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When Crisis Calls . . .

January 01, 2014

Although this woman has faced multiple crises since she was widowed at the age of twenty-three, she has found that a relationship with God makes all the difference.

By Sherry Schuermyer

A telephone call can change the course of your life. That happened to me on October 26, 1991, when I was not yet a Christian. Looking back at that crisis and those that have come my way since becoming a believer, I am amazed at what a difference it makes having God in my heart.

As I was growing up, my family was close, loving, and supportive, but we were not Christians. After graduating from high school, I was unsure what profession to choose, so I enlisted in the United States Air Force. Through training and my eventual assignment in Europe, I discovered how much I missed my family and how alone I felt. Although I regret some of my choices while in the military, I do not regret serving this great country.

About seven months after being discharged, I married Jim, a young man that I had dated during my high school years. I wish I could say that I was a good wife, but that was not the case. I was someone who had to be right and have the last word in a disagreement. Jim was a good man who deserved better. Within two years we had our first daughter, Sarah. When she was about a year old, we began expecting our second daughter, Jackie.

Then I received that first life-changing telephone call. Jim and a friend had gone deer hunting in the hills about forty miles from our house. There was snow on the ground where they stopped for lunch, and Jim took a misstep and fell over a two-hundred-foot cliff. By the end of the day, I had learned that he died in the fall.

There I was at twenty-three years old, with a toddler and five months pregnant, and planning my husband’s funeral. Ironically, I had never even attended a funeral, let alone planned one. Thankfully, my mother-in-law was able to help me, despite the fact that she had just lost her one and only child. I do not remember anything about Jim’s service except the image of Sarah running around his casket and how surreal that felt. Through the funeral and the following months, it was like a fog descended on my life and everything became blurred. I was not really living, just existing.

Several months before Jim’s death, we had purchased life insurance and also a policy that would pay off the loan on our house if anything happened to either one of us. This is not something that people in their twenties usually do, but for whatever reason, we did.

We had also discussed adding on to our house because it was small and our family was growing. So a few months after our daughter Jackie was born, I decided to have the addition built. While my stated purpose was to make more room, I also did the project to keep busy so there would not be much time to think. My parents both had fulltime jobs, and in the evenings Dad would help on the house while Mom watched the girls. During this time, I became very angry and was quick to lash out. It seems that I was taking my grief and frustration out on the very people who were trying to help me. It was a downward spiral in a self-destructive mode.

It took about a year to complete the remodel, and when it was finished, there was way too much time on my hands. I knew that I had to get some emotional help, if not for my own sake, for the sake of my two little girls who needed me. Then I remembered that when Jackie was born, a nurse had given me a business card with the number for a young widows’ support group that the hospital facilitated. Somehow I managed to find that card after not seeing it for over a year. Looking back, it is miraculous to me that I kept it through all my fogginess and the mess of the remodel. I called the number and later went to a meeting.

By then, Jim had been gone nearly two years, but my emotions were as raw as if he had just died. It was wonderful to be around people who understood what it was like to lose a spouse, and it made me feel less alone in the world. It felt good to finally be able to grieve for my loss. I feel that God threw me a lifeline when He helped me retain that business card.

Grief is something a person has to go through. You cannot go around it or suppress it, because it will come out in some way. It is better just to face it head-on, get the necessary help, and then be able to move on. Going through grief does not mean that you will forget. It just puts the loss in a place that is not as painful.

About six months after starting with the support group, I was introduced to Doug Schuermyer. We started dating and were married a short time later. After we married, we attended the Apostolic Faith Church together, and enrolled Sarah and Jackie in Sunday school. Jackie was two years old and did not want to be left alone in class, so for several months I stayed with her. The teacher was Valeta Paulsen. Spiritually, I was on the same level as Jackie. I did not know any of the foundational Bible stories or teachings. Thank God for that time in Valeta’s class! Had I been with adults, the information would have been beyond me, and I might have become discouraged, but under Valeta’s teaching, I began to learn.

All my life, I have been a person that needs to see firsthand how something works. Through the years, the people who I had come across that claimed to be Christians were not much different than me, except they went to church on Sundays. So I was a little skeptical of Christianity at first. However, after attending church and Sunday school for a while, I realized people were not looking down on me or judging me, and they behaved the same whether or not it was Sunday. I felt welcomed and could tell that everyone cared about my eternal destination. God used the lives of all the church people to draw me to Him. When I asked Him to, God saved my soul.

