Stan Meyer's Story

Should I admit to my Orthodox Jewish friends that I was a secret believer in Jesus? Perhaps I hoped they would challenge my belief. After all, life would be simpler if I did not believe in Jesus. But my experience with Orthodox Judaism pointed me back to him. I could not deny that everything they looked for was found in him, Jesus the Messiah and the Hope of Israel.

My paternal great-grandfather was a German Jew who immigrated to the mid-South in the 1860s. They were as proud to be German-Americans as they were to be Jews. They were content to run a dry goods store in the sleepy town of Eudora, Arkansas. But my dad, Carrol, had other ideas. His aspiration was to escape the dying Mississippi River-Delta village. He joined the army in 1945, finished service, and went to college on the GI bill just before the Korean War broke out. With no desire to return to Arkansas, he finished school and moved to St. Louis to work for Wohl Shoe Company. Wohl, founded by a German-Jewish businessman and WWII vet, was a leading designer and manufacturer of women’s footwear. They had teams of salesmen traveling the U.S. They sent him to San Antonio, where he met my mother, Joyce Skolnick.

Joyce, a daughter of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, grew up in an Orthodox Jewish home. Her father, Sam, immigrated to the U.S. from the Ukraine, and her mother from Poland in the 1920s. If my dad’s side of the family were likened to Driving Miss Daisy Jews, my mother’s family members were closer to Fiddler on the Roof. Sam followed the thousands of Jewish immigrants in the 1920s who entered the U.S. through Havana, Cuba. En route, however, he argued with an immigration officer who ripped up his visa! It seemed my grandfather was fated to live and work in pre-Castro Cuba. He learned Spanish, as well as the culture, and came to love the people of Latin America.

Ruth, Joyce’s mother, came from an ultra-Orthodox family in eastern Poland. They settled in Cincinnati where Ruth’s father found a job with Manischewitz insuring that the matzah was always kosher for Passover. She met Sam on a “vacation” in Havana. In truth, her parents sent her there to bring back a husband from the community of Jewish refugees stuck in Cuba. Many were unable to enter the country because the United States had shut the doors on Jewish immigration by the 1930s.

They were overjoyed that she found Sam, a Jewish-Spanish speaker! They sent their daughter and new son-in-law to San Antonio, Texas.In the 1930s, at the height of the Depression, the city was booming due to growing military bases and public works projects. Sam imported clothing from Mexico and opened a clothing store in south Texas. They attended Agudas Achim, a Conservative synagogue, and became active in the Texan Jewish community. Their daughter, Joyce, was born and raised in Alamo City. She went on to nursing school and later met and married my father, Carrol.

A Mother’s Faith

In 1967, my mother began a spiritual journey that would lead her to discover Jesus. Having grown up in an observant home, her family was active in their synagogue, the Jewish community, celebrated Jewish holidays and were fairly traditional. They sort of kept kosher, attended Shabbat services weekly and rested on Saturdays. But Joyce did not understand what it meant to have a personal relationship with God. She wanted to have a spiritual experience.

Books and TV shows on the occult proliferated in the late 1960s. There was an excitement in the air about the psychic phenomena. Her search for spiritual answers led her to explore the psychic phenomenon including “automatic writing,” “channeling” and ESP. However, instead of discovering spiritual answers, she found herself oppressed with terrifying nightmares and manifestations of demonic forces (not uncommon among people who delve into this realm).

On Halloween night, in 1972, she had a terrifying dream: she was standing at the brink of a pit, her ears filled with screams of the dead who’d been delivered into the pit. On the other side of the pit was God. She wanted to reach God, but the pit separated her from Him. God seemed distant and unreachable.

The next morning, she remembered seeing an orange flyer at the neighbor’s house. The flyer’s title asked, “Have You Been Tricked by the Devil, or Treated by the Son?” On the back of the flyer it said, “Deliverance” and had a phone number. She took the flyer, returned home, dialed the number and reached Castle Hills First Baptist Church. The music minister, Rev. Malcolm Granger, listened carefully as she tried to describe what she was experiencing. Without hesitation, he and his secretary came over, picked Joyce up, and brought her back to the church.

