The Inevitability of Death

There is nothing that makes you think more about your own mortality than when someone you know passes away.

Recently, one of my my co-workers that I had worked closely with on projects in my job passed away. Not much older than myself, with children and a wife, a car accident claimed his life swiftly.

My heart was broken at this news. I find myself grieving not only for his family, but as my thoughts often drift to when someone dies, but wondering where his eternity is being spent. He is either with God now, or without Him forever. We have never talked about our spiritual beliefs, so I do not know. But this reminds me of how fleeting life is and how I need to continually need to be a light and a witness to those around me.

We do not know how long we have on this earth. Rarely does anyone wake up and expect that to be their last day living. We need to make a choice for our eternity before its upon us. I once had someone tell me that they weren’t going to worry about making that decision until they were older because they didn’t see a point to thinking about it until then.

Here’s the catch: you don’t know when you’re last day will be. I’m certain that my co-worker didn’t think that fateful day would be his last. One of my very dear friends growing up didn’t think that going home from a state basketball tournament would be the last thing he would do.

How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog, it’s here for a little while and then it’s gone.”

James 4:14

Now, you can tell me that you don’t believe anything happens once you die. That you just rot in your grave forever. That’s your choice to believe that and that’s the beautiful thing about God. He gave us the ability to choose what we want to believe. Either in Him or not.

Here’s the deal, if that is the case. That we just rot in our graves forever when we die, then I have nothing to lose in believing as I do. However, if my faith is right, (which I believe it is) then not making a choice on your eternity before your die means that you would have everything to lose. Our choice while we are on this earth will affect our eternity.

We are never guaranteed another breath on this planet. Each day is a gift. It is a blessing given to us, not just for us, but for those around us.

Death also makes you not just think about your own mortality, but also about the legacy that you are leaving behind. What story are you telling? How are you affecting those around you? No matter what you believe, you are impacting those around you in some way.

I may not know where my co-worker is spending eternity, but I do know the impact that he left behind. One that was a loving father that cared deeply for his family, a good friend, and a hard worker.

I want to leave a legacy in the lives around me as well. I want to be known as one who loved fiercely, cared deeply, worked hard, and never wavered in my beliefs.

What kind of legacy do you want to leave?

Keep Growing!

Have you ever had a garden? Watched it grow from a seed in the dirt into a beautiful flower, or a hearty tomatoes?

I am not much of a gardener, but over the last few years I have successfully gotten cucumbers and tomatoes to grow in my garden. I’ve turned my black thumb into more of a brown. Last year, I even had some strawberries, though the rabbits thoroughly enjoyed more than I got to (they left a half eaten one to taunt me).

This year, in light of everything going on, I found it therapeutic to build a garden. As I was picking out seeds at the store, I even had someone ask me if there was a point to build a garden this year. I couldn’t think why that would matter. Why couldn’t I build a garden in the midst of this pandemic? Why couldn’t I find enjoyment in growing something in the midst of a dark time. Because, as I’ve learned while going through the storms of life, out of the darkest moments, you grow.

Think about the garden for a moment, the seed that’s planted. You place it in the dirt and cover it. Have it shroud in darkness. And in the midst of that darkness, that seed develops roots and it grows. It grows and eventually pushes out towards the light. It takes its roots and anchors them deep so that when the storm comes, it doesn’t get blown away and it rises towards the sun.

The darkest moments in life can produce strength and endurance, and like that little seed, we need to grow through them.

What are we focusing on during the trials? During the struggles?

In the midst of the darkness, the seed pushes out towards the sun.

Did you hear that? Push through the darkness towards the light. Focus not on the dark moment, but on the Son! (yes, I spelled it that way on purpose)

It’s easy when we are in the midst of the chaos, the pandemic, the gloom and doom that society says we are in, all the negativity. That’s why we need to anchor onto something that will shine through the darkness and lead us to the light. Have deep roots built in a firm foundation.

We can’t let what the media says dictate our emotions, take away our positivity and the life that God has called us to live! The media is paid to be negative. We are made to be positive!

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up

1 Thessalonians 5:11

Let us keep growing.

Let Jesus be the light that you reach for in the pit of darkness. His hand is always reaching out to pull you out into the light.

Matthew 13 has a beautiful representation of the type of seed we should be. One that is deep rooted in good soil. Not tossed by the wind and easily swayed, but firmly planted. Continually growing in the darkest moments so that we will overcome rather than be overcome.

