Removing the Sting of Death, Part Three

Disclaimer: As with anything I write, I write with the understanding that we all process death and grieving differently – even as believers – and this is not a judgment or a criticism of anyone who handles these things differently. I write about my own beliefs and understanding of death given the hope that Jesus brings to us all, and I write about how this is playing out in my own life in hopes that it might encourage others in their own journeys. 

I have broken this into three posts because of the length. You can read parts one and two here.


It is often said that we tend to only believe God when it’s easy. Afterall, it’s easy to follow God when life is going well, when we have plenty, when things are comfortable.

As Job so beautifully demonstrated, God is STILL good and His word is still true even when we lose it all. 

He is still worthy of our praise and devotion even when we lose a child. 

And, true faith follows even when the way is unclear.

We need to realize that God’s Word is relevant in ALL parts of our lives, including death and other difficult times.

Do we believe the Bible or just parts of it that are convenient and easy?

What about when life is messy?

If we believe that the Bible is the holy word of God Himself, how can we disregard the promises and hope He gives even through the difficult issues?


The Bible mentions death numerous times, and those verses are typically followed by a reminder of the hope that we have because of what Jesus did on the cross. Here’s one example:

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
Then we will be with the Lord forever.
So encourage each other with these words.

– 1 Thess. 4:13, 17-18 (bold emphasis mine)

Paul tells us to ENCOURAGE each other about death in this passage. Death was never God’s plan for us, but Adam and Eve changed the course of history and death became inevitable. One bite of an apple (disobedience) brought death into the world.

“We are geared for perfection which is why we are always so disappointed in life.”
– Rachel Gunsauls

And yet, death is NOT the end for any of us. We are all born with eternal souls and we make the choice during this life to follow Jesus or to walk away from Him – a choice that results in an eternity in Hell.

For those who have chosen Jesus, we have no reason to fear death. Death is merely the next step toward our eternal home and we will be FREE of all of the issues this world contains. This world is NOT our home. One day we will be with Jesus Himself, forever, and that is GREAT news! That alone is reason to REJOICE always.

Romans tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2) and this happens when we embrace God’s Truth and allow it to transform us…this pertains to death as well!

Jesus told not to worry (Matthew 6:34), to not be afraid (multiple times), and to remember that He has overcome the same world from which we wish to hide (John 16:33).

We are instructed to dwell on things above not on earthly things:

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.
Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.
For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.
And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world,
you will share in all his glory…
Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn
to know your Creator and become like him.

– Colossians 3:1-4, 10


The world has no hope, but we do. And how are they going to find the hope that we have if we don’t live it out?


Here’s my advice:

Trust the Lord FULLY, even when you can’t see what He’s doing.

Don’t wonder what might have been, don’t have regrets.

Live life to the fullest NOW and focus on what matters – loving God and loving others.

Then you will have greater peace when a loved one goes to Heaven before you.


I long for Heaven more than ever before now that Tori is a resident of that wonderful place, and I am enjoying learning more about her current (and our future) home.

I know that someday we will be reunited FOREVER and will never be apart. The anticipation of that day brings such excitement, even though I have no idea how long it will be until we are reunited. All I know is that it will feel as if no time has passed at all since Heaven doesn’t operate within the time we know.

Does all of this mean that I shouldn’t cry when I miss her? Of course not. Grief is natural and I will never stop missing her.

However, I do believe that having a biblical perspective on death and Heaven eases the blow of her absence, and it brings me peace that cannot be otherwise explained.

Set your minds on things above…choose joy…be grateful…trust God.

Heaven, along with the knowledge that we’ll be reunited with our loved ones (who also knew Jesus), removes the sting of death, one thorn at a time.

Praise Jesus for His grace and mercy that make any of this possible.

My Third Mother’s Day

I have never been one to embrace or become attached to holidays like Valentine’s Day or the other “Hallmark Holidays” like Mother’s Day, primarily because I have been taught to celebrate these things daily, not once every year.

Even though I’ve been a mother the past three years (pregnant, present, absent), it’s just another day to me. I’m also a rebel and don’t like being told what to do.😉 But mostly it’s because I love cherishing the family I have been given continually and not just because we are told to do so by “someone.”

I’ve also been taught to not focus on what you are lacking, but rather to focus on what you have, to appreciate all that you have been given and not dwell on what has been taken away. Paul phrased it as “being content” no matter the circumstances (Phil. 4:11).

