6

The Other Side of Grief

March 31st, 2014

 

I was talking with a friend the other day about life, and I found myself laughing.
We were sharing some things that are going on in each other’s lives, and I realized that the entire time we talked I had a smile on my face.
I felt so happy, so full of joy.
And I said out loud to her,
“Is there an “other side of grief” while I’m still on this planet?”
I’ve grieved for so long over the loss of both Adrienne and Nick that it almost doesn’t feel right to be okay feeling so full of joy.
I love and miss them both so much.
How can I laugh so often, smile so much, feel so full of hope?
As I thought about the concept of an “other side of grief,”  I thought of Jesus’ words in John 10:10,
I have come that they may have life, 
and have it to the full.
The reality is this:
Jesus conquered death on the cross.
Jesus took the changing of the seasons of nature and
made them a reality in the course of human of life.
Man had lived a long time facing death with no hope of anything more.
Winter had lasted a long, long time for mankind.
Then Jesus came.
He broke free from the grave.
He rolled away the stone.
He kissed death goodbye………………….forever.
And the day of His resurrection marked the ending of winter as mankind knew it!
No wonder the disciples ran and spread the story of Jesus even in the face of persecution and their own earthly death.
They had watched their friend die a cruel death on a cross and then shared life with Him again as a walking, breathing, laughing, hugging person.
Their long winter became a glorious spring.
And I believe that “YES” there is an “other side of grief” on this planet.
I believe that eventually everyone whose heart is broken, whose life has been shattered by loss, will find reasons to love life again even here……………………………when Jesus is their source of Hope and Strength.
How long will winter last?
I think it’s different for each of us.
I can’t measure my season of grief by the length of anyone else’s, and we should all be careful not to judge the season of grief for anyone around us.
All I know is this:
A long winter only intensifies the beauty of spring.
 
So, today, if you find yourself in the middle of a long, winter season, please believe me when I say, I have spent a long, long time in that season too.  I understand your sadness.
 
But also believe me when I say,  “Your spring is coming!!!”
 
Not that you will never feel sadness again or be ambushed by grief when you walk into special places or smell certain fragrances or celebrate significant anniversaries or holidays.
 
Life will still be hard.
Life will never be the same.
 
But I do believe Jesus came to give you life to the full even in your grief, and because of that, I do believe your spring is coming 
HERE on this earth.
 
You will laugh again here.
You will feel complete joy again here.
You will feel deep pleasure again here.
How?
 
By trusting in the power of the cross and Jesus’ earthly resurrection.
 
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 
“Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”
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C.S. Lewis

March 30th, 2014

Quote

Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.

7

When God Speaks

March 26th, 2014

 

“The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli.  
In those days the Word of the Lord was rare, there were not many visions.”
I Sam. 3:1
 
I can’t imagine living at a time in history when there was no Bible to turn to and yet God was silent.
 
I wonder if stories about God speaking to men and women like Abraham, Sarah, Moses, and Joshua, were passed along through families, and I wonder if people tried to find God in things as ordinary as heart-shaped mud puddles?
 
Or I wonder if they just moved along throughout their day not really thinking about whether or not God had anything new to say?
 
Whatever the case, things changed one night for Samuel.
 
As he lay down one early evening before the “lamp of God had not yet gone out,” he heard a voice say, 
 
“Samuel.”
 
At first, he thought the voice was Eli the priest’s, who was now old and nearly blind; and so he ran to him to see what he needed.
 
This continued several more times and every time Eli told Samuel it was not his voice and to go back and lie down which Samuel did only to hear his name called again.
 
Finally, Eli realized it must be God speaking, so he told Samuel that if he heard the voice again he should reply,
 
“Speak, for your servant is listening.”
 
When Samuel did this, God shared a prophesy with him that would set in motion a major change in both Eli and Samuel’s life.
 
 
Reading this story this morning, I was reminded of a night over five years ago about two weeks after Nick died.
 
I was laying in bed so full of anger and grief that I felt I could explode.  My heart pounded and my head throbbed from so much crying.
 
