Monday, August 15, 2016

Resting In Peace: Planning for Your Family

Acts 2:25-27 (NLT) "...‘I see that the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts his praises! My body rests in hope.


Can we talk about a topic that is generally uncomfortable yet really a justifiable one to tackle? Well, since both adoptions are now final, it's clearly time for me to get life insurance, create my legal wills and plan funeral arrangements. I know, not the happiest of thoughts, right? BUT as an adult, and especially as a parent, it's simply the responsible thing to do! Did you ever realize there are actually scriptures in the bible where some people did their "funeral planning" ahead of time too? Check this out:
  • Genesis 23, Genesis 47:29-30, Genesis 50:5, Genesis 50:25
  • 1 Kings 13:30-32

As I look at my children and how much loss they've already experienced in their short lives, the LAST thing I want is for them to experience my passing anytime soon. However, the fact is we simply never know what the future holds. Because of this, my ISTJ personality is constantly bugging me to be diligent to put anything I can in place to protect and support my kids if the unexpected happens.


No matter what age my children actually are when I pass away, they will be going through enough hard emotions and I don't want them to have the added stress of planning or financial worry. Besides, the fact is that setting up guardianship is super important to me and my kids since they've been adopted. My hope is that after reading this other people will go ahead and do their planning too. I'm guessing that married folks often have their spouses to lean on but sometimes singles don't have the same kind of support because maybe parents and siblings don't like to be involved, don't like think about this, or just aren't around. This kind of planning can be overwhelming and weigh heavy so since I just waded through this process I wanted to share the load and hopeful take some of the "where do I begin" feelings away. One of the great things about doing this planning is that once it is done...it's done and you can move on your happy way with nary another reason to revisit unless some huge life event happens.

Things to do: 

Create a Last Will and Living Will:
A last will and testament is a legal document that lets you, the testator (the person making the will), designate individuals or charities to receive your property and possessions when you pass away. These individuals and charities are commonly referred to as beneficiaries in your last will. A last will also allows you to name a guardian to care for minor children. The main purpose of a will is to ensure that the testator's wishes, and not the default laws of the state, will be followed upon the testator's death.
Read more at: http://www.legalzoom.com/personal/estate-planning/last-will-and-testament-overview.html
LegalZoom.com
A last will and testament is a legal document that lets you, the testator (the person making the will), designate individuals or charities to receive your property and possessions when you pass away. These individuals and charities are commonly referred to as beneficiaries in your last will. A last will also allows you to name a guardian to care for minor children. The main purpose of a will is to ensure that the testator's wishes, and not the default laws of the state, will be followed upon the testator's death.
Read more at: http://www.legalzoom.com/personal/estate-planning/last-will-and-testament-overview.html
LegalZoom.com
A last will and testament is a legal document that lets you, the testator (the person making the will), designate individuals or charities to receive your property and possessions when you pass away. These individuals and charities are commonly referred to as beneficiaries in your last will. A last will also allows you to name a guardian to care for minor children. The main purpose of a will is to ensure that the testator's wishes, and not the default laws of the state, will be followed upon the testator's death.
Read more at: http://www.legalzoom.com/personal/estate-planning/last-will-and-testament-overview.html
LegalZoom.com
Mostly, in a last will, you direct your estate (gifts, property, electronic photos/accounts, etc.) and name guardianship of minors (and even pets). A Living will is an advance directive to physicians and family wherein you state your wishes for end-of-life medical care. Many hospitals and some funeral homes have living will forms you can pick up. To make drafting my Will easier on myself, I'm using a respected online service where I fill in my responses for a lawyer's review and then I can print and have the documents notarized. It has made the process fairly easy-breezy. Once these documents are completed, they need to go in the safest place you have (fire safe box or safety deposit box are the best). And a couple of trusted people need to know where to find it or have a copy!    

