Tag Archives: Grief

Why Our Chickens Crossed the Road

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Our girls, Lu Ellen and Lula Bell (asleep).

It’s often hard to believe, but God has our best interest at heart, even on the darkest of days. Earlier this year, God let us know that He loved us and was caring for us–by way of two chickens crossing the road. Here’s an excerpt from the blog, which is now posted at Lift Up Your Day.

 

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Lula Bell in the dandelions.

 

We didn’t know when Sue would leave this world, but God did. We didn’t know what joy the chickens would bring us, but He did. He orchestrated the whole thing and brought us encouragement by way of the Smiths and two plucky hens, Lula Bell and Lu Ellen. 

When the night seems the darkest, we should remember that God is not blind. He is not surprised when our circumstances change, and He is not hindered by our grief. All things work for the good to those of us who love God and are called according to His purpose (see Romans 8:28).

 


To read the full blog, click here.

 

Girls with Gusto: A Clean Heart

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Photo by Ashley Jones, 2016.

 

I’ve been writing a book for young women called Girls with Gusto. It’s about our mission as Christians and the eight major steps we take on our spiritual journey.

With each chapter, God has been working on me, pulling me closer to Him. It’s a wonderful reminder that I serve a living God who is interested in my well-being and desires an intimate relationship with me. But that kind of growth often brings growing pains.

 

A Clean Heart

Step One in the Christian journey is A Clean Heart. In this step, we learn that we’re sinners in need of saving. We discover God and accept His mercy and the sacrifice of Jesus. Then, God’s Spirit comes into our heart and cleans it out, making us new.

Eventually, we mess up. Like the prodigal son, we seek after the flashy, sexy things of this world, and we lose touch with the deep and meaningful ways of God (see Luke 15). If we’re to hold onto our faith, we have to come back to God and seek forgiveness. Then, He goes to work cleaning out our hearts again.

That’s the raw truth, a summation of Scripture. My own experience is harder to tell.

 

My Story

I always believed in God, even as a small child. I never had a true conversion experience, other than my baptism at age 13. I remember the feeling of a clean heart, white as snow.

At some point in my teens, I started going off-trail, detouring from the path God had outlined for me. When my grandmother passed away when I was 21, I didn’t know how to handle it. I was overcome with grief and depression for years, and I didn’t know how to rely on God. Instead, I got married so I would have someone to lean on. Of course, that didn’t work out, and I found myself divorced at 24 years old.

Robby and I have been married for five years. I now have the love, friendship, and security I searched for as a young woman. And I know that God is the one who provides us with all things—whether directly or through other people. I thank Him every day for what He’s given me.

Because of that, I tend to forget about my past and just focus on the present and look forward to the future. It sounds healthy, but it’s not always helpful. When I was writing about Step One, A Clean Heart, God showed me that He can use my past for His glory. It can be an important part of my testimony, and I shouldn’t deny it or shy away from it.

 

An Excerpt

So, I rewrote that first section. I still included the meat of Scripture but, this time, I told it from experience. I trust this honesty and transparency will resonate with readers; that it will show them what faith looks like in real life.

Here’s an excerpt from my manuscript:

Because of this situation, I know a few things I wouldn’t know otherwise. For example, I can tell you that the loneliest place on earth is inside a broken marriage. The hardest thing to hear is “I don’t love you,” even when you realize you really don’t love that person, either. And, even in the 21st Century, there is a stigma to divorce that follows you wherever you go, especially church. 

At twenty-four, I was the prodigal daughter. I had to humble myself, crawl back to my Father God, and ask for forgiveness. I had to come back here, to Step One, A Clean Heart…. 

In [Luke 15], we see that the father loves his son because he is compassionate and merciful. In the same way, God loves us because of who He is. It has nothing to do with our own efforts, no matter how domestic or diva they may be. This is great news, because it also means that He loves us even when our efforts fail. Even through grief, mistakes, and divorce. 

Our value, then, is not determined by what we do but by the God who values us.

 

Your Testimony

If you’ve tucked away your past mistakes, I want you to know that God still sees them. If you haven’t asked for forgiveness, then do so today. Start your life anew with a Clean Heart before the Lord.

If you’ve already received forgiveness, then there’s no need to hide what has been forgiven. Let the Lord show you how and when to share your story so that it can bless others and bring Him glory.