These Christians prayed over my mother in the name of Jesus and the oppression stopped immediately. They explained the gospel and why Jesus had the power to deliver her. Joyce had heard the gospel growing up in the Bible Belt and while attending a Christian nursing school. But it was at that moment she comprehended that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah. She immediately prayed and received Jesus into her heart and life. She felt as if a huge burden rolled off her back and she had come home!

Over the year that followed, there were minor recurrences of spiritual oppression, as though a dark presence was visiting the house. Each time she sensed such a presence, she prayed and it left. One day my mother saw an inexplicable bright light in the house. A being something like a man told her that God had sent angels to watch over the Meyer family. Her prayers had been heard, and dark forces would not afflict their home after that. Sure enough, nothing more happened after that encounter.

Growing Up Jewish in Texas

My two sisters and I were born and raised in San Antonio, and grew up in a Reform Jewish home active in our synagogue, Temple Beth El. I was the middle child: we were five years apart from each other.

Our family was very involved at Temple Beth El, a Reform synagogue. My sister and I were members of NFTY (National Federation of Temple Youth). The two of us attended religious school every week, and our family faithfully attended Friday night services. I received my Bar Mitzvah and later confirmation from Temple Beth El.

My dad was raised in the Deep South, the heart of the Bible Belt. Like many Jews of the South, his family had been significantly influenced by their neighbors, many of whom were Baptists. He taught our family that we had obligations to a real and personal God. That idea was new to Mom prior to her finding Jesus. She found it very peculiar that Dad prayed before meals. For my mother, Judaism was a commitment to traditional practices and observances. While he was not concerned with keeping all the traditions to the letter, being Jewish was central to our lives. He taught us that we were Jews, and that as Jews, God expected us to live a moral lifestyle filled with integrity and honesty.

Every Passover we attended a Seder with my grandparents, Ruth and Sam. Some of my favorite memories were our Hanukkah celebrations, when we’d sing Maoz Tzur, light Hanukkah candles and exchange gifts. I especially enjoyed playing Maoz Tzur (Rock of Ages) on the piano. I felt that the triumphant tone of this anthem captured the drama of Hanukkah. The tale of a few hill-country freedom fighters triumphing over well trained, battle hardened Macedonian soldiers was like none other! Of course, I also enjoyed the fact that my Christian friends received gifts on only one day for Christmas, but we received gifts for eight nights!

In addition to the annual holiday celebrations, we had a weekly Shabbat tradition. Every Friday night mom placed the candle sticks on our formica kitchen counter while Dad pulled out a tiny silver kiddush cup set and a silver platter, transforming the mundane kitchen into something special, a place of celebration. Mom lit the candles and recited the blessing, then Dad recited the Kiddush over sugary-sweet Mogen David wine (which reminded me of Robitussin!). As we sat down to eat, dad recited the traditional blessing over the food in Hebrew and then in English, “Blessed art Thou O Lord our God, King of the universe, who brought forth bread from the earth.” Then Mom would typically serve a roast beef dinner.

About a year after she came to believe in Jesus, my mother began sharing her spiritual experiences and beliefs with me. I was nine, and had never lived outside San Antonio. If you’ve been to Texas you might understand why I told my mother, “Mom, you’ve become a Baptist!” (I assumed all Christians were Baptists.) I was curious, but not shocked. I had already learned that Jews don’t believe in Jesus and I knew that growing up, my father had some bad experiences with people who had called him a “Christ Killer.” I had not experienced that, but it colored what I thought of Christians and my mother knew that.

She explained to me that Jesus was Jewish and had a Hebrew name, Yeshua. She also explained that all Yeshua’s first followers were also Jews and that he came as our long-awaited Messiah. Then she told me that his death paid for our sins so that we could have a personal relationship with the God of Israel. One evening, when Dad was away on a business trip, Mom asked me if I’d like to pray and receive Yeshua as my messiah and savior. I thought “why not?” We knelt down by my bed, and I prayed and asked Jesus to come into my life. My mother led my younger sister to accept Jesus just a few months later.

