O Death, Where Is Your Sting?

This week I watched my mom and her siblings walk a heart breaking journey that ended with saying goodbye to their younger sister. At 57 years young, my aunt lost her battle with lung cancer. Her final days were spent in a hospital, hooked up to a machine that aided her breathing surrounded by family who hoped, prayed and waited for a miracle.

Some will look back and think that God did not answer our prayer. Some may even get angry with God. The day before she passed, I found myself questioning God’s purpose in her suffering. But God is always faithful and instead of doubting Him, I chose to cling to my faith. I chose to trust Him confessing that His ways are not my ways. He called her Home the very next day.

God’s timing is always perfect. My aunt had been on a ventilator since Sunday evening and didn’t pass away until Thursday afternoon. She passed away on her mother’s birthday. Her mother, my grandmother, passed away in 1987. I believe the timing of my aunt’s death was God’s way of reminding us that as a believer, death can be something to celebrate. What a blessed birthday present my grandmother received this year welcoming her baby girl into Eternity!

In our humanness, we will grieve. My mom and her siblings as well as my aunt’s children will most long for my aunt to still be on this side of Heaven-not suffering, but still living. But in our faith we can rejoice through the sadness, celebrate through the heartbreak and be reassured that my aunt did get her miracle. God did heal her. Rather than heal her here, He chose to heal her with perfection.

The day my Aunt died, I woke up with two thoughts-The first was this: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” I Corinthians 15:55. The second was the song No Matter What by Kerrie Roberts. The chorus kept swirling in my mind.

“No matter what! I’m gonna love you. No matter what! I’m gonna need you. I know that you can find a way to keep me from the pain but if not (if not), I’ll trust you. No matter what!”

The best way to walk through grief is to know that death has no victory over us and to choose to trust God even when we don’t understand His ways.

Be blessed and please keep my family, primarily my mom, her siblings and my aunt’s children in your prayers as they grieve my aunt’s Earthly absence and experience this side of life without her.

What’s Your ETA?

“For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭55:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I’m a planner. I love having a schedule planned out for the day and/or week and sticking to that plan. I don’t tend to respond well when my plan goes awry or doesn’t play out at all. That holds true even when I’m traveling or running errands. I plan out my stops to ensure the shortest route and alleviate driving out of my way or back tracking. What I typically don’t plan for are detours.

When I take a road trip, I plan out the start time, my expected time of arrival (ETA) and my return home time. When I lived in another state, I used to travel several hours to get home for visits and even had designated stopping points along the way-for every single trip. As a traveler, I’m more of a “let’s look at the map and find the shortest route from point A to point B.” I tend to always be running behind so short cuts are the best at helping make great time.

When I was younger, I traveled with someone who was the complete opposite of me. Sure they’d plan out a trip but their idea of travel was not “let’s get there.” Their idea of travel was more like, let’s find the longest route possible, make an innumerable amount of stops and enjoy all the sites we experience along the way. When traveling with them, I learned not to have a planned ETA. I also saw many spectacular views of waterfalls, caves and other beautifully hidden treasures that go unseen when you’re merely focused on getting to where you’re going and avoiding delays.

Where I live, there’s a joke that says, “We have four seasons-winter, spring, road construction and fall.” This is said because every summer our highways are covered with orange barrels and reduced down to one lane in an effort to repair the cracks and damage our harsh winters do to the pavement. Although the never ending process brings about safer roads, when you’re stuck in a traffic jam, or trying to navigate your vehicle through orange barrels or even better, detoured through areas you’re completely unfamiliar with-your appreciation for road construction is more like the feeling you get when you have to go to the dentist and have a tooth pulled. You simply want to avoid it altogether.

My daughter is learning to drive now. Recently I let her drive home from a family reunion that was two hours away. We were talking and I got distracted. I forgot she didn’t exactly know the way home and we missed the exit that led to home. We were probably 10 or 20 minutes passed that exit when I realized what had happened. I was tired and didn’t want to drive an hour out of our way to get home. I quickly got onto my iMaps to find the shortest route from where we were at. It consisted of backroads but it got us home. My daughter’s response, “It’s ok mom. It’s an adventure!” She even turned it into a site seeing tour pointing out strange lawn ornaments in peoplE’s yards from time to time.

