encouragement · Encouraging, Scripture · inspiration · Scripture

“Death, where is your sting?”

This devotional was originally posted in my church’s blog, for which I am a contributing author.  I wanted to share it with my Nitty-Gritty friends, because there are so many of my friends and loved ones who are struggling with the loss of loved ones.  It’s one of the most difficult journeys that we take in life, and it is only by the comfort and peace of the Holy Spirit, and the hope we have in Christ, that we can make it through to the other side…where we are able to experience true joy once again.  I hope that it helps you, and I hope that if you know someone who is grieving, you will share this with them, and that it will help them also.

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(1 Corinthians 15:51-56, NLT) 51 But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! 52 It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. 53 For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. 54 Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.

55 O death, where is your victory?

    O death, where is your sting?”

56 For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

From November 2013 through May 2014 was a very difficult time in my family.  We were faced with mortality and grief in various undesirable ways.  In November 2013, my grandmother passed away after suffering from a massive stroke that hit her three years prior to her death.  The following April, my grandfather (who had lived with Alzheimer’s Disease for 7 years) made his grand entrance into Heaven.  Then the very next month, my dad was diagnosed with advanced, rapidly progressing, Alzheimer’s Disease.  To say that we felt devastated doesn’t quite encompass the depth and magnitude of our anguish. 

I could write page upon page about the crippling effects of dementia (as well as other types of neurological diseases) on the victims and their families.  It is a certain, and often slow, death. 

And there it is, the thing we most fear will happen…death.  Our humanity causes us to accept death as final.  In our minds, it is the end.  When a loved one passes on, people tell you that it’s not goodbye…not the end…and you nod and feign your resolve and agreement, but in that moment the only thing that you can truly feel is the emptiness and pain left behind, and the only thing that you believe is that you’ll never see that person again.  We are humans, and to us…death stings. 

To us, death feels like a punishment, because we have to go without someone that we love…missing that person and holding fast to our memories, hoping to never forget anything.  In our grief, we are blinded by emotions and we forget the truth of God’s word about death.  We are hurting, so we don’t understand or remember that because of Christ we have a HOPE that goes beyond mortality. 

13 And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.  (1 Thessalonians 4: 13-14)

Though we can’t accept it in the hours of distress and pain, the truth remains that death is only temporary.  It isn’t the end for those who are in Christ.  Essentially, our mortal lives are but a progression toward our own individual appointed times.  So we have to get out of our heads when it comes to the dread and anguish associated with death.  Death has no sting or victory…not because we don’t have to experience it and deal with it, but because we have a promise that far outshines anything this life, this temporary existence that is riddled with heartache and difficulties, has to offer us.  This life is not purposed to benefit us.  It’s not about you or me.  Every moment spent breathing air is a gift…not because this life will be the pinnacle of your existence, because it just isn’t.  It’s but a vapor that lasts mere moments in the span of eternity.  It is a gift because we have been created and chosen to be a part of something bigger than ourselves…to live outside of our own needs and serve a purpose in God’s plan for humanity.  So when we have lived that out, when we have given our lives to Christ and done our best to serve God’s plan, we don’t have to fear what comes next.  We naturally miss our loved ones, but what purpose does it serve to give ourselves over to the emotions of grief, sadness, and distress? Having victory over death isn’t cheating death, because we don’t have that power.  The victory is in knowing that even when the wages of sin is death, we don’t have to pay that price because Christ did when He went to the cross.  His sacrifice gives us the victory that comes from not fearing our exit from this life. 

Watching someone that you love suffer through a disease is not easy.  I see my dad, who is reduced to the mindset of a young child…unable to care for himself…no longer able to think rationally and independently, and I hurt.  My humanity aches at the thought that soon we will no longer have him with us here at part of our lives.  Yet there is this other part of me, driven by the truth of God’s word…by His promises, that longs for the day when my dad is free from his humanity and transformed supernaturally into his heavenly body that will never die.  He’s earned that.

For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. (2 Corinthians 4: 17-18)

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Prayer:  Heavenly Father, sometimes our fears are born out of the unknown.  We don’t know what to expect out of death, other than grief, so we are fearful of it.  Help us to remember that mortality is but a present trouble.  Help us to fix our eyes on the unseen…the glory of Heaven.  When we are Heavenly-minded, we are able to see beyond the here and now.  When we fix our eyes on You and Your ways, we are able to move beyond our emotions and accept our human experience for what it is…temporary.  Thank you for this gift…for choosing us to live for this time.  Amen.

encouragement · Family · friendship · From the Editors · Night shift

The Night Shift Family – Let’s Talk About That

So, I know this is sort of a different subject to focus on but, nonetheless, it’s something I feel the need to share about, to help others better understand the lives of a night shift family. I’m going to attempt to compare below the “normal” day-to-day happenings for day shifters and then night shifters in a sort of timeline fashion. Granted, there are always things that pop up and our schedules always get changed, but from my own life, and those of friends and family, this is a generic idea of what each shift would generally encounter through out a normal day.


