One crippled woman. One astounding Christmas Eve Miracle. Thousands of lives changed.
Two years ago this January I started interviewing Ema McKinley to write her amazing true miracle story, Rush of Heaven: One Woman’s Miraculous Encounter with Jesus. Many of you graciously prayed me through this long writing labor. Thank you! The baby arrived in October and I’m pleased to say Rush of Heaven is alive and well, scoring high on the Apgar scale. Smile.
Without doubt, God is all the wow in this book. He has been my teacher, helper, and counselor from day one. And every day, he continues to teach me to how to depend on him in ways I’ve never dreamed.
Because You Asked
Some of you have asked what it was like to write from Ema’s point of view. First, let me say it was an honor to step into the mind of such a God-loving woman of faith.
This “stepping into the mind” is precisely what Jesus calls us to do with him. He wants us to daily seek his face, his thoughts, his heart. And just as I studied Ema’s Facebook posts to learn her writing style, God wants us to study his Word until we begin to think, communicate, and love like he loves.
The easiest part of writing Rush of Heaven was pouring out rivers of heartfelt prayers and Scriptures. Perhaps one of the trickiest parts was pulling together all the different interviews I had with Ema, her sons, and caregivers, and keeping everything accurate and consistent.
The process made me think of sculptor Michelango who looked fully and openly at a choice model before chiseling away night and day, extracting, revealing, sanding, until voila, “David” emerged for all to see. Likewise, Jesus wants us to persevere as we submit to his chiseling process. Eventually, he will reveal us to the Father as his masterpiece; and oh, what a day that will be!
God told me he wanted me to write Ema’s true story in an engaging novel-like style, and he showed me how to write her distant memories as ongoing flashbacks that would run concurrently with her more recent key emotional experiences. That way I could include a sweeping overview of her life and character while at the same time piecing and unveiling her ongoing quest for healing, purpose, and survival.
The more I wrote, the more new themes began to emerge, pulling me back to sharpen and rewrite multiple versions, always reading it aloud to smoothen sounds and make it sing. Every word involved a decision; so scene-by-scene, line-by-line, I cried out to God for wisdom, which he so graciously delivered.
Ema prayed me through the entire process, and this gave me peace. She told me from the beginning, “You are going to be so overwhelmed by this project.” She knew I’d have to figure out how to show her progressively leaning body, ongoing wheelchair apparatus changes, fluctuating medications, medical procedures, health insurance dilemmas, legal issues, and everything in between. She also knew God would help us. If he gave her this miracle for the world to see, he would indeed bring this baby to completion. And he would also shape Ema McKinley to be a shining example of faith, a vessel of honor to showcase his power and glory.
Ema was a trooper to throw open the window of her past and allow me to feel the very breeze of her heart. The more I listened to her voice over and over from the interview recordings, the more I became eager to pulse this baby out on paper. I gave Ema my early chapters ten at a time so she could read them in exchange for feedback, which almost always came back with immediate approval. Excitement mounted as we neared the finished line, as we tiptoed toward the glory place where Jesus showed up in her office that Christmas Eve. Such a sacred place, her office. For that was the precise place where Jesus healed her crooked and deformed body, where he restored her long-lost mobility!
When the enemy fanned the flames of insecurity, whispering lies that I wasn’t qualified, God would always assure my heart. He’d prepared me for this. Because isn’t that what he does? He prepares us. If God calls us to a job, he’ll see us through. Sometimes God reminded me in small ways, like when he turned my eyes to Ema’s and my similarities, too many to be a coincidence. Ema is the same age as my mother, and she and my mother both had two kids who are the same age. Her oldest and my mom’s oldest (me) are the only ones who had kids. Two kids. And those two kids had two boys who are the same age. And my sons and Ema’s grandson’s had the privilege of meeting each other and hanging out in my home exactly two Christmases ago.
Ema and I both love poetry, art, and children. We’ve both worked extensively with handicapped people. We’ve been known for our smiles and laughter. We’ve both endured a serious bout of depression and struggled with breathing issues at a time when our inhalers didn’t work. We’ve also both volunteered at the March of Dimes and Salvation Army. We’ve both battled itchy, weepy sores. Of my goodness, mine obviously paled in comparison. Doctors did not insist on amputating my leg! I did, however, need to regularly wrap my sores in cloth between treatments at the hospital, and it was one of the worst times in my life. I’ve also had ongoing neck pain that resulted in mobility issues right down to my shoulders, sometimes even preventing me from writing. But this amazing woman, Ema McKinley, remained bent over on something close to a ninety-degree angle, hanging off her wheelchair year after year while doctors offered no hope or cure.
I can only imagine. And that’s exactly what God helped me do. Just as Ema got down on the floor to show me what happened that terrible wonderful Christmas Eve night, I too found myself regularly twisting into all kinds of crazy positions so I could remember, reenact, and envision what this remarkable Job-like woman must have endured. Her vision may have been limited by her severe angle, but her perspective was not. And every week, hundreds of hurting people continue to gain new perspective through Ema’s eyes of hope.
Don’t you love how God is in the details? He is completely in control but still chooses to partner with us! What a joy to know that he hears us when we cry to him in our darkest hour. We can trust that our friend in the storm will never waste an ounce of our pain. Rather, he will use it for something more striking than a sunset, more beautiful than a rainbow, more refreshing than a breeze. Just ask Ema. God will restore the years the locusts have stolen.
