That ONE Person (Blog)

You’ve had that feeling before, that nagging in the pit of your stomach that something is just not right. I was asked to speak at Bartlett United Methodist Church months ago. I suddenly realized that it was a week away and I had not asked permission from my boss, nor had I begin to prepare. Panic set in and I told myself I just had to find a way to get out of this situation. I sent a text to the daughter of the mother of whose church I was going to speak. I told Holly, I can’t do this…what am I going to do! She asked, “When is it?” I responded, “Next Tuesday!” Silence.

More panic began to set in as I did not receive a response from Holly and I imagined she had contacted her mother to tell her that I was not able to speak because of my work load, a misunderstanding because I thought the event would be at night, [insert next excuse].

Most of you are familiar with LinkedIn on social media. I am a member because I kept receiving invites and I finally succumbed to realize it would be a good outreach tool. I received a message in my inbox from a man I didn’t know and he proceeded to tell me the story about his father. He gave me permission to share this wonderful, bittersweet story.

Lisa:

I am a Germantown resident with three boys. I have followed Trey’s and your family from the beginning of Trey’s illness. I want you to know your son taught so many how to die with God’s Grace. Little did I know that God put Trey and your family in my life for a reason. In the fall of 2013, my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and he passed away April 2014.

But because of your story being told publicly, I knew what to expect. I shared your family’s story with my dad. During this time my father found God and was saved. He is with Jesus now and Trey. He knew Trey’s story and he knew what a disciple Trey was until the last minute and still is today.

I spent the last two weeks with dad and most of his waking moments were just talking. Nothing was left unsaid and I am happy to say that.

I was talking to my dad’s pastor as he was asleep one day about my dad’s salvation and the pastor said he was present when my dad accepted Jesus into his heart. He also stated my dad talked about Trey’s story. Wow!!

The pastor told me that “dad was teaching me his final lesson”. He was “teaching me how to die with grace”. I immediately thought of Trey.

I want you to know I still pray for Trey and your family. Trey may have left this earth but he is alive. He has helped so many and I am sure I am not the only one.

Although, I have never met your family or Trey, I am very thankful you shared Trey with the world.

You should be so proud of Trey and how he taught so many lessons to people of all ages.

Sincerely,

Steve Gilmore

After I read this story and Steve and I communicated, I went to my boss with a convicted heart. I told him I had a problem. After I told him what was going on, he looked at me with all seriousness and said, “You need to get your mind right.” I said to myself, “What?” and immediately thought, “Did I say that with my inside voice or outside voice?” Luckily, my inside voice. Joe went on to tell me, “There will be ONE person there that will need to hear what you need to say.” I told Joe the story of Steve Gilmore and his father, and in my mind, might have been JUST THAT ONE at the time and place God had intended. I left his office with his blessing to speak and I sent a text to Holly telling her all is well.

I received a text the night before I was to speak from my prayer partner, Ashley McCrary, asking me what I was going to speak about. She knew I was going to speak about Trey, but she wanted to know specifically so she could pray. I laughed and I told her I had 14 different versions and I had no clue. I had a migraine and I could not focus to decide. I put my Ipad down and just prayed for God to lead me in the coming day.

The ladies at Bartlett United Methodist Church were so lovely and inviting. I shared with them my story about not knowing what I was going to share and they were also touched by Joe’s compassion to let me go out into the community to share Trey’s story. As I looked over the crowd while I was speaking, I communicated with God, “Who is that ONE Lord that needs to hear from you today?” Sometimes we will never know how the Lord touches someone’s life through our actions or words.

I have been weary lately and my writing has been put to the wayside. Out of the blue I received a text from my friend Tami Theobald. We talked about how fear can restrict us from what we want to put on paper. She made a statement that is so true. “We write as if it really happened, we have to bleed on paper.” Then she said, “Someone needs to hear your words!” That was the SECOND time someone has told me that. She told me, “Your words heal you by writing them and heal others by reading them.” I was amazed at God’s work in telling me, “Lisa, it’s time to put it on paper.”

