How to Navigate the Hard-Experiencing Grief(and Joy)during the Holidays

The seventh anniversary of Mother’s death was October 23. One way I’ve honored her since that day has been to choose a passage from Psalm 119 to reflect upon. I always read that long chapter on the anniversary date of her death because I read the entire chapter out loud to her the morning she breathed her last breath. This year the words that I pondered are from verse 28, “I am weary from grief: strengthen me through your word.” It’s not surprising that this verse jumped out at me at this particular time in my life. For the past four months I have felt surrounded by death. I lost my brother-in-law to COVID 19. Others died from other causes: my Uncle Gene, my daughter’s pastor and his daughter, a neighbor, and a staff member of my own church. Most of these losses were unexpected.  So much death! So much grief! So much loss!

I know in my head that we don’t live forever. But, knowing it in my head doesn’t mean losing someone or something isn’t excruciatingly painful. The sadness can be intense. In fact the loss of anything that is dear to us or brings us security can bring suffering. Loss is inevitable. Change is inevitable. Transition is inevitable. The Wisdom writer of Ecclesiastes says it this way, “There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven.” Another word for season or time is rhythm. The ebb and flow of a wave has a rhythm, life has a rhythm. There is rhythm within rhythm. Grief has a rhythm.

Everyone goes through the rhythm or process of grief in their own way. Grief is not linear. We may have been taught there’s a certain right way to grieve, but there isn’t. Yet, there are some key elements we need to be aware of as we handle our own grief and walk with others through theirs.

  • For a while after a loss, many of us will feel as if we are in a daze. The thought, “This isn’t real, this can’t have happened” may overwhelm us. This could become a place of denial.
  • All kinds of emotions will surface, especially anger. It can be anger at ourselves, at God, at the loss itself and at the reasons it happened, at friends, at family.
  • Overwhelming sadness, despair, emotional and physical fatigue, numbness, and depression may show up.
  • Expect that the first year may be the hardest as we remember the anniversaries of the loss. It may be birthdays, holidays, or the memory of other certain events. 
  • Accept that there may be days when God seems far away and silent.

How do we respond to God, to ourselves, to the situation, and to others when moving through grief? There are some things I have found helpful when trying to find my way through grief and loss.

  • In honesty I share with God, with myself, and with safe persons exactly how I feel. I make sure those I share my heart with are those who listen and don’t seek to “fix” me through advice. It’s a safe place to just “be”.
  • For some of us crying and even screaming is helpful. Of course, I find a place to be alone when these erratic outbursts need to be expressed.
  • I picture Jesus sitting or standing with me saying “I understand all you’re going through and I’m with you. I will not leave you.”
  • I find comfort in reading Psalms of lament.
  • I do physical things like outdoor walks or house cleaning, really anything that gets me moving helps. Physical movement informs the soul that we are alive and that there is hope.
  • It’s not always easy, but I work at extending grace to myself and to others.

Remember, joy does come in the morning because of our hope in Jesus and his death, burial, and resurrection. Know also that joy and mourning can abide together. Make room for both.

Suffering and grief come in all kinds of packaging. Are you in the midst of sadness that comes because of loss? What have you found that helps you the most as you move through these difficult seasons of life? How have you seen your joy return?

Living from the Inside Out

Four years ago a dear friend introduced me to the book, “Embracing Soul Care” by Stephen Smith. Everything I read resonated with me. Somehow God had already placed in me the hunger for more of Him that came through some of the themes mentioned in the book, and yet I’d only scratched the surface of what soul care really meant. My husband’s interest in soul care was also piqued. God in His goodness and sovereignty laid out a plan for us to discover together what this “caring for the soul” was all about.  

We cannot talk about Soul Care without understanding what the soul is. In its simplest form it is the total self. The total you, the total me. That includes our body, our mind, our emotions, and our spirit. These parts are all connected.