I remember the intense feelings inside of me as I lay in the dark next to my snoring husband.
 
How could Tim sleep when my heart was so broken?
How would I ever survive life without Nick?
I tossed and turned; and the more I heard Tim snore, 
the angrier I became.
 
I have never wanted to hit someone like I wanted to hit Tim that night.  I have never been quite beside myself like I was on that particular night.  It was as if the whole world had stopped spinning, and I was left lifeless in a dark room……………….
filled with the annoying sound of a snoring man.
 
My mind was incapable of sympathizing with the exhaustion Tim must have been experiencing as he also carried heavy grief.  
 
Nick was his buddy, and Nick was gone from his life too.
 
No, on this night, it was all about me.
 
I was furious with the world, and on this particular night I felt as if God had abandoned me forever.
 
That’s when I heard one very clear word in the darkness,
 
“Tammy.”
 
I turned to Tim to see if he had realized I was so upset only to hear another very loud snore.  He was still sound asleep.  I thought I must be crazy, and I turned again on my pillow in anger.
 
Then I heard it again,
“Tammy,”
followed by Tim’s loud and persistent snoring.
 
Suddenly, I knew.
 
I was overcome with the awareness of God’s presence in my dark bedroom.
 
I still wish today that I had said, 

“Speak, for your servant is listening.”
 
But I didn’t.
 
I just felt overwhelmed with peace as I realized God was gently saying, 
 
“You have got to get a grip.  
I am here.  
In your darkest night, I am with you.  
In your moment of greatest agony, you are not alone.
I know your heart is broken.  You will not walk this road alone.”
 
 
I fell to sleep not long after that; and I have carried that audible, clear, calm voice of God with me ever since.
 
I don’t speak of that moment often.
 
Some would think I had lost my mind if I did.
 
But this morning as I read about Samuel’s life-changing encounter with God, I felt like I was suppose to share with anyone who feels as if life is more than you can bear,
 
“God is with you.”
 
He wants to change your life with one small word, 
“Your name.”
 
Speak your name today and imagine God gently saying it aloud to you.
 
In that moment, imagine God speaking all the words you need to hear.
 
Calm down.
Be strong.
Trust me.
Believe me.
Lean on me.
Take a deep breath.
Let me carry you.
I love you.
I am yours.
You are mine.
 
 
Then speak His Son’s name often as you cling to Him for strength in a tough, tough world.
 
We live in a time when hearing God’s voice is rare, but I still believe He speaks through nature, through His Word, and through prayer.
 
He is with us in the loudest part of our day if we will just tune into Him and listen.
 
He is with us in the quietness of the morning or night when no one else is near us.
 
God longs to be heard above the loud snoring of your world.
 
Listen for Him.
 
Look for Him.
 
He is speaking to you.
 
He longs for you to hear His voice and follow His lead.
 
Job 33:14
 
For God speaks in one way,
 
and in two, though man does
 
not perceive it.
 
 
John 10:27
 
My sheep hear my voice, 
 
and I know them, 
 
and they follow me.
 
8

Following His Lead

March 25th, 2014

 

 
Sometimes life can leave us feeling hurt, sad, confused, or even angry.
 
I’m so thankful God provided the perfect model of what kindness, compassion, and forgiveness look like.
 
Let’s follow His lead today,
 
“Because Nice Matters.”
 
 
 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
 
Ephesians 4:31-32
9

How Jail Sets People Free

March 21st, 2014

 