Not to sound like Forrest Gump, but life is merely a journey full of point A’s and point B’s. We each have starting and ending points with many scenic tours, detours, back tracks, side steps, and even stand stills. Some parts of the journey are painstaking and we wish for a shortcut to get us to where we want to be a whole lot quicker. Somedays life is like trying to go around the block in a city filled with 1 way streets. What seems like the simplest of task ends up taking you way out of your way, just to get back to where you started from. It’s even more frustrating when we have a goal in mind, we’ve been working hard to reach that goal, we can see it in reach but life takes a right turn and feels like we’re driving the opposite way of what we are striving for. It can be additionally frustrating, even faith shaking, when we believe that goal was God spoken yet seems as though it will never come to fruition.

My own life has felt like a constant detour. Some road blocks I created myself based on wrong turns. Others are like traffic jams where I feel parked and no matter how hard I try, God is not moving me at all. Yet other days it feels as though I’m actually driving in reverse. Those are the days I realize I keep going back to the same sin or the same destructive pattern. On the days when life actually feels like a good traffic day, I’m learning those days still don’t reveal to me where I’m going or what God’s ETA for my goals really is. Those days were merely smooth driving days with minimal speed bumps.

Everyone has a starting time (your date of birth) and an ending (your date of death.) The dash in between is our individual road map of our own individual journey. Life is a road trip. You can get impatient and try to shortcut to your goals. Or you can enjoy the scenic route God takes you on, even if He makes you go the opposite way. Let your ETA be His ETA for you. During your roadblocks, speed bumps, traffic jams and detours, look around and admire the view. God has beauty in every moment of our lives and He shows it best when we’re less focused on the goal and more focused on the journey. If you make a wrong turn-that’s ok. We all get lost in our travels. God’s GPS will always bring us back to the road He has set before us when we repent and surrender to His ways.

If today you’re feeling like Abraham, Moses, David, Sarah, Hannah or Elizabeth, with a God given goal but no direction on how tor each it, or you’re experiencing road blocks that feel like closed doors, read about the delays the experienced before God gave them their ETA’s. Abraham specifically experienced this: God promised him offspring. Then told him to move away from all he was familiar with. Twenty-five years later, God’s word finally came to pass for Abraham. May his and the others’ stories give you the strength to trust God most during the road construction detours in your own life.

What’s Your ETA?

“For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭55:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I’m a planner. I love having a schedule planned out for the day and/or week and sticking to that plan. I don’t tend to respond well when my plan goes awry or doesn’t play out at all. That holds true even when I’m traveling or running errands. I plan out my stops to ensure the shortest route and alleviate driving out of my way or back tracking. What I typically don’t plan for are detours.

When I take a road trip, I plan out the start time, my expected time of arrival (ETA) and my return home time. When I lived in another state, I used to travel several hours to get home for visits and even had designated stopping points along the way-for every single trip. As a traveler, I’m more of a “let’s look at the map and find the shortest route from point A to point B.” I tend to always be running behind so short cuts are the best at helping make great time.

When I was younger, I traveled with someone who was the complete opposite of me. Sure they’d plan out a trip but their idea of travel was not “let’s get there.” Their idea of travel was more like, let’s find the longest route possible, make an innumerable amount of stops and enjoy all the sites we experience along the way. When traveling with them, I learned not to have a planned ETA. I also saw many spectacular views of waterfalls, caves and other beautifully hidden treasures that go unseen when you’re merely focused on getting to where you’re going and avoiding delays.