I recently visited with a friend who has dealt with chronic back pain for the last three years. She had a knee replacement 6 months ago. Much to her amazement, after that knee replacement surgery she realized her back pain was gone. I looked at her and said, “This is proof that everything in our body is really connected.” It’s the same with our soul. Every part of our soul is important and needs to be cared for. Caring for one part helps another part. I find myself more settled, more at peace, more pressing into the person God has designed me to be when I am caring for my soul. When this is happening, I understand how to love and care for others in a more healthy way. It’s a journey of becoming more whole and complete in Christ.

So what are essential components of soul care?

  • Leaning into my belovedness in Christ. I lean on these truths:  Jesus’ love for me is unconditional. He loves loving me and will never change his mind about loving me. He loves to bless me. He delights in me. He completes me. He never takes His eyes off of me. He likes me.
  • Rest – spiritual and physical. My body needs 7-8 hours of sleep every night. I do everything I can to help that happen. When my body is exhausted it is difficult for the spiritual rest to happen. Spiritual rest is being able to experience the love and peace of Jesus throughout my whole being.
  • Living life in rhythm, not balance. It’s impossible to keep everything balanced in my life. I have discovered certain rhythms which are essential to daily and weekly living in a more satisfied, settled and contented way. It’s somewhat structured but never confining. Describing some of these rhythms will comprise my next blog.
  • Practicing stillness and silence with God in solitude.

Reading “Embracing Soul Care” began the movement of soul care in our lives. Soon after reading “Embracing Soul Care” we discovered there was a retreat offered that would help us learn and experience more of the needed “how to’s” of soul care. It’s now been three years ago that my husband looked at me at the retreat center nestled in the Rocky Mountains and said, “Do you want to do Soul Care for the rest of our lives?” I said yes! The rest is history. We will never be the same.

Questions for reflection: Are you living life out of the place of your belovedness? Are you getting the amount of sleep that replenishes your soul?  Does trying to balance multiple plates at one time leave you worn out and empty? Are you regularly quieting your soul in solitude with God?

For us, this has been life changing. We are passionate about sharing with others how to care for their beautiful soul.

I would love to come alongside you in your spiritual journey. If you’re interested, check out my website. www.kristicoaching.com

God’s Protection-Building Faith

My husband and I took daily one-hour walks during the months of the COVID 19 lockdown. These walks helped us not go stir crazy, allowed us to wave and smile at real people in our neighborhood who were also needing some fresh air to deal with the agony of being stuck indoors. It gave us a sense of being able to do something normal.

There were times we took our walks solo. It was on those walks that I began noticing some things I’d not seen before. One being a large prickly pear cactus growing in a neighbor’s yard. I was stunned at this sighting! I am a native Texan who spent a lot of time in New Mexico where it’s common to see prickly pear cacti growing wildly in open spaces and in yards. I discovered there’s only one variety of traditional looking cacti that grows in Tennessee. It’s the Texas Prickly Pear. It makes me proud seeing Texas as the adjective describing this type of cacti! Since then I discovered another Texas Prickly Pear growing by a mailbox on a road I take weekly on my way to church. Both these are now in bloom: one with yellow flowers and the other with red. They are stunning!

Every time I eye the one of these unique beauties, I remember a run-in I had with cacti. It was when I was 10 years old and attended a week of camp at Plains Caprock Camp with a group of girls from my grandmother and granddaddy’s church in Floydada, Texas. This camp is located in the Blanco Canyon and was my first adventure of being away from home for a camp experience.  I wasn’t too fearful since I already knew some of the girls and leaders I’d be spending the week with and I knew my grandmother wasn’t too far away if I needed her. Since the camp was located in a canyon I’d been warned to look out for rattlesnakes. Fortunately, I didn’t find one nor did one find me. However, Prickly Pear cacti were everywhere. It’s part of the beauty. And, they’re big enough that you’re not going to run into one or at least you’re not supposed to.

