Beginning a Spiritual Journey

In May of 1991 I groggily crawled out of bed and headed toward the pounding noise coming from my front door.  At first, I thought the pounding was coming from my head.  My husband and I had been out with friends and co-workers the night before and I had partaken in my share of toasted almonds. I was  already tired and grouchy, possibly a little hung over, and it was freaking Sunday!  Who the heck would be so rude as to wake me up on my one day off?  I grabbed the door knob completely prepared to “unload” on the unsuspecting and obviously moronic culprit still knocking incessantly.

If I could go back to that moment, the moment before my world tilted in a way that my short 22 years had not yet prepared me for, what would I do differently?  Could the peace that I carry through my life now have helped me then?  Would I have been able to muster a clearer view? Could I have been more caring and less selfish?  Would I have been able to love others through the pain? The loss?  And if I could go back, would I change the circumstances that awaited me on the other side of that all too mundane apartment door?  Yes, I know that if I could go back with the answers that I have since attained and the knowledge that I now possess, I would handle everything differently.  I also know that I would not change the circumstances.  Those circumstances are what set me on a path of searching.  That Horrific day in 1991 led me, well, ultimately, here.

I opened the door and there stood my mom.  And I remember very clearly thinking “My God, she looks ugly”.  I have probably forgotten many details of that day and many of the days that followed, but that first thought, that one, plays through my mind like a symphony.  Mama said, “can I come in?’ I remember just turning my back and walking to the kitchen table, she of course, followed quietly.

You should know that I’m not cruel by nature.  At least, not any crueler than most.  My mom and I had developed an extremely strained relationship when she left my dad.  And I was and am and ever shall be, a daddy’s girl.  Ironically, I was currently living in the apartment next to hers in Tampa, Florida.  I ended up in Florida because my younger sister Kim had called me and asked me to come. Kim was a mess.  Kim was 15 and I was 17 when I quit my job and moved to Florida to save her.  For years I had tried to help my sister.  We had always been the closest siblings by age and the closest by choice.  We played together, went to and from school together, we were even pregnant together.  Kim giving birth to my niece, Christina, 3 months before we welcomed my oldest daughter Rachel.

I sat down at the table, my forehead resting in my hand.  My mom sat down across from me.  I looked up, ready to ask what the heck could be so important this early.  Her face was distorted.  Just completely not natural.

baby kim
One-year-old Kimberly
kim the red
One of two final photos of my baby sister

“Kim is dead”.  Three simple words. I just sat staring.  Trying to comprehend what she was saying.  My mom kept talking, but I remember none of what she was saying.  I recall seeing her mouth move.  I’m sure filling me in on the details surrounding my baby sisters’ death.  I remember feeling nothing but numbness. I remember standing, walking to my bedroom, crawling in my bed next to my husband and then I screamed.

I wish this were a dramatization.  I wish that my response and many responses since that day, had shared more of a resemblance to a Hallmark movie and been less like an after-school special.  I wish… I wish that someone who had walked this path had been there to reassure me.  I wish I had been stronger.  I wish I had known how to comfort my mom or step dad. I wish that someone else could have been the one to make the long drive to tell my daddy that his baby girl was gone.  I wish I had known how to comfort him. I wish that the whys and what ifs had brought answers.    I wish I had been able to formulate an answer when my three-year-old, Rachel, wanted to know where Kim had gone. Where had Kim gone?  Gone.  The end.  Kimberly Anne (with an “e”, like Anne of Green Gables) was gone.

I was the person it fell on to drive 12 hours to share the news of Kim’s death with my dad.  Just me and Rachel.  Just me and Rachel and miles of road.  And Rachel never stopped asking the questions.  She would sit in her car seat and state innocently and honestly, as only children can, “Kim is dead”.  “Mommy, Kim died.”  “Where’s Kim?”  “Mommy, Christina is sad.  She was crying because her mommy is dead”.  “Mommy, are you going to die?”  “Mommy, can we go visit Kim?” “Mommy, where is Kim?”  Where is Kim?  Where is my baby sister?  Is this the end? Is this all there is to it?

As moms we want to be able to answer the questions our children toss at us.  We feel as if we should be able to answer those questions.  Rachel, my oldest, has always been my challenger.  She pushes me to be better through her unending inquiries and ongoing goal setting. But I had absolutely no answers for her on that car trip. Every question that she posed was one I was already asking myself.