At the end of speaking at Bartlett United Methodist Church we had a question and answer time. One special lady asked the question I have been waiting for someone to ask. “What are the things we should or should not say to a grieving parent?” I lit up for joy and said, “Oh, thank you so much for asking that question and here are my suggestions.”

1. Try to avoid – “I’m sorry for your loss.” Trey is not lost. I know where he is. It’s not that it’s offensive, it’s just a church saying when you don’t have anything else to say.

2. Please don’t say – “Oh, he’s better off in heaven not suffering.” Are you kidding me? I know he’s in heaven, yes, but I’m still his mama and if I could beg God, like I have MANY times, I would ask for just ONE more time with him so I could tell him how much I love him.

3. Try to avoid – “I know what you are going through.” Unless you have lost a child, no you don’t. I carried my son for nine months, fed him, bathed him and changed his diapers. Then at age 15, I fed him, bathed him, and changed his pants, underwear and bed as he looked up at me, sometimes with no words.

4. Remember this one, if you can – “Call me if you need anything.” We won’t call you. We are grieving and it is not in a grieving person’s nature to reach out. We are still reaching in to find what was lost. We know it cannot be replaced, but we are trying to find a new way to function as a family of three.

BEST HELP!
– Listen to our memories
– Tell us that you will pray for us, and DO IT!
– Insist on bringing a meal or going to dinner together – even after two years (action speaks louder than words)
– Remember a hug goes a long way
– Be patient with our tears. They will flow for years, and years, and years.
– Put yourself in our shoes
– If you ask how we are doing, be prepared to listen

I retweeted something today that I thought was so important. “Be a voice, not an echo.” By being that voice, you might be the only Jesus that ONE person sees or hears. In speaking, that ONE person might have needed to hear the suggestions for a grieving parent. My prayer partner, Ashley McCrary, her kids, and other adults and high school kids at Central Church are leaving for Ecuador tomorrow. I think of them as they go out to be the Jesus that ONE person might see and one day, just maybe, be at the feet of Jesus because of their ACTIONS. For this reason, I have said, I will never stop talking about Trey’s faith story. Will it add ONE more child to your kingdom Lord? Isn’t that our purpose? Was that Trey’s purpose? To bring people to HIM?

“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

Are you the only Jesus someone sees today? If so, would it lead them to the feet of Jesus? As Christians, we are held accountable to go…preaching and teaching the Word. So wherever you are, whatever you are doing, KNOW you might be that ONE to someone.

Just Being Real…Leaving Home (Blog)

Jay and I left my home church, Parkway Village Baptist almost 20 years ago to become a part of Germantown Baptist Church (GBC). Parkway Village was all I had ever known. We did not visit anywhere before going to GBC because there were so many people that I knew at GBC and it was a comfortable fit. That does not mean the move from Parkway Village was easy. I left all my family behind as Parkway Village was going through a difficult period.

Jay and I knew that we eventually wanted to get into a church with a large youth program because that was what I had growing up and the bonds that were formed then are still with me today. We also knew we would eventually move from our Cordova home to Collierville to raise our children in the Collierville schools. Through all of those moves, God was with us as we prayed each step of the way; moving houses, giving birth to two children.

For more than 8 years, I served in the Youth Ministry at GBC because my heart is with youth. There is nothing more satisfying than pouring into their lives and ultimately seeing the light bulb go off as God speaks to them. So many precious girls and so many memories; summer camps, Vintage (girl’s camp), Youth Choir, Youth Choir retreats, mission trips, DNOW; all serving most of this time with Trey and/or Collin in the youth group.

