A Thankful Heart

Do you ever experience days so dark that you can’t see God’s hand in your life? Mary Weaver tried to save the life of a baby in her care, but when the baby died, she was accused of first degree murder. This Christian lady and her lawyer friend fought hard to prove her innocence. At times it seemed that life had spiraled out of God’s control, but time showed, during the darkest days, God was quietly working for her good.

Mary chose to be thankful, even during her darkest days in prison. Today I’m sharing an excerpt from Mary’s story as a challenge to all of us to keep a thankful heart. At the end I’ll tell you where you can get the entire ebook with Mary’s amazing story for free during this month of December 2019.

Excerpt from Chapter 25 of Edges of Truth by Deb Brammer

Mary Weaver sat on her prison bunk and slipped a family photo from the pages of her Bible. It pictured her with her husband and two children, before she was sentenced to life in prison without parole. She caressed her red-headed son, John and his blonde sister, Catherine in the picture. For sixteen months she had only seen them once a week when her husband brought them to the prison visiting room.

It all started January 22, 1993 when Mary was providing childcare for 11-month-old Melissa. When the baby quit breathing Mary fought for her life, but the baby died later that day. Mary had never done anything to hurt Melissa, but experts were divided on their opinions about her guilt. A life sentence was currently stealing time with her precious children. Mary’s lawyers were seeking to appeal her case, but over a year had passed and they still hadn’t been able to get a new trial. Meanwhile Mary was separated from her husband and kids who were now five and six years old.

Mary felt sure God would eventually free her and clear her name. She was a Christian and she knew God would get her through prison one day at a time. But she grieved for her children and unsaved husband. Months had passed into a year and more and her children were growing up without her. She would never get those years back.

As Mary sat in her cell worrying about her family, a guard appeared at the door. “Mrs. Weaver? You got a visitor.”

Mary set her Bible aside and preceded the guard down the prison corridor. Who could this be? As she stepped into the visitor’s room Catherine skipped up to her in a pink tutu and leotard.

“Mommy, Mommy, I’m going to my dance recital! Aunt Lisa brought me so you could fix my hair.” Catherine jumped around until Mary could hardly get a hug from her.

Mary smiled her thanks at her friend, Lisa Murphy, who had figured out this creative way to include Mary in her daughter’s special occasion.

Mary drew her daughter close. “I’d love to fix your hair. Shall we do French braids?”

“Yes, yes, yes, with pink ribbons!” Catherine bounced with every word.

Mary removed ribbons and elastic bands from Catherine’s ponytail and pulled long blonde strands into sections with her fingers.

“Hold still,” she reminded her daughter as she started one braid. Mary breathed in the fruity fragrance of the superfine hair as she began to weave the strands into identical braids on either side of her daughter’s head, then tied perfect pink bows at each end.

Catherine shook her head to feel her new hairdo. “Thank you, Mommy! I can’t wait to see myself in the mirror.”

Mary surreptitiously wiped tears with one sleeve. “You look beautiful. Can you show me your dance?”

Catherine performed several ballet steps, ending with a lopsided pirouette. Mary clapped loudly. “Good job! Just remember, when you’re in that recital today, I’m going to be thinking about you.”

Catherine gazed at her mom with pleading eyes. “I wish you could come to my recital.”

Mary blinked some tears from her eyes. “Me too, sweetheart, but Aunt Lisa will take pictures and I’ll study them carefully. Just remember that your mommy is very proud of you!”

Mary gave her daughter a quick, prison-acceptable hug and watched the two walk away. Satan whispered, “You are missing her recital and all the other important moments in her life.”

Mary lifted her chin. But God allowed me to fix her hair. God gave me that precious moment. God is good.

She thought of other ways God had allowed her to mother her children as well. God had given Mary a prison job, and her wages had been raised from thirty-eight to forty-one cents an hour. So what if it was only ten percent of minimum wage? The job made her time pass more quickly, and she could use the money in the commissary or craft store. Supporters could also add twenty dollars a week to her prison account. The activities directors had been especially kind to use this money to purchase fabric and patterns for her. Mary had been able to sew outfits for the kids, paint T-shirts, and buy presents for them.