Timeline for typical day shifters:

  • 6:30ish– get up and get ready for work and school
  • 7ish-breakfast and off to work
  • 8ish– kids on the bus or take to school
  • 8:30ish to 12ish-errands, grocery, play time, crafts or creative time, play dates, library, maybe the zoo (which includes picnic), really whatever needs to be done, probably coffee time, dr.appts., or maybe homeschool time if that applies.
  • 12ish-lunch
  • 1-2ish rest and/or nap time. Which is also rest time or catch-up time for mom
  • 3ish-getting kids from school
  • 4ish-getting homework going and getting things together for dinner
  • 5-6ish– spouse home from work, dinner time and cleanup
  • 7ish-family time or outside time, maybe a sports practice or household duty like cutting the grass, maybe an ice cream trip
  • 8ish-winding down for the night and getting baths
  • 9ish-bedtime for kiddos
  • 9:30ish to 11:30ish-hubby and wife time (insert your own details here) lol
  • 11:30ish and later-sleeping (hopefully)

 This is how a typical day runs for us:

  • 7ish-getting up and ready for school and the day (all while being quiet as a mouse, dad is sleeping)
  • 7:30ish-breakfast (again no dinging spoons on bowls or slamming cabinets-have to be quiet)
  • 8ish-getting all the kiddos to school (unless some are too little)
  • 9ish-quiet time, coloring, a cartoon or very quiet play and also getting small ones dressed for the day, oh and don’t forget coffee time! Or maybe homeschool time if that applies
  • 10-11ish– real quick errands or a fast grocery trip, also could be homeschool time
  • 12ish– lunch and wake spouse up
  • 1ish-household stuff like cutting grass, garden, laundry and loud cleaning like vacuuming and dishes, things that are too loud in the mornings.
  • 2ish-try to spend some family time, try to catch-up on schedule details and family plans since we haven’t got to speak to each other since the day before around this same time. (usually nap time for smallest)
  • 3ish-start dinner and get kids from school at 3:30
  • 4ish-sit down for dinner and start cleanup; spouse starts packing lunch for work and getting ready (sometimes there is sports practice and I eat later and hubby leaves before I get back)
  • 5ish-spouse leaves for work; me and kids start homework
  • 6ish-sports practice and/or game, finish homework
  • 7ish– outside time, play time and snacks
  • 8ish-start baths and house cleanup
  • 9ish– getting everyone in bed. Takes 30-40 minutes for just one person, some nights longer.
  • 9:45-11:30– quiet time for me..usually paying bills, maybe a Netflix show or finishing tasks around the house
  • 11:30ish and later-hopefully sleeping

I know the schedules may not seem much different from one another, but this is really a day in the life of a night shift family, with each parent working separately on different ends of the clock. All the while, I juggle kids, dinner, messes, homework, sports, baths, bedtime, etc.  My poor husband is sleeping or working while all this hustle and bustle is going on, and he knows he’s missing out on some great stuff…but he does it for our family. I know some who would say, “Why go to such lengths of being quiet?” or, “Why cater to when he’s getting up?” My answer is, would you want your spouse only getting 3 or 4 hours of sleep a day? Which leads to awful health issues later like high blood pressure, diabetes, and eventually heart disease…and don’t forget…feeling like crud as well.  My job is to ensure the health and safety of my whole family and that includes my husband too.

I said all that to say, we night shifters want “play” time or “talk” time too, or would like to socialize with friends, but when we’re able to do that most of our friends are at home with their spouses having dinner and having family time of their own. If I called to talk at 7 or 8 on any given night you probably wouldn’t answer because you’re spending precious time with your family, just like I’m doing for a precious hour or so earlier during the day. And let’s not forget my school aged children only see their daddy for about an hour when they get home from school, and that time includes sitting down for dinner and my husband getting ready for work. The weekends are absolutely sacred to us.  We have just a couple days with a few hours to focus on our family and try to makeup for almost zero (whole) family time we get during the week. By God’s grace, and by keeping our family centered in Christ, we have been able to handle this way of life for 16 years now.

I’m not saying us night shifters have it harder really, but there is some extra responsibility that falls on us and that’s ok, that’s how families work…we work together. I can only imagine how a single parent feels and the lengths they go to, to try and cover the roles of both parents. So, if you’re a day shifter have a little grace for those who have to do life a little differently. Try to put yourself in their shoes and imagine how it would be. Don’t assume they’re too busy for you or have new friends…just realize they’re doing life the best they can.

encouragement · Gardening · Scripture · Spring

Tending the garden…or is it tending the soul?