Dad was not so happy with our decision. Mom could continue going to church, but our family would continue attending Temple Beth El and we were not to speak of Jesus. I decided it would be best to keep my faith a secret and avoid any further conflict. I thought of myself as a 007 Christian.

As mentioned, I had a Bar Mitzvah at Temple Beth El. It was mainly a family celebration, though some family friends and extended family joined us for the Shabbat service. Dad sponsored the oneg (refreshments) afterwards. However, our Sunday school confirmation class was a huge event, because unlike the Bar/Bat Mitzvah services, where one boy or girl is featured, our confirmation was a huge group with over 900 people attending the graduation of our class of 20. We all sat on the platform, dressed up in our white gowns, nervously awaiting our turn to speak. One-by-one we each gave speeches, the rabbi and board members presented awards and a luxurious oneg followed. While my Bar Mitzvah was the official rite of passage, it was significantly overshadowed by the confirmation.

Keeping Silent

I continued to see myself as a 007 Christian. I hid a small Gideon New Testament in my dresser and would sneak it out every now and then. I continued praying “in Jesus’ name” but mostly before I took an exam! Mom continued to read the Bible to my sister and me at night when Dad was away.

Meanwhile, my older sister, a teenager, watched my mom’s changes and newly found faith with curiosity. I remember at one point she asked Mom what she believed and seemed to weigh it in her heart. But she observed our parents’ tense exchanges over Mom’s faith in Jesus from the sidelines. She heard the yelling and saw the tears—and began to feel that all religion is divisive and maybe even destructive. In the years that followed, she separated herself from Judaism altogether and became an agnostic.

I rarely spoke of my faith to anyone other than my mom and younger sister. But I never stopped believing in Jesus. Occasionally I admitted to Christian friends that I was a secret believer. But the more I learned about Jesus and the Bible, the guiltier I felt about keeping my faith a secret. I remembered Jesus said, “Whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:33, KJV). And yet for most of my school years and on into college I avoided Christians and did not disclose that I believed in Jesus.

I went on to study physics at the University of Texas in Austin. I felt I was studying the fundamental questions of the universe. Physics intrigued me; it seemed the entire universe could be described by a few basic mathematical expressions. Out of these universal laws, our entire universe operated. I was fascinated and wanted to make a career of this study. I hoped one day to win a Nobel prize by finding a black hole, discover a new subatomic particle or learn a previously unknown law governing the universe.

One day, strolling along the West Mall of the University of Texas, I saw a thin man, wearing a black hat and jacket, with a long beard. He was the rabbi from the campus Chabad Lubavitch organization. Growing up Reform, I had not experienced Orthodox Judaism. I knew Orthodox Jews were well versed in Hebrew and had much to teach me about my heritage.

I began attending Chabad every Friday night and celebrated the Jewish holidays with them. I loved the interactions, the chance to ask religious questions and particularly enjoyed the traditional Jewish Shabbat meal. For those, I could endure the long, one and-a-half hour, all-Hebrew, Shabbat service. I would stay up late at night asking questions about Judaism, our tradition and the Messiah. I devoured books on the shelves at Chabad House. Maybe I even hoped they’d challenge my belief in Jesus. I knew life would be simpler if I did not believe in him. And yet I could not deny that everything they were looking for was found in Jesus, the Messiah and fulfillment of Jewish hope.

One afternoon during my junior year I ran into Steve, a high school friend who also attended UT Austin. He told me he was now a born-again Christian and that he was part of Campus Crusade for Christ (now known as “CRU”). I confided that I was a secret believer in Jesus. He asked where I went to church, and I explained that I’d tried a few churches but felt uncomfortable and out of place. He invited me to attend the Thursday night Campus Crusade meeting.