Then, in 2012, at DNOW with our GBC youth, God changed the direction of our family with Trey’s diagnosis. After Trey’s death, Collin was left in the youth and I continued to co-teach a class. I finally came to the point that I realized that I was putting the oxygen mask on everyone else and not on myself and not doing God service in His teachings. My grieving need was paramount over my teaching need. BUT, during this time, the meals had stopped, the cards were no longer coming in the mail, the statements that were made would be, “Call me if you need anything”. Well, I can’t call anyone. If you have walked the death of a child journey, you will know that you are still there, in 2012. He is still in 10th grade as many of you have walked your child off to college and that phone call…well, it needs to be made by you. But the phone calls did not come. I heard, “We need to get together.” And all I knew and still know how to say is yes, we do.

Jay did not return to Sunday School after Trey’s death for many reasons. When I stopped teaching, we went to several classes. God literally closed doors by backs being turned (not intentally!). You can’t get a more clear answer than that. I began to pray for Collin’s heart to soften to leave GBC. After his best friend left with his family because his father is pastoring a church, Collin felt a little disconnected. Collin told me in the last three months he was NOT leaving GBC. I just continued to pray and told Jay I would give it till the first of the year.

I continued to pray daily Ps. 31:3 “For you are my rock and fortress; For Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me.” During the holidays, I had eight days off and took that time to rest and take the time to prayerfully consider with Jay what our family needed to do come the first of the year.

Let me preface all of this by saying something Ernie Frey said from the pulpit at Central several weeks ago. It does not matter WHO is in the pulpit or IF there is a pastor in the pulpit, the PEOPLE are the church. The church is merely filled with sinners saved by God’s grace and also filled with sinners who have yet to know the saving grace of our Savior. All churches have issues, difficulties, staff changes, growth spurts, and differences in beliefs. But the majority of the churches in Collierville believe that Jesus was the Son of God and died to save us from our sins. Not ONE of us is perfect! There is no psychiatrist, psychologist, or grief therapist that can substitute for the church and the love that should emit from knowing its mission of sharing the Gospel. Even though we are seeing every counselor known to man to help with our grief, we come home and that warm and fuzzy feeling just doesn’t exist.

Oh, but I’ve claimed to have had joy? Well, for the first time in a LONG time since Trey’s death, it happened. A couple of weeks ago Collin was giving us grief about going to church that morning. We had not told him we were planning to go to Central. When we did, he did not say anything and he got ready for church. After Sunday School, I saw him come in the service late and my first thought, “Great, here we go. He’s been in the bathroom avoiding church.” After the service he came up to me talking non-stop how he was asked to join the Encounter (DNOW) planning team and that’s why he was late to church, how they were doing this and that. I just played it cool and afterwards I thought Gina Johnson and I were going to squeal like little girls. God had touched his heart. He was welcomed, loved, needed, and found his place. A place that had not been Trey’s place.

Fast forward to two Sundays ago. Jay was at work and my best friend visited with me, Cindy Few. We sang 10,000 Reasons and The Stand, both from Trey’s funeral. I cried in her arms and God placed her there for a purpose. Ernie preached about the discipline and leading in the family. God spoke through him directly to me about the leading of our family. Discipline is the responsibility of the home, not the church. I think I had been waiting for Collin to shape into place where Trey had made his mark in life.

Last week, Jay and I were coming out of Sunday School and a man grabbed me to hug. I looked up into these familiar eyes and melted into the arms of Jim Siegfried. If you have not read my book, Jim and Cyndi were members of GBC at one time and he baptized Trey. His grandson, Corbin, was one of Trey’s pallbearers, and we are just close in family. We then sang Forever Reign in the service, another song from Trey’s funeral. During the service, God spoke directly to me as our Sunday School teacher (Ky Faciane) was preaching. He told me that no matter WHAT church we belonged to, Trey would be with us wherever we go. And the friends that I have at GBC who are my true friends, will remain my friends for life. Peace. Joy.

We left the service to attend the Starting Point class to learn more about Central Church; and that was just our plan, learn. Collin said, “I don’t need to go, I’m already a member.” I said, “No you’re not!” He had no idea what he was talking about, but the fact that he voiced in his way how God had changed his heart was joy to this mama’s heart that I knew HE heard my prayers.

