she tried everything she could to take it back. She was the world’s biggest hypocrite! She really did love Christ, she really did, but her words, actions and attitude told a completely different story. She went away to Marquette in the fall of 1999 and it only got worse. Her life was a constant party, she would tell people they needed Jesus in their heart or they were going to hell, with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. All along she knew the truth and she felt the conviction in her heart that what she was doing was not right. Instead of having the time of her life, she was left broken and empty. On October 12, 1999 she cried out to God in her prayer journal. She told Him she hated the girl she had become, and that whatever it took, she wanted to live only for Him. That was the last entry in her prayer journal….2 days later….

Heather was in a car accident that changed her life for ever.

I woke up in a hospital 2 ½ weeks later. 

Let me say at this point, that there were two other passengers who did not survive the accident. Brooke, the most beautiful girl in the world, both inside and out who I was blessed to have as my best friend for 13 ½ years and Pat, my boyfriend, an amazing man whose gentle spirit and contagious smile made everyone who knew him, love him. The memory of them, their love and their friendship is still very fresh in my heart. The pain of their deaths is more real today than it was 8 ½ years ago. This story is by no means meant to down play or diminish the loss of two very special and loved people, but is meant to show how God can even use what Satan means for harm, for our good. 

Amongst many other injuries, I had a traumatic brain injury that left me with absolutely no memory of the accident, or a lot of my life for that matter. A brain injury is kind of like a hidden disability, no one can see it, so it would appear that you are just fine. And I guess you are other than, your personality completely changes and you are no longer the person you used to be. Not only are you not that person, but every memory you have of that persons’ life is like reading a book, you get the details, but there is no emotional attachment to people or events. 

Traumatic brain injuries vary greatly, in my case the injury was diffused axonal meaning that damage occurs over a more widespread area and can affect many different skills. I had the hardest time with my memory, concentration, and emotions. I couldn’t remember anything for one minute to the next, I could ask you a question and you could completely change the subject and I would go right along with you. I couldn’t express sadness, I could know in my head something was very sad, but I couldn’t cry. I would laugh uncontrollably. Great you think right? No, try explaining to your friends why you are not crying over the death of your best friend. Try being social with other 18 year olds and pee your pants because you are laughing so hard, neither of which you could control, but mentally you know both are inappropriate. To this day I still suffer from the effects of this injury, although my brain has healed tremendously.

That fall night in October of 1999 I lost everything, I lost my best friend, boyfriend, intelligence, dancing ability, and my memory. Eventually, over time I lost a lot of friends too because I wasn’t the girl they remembered. But I found my prayer journal, and I remembered my promise to God. What ever it took…I think I got the message loud and clear. It was a very long hard road to “recovery” . School was impossible, dealing with my past mistakes was difficult, and emotionally healing is still an unfinished process. But through it all, my Jesus, my sweet Jesus never left me. He kept all His promises to carry me when I couldn’t walk anymore, and He held me when I finally could cry 6 years later, and continues to walk me through now.

An old friend of mine asked me shortly after I went back to Marquette, she said, “ I don’t get it Heather, your whole life fell apart and you are still ok?” My answer, the only answer I got, the best answer, JESUS. 

8 ½ years later, I am still just a girl living in a fallen world. I still have bad days, I still screw up, life’s still not perfect and I am still learning how to follow Him. But now I have a hope that is Jesus, and that’s all I need.

So if you don’t know or don’t remember anything else about me, what I really want you to know is that I love my Savior, Jesus Christ, with all that I am!

Grace is still real. Grace is still free. Grace awaits us all.

I wonder what story of grace God is weaving in your life now. I can’t say that it will be one of tragedy and recovery like Heather’s, but I can say that it will be yours and part of your quilted story that no one can ever take away. When the enemy begins to play over and over in your head tales of woe, doubt, and shame…

You simply hold on to SONGS OF GRACE!

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