Mary returned to her cell, sat on her bunk, opened her Bible, and prayed. Lord, help me to be thankful for what I have, not to complain about what I don’t have.

A prison sentence made it easy to slide into self-pity. Unfairness could defeat her but only if she let it. Instead she thought about The Hiding Place, a prison library book she had recently read. Corrie ten Boom had hidden Jews in Holland during World War II. The Nazis had caught her and thrown her into a bitter cold prison for four months, then a women’s extermination camp in Germany. Except for her sister, who was imprisoned with her for a time, Corrie had almost no contact with her family. She and her sister existed in overcrowded, filthy cells with little regard for sanitation and little to eat. They were allowed no exercise or fresh air.

Like Mary, Corrie was unfairly imprisoned, yet Corrie’s sister challenged her to focus on what she had. Corrie accepted the challenge. In solitary confinement she hungered for human contact, but she thanked God for an ant that crawled into her cell and provided a bit of company. In one of her prison cells, for one hour a day, she could stretch herself out tall and feel the sun shine on her head and chest. She thanked God for the sunshine. Later, at the extermination camp, she slept piled on a straw-covered platform with many other prisoners, sandwiched between other crowded platforms. Fleas infested the stinking straw, but Corrie even learned to thank God for the fleas. The tiny insects kept the guards away from the overcrowded bunk, where she hid her precious Bible.

Mary closed her eyes to shut out the conversation of the other inmates lounging right outside her cell. Her prison cell was the Ritz Carlton compared to the ones in the book. “Thank you, Lord, that my family is safe and that I can see them every week. Thank you that I have other gals to talk to. You’ve even given me a roommate who seems to be a true Christian. Thank you that I can feel safe in prison, that other inmates haven’t given me trouble, that the guards treat me with respect. Thank you that I have a Bible and I can read it openly, whenever I want. Thank you that I’ve grown closer to you in prison.”

The State had stolen her family. The first year they seized all her possessions, even her clothes. Only now they allowed her to keep a few things of her own. The State could separate her from her home and family, but they couldn’t take God away from her and they couldn’t take her away from God. She would focus on him and the things she was allowed to enjoy. Today that meant fixing her daughter’s hair for a special occasion.

***

God showers us with so many blessings every day that we sometimes get used to them and claim them as rights. When we have them we don’t appreciate them, and when we don’t, we complain.

This Christmas time is a great time to focus on what we have. What has God given you today?  

Mary’s story challenged me constantly during the two years it took to write it. You can get Edges of Truth: The Mary Weaver Story, the whole ebook, for free, along with Christian books by 19 other authors, here.  Current subscribers to Deb’s Book Blast have already received a link to download Edges of Truth for free.

You can find the companion Bible study book here for 99 cents. I Survived! uses illustrations from Mary’s story in this study of 5 Bible characters who survived disaster.

Have a Christ-filled Christmas and take some time quiet time for reading quality Christian books during these last days of 2019.

Summer Reading That Could Change Your Life

Do you ever find yourself getting weary in ministry? You’re tired of giving out so much more than you take in. You’re weary of people and problems and you wonder if your labor could really be in vain after all.

The story of these five Christian women (Joni Tada, Amy Carmichael, Elisabeth Elliott, Mary Weaver, and Corrie ten Boom) who overcame hardship may be just what you need to read this summer. All five of these stories inspired me to keep on going when I read them. They also stuck with me. Years after I first read them, these stories still help me. They put my own life in perspective and remind me that God is there, even in the darkest days. He’s working for our good, when that truth is hard to believe. These stories changed my life, as a great biography often will.

This summer you may be looking for a book to help you pass time or rest from the daily routine. Or maybe you just love a great read. I recommend all of these highly. But watch out! They’ll probably change your life forever.