Starting Point…turned into joining Central Church. I’m already in a Beth Moore study on Wednesday night, I have run into so many ex-GBC people that want me to join the choir, Jay and I are helping with Encounter this weekend, they have a grief team that will be helping us. Most of all, and most importantly, every time I have walked in each door I have felt loved.

Ps. 30:5 says, “For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning.” I do not dare say that my weeping is over, (I still cry just about everyday) but I can tell you that joy has come in the morning for the Erwin family. It is different in a certain young man’s attitude and we all know that makes life a little easier. I don’t expect many people to understand. I’ve said many times, put yourself in my place and suddenly have God rip away your son or precious daughter and be expected to come to grips with it as people move on. Sometimes, I feel like it is down right mean!

There will still be the questions and comments because we are the Erwin family (I’ve had it happen several times at Central). There are many friends and people at Central I do not know who prayed for us and walked the journey with us. I pray I will have the opportunity to share our journey with the women at Central and I hope I will be able to return to GBC to speak to the family where I will always call my home. Selfishly, Pastor Charles did not want to see us go, but he did so with many blessings and love. I will miss Charles Fowler and Ron Norton, but I will not ever wander far from home.

Learning to live as a family of three, listening to His call, and following His leading.

WHOA! WHAT’S THAT SMELL! (Blog)

Wow is my nose sensitive! I feel sorry for my husband because he has to be so careful about his aftershave and cologne.  There were many times that I told Trey to go back upstairs and change shirts because he smelled like he took a bath in Polo.  That trait he passed along to Collin and I make him scrub himself with a wet paper towel before I can get in the car with him.

I recall so many choir performances when many directors would ask the choir, “Please refrain from wearing perfumes and colognes for tomorrow’s performance.”  It never failed.  Someone would wear something that would close your throat.

I have been at Burch, Porter & Johnson for almost 16 years.  I can tell you who and when the person was on the elevator by perfume they were wearing.  And actually, there are some people I miss because their fragrance no longer fills the air.

Unfortunately, I cannot wear fragrances, scented lotions, except for Burberry.  And I only wear it on special occasions.  All fragrances, whether they are floral, sweet, woodsy, no matter what, send my senses into migraine overdrive.

When I walked off the elevator this week at work, my mind began to spin.  What is my aroma? Would God find my aroma sweet and pleasing?  There are many passages in the Old Testament that reference burnt offerings being a sweet aroma to the Lord. “Command the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be careful to present My offering, My food for My offerings by fire, of a soothing aroma to Me, at their appointed time.’” Numbers 28:2

    How blessed are we that our offering has been made on the cross on our behalf. We must be the sweet aroma to the Lord.

For the next five months of grieving, I cannot guarantee at any given moment I will embody a sweet aroma to and/or for the Lord. I know that the Lord is with me in the valley and know that I plan to do as many things as I can to bring Him joy during this time.  For one, I will surround my computer and desk area with uplifting scripture.  I know that His word will NEVER come back void and if there is anything sweet smelling to the Lord, it is the voice of His children reading His word daily.

I am diving into a Beth Moore bible study “Children of the Day”.  The first line in the description of this study – Is your family life a challenge?  Well, I would say so.  I believe 1 and 2 Thessalonians is going to bless me as I walk with Paul.  Paul has taught me how to live through the trials of this day and I know this will be an exciting study that will provide wisdom.

So, what is your aroma? Does your character exude joy for the Lord? Do you close throats of others by your strong aroma? Non-christians want to know what this “joy in the Lord” is all about and they can smell it.  Or maybe you smell of kindness and love.  That is an aroma that has been swirling above my head for about a month from several people.