Our Creator, who sees the big picture, will remain faithful through every twist, turn, and mind-bending decision. Yes–he will go with us, even to the ends of the earth!
Going to Eastern Europe
Rush of Heaven is currently being translated into Polish! This absolutely rocks me, particularly because ten years ago, God gave Dwight and I the opportunity to minister his love on the streets and in the hospitals of Poland. With the help of our translators, we poured love and affection into the lives of all kinds of precious Polish children, including handicapped people. Besides face-painted kids and balloon sculpting, I wrote and performed musical mimes as Twinkles the clown to showcase God’s love. Children needed to know that our God is a God who brings freedom. He has come to destroy the works of the evil one!
Dwight and I, along with our team, worked with a Polish congregation and had the opportunity to watch people receive Christ. Some of those same dear people will soon be able read Rush of Heaven in their own mother tongue! Neither Ema nor I had anything to do with the selection of our first translation, but God knew. The one who causes the sun to shine and the seeds to grow knew full well exactly what the future would hold.
He has great things in store for you, too, my friend. Why? Because adores you! Don’t think for a second that he’s lost your number. You are all the gold in his crown. You are his eternal reward, his glorious inheritance.
Thank you a thousand times over for your prayers. You’re a part of this, too! Thank you for giving us Amazon reviews! Each review plays a big part in helping people find us so they can purchase this life-changing book.
Prayers appreciated as I map out a second true miracle book. This next one is about an amazing mother whose son with autism experiences a series of miraculous healing encounters. God’s hand is all over it, so I know you’ll love this one, too!
I’m here for you if you’d like special prayer or you’d like to send me your story. I’ll be a listening ear. And if you’d like me to autograph your copy of Rush of Heaven or write a special message to a loved one, please email me from my connect page.
Win Free Books
If you don’t already receive my Fresh Air blog and devotional e-newsletter, this may be the perfect time to start. Between now and the end of January, I’ll be drawing names for those of you who are new signups. I’ll be giving away four free copies of Rush of Heaven! So please sign up soon. And if you’ve already been blessed by these resources, perhaps you’d like to share this post with a friend, so he or she can have a chance to win, too.
Thank YOU for being a part of my writing ministry through your prayers and loving support!
Thank you, Jesus, for being our strength, direction, and ability. May we always allow you to wrap us in your warm blanket of kindness. Use us as your instruments, and may this whole broken world see you in us until everyone is swept up, wholly captivated by your grandeur, goodness, and glory.
With Christmas love.
His servant of words,
What a wonderful surprise this morning, when my copy of your blog was my first e-mail to read! I don’t know you well, but it had Cheryl all over it, and was such a joy to read!
Thanks for your uplifting, encouraging, Christ-centered blog. I’m looking forward to the next post!
Good morning, Matt Mattingly! What a fine sounding name!
I’m thrilled to hear my post encouraged you. Christ-centered, yes. That’s my goal. Without him, I can do nothing.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
May you ride on the wings of his Spirit today. He is trustworthy from beginning to end, making all things right. 🙂
So very kind of you to stop by and say thanks!
The Love of our Glorious Father never ceases to amaze me. And you are a living example here on the earth. This book is awesome. Thank you so much!
Hi Sally! I’m so glad you loved Rush of Heaven! Thank you so much for your encouraging comment! Means a lot. That’s exactly what I want to be: another one of his examples on earth. An available instrument in his skillful hands.
A long time ago I asked him to make me a missionary of words. As I watch this book go far and wide, I praise him for answering my prayer. And something tells me this is just the beginning.
Merry Christmas, Sally!
Was that you dressed up as a clown?
I have been a professional clown since 1986.
Hi Lynda! Yes, that was me, Twinkles the clown. Haha! I used to be a profession clown at a big amusement park in Canada. Ontario Place. I also clowned for birthday parties, the Optimist Club (hospital visits), church picnics, and company events. These days, I’m mostly a closet clown. But it comes in handy for missions trips. You never know when you might need to pull out a chicken or handkerchief or something. LOL!
I love faith building stories and books. I know we have a big God but for some reason I still need encouragement in this. As I get older I seem to need it more. Where can I get this book? Do the Christian bookstores carry it?
Hi Marge! I think we all need encouragement in this area sometimes. Life hurls ongoing waves of static and it can cloud our senses from grasping the truth. I find that reading the Gospels and the Epistles helps lifts my eyes to the mountains, to the place where my help comes from. It also helps to remember how God brought me through in the past.
Good question. Rush of Heaven available at Christian bookstores, Target, Amazon, CBD, etc. It’s also available on my website. My husband wanted to include a special link, so he did. I haven’t been promoting it there, but I’m happy to tell anybody who asks. If you’d like a copy I could autograph it and have it out to you right away. Merry Christmas!
I loved Rush of Heaven and really enjoyed reading the story behind the story on this blog. And the scripture: I will restore the years the locusts have eaten, was especially meaningful to me. Thank you dear Cheryl!
Hi Paula. I’m glad you enjoyed the story behind the story and appreciated that verse. It’s a verse I need to remind myself of quite regularly. Thank you for stopping by!