On the first day during free time, we did some hiking. We hiked up a small hill that took little exertion for a 10 year old.  Coming back down should have been easy but it was steep enough that it put me in a too-fast stride so I fell and started rolling. When the downhill roll came to a halt, I was left with only some ugly scrapes and scratches on my arms and legs, but nothing else! I’ll never forget looking back up at the path I’d just rolled down and seeing all the cacti with barbed needle like bristles that had not touched me. I’d just experienced my first miracle. God was watching out for and protecting this little girl at her first camp. The nurse cleaned and bandaged up the bloody scratches. I had the option of calling my grandmother to come and get me. I mean this was a rather traumatic experience! But, I chose not to.

This encounter with the wildness of nature taught me some things about the intrinsic nature of God and my own nature.

  • God has a “will” and his “will” will be done. His desire was to protect this little girl from being assaulted by cacti needles. He wanted me to stay at camp. He wanted me to hear the Jesus stories and the missionary stories. He wanted me to play and have fun with my friends.
  • I learned some things about myself. I found an adventuresome spirit inside of me that is full of courage and strength. I could overcome fear. Why? Jesus was with me.

I am no longer a young girl. I have passed the young woman season, the middle aged season and am now in the last season. The funny thing is that I still have to work at pressing  forward through times of fear that show up in new planned out experiences or unexpected life events that show up out of nowhere. But two things I know: Things do work out according to God’s plan and will. Therefore, I will be okay no matter what comes, and so can you. I will rest in the truth that I am a woman of strength and courage because of who I am in Christ . . . and so can you.

Where have you seen miracles in your life, big or small? What did that do for your faith? How does that help you press forward with more faith?

What unexpected life event are you dealing with right now? How are you handling it?

The Three Brains – Did you know?

“Coaching as a Learning Catalyst” was an important course in my Life Coach Training. I was intrigued as Jane Creswell taught about our “multiple brains” – Heart, Gut, and Mind. I was astounded to learn that the heart has 40,000 neurons and the gut up to 500 million. Of course, those are small amounts when compared to the almost 100 billion in the brain, but it’s still significant.  We are truly and wonderfully made!

Therefore, with reason we sometimes ask: What does your gut tell you? What does your heart say? What do you think?  It’s good to know how to pay attention to these three intelligences, the heart, the mind, and the gut (the body). The spiritual implications of this have opened up my understanding of how I can daily intentionally worship God with my whole being, loving Him with all my heart, my mind, my strength. It’s a way to offer ourselves up anew to God each day.

How can I love God with my mind? I have a say so about what my mind focuses on. I can focus on one thing or many things that are mentioned in Philippians 1:8: things that are true, gracious, and beautiful. Not knowing what to put in those categories is a telltale sign we need to take a good look at scripture focusing on the attributes of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Lately I’ve been drawn back to a book on my shelf regarding the names of God. As I read and pray, God is revealing certain names that I need to meditate more deeply. God is revealing some present weaknesses where I need His power and active movement in my life to help me find victory. This is being transformative for me.  These specific names of God are helping me stay more centered on Him as I allow Him to address some of my weaknesses.

How do I love God with my heart? When I meditate on the things of God there is every likelihood that those things will make their way to my heart. Emotions, values, feelings of love for God and for others are found here. Joy in the Lord and in life can flourish here and spring forth in action. That action is carried out through the body.

Another fascinating thing about the gut or body brain is that is it has something like a radar that senses when there is danger. The danger or fear may be real or perceived. It’s never a good idea to just follow what our gut is telling us since our instincts come from this place within us, unless we know it’s telling us to run for our life! We need to pay attention to it while also allowing the other two intelligences and our all-loving God to help us discern the right action to take.

