I remember well the day the call went out over social media to pray for a little boy named Fulton who had been badly burned in a homesteading accident. I remember immediately getting down on my knees and asking God’s intersession for this little one and his family. I held my daughter Courtney’s hand as we prayed together that Fulton would be healed. I watched the updates and prayed and prayed and watched for more updates on Fulton’s condition for several months and we continued to lift him and his family up to the Lord. To this day, he remains on my daily prayer list as his recovery continues some four years later.
During these past few years I have gotten to interact a bit with Fulton’s mom, and author of the book, Cassandra Poppe, and was thrilled when she sent me a copy of her finished book all about her and Fulton’s journey through this harrowing experience and how God remained steadfast and faithful. I eagerly grabbed a cup of hot and and dove in. I was totally unprepared for the journey I was about to take.
“Fire of Love” is the story of Fulton Poppe, Cassandra’s youngest son, who was burned over 43% of his body during a homesteading accident a few years ago. As much as “Fire of Love” reveals the details around Fulton’s accident and the first months of his recovery, the story really delves into Cassandra’s journey as wife, mother and care giver. It’s a love story between Cassandra and God played out through her loving service to her son.
The first few chapters are a direct punch to the gut. I wept as Cassandra walked me through the physical tragedy unfolding for her family. I could see it, the explosive flames bursting in the air. I could hear the screams of “Fulton’s on fire”. The desperation of the moment played out in beautiful, heart wrenching words Cassandra wrote from her deepest places of fear. It is an intense read and I had to stop once or twice to prepare myself for what I thought was coming.
That’s where the surprise lays. Cassandra pulls away from the scene of Fulton’s accident and the descriptions of what physically happened to his body and begins to reveal her heart as a wife and mother. It’s in this journey that my heart was drawn into Cassandra’s story. She is a gifted writer who pulls no punches as she lays out her faults and shortcomings to the reader all while drawing us into a most intimate relationship she has with God.
It’s all there, the good the bad and the really beautiful. It’s a hard won love that exists between them as it is for all of us. Cassandra is not perfect by any means but I cannot help but admire her tenacity in strive to love God above herself. To direct her will in such a way as to find joy in the midst of so much pain.
When people asked Cassandra “How can God allow such suffering?” in regards to all Fulton has been through she simply answers “Sometimes God’s love looks very ugly on the surface.” I think it may be the most brilliant answer I have ever heard for why suffering exists.
Suffering comes to us all throughout our lives. It’s what we do when it comes that’s important. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it comes like a roaring fire, in Fulton’s case literally. Suffering cannot be avoided since we live in a fallen world filled with sinful people who want no part of suffering. I mean who would? I know it is difficult to watch my daughter Courtney fight to breathe during her seizures. It was equally hard to watch my dad go through chemotherapy. To love someone who is suffering and to be able to do nothing to stop it?? It’s pure hell.
However, St. Thomas Moore says:
Every tribulation whichever comes our way either is sent to be medicinal, if we will take it as such, or may become medicinal, if we make it such, or is better than medicinal, unless we forsake it.
The lesson here: Don’t forsake the suffering. It’s God’s invitation to enter into His passion. He either gives it or allows it to happen, either way, it’s an opportunity for grace, for conversion and for a deeper walk with Him.
I understand what Cassandra is saying differently than most having laid my own daughter in the grave almost two and a half years ago now. I understand as a wife, mother and caregiver for over twenty-two years, the ability to direct my will, to seek joy every single day, in all the crap, the muck and the mire that came our way, is a supernatural act of love that comes from the grace of being loved by God first.
When Courtney was alive, I made many mistakes in her care. I was selfish at times and resentful at others. It was not an easy journey but t was one filled with grace. I loved her as best I could. When I embraced the suffering, I was able to love her in a deeper way bringing both of us joy and peace in the midst of tremendous chaos. I miss my daughter. Life seemed so much easier with her here. I knew what my job was and by the end, I had gotten very good at it. Then God took my Courtney home to Him and everything changed yet again.
I am still made for love. I am still called to enter into suffering, whether in my grief or something else, and embrace it with all my heart. I am still called to love others as God loved me first. It’s easier some days than others but I will spend the remainder of my lifetime perfecting that love.
Thank you Cassandra for sharing your heart and Fulton’s story with the world. Thank you for the beautiful prayers you wrote in the book and the even more stunning observations on what it means to love. Thank you for allowing me and the world to see your heart and hoe God continues to draw you close to Him one challenge at a time.
“Fire of Love” people. It’s a hauntingly beautiful book. Go read it. Take your time pondering it’s richness and see where God may be leading you to love.
Blessings and Grace,