Trial are inevitable, so we need that firm foundation to help us reach for the Son.

Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God [which He has laid] stands [sure and unshaken despite attacks]

2 Timothy 2:19 AMP

Be firm in our faith [against his attack – rooted, established, immovable], knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being experienced by your brothers and sisters throughout the world. [You do not suffer alone]

1 Peter 5:9 AMP

It’s a wonderful thing to remember that you are not alone. We are in this together and with Christ is our firm foundation, we will grow stronger and better and be overcomers!

My pastor speaks great wisdom, especially when going through trials, and a few weeks ago, he gave this quote that I want to share and close.

God will NEVER let you down. He will NEVER let you go beyond your limit and He will ALWAYS take you to the other side.

Pastor Charlie Dial

Let’s keep growing. Move towards the light. Be immovable when the storms and trials of life come!

Not Living, Simply Not Dying

As we are still in the midst of this pandemic, though there is a light at the end of the tunnel, I feel pressed to remind and encourage everyone to keep living.

For most of us, we’ve been stuck in this quarantined state, barely leaving our homes. For many, they are paralyzed by fear of this disease.

Yes, we are trying to stay safe, but in that have we forgotten to live?

Our family enjoys watching this cute kids movie called, “The Croods”. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it. The story revolves around a family of cavemen that are trying to survive the rough terrain of early living. The dad works really hard to keep his family safe, mostly by staying in a cave most of the time (replace cave with home and sounds familiar in our present culture, doesn’t it?) and only coming out when necessary. His big key factor is putting out fear. Fear that if they don’t follow the rules, they’re going to die. His daughter is one that is not letting the fear overtake her. She wants to be safe, but still live.

At a pivotal part in the movie, the father and daughter have a confrontation that brings a quote that is so good for our present age that I had to share. The dad is explaining to her that he was the one that was keeping them safe, keeping them alive. She retorts with these powerful words:

That wasn’t living, that was just not dying! There’s a difference!

I am not saying that we shouldn’t be cautious of this virus and take precautions, but we shouldn’t stop living in the process. Even while in quarantine, we need to keep living every day, not in fear, but with joy and expectation.

The Bible says it like this,

So teach us to number our days, that we may cultivate and bring to you a heart of wisdom.

Psalms 90:12 AMP

We only have one live to live. Just one shot at this and we can make the best of it, even from our homes. Living life to the fullest. Picking up a new hobby, finding joy in the little things. Treasuring more time with your family. Reaching out to people that you don’t talk to as often when caught in the rat race of usual busyness.

You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

James 4:14 ESV

Let us not go through this time, or any time for that matter, simply living not to die. Life is too important and too short for us to waste it. Look at every day for the blessing that it truly is.

Your life is meaningful, not just for you, but for those around you. For the love and joy that you can bring to others. The impact that can have upon our world and the hope it spreads!

In line with the 20/20 vision for the rest of our 2020 year, start off your day making this statement:

I choose to make the rest of my life, the best of my life!

It’s all about choice. Choose to live a life abundantly full, even within the present circumstances.

One last quote of encouragement for you before I sign off here.

Fill life with experiences to tell, not things to show

What experiences can you share during this time? For me, the extra time with my children has meant the world to me. Bike riding over my lunch break and playing bean bags and baseball in the yard have been such a treasure for me.

Find joy in the simple things.

Find beauty in the simplicity, even while in your home.

Don’t settle to live so you don’t die.

CHOOSE to live life fully, right where you are at!

2020

It is definitely a different world that we are living in right now. A different kind of norm than we are used to. Oftentimes now when we have the opportunity to leave our homes, this is how we leave or are greeted by others.

mask

Yes, this is definitely different and hard. And with everything negative the news is plastering on every day, it’s hard to find a positive perspective.

The other day, I was having some quiet time with the Lord and confessing on all this Covid-19 issues and how 2020 has turned out to be completely unexpected. Then the Lord softly gave me a revelation that hit me and I felt burdened to share.

Typically, when you think of 2020, what does your mind go to first? Vision. 20/20 vision is perfect vision right?

Then the Lord asked me, “Where is your vision, Angie? What are you focusing on? Are you only seeing this virus and everything negative? Or will you look further to something better?”

