When a former critique group partner reconnected with me, seeking help with a friend’s manuscript, little did I know the contents would bless me in such profound warmth.
“Heart Psalms,” written by Susan Bell Merzoian, reads like love letters from God, a book that extends hope, comfort, guidance and, at times, gentle admonishment to people who follow Him and those still navigating their spiritual journey.
The Toledo resident who grew up in Morton never attended writers’ conferences or formally studied English. Instead, for three decades, she simply prayed, surrendered herself in the stillness of God’s presence, and listened to His whisperings in her heart, transcribing those words as His scribe.
She published the book on Amazon.com with a simple yet profound goal: “For people to know how much He loves them and cares about every detail of their lives.”
“Even if they don’t know Him,” she said, “God knows who they are.”
As I edited the manuscript, certain verses resonated in my heart, evoking memories of life’s trials and tribulations. For example, in early 2022, my niece lost her precious baby boy only three weeks before his due date. The doctor heard no heartbeat, and my heart shattered as she endured the harrowing experience of giving birth to a baby she knew was dead.
Several of Susan’s psalms spoke directly to a bereft mother’s anguish, offering solace and hope, such as this one:
Your baby is My joy — as are all babies.
An angelic head of gleaming curls,
trusting, glowing, innocent eyes
looking up at Me.
A tiny fist encircles My finger.
Precious … so precious.
He is My delight — your firstborn.
His days were over before they began.
But here, all eternity is his.
He has never known sorrow or pain
but only the joy of the Lord.
He is attended to by heavenly beings.
Your family finds great joy in him.
He is waiting, patiently waiting,
to be cuddled in your arms.
Don’t worry — he is safe here —
and patiently waiting.
The reason it rang so true? Because Susan lost her first child, a daughter, when she was six months pregnant. She knows the depths of that anguish, and she knows where to find comfort.
Other psalms delve into the profound love God holds for His daughters and sons, compassion for fractured hearts left in the wake of broken marriages, and advice for handling strained relationships with spouses and children, financial worries, health concerns, and uncertainties over the future.
In her prayers, Susan opens her heart, revealing a vulnerability that resonates with readers.
“The scary part was opening myself up because I’m a pretty private person,” Susan said. “I’m not outgoing. I don’t go up to people. Usually I wait for them to come to me. And so it was really scary to open myself that way.”
Susan is the daughter of Kenneth and Wilma Bell, who moved west from Missouri in the late 1940s to find work in lumber mills. Her father served as an Army sergeant during World War II, and her mother returned to Centralia College with two of her five children still at home to become a licensed practical nurse.
After graduating from Morton High School in 1974, Susan worked at Evergreen Telephone Co. until she married a high school classmate. They moved to Chehalis and later to Napavine. Her husband worked at a mill in Morton and then at Green Hill School. After a decade, she filed for divorce, largely because of his substance abuse and infidelity.
“I used to pray and pray and pray that God would change something,” she said. “He just did not change, and maybe it was me that needed to change.”
Despite their troubled marriage, they were blessed with two sons and a daughter.
Determined to support her family, Susan pursued an associate’s degree in medical studies at Centralia College. She and her husband separated, and nearly a year after their divorce was final, she married Steve Merzoian, of Toledo. The couple met while dancing at the former Bode’s Restaurant and Steak House near the Onalaska exit from I-5. They’ve been married for 35 years.
During the past nine years, Susan has worked for Providence Centralia Hospital, the past seven as a health unit coordinator.
Although she wasn’t raised attending church, Susan knew about God.
“I used to sit out by the cow gate, and I would sing to Jesus — and I cannot sing,” she said. “We would be driving somewhere, and you know how sometimes you see light coming through the clouds, I would always think to myself, ‘Oh, there’s light from heaven.’”
In high school while attending a youth group meeting with a friend, Susan had a profound spiritual encounter.
“I just felt like God come over me,” she said, “and I felt like I was going to start crying. I got up and went to the bathroom, and then one of my friends came in. She said, ‘That’s God. That’s what He does.’”
When her daughter was born in 1980, she started delving into the Bible and attending church. During times of adversity, she relied on Psalms 121, the Song of Ascents, lifting her eyes to God for divine intervention. After moving to Toledo, she attended church again, this time in the old roller skating rink, later at Bethel Church, and today at Valley of Blessing Ministries off the White Pass Highway.
Three decades ago, during a noisy television football game, she sought quiet in an upstairs bedroom, where she sat on the floor and kept hearing these words: “The time is short. Souls need to be saved. Witnessing needs to be done. I am with you.”
She wrote down the words and dated the entry. Over the course of years, she filled more than a dozen spiral notebooks with divine utterances she calls heart psalms.
“I started getting up really early before anyone else got up,” Susan recounted. “I would light a candle, and I would invite Jesus to be there with me. I just started reading Psalms, and then I would kind of rewrite it in my own words, and I think that drew me closer to Him. That’s kind of how that all started.”
During a church meeting roughly nine years ago, she shared one of her psalms with a friend. They prayed together and separately, asking what to do with the psalms. They both decided to publish a book.
“I wasn’t really planning to do anything with them,” Susan said. “I always sat at the foot of my bed, and that’s where I would meet Him. I would just cling to the hem of His garment while he told me these things. And my favorite way for Him to tell me stuff was as I was writing one line down, He would be telling me the next. That’s what I did most of the time. It’s like a song to me, speaking into my heart.”
In her eyes, she was simply God’s humble scribe.
After years marked by delays and life interruptions, Susan and her friend, Cindy, dedicated the past nine months to a collaborative effort resulting in a 575-page opus. Susan meticulously designed the book, which is divided into a dozen chapters. Each addresses a facet of God’s boundless attributes — love, faithfulness, comfort, mercy, rebuke, encouragement, guidance, edicts, promises, hope, prophesies and salvation. It can be found on Amazon.com.
“Without Cindy’s help and encouragement, it never would have happened,” Susan said.
Now, having completed their part, Susan is relying on God’s divine plan to share the words with those who need them.
Julie McDonald, a personal historian from Toledo, may be reached at email@example.com.