The meeting was incredible. I enjoyed the music, as well as connected with the people, and the message that the speaker delivered from God’s Word seemed to speak directly to my heart. He spoke about growing in a personal relationship with God. He explained how God speaks to us through the Bible, His Word. And he stressed that God wanted to hear from us, which is why we need to pray. I was surprised that the other students were interested in my Jewishness. I decided to continue attending, but secretly. Thursday nights with Campus Crusade and Friday nights at Chabad House—that was my social and spiritual life.

Some friends at CRU explained to me that being Jewish and believing in Jesus were not mutually exclusive. All my life I’d heard that you can’t be Jewish and believe in Jesus, and since I didn’t know any Jews who did believe in Jesus other than my mom, younger sister and me, I thought we were an anomaly. I was settled to embrace my life as a contradiction. My Christian friends explained to me that believing in Jesus did not strip away my Jewishness because, after all, he was Jewish. They helped me see how Jesus fulfilled the Jewish hope, and how following him not only made me a Christian, but also a “Messianic Jew.” This was entirely new to me. For the first time, I had met Christians who affirmed my Jewish identity. I was accepted for who I was and not asked to change my identity.

Things began to connect for me. I left home and began a spiritual journey that included investigating Judaism more closely. As I researched, I questioned my faith and even considered leaving it behind. However, I held onto my faith in Jesus, not exactly knowing why until now. Jesus was important to me, and I realized I belonged with others who were following him. Yet, I still refused to tell my Jewish friends I believed in Jesus—until I took a trip that changed everything.

In 1983, I participated in a summer program at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. I was housed by an Orthodox Jewish family, traveled the country, visited Jerusalem—all without telling anyone I was a believer in Jesus. While in Israel, I came across a book titled Faith Strengthened written by a sixteenth-century Jewish scholar, Isaac ben Abraham of Troki. Ben Abraham sought to discredit Christian interpretation of the messianic prophecies in the Old Testament. Each chapter of his book wrestled with a Scripture passage from the Hebrew Bible. He presented the Christian interpretation of prophecies Christians say describe Jesus. Then he rebutted each of them with the Jewish counterargument. For the first time, I explored the many passages in the Jewish Scriptures that clearly describe Jesus. His rebuttals seemed weak, contrived and unconvincing. But far worse was his misrepresentation of Christianity and its beliefs. He addressed Christian claims that I had not heard Christians voice, and he represented them weakly. I felt he had constructed a straw man only to tear it down.

The book Faith Strengthened, written to rebut the claims that Jesus is the Messiah of the Jewish Bible, actually strengthened my faith that Jesus was in fact the promised Messiah! It filled me with certainty that the Messiahship of Jesus was not a matter of religious feeling or subjective faith: it was a verifiable truth. If Jesus is the Jewish Messiah described in the Jewish Bible, then I should be telling my people about him. Particularly compelling was his discussion on Isaiah 53:

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. (Isaiah 53:6-8 KJV)

Ben Abraham contended that Isaiah described the nation of Israel. Israel suffered at the hands of the sinful nations. Really? Israel died for the sins of the world? That made no sense to me. “Am Yisrael Chai” (the people of Israel live!). The Jewish people will never perish and certainly are not a silent people such as this servant of the LORD. We are the most vocal people around. His arguments were surprisingly weak.

While in Jerusalem, I went to the “Wailing Wall”—the last remnants of the ancient Temple where Jewish people come to pray. Some believe that their prayers go directly to heaven from this specific location, as though the ruins of the once glorious edifice retain holy properties that can connect people to God. I had no idea that this would be a turning point in my life.

I stood watching people weep as they shoved pieces of paper written with prayers into cracks between the stones. And then God spoke to me, not exactly in a voice, but in a quiet thought unlike any I’d ever had: “Why don’t you tell your people? You know Who they’re looking for. You say you love your people, but what you really love is being liked and accepted by them. You have chosen to please people rather than pleasing God.”

I was stunned by this truth. Then I was horrified. For years, I had been ashamed of Jesus, the One who suffered and died as a covering or atonement for my sin. If I should be ashamed of anyone, it was not Jesus, but me.