It wasn’t a normal place to have Bible study,
but I couldn’t wait to spend time with her again talking about God and the Bible.
Tammy, an inmate who shared both my name and a life filled with loss, would be walking into the make-shirt church service soon; and I stood waiting with other women from our church who had come to share a little love with women who need to be reminded that God is with them……….even behind the doors of a jail cell.
Fresh words of hope marked in my Bible, I was eager to share the only way I had truly overcome my own pain.
As I saw her in the line of women wearing orange scrubs,
I noticed a small smile on her face.
Her empty eyes seemed more alive.
Just last week she had told me that she was so tired she wished she could fall asleep and not wake up again.
Just last week she had said, “Every day I feel like I lose something else.”
Relief swept over me as I realized something had changed in the past seven days.
I wasn’t expecting to hear the words she said into my ear, though.
As we hugged, my heart was overwhelmed as I heard her say,
“I read your book this week.  
I wrote down so many things I was feeling. 
I especially loved your story about the toothpaste.  
That’s exactly how I feel.”
On the inside my body was collapsing with the thought of how my emptiness after losing Nick was somehow helping a woman who had lost her entire future.  I was overwhelmed with the reality that God’s faithfulness and the words of my own testimony had not only helped me overcome my own heartache but were now helping another Tammy overcome her own deep sadness.
 I remembered the toothpaste story and how the day I took the picture of my nearly empty tube I had felt just like it.
Squeezed and squeezed until nothing was left, but still trying to give just a little more to whoever asked of me.
I remembered thinking that with God’s help I could surely keep giving even when I felt empty.  And I remembered writing those words through tears.
I also remembered that a woman from our church group had bought one of my books as a gift for a different inmate about a month ago, and I realized she must have shared this book with Tammy.
But in that split second all I could do was smile and tell her how much she had been on my mind all week and happy I was to see her with a smile.
Later in the evening, I shared Revelation 12 with Tammy and the other women from her cell.
We talked about how the devil wants to defeat them,
but how we have the power to overcome him by the blood of Jesus and our faithfulness in sharing the word of their testimony.
Jackie shared about how the Word of God needs to be like food to our soul, and Lucy and Ruthie shared about how we are called to be lights to the world.
We even sang, “This Little Light of Mine,” with the girls, and I was amazed how many of them had learned this song as little girls but had somehow wandered away from the Light somewhere along the way in life.  Their faces seemed to shine as they sang the words again as broken women.
As I think about Tammy and so many other women who will wake this morning feeling far from victorious as they sit on metal bunk beds surrounded by cinder block walls,
I am reminded that nothing can separate them from the love of God.
I am reminded of the poem another inmate wrote and shared with us last week, and how this poem affirms that God is with them every step of their journey.
Keisha, the author of the poem, gave me permission last night to share her words with all of you.
She’ll be leaving our county jail soon and heading to prison for an undetermined amount of time,
but I believe she will leave a changed person.
I believe she will leave empowered to be the woman God has always longed for her to be.
As you read Keisha’s words, think about how God has worked in your own life over the past twelve months and how He longs to work in your life every single day.
No matter what you find yourself up against, whether it’s grief, financial struggles, marriage problems, parenting struggles, or even conviction because of past mistakes, know that God loves you, He walks every road with you, and He longs to transform you from the inside out……………….every single day all year long for as long as you walk on this earth.
He is a life-changer, and
He will use any setting to do His work.
NOTHING CAN SEPARATE YOU FROM THE LOVE OF GOD!
(ROMANS 8)
Listen to how He has worked in Keisha’s life over the past twelve months.
Twelve Months of Jail
by Keisha Owens
On the first month of jail, the God Lord gave to me
Pain and regret and bouts of misery.
On the second month of jail, the Good Lord gave to me
Painful acceptance that I’m no longer free.
On the third month of jail, the Good Lord gave to me
The ability to learn that He is what I need.
On the fourth month of jail, the Good Lord gave to me
A group of great women who brought me to my knees.
On the fifth month of jail, the Good Lord gave to me
A peace in this place.  I faced it with grace.
On the sixth month of jail, the Good Lord gave to me
Hope and encouragement from those I thought had strayed.
On the seventh month of jail, the Good Lord gave to me
Sanity and faith when my spirits began to sway.
On the eighth month of jail, the Good Lord gave to me
Courage and patience when it seemed never ending.
On the ninth month of jail, the Good Lord gave to me
The willingness to fight when my future lost it’s light.
On the tenth month of jail, the Good Lord gave to me
This place to call “home,” where you’re never all alone.
On the eleventh month of jail, the Good Lord gave to me
Fear and relief that I may soon be free to leave.
On the twelfth month of jail, the Good Lord gave to me
Trust in myself – I believe I will not fail.
The twelve months of jail have taught me so much.
I know it seems odd. I think it was luck.
God put me in here to show me His love.
(Please keep Tammy and Keisha and all men and women serving time for past mistakes in your daily prayers.  God loves them with an unconditional, never-changing, eternal love; and only God can use jail to set people free.)
10

The Secret to Overcoming

March 20th, 2014

 

It’s easy to feel defeated in life.