If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves. But when they attend to what He reveals, they are most blessed. 

Proverbs 29:18 MSG

Listen, I understand that this virus is dangerous. The world is crazy at the moment. Our new normal can be isolating and downright depressing. There is no toilet paper! I live in a city that now has the biggest hotspot in the country, but should that be all I focus on? What is our vision? I have heard countless times people say that they are ready for 2020 to be over.

We need a better vision. We need to be able to bring HOPE to those around us, despite the circumstances. Only then can we truly heal.

HOPE: a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen

With all the negativity being blasted at us daily, we need to find that positivity. That hope. Have a vision that things will turn around. They will get better, even if we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel yet.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 

Hebrews 11:1 NKJV

Faith and Hope make life worth living. I love how the message says that verse in Hebrews.

The fundamental fact or existences is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. Its our handle on what we can’t see. 

Hebrews 11:1 MSG

So what vision are you clinging to? One that is drought in isolation, depression, worry, fear? Discouragement with everything you are hearing?

Maybe we need to shut off the news and spend time listening to the still small voice of hope.

For I know the thoughts I think towards you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me, and find me, when you search me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:11-13

We need to bring this vision of life worth living to those around us. We need to bring hope to those that are hurting and depressed and do not have any vision for the future. Help spread the vision that we will get through this time. Let’s get a 20/20 vision for the remainder of 2020 and spread it to the world around us!

The world needs HOPE!

Hold on…there is hope in the midst of darkness

In the words of the wisest crab of the ocean:

Life is….hard and there are times that it is so easy to let yourself be overcome. It is tough to see the rainbow when you are going through the storm.

We have seen this more and more frequently and over the course of the last few weeks as several celebrities have been in the news after committing suicide.

My own family had the unfortunate tragedy hit us this past week as well as I got a phone call in the middle of the night telling me that my cousin had taken his own life.

My heart breaks with sadness at the hopelessness and despair that is raking through our society.

We live in such a blessed country and yet depression is on the rise. All the money and fame cannot give the joy and the hope that the heart desperately craves and the further we get away from our Creator, the less that hope is visible.

I understand this all too well. I myself have cascaded into such a dark hole that for a time I felt there was no way I could claw myself back out. There was little hope and I went through suicidal thoughts thinking that no one would care and nothing else would relieve me of the stinging barb depression was placing upon me.

Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Even though the problems seem never ending, they will come to an end.

And there is hope. God never leaves us without hope, but sometimes you have to get out of yourself to see it. Remember the rainbow comes after the storm.

For me, I had to pull myself out of the self-serving negative thoughts and remind myself who I am in God’s eyes.

I am a daughter of the most high King. He has made me with purpose and strength. He does not abandon me when things get tough. He doesn’t turn His back on me, though I am often guilty of turning my back on Him.

He created me as a masterpiece, a beautiful work of art that is continually being drawn on a canvas by His hand.

Sometimes I will mess up the paint and distort the picture, but my hope needs to reside in Him. God is able to restore and turn the mess I make into a blessing and something beautiful.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

Ephesians‬ ‭2:10‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Let us not be drawn down by the hardships of the world but let us rise up to be people of action.

Let us not see the present troubles as permanent, but have a vision of a solution. Of a future.

We will not be ones that are overcome but ones that will overcome the issues and bring the hope and light to the world so others can see where true joy comes from.

Let’s bring HOPE back into peoples lives.

Just a microwave mentality…

I remember a few months after I had my second child, I was working out a lot and watching what I ate. Just dying to get that baby weight off and back down to at least my pre-pregnancy weight. The problem was it wasn’t going fast enough for me.

So when I went in for my regular check up with my doctor, I expressed my desire to have that darn baby pooch go away. She told me I was doing all the right things and if I kept it up it should start disappearing within two years. (That apparently is the average)

Two years?!? I remember thinking that was ridiculous. I didn’t want to wait that long. I wanted a skinny waist NOW!

I didn’t get the skinny waist in two years, but I did get the weight off. Just in time to get pregnant with my third child! Lol. And this began the struggle again of wanting to lose weight quickly.

Then I have this dream that God has given me and I want it to come to pass now. I don’t want to wait. I want to just pop it in the microwave for a few minutes and then take it out and yeah! My dreams have come true!

