Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle Reading App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.
Alex Tresniowski is a former human-interest writer at People and has written several books, most notably The Vendetta, which was purchased by Universal Studios and used as a basis for the movie Public Enemies. His most recent book, An Invisible Thread, has spent more than twenty weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.
Crystal Leigh McVea was born in southwest Oklahoma and still lives there today. She is a schoolteacher and has four lovely children. Crystal and her husband Virgil, a US Army veteran, are devout Christians and active in their local church.
SOMEDAY SOON, ONE OF MY PRECIOUS THREE-YEAR-OLD twins is going to ask me the question “Mommy, what happened to you when you died?”
Someday they will overhear me telling my story to someone and want to know more about it. They will look at me with their big, innocent eyes and try to make sense of what they’re hearing. It isn’t always easy explaining what happened even to adults, so how am I going to explain it to my kids?
There is so much I want to share with them, so much I want them to know. You see, my story is one of hope and forgiveness and salvation, and of the glorious healing power of God’s presence. It’s the story of what I saw and what I learned when, during a hospital stay, I left my body for nine minutes and went to heaven and stood before God. And it’s the story of how, when I came back to Earth, my life was profoundly and permanently changed—changed down to the very core of my being.
But it is also a story that, for the longest time, I didn’t want to tell.
I live in a wonderful town in southern Oklahoma, in a community of friendly and God-fearing people, a place where passion for Jesus runs deep. Still, I know how much damage a juicy piece of gossip can cause. I was a teacher—someone parents trust to teach and care for their children—and I was afraid that if people heard my story, I’d be shunned and ridiculed and maybe even fired.
I was afraid people would think I was flat-out crazy.
And even though God’s instructions to me could not have been any clearer—“Tell them what you can remember”—I struggled to understand why I had been chosen and what exactly He wanted me to do.
I struggled, because I’m the least likely person to be telling anyone about God.
Put simply, I’m not ever going to be on any short list for sainthood. Early in my life I was a sinner, and I’m pretty sure I broke every one of the Ten Commandments. That’s right, not just some—all ten.
Even the big one—Thou shalt not kill. When I was younger, I committed a sin I believed to be so grievous and so unforgivable, I was sure God could never love me, if He even existed at all.
And that was the other thing about me—when it came to God’s existence, I was a skeptic. I had grown up in the heart of the Bible Belt, been baptized not once but four times, gone to church regularly, and heard a million sermons about God. And yet, deep in my heart, I wasn’t convinced. Over and over I challenged God to prove He existed, and every time He did. I’d set up a new roadblock, a new challenge for Him to overcome.
I saw the hardships in my life as evidence that God had no interest in protecting me from harm. I questioned Him, and I cursed Him. And at times I vowed to cut Him out my life.
And still—and still!—God chased me and wooed me and loved me and chose me, and then He sent me back to this world to share a message.
And so, eventually, I began to tell my story. I told strangers in restaurants, customers at Walmart, and patrons eating ice cream at Braum’s—anywhere and everywhere I felt God’s familiar nudge.
“Excuse me,” I’d say. “My name is Crystal McVea, and in 2009 I died and went to heaven.”
How’s that for an icebreaker?
And what happened after I started telling the full story of my journey to heaven is a remarkable, miraculous tale all its own.
Now I am sharing that story with you, in this book. Believe me, writing a book is not anything I ever thought I’d do. It’s not like it was on my bucket list (like taking my kids to see a Broadway show and going to the Grand Canyon), and every single day I worked on this book was a day I had to pinch myself to make sure it was really happening.
But as soon as I got over my fears and started testifying, I knew that God’s plan for me was to share what happened with as many people as I could. And frankly I can only spend so many hours a day at Walmart accosting strangers in the checkout line. Writing a book will leave me lots more time to get dinner ready for the kids.
