A Letter to Heaven

My husband,John, helped me resolve the distorted view of love my parents created through abuse. I felt loved for who I am, not what I could offer him.  I decided that posting my latest letter to heaven I might help someone realize there is hope even amid tragedy.

Every day at noon my husband, John, and I communicated via text messages.  The conversations always began with “how u be?” While the discussions lasted only a few minutes, they were our unique way of sharing our day with each other.  The conversations varied from short words of affection to venting frustrations.  John’s texts grounded me, made me laugh or sometimes the text messages helped us resolve a conflict or misunderstanding.   While John was a man of few words, his well-chosen text messages conveyed affection, support, and love each day at noon.

On August 23, 2013, that changed forever when John passed away in his sleep.  Ten days earlier, John, suffered a major heart attack which severely damaged his heart. There were no more text messages, emails or other electronic communication that had become such an intricate part of our life together.  Since his death, I periodically write letters to him, not because I expect an answer or that I think he reads them. I write the letters because through the short notes I feel connected to him. The letters have also been a way for me to document my grief journey.

John helped me resolve the distorted view of love my parents created through abuse. I felt loved for who I am, not what I could offer him.  I decided that posting my latest letter to heaven I might help someone realize there is hope even amid tragedy.

A Letter to Heaven

My love,

I haven’t written to you for a very long time. I sometimes feel silly that I even think about writing a letter to you. I know that you do not see me or hear me, but somehow writing a letter now and then brings me peace. Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of the heart attack that eventually took you from me. Five years seems like forever, but today it seems like yesterday. My mind races back to the day with so many questions that I cannot count them all. “Why didn’t you call 911 when you knew something was wrong? Why didn’t you tell me the minute I walked in from work that you thought you were having a heart attack?” These and so many more questions haunt me on this anniversary. There are no answers, but the questions remain.

You Would be Proud

I do want to let you know that I am happy, well content anyway. I don’t miss you every day anymore. I miss you when I watch the Texas Rangers play. I don’t cry at the thought of you not being here to watch the game with me. The things that once caused tears to flow now bring a smile to my face. I now enjoy the memories of our life together, but I get sad sometimes when I think of the things you are missing.

Angel graduated from high school in May and just moved into the college dorm. She is all grown up, my love, and you would be so proud of the young woman our granddaughter has become. Korine is teaching High School English and just received a Master’s in Apologetics. Isaac has a girlfriend!

Grief Observed

I have learned something this week, my love. Rationally, I know that you are happy, content and enjoying the company of God. I know that to wish you were still in my life is a selfish thought because you are where you are supposed to be. However, I finally understand in my heart that to want to bring you back is unfair to you. C. S. Lewis reflects in A Grief Observed, “I want her back as an ingredient in the restoration of my past. Could I have wished her anything worse? Having got once through death, to come back and then, at some later date, have all her dying to do over again?”[1] Those words seemed harsh when I read them two years ago. Now, they ring true. I would not wish such sorrow on you. I can’t restore the past.

I miss you, my love, but I realize that our life together would have been so different because of the changes in your health. You were not a good patient, my love. You often got impatient when your body did not allow you to do what you loved. After the heart attack, your activity level changed. Of course, I don’t know how much progress you might have made over time because you died before the first follow up with your doctor.

Moving On

My love, for the first time since you died, I am not overwhelmed with tears as the anniversary of your death approaches. I am reflective, but not sad. I’ve always understood that grief is not an event, but a journey. Lewis describes it best, “Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.”[2] I think I have rounded a new bend that reveals newness, peace, and contentment that I have not experienced for a very long time.

I look forward to the day when we meet again, but I no longer yearn for the memories of our life together. Remembering you now brings a soft smile to my lips.

All My Love,


[1] C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed (London: CrossReach Publications, 2016), 25.

[2]Ibid, 45.

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Sonnet IV. The Truth Revealed

The 4R’s of Taking Your Thoughts Captive

A single event can send you into an emotional spiral where your rational mind stops functioning. Everything that you believe about yourself goes out the window. The question is, how do you stop the spiral and get back to the truth about the person God created you to be?


As I discussed in two of my earlier posts, How do I change and Stop the Spiral, emotional spirals were an everyday occurrence in the early days of my healing process. Many of you have experienced something similar. If so, you are not alone. The anxiety that follows an emotional spiral is, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, the most common mental disorder in the U.S.A. A single event can send you into an emotional spiral where your rational mind stops functioning. Everything that you believe about yourself goes out the window. The question is, how do you stop the spiral and get back to the truth about the person God created you to be?  In this blog I will show you how you can learn to stop emotional spirals by completing the four R’s of The Taking Captives Journal: Review, Reveal, Regroup, and Rewrite. The Taking Captives Journal was the first tool I created as a response to God’s revelation about combining Biblical truth with psychological/educational truths for complete healing. The journal is the cornerstone of Relate (formerly Living as Conquerors).