Plan Funeral Arrangements:
As I was working through my "Last Will" form, there is a section for funeral arrangement details. You can skip this section on the paperwork if you are not ready to place information there but I decided to go ahead and make arrangements so that my funeral wishes are in my actual paperwork. Although you can do a ton of planning, here's a quick top 5 things to consider and decide upon:
  1. Casket burial (usually a funeral) or cremation (memorial service). I found this article to be helpful. Also, you might want to decide if you want a viewing. It's a good thing to talk through with family.
  2. Who would you like to officiate your service?
  3. Any special songs, poems, scriptures to be read.
  4. Location for the service to be held: funeral home, graveside service, celebration of life gathering?
  5. If there is a specific cemetery for your final resting place or some other directive for your ashes if cremated.
I was surprised at how strong my feelings were about specifics on funeral planning. I want the person officiating my service to actually know me personally, a friend who understands me and my convictions and who also knows my children. I reached out to a dear friend of my family and asked him if he would officiate and I'm blessed that he agreed. I have the simple requests of the reading of a Psalm that is special to me...Ps. 116, and for a Trinity dove release which is where 3 doves are released to symbolize the Trinity and a moment later a single dove representing me is released to join them, circle above and fly away. Currently I plan to put aside the cost of the trinity release. I used to own white doves and they were lovely so the symbolism fits me perfectly. 

You can begin by contacting a funeral home director to get started but because I desire to have a more natural burial, and since "green burials and cemeteries" haven't quite made it to my neck of the woods yet and aren't as well known, it was easier for me to call a cemetery and ask them directly if they had the option of something called a hybrid burial ground. A hybrid burial ground is fancy wording for a conventional cemetery that has a section which allows for burial without an outer burial container or allows for burial in any type of container. Personally, I like the thought of a tree as a marker for my final resting place and I actually found a cemetery close to my home that offers the hybrid option with trees already in place as well as the option for me to use something like a BioUrn. If you do prefer cremation, here is a link to some forms to consider preparing ahead of time: Forms

No doubt, the thought of going there to "pick a spot" brings up so much emotion inside me. But I have an appointment to visit there. Honestly, I do see and trust how God is guiding me, especially once I saw that the address of the cemetery was on Cardinal Lane. (this story will show you why that is meaningful) Now I'm going to work with my contact there, whose family also happens to run a funeral home as well, and I will make those arrangements to knock out that cost early. In Texas (as in most states) there is also a website where you can verify a funeral home (or directors') license if you'd like that added peace of mind. If you have any questions, or need someone to talk to about this kind of planning, please feel free to reach out to me or comment.

Ultimately, once paperwork is signed and arrangements are made, I will not forget that the words, "my body rests in hope" will be the final conclusion. I want my kids to have peace, not just because the preparations were all made, but in the fact that when my body rests, my soul is set because my hope rests solely in Jesus' return for me. And that beloved, is truly resting in peace. 





Friday, August 5, 2016

Ephesians 5:16 - Making The Most of Every Opportunity

Five years ago I created a personalized license plate with the thought that at least one time in my life it would be cool to have one. Ha. However at the time of its creation, little did I know all the ways God would use my little "OHYAY" plate to encourage others! Some times I glance in my rear view mirror to see people pointing at my license plate and smiling. At red lights, crosswalk pedestrians have walked by and given me a thumbs up or laughed. I've also seen passengers taking photos of it as I cruise the highway and once I even found a note left on my windshield saying that every time they see my car they smile.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. After all, God used my previous car 7 years ago to reach people in my community when He placed my little "car ministry" in the path of those who desperately needed prayer. (click the green link to read that story) This week I've had the chance to decide whether simply to keep the plates the state will send me for my new car or to use this opportunity again. 

To help decide, I began to play around with some ideas, get input and pray, pray, pray. Some amazing options were available in customizing a plate! Some examples I could choose were: MYJESUS, GIVE LUV, UZME LRD, JC ISLRD, PRAY 2HM, and BELOVED. As I talked to a few creatives and those who know me well, the consensus was that BE LOVED was the best choice. However, my heart was still unsettled. Then yesterday I spoke to my daughter about one other plate idea I had been considering and she said, "That one!!!!, Yeah that's the one." 

As I prayed over all these top choices on my ride to work today, God began to press on my heart that the message should focus not only on strengthening but should be universal. (not just for the beloved) Considering all that is going on in the country and the extreme burdens many individuals are facing the choice became clear. He lead me to the perfect license plate and it should arrive in 3-4 weeks. 

