My story is deeply personal, coming from one who has plummeted into cavernous heartache and resurfaced, stronger. It’s also a story I don’t own alone. It was public, it was shared, right from the start.

The Amish school shooting of 2006 was an event that shocked the world but especially our quiet community in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania—an event for which my beloved son Charlie was responsible. Nine years later, the grief and the loss still linger. And yet, while grappling with their grief, the Amish promptly began calling it the 'happening,' choosing to look for a positive slant—so characteristic of them.

Returning to any semblance of a normal life in the face of such circumstances is different for each member involved. Healing is never identical. Like each of the others, I had to choose how I would react to this nightmare. Would I accept the reality that things would never be the same again? Surrender and submission are often considered weakness. However, in this situation they were evidence of strength of character. Forgiveness is not an emotional response, a feeling—it is a choice. The fact that each member of my family chose to forgive has brought tremendous healing to all of us.

As my story unfolds, there is joy mixed with the adversity. We cannot restore what was lost yesterday, we cannot replace the lives of those we loved, but we can move forward into one tomorrow after another—trusting in a God who genuinely cares about every feeling and emotion along the way.

What in your own life are you still grasping with? Bitterness, anger, or even a lurking desire that the one who hurt you also face some hurt of their own? None of this moves us forward. We can remain stuck in the swirls of our minds, or we can surrender ourselves to the care of a compassionate God.

Trust in God wholeheartedly, lean not on our own understanding—is this really possible? This is what I’ve done, and what I’m determined to do in the days and months and years ahead. We can never figure life out in our own finite minds. Letting go and letting God be supreme has given me strength where I had none.

This has especially been my experience in bolstering an ongoing relationship with Rosanna, the most injured of the five survivors. Remarkable grace allows me to continue a profound friendship I could never have imagined.

Making the right choices in the hardest of places has given me strength beyond my own ability to cope. I hope you will join me on this journey into tomorrows—and discover, as I have, an intriguing joy.

It’s time to tell an even wider audience about me, about them, about our interwoven lives, as I’ve done in my newly released book, Forgiven. This is a story of how a community confronts distress and moves forward, together.

For more information visit joythroughadversity.com

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