What do you do when something smells good? Maybe it is a fresh pie out of the oven or chocolate chip cookies! A smile comes over your face and you immediately inhale.  I hope your throat doesn’t shut!  The next time you meet someone with a pleasing aroma for the Lord, make it your intention to tell them.  They will be blessed and so will the Lord.

And P.S.  Be sensitive to those of us who can’t wear perfume! And buddy, I miss your Polo smell, the smell of your skin, but most of all, I miss the smell of your sweet, sweet spirit and laughter.

There’s a sweet, sweet Spirit in this place,

And I know that it’s the Spirit of the Lord;

There are sweet expressions on each face,

And I know they feel the presence of the Lord.

Sweet Holy Spirit, Sweet heavenly Dove,

Stay right here with us, filling us with Your love.

And for these blessings we lift our hearts in praise;

Without a doubt we’ll know that we have been revived,

When we shall leave this place.

There are blessings you cannot receive

Till you know Him in His fullness and believe;

You’re the one to profit when you say,

“I am going to walk with Jesus all the way.”

God Through the Rearview Mirror

MirrorI spent this last weekend with wonderful friends in Chattanooga. Sonya Luna called me two weeks ago and invited me to visit UT Chatt, her daughter, Madison, and so many of the class of 2014 from Collierville High School that were Trey’s friends. My first reaction was ABSOLUTELY! The more I thought about it as the time came, the more excited I got about getting away than actually spending time with others.

Sometimes, you never realize how much you need the time away from your loved ones until you leave, especially during the grieving process. Thank you for that tidbit of advice Andy and Rachel Schelb! If you are tired of reading about our grieving process, you can stop reading now. God does not say, “Thou shalt grieve for a two year period and thou shalt be healed”. No, He says, “Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name. He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With a long life I will satisfy him and let him see My salvation.” Ps. 91:14-16 So, (1) because I have loved Him, He will deliver me; (2) when I call on Him, He will answer; (3) He will be with me when I am troubled, He will rescue me; and most importantly, (4) He will give me a long life ending with His salvation in glory. That, my friend, is an awesome promise whether or not you are grieving.

We talked this weekend about some of our fears. One of mine is driving across high bridges. The two mothers I was with talked about their children being hundreds of miles away and the decisions their children are making. As we discussed many things, they talked of their children in the present and all I could do was bring up Trey in the past. The one thing we talked about was perception and our kids. The perception of Trey is that he was this wonderful, Christian young man that had it all together and floated up to Jesus with wings while the Hallelujah Chorus was being played. That is entirely not true. I tried to remind Collin recently that while he was at school, Trey sat at home and cried because he just wanted to be normal. There was nothing normal about what he was experiencing and sometimes, he just did not like it. The same goes with the kids in college. Things go wrong and they are texting their parents for advice.

I think we spend most of our days as Christians weighing our decisions and after the fall out, we look back and will either have learned a hard lesson, not moved forward from the decision, or be joyful for the direction God led us. How many sermons have you heard about not living your life looking back? How many quotes have you seen about moving on? What about scripture? “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead…” Phil. 3:13 The terrible thing about society is that everyone is in such a hurry. Decisions are meant to be prayed over and considered very cautiously. What might be important to you, might not be important to someone else. That is a hard pill to swallow and I have learned that in the grieving process as friends have moved on and Trey is not on their priority list to talk about. It was such a blessing to spend time with friends this weekend and have the freedom to talk about Trey whenever I wanted and know I was loved.

What do our decisions have to do with looking at God through the rearview mirror? When I initially took this picture, my thought was – You’re there, following me. Every decision we make God is going to be there to guide us and after that decision has been made, He’s still going to be there in the rearview mirror to guide you to make sure you follow the correct path. For those under conviction, the Holy Spirit will be a hard thing to shake.