Where I live, there’s a joke that says, “We have four seasons-winter, spring, road construction and fall.” This is said because every summer our highways are covered with orange barrels and reduced down to one lane in an effort to repair the cracks and damage our harsh winters do to the pavement. Although the never ending process brings about safer roads, when you’re stuck in a traffic jam, or trying to navigate your vehicle through orange barrels or even better, detoured through areas you’re completely unfamiliar with-your appreciation for road construction is more like the feeling you get when you have to go to the dentist and have a tooth pulled. You simply want to avoid it altogether.

My daughter is learning to drive now. Recently I let her drive home from a family reunion that was two hours away. We were talking and I got distracted. I forgot she didn’t exactly know the way home and we missed the exit that led to home. We were probably 10 or 20 minutes passed that exit when I realized what had happened. I was tired and didn’t want to drive an hour out of our way to get home. I quickly got onto my iMaps to find the shortest route from where we were at. It consisted of backroads but it got us home. My daughter’s response, “It’s ok mom. It’s an adventure!” She even turned it into a site seeing tour pointing out strange lawn ornaments in peoplE’s yards from time to time.

Not to sound like Forrest Gump, but life is merely a journey full of point A’s and point B’s. We each have starting and ending points with many scenic tours, detours, back tracks, side steps, and even stand stills. Some parts of the journey are painstaking and we wish for a shortcut to get us to where we want to be a whole lot quicker. Somedays life is like trying to go around the block in a city filled with 1 way streets. What seems like the simplest of task ends up taking you way out of your way, just to get back to where you started from. It’s even more frustrating when we have a goal in mind, we’ve been working hard to reach that goal, we can see it in reach but life takes a right turn and feels like we’re driving the opposite way of what we are striving for. It can be additionally frustrating, even faith shaking, when we believe that goal was God spoken yet seems as though it will never come to fruition.

My own life has felt like a constant detour. Some road blocks I created myself based on wrong turns. Others are like traffic jams where I feel parked and no matter how hard I try, God is not moving me at all. Yet other days it feels as though I’m actually driving in reverse. Those are the days I realize I keep going back to the same sin or the same destructive pattern. On the days when life actually feels like a good traffic day, I’m learning those days still don’t reveal to me where I’m going or what God’s ETA for my goals really is. Those days were merely smooth driving days with minimal speed bumps.

Everyone has a starting time (your date of birth) and an ending (your date of death.) The dash in between is our individual road map of our own individual journey. Life is a road trip. You can get impatient and try to shortcut to your goals. Or you can enjoy the scenic route God takes you on, even if He makes you go the opposite way. Let your ETA be His ETA for you. During your roadblocks, speed bumps, traffic jams and detours, look around and admire the view. God has beauty in every moment of our lives and He shows it best when we’re less focused on the goal and more focused on the journey. If you make a wrong turn-that’s ok. We all get lost in our travels. God’s GPS will always bring us back to the road He has set before us when we repent and surrender to His ways.

If today you’re feeling like Abraham, Moses, David, Sarah, Hannah or Elizabeth, with a God given goal but no direction on how tor each it, or you’re experiencing road blocks that feel like closed doors, read about the delays the experienced before God gave them their ETA’s. Abraham specifically experienced this: God promised him offspring. Then told him to move away from all he was familiar with. Twenty-five years later, God’s word finally came to pass for Abraham. May his and the others’ stories give you the strength to trust God most during the road construction detours in your own life.

Do You Trust Me?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭3:5-6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I have felt stuck on a hamster wheel going nowhere for far too long. Everyday feels like another battle of jumping on the wheel exhausting every ounce of energy I have only to end up in the same place, worn out and disappointed. Every time I see what appears to be an open door to get me off this hamster wheel I run harder and faster only to watch someone else go through the door and close it behind them.

I’m gonna get real and confess I am so tired of closed doors! I want off this daggone hamster wheel and actually moving forward thriving like some preachers tell us God wants us to be doing. Last night I stopped running in place and prayed a very angry prayer to God demanding I be moved out of the pit and into the promotion in life I long for. I pulled out all the stops too. I reminded Him of how faithful I’ve been and how hard I’ve worked to learn the lessons He’s teaching me on this hamster wheel journey. I also reminded Him of how old I was and that I wasn’t getting any younger so this whole “waiting” thing and trusting His perfect timing no longer resonates well. I lastly reminded Him that I’ve even made efforts to fix my mistakes.