A few years later, I had the opportunity to tell Valeta how much her class had meant to me and how much it had helped me. A lovely smile spread over her face. She was retired by then and she said she had been wondering if all her years teaching in the Beginner Department of Sunday school had made a difference to anyone. She certainly was a blessing to me, and I am sure to others as well.

Not long after I was saved, I was asked to help with food preparation at a church function. It was a breath of fresh air to work with a group of people who were in one accord and had a common goal. After spending my whole adult life working where there was discontentment, pride, and backbiting, it was so refreshing to work with those whose only agenda was furthering the Gospel. I truly count it a blessing and privilege to be able to help out when I can. The Lord has done so much for me that it is the least I can do for Him.

In time, God blessed Doug and me with two more daughters. Then in 2002, my dad was involved in a serious traffic accident. It was only by the mercy of God that he survived. Looking at the wreckage, it was obvious that he should have died at the scene. He spent two weeks in a coma and about three months in the hospital and then a rehabilitation center. During that time, the Lord gave me a calmness that I had never experienced before. I was able to listen and retain what the doctors said to my mom and help her make the decisions that needed to be made. The calmness had to come from God because I was never that way before, certainly not when Jim died.

My dad recovered, and life continued with the usual joys and trials. There were financial ups and downs and the challenges of raising children. Then in 2010, we learned that my mother had breast cancer which had spread to her brain. Further tests showed that she also had spots on her lungs, liver, and in her bones. Although the tumor in her head was successfully removed, the cancer was considered to be terminal and was in stage four.

From the time of her diagnosis, I felt the need to go with her to appointments. Her short-term memory was affected, but also I wanted to help her in any way that I could. She had always been there for me and it was my turn to be there for her. Through the months, there were a number of specialists, treatments, and side effects that I saw firsthand. She has endured so much and has lived longer than the doctors thought she would, which I believe is God’s mercy.

After tests, on January 17, 2012, I received another phone call that changed my life. I, too, had cancer.

In November of 2011, I found a lump in my breast. After tests, on January 17, 2012, I received another phone call that changed my life. I, too, had cancer. After the initial shock and tears, it was as if I became emotionally detached from the fact that I had cancer. It just became something I had to do. This, I believe, was another gift from God. He helped me be able to make many decisions in a short amount of time without my emotions getting in the way.

During the six-hour cancer surgery, many of my family and friends came to the hospital and waited. Our pastor and his wife came and prayed for me, which meant so much. I have always been one to push through and do what needed to be done, even if I did not feel like doing it. But after that surgery, I was so weak and in such pain that I was pretty helpless. God caused me to realize that He wanted to help me, and all I had to do was let Him. He would do what I could not do. He would carry the heavy end. During this time, I received many cards, phone calls, and food for our family. It overwhelmed and humbled me to think that people cared so much.

God caused me to realize that He wanted to help me, and all I had to do was let Him. He would do what I could not do. He would carry the heavy end.

The Lord made it possible for me to go back to work even during the treatments. That was not easy physically, but it did relieve the financial burden, for which I am very thankful. He gave me strength for each day. Through the pain and side effects, the presence of the Lord was so strong. All the prayers of God’s people were sustaining and carrying me; I could almost physically feel them. I had heard people say that about prayer, but had never really understood. Now I do!

In the cancer process, I drew so much closer to the Lord, and He taught me some valuable lessons. One is that God wants to bear our burdens, to carry the heavy end. However, we have to let Him do it. We have to lay our situations down and leave them with Him. Second, prayer is powerful; it can move the hand of God.

These days I am blessed to be a grandmother, and also to worship God along with Doug and many friends. There have been opportunities to assist at our church youth camp, and in other aspects of the Lord’s work. It is truly a blessing to be able to help out when and where I can.

When I think about my testimony, I hardly recognize myself from years ago. What a difference it has made to have God in my life! \The Lord has given me joy and peace that is not dependent on life’s circumstances.

About the author

Sherry Schuermyer is a member of the Apostolic Faith Church in Portland, Oregon.