Finding His Voice

When I returned to college, I was still terrified about telling my friends about Jesus. So, I procrastinated and refused to admit to them I believed. Christian friends at CRU read me Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation, to the Jew first…” That bugged me! One weekend, Angie, a bold friend from CRU,shared the gospel with David, whom I knew from Chabad. When he protested that Jews don’t believe in Jesus, she immediately brought up my name, telling him she knew a Jew who was in fact very religious and did believe in Jesus. I was “outed”! David told the rabbi, who broadcast the news to everyone at Chabad of Austin, Texas.

My Orthodox flatmate kicked me out of the apartment. Word quickly spread that I was a spy. They claimed that I snuck in under false pretenses to learn about Judaism in order to establish credibility as a religious Jew who embraced Jesus. How could they make that allegation about me? I had been a sincere seeker! I was no longer welcome at Chabad, and the rabbi made this clear to me with intense anger.

I was shocked and deeply hurt. I suspected that if people found out about my faith, some might disagree, probably argue with me, even laugh or make fun of me. But somehow, I wasn’t prepared for the level of hostility. I had spent two years at Chabad of Austin. I came to the synagogue sincerely seeking to learn more about Judaism, my Jewish heritage and a side of the religion I had not learned in Reform Judaism. I came wanting to learn. In those two years, I had never tried to convert anyone. I had no secret agenda, plan or motive other than to experience Judaism. And yet now I was not welcome, even if I promised not to tell anyone else about my belief.

One Sunday afternoon, my dad was walking back to his car at the San Antonio Jewish Community Center when he ran into none other than the Chabad rabbi from our campus who was on a visit in San Antonio. The rabbi pointed to Dad and said: “You need to say Kaddish (a prayer for the dead) for your son! You should be ashamed of him.” My dad snapped back: “No, you should be ashamed of yourself! You had an eager young man, hungry to learn about his Jewish roots and devouring everything you had to teach him. And you cast him aside, and ejected him from your community. You are the one who made the mistake!” and he stormed away.

At last, I had come “out of the closet”!

At that time, it was hard for me, a 20-year-old, to empathize with the pain that many older Jews feel when they encounter Jesus. For many Jews, Jesus personifies 2,000 years of persecution at the hands of so-called Christians. Centuries of persecution in the name of Jesus has left Jewish people feeling that Christianity is the greatest threat to our survival. Jewish people have believed that the church’s historic stance toward the Jews was either convert them to Christianity or destroy them. So, when Jews embrace Jesus, we are perceived as having betrayed our people. That elicits strong emotions and protest.

But there is a reason Jesus taught us to love our enemies. Hatred tends to be self-perpetuating; anyone who has been hated knows the temptation to hate in return. But hatred hurts those who spread it as well as those who are its targets.

Not long after the rabbi’s exchange with my father, the rabbi phoned me and asked if I’d meet with a “specialist” whom he said would be able to help me. This “specialist” was familiar with both Judaism and Christianity. I thought long and hard about it. But really, what kind of help did I need? Help to reject Jesus, the way I had been rejected? No. If the only way I could be welcomed back was to go down a road meant to lead me away from Jesus, I had no choice but to remain unwelcome. I still cherished my Jewish identity, but I no longer wanted to be a part of their religious system. I was disillusioned with Chabad and their community.

As painful as all this was, it caused a real spiritual growth spurt and changed the direction of my life. I suddenly felt the freedom to attend church and to publicly talk about Jesus. By the end of my senior year, I knew that my purpose in life was to bring the good news of Jesus to my Jewish people. And I discovered that there were many other Jews who felt just the same. I began meeting Messianic Jews and realized that God had raised up a community of testimony. By the end of my college career I realized I no longer wanted to find “black holes” or “subatomic particles.” I wanted to find Jewish people who would consider faith in Jesus. God had called me to be a missionary to my people.

In 1985, I joined the missionary staff of Jews for Jesus. I trained in New York City and then went on to study theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield while working with the Chicago branch of Jews for Jesus. That’s where I met Holly.