At one point I was so angry I actually told God that I didn’t want to speak to Him. Of course I just kept rambling though. A few minutes later I demanded to hear from Him. No more silent treatment. But the only thing I heard was my own sobs. So I picked up my phone, checked my Bible app and turned to Proverbs 3. I read verses 5 and 6 and cringed. Sounds completely sacreligious to cringe over scripture doesn’t it? Well I cringed because God tends to send me that specific scripture when His answer to my prayer is a big fat “NO!” I throw my temper tantrums and His response Is simply, “Trust in Me and do not rely on your understanding. Acknowledge Me and I will make your paths straight.” Grrrrrrrrrr!

But then I read farther in Proverbs 3 including verse 11; “My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline and don’t be upset when He corrects you.” Double Grrrrrrrrrr! How does a person NOT get upset when they’re being disciplined? In my anger I envisioned a callous God with His back against me completely ignoring my cries.

At one point in my prayer rant last night I actually said “You are not the God I know and love right now.” WHOA! Right? Some might think “That’s awfully bold!” Others reading this may think “Who is she to speak to God in such an irreverent manner?” Those words were spoken in a moment of deep disappointment and feeling of great defeat. Those words were spoken to a god who had turned his back away from me. Those words were not spoken to the real God.

You see in my moment of despair, I saw satan’s version of God. But God, through His word showed me who He really is. Even when He tells us “no”, that no may be firm but it’s gentle and it always comes with a “trust Me” after it. God is our Heavenly Father and just like we parents tell our children “no” from time to time, a parent’s no is always for our child’s own good, even if it’s a form of discipline.

I went to bed last night with only this prayer said “I’m sorry for my angry prayer.” My heart was still stubborn so it was all I could offer. I woke up this morning and read this verse; ““So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you!” Hebrews‬ ‭10:35‬ ‭NLT‬‬ God again sending me a reminder to trust Him. Notice one thing-God was not shaken by my rant. He also-did not ignore me in spite of my spoiled brat meltdown. He will not ignore you either. God loves you and me even when we don’t agree or accept how He handles us or how He answers our prayers.

I don’t like being told no. I don’t like being disciplined. I don’t like this hamster wheel I’m metaphorically running on. Heck-I don’t like to exercise at all. Ha! Ha! But I have to obey God’s directive which is simply to trust Him. So do you. What areas in your life are you struggling to trust Him in? If your heart is angry, so mine has been too. God is so faithful in forgiving a repentant heart and He is faithful to His word. Do you trust Him? It’s what He’s calling you (and me) to do.