Incurable Illness
Death of a loved one
Broken friendships
Lost jobs
Past Mistakes
Failing marriages
Unfair employers
The list goes on and on as to why we may wake up and feel as if life has gotten the best of us.
The devil thrives on our defeat.
He smiles when we lose in life.
He grins when we are slipping.
In John 10, Jesus says,
The thief comes only to 
steal and kill and destroy.
When I look at my life through the lens of this verse,
it’s easier to regain a proper perspective.
In those moments when I sense part of my life or joy or purpose is being
stolen, killed, or destroyed by circumstances,
I am beginning to understand the meaning of spiritual warfare.
I am stronger when I remember I have an enemy who wants to see me fail,
because in those moments I am also reminded of who is NOT my enemy.
I am reminded of who wants to see me succeed.
I am reminded of who loves me.
I am reminded of the One who fights for me and died for me.
I am reminded of  Jesus who followed the words above about the devil with this promise,
I have come that they may have life, 
and have it to the full.
 
Do you ever feel defeated, overwhelmed, overcome, beaten down?
 
Do you ever feel as if you have been robbed of something or someone?
 
Do you ever feel as if you cannot make it another day?
 
I met a lady last week in jail who told me she was so tired she wished she could fall asleep and just not wake up.
 
She said every day seemed to bring news of one more thing she was losing.
 
My heart broke as I looked into her empty eyes,
and I struggled to find any words of comfort.
 
What could I leave her with as I walked out of the jail that evening?
 
All I could think of in that moment was Joshua 1:9.
 
Nick’s favorite verse.
 
I did not want her to feel discouraged.
I did not want her to feel afraid.
I wanted her to feel strong and courageous.
I wanted her to know that God was with her no matter what.
 
But as I think about her today and I hope that I get to see her tonight,
I want to share a verse that I believe holds the secret to overcoming everything in this life that seems to want to get the best of us.
 
In Revelation 12, the devil is finally facing being destroyed.
In this chapter a loud voice from Heaven proclaims victory and proclaims how the victory was won,
 
 
They triumphed over him
 
by the blood of the Lamb
 
and by the word of their

testimony.
 
In my life I have discovered that these two things are the secret to overcoming life’s struggles.
First, I have to know and believe and proclaim that Jesus died for me.
He conquered death so that I could live a courageous, purposeful life.
Second, I have to share my story of how He rescued me.  I have to have a testimony.
I want this sweet lady in jail to first know and believe that Jesus died for her, taking all her mistakes and failures with Him to the cross.  Because of this, she can experience freedom even in jail.  Second, I want her to know that sharing her testimony within the jail cell will cause her to see life as purposeful, passionate, and full of promise until the day she walks freely again.  She can share God’s love for her with inmates, guards, and even her family back home through phone calls and letters.  I believe she will begin to overcome the devil’s mission to defeat her by the power of the blood and the word of her testimony.
Today, you can overcome your struggles in the very same way.
Remember, you do have an enemy.
Don’t be surprised when life is difficult or unpleasant.
But also remember that you have someone on your side who already won the victory.
Overcome today by the power of His blood and the word of your testimony.
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The Lord turned to him (Gideon) and said,
“Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand.  
Am I not sending you?”

Judges 6:14

One thing’s for sure.

God never “needed” the strength of any person to do what He needed to do.

If God decided to accomplish something, He didn’t look for the biggest, the strongest, the smartest, or the bravest.

No, God seemed to look under all the wrappings of this world for the heart of a person.

