Today is the 5th Tuesday, and that means that I’m free to do whatever I want on the Christian Writer’s Den blog. Well, today I want to introduce you to Laurie Coombs and her new book!
(I know this post is longer than usual, but this is a powerful message for all of us, so I pray you’ll stay with me as we work through this amazing testimony. You won’t be sorry.)
Laurie and I met in August 2014 when she attended the Christian Communicators Conference at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, NC. I immediately fell in love with her contagious smile and engaging manner. Little did I know the horrendous heartache she had been through. And now I’ve asked her to share her journey with you. So sit back, open your heart and hear how–through the power of the Holy Spirit–one young woman changed not only her own heart, but a murderer’s heart as well.
And as always, be sure to leave a comment for our guest and you’ll be in the drawing for a free copy of Laurie’s book.
Welcome to the Christian Writer’s Den, Laurie. Let’s start with this question: Why did you want to write Letters from My Fatherâ€™s Murderer, which details such a tragic and painful part of your life?
To be honest, I didnâ€™t initially want to write this book. I wanted to share my story, but I knew that writing it in a book would require me to bare all. I knew Iâ€™d have to share difficult things, and I didnâ€™t want to. But greater than my resistance was my desire to see people experience freedom and redemption and healing as I had. I wanted God to be glorified for what He had done in and through my life.
I knew God was calling me to write this book. And I knew God well enough to know that if I answered that call Iâ€™d most assuredly see lives change as a result of the message He has given me. God allowed me to see that good could come out of the ashes of my past. That I could play a small part in the grand story He has been unfolding since the beginning of time. That I could participate in what Heâ€™s doing in the here and now, for the good of many. And so, I chose to say yes, and of course, Iâ€™m now completely on board.
Tell us about the significance of the few interactions you had with your father just prior to his murder.
About one month before my dad died, he said, â€śLaurie, when I die, I want people to remember me for who I am. I donâ€™t want anyone turning me into something Iâ€™m not.â€ť The comment sort of stunned me at first. It came out of absolutely nowhere. My dad continued to tell me that people only want to talk about the good parts of a person after they die. â€śBut thatâ€™s not who they really are,â€ť he said. â€śThere are good parts and bad parts to every one of us.â€ť
For many years, I didnâ€™t understand why my dad had said that to meâ€“â€“obviously, neither one of us knew he was going to dieâ€“â€“but as I began to write this book, his words came to mind, and I knew, without a doubt, that God had him speak those words to me, over a decade before I needed them, to give me the freedom to share my story however God may lead.
Youâ€™re very honest in the book about the mistakes your father made and how that affected your teen years and even your choice to reject the faith you had been raised in. Was that difficult for you to do?
Absolutely. I had to do a lot of thinking and praying about how to write what God wanted me to write. But ultimately, I knew God was calling me to truth. My dad was an amazing man. A wonderful father. I really was a daddyâ€™s girl. But he wasnâ€™t perfect. And neither am I. Itâ€™s my hope that I conveyed my imperfections throughout the book as well.
Almost immediately after learning about your fatherâ€™s death, you say the hate for his killer began to fill your heart. How did that hatred affect you?
My hatred affected just about everything I thought and did at first. Anger consumed me. But then after several months, I chose to lay aside my anger and my grief. I knew my dad wouldnâ€™t have wanted me to live like that, and so I deliberately chose to put the whole terrible thing behind me and move on.
I didnâ€™t see the affects of anger on the surface after that, and I honestly thought I had worked through it, but in reality, I had simply buried it. For years, that anger festered in my heart and turned into bitterness without me even knowing it until the day God brought it to my attention nine years after the murder.
You began to build a lovely life with your family in the years following the trial, and appeared very strong. What happened that finally brought you to the point where you turned to the Lord?
I fell apart. God presented me with something I couldnâ€™t fix. Anxiety and depression finally brought me to my knees, and for the first time in my life, I couldnâ€™t fix myself. I couldnâ€™t pull myself up by my bootstraps, so to speak, as I had many times before. I had fallen into such an incredibly dark place, and I was scared. I tried everything the world tells you to do, but nothing worked. So as a last resort, I found my way to church.