Caution: Icy Roads Ahead

“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.””‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭31:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬I’m reading a devotional on You Version called “21 Ways to Thrive by 45.” Today’s reading was about facing fear by putting our focus on Jesus and trusting Him. The scripture for today was Deuteronomy 31:6-8 and Psalms 56:3-4 . I’ve heard Deuteronomy 31:6 multiple times in my life. At one point I had it written on an index card taped to my desk as a daily reminder. But I’m not sure the passage from Psalms 56 has ever resonated with me before. I had to read it twice this morning before I felt God nudge me about these two verses. It’s summer time where I live. In a month or two the leaves will start changing color, the temperature will turn cooler and the evenings will get darker earlier. Although this is a beautiful time of year with backdrops full of bright yellow, orange and red, this is also a warning sign that winter is right around the corner. For some, this brings the excitement of winter activities such as snowmobiling or skiing. For me, because this also means poor road conditions, it brings fear.Today’s verses reminded me of a time that I found myself caught in an ice storm. My children had had doctor appointments in late afternoon. Although it was the middle of winter, driving to their appointments, the roads were quite clear. However in a short period of time, freezing rain came down and turned the roads into an ice skating rink. I had a 20+ mile drive home. I proceeded with great caution.What should’ve been less than a 30 minute commute was taking well over an hour as I creeped and crawled in my vehicle to ensure I wouldn’t lose control. Vehicles in my area tend to be equipped with four wheel drive but that doesn’t help on ice. Four wheel drive on ice just means you have four wheels spinning out of control instead of two. The closer we got to our home, the worse the road conditions get. The hills also seem to increase frequency and depth.Two miles before home I stopped at the top of a very steep hill. It was dark with freezing rain still falling from the sky. The ice covered road before me had a bright sheen when my headlights hit it. I thought about the best approach for this hill and then I proceeded. My slow decent took a turn for the worst as my vehicle did a complete 180 and I found myself stuck in a ditch, in the wrong lane facing on-coming traffic. With no success, I tried getting out of the ditch and back up the hill. I realized I was going to have to proceed down the hill backward. As I slowly let my foot off the brake to begin backing down the hill, the ice took over and my car slid backward, landing at the bottom of the hill completely parallel to the crossroad that was ahead of me. I was now taking up both lanes. This was a narrow road with large drop offs on either side. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t seem to get my vehicle turned straight into the proper lane and moving forward again. I prayed. I panicked. I constantly reassured my kids that we were going to be ok. But I was shaking with fear. I feared rolling my vehicle. I didn’t fear for my safety-but I feared greatly for the safety of my children. I’m a momma bear by nature and will risk life and limb to protect my children.I also knew that I couldn’t stay where I was at because any traffic coming from either direction could’ve hit us. My daughter was riding in the front seat, my son in the back. All of us had seatbelts on. I grabbed my daughter’s hand. I told my kids I had to get us out of there and proceeded to straighten out my car. Each attempt pulled me closer to the drop off on the right side of the road. In my mind I had already accepted that rolling the vehicle was inevitable. But I spoke out to my children saying “It’s ok. We’re going to be ok. God is going to protect us.” Just as my vehicle pulled farther to the right and I knew we were going into that drop off, my vehicle straightened and I was facing the right direction again. I drove a few feet away from the drop off, pulled to the side of the road then called for help. Tears of fear and relief flowed as I sobbed on the phone to the person I called. God protected us in a mighty way that night. Do you know every winter I still get anxiety over driving on bad roads? Do you know I still wrestle with fear, struggling to sleep some times? I also avoid chasing my dreams and rarely putting myself out there because of fearing rejection. The verses from Psalms 56 were a great reminder to take my focus off fear and remember Who is really in control. It’s also a great reminder that He promises to protect us whether it be bad roads, bad relationships, poor health, toxic situations, etc. When we focus on the what-ifs we give fear and anxiety all the control. We may even become paralyzed and unable to move forward because we’re listening to fear (or get ourselves stuck in a ditch because we tried to handle the circumstance in our own wisdom.) But when we stand on the promises of Deuteronomy 31:6-8 and Psalms 56:3-4 peace overthrows fear because we know that God is watching over us. Fear is a choice. Trust is too. Do not fear. Choose instead to trust in the One who promises to protect us always.

A Downpour or a Sprinkle?

“He calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭107:29‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I believe everyone goes through storms in life. Some storms come in the form of financial despair, loss of a loved one, the end of a relationship, a rebellious child or maybe dealing with some sort of addiction. A stressful situation of any kind, especially the kind that seem to last for years or as if they’re endless, can feel like you’re walking against the wind of a full blown hurricane with no shelter in place to escape. But sometimes, what we imagine or expect to be a storm turns out to only be a little sprinkle. Let me give you two examples of what I’m talking about.

This past Independence Day, the morning started out very hot. My family and I “puddled” as we endured the humid temps watching a parade that celebrated our nation’s birthday. By afternoon we were lethargic and becoming stagnant because no one wanted to move in the heat. Normally we would’ve gone to the beach but this year we had different plans that turned into a day of “playing it by ear.”