As a part of our weekend, we sat on Sunset Rock on Lookout Mountain to watch this large, orange ball sink behind the mountains. As I was sitting with Madison Luna and some of the other girls, the Holy Spirit pricked me to get my phone out and play 10,000 Reasons. As the song played, the sun slowly began to set. As Madison held onto me while many tears flowed, the line in the song came “…the end draws near and my time has come. Still my soul will sing your praise unending, 10,000 years and then forevermore.” FLASHBACK Trey’s hospital room, his last breath, my tears, my kisses, walking out of that room only to turn and look at him for the last time in that bed. Sometimes, that’s God in my rearview mirror and that’s okay because that is reality for me because God was certainly there…in that room…with my baby. Just as He was on Saturday as the sun slowly disappeared behind the mountains. I have proof on video that it perfectly set to the song Oceans by Hillsong “I will call upon Your name, Keep my eyes above the waves, My soul will rest in Your embrace, I am Yours and You are mine.” It was such a confirmation in my heart that I am right where I need to be in the process of life.

It’s okay to have God in your rearview mirror. If not, then who holds you up? God is in every sunrise and every sunset whether you see it facing forward or in your rearview mirror.

He Knows… (Blog)

Many are reflecting on the year 2014, what they did, what they didn’t do, and what they can do better in 2015. I spent much of December waiting to be rescued from what I would like to call Holiday Hell. I’m just being honest. It consisted of online shopping, Jay working, no Christmas parties, and Collin’s exams. I know, that really sounds like a pity party, doesn’t it? No, that’s just life!

A few co-workers and I were talking before Christmas how they just were not in the mood for the holidays. I told them it was okay. So many people view the holidays differently. I, for one, cannot tell you how many times I am asked during the holidays, “How are you doing?” Sometimes I want to say, “How do you THINK I am doing?” GEEZ! Close friends have stopped asking, some genuinely want to know, and others just assume. I’m not the Grinch, but I’m certainly not running up and down my street with jingle bells on either. My neighbors would certainly commit me (I would commit me). There were tears, but there were also smiles and remembrances of Christmases past. My point, my joy factor sinks during the holiday season. I try to concentrate on the REASON for the season. If Christ had not come as a babe, He would not have been able to die for my sins or that of my son.

Somehow, I began a conversation with a friend from church on text. We were talking about changes in our lives. Jay and I have been talking about many changes; visiting other churches, the sale of our home, school for Collin. It has just come to a point that maybe, just MAYBE Trey has been gone long enough to make some changes. I remembered during these talks something my boss reminded me of – 1 Corinthians 10:23 “You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is beneficial.” So some of these changes I have put on the back burner of my mind. After all, I haven’t exactly tackled Trey’s closet.

I had seen on Twitter and Facebook references to a sermon preached at Highpoint by their Student Pastor, Joel Johnson, on December 28. As Tami and I were talking, she told me she had attended the service and told me how wonderful the service was and what a refreshing word she received. I thought, okay, I’m game. So snug in my bed with my IPhone 6 smashed to my face, I began to watch the sermon “Landing on What’s Left.” I didn’t know whether to cry or laugh as he was preaching and he said, “Take what you have left and do something with it.” He also went on to say, “You can’t land on loss.” Humm…you can’t land on loss.

Then he said, “Turn to James 1:2-4.” WHAT? I came up out of my bed! That’s Trey’s verses. That’s what I use when I speak. It was God’s turn to speak to me. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Joel went on to say, “For a trial to be perfect, you have to let go of the loss.” Whoa. Is that one thing that Trey was able to grasp? He was able to consider his trials all joy because he knew he would be perfected in heaven.

Joel showed a video of a little boy who has overcome his physical handicap to make the best of what he has in his condition. My thoughts immediately darted to Trey and flashbacks swirled from hospital visits, to procedures, to chemo, to public appearances, to all-nighters being sick, then to his words, “I got this Mom.”

After I finished the sermon, I shared it on Facebook. A friend who attends Highpoint told me that when Joel was preaching he thought of our family. I told him I’m sure many did. But I want to be one who takes what God has left us and I want to make sure we are doing something with it. It does not lessen the hurt, the grieving time, or take the loss away. It gives the loss PURPOSE. So you land on PURPOSE, not loss.

