Wisdom, Understanding and