We live life to its fullest when these three God-given intelligences are in harmony, integrated. How is that done? I was fascinated when I heard of the vagal nerve. This nerve extends from the brain to the gut. These three brains are connected because of this nerve. Messages flow from “brain to brain” through the vagal nerve. It’s not good to listen to only one brain.  We really need all three working together. When all three are in good alignment, there is peace and calm. That’s something I know I’m always in need of! Jane Creswell shared that a good way to have the three in harmony is through taking 3 deep cleansing breaths from the diaphragm. Take 6 seconds to breathe in and 6 seconds to exhale. Doing this three times has a calming effect upon every part of our being. It’s a place of peace with our Creator. It’s in this place that we can worship God freely and perhaps hear Him more clearly.

I’ll be the first to admit that there are mornings I get up and none of my brains are working! What can I do then? I make the decision, which is made by my mind, to get moving. Any kind of moving which gets my blood pumping is good. There are times running the vacuum cleaner works wonders for my soul!! That doesn’t work very well if my husband is still sleeping, but there are many other quiet things I can do to rev up this God given soul of mine. Researchers have found that even short exercise sessions can help our mind focus on the positive instead of the negative. As Christ followers we have many things to focus on which are good and lovely.

Another interesting finding for me is that these three intelligences play an important role in using the Enneagram personality tool for transformational growth. This personality theory teaches that there are nine different basic personality types. The nine personalities are divided into three triads: The Head, the Heart, and the Body. This is similar to the three intelligences.

Of course, we have all three intelligences, but we may not be in the practice of drawing upon all three as we live out our life each day. We really are wonderfully made by God!

For you to consider:

Which intelligence is the one that you most rely on? What are the dangers of leaning only into that one? Which other intelligence needs greater development? What are some ways you can develop it?

I love feedback. What questions do you have? Let’s continue the conversation . . .

Speaking Christmas like God

christmas-love-came-down-1

This year the Broadway version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas was again on stage at a theater in London. Yet, this time there was no live audience. The filming of it meant people like me could enjoy it safely from home. How I love Broadway musicals!! Everything in this production of The Grinch Musical was outstanding! One of the best gifts of my evening was a very special “audience” by my side: three of my six grandchildren, Lily, Levi, and Lyla. The story, the cast, the props, and the music had us mesmerized.  

One of my favorite songs of the musical is “Where Are You Christmas”. When the Whos wake up on Christmas morning everything pertaining to their Christmas is gone, stolen, lost.  Shock, grief, sadness is in the air. Cindy Lou then sings: 

Where are you Christmas

Why can’t I find you

Why have you gone away

Where is the laughter…

Why can’t I hear music play

My world is changing 

I’m rearranging

Does that mean Christmas changes too.

I’m so glad Christmas hasn’t gone away this year!! It’s impossible for that to ever happen. Yes, there’s rearranging that we’ve all had to do and everyone’s rearranging is different. We’ve all experienced and are still experiencing losses. Some are small, some are in the middle, and some are massive.  But because of a love that has always been, Christmas will always be around. It will always be here because of love, the perfect love that God gave the world when He sent His one and only son, Jesus, to come to Earth. That Love changed everything and is still changing everything, especially people like me and you. God demonstrated His love for us by sending us Jesus! 

The grandchildren and I had some good discussion the morning after we watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas. We talked about our favorite characters. One favored Max the dog. One, Cindy Lou. It was no surprise that the one who favored Cindy Lou is an 8 year old granddaughter, Lyla. As we were talking about the story, she said, “Cindy Lou teaches us that we are to be good to other people even when they do bad to you.” This has a familiar ring to it, doesn’t it. The Love that came down from Heaven and dwelt among us said, “Treat other people exactly as you would like to be treated by them.” “Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love one another.” 

Because of Jesus, Christmas isn’t going anywhere!! We carry Christmas—the Light of Jesus—around in our hearts every day when we love one another in action, especially when we treat those good who treat us “bad”. It shows who we really are. Without doubt—if the characters in Whoville can do it, Jesus followers can too.

Who is it that you are to show love in action to today? I’ll bet there is someone. There are definitely “someones” in my life. 