More Evidence of God’s Work

Water drops folling from a bamboo leafA couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog about why I write. I shared with you some of the results of Mary’s story, our book Edges of Truth, and similar stories of innocent caregivers who are accused and convicted of abuse. A coalition of accused families has launched a petition to be presented to Congress asking for an objective evaluation of today’s medical guidelines for diagnosing child abuse. This is a beginning of challenging mistaken medical assumptions that has endangered innocent families for decades.

Less than two weeks later I have more news. On March 20 an article on shaken baby syndrome came out in the Washington Post. The author, Debbie Cenziper, has been in contact with us for about a year as she wrote this extensive article. While Mary’s case is not mentioned by name, Ms. Cenziper had interviews with Mary and her lawyer (the book’s co-author) Steve Brennecke and read many of the trial transcripts. This Washington Post article points out the dangerous practice of diagnosing shaken baby syndrome on the basis of three brain injuries alone. In Mary’s case, some doctors found these injuries in a baby who quit breathing while Mary cared for her. The doctors testified that Mary had to have shaken and possibly slammed the baby during the baby’s last 42 minutes with Mary. Many other innocent caregivers can tell a similar story. When medical experts found these injuries in a baby, they believed the last person with the baby had to have shaken it to death. This article challenges this assumption.

Mary’s case and our book are only a small part in the process of change, but all those parts put together are beginning to make a difference. Praise God, he can use the little things we do, in combination with the little things others do, to make great changes. With God’s help, our lives can make a difference.

[image courtesy of Andrejs-Pijass/Deposit Photos]

 

Celebrating a Milestone

zEdges cover with awardToday I want to celebrate the first anniversary of an amazing work of God. On November 22, 2013 we launched our book Edges of Truth: The Mary Weaver Story in Marshalltown, Iowa. Technical reasons have delayed this blog by nearly a week, but we want to celebrate God’s goodness to us with several offers for our readers.

How can we see God’s goodness in the release of this book?

The initial book launch

A year ago God gave us a perfect venue in Marshalltown, Iowa at a very reasonable price, along with free radio promotion during the day. Well over one hundred people packed the auditorium, many coming four hours or more for the book launch, and most staying for the entire evening. Mary, Steve, and I were in the same room together for the first time ever. Paul Rosenberg, Mary’s appeal lawyer, was there; along with Frank Santiago, the reporter who championed her case; witnesses for her defense; one of the jurors; and Mary and Steve’s family. We not only sold a lot of books, we were able to recognize people who played a key role in Mary’s defense. Most of all, we were able to give a clear testimony about God’s goodness in Mary’s story.

Since the launch

Our book continues to sell. One of the chapters has featured in Power for Living and Horizons, two different take-home papers. Mary has been able to speak to a number of different groups, both secular and Christian, and give her testimony. The book has been accepted as a library book in the prison in Mitchellville.

5-star rating

Reader’s Favorite awarded our book a 5-star rating. We’ve added their seal to the current cover of our book. It has been entered in three other contests and is eligible for awards that will be awarded in 2015. Any awards the book earns will help us to continue to promote the book. We need God’s help and leading as we continue to sell the book, and are thankful for any of this kind of help.

New release on Nook

Just last week we released the ebook edition of Edges of Truth on Nook. I’m looking for a few Nook readers to give an honest Barnes and Nobel or Amazon review in exchange for a free Nook version of it. If you’re interested, please send your email address to: brammers@vodafone.co.nz.

Goodreads Giveaway

Right now we’re running a Goodreads Giveaway of Edges of Truth. You can enter here. Three blessed readers will receive the book for free.

How can you help?

We’re always looking for more reviews. Maybe you look and see twenty one Amazon reviews and feel that everything that needs to be said about the book has been said. Why would we need more reviews? When a reader posted the twenty first review, that allowed this book to be suggested to Amazon readers when they order a similar book. Amazon works through algorithms, and having more reviews helps promote the book. Even negative reviews can help at times. If a book only has 5-star reviews, it’s easy to assume that only the author’s friends have reviewed it. The best reviews tell what the reader liked or didn’t like about the book.

Mary, Steve, and I all look back and see how God has led us through this long process and how God continues to use this story and are amazed at his goodness. May you also catch a glimpse of God’s goodness in your life today.