My family and I willingly walked through those church doors with an incredible sense of desperation. God was truly my last hope, but even though I desperately wanted Him to be the answer, I was highly skeptical that He would be. The concept of God speaking to man was so foreign to me, but having that pastor preach a message to my inner thoughts got my attention. It was enough to draw me back the next week and the week after that and the one after that, but each time, I fully expected the God-thing to be a fluke. But it wasnâ€™t. Over and over again, God showed Himself to me in many ways, and I was given the proof that I needed to believe.
What made you decide to begin corresponding with your fatherâ€™s killer? What did you hope would come from it?
God had freed me from the anxiety and depression after coming to Jesus, but then He began to show me that I was irritable pretty much all the time. He showed me that the root of my irritability was anger, which had ultimately turned into bitterness.
I prayed, asking God to remove the bitterness in my heart, and thatâ€™s when I heard His gentle whisper tell me, â€śItâ€™s time to forgive.â€ť But then He took it a step further with â€śLove your enemy.” Godâ€™s call to forgive and love my enemy resulted in the my correspondence with the man who murdered my dad. Initially, I wasnâ€™t sure what would come out of our interaction, but I did know where God was taking me. I knew He was leading me toward forgiveness and healing. I didnâ€™t know what that journey would look like, but I knew wherever I ended up would be a good place.
And you were finally able to forgive. Tell us about that.
Forgiveness came when I least expected it. My correspondence with the man had gotten heated. He was blame-shifting and justifying, and I was obviously not okay with that. All I wanted to do was rebuke him, and I almost did, but instead, God said to me, â€śLaurie, leave him to me. Now forgive.â€ť And I did. But it wasnâ€™t of me. God called me and enabled me to give that which I had already been given: grace and love and forgiveness.
After I forgave, God brought him to his knees. All the blame-shifting, all the justification stopped. He began taking complete responsibility for what he had done, and he was repentant. And ever since that time, I have witnessed this man share the gospel of Jesus Christ subtly, yet powerfully, with his fellow inmates. Lives are changing in there. He truly is living to the glory of God in that prison.
What a powerful testimony! So what is at the heart of the message?
Hope is at the heart of my message. God truly has worked all things for good in my life. Romans 8:28 says, â€śAnd we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.â€ť The first part of Genesis 50:20 says, â€śAs for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.â€ť God brings good out of evil. Love out of hate. Peace out of despair. I believe it is His desire to do this for every one of us. You see, our pain wonâ€™t be wasted. We donâ€™t have to sit in it. If we bring our pain, past and present, to God, He will redeem it.
Yes, He will. Thank you for being with us today, Laurie. But before we go, I want to tell our readers that your story was blessed to be part of Billy Graham’s latest film and evangelistic tool, Heaven. Friends, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to watch.
Don’t forget to leave a comment for Laurie and you’ll be in the drawing for a free book. Be sure to return next week to see if you’re the winner!
Bio: Laurie Coombs is a passionate writer and speaker on the issues of forgiveness, redemption, and the hope found in Jesus. She is the author of Letters from My Fatherâ€™s Murderer: A Journey of Forgiveness, an incredible true story of grace, mercy, and the redemptive power of God. Her story was featured in Billy Grahamâ€™s film, Heaven. Laurie is a graduate of Christian Communicators Conference and a featured writer and blogger for iBelieve.com and Crosswalk.com. Laurie and her husband, Travis, make their home in Nevada along with their two daughters, Ella and Avery. Be sure to visit LaurieCoombs.org or connect with Laurie onÂ Twitter,Â Facebook, and Pinterest.
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Who won Tammy Blackburn’s children’s book, How Do I Know?
And Random.org says the winner is…
Congratulations, Julie! Simply contact me with your snail mail address and Tammy will get your book right out to you!
And for those who didn’t win…I know you want a copy for the little ones in your life, so here’s a direct Amazon link to How Do I Know?
Well, that does it for another 5th Tuesday here at the Christian Writer’s Den. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did! So now, go write the words He gives YOU to write!