Finding Love

Holly Coulsting grew up in a Catholic family in Connecticut, but most of her friends were Jewish. She regularly attended mass as well as confessed her sins to the priest. For a teenage girl, confessing private sins to a middle-aged single man was very uncomfortable. She began asking, “Why do I need to confess my sins to a man? Why can’t I go directly to Jesus?” Those questions led her to religious discussions (and arguments) with her Christian friends at high school. One weekend she was invited to a spaghetti dinner at a local church. She didn’t know the dinner would be followed by a Bible study!

That Saturday night, Holly heard the gospel as she’d never heard it before. She went home, got on her knees by her bed and prayed to receive Jesus. Holly went on to study Jewish and Modern Israel Studies at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and attended the Olive Tree Messianic Congregation… the same congregation I was attending!

Holly was an accomplished singer (she’d taken classes at Westminster Choir College in Princeton). Music was a huge part of her life, as was her love for Jesus and the Jewish people. Holly said:

I didn’t have a long list of what I wanted in a husband. I just wanted to meet a Jewish believer in Jesus who was a missionary to his own people, was smart, kind, funny, and…oh yes…played piano! Not a lot. 

Of course, I had played piano for years. Many times, in Jews for Jesus I had led worship or played special music in churches where I ministered. Holly and I began seeing each other, allegedly to practice music together. I often accompanied her when she sang at the Olive Tree. We made beautiful music together and were married in 1990. Holly and I were married under a chuppah (Jewish wedding canopy). We had a messianic cantor who recited the traditional seven benedictions, and I crushed a wine glass under my shoes. To our joy, many of our family members came out to be a part of the wedding.

A Life of Ministry

After our wedding, Holly and I traveled with the Jews for Jesus singing team The Liberated Wailing Wall for a year and a half. We toured 47 of the 50 states, as well as England, Holland, Germany and South Africa.

In 1992, after our tour ended, we went to work with the Jews for Jesus branch in Los Angeles. There Holly received missionary training and I completed my Master of Arts in Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary. In 2000, we were sent to Fort Lauderdale where I led the South Florida branch of Jews for Jesus. We were content with our lives except for one thing… after more than a decade of marriage, we had no children. We were the typical example of young professionals, carried away in their exciting career who awoke one day and declared: “Oh no! We forgot to have children!”

In 2005, we flew to China where we adopted an eighteen-month-old toddler named Yi Fu Tong (translated Happy, Lucky, Red-Clouds)We renamed her Caroline, aka “Carrie-Fu.” Baby Carrie grew into a joy-filled, athletic and artsy girl. We enrolled her in art lessons, gymnastics classes and I taught her the piano. Her art became so good that I created a website and turned her prints into greeting cards. The sales of Carrie’s cards help pay for her art classes!

In 2007, I returned to Los Angeles, this time as the Southern California director. We were thrilled to be back in Los Angeles where we would try to accomplish some of the same things we’d done in Florida.

A Deep Loss

On Valentine’s Day in 2010, Holly and I were performing at a banquet in Ventura when Holly realized she could not keep up with me on the piano. She complained that her tongue was “slow” and “sluggish.” After a battery of tests, a neurologist at UCLA informed Holly she had ALS or “Lou Gehrig’s disease” and that the average life expectancy was three to five years.

At first we didn’t believe him. How could this be? But by December 2010, Holly began to experience breathing and swallowing problems. By August 2011, she could no longer speak, and was using a BiPAP to breathe. In November, she went to the hospital in respiratory distress. Holly died the night before Thanksgiving 2011. She flew home to celebrate Thanksgiving with Jesus.

Holly had served with Jews for Jesus for over twenty-one years. More than 350 people came to Holly’s funeral, some flying in from the East Coast. Holly’s gentleness, her love for family and those she ministered to, her passion to tell others about Jesus and her contagious laugh have been missed so very much. At her funeral, Francine, a middle-aged Jewish woman, shared how she met Holly and how Holly prayed with her to receive Jesus. There were many there whom Holly had either led to Jesus or discipled. I felt that even though Holly was gone, God had charged me with carrying on the work she so successfully completed in her life. Her job was completed; mine would continue.