“For God so loved the world that He gave . . .” God spoke love! What language are we speaking? It will take some big time courage, but let’s check our hearts. What are others hearing my life speak? Is it the language of God’s love? What changes does He need to make in me? 

Merry Christmas!

Blessings in Affliction

 

 

 

It was a sacred place, being with Mother in her bedroom the morning she died. She had such a flair for decorating which meant we were in a place with beautiful surroundings in the physical realm as well as the spiritual realm. God was present.  That was 6 years ago. I’d been with her and Daddy for three weeks. Sleep for me had been restless. Each morning I woke up before 6:00 and quietly went into her room to see if she was still breathing. Hospice had been telling us we didn’t have long with her for the last 14 days.

That morning, October 23, 2014, I sat in the chair beside her and read “my” Psalm for the day. It was Psalm 119. That morning I decided to read the entire Psalm out loud to her. Her eyes were closed but I know her spirit was alive and that she was getting closer and closer to seeing Jesus.  I stood and walked around the room, reading the Psalm and praying out loud when something from the Word caught my attention that I believed warranted prayer.

This Psalm is full of affirmations about the Word of God and living according to it. I prayed for all of Mother’s family, even the ones not yet born; asking God’s protection over them, and salvation for them. In prayer, I expressed my longing that all those current and future little ones would read, love, and live according to the principles of God’s Word. Psalm 119 has a lot to say about the Word of God.

A way I honor and remember Mother on the anniversary of her death is by the yearly tradition of reading Psalm 119, again, in its entirety, knowing there will be certain words or phrases that shimmer.  The word that stands out to me this year is “afflicted.”  We all know what it’s like to be afflicted.  We’ve all had a lot of it this year. What do we do when afflicted? This Psalm guides us in knowing what to do.

  • We open our eyes and contemplate the wonders of our great and mighty God.
  • We offer prayers of thanksgiving and praise throughout the day, even at midnight if we are awake. We can always find things to be grateful for even in affliction.
  • We cry out to God for help. He shows up.
  • We hope in the One who is our shelter and shield.
  • We trust in the only One who gives salvation along with all that is needed that sustains us when afflicted.
  • We trust in the One who instructs us in the way to live. Meditating on His ways takes us to deeper places of understanding when we want to give up on life.
  • We go through the wall of affliction knowing that it draws us closer to God, takes us spiritually deeper, and gives us a greater desire to walk in the way of right living that God commands.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, always in prayer. Romans 12:8

 

It All Adds Up, or Does It?

 

 

 

I taught elementary school and remember the words used to teach subtraction. We use words like take away, decrease, reduce, and fewer than to teach the concept.  Before we learned subtraction, we learned addition. Addition was easier to teach than subtraction. We all like the idea of having more than having less.

There’s another kind of subtraction that happens which has nothing to do with math. It has to do with life. We have experienced reductions of all kinds since the tentacles of the COVID 19 began wrapping its ugly and vicious arms around us in different ways, some large, some small. Our lives have been altered.

How do we lessen the tight grip those tentacles have around us?  We can loosen that grip through addition. We make sure we add right things into our lives. The plan is different for each of us depending upon where we live and our season of life. Even our personality and spirituality play a part in the “adding” back.  I was delighted when told that my Yoga class had opened back up! Sure there was a bit of fear, but those fears were alleviated after I observed and experienced the precautions taken to keep us safe during this workout.

I had four summer trips planned. That was reduced to one. That “one” was the just right one. Blessings abounded!

As Jesus followers we are always in a place where we can make additions that make us more whole, complete, and joyfully satisfied. “Make every effort to add to your faith virtue and to virtue knowledge.” 2 Peter 1:5. Adding virtue (moral excellence and goodness) leads to virtuous living which shows itself to be authentic as we bless others through gracious acts of goodness.  Adding this kind of knowledge refers to a knowing that brings wisdom and discernment.  If we don’t see faith, virtue, and knowledge increasing then we are not maturing. We are underdeveloped. Our quality of life will be diminished.