Me, being a creature of habit and feeling overheated, felt a strong need to get to a lake. So my niece and I headed to the local lake that has a beautiful walkway trimmed around it. As we were driving the sky started to rumble and large drops of rain sporadically hit the windshield of my vehicle. The clouds didn’t look too stormy and judging by the rain droplets, I assumed whatever was brewing was going to blow over quickly.

For a moment, I was right. By the time we parked and headed on our walk by the lake, there were no raindrops. However, in a few short minutes that changed dramatically. The rain formed a steady sprinkle and by the time we were halfway into our walk we were caught in a massive down pour. When it started raining sideways we decided it was best to turn around and head back to the car.

Did I mention there was limited shelter in the area and lightning was striking over the lakeshore periodically? My niece and I could’ve panicked. But for some reason we just laughed as the rain flooded our heads, faces and clothing. In fact at one point the rain was coming down so hard I could barely keep my eyes open to see where we were going. Once we reached shelter we paused enough to get the water off our eyes and then head back out in order to reach my vehicle and drive home. Once in the vehicle, I had to wring out my shirt and my seats became drenched from soaked clothing. Nonetheless, this was one of the best moments of my life. The rain cooled us off and it was a rare memory that created much laughter with my niece also.

This morning the skies got loud again. The rumbling sound drew me outside to see what was happening. Dark gray clouds were heading my direction and getting noisier the closer they came. The wind was picking up as well. All signs showed one doozy of a storm about to hit. I returned inside and waited for more. Guess what-aside from a five second down pour, this morning’s display was “all talk” with very little action.

Circumstances in life are very much the same way. Sometimes we are hit by situations that nearly blow us over. Sometimes what we expect to be a major uproar turns out to be just a bunch of noise and nothing more. Sometimes, like my niece and I did by the lake, we heed the warning signs and find ourselves up to our eyeballs in a storm that could’ve been avoided. Sure my niece and I made it out and we shared one heck of a laugh as we went through the process but in stormy life circumstances most people aren’t laughing nor do they even know how to get themselves out.

No matter if you’re in a downpour or experiencing a sprinkle, Jesus is the master of the storms. Whether He chooses to calm the storm (like He did for the disciples) or allow you to experience a typhoon like Paul did as a prisoner on a ship, Jesus controls the storm. Even self created storms (brought on by our own sinful choices) can be calmed when we surrender to Jesus and seek His redemption. Jesus may use the storm to break you, but never to destroy you. Also, if you’re being broken by Him, He’s only breaking off what doesn’t honor Him in order for you to grow deeper in and closer to Him.

What situation are you facing today that feels like a major storm? Examine how you got there, confess anything that was self-made (including any lack of trust or disbelief you may be experiencing) and stand on His promise that He will calm your storm and still the waves. Also-ask God for discernment to heed the warning signs and also to know the difference between circumstances that are downpours and ones that are really just light sprinkles or sporadic raindrops.

Published Blogger Friend

Hey all-if you have a You Version account please check out my blogger friend, Randolph Koch’s very first published devotional. It’s titled 9 Keys to Walking In Christ. Below is a taste of what this 9 day devotional is all about:

“How do you walk in Christ? Like eating right and regular exercise, you have to be disciplined in exercising your faith to grow in your walk with Him. God’s word outlines many practical principles that will help you successfully walk in Christ. The aim of this devotional is to guide you through nine of the keys to help strengthen your walk.”

Please comment below if you read this study and be sure to pass it along to your family friends who also have You Version. I’ve already started the plan and can not wait to read day 1.

This publishing is a true testimony to what perseverance and faithfully serving God looks like-especially when faced with multiple closed doors. Seeing my friend’s dream come true is inspirational to keep chasing after my own dreams and trusting God to bring them into fruition in His time and in His way.

I can only imagine how proud your wife and family are but as a fellow blogger I too am very proud of you Randy! Congrats and God bless. Keep using your gift to serve Abba and I know He will continue to bless you with the wisdom that is behind your writings!