So, while this is probably supposed to be a sad day for me because my Tori is in Heaven and not in my arms, it truly isn’t.❤

As I have mentioned many times before, the discipline of gratitude has had a profound impact on my life. When you make a point to be grateful for things and to name those things out loud (or in writing), it is much more difficult to be negative and sad. God is always at work in our lives and recognizing His hand makes life abundantly joyful, even in the midst of heartache.

So, today – as always – I focus on my blessings:

I am SO thankful to have been chosen to be Tori’s mama and to have had those beautiful twenty months with her. Those beautiful and wise eyes of hers spoke volumes when her mouth couldn’t: I know she loved me and I know she knew she was loved.

Her existence taught me so much and her brief presence on earth has made me such a better person. I am more loving, more patient, more gracious, more kind, more GRATEFUL, more selfless, more like Jesus (which should be every believer’s goal). She was a miracle child in so many ways, and I’m so grateful.

I will always be Tori’s mama! I pray that the changes I see in myself because of her are not only temporary but rather that they continue to change me to be more like Jesus.

I’m thankful to be here in California with my mother and my grandmothers today to celebrate them in person. I wouldn’t be who I am today if it weren’t for these women, for their example and training, for their love. They taught me to be a mother by living it out so well in their own lives with my parents.

These three women – Pat, Ruth, and DeAnne – loved me enough to discipline me and teach me while I was young because they knew that it was vitally important for my well-being. They also taught me valuable skills and I can never repay them for all they have done for me, except by carrying on this tradition of selfless love with my own children.

My mom, in particular, showed me what selfless love looked like over and over again during Tori’s earthly life. She spent weeks with us, helping doing things around the house, cooking meals, and, of course, cuddling with Tori. She has always put other before herself and is such an example to all. She continued to do what she could from across the country to make our lives a little easier even though she couldn’t be physically present every day.

She is an amazing grandmother and I hope that she will have the honor of being a grandmother again someday.

So, on this Mother’s Day, I am grateful for my heritage and the examples of motherhood in my life. I wouldn’t be the mother I was to Tori if it weren’t for these women.❤ It’s a day of joy, not of sorrow, and we will continue to focus on what we have been given.

 

Removing the Sting of Death, Part Two

Disclaimer: As with anything I write, I write with the understanding that we all process death and grieving differently – even as believers – and this is not a judgment or a criticism of anyone who handles these things differently. I write about my own beliefs and understanding of death given the hope that Jesus brings to us all, and I write about how this is playing out in my own life in hopes that it might encourage others in their own journeys. 

I have broken this into three posts because of the length. You can read part one here.


I have been blessed with a few wise women in my life, women who love the Lord and whose words are gentle and timely. These friends are worth more than gold and I’m so grateful for their presence in my life.

Recently I had the opportunity to sit and visit with my friend Rachel. I have known Rachel since middle school and she has been a source of encouragement and comfort throughout this entire journey with Tori, always praying for us and texting/emailing me notes of encouragement just when I needed them the most.

As we sat in her beautiful backyard, surrounded by oak trees and golden waves of grass, our conversation veered toward God and His Word as it usually does. As we talked about Tori’s heaven-going, I mentioned that I try to always say it like that – heaven-going – instead of “death” or “passing away” because that’s the truth. That’s where she is.

Rachel remarked that she thinks that Christians should have an entirely different term for death/passing away than the world does because we KNOW that those who believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior are in HEAVEN.

They aren’t just gone, they didn’t cease to exist entirely – they are in their eternal home, the one in which we as Believers will reside someday, as well. It’s not goodbye, it’s “see you soon!” This should bring us JOY!


“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.

There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.”

 “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus told him, I am the way, the truth, and the life.
No one can come to the Father except through me.

– John 14:1-6

Jesus told us He was going to prepare a place for us and that we would one day join Him there. If we believe His Word to be true, we should believe Him in this, as well. He said we shouldn’t allow our hearts to be troubled with things of this world, but to trust Him, instead.

And yet, we allow the Enemy to instill fear and long-lasting sorrow within us when our loved ones become residents there…

Do we miss their presence in our earthly lives? Of course – they impacted us, we loved them, and now they aren’t physically present. That’s the sting of death that Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 15:54-55.