The willingness to obey Him………….no matter the cost.
I’m rereading a book I read while Nick was fighting cancer.
This book about a man name Benaniah combined with my Bible reading this morning about Gideon has once again reminded me that I do not have to feel strong to be effective for God’s work.

If He is with us, who can be against us?

I don’t know what you’re facing today, 
but remember this,

“When you are weak, He is strong.”
(Paraphrased from II Cor. 12:9)


Live out of your weaknesses today, fully embracing His amazing strength.

When God is with you, nothing can be against you.
(Promise from Romans 8)

I love that God transcends time and space.
He is with us, beside, behind us, and before us.
He is in us, around us, over us, and under us.
He knows what we’ve already faced,and
He knows what we will face today.

He not only wants to handle all our doubts and fears but also use them to change the world around you.

Today, let go of whatever is holding you back.

Let God work out of your nothingness.

Give Him all you are not and trust Him to make you all you can be by His strength and power.

If you feel weak, GO ANYWAY!
11

 

It’s cozy under my blankets.
My alarm begins to beep.
I hear it fade in and out as I try to get comfortable on my pillow.
But my clock, like a determined child, continues beeping until I finally sit up.
I tap the snooze button a couple of times before giving in to the reality that night has ended even though the sun has not quite made its appearance through my bedroom window.
What is it about the power of mumbling “ten more minutes” that causes me to set my alarm clock thirty minutes earlier than necessary?
Finally, I face the fact that my three snooze button gifts have ended.
It’s either get up and get moving now or miss my chance, my one pocket of time when no one demands my attention.
So, I stumble through the darkness of our bedroom,
sometimes tripping over one of our dogs, sometimes stubbing my toe on a misplaced computer bag, and eventually I find my way to the kitchen.
I find my way to my morning drink and my reminder that no matter how tired I may be,
“This is the life!”
And I am reminded once again that the only way to live this life is by stumbling through it with Him.
So, I take my drink (and sometimes a banana), and I join Him for our morning date.
Nothing fancy.
Just my heart and His Word.
And sometimes what I read is hard to swallow.
I don’t always “get” the why or the how of the Bible stories.
Some even make me terribly upset or sad or confused.

But no matter what I read, I come back to this.

It’s His story and our history.
And history, just like many things that happen today, isn’t always pretty.
So, I read and I wonder,

“How can this change my regular kind-of day in Eastern Kentucky?”

“How can His Word make me better today?”
And it never fails.
Something happens as I read.
I see Moses or Joshua or Caleb or Deborah through the lens of an aunt, a sister, or a mom, and I realize they lived and breathed and had to make hard decisions all along the way,
but one thing always remained they same.
They loved and trusted God with every stumbling step they took, and because of how they lived, I am inspired to love and trust God too.
Sandy feet, gravel roads, dimly-lit caves filled with candles, food heated on open fires.
I can’t even get my mind around how they lived day in and day out and yet trusted in a God who smoothed rough roads, turned their darkness into light, and provided for their every need.
YAHWEH
He was their one and only God.
They loved Him with all they had.
Should I love Him with any less of me?
Deuteronomy 6 says,
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 
 
Is this God not worth my stumbling through the darkness of the morning?
 
Is this God not worth a little less sleep?
 
I am thankful this morning for His Word written so long ago.
 
It still speaks into our todays and our tomorrows.
 
I am thankful for a relentless alarm clock.
 
I am thankful for my little kitchen reminder that 
“This is the Life.”
 
I can almost imagine those very words etched into the stone wall of a cave thousands of years ago.
 
“This is the life.”
 
That’s why I stumble through the darkness every morning.
 
Because God walks with me just like He walked with men and women like Moses and Joshua and Caleb and Deborah,
reminding me that “This really is the life!”
 
I hope you stumble through the darkness until you find Him too!
 
 He longs to light the way!
 
You, LORD, keep my lamp burning; 
 
my God turns my 
 
darkness into light.
 