So MY word for 2015 will be PURPOSE. What I do will be prayed over and it will have purpose; for me and for my family. Another thing I did after finishing the sermon was immediately listened to one of my favorite songs by Jeremy Camp, He Knows. God KNOWS our purpose. Jeremy reached out to Trey when he was ill and we had the blessing of meeting Jeremy and his wife, Adie, last December. The Holy Spirit uses him to speak volumes to me.

After all my Holiday Hell, listening to the sermon, listening to Jeremy, I decided New Year’s Eve was not going to be spent alone while Jay was at work. I invited myself to Mark and Isabelle Maxwell’s house (where Collin was) and ended up making a fun after midnight run to Taco Bell (two vehicles, a puppy, and a bunch of kids). The purpose…I made a memory in 2015…with Collin. Thank you, Joel Johnson for speaking the word of God. You spoke to this grieving mother.

My Precious Girl, Julianne (Blog)

I am amazed at the beautiful painting God has orchestrated in this story. As many of you know, Julianne Shiles was the love of Trey’s life. Tears come to my eyes when I think about what the future might have held for the two of them. Our families have even talked about it. To say they had almost everything in common is an understatement. They allowed each other to be goofy, they colored together, they both loved any kind of sport, they loved children, they gave themselves over in worship to the Lord, and most of all, the loved the Lord with all their hearts.

As Julianne stated in my book, she was in denial when Trey was diagnosed and when he died. It has been a long road for my precious girl. But she has grown not only in age but in maturity in the last 2 years. I’m not saying the grieving is over. She will always miss her Bubba. And she was his princess, just as she is to us.

We have prayed and prayed for healing for Julianne for the past two years. God, in his almighty grace and mercy, heard our prayers. His name is Ben. Julianne was a little hesitant at first because she was guarding her heart, as she should have done. But slowly, Ben and Julianne spent more and more time together since Ben is Julianne’s best friend’s brother (AND her boss at Chick-Fil-A).

You can imagine my reaction! WHO IS THIS BOY! Well, after a few meetings, he asked Julianne if he could accompany her and our family to Trey’s Collierville High graduation. I thought, WOW! Who would want to throw themselves into that mix? And of course, that night they proceeded to take about 100 selfies on my phone. Yes, they are still there and was my cover picture of my phone for many months.

Let me tell you a little bit about this young man. He is the son of the Senior Adult Pastor at Kirby Woods Baptist Church, where Julianne now attends. He is the manager of the Chick-Fil-A in Germantown and is very goal-oriented. He, along with Julianne, started a bible study at his house for the employees. He has an incredible love for the Lord, a dry wit, but there are three important things that impress me: 1) he puts up with Julianne; 2) he is allowing her to grieve at her own pace; and 3) he loves her for who she is – goofy and all!

You would think the mother of Trey would be jealous of the suitor of his precious girl. But, as God would have it, I am crazy about Ben. We can sit and have conversations about life and what the future holds, he loves to mess with Collin, he likes to meet Julianne’s friends from Germantown Baptist, and most of all, he honors the memory of Trey, my son. My goodness, can I adopt him?

Ben Snider is everything that I would pray for Julianne in a Godly man. He continues to pursue what God has for his life. I am so thankful that Ben understands when I post pictures of Julianne and Trey that I am grieving the past, not wishing for what would be in the future. Julianne is his future and they both are secure in that fact, whatever their future may hold. He understands why Trey’s picture is still in the Julianne’s home. It’s not just Julianne that grieves in her home, but an entire family who considered Trey a son also. I know Ben and Julianne love each other very much.

I’m Mama Lisa to a LOT of people. I’m blessed that I can add to my family and be Mama Lisa to a young man that loves my Julianne very much. And besides, he gives good hugs. And that makes a grieving mama happy.

