I Have Fought the Good Fight…

There’s something about celebrating the life of one who’s gone to heaven before us that makes us evaluate EVERYTHING. Am I right?

I find myself mulling over the questions: Will I be missed? Will people cry? Will my life be worth celebrating? Will my legacy live on? What is my legacy, anyway?

Our family suffered a loss last week when our cousin Steve went home to heaven. It wasn’t unexpected, Steve had suffered the ravaging effects of Muscular Dystrophy for nearly 40 years. But oh, the hole that is left by his passing.

I was fortunate to travel to Oregon to be with family at this time, and witness the great outpouring of love for my cousin. The family had beautiful tributes to share, but it was the comments made by his ham radio buddies that really got to me.

After being diagnosed at age 13, Steve immersed himself in the ham radio world. Before the internet was even a glimmer, he had acquaintances around the world. Ever friendly, ever helpful, Steve became a bright light in the community, even going on to win awards for his skills too numerous to count. He shared recipes for his favorite foods and “traveled” the world by talking with friends and strangers on his radio, and looking at photos on his computer. He was noted for being the first ham radio operator to make contact with the Space Shuttle, among so many other accomplishments.

Steven Richard Kelly ~ March 13, 1964 - August 4, 2016

Steven Richard Kelly ~ March 13, 1964 – August 4, 2016

This was a man who hadn’t left the house for probably more than a decade, and now I’m hearing story after story of how he had helped design landscaping, a radio tower, and even a kitchen or two. In the midst of his own pain and what appeared to outsiders to be isolation, Steve pushed past the limits of his diagnosis and used technology to reach out and make a difference in the lives of others. He lived the life he was given to the fullest he was able.

As I sat there listening to his friend’s tearful tribute, I was in awe of this man and felt very sorry I hadn’t made a point to spend more time with him each time I came to town. Obviously this is my loss.

Which brings me back to the task at hand… taking inventory of my life.

If I had a diagnosis rendering me housebound, would I proceed to make such a difference in the lives of others that they would pack the house for my memorial service? My thought right now is that I would waste an awful lot of time feeling sorry for myself and searching for a way out of my predicament.

Steve never did that. He knew where he was going, and he knew where his strength for each day came from. He didn’t complain about his lot in life, he made the most of it.

I believe God gives us glimpses like this to snap us out of our own complacency. We all can remember those who have risen above their circumstances with such a force of character it’s impossible to ignore. And impossible to avoid. Take a moment to think back on that person you know, and use their inspiration to go and change your world… and just maybe that world will say they are better for having known you.

Live the life you are given to the fullest you are able.

Thanks for the reminder, Steve. Tell everyone hi for us and keep that heavenly party jammin’ until we get there!

” I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” 

2 Timothy 4:7-8 (NKJV)

 

 

Sitting with God in the Silence

It’s been a silent week.

Not in the sense that I haven’t interacted with people or done work or spent time with friends. It’s more like I know God’s there, but he’s not speaking. And that’s OK. We are sitting in the silence together.

Last Sunday, as we were celebrating Christ’s resurrection, he chose to take a precious little life from this earth to be with him in Glory. Tori was the 19 month old daughter of some friends, and I was just one of thousands who had fallen in love with her. Before she was even born and her mama would share the ultrasound photos, we were oohing and aahing over her beauty. When she was born, we oohed and aahed some more over her stunning eyes and rosebud mouth. Ever the photographer, her mama would grace the internet with her precious image so that much more than just family could gaze upon her beauty. Even before that awful genetic disorder reared its ugly head, Tori’s tribe was gathering.

Tori Photo by Lesa Brackbill

Tori
Photo by Lesa Brackbill

Then, just when Tori should have been learning to roll over and pull herself up to the cheers of her many admirers, her responsive little face stopped responding. The smile had gone. Her cooing had stopped. Her big beautiful eyes remained, but her once animated expression was fading. Within a matter of days her parents learned their precious daughter was dying.