However, they aren’t really gone – they are in the presence of our resurrected Savior and are made whole again! We must remind ourselves of this instead of being overtaken by sorrow and grief.


Knowledge is power, we are taught from birth; wisdom is applying the knowledge we possess to our lives. The knowledge that our loved ones who knew Jesus are in Heaven is powerful and can aid in turning our mourning into dancing.

The way that we combat the work of the enemy in any area of our lives is by applying and speaking Truth into the situation. Occasionally, the enemy attempts to make me feel regret and guilt in regards to Tori’s short life. In those moments, I halt those attempts by speaking truth: we lived life with Tori to the fullest and we cared for her in the best possible way. We have NO reason to have regrets or guilt!

Truth brings FREEDOM.

The enemy tries to make us feel afraid, overcome with sorrow, and filled with guilt and regret. He wants us to feel like failures, like we are unworthy of God’s love and grace. When we remind ourselves of God’s Truth and His promises, we can overcome these things!

Speak truth in the middle of your fear and sorrow. Remind yourself that God is good, He is faithful, He is sovereign. He loves you and IS love. He is still God even when you can’t see His hand working.

One of the truths I remember daily is that Tori is no longer confined in a broken body that couldn’t function properly – as her mother, knowing that she is free makes me so happy! She has beaten Krabbe and has overcome it! The course of Krabbe in her life was inevitable, so the hope and joy of Heaven is indescribable.


It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies…

…What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever. But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! 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. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.

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

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable.
Always work enthusiastically for the Lord,
for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.”

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:42-58‬ ‭NLT‬‬
(bold emphasis mine)

To be continued in part three…

Exploring Red Bluff

It’s amazing how you can take your hometown for granted, how you can completely miss the beauty of where you live simply because you see it all the time.

When I lived here I didn’t always appreciate the subtle things that make our area beautiful. The huge mountains are obvious and I love those, but there are so many things I appreciate now more with each visit.

One thing I love about Red Bluff is the abundance of oak trees. I went out today in search of a single oak tree in a field to photograph. I drove around for two hours and never found exactly what I was hoping to find, but I found some beautiful areas in the meantime. Here are some photos from my phone and my camera.

Continually look for the beauty all around you. God’s creation is diverse and amazing – there’s always beauty to be found.

 

Removing the Sting of Death, Part One

Disclaimer: As with anything I write, I write with the understanding that we all process death and grieving differently – even as believers – and this is not a judgment or a criticism of anyone who handles these things differently. I write about my own beliefs and understanding of death given the hope that Jesus brings to us all, and I write about how this is playing out in my own life in hopes that it might encourage others in their own journeys. 

I have broken this into three posts because of the length. Stay tuned for part two!


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.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

1 Corinthians 15:54-55 NLT

My grandfather, Papa Fay, passed away last June after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. He was the first (and only, thus far) grandparent I had lost – something I do not take for granted. His death taught me so much and, though I didn’t recognize it at the time, it prepared me for Tori’s passing nine months later.

We watched him decline as the horrible disease overtook his faculties and we prayed for years that the Lord would take him home so that he wouldn’t suffer any longer on this earth. When he went to Heaven on June 10, 2015 he was no longer the man any of us had known and loved – he was merely a shell, a body.

His death brought us joy because we knew for certain that he had a relationship with Jesus and that He was now present with the Lord in Heaven. He could visit with people (his favorite thing to do, a joy that the disease robbed from him as time passed), he could walk, sing, dance, and express himself. He was FREE from the chains of Alzheimer’s Disease at last, and we know that we will one day be reunited with him for eternity. What hope and joy that knowledge brings!

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As we watched Tori decline and saw Krabbe taking a strong hold of her precious little body, this experience with Papa Fay brought me such comfort. She was no longer the baby we once had and her brain was gradually losing the ability to function well. If God wasn’t going to heal her here on earth, we were comforted by the knowledge that He would heal her in Heaven.

After all, God’s Word tells us this about Heaven:

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death
or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.
– Revelation 21:4

When we – as followers of Jesus – are living with Eternity in mind, our earthly perspective on death should shift from sorrow to joy. 

How is this possible?

We all know that death is inevitable – Scripture (and life experience) make that clear.

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die. – Ecclesiastes 3:1-2a

And I know you are sending me to my death— the destination of all who live.
– Job 30:23

None of us can hold back our spirit from departing.
None of us has the power to prevent the day of our death. – Ecclesiastes 8:8

BUT, we also know that this earth isn’t our home, it isn’t where we belong.