Weeping May Endure for a Night, Joy Cometh in the Morning

From Psalm 30:5

Oh Stan, my heart is breaking. May God’s peace surround you and carry you and Carrie through this time. Holly is in Jesus’ arms…

That was one of many Facebook messages I received when friends learned of Holly’s passing. This particular friend, Jacqui, was a Jewish believer in Jesus who had known Holly and me since 1993.

Jacqui Hops came to faith in high school and was the only believer in her Jewish family. Her mother, who was convinced she had been brainwashed, sent her to a rabbi and then a psychologist. Neither dissuaded her from believing. However, she decided to study psychology in college and became a licensed clinical social worker. Jacqui sang with us on our local music team when we were first living in Los Angeles. We lost touch with Jacqui when we moved to Florida, but reconnected with her when we returned to LA in 2007. Jacqui attended Holly’s memorial service and was moved to pray regularly for Carrie and me.

One Sunday in July 2012, I was scheduled to speak at a church not far from Jacqui’s home. I asked her to come, share her testimony and help me lead a song. At lunch after the service Jacqui opened up about her heart to serve the Lord on the mission field, how she loved children and cared so much for those who hurt. She had been practicing as a licensed clinical social worker for years.

Something in both of our hearts “clicked.” We felt a connection. I saw how Jacqui’s love and concern for Carrie stood on its own strength, apart from the friendship that was developing between the two of us. And as that friendship developed, I felt torn.

It had only been six months since I lost Holly. I knew I wanted to remarry eventually, but it was too early for me. One night I couldn’t sleep. I found myself wondering what Holly would say if she sent me an email from heaven. It really wasn’t hard to imagine what she would say.

Hi Honey! It’s me, Holly! I know you must be sad and lonely now. But guess what? I’m all better. I’m healed!

I smiled. I knew that was true. Holly was forever free of sickness and suffering. As I continued thinking about my wife—what she’d wanted, how she’d lived her life and the quality of her love—it wasn’t hard to know what she would want for Carrie or the things she would hope for me.

Honey, I can’t care for Carrie anymore. She needs a mother, and you need a wife. Jacqui is a good woman. She will take care of Carrie and she will make you very happy. Don’t let her go.

It would have been nice to have a tangible letter from Holly clearly stating what she wanted for Carrie and me when she left. Sadly, Holly was never able to write such a letter. However, through my memory of her and my imagination, she had told me… over the course of a lifetime of marriage. I knew exactly what Holly’s wishes for us were.

No love replaces another, and no person replaces another; however, our hearts can make room and grow in a new love. Over the months that followed, Jacqui, Carrie and I began “hanging out” together. Carrie liked Jacqui and made no secret of the fact that she would be glad to have a new mommy. Jacqui and I began dating and were married in 2014.

Jacqui confided that in the course of her profession, as an outpatient therapist, she treats clients with tremendous emotional and psychological needs. However, as a clinical social worker, she is not allowed to share the gospel, read a word of Scripture or even pray with a client. Ever since she came to faith, she longed to work full-time, bringing the gospel to needy people and pointing them to the Great Physician. Jacqui had served on short-term mission trips overseas and served in her church, but never felt there was an open door for full-time ministry. Now she felt God had opened the door. Jacqui wanted to work with Jews for Jesus.

Today, Jacqui, Carrie and I live in Phoenix where she is serving with Jews for Jesus. Carrie continues studying art and piano. I know Jacqui is God’s gift to Carrie and me. And we have begun a new volume in my life serving God. In the Bible, God promised Israel when they returned to the land from captivity, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25). Israel’s crops were completely wiped out by locusts for several years, but God promised to miraculously restore what had been lost. Perhaps today you have “lost years” eaten up by loss, pain, disappointments, etc. Friend, know that faith in the risen Messiah Jesus can restore your lost years and give you hope and peace. He is the great Redeemer!