For more information about Relate Click here

Review-Identify the Trigger

The first R-Review helps you identify the trigger by asking the question, what happened the moment before your emotions became intense? Take a minute to describe what you were doing immediately before you became upset. The key to success is brevity. Remember the goal is to capture your thought not ramble into emotional chaos. Limit your response to one or two sentences. Identifying the event allows you to jumpstart your rational mind and begins the process of capturing your initial thoughts and slowing the emotional response. Identifying “What Happened” also stops you from rambling and spiraling into other events that created the same emotional response.

Reveal-Your Thoughts and Feelings

Once you identify the trigger, you can proceed to the second R-Reveal: Thoughts and Feelings. In this step you will answer the question, what are my thoughts and feelings? Once again, limit your response to one or two sentences or one or two words. When you limit the emotions that you write down, you keep your emotions from escalating and allows you to move to the third R-Regroup where you can focus on what you need now.


You know what happened. You’ve identified what you thought and felt. Now you Regroup-to focus the type of connection you need in this circumstance. To determine what type of connection you need to answer the question, what will calm my emotions in this situation? We all have unique ways of connecting to others, to circumstances, and to God. They indicate not only how you might respond to life’s circumstances, but also help you focus your thoughts on the kind of connections that will empower you to move forward, find peace and make Christ-centered choices. Write down one or two ways of connecting that might calm your emotions.

Rewrite-God’s Solution

Now you are ready for the last and most important R-Rewrite where you bring God’s solution into the circumstance. You accomplish this by answering the question, what does the word say? Begin by reviewing what you wrote for the first 3R’s. Find a word or phrase that resonates with you. Next, use the concordance in your Bible. If you have a Bible app on your phone, look up keywords that are in your answers to the second and third R. Once you find a scripture that resonates with you, read the scripture aloud, write down the scripture, and then read it aloud again. Reading aloud engages two senses: sight, hearing. Writing engaging two senses: sight and touch. Reading aloud again increases the chance that the words stay in your mind and that the scripture will be there the next time you need it. Additionally, the truth of scripture calms you and brings peace to the chaos. It is important to complete all the sections each time that you journal to completely capture your thought and replace it with the Truth.

You can stop emotional spirals by completing the 4R’s of The Taking Thoughts Captives Journal

  • Review-The trigger
  • Reveal- Thoughts and Feelings
  • Regroup-(focus)
  • Rewrite-God’s Solution

The 4 R’s of The Taking Thoughts Captives Journal only work if you decide to make a change in the way you respond to the circumstances in your life. You must decide that you want to change and once again believe that you are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” I have shown you a tool, but like any tool, it is useless if you do not use it. The triggers will not stop. You must be consistent with completing the 4R’s every time your emotions seem too intense for a situation. While the process may not change the circumstance that triggered the emotions, it will change you in the circumstance.

The 4R’s take you out of the circumstance and allows you to look at it with your rational mind, figure out what you need and then allow God to replace the irrational thought with His truth.

What Can you do today to begin taking your thoughts captive?

  • First, the next time something causes you to begin a spiral, stop, review, reveal, regroup and rewrite. Step outside the moment and capture the thought.
  • Second, find someone to hold you accountable.
  • Third, use technology to assist you. There are several journaling apps that allow you to type narrative. Anyone of them can be an on-the-go journal.
  • Fourth, a paperback version of The Taking Captives Journal with space for 100 journals is available at Amazon.com. The journal also includes ten suggestions for types of connections and a list of fifty scriptures.
  • Finally, you can also Sign up to receive email notification of upcoming Relate events here.

NOTE: I was the co-founder of Living as Conquerors and co-authored The Taking Captives Journal with my daughter, Korine Martinez. In August 2016 I retired from the ministry. I gifted two wonderful friends and pastors, Cheryl and Eleanora Luke, with the intellectual property from the ministry,  Cheryl and Eleanora have renamed the ministry as Relate. I continue working with them as they work to grow the ministry. The material found in this blog is used with their permission.

Stop the Spiral

In an earlier post, I mentioned the idea of capturing my thoughts. I want to delve into that a bit more. Part of my recovery from the trauma I experienced as a child included learning how to manage emotional spirals.

