Stephanie and Christian Nielson had a fairytale life. They had a wonderful marriage, were deeply in love, and had four small children under the age of six years old. It was a life that most would envy. Stephanie, a stay at home mom, had a very successful blog. Christian had his dream job and had just become a pilot. They had large, supportive families. In July 2008 Stephanie and Christian were nearly killed when the small plane they were in crashed. The other occupant of the plane died, and Stephanie and Christian were critically injured. Stephanie had burns over 80% of her body and was not expected to live.
After three months in a coma, Stephanie awoke in a burn center in Arizona. Stephanie had plenty of reasons to just give up. Her life now consisted of a seemingly endless series of excruciating procedures to recover from her extensive burns. Her face, so beautiful and full of life before the accident, was now horrifically disfigured. Her youngest daughter couldn’t even look Stephanie in the face and her “baby”, young Nicholas (“Gigs”) did not recognize her at all. She felt terribly guilty for the pain that her children were experiencing. It was a nightmare.
Stephanie fought through the pain, the depression, and the despair and little by little, through the love of her Heavenly Father, emerged from a place that can only be described as hell on earth. Her courage, faith and tenacity are nothing short of inspirational. Her story is one that will change your life.
In her book, Stephanie says, “I wasn’t convinced (that ‘Heaven is Here’ should be the title of the book, as suggested by her editor). I know that there is a heaven awaiting me that is infinitely more beautiful that our life on Earth (but)…insofar as heaven is a joyful place filled with people you love, and where you feel peaceful and genuinely happy, then it’s true. Heaven is right here.”
If you’ve read and enjoyed Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo, you’re going to love Heaven Changes Everything. Todd and his wife, Sonja, team up on this devotional book based on Heaven is For Real. If you didn’t read the first book, it is the account of a young boy who became gravely ill and visited heaven. The devotional is able to be read as a stand-alone volume, although the examples mentioned are richer if you’ve read the companion book.
It is important for Christians to live their lives with a view of heaven in mind. So many things are easier in this life when seen in light of eternity. Todd and Sonja both contribute short chapters dedicated to different topics related to life beyond the veil. Taking a heavenly perspective gives us the ability to endure and to encourage in ways that nothing else can. It is easy to fall into discouragement when we find ourselves failing at something again and again (or to be judgmental when we watch as someone else tries and fails repeatedly). God doesn’t look at it that way. He doesn’t grow impatient. Instead, He watches us and encourages us like a parent of a child who is learning to walk. As parents, we know our child will fall but we feel nothing but elation when they try. When they fall we don’t scold them. Instead we pick them up and set them up to try again. Some children are slower to walk than others. As their parent we don’t love them any less. They are living up to their potential and we are pleased with that. God only asks that we do our very best, not that we always succeed.
Heaven Changes Everything takes subjects like family, death, forgiveness and grace and illustrates them in light of our eternal destination. The short chapters are easy to read and are perfect for a daily devotional to reorient ourselves away from the temporal concerns of this world and towards a heavenly perspective.
***BookSneeze® provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.***