Now, are there people out there who will think I’m a fraud, or a religious nut, or crazy? I’m sure there are. Maybe some people who pick up this book will toss it across the room midway through and write it off as fiction. Who is this mom from Oklahoma who says she stood with God? Why should we believe anything she says? One response I sometimes get is, “Oh, Crystal, I believe that you believe you saw God. I just don’t know if I believe it.” That’s just a polite way of saying I’m either lying or crazy without actually having to say it.
The truth is, I know my story is hard for some people to believe. I know what I went through is beyond the realm of what we can experience on Earth. Listen, if someone had come up to me before this happened and told me they had died and stood with God, I’m pretty sure I would have been skeptical, too.
But I also know this book deals with the biggest and most important questions of them all: Does God exist? Is there a heaven? What is God’s plan for us? Why are we even here?
I certainly don’t pretend to have all the answers. In fact, I still have plenty of questions. Nor am I claiming to be anyone special. I’m a run-of-the-mill American mom living in the heartland. I spend my days begging my twins to take their naps, driving my older kids around to practices, and trying hard to eat better and lose a little weight (and not always succeeding). Before this happened I loved my life as a mother and a wife and a teacher, and that life fulfilled me deeply.
But what happened to me did happen, and now I know—after a lifetime of not knowing—that God does exist. He gloriously, beautifully, wonderfully exists.
And since God told me to share my whole story, that is what I’m doing—even though much of my story is painful and not always pretty. You will learn as you get deeper into this book that for most of my life I lived with terrible shame and horrible secrets. For the longest time I hated myself and believed I was worthless, and as a result I made so many bad choices.
But it’s important to realize who I was in order to understand who I have become.
Some of what I describe about my time in heaven may be familiar to you from other accounts of people dying and coming back—the quality of the light, the shimmering entranceway, the presence of angels—but some of it probably isn’t. Everything I describe is absolutely, 100 percent how I remember it—that has always been my one and only rule for sharing my testimony. Nothing is embellished or exaggerated even the tiniest bit. I always tell people, “If I was going to make this up, I’d have made it a lot more dramatic.” What I describe is what I experienced, nothing more or less.
What I can say is that the things God showed me were simply astonishing in their power and impact, and now the reality of God’s presence bursts forth from my heart every day. The truth is, I was more alive in those nine minutes than I have ever been in all my years on this Earth.
And now I can only hope that through my descriptions, however inadequate they may be, you will feel even a fraction of the power and the impact and the absolute glory of what I experienced.
NOT LONG AGO I read about a national Pew survey that showed the number of young Americans who have doubts about the existence of God is growing. In 2007, only 17 percent of people aged thirty or younger said they had some doubt that God was real. In 2012, that number went up to 32 percent. That’s roughly a third of young Americans surveyed who aren’t sure if they believe God is real.
Then there is a recent comment from Professor Stephen Hawking, the famous Cambridge scientist. “There is no heaven or afterlife,” he said in a 2012 interview. “That is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”
Maybe the Pew poll and Hawking’s comment should upset me, but they don’t. And the reason they don’t is because I used to be one of those doubters. I understand the skepticism, because a skeptical streak still runs through me. As a kid I questioned everything, and as an adult I’m still nosing around, searching for answers.
And while I no longer have any doubts about God and His power, I also realize that I am lucky, because I got to stand with Him. For many others, faith is about believing in a God they can’t see. And for some, faith means believing in a God they have questions about. Just because you have questions doesn’t mean you can’t have faith.
My point is, I can’t prove that what happened to me actually happened. Reading this book requires some measure of faith. Ultimately, what you take from my story depends on what you believe.
In the hallway of our home, just outside the bedroom where my youngest daughter plays with her purple stuffed donkey and my youngest son cooks up adventures for his little wooden robot, not far from where my oldest boy lifts weights and my teenage daughter texts her friends nonstop, a verse from the Bible is stenciled across the wall in black script. It reads
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,
And the evidence of things unseen.”
Because of what happened to me, I know that God is re...
More About the Authors
Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.
