Since I was a young child I’ve loved the number 5. I remember counting by fives over and over again. I enjoyed the rhythmic sounds of multiples of 5. I didn’t know what the number 5 represented. I only knew that for some reason I loved the number.

Years later I found out that 5 is the number symbolizing God’s grace. I was comforted because I loved the number so but I also found it quite strange. The reason I found it strange? The life I’ve lived and the hardships I’ve endured required that grace would hold me up and strengthen me. I know that it was God’s grace that brought me through-and still is.

In spirit, coincidence doesn’t exist. Only destiny does. We are predestined to come and live on this planet. Everything happens for a reason: good and bad. It took over half my life for me to admit that even the worst things I’ve endured have happened for a reason. I believe we are here to learn and grow. To experience and understand. To gain wisdom about what love truly means and to prosper despite adversity. We are all born from the same beautiful spirit. But we have free will to decide whether we will stay in our predestined union with God or if we will turn away.

It’s easy to turn away and run. To become angry and hurt. The things of this world bring such pain that we have a knee jerk reaction to flee. But I have learned that because of God’s wonderful grace we can stand in the storm, accept the harshest reality and prosper anyway. It takes resilience and trust which are a test to gain in themselves. It isn’t easy. But if we are able to learn to reside in that grace, we will find peace. Not temporary peace but the peace of spirit. The peace that holds us together and calms us even when our lives have literally turned upside down.

Back in my twenties, after burying my first child, I was emotionally, physically and spiritually bankrupt. I had endured over a decade of molestation by extended family members. Then I buried my first child. I was an atheist. My family had taught me that we had descended from apes- the classic theory of evolution. After what had happened to me I had no hope. I had no reason. Then the day of my first daughter’s funeral came. And she visited me. I sat in front of her casket for over an hour, my hand resting on her tiny chest. At the moment I touched her, I was gone from the funeral home and encapsulated by the most beautiful bright white light I’d ever seen. I was completely at peace. There was no sadness, no regret, no pain. Just pure bliss. I could hear my daughter laughing and running through the light. I will never forget how cheerful her voice was when she told me, “Don’t worry, Mommy. I’m happy here.” Those words began my walk with God and carried me through the next twenty years as I dealt with the pain of her absence. God, in His great mercy, had allowed me to visit her forever home where He lived. It was such a vibrant, amazing visit that I’ll never forget it. And that was thirty years ago.

I thought I had learned a lot in the last thirty years. But it wasn’t enough to prepare me for the death of my second child just weeks before her 19th birthday. I waited to talk to her at her funeral like my first child had. But she didn’t. However, God opened up communication between us that has remained since she passed. I feel her, she visits me, and she communicates in ways that let me know she is always at my side. I believe she is one of my guides now, helping me put into words the experiences we have. I am convinced that it is my destiny to write about what I’ve encountered and to help bring the love of spirit into the lives of those who read my books and enjoy my art.

Life isn’t about who’s better or who owns what. Life is about learning and valuing each other. It is about growing into a person of deeper kindness, compassion and resilience. It is about turning to our Father and creator-the one who loves us and knows us better than we even know ourselves. And that is a lifetime commitment of deepening trust and understanding. Things that only grace can provide. It is my hope that I will increasingly gain that type of wisdom each day I walk out my time on this planet. And it is my prayer that everyone and everything will learn to live in the grace and mercy that life of that magnitude invites.