Isn’t that just like us in the modern culture? We want everything quickly and in our timing. I was just having this conversation with my husband the other night about my dreams and how I want to start seeing the fruit of them NOW!

It’s hard with how fast paced our society is to remember that things take time. The greatest things and the richest things don’t come easily and are not something that you can just take out of the microwave. But what do we often do when things aren’t progressing our way?

We give up. We think it will never happen. That the Dream was never ours to begin with and we were stupid to think we could ever have it.

God doesn’t work in our timeframe and because of that we develop impatience for the dream we have burning within our soul.

We need to learn to trust that God has a plan. He will see the dream that He has put in our heart come to completion, even if it takes a long time.

The best things that come into our lives don’t come easily or quickly and we need to believe that God has a much better plan for our lives than we ever could.

Big dreams – lots of patience required…

I don’t know about you, but I have big dreams. God has instilled within me a dream and a passion that I know someday will be fulfilled.

But in the meantime, I wait. And during times of waiting, there can be discouragement and frustration and even anger at times. And the times that you truly believe God is about to make a breakthrough things seemingly get thrown in your face and leave you in despair and self-doubt that the vision you have will ever truly happen.

Anyone else feel that way? I don’t think I can be the only one.

This happened just the other day to me and as I sat there and asked God why he would give me a passion and a vision for something just to have it never come to pass, He (in His amazing wisdom) responds with one word.

Joseph.

It’s incredible how God can just say one thing and your perspective can alter.

Joseph is one of my favorite characters in the Bible. I love his story. Probably because I am a dreamer too. Or because his story keeps it into perspective that God doesn’t forget the promises He gives.

If you don’t know the story of Joseph, I highly recommend reading it.

In a nutshell, Joseph had been given a dream and when he decided to share his dream with his brothers, he wound up in a pit and then was sold into slavery.

Slight interjection here, we so often look at those in the Bible as being bigger than they are. That the things they went through didn’t affect them as much because they were Godly men and women.

Here’s a little secret. They were people just like us and don’t you think Joseph was sitting in that slave cart wondering what just happened and when his dream would be fulfilled? And he was probably more than a little angry at his brothers.

And then years later even more so when he was thrown into jail after false accusations of rape? Sitting in a cell wondering if God had abandoned him? Or forgotten the dream that He has given Joseph?

Years passed by for Joseph and he didn’t see his dream coming to pass even though other visions did. Can you imagine the frustration and anger that he must’ve felt at times?

I think sometimes we don’t feel like we can be angry with God, but He can handle our anger and frustration and if we listen, He will return with a word for us. A gentle word filled with love.

God doesn’t forsake His promises. The dreams that He places in our heart will come to pass.

God never forgot Joseph and his dream was fulfilled, even though it took many years. And it was filled far beyond what Joseph could’ve imagined.

God has not forgotten you and the dream He has given you either. I know how hard it is to be patient and work in His timing, but I also know it is worth it and will take us far beyond anything we imagined for ourselves.

So though we stumble and question and occasionally have self-doubt in the dream resonating within us, keep the course and never forget that God has a plan for that dream and, just like Joseph, it will go far beyond the dream!

“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.”

‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29:11‬ ‭NIV‬

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭3:20‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Know your identity

I really enjoy the show called This Is Us. I became very drawn to this show because of the family dynamics that are so realistic.

But one thing that really catches me is the character Kate. She struggles very much with her weight and finding who she is outside of her weight. I can relate to her because I have also struggled with my weight and losing my identity to how I think I look rather than who my Creator says I am.

How often do we do that? We forget who we are and focus on what the world says about us instead of the one who created us! In the show, Kate feels that the only thing that would make her happy would be to lose weight. That would make her whole. Her perception is so focused on being what others think she should be that she never realizes the beauty she has inside. The beauty that draws others to her. She doesn’t know the One who intricately created her and loves her inside and out.

God doesn’t make junk. In fact, He says that we are His masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10)

Don’t let others or even your own thoughts take away the person that God truly created you to be. On the inside. And let that internal beauty shine outwardly so the whole world can see!

Keep Moving Forward

Everyone has a fear. That deep seated fear that is difficult to find refuge from. For my mother it’s heights. My husband has a huge arachnophobia, which if you learn the story behind it is very justified. 