I just finished reading, Waking Up in Heaven by Crystal McVea and Alex Tresniowski. I am very thankful for this message: God is in control and He has a plan for our lives. ('Funny', it's the same message He's given me in my own writing!) For Crystal, it took years for God to get her attention, years for her to know for sure that He is real, years for Him to draw her to Himself. And yet, He did draw this doubtful, young woman to himself. Crystal has barred her soul in this book, not to get attention, but only because God has asked her to tell her story. Thank you Crystal. This book is hard for someone like me to read, I like to read 'feel good' stories and for most of this book, I can't say it made me 'feel good'! But Crystal's story is all too common in our world today... abuse, misunderstanding, sinfulness, heartache and healing. Her story is about the power of God's forgiveness and that He wants to draw us to Himself. He is in control and He has a plan for each of us. This is a must read if you've ever doubted God's love or doubted God's existence or doubted that He could care about someone like you. He is, He does and He's calling you.
I am 37-years-old and I have read several near-death experiences books (I have even had a near-death experience myself), but I was very disappointed with Crystal's book. I have to admit that the autobiography about her life was good, but unfortunately, that is all her book was, an autobiography. Crystal's book (in my opinion), was more about her life and the things she has endured in her life versus her near-death experience. I was expecting more information about her experience with God, Jesus, angels, etc, and I was very disappointed in the lack of content about her near-death experience. I also did not like the style of the book (how Crystal would go back and forth from her earth life to her near-death experience). I was very disappointed in the book, but maybe it will help someone else, it just wasn't for me.
God "nudged" me to read this book after hearing a radio talk show host, who I don't care for and don't usually listen to, mention Crystal' s story. Her story is truly inspirational and fills you with such hope- God's love is pure, does exist, and he has a perfect plan for each of us.
Was this review helpful to you?
I have read about 10 books on this subject and find all of them intriguing. Some people will become bored with hearing about the author's life experiences, but this is essential to the story. Our lives are a journey and every experience shapes us. I especially like stories of near death experiences from people who are not particularly religious to begin with. It makes it more believable. So when you read these type of stories, you have to take it in as their story. After you read many of these types of stories, you can form your own opinion. I want to thank Crystal for writing this book.
Was this review helpful to you?
It is possible that the woman's story is true, but it is also possible that it could be just a money-making scam. In my opinion, the book does not have the details and dignity that one would expect to be presented from an ethereal experience. As other negative reviews have stated, the book is mostly about her life. She states that God told her to tell people everything she remembered about her experience, but she remembered very little (she admits that in the book). The book is about 250 pages, but her purported experience would probably need no more than 4 pages. I agree that some information about her life was needed for her to illustrate how God will grant his mercy, forgiveness and love to those who have done things he would severely disapprove; that said and supposing her story to be true, the book should have been no more than 30 pages. At times she also mentions financial problems in her life, which suggests that financial relief may be the true purpose of the book, especially when there is so little of her ethereal experience; and what little there is one could easily fabricate. Also in my opinion, the writing style of the book made for a somewhat irritating read: The author would interject chapters dealing with her ethereal experience among those dealing with her life.
Was this review helpful to you?
I bought it to read her story about her experience in heaven. Instead it was a non stop horror read about her life. Blow by blow in graphic descriptions of life events. I do not suggest at all if you are looking for a good read.
Was this review helpful to you?
This was an amazing story that the authors share with us. Crystal lived a life that involved a lot of struggles that seemed to make her question God's existence. Her life turned around the day she was pronounced dead and then came back to life. They are many book written about near death experiences but I think this is one of the most amazing I have read. I think it is because of the author's background and how her experience draws her to God. God told her to share her experience with others. She never thought about writing a book, but she shares how this idea came to her.I find reading about near death experiences very interesting and I am often drawn to books such as this. I have read and reviewed many but this is the first I have read by a woman. Other were by children and men and they dd not include a life full of difficulties as this author describes. Her story i touching and truly amazing. I found it to be full of hope, encouraging and very inspirational. If you like reading this type of book, then I highly recommend this book to you.
Was this review helpful to you?