Where do you see yourself today? How are you adding into your life the right things that will prosper your own well-being as well as the lives of others? What reductions have actually been good? Which ones have caused harm or great distress

A Step Toward Overcoming Depression

 

 

Mother never actually admitted it, but I knew. I could see it in her eyes, hear it in her voice, and sensed it in my soul. Then, I saw the magazine. She had earmarked articles on depression in her Good House Keeping magazines. You’d never know. She was beautiful, sweet, kind, friendly, and always neat as a pin but she battled times of soul darkness. No one told her how to get through those despondent times. But, God made her, knew what could help, and led her to a place of discovering one of the most beneficial things she could do to elevate her mood.

The discovery my mother made was exercise. Her favorite mode: walking. I truly believe she loved it! Mother didn’t have fancy in home equipment nor a nice gym to frequent. She certainly had no knowledge of the natural endorphins that, when balanced and elevated, could lift her spirits. But, she did have the outdoors, some walking shoes, and a house. She had all she needed. At that time in her life her goal was two-fold: to look good in her cute clothes and keep enjoying sweets.  So she was killing two birds with one stone. She was successful. There came a time in her life, however, when she couldn’t walk outside or ride her indoor bicycle because of physical limitations. What did she do? She walked an hour inside her house. Through watching her, I became a believer in the power of exercise. God uses it over and over in my own life to bring me out of pits of despair.

Our bodies really do need physical activity every day in order for us to function in healthier ways physically, emotionally, and mentally.

If ever there was a time that some kind of daily physical activity is necessary it is now. Most of us would have to admit we are threatened with pangs of sadness, depression, gloom, fear, loneliness and anxiety. It is normal to experience these feelings during something as severe as this worldwide pandemic. However, we don’t want these emotions to overwhelm us. God wants each of us who today are healthy to care for our bodies and souls.

Our bodies and souls are in the need of special care. Since we have extra time on our hands, we can show love and respect to ourselves by taking time to do whatever kind of exercise that daily will get us moving. My husband and I have increased our walking time each day to an hour. It has been a stress buster and a mood lifter.

For those who don’t already have an exercise routine in place, it’s never too late to begin. Just as an experiment, I walked 6 minutes in the house last week and was amazed at the number of steps I was able to get in in that amount of time as I weaved in and out of rooms. It was early in the morning. I was surprised at how much more awake and refreshed I felt at the beginning of the day. I also used that time to speak the names of the people in prayer who I personally know who are fighting for their lives because of COVID-19.

Many people say that their best times of prayer and worship are done on walks. I agree. Somehow a muddled mind can find clarity. Our whole self can find calm. Toxins can be released. Pain can be dulled. Anger can subside. Tears can flow. Thanksgiving starts to spill out. The benefits are endless!

How about you, my friend? Are you taking care of the amazing body God gave you through creating times each day for physical exercise? I hope so. It’s a good daily practice that will help us all better manage the place we’re in where we have no control. It’s never too late to get moving. What will you do today to renew your soul through exercise?

Quieting Our Souls

We’re all walking out our own story in this outbreak of COVID-19. The most important question for me today: How am I walking it out? Maybe you want to ask that question with me.

Am I walking it out knowing Jesus is with me? Am I concerned for others, even those outside of my immediate family? Am I ready to share? Would I let go of something I’d like to hold onto if someone is in need? Am I praying more than I’ve ever prayed? Is my soul worshipping God as I pray? Do my prayers include those who were already fighting intense battles of all kinds before this virus crashed in like a tidal wave? I hope so. In a way, I think those dear ones may need our prayers more than anyone else. They need to know they are not forgotten.

Many years ago I read a Christian classic, The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. This classic has shown up on a required reading book list for The Soul Care Institute that my husband and I are a part of. It is good to be reading again about the life of Bro. Lawrence. I am reminded, through his life that my whole day can actually be God centered. It’s really possible for any person to practice the presence of God all during the day.