I want you to know that I did find answers.  I want you to know that I eventually got answers to every question.  It didn’t happen overnight.  The “finding” has been a long and winding road.  I have lived through many more “world tilting” days.  But that is the point isn’t it?  I lived through them.  I remember wishing that someone who had walked that road before me had been there to guide me.

Your “world tilting” day will come.  It might be a knock on the door, a phone call, twisting metal, or legal papers…. But it’s coming.  If any of the answers I’ve obtained or lessons I have learned can walk one person through to the other side, then perhaps that will be part of the only answer I still seek about my sister.  Why?

“Mommy, why did Kim have to die?”

Rachel, maybe part of why Kim had to die is so that when others are lost you and I will be strong enough to help them through to the other side.

That’s a good start, anyway.

This was the beginning of my spiritual Journey.  The beginning of why I am who I am.

The Spiritual Journey Continues

On May 8, 1991 I awoke to be told that my baby sister Kim was dead.  She died in her sleep.  She died from a seizure.  Seizures brought on, or so I’m told, because her boyfriend got angry and shoved her into a wall where she hit her head.  The End.

I said THE END!

For a really long time that’s all I had.  I struggled to accept the fact that a 20-year-old who had just really begun her life was, in fact, gone.  I made up little scenarios in my head that kept her safe.  You know, She’s not really dead, she actually had to go into a witness protection program that would keep her safe.  I kept replaying scenarios in my head, each with a better outcome. What if her roommate had noticed she wasn’t breathing?  Had CPR been administered.  Was it performed correctly?  What if she had never dated the idiot that shoved her into a wall.  Our family didn’t know about the seizures.  What if we had known?  Could we have prevented this unacceptable outcome? Why didn’t she tell us? Was she on medication? Was she taking the medication? The whys and what ifs accomplished what they always accomplish.  A year later I had a stomach ulcer and I was going through a bottle of Mylanta a day.  I was pulling inward. I was angry and really, all I wanted to do was snuggle up beside my now 4-year-old daughter, Rachel, and never let her out of my sight.  Oh, and I was pregnant.

My mom and I were still battling through a very strained relationship.  I was angry with her for leaving my dad.  I just couldn’t understand her ideas or ways.  On some level I believe I even blamed her for Kim’s death.  I mean, when my parents divorced, Kim chose to go with mama.  I chose to stay with my daddy.  Kim was given complete freedom.  I was on lock down.  Deep inside I was playing with the idea that had Kim not been given so much freedom she wouldn’t have dated the young man who shoved her into a wall.  Ere go she wouldn’t have developed seizures, ere go she wouldn’t have died, alone, without family near, in her sleep. I told you. I was angry.

The phone rang.  Fortunately, we had no caller ID or I probably wouldn’t have answered.  On the other end my mom started making small talk.  After a few minutes she got to the point.

“Would you and Rachel want to go with me to Church on Sunday?”  “ Hmmm…HELL NO!?”  is what I thought, but what I said was “I’ll think about it”.  But even as I said it, even as I thought to myself “you are the last person I’d want to go to church with”, I knew, I would be attending.  I needed answers.  I needed to know what to tell and to teach my daughter and the baby I now carried.  I had to start somewhere.

I really can’t recall any of that first church service.  I mean, it was pretty typical.  I had grown up going to church on holidays.  We were taught to believe in God.  We celebrated the birth of Christ on Christmas.  We celebrated the resurrection on Easter. I was pretty confident that I was at least a decent person.  The Bible was always in the bathroom growing up.  So, yeah, I was cool.  Until the end of the service.  Until with one question my world tilted again.  I assure you, if you tell God that you need answers, (even when you probably only half-heartedly believe in Him) He will give you answers.

This pastor got up and posed this question. “If you were to die today, are you 100% sure, without a doubt, sure that you have a home in Heaven?”

To this day, I literally hear brakes screeching to a halt, every time I remember that moment.  HOLD ON!  Back the truck up!

The implication with his question was that we COULD know 100% guaranteed of our destination when we die. We could know.  How could we know?  Does everybody else on the planet except me have this information? Is this guy legit? Did Kim know? How do I not know?  Can we really be sure?

I’m bright.  I’m stubborn. I follow no one blindly.  So, no, I did not run down front and get me some Jesus.  I was never interested in a crutch or following the crowd.  Only truth….