In an earlier post, I mentioned the idea of capturing my thoughts. I want to delve into that a bit more. Part of my recovery from the trauma I experienced as a child included learning how to manage emotional spirals. I am by nature an emotional person.  Some might describe me as too sensitive.  I prefer the term empathetic, but I must agree that I overreact at times to seemingly ordinary events of the day.  My emotions and thoughts become my worst enemy.  When I think I have offended someone, my thoughts can quickly shift from “I shouldn’t have said that” to “Why do you hate me?” Early in my healing journey, a therapist diagnosed the problem as Borderline Personality Disorder. While she told me I a “nice borderline” I felt helpless to change the way my mind worked. I felt trapped by the diagnosis, but I did not give up.

At age 34 thoughts of despair, fear and anger engulfed me.

As I struggled to heal from the effects of childhood abuse, my thoughts seemingly had a life of their own.  Although friends and family surrounded me, I believed that no one could love me. I panicked when my daughter wanted to spend time with her best friend instead of with me. I cycle dialed friends if I did not hear from them immediately. I snapped at my daughter unpredictably over small things. To me, everything I did or said would probably end badly.  In nearly every situation my main thoughts were “Why do you hate me?” or “When are you going to leave me?” My emotions overtook reason and controlled my thoughts and behavior. I made dangerous, impulsive decisions almost everyday. I realized my survival and healing depended on learning how to manage my spiraling emotions.

In The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis writes, “The head rules the belly through the chest-the seat…of Magnanimity, of emotions organized by trained habit into stable sentiments.”[1] The chest functions as the liaison between the intellect and sentiment. Lewis’ reference to the chest suggests that the “heart” of man is the element that that causes us to have internal conversations when faced with moral decisions.  Relying solely on intellect with disregard for emotion of any kind results in men without chests whose unbridled emotions lead to impulsive, animalistic behavior.[2]  By allowing my emotions and thoughts to spiral out of control, I prevented the liaison to do its job.

For me, the first step in developing a strong chest was understanding the truth about who I am. In 1988, I remember sitting on a small hill just outside of Lubbock, Texas praying for relief from the inner turmoil. As the sun shone down on me from the clear west Texas sky, I imagined Christ holding me as a young child. As I sobbed quietly in His arms, He wiped away my tears and gently whispered, “I am all you need.” I shook my head in disbelief. He took a small tattered bundle from my tightly clenched fist. The bundle held my hurt, sorrow and all that I was, when He opened the bundle, a pure white dove flew toward the sky, “This is how God sees you when He looks through my eyes. No matter what the world tells you, this is who you are.” God did not see me as Borderline but as a pure, clean child. That image gave me hope and reminded of the truth of who I am.  I am not my hurt. I am His, always and forever, I am His.  I realized on the hilltop that I do have a choice.  My thoughts do not control me. I can choose to take every thought captive and stop the spiral.


“Take every thought Captive” Corinthians 10:5

Paul encouraged the Corinthians to take every thought captive, not just the ones you want to, but every thought.  That means to stop, think, and chose to act based on whether your thought in line with the truth.  Christ does not define you by your failures, your flaws or by what you have endured in your life.  You are His.  His eyes view you through the filter of His Father.”

Remember How Christ Sees You

If you struggle with the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, you may think, “I can’t do that. I can’t stop the thoughts in my head.” You may feel you have no choice because, after all, you are Borderline. I felt that way for years, but at 65, I live my life without chaos and only minimal fear of losing relationships. I worked hard to find the peace I have. I did not achieve it simply by praying or through hours of therapy. I achieved it by blending what God says about our thought processes, “Take every thought captive” and what psychology/education says about controlling emotions, “The head rules the belly through the chest-the seat…of Magnanimity, of emotions organized by trained habit into stable sentiments.[3]

I do not always remember to take every thought captive.  

I don’t always remember the comforting image that I saw on the Lubbock hillside when an unexpected crisis hits.  In those moments I turn to friends I trust to remind me what I have forgotten I ask them to tell me to choose to take every thought captive.  They gently urge me to line up each thought with the truth that God loves me.  Then the spiral stops and I can focus on the crisis without the distraction of negative thoughts. My daughter told me years ago, “Mom, God did not create you with Borderline Personality Disorder.” However, I still have moments where the old thought pattern creeps into my mind. I do not experience the extreme emotional swings or impulses that were everyday events for years. Taking my thoughts captive may not change the circumstances that led to the emotional event, but it does change me in that circumstance. Today I manage crises much better than I did 30 years ago. I am content and peaceful most days. I rarely think about the diagnosis that immobilized me for so many years. I did not change overnight and I am not without occasional episodes that lead my daughter to say with a smile, “Your borderline is showing, Mom.” Today a gentle comment is generally all it takes to remind me to stop, think and take my thought captive.

In my next post, I will describe how to take your thoughts captive by providing a tool that you can use everyday.

[1]  C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2001), 25.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

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