My prayer is for everyone who sees it...that it is fitting to inspire them as well as remind the beloved of a cherished scripture...one that God has personally brought up this year over and over again. 


"So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time
we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up."

Galatians 6:9


Friday, July 29, 2016

Old Adage Dinosaurs - Never Discuss Religion or Politics?





I've been pondering an old adage for most of the year. And oh... how I've debated with myself on where to post and what to write. The problem with some old adages is they tend to lumber along beside us as historic dinosaurs. Times change yet sometimes well worn proverbs stay with us while still feeding off old values and others' beliefs. Somewhere in our childhood they have been whispered to us in the corners of rooms and become little anthems we carry and, often times, accept without much thought. I was raised to look at topics then draw my own convictions and conclusions. In secular society, this is often described as a free thinker and in the realm of scripture study it's called 'being a Berean' (Acts 17:11).


I'm utilizing these terms as:

"A free thinker is someone that has looked at the evidence and the theories and the beliefs they have been taught and come to their own conclusion about what it is they believe or don't believe. It has less to do with the conclusion. It is about the process. "


Acts 17:11, "Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true."
In this context, I believe the old fashion adage that should go extinct is that, "One should never speak about religion or politics." Have I instantly lost your readership? Well, I hope not because you would miss out on an excellence excerpt written below by Matthew Warner which is both intelligent and insightful. 



Always Talk About Religion and Politics - by Matthew Warner 


There’s a weird understanding in our polite culture that we never discuss religion or politics. I say always discuss them. I don’t mean like constantly talk about religion and politics. But to always make sure and talk about it...


Some say it’s not polite. But perhaps that’s because we haven’t learned how to talk about them politely. And perhaps we don’t know how to talk about them politely because we never discuss religion and politics. Perhaps if we did it more we could learn to be more polite about it when doing so. And besides, there are sometimes things more important than being polite.

Why is it that we would be comfortable not discussing two of the most important things in our existence – our freedom (politics) and our purpose (religion)? Kind of strange isn’t it?



It’s quite alright to talk about the game last night, a new pair of shoes, or how so-and-so did you-know-what and can you believe it? But two of the more important things in life are taboo? What gives?



The obvious answer is that they are more difficult to talk about without causing conflict. And we often avoid conflict at all costs. Fair enough. Like most things that are important, such topics are fueled by conviction and passion. But so what? Is that really a good enough reason to leave off talking about them all together? Should that not be more reason to discuss them?



Yet we often don’t. We seem to be more comfortable having shallow relationships built on chit-chat and nonsense than to have deep, meaningful, fruitful ones built upon challenge and trial. The latter is the stuff of real friendship. The former has raised a generation illiterate of politics and ignorant of religion.


If we actually talked about it more maybe it would help that.



And we shouldn’t just discuss it in like company. We should especially discuss it in mixed company. This is how we learn from each other. This is how we understand one another.



Doing such personalizes these political and religious issues for us. We can then no longer wrongfully demonize some ambiguous, faceless group of people who strangely believe or support some outrageous thing! For we have met them…and they’re not demons, they’re our friends. They’re our family. They’re our neighbors.



Such discussions encourage us to learn from each other and understand where the other side is coming from instead of tritely discounting their point of view in our head without true effort of reconciliation. We may very well be right on the issue, but surely our goal is to work towards agreeing on the objective truth, not to idly chastise so we feel better about ourselves.



Thoughtful discussions are a great way to encourage people to reason through their positions – which they often have not done (on account of never having to discuss them). And it’s a great way to teach when done out of love.



Oh, and we often learn we aren’t quite as smart as we thought we were, too. All good things."

I really appreciate the way this author expresses his outlook. I carry many of these same thoughts. So I, for the record, WILL talk about my God and faith. I will share about him in public and private forums with as much gentleness and honesty as possible. I will discuss the scriptures with people who are open and I will listen to their concerns, opinions and thoughts too. Additionally, I will continue to express my political views and thoughts. I am okay with having those discussions. I don't tend to struggle with people-pleasing so often others find me too bold. That's fine. But let there be no mistaking this statement written in my gentlest demeanor...I will not be shushed on either topic.