I’ll be honest with you: it’s not easy to share something painful. But I can assure you that it’s worth it, to live free of the past and to encourage others to do the same.

Do pets go to heaven?

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Sue 2015. (Photo by Ashley Jones.)

I’m sad to report that our sweet fur-baby, Sue, passed away earlier this month due to cancer. Sue was a big part of our lives for over four years, and we’ve never known a sweeter, kinder creature. This has been a devastating loss for Robby and me, but we take heart knowing that Sue is in heaven and that we’ll see her again.

[To read more about Sue’s story, click here for the blog “Faith lessons from my cat, Sue.”]

 

The Wonder

When I was a kid, Grandma and I would marvel at God’s creativity, in the way He made everything so unique and varied, from sunsets to giant whales. Eventually, our talks always meandered to heaven; we’d wonder what heaven looks like, what people eat there, and what kinds of animals and other creatures are there (and, of course, if they can talk).

Throughout the years, I’ve heard laymen and pastors alike say that animals don’t go to heaven. As a child, this didn’t jive with my understanding of God—and it still doesn’t today. I’ve searched the Scriptures for answers, and I believe whole-heartedly that there are animals in heaven.

I normally don’t write about these kinds of topics because I don’t want to cause confusion or detract from the main teaching of salvation through Jesus. However, I’ve noticed that a lot of confusion already exists in this area. Pet parents grieve the loss of their furry friends, and if they can’t find comfort in the Church, they search for it elsewhere. I think it’s time we just explored what the Bible has to say on the subject.

 

Perfect Beginning

In the beginning, God created animals and let Adam name them and rule over them in the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 1). God gave all creatures “every green plant for food, meaning all animals were herbivores (see Genesis 1:29-31). All of the animals lived in harmony with one another and with Adam and Eve.

 

The Fall

Then there was the “fall,” when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were banished from the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 3). It was then that animals began to kill and eat one another, and man began to eat animals. This is the state we’re in now.

 

The Flood

Man became so sinful that God flooded the earth. Only Noah and his family found favor with God. When God directed Noah to build the ark, He made sure that every kind of animal would fit on it, as well (see Genesis 6).

 

Perfect Restoration

Genesis gives us a glimpse of what our life is like without sin: direct communion with God and harmony with all His creatures, both man and animal. It seems that everything God has done and is doing right now is intended to restore us to that state of direct communion with Him.

God told the prophet Isaiah what this kind of peaceful future looks like: 

And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little boy will lead them. Also the cow and the bear will graze, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den. They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:6-9 NAS)

No doubt this is a figurative reference to peace among God’s people. But I see no reason why it doesn’t also speak of a literal peace among God’s animals and between man and animal.

 

A Revelation

Then there’s the book of Revelation, which describes John’s vision of the end times and the hope Christians have in God. John writes of many different creatures and animals, some familiar to us and some strange; some originating from heaven, and some from the earth. He even states that Jesus will ride a white horse when He returns (see Revelation 19:11).

In fact, all of the creatures John mentions serve God and do His bidding. They also praise Him:

And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.’” (Revelation 5:13 NAS)

John gave an account of an amazing event and, again, there is no doubt that much of it is figurative. However, much of it may also be literal, such as God using animals in heaven for His glory.

 

Comfort

It seems that the fate of animals is intertwined with mankind. When we live peaceably with God, there is peace in the animal kingdom. When we fall from grace, they suffer with us. When God saves Noah’s family in the flood, He also saves every kind of animal. In the end, when the whole earth praises God, the animals will praise Him, too.

I have not found Scripture that specifically states our pets will be in heaven. But if there are horses in heaven, why not cats and dogs? And if God created them with such love and care, why wouldn’t He want to keep them near Him?

If you’ve lost a beloved pet, seek comfort in God’s Word and in His presence. Regardless of whether you believe animals are in heaven, the Bible is very clear on one point: God loves us and wants to restore us to Himself. Above all else, take comfort in that.

Remembering Grandma

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Remembering Grandma

April is always a difficult month for me and my family because it is the anniversary of Grandma’s passing. There are just so many things that remind us of her, which is wonderful and painful at the same time. However, this year the Lord used this to show me something pretty neat.

I’m very excited that my friend, author Kristen Hogrefe, has accepted “Remembering Grandma” as a guest blog on her site: http://www.ThinkTrueThoughts.com. Please click over to her site to view the blog in its entirety, and check out her other inspiring blogs while you’re there.