For me, I’ve always had a fear of failure. Because failing isn’t acceptable in my mind. Failing means you didn’t succeed and you let people down. You let yourself down. It is a horrid feeling because I probably take too much stock in how others think of me and I never want to be thought of as a failure. 

Making mistakes, in my mind, is a failure. I’ve struggled in this for so long and even though I know that we all fail and we all make mistakes, I am still hardest on myself with this. And when my children fail and make mistakes, I am so much more encouraging to them then I ever am to myself.  Because it’s okay for them to make mistakes, it’s not okay for me. 

I think we have seasons where we go through our struggles and issues more frequently and lately it has been my season. But it is amazing how when we go through these times, if we pay attention and listen, God can speak to us in beautiful ways to help steer us back towards His thoughts about us. 

After a hard day at work awhile back, I was especially beating myself up on something that had happened, feeling like an utter failure, asking God why and I could hear His response very clearly. 

Mistakes do not define you. 

I do

And I say that you are beautiful and talented and loved and etched by my hand to do great things. 

Then, as if to continually push the reminder, a couple days after this my kids were watching their morning Bible lesson and it was all revolved around not having a fear of failure and trusting that God is right there to help you through anything. We all make mistakes, but it doesn’t define who we are. We need to grow and learn from them. And we cannot hold back on what God is giving us as an opportunity because we fear we may fail.

“For I hold you by your right hand– I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭41:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

And because God knows I have a thick head and He really has to pound things in for me to get it, my children and I watched the movie Meet the Robinsons. I had never seen it before and wow! What a fun movie but most of all, what a great movie about getting past your failures! 

There are two great quotes from this film that I think anyone who struggles with failing should hear. 

From failing you learn, from success not so much

Aunt Billy 

I propose a toast to Lewis and his brilliant failure! May it lead to success in the future! 

Franny

How nice would it be if we did take our failures and in a sense celebrated them as a reminder to ourselves that there is no failure if you learned something from it and like that movie’s main point was, when you fail, which all of us will inevitably do, Keep Moving Forward! 

This is something that I am working hard to remember and when I start to forget it seems that God is also working hard at reminding me by sending little things my way as well! 

Let us strive towards not focusing on the mistakes and the failures but on rising above and continuing to get better. God didn’t create us as mistakes or failures, but beautiful treasures that have moments of falling in the dirt and just need some cleaning to restore our shine!

God’s little messengers…

Have you ever had a really bad day and then a stranger out of nowhere comes and tells you what you need to hear and just lifts you up? Or maybe even someone you know just places a random call to encourage you when you least expect it? 

I had this experience yesterday afternoon while driving home to get my kids from their after school program. 

I have been stressed at work lately and was battling a migraine and as I stopped at a red light, I just felt like crying. The pain in my head was intense and I had a million things going through my mind of things needing to be done and all the ways that I felt I was failing them. 

Suddenly, I look over and see an older gentlemen, much like a grandpa, with a cowboy hat firmly planted on his head. He was giving me a big old grin. 

So I smiled back. 

Then he gestured for me to roll down my window. 

Okay, I’ll be perfectly honest here. I had some reservations at this point, but I rolled down my window anyway because I am still a nice person. 

That gentleman’s grin got wider as he called out, “I just wanted to tell you that you are a terrific person.” 

A little taken back, I just responded with a thank you. All the while thinking, Who is this guy??

He kept smiling. “You really are and you are doing good.”

I kinda chuckled at this point because I had been feeling very down about myself and my abilities and hearing that just touched my heart even though I didn’t know who in the world this man was.

So I responded with another thanks and said, “You must’ve known I needed to hear that now.” 

He shakes his head, “Not me, but Someone knew you did!” He gestured towards heaven. 

The light turned green and he calls out again as the car moves forward, “You are doing good and I love you.”

In those moments of frustration, I think God loves to just wrap His arms around us and sometimes uses other people to get His message across. We just need to pay attention to the messengers He sends our ways. 

I pray that when you are feeling down that your eyes stay open (and maybe roll down your car window) to all the ways that God is expressing His love for you and telling you that yes, you may feel like you are failing but you are not a failure. 

You may feel unloved and unworthy, but He is saying you are a terrific person and you were worthy enough for Christ to die for. 

Maybe it will come from the word of a friend, or maybe a grandpa in a cowboy hat, but never forget the unfailing love of the King that wants to wrap you in His arms and remind you how you are loved!