What DID I do?  I started taking notes. I listened to what the man had to say.  I dug into my Bible verifying every word that came out of his mouth.  I called my older relatives.  I asked questions. I asked God, (if he truly existed) to show me His truth.  I wasn’t interested at all in what that pastor had to say.  I didn’t want a man’s opinion.  I wanted Gods opinion.  I wanted to know what He had to say. I needed answers to my questions.

kim the white
One of two final photos of my baby sister

Can we Know our destination when we die?

If we can Know for sure, then how can we know?

Did Kim know?  Did Kim know? I didn’t know, so how would my sister know?

Are there consequences to not knowing?  Did Kim know?

I’m going to share with you what my searching led me to discover.

I’m going to share with you the answer to my questions.  Can we know?  How can we know? Did Kim know?

If any of my story resonates with you…keep reading. It gets better!

This is why I Blog.

The Answer

The Question:

Allow me to pose a question; a question that was asked to me in 1992 while I was still reeling from the death of my younger sister.  This question is a game changer.  My answer to this question is what has led me to EVERY OTHER ANSWER I have ever searched for in my 47 years.  My answer to this question when it was posed to me has brought me to this point in my life…a 47-year-old woman with no regrets, a 47-year-old woman that can look in the mirror and respect who she sees there.  I am a wife, mom, sister, daughter, friend, writer, growth mentor, encourager, poet and artist.  But more importantly, the title that has helped to define all of my other roles and lead me to this place in my life, this place of contentment, is the title of Christian.  I am unashamedly and unapologetically, a child of the One True King, Jesus the Christ.  What’s the question?

If you were to die today, are you 100% sure that you have a home in Heaven?   Perhaps your answer to this question would be I don’t know.  Maybe, you’re more self-aware and your response would read more like Nope, I’m pretty sure I’m going to split hell wide open!  Or, your answer might be, I’m pretty sure I’m going to heaven when I die because I go to church, or read my Bible, or confess my sins, keep the commandments, pray every night, I’m a pretty decent person, I tithe to my church or even, I volunteer at a jail and homeless shelter.   The truth is, many of these thoughts were running through my head when I was trying to formulate my response.  All good and valid points.  What I answered was “I’ve really never heard that anyone could know such a thing”.

Can anyone really know such a thing?  The following are the results of much searching with a lot of praying for the truth.

The Bible (God’s Word) tells us in I JOHN 5:13   These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may KNOW that ye have eternal life.  So the Bible tells us that we can know that we have eternal life.  This verse states clearly that this is the reason that God had these things written and given to us.  God’s word, from front cover to back cover, was recorded and given to us so that we might know.

So, can we know?  According to God, absolutely!

HOW can we know? 

The Bible tells us in ROMANS 3:10 As it is written, There is NONE righteous, no, not one.  Then a little further down in verse 23 God says: For ALL have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; So, God tells us clearly a few things here.  We are ALL sinners and there is not one of us that can measure up to God’s glory.  That means that I’m a sinner.  My pastor is a sinner.  The Pope?  Yup, he’s a sinner.  My kids? Sinners.  And that means that you’re a sinner also.  Oh, maybe not as bad of a sinner as some…but God doesn’t compare us in His word to other sinners.  He says we are to compare ourselves to Him.  We don’t measure up. How do I know?  God said so.

A bit further and God takes the time to tell us where sin (this attribute we all share) came from. ROMANS 5:12 Wherefore, as by one-man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:  According to Gods word, sin entered into the world when (one man) Adam, in the garden of Eden, sinned.  This first breaking of Gods law caused DEATH TO PASS ON ALL MEN.  So, I did a little study on that word death.  It doesn’t mean the typical death of the body that we will all face one day.  That word death means eternal separation from God and it is referring to the spirit, not just the body.  So, according to God, what we’ve earned for our sin is eternal separation from God in a place the Bible refers to as a burning lake of fire. That is the punishment for our sin and a debt that you owe as of right now.  But, the story doesn’t end there!