Psalm 18:28
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Yesterday, Olivia and I attended Northeast Christian Church with my friend, Vicki, and her daughter.
Her son is on staff with this congregation as the teen worship minister.
We had an amazing time and the sermon and worship service were amazing!
If you live in the Louisville area and you are looking for a church, consider visiting Northeast soon!
After the morning service, Olivia and I left for her runway practice, leaving Vicki and Raegan to spend the afternoon with Corbin and Missy.
Having never traveled from this particular location to Olivia’s practice, we had to travel on several unfamiliar interstates and side roads.
As we left the church parking lot, I turned on my GPS and watched for the pink line I have become so use to trusting over the past few years.
All I knew as we began this journey was where I was at the moment and where I needed to arrive in the next hour.
It occurred to me as I watched for the next bit of instructions that life is so much like an unfamiliar trip.
All we really know each morning is where we’re starting.
Our final destination, as Christians, is of course eternity with God;
but along the way we aren’t promised more than enough information to get us to the next hour, the next day, the next month.
I’m a planner.
I like to know how things are going to look way down the road,
but life isn’t always that clear.
Putting our faith COMPLETELY in God often means trusting Him with the next bit of instructions.
Just enough information to get us to the next exit, the next turn, the next decision.
Along the way, we may encounter blocked roads (like I did yesterday), and our direction will suddenly change.
When this happens, our trip is recalculated from a new starting point.
But if we keep trusting in God (a GPS that is must more reliable than any man-made device), we can know with full confidence that He is leading us in the right direction.
He knows the way we need to go.
When we follow Him, though, it’s important to remember He often only offers enough light for the next step.
Following God, like following a GPS, requires a level of faith in Someone who can see our whole road of life before we can.
Faith is all about traveling these unknown roads with the confidence that comes from knowing we do not travel them alone.
Psalm 119:105 says,
“Your word is a lamp unto my feet 

and a light unto my path.”


Today, if you’re not sure what’s next for you, open your Bible.

Let God be your GPS and trust Him to provide just enough 

direction to get you to your next exit, your next turn, your next step.

And if you’ve been following Him and feel like you’ve reached a dead end, give Him time to

recalculate your journey.

He has a plan.

No matter what you’re facing today, trust Him.

He knows where He’s leading you………………………and it’s always closer to Him.
12

Birthdays in Heaven

March 15th, 2014

 

Today is Adrienne’s 22nd birthday.
Our bundle of pink born on March 15, 1992.
My first and only c-section.
My bonnet-wearing angel.
Little did I know that six weeks later,
God would take her back, slip her away in the night, while we slept nearby.SIDS became part of my life story.

I miss her every single day, but time has somehow softened the pain.
Twenty-two years and bigger grief has placed Adrienne’s absence far enough away that sometimes it seems like a very painful scene from a movie.
And yet, I know I’ll see her again.
I wonder if she’ll be all grown up or still my little baby when I hug her.
How long has our separation seemed to her?
How does time pass on the other side?
I majored in math so this calculation should be easy.
Just how long is twenty-two years in Heaven?
365 days times 22 equals 8,030 days.
Psalm 90:4 says,
 
A thousand years in your sight are like

 a day that has 
 
just gone by, or like a watch in the night.
 
If I’m reading this correctly, Adrienne has been gone about eight days from God’s perspective.
Twenty-two years for me.
Eight days for her.
When I remind myself that God’s ways are higher than mine and that He works in ways I may never understand while on this planet, I am transformed from the inside out.
I’m able to face birthdays with no cake, no balloons, no earthly celebration;
because I know that from God’s view of Adrienne’s life,
I haven’t even missed her first birthday!
Today, I’ll be busy.
An interview for a summer writing project, an audition for Olivia in Louisville, and a Christian concert tonight with Olivia’s youth group friends.
God has filled our lives with many new experiences over the past twenty-two years;
and He has been faithful to bring joy in spite of our tears.
I’m thankful today even though my earthly heart wonders what today could have been like had life gone the way of my dreams.
I’m thankful, because I have a Father who promises that
“those who sow in tears will reap songs of joy.”
I’m trusting Him with that promise.
And I know He is faithful.