Over the next year, I witnessed the most awful, terrible, beautiful thing. As her health began to deteriorate, Tori’s parents were not bitter. They were not angry. They were filled with grace and trust in a God who had let them down. Yes, they must have had overwhelming sad moments. They are human, after all. But we watched as they now embarked on a journey of grace, filled with happy times and even joy.

Where does this come from?

When God doesn’t obey our commands (i.e. prayer requests), what are we left with? We are left with the silence. But in the silence, he is still there.

In the silence, God is still there. He is.

Tori is healed and whole now and most likely sitting on Jesus’ lap, telling all the other kids about how she did more things on her bucket list before she was two years old than most people do in a lifetime.

We are left with the silence. When I say, “but God, what about that dream you gave me that Tori was healed?”

Silence.

When I look at my sweet grandson who came into the world just a month after Tori did, I see a whole, healthy child and ask, “why them, God? How did you see fit to spare our family this heartache?”

Silence.

But somehow, the silence is filled with peace. The kind of peace we will never understand. In those moments, God is silent. But he is present.

He sits with us in the silence.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7

I had the honor of meeting Tori in person, when she was with her sweet mama, Lesa, to fulfill her bucket list item of visiting her mom's Alma Mater (Azusa Pacific University)

I had the honor of meeting Tori in person, when she was with her sweet mama, Lesa, to fulfill her bucket list item of visiting her mom’s Alma Mater (Azusa Pacific University)

Holding sweet Tori's hand while she slept.

Holding sweet Tori’s hand while she slept.

Tori’s story is far from over. Her parents are committed to keeping her memory alive and raising awareness for newborn screening for Krabbe disease. Follow their journey at thebrackbills.com

When Heaven and Earth Collide

On Thursday I was worshipping during a corporate worship service and I felt as if heaven and earth were colliding. It was the feeling as if things of heaven were coming down to earth and all the saints were in one room together along with angels. The presence of God was so overwhelming in the room that I was flat on my face lying on my stomach on the floor.

While I was lying on the floor worshipping there was a presence of someone else worshipping with me. Yes, there were many other people physically in the room, but I felt as if someone was with me spiritually. It felt as though someone I dearly love who went home to Jesus about 6 years ago was with me. That presence was my dear Grandma! It was beautiful. I felt as though my grandma and I were worshipping our God together! I had tears of joy streaming down my face. She and I were laughing together and singing praises to our Savior. The moment was wonderful and I didn’t want it to end.

I know for a fact my grandma is in heaven and I believe God gives us gifts from heaven like visits from the ones we love who have gone before us.

This is not the first time my grandma has visited me. Almost exactly a year ago I had a dream that was so vivid I felt as though my grandma was in the room with me. She told me she was sent from God to bring me reassurance and hope.

Before my grandma’s visit last week, I was missing her and wishing she was with me. I want to talk with her so badly about all the things God is doing in my life. I want to sit down over a cup of coffee and have a conversation about Jesus. Even though I cannot physically see her or give her a hug, I was reminded on Thursday that she is with me. She is seeing all that God is doing in my life, and we shared a special moment together in the presence of God. What an incredible gift!

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Hillsong has a song called “Heaven and Earth.” The chorus is

Heaven and earth collide
The Savior for everyone has come
Bringing the dead to life
All for the glory of Your name

This is so true! The savior for everyone has come. He came to this earth and is alive in heaven. He brings the dead to life, which is true in many ways, but in this case, my grandma “died” on earth, but is alive in heaven with Jesus! And I was able to experience her being alive to bring glory to the name of Jesus. He is the only reason why I was able to worship with my grandma and see her in a dream.

I hope this is an encouragement to you! That you will experience heaven and earth colliding. Worship God, give thanks to him, praise his holy name, ask for an encounter with him, and you will experience the greatness and glory of the Lord on earth as it is in heaven.