Death is NOT the end of our existence.

We are only here for a short time, to form a relationship with God and to preach the Gospel to all so that all might be saved through Him. We are here to prepare for eternity.

None of us are guaranteed tomorrow:

Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.”
How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow?
Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.
What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.”
– James 4:13-15

Don’t brag about tomorrow,
    since you don’t know what the day will bring.
– Proverbs 27:1

Since we aren’t going to live on this earth forever, why do we allow ourselves to become so sad when our loved ones who knew Jesus depart for Heaven?

To be continued…

Mother’s Day Surprise

While my dad was still in Pennsylvania with us, I came up with a plan to fly to California for a week over Mother’s Day weekend as a surprise for my mom and grandmothers (and everyone else). Brennan and I had enough miles through United to make the trip practically free and I had the availability, so we booked the trip!

Tuesday morning, bright and early, I boarded a plane in Harrisburg and arrived in San Francisco an hour early (the pilot had a lead foot😉 ). That was even after Air Traffic Control told them to slow their approach.:)

Here are a few photos of the scenery we saw as we flew across the country:

My dad picked me up and we headed north to Red Bluff (a little over three hours).

My mom, a Customer Service Manager at Walmart, was still at work when we arrived. Because I hadn’t yet seen the brand new store that opened the week after Tori went to Heaven, we decided to go to the store to surprise her.

We had hoped to find her rather than have her see us.

Well, the reveal didn’t go exactly as planned because she found my dad first (I was in an aisle shopping) and saw my purse – exactly like hers – in the cart. She asked my dad why he had her purse and he had no answer!:) I came around the corner and saw her there and she was shocked. Needless to say, she had no idea that I was coming.

I’ve been able to spend time with family and a couple of friends thus far, and we have meetings with the staff of my parents’ legislators to discuss Newborn Screening for Krabbe. California has seen legislation for this in the past (as recent as 2012) but has never added Krabbe to their panel. We’re seeking to change that.

It is going to be a great week at “home” and I’m so glad we were able to make this happen.

 

Day One

Today our new life begins.

A life without Tori. A life with new purpose and priorities.

The visitors have stopped, the mail has slowed, the house is quiet.

Tori has been a resident of Heaven for a month now.

My dad has returned to California after being here for five weeks total.

It’s just the two of us now.

Today is the third first day of our new life together.

11.06.10 – We said “I do” and our life together began

07.30.14 – Victoria Ruth was born and our life as a family began

04.26.16 – Our life without Tori – just the two of us again – officially begins


I sit at the dining room table making a list of all the things that I need to accomplish while I sing along to some new favorite worship songs and drink my second cup of coffee.

We are taking some time to not only focus on our marriage but on our individual selves. This is especially important for me because I now have to establish a new routine, new objectives, and, really, a new life. The past two years were primarily focused on Tori and I selflessly poured all my effort and energy into her care.


How do I even begin to focus on myself now?

We decided that I won’t be trying to find an official job in this interim between Tori and whatever comes next. I have lobbying to do, and we hope to have more children in a year or two, so I need to remain home.

It’s so strange to be able to build a daily routine that involves only me – I have to answer questions such as “how do I want to fill my days?” Wisely. 

I have a few priorities right now: lobbying for Newborn Screening, writing a book, getting healthy (including losing all of my “sitting on a couch for fourteen months weight”), spending time in The Word, learning to love to cook again, playing piano and guitar, and continuing to maintain our home and garden.

Driving for UBER and working at MHS  will bring in some extra money in the meantime while still allowing me to focus on things like lobbying and writing. I’m so thankful for our careful budgeting and frugality that allow us to live on one income so well.

We have planned some trips this year and we are looking forward to our adventures and to spending quality time with one another.

I have no desire to fill my calendar and be “busy” every day – in fact, I am forcing myself to allow plenty of time to just “be” and to continue to process all that has happened.

My heart aches for my baby girl and I know that will never go away. But, as much as I long with all my heart to have her back with us, I know that she is where she is supposed to be. Where we ALL (as followers of Jesus) are supposed to be one day.

One day at a time I will establish new routines and take care of myself and our home. The Lord has brought us this far and I know that He will continue to lead us well. We trust Him with our past, present, and future, and we are thankful for His loving and gracious care.