This pandemic has quieted our immediate surroundings – at least there’s less traffic and noise. But anxiety, stress and even panic have not quieted, and this is impacting our souls. Our souls long to be quieted. Our souls long for rest, hope and peace.

What an opportunity to give our souls what they long for. God’s presence in us and around us aids us in this soul posture. What an opportunity for me and for you to frequently set apart daily times to focus our gaze upon Jesus and pray like we’ve never prayed before.

We have the time.

Even Brother Lawrence, in his earliest days of his love journey of walking with Jesus, struggled with “wandering wild fancies that would invade his mind and take violent passion of the place of God.” During those times he kept calm, proceeded to rid his mind of the distractions, and returned to his commune with God.

Be blessed, dear ones, and stay close to the heart of Jesus. “Seek the Lord and His strength. Seek His presence continually.” Psalm 105:4

 

 

 

 

The Way to Live-The Way to Leave

 

In September of 2018 while on a spiritual retreat in Colorado, I peeked at Messenger. It was the kind of retreat where we were asked to put all technology aside, but I did happen to glance at my phone and saw something from my cousin, Greg. We lived 1000 miles apart which made keeping in touch difficult. Because it was unusual for him to message me, I knew it had to be something important. It was. He was asking for prayer. He had passed out in a restaurant which landed him in the hospital for testing. The doctors feared he had leukemia. The fear was confirmed.

Greg was a farmer. A friend has the right word to describe farmers: tough. Yes, farmers are tough. Greg had strength and toughness. But, he had something else, too: gentleness and a great capacity to love and spread joy. He poured out that love and joy to his teenage daughter, Sydney. He couldn’t bear leaving her. She’d already lost her mother 9 years ago. So, Greg fought hard for one and a half years. Two weeks ago yesterday, his final earthly battle was done.

I called Greg frequently during his stay at MD Anderson in Houston. His stay was long: eleven months. Our conversations were gifts to me. I remember one of his comments, “It’s a win-win, no matter what happens.” He said those words with joy and assurance. He could say them because he knew he had the hope of Heaven awaiting him. He knew that’s where he was headed, either sooner or later. Of course, he desired later, but he was entrusting it all to Jesus whom he loved and had given his life to years earlier.

God, through His goodness, grace, and mercy provided a way for me to attend Greg’s memorial service. Actually, God worked a miracle in order for me to be there. Yes, there was intense sadness for Sydney, Greg’s mother (my precious 90-year-old Aunt Nancy) and Greg’s brother, Mike. And, sorrow for all the rest of us who loved Greg. But, what we received from the memorial service gave comfort and even joy.

The pastor and shepherd, Rick, who’d spent much time with Greg, shared what Greg whispered into his ear one of the last times he saw Greg. Greg’s declared, “It is well with my soul.” How could Greg say that? He knew Who he belonged to and what he had to look forward to. It’s evident he’d surrendered everything which included his every breath to the keeper of his soul: Jesus.

Greg left the proof that he’d surrendered it all. This proof was included in the words he wrote that were read at the funeral: “Everyday God gives us is a blessing. When I’m gone I’ll be with him. What a blessing.” In these words printed on the memorial program, Greg again affirmed, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

This proof was also in the words of the two songs Greg wanted sung: “When I am down, and, oh, my soul, so weary, when troubles come, and my heart burdened be. Then, I am still and wait here in the silence until You come and sit awhile with me. You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains, You raise me up to walk on stormy seas, I am strong when I am on your shoulders, You raise me up to more than I can be.” And then the song Even If by Mercy Me “. . . I know You’re able and I know You can save through the fire with Your mighty hand, but even if You don’t my hope is You alone.”

Greg left us in a way that brought glory and honor to the One who made him. Greg’s hope was in Christ and him alone. He breathed his last breath knowing all was well with his soul.

Questions we must answer: How is my soul today? How will my soul be the day I take my last breath?

What we do right now in this very moment will determine the answer.