I love you both Jules and Benji! My prayer for the both of you is the scripture I made Jules memorize in 9th grade. 1 Cor. 10:31 “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Then you can’t go wrong!

P.S. I did get their permission to write this.
Jules and Ben

As a Mother…I Wear Purple. #WorldPancreaticCancerDay

As a mother, you still hear his voice.
As a mother, you still see his face, especially in your 15 year old.
As a mother, you hear his laughter.
As a mother, you dream about him at night.
As a mother, you are startled because you thought you heard his footsteps realizing it was the dog.
As a mother, you wonder if he would have chosen to go with friends to college or gone to the college of his dreams.
As a mother, you wonder would he have battled with his Christian values.
As a mother, every song is about him.
As a mother, you still can’t remove the clothes from his closet so you slowly give them to friends.
As a mother, you can’t clean his room so his knick knacks, bible, pictures, yearbooks, stuffed animals all stay where they were left on his dresser.
As a mother, you still carry 3,000 pictures of him on your phone thinking one of them will be different one day, knowing they are all the same.
As a mother, much like mothers who are barren, look at happy families longingly to have what they have. Then you remember, you did at one time.
As a mother, when you are asked, “How many children do you have?”, you still say two.
As a mother, every text you receive from one of his friends is cherished.
As a mother, even though your precious one is gone, you have one that needs just as much love.
As a mother, you wonder when will the day come that people will forget the name Trey Erwin.
As a mother, you still have his phone active so his friends can still call and hear his voice.
As a mother, whether it’s the 10th or 100th time you hear 10,000 Reasons, you are taken back to being in bed with him knowing he was slipping to Jesus and begging in your heart for God to let him stay, just one more day.

And people may wonder…
Why does this mother keep posting his picture to Instagram?
Why does this mother keep tweeting about him?
Why does this mother mention him on Facebook?
Why did she spend countless hours pouring over pages to write a book?

Simple. So maybe, just maybe, another mother will not have to feel what I feel. So MAYBE St. Jude or the researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Institute can find some answers to the P-16 gene and there will be answers for Collin. So MAYBE, there will be no more tears BEFORE death.

Awareness. Pancreatic Cancer. There is no cure. There is no EARLY detection (unless you are VERY lucky). In my family, three are dead as a result of this gene, we believe.

As a daughter-in-law, a sister-in-law, and a mother, I will NEVER stop fighting for awareness. I want to be a grandmother one day. I want to see Collin succeed in life and not worry about his next St. Jude appointment. I will NOT stop talking about my son’s battle and his faith. In ten years, I will STILL be talking about Trey Erwin and how God used him to touch many lives and I pray God will still be using pancreatic cancer, but in a different way. I pray in 10 years there will be stories of adequate testing and cures and this mother did not watch her son be poked with needles in his back and side multiple times while holding his hand for nothing.

This is why I shout, “WEAR PURPLE!” So someone will ask, “Why does everyone have on purple today?” And you can say, “To bring awareness of the horrible disease pancreatic cancer and it’s need for research funding.”

If you think we do not need prayer, you are wrong. If you think we do not need consoling words of hope, you are wrong. If you think we do not need hugs, you are wrong. If you think we do not need love, you are wrong. If you think we feel this oddness of not belonging, you are wrong.

As a mother, I lost a son who came in at night and sat on my bed and talked about his day.
As a mother, I lost a son who actually communicated with me by text.
As a mother, I lost a son who really apologized when he was wrong.
As a mother, I lost a son who I personally prayed with to receive Christ.
As a mother, I lost a son who was different. He loved Jesus.
As a mother, I not only lost a son…but because of his maturity, I lost a best friend.

Don’t think of me and feel sorry for me. God is always in control. Think of me and pray for us and wear purple.

That, my friend, is why I wear purple. I wear purple for my son. Trey Erwin.

Will you accept the challenge to wear purple with me on November 13 or anytime in November?