God reiterates in ROMANS 6:23 For the WAGES of sin is death; but the GIFT of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  He repeats again, that what we have earned for our sin is DEATH.  That permanent separation from God that we previously discussed. Now, the next part of that verse gets interesting.  God says that ETERNAL LIFE is a GIFT!  That means it is absolutely free.  We cannot WORK for it. We cannot go to CHURCH for it. We cannot BUY it. We cannot be GOOD ENOUGH to earn it.  For example: If I were to go to the store and purchase for you the latest, state of the art, computer.  I wrapped it up and put a big pretty bow on it.  I brought it to you.  I said “here you go, this is a gift for you”.  Then, what do you have to do to make that computer yours?  EXACTLY! YOU JUST HAVE TO REACH OUT AND TAKE IT!   But if I said “this computer is yours, it is my gift to you.  I just need you to give me fifty dollars”.  Would that be a gift?  NO!  You might think that it’s a good buy, but it would no longer qualify as a free gift.  But Gods word clearly states that eternal life is a gift.  You see, that is what Jesus did.  He left his home in heaven.  He came to this earth and lived 33 years and the Bible tells us that He was without sin.   The Bible goes onto say that because of Who He was, and Who and what He represented – because He came to this world for the purpose of dying as an innocent man to pay our sin debt – we helped him to complete his purpose.  We nailed Him to a cross and watched as his blood flowed.  He chose to die a horrible death on the cross and pay for ALL of man’s sins, to fulfill that sin debt for all of us who would be willing to reach out in faith and accept the gift he has purchased, put a bow on, and stands there offering to Any that will receive.

So, allow me to recap my findings:

Do you know you are a sinner?  (Realizing that you fall short of Gods glory and have disobeyed at least some of His commands)

Do you recognize that there is a penalty for that sin?  (Eternal separation from God in a place described in the Bible as a lake of fire…hell)

Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he died on a cross, shedding his blood so that you and I might have the opportunity to avoid having to pay our own sin debt and live in heaven with Him?

If, you answered yes to these questions, then you already believe everything you need to believe. But God word says that the demons believe and they won’t have a home in heaven.  So what is the dividing factor between all of the people who profess believing and those who have actually received Gods free gift of eternal life.  The difference boils down to the same thing all of life’s paths boil down to. Choice.  There has to be a clear choice made with your head and your heart.

God tells us in ROMANS 10:9-13 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him form the dead, thou SHALT BE SAVED.   Saved from what?  Saved from paying your own sin debt in hell.

For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him.  God reminds us here that we are all the same and we all have the same opportunity to gain Gods presence in our life while avoiding paying our own sin debt. There are no different plans for different people.

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.  Are you a whosoever?  Of course! It just means anybody.  How do we call upon the name of the Lord?  Exactly! Through prayer.  I also want to point out what it doesn’t say.  God does not say here that if we are good we will be saved.  He does not say if we attend church or keep his commandments we will be saved.  He doesn’t say that if we give money to the church or refrain from getting a tattoo or all of the other things that man’s traditions teach, we will be saved.  God says, when you get to that place where you realize or admit who I am and who you are then call on my name.  I have your gift. Just ask me.  I am ready for a relationship with you.

Now, it is important for you to know that although, I have a much clearer understanding of all of this 25 years later, at that time ALL I knew was that I believed in Jesus, I believed Gods word and I knew in my heart I was not as good as I wanted to be.  I had made mistakes and messed up.  I wanted to be better.  All I had was just enough faith to say yes…

If you are reading this, and you are willing to put your faith in Jesus Christ and what he did on the cross for you and for me:  you’re not trusting me or your church.  You’re not trusting what a great person you are or your abilities.  You’re not putting your faith in family traditions or any man. But placing all of your faith in Jesus, then

Right now, Right where you are I want you to bow your head , and as much as you can mean this in your heart right now, I want you to pray:  DEAR JESUS, FORGIVE ME FOR MY SINS.  I’M TRUSTING YOU TODAY JESUS, AND ONLY YOU TO TAKE ME TO HEAVEN WHEN I DIE. THANK YOU FOR SAVING ME . AMEN.

If you chose to accept Gods free gift of salvation I would love for you to let me know.  Our home page offers contact information and it would be my honor to rejoice with you over your decision and pray for you as you begin your new journey.

Also, I will be posting more blogs that prove the information I have shared here and will be a huge help to you as you begin to grow.  When I prayed this prayer and started on my journey, there were many who assisted me, befriended me, and helped me to feel less vulnerable and alone.  I hope to be that friend for you.

This is why I blog