 

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” Ephesians 1: 18-19

 

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.” Matthew 6:9-10

The Maze Runner

I had a vision a couple weeks ago of myself running through a dark maze. I was frightened because I didn’t know what would jump out from around each corner. I was sprinting through this maze and there was no end in sight.

I have prayed and seeked counsel about this vision and this is what I think it means… I have a lot of unknowns in my life at the moment and I don’t know which way to turn. Life is a mystery and we never know what we will face.

When I told this vision to a mentor of mine, he told me I need to pray God shines His light on the maze so I will be able to see where I am going. I love the advice he gave me because it’s true! When we shine a light in a dark place we are able to see. And when we seek God with unknown situations he will guide us in the direction he wants us to go.

I still feel as though I am in that maze, but I don’t feel as though I am sprinting, it’s more of a jog. And the maze is not as dark. I am still in the midst of a lot of unknowns but I serve and love a God who has all the answers. I can trust him with my life. I can trust him to guide me in the right direction. The direction he leads me may not be the direction I would have expected, but God’s plan is way better than anything I could have ever dreamed or imagined!

It’s funny because when I worry about things it puts more stress on me and it usually doesn’t work out the way I want it to. BUT whenever I surrender and let God take control, those things I was once worried about are taken care of. We make things a lot more complicated than they need to be.

If you feel you are facing a lot of unknowns let me encourage you to lay those unknowns at the feet of Jesus and allow him to take control. He loves you and will provide and take care of you!

 

Allow God to lead you through the maze of life. He will lead you to heaven.

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(Every morning while living at an orphanage in Swaziland we exercised by running several miles with some of the children – World Race November 2014)

Faith is Dead

Faith is not something you say you have and then don’t do anything about. In the Bible it tells us, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26).

You can have faith and believe there is a God, but if you don’t do any work that backs up the faith you have, it is as though you don’t have faith. Whoa! That makes you take a step back and look at your life, doesn’t it? It does for me.

 

Am I living out the faith that I have in Jesus’ name?

Am I loving others around me the way Jesus does?

Am I doing work for the Lord even if it is hard, dirty work that no one else wants to do?

 

God didn’t say it was going to be easy. He also told us we would be persecuted for our belief (Matt 24:9, John 15:20). But if you have faith and love Jesus the way he loves us it wouldn’t matter if you are persecuted or not. It wouldn’t matter how hard life is because JESUS IS WORTH IT!

Is Jesus worth it to you?

Are you willing to do whatever God calls you to do even if it makes you stand out in front of a crowd or costs you your life here on earth?

Don’t sit back and wait for someone else to do the work. Get up, get going and do the work yourself! God is with you every step of the way!

We have the ultimate reward waiting for us in heaven….the crown of life! We are all princes and princesses in the kingdom of God! Let’s fight for the kingdom and live with a bold faith!

 

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the CROWN OF LIFE that God has promised to those who love him.”

James 1:12

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This is what faith looks like… surrounding and praying for a group of girls who used to be caught in sex trafficking in the Philippines. (World Race Sept 2014)

HOMESICKNESS

What a special time I am having with my cousins here in Oregon!  In fact, I have been a little “homesick” for this “land” and my family here. I was reared in the Portland area from age 7-19, and my fondest childhood memories are of this “place”; its beautiful trees, streams, rivers, waterfalls, mountains and beaches.  (My aaahhhhh places!)

Karen at Cannon Beach ~ Haystack Rock

Karen at Cannon Beach ~ Haystack Rock

But, as I get older I am longing for my home with God, Christ and the Holy Spirit; my permanent “place” for eternity!!!  How can I be “homesick” for a place I’ve never been?  Because God tells me in His Word what that place is like, and I am excited at the thought of that forever time worshiping my Savior and being with my loved ones who have gone on before!

Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:1-3

That’s a promise, and I believe God’s promises because He does not change.  In the meantime we recognize this world is not our home……..we’re just passing through!

Jesus’s disciple, Peter, says in the second chapter of his letter, 11th verse…”Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.”

And the Apostle Paul tells us in “The Faith Chapter” Hebrews 11:13-16…..”All these people (Abel, Enoch, Noah and Abraham) were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, and they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.  People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”

Oh….I am longing for that “place”……that Heavenly City!!!

EVEN SO LORD JESUS….COME!

Are you ready to meet Him face to face today?

A Visit From Heaven

I was up in the mountains for a little get-away with some friends and my mom. It was a time of relaxing, but more excitingly a time of snowboarding!

My mom and I stayed in a separate location from our friends in a town near June Mountain. At the end of a full day of snowboarding, we would come back to our place and relax. I spend most nights sitting by the giant fireplace reading my Bible and journaling. It was the perfect time to sit and be still with God and recharge! I loved it!

Our second night I had a dream, but unlike any dream I’ve had before. Here is my dream…

I was somewhere I didn’t recognize but having fun I know for sure. I looked in front of me and there was my grandma, who passed away in 2006. She was smiling, looked healthy, and the way I remembered her as the fun, energetic, healthy grandma she once was. I stood there in shock as Grandma who is not alive anymore on this earth was standing in front of me. She said to me in a calm, sweet voice, “I was sent here from God to give you reassurance and hope.” I asked her, “For what?” I was so confused as to what was going on and I was wondering if anyone else could see her! And to my surprise people who believed in Jesus were able to see her. My mom saw her, and others who didn’t believe thought I was crazy for seeing my grandma.

And then she left and the dream was over and I woke up with tears streaming down my face.

What had happened?

Did I really see my Grandma?

So many questions ran through my mind, but one thing was so beautiful about that dream…God sent my grandma whom I miss so much to visit me! And I believe that is what happened.

Has that ever happened to you? Have you sensed or even see someone who is not on this earth anymore?

Others may think you are crazy, but I don’t!

When Grandma was alive she said there was a time she sensed her dear friend Rudy was with her. She acknowledged that the feeling was there by saying, “Rudy, I miss you.” And then the feeling was gone. I believe in that moment God sent Rudy to visit Grandma.

 

I share this with you as an encouragement that with those that pass, they are not gone forever, they are with us, and one day we will be reunited with them in heaven! And God may send someone you love to give you an important message.

I am excited to be reunited with Grandma one day in heaven!

 Me & Gma

(This is how Grandma looked in my dream! This is me with my wonderful grandma when I was a wee little girl!)

 

A Mansion. For Me? Yes, Please…

“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.”   John 14:2 KJV

Photo credit: dupontregistry.com

Photo credit: dupontregistry.com

I’ve always loved this verse.  Other translations say “many rooms,” but the good old King James Version, which I grew up with, spells it M-A-N-S-I-O-N-S.  Yes, mansions.

The word mansion, I’m sure, conjures up different images for everyone.  For a young man living on the streets of Los Angeles, a mansion might mean a warm room to call his own.  I live in a pretty large house, but if I have an occasion to drive into Beverly Hills, I can gawk at the mansions lined up one after another like nobody’s business.

My husband is a contractor, and I know all too well what it means to prepare a place for someone.  The meticulous details involved with planning and orchestrating the construction of a home, let alone a “mansion,” are daunting.

Which is probably another reason I love this verse so much.

When I think of Jesus saying, “I go to prepare a place…” I can’t help but envision Jesus with his carpenter’s tool belt strapped to his waist, making corrections and installing every component of my mansion to perfection.  Every spectacular detail is to my liking.  There is not a single piece of tile out of place or the wrong color, the cabinetry is simple in its elegance, and the wood finished to a perfect shine.

All that, yes.  But Jesus in a tool belt?  Gives me a righteous giggle every time.

What do you think your Jesus-built mansion will look like?