This time of year at our house there’s all the normal hustle and bustle of life, but in addition to that we’re planning, prepping and working to get our garden going for this year. I love this time of year, I see the sparkle in my husband’s eyes as he’s getting in the dirt and starting seedlings to transplant to the garden. There’s an excitement for the harvest that’s still in the planning stages.

There’s something spiritual about getting your hands in the dirt, feeling it, moving it and planting in it. Somehow being a part of the whole gardening process makes me more aware of God’s presence. Although it’s difficult to fully explain, I’m going to attempt to correlate gardening and God in our lives and how I believe you can meet God right smack in the middle of your backyard.

The hardest part of gardening is getting it going, kind of like getting yourself to church and the altar, especially if you’ve never been before or you’ve been out for awhile. Starting your garden begins with tilling. Which quite simply is breaking new ground, bringing out all the hidden stuff underneath, getting it out in the light and letting the air purify it. Tilling looks easy, but to those who have done it, know it’s harder than it looks, especially the first time breaking the ground. Tilling does get easier year after year, but it is still necessary after cold harsh winters for seeds to be planted and to bear fruit. When tilling the garden every year I’m amazed at how once the new dirt is pulled up how fresh and rich it all is, under all that hard, clumpy, gray mess is this soft, moist, fertile ground just waiting for you to plant seeds. Think for a minute, think back to the times in your life when you needed to be “turned over” or get back to God, and especially that first step towards Him in accepting Him as your Savior. You were hard, worn out and maybe even stagnant, but when you turned it all over to Him, you, much like dirt getting tilled, were unearthing all the hidden stuff in your life, bringing in out into the light and letting God purify it.

Still God’s not finished yet and neither is the gardener. All those unearthed, hard and messy things that needed to die in your life have a purpose in your future, just like your leftover unused fruit and vegetables from your garden can greatly enrich the soil of your garden when you compost. Let me say that again. The dead things that came out of your garden before are now fertilizing the soil to enrich it in order for new seeds to grow. Do you feel it? All the “things” that needed to die in your life can now be used for a greater purpose…..God’s purpose. Nothing goes to waste!

Now on to the good stuff….seed planting time!!! When you’re planting you’re holding these little treasures of possibility. It’s amazing that a large plant with huge yields of fruit can come from this tiny seed. It’s so exciting to sew these seeds, knowing the possibility of what’s to come. While at the same time it’s also a little intimidating because your just not 100% positive their gonna grow, but that’s where faith comes in. When you have opportunities in your own lives to sew seed into something or someone, that same uneasy, not sure feeling can creep in, but trust God with your seed and he will Bless it. Galatians 6:9-And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we not faint.

I’m not going to candy coat it, gardening isn’t always sunshine and roses. Most every gardener experiences some kind of frustration and aggravation nearly every year. Some of these nemesis are for sure the weeds and various pests that like to devour and poison your lovely garden. Weeding, is a must or the plants will get choked out and die from the lack of sunlight and/or the lack of sufficient water. The weeds steal the light, soil and water from your precious garden plants. You have to get to the root of the problem….aka the weeds and pesky bugs or they will just keep coming back and will eventually take over your whole garden. In our lives these nuisances can be distractions and even temptations that can “make or break” us. Only through prayer and discipline can you get through these trials. I have learned, that just like I have to research how to attack a problem in the garden, I also have to research the Bible and scripture to find my way through life’s diversions.

Pruning, this one I honestly wouldn’t have known the significance if I hadn’t witnessed it for myself. Removing green, growing and even thriving parts of a plant are hard to do, but when you see the benefit later of a larger more fruitful plant it is definitely worth it. It’s so obvious that we all need a good pruning as we grow into the people God made us to be. We go through situations and times in our lives that just plain hurt. At first we don’t grasp any reason at all for this pain or loss, yet later, maybe even years down the road we can see how these seasons made us better, stronger and hopefully wiser. Finding a good body of believers as well as an honest, wise Pastor to help cultivate you and raise you up to your calling is such an essential help in your life. John 15:1 ” I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful”.

After some tough times of pruning, weeding and pest control your just about ready to throw your hands up! But wait! There’s light at the end of this tunnel. Just when you’ve had enough, the first fruits come in and man oh man, it’s hardly believable, but they were worth all the sweat, tears and prayers! Because you know the effort and sacrifice it took to get these amazing veggies here, they taste better than any you’ve ever had!! And rightly so, there’s no comparison of the taste of store bought produce to that of home grown produce. I refuse to even eat tomatoes from a store, I just can’t bring myself to do it after being spoiled with sweet, heavenly tomatoes from my garden. Let’s not forget about all the toils, hard work, prayer, tears and loss we’ve gone through in our own lives. All the prepping, feeding, protecting, defending, and pruning of ourselves is so worth it all. God can and does work for our good. Jeremiah 29:11 says- For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, ” plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. This only scratches the surface of how much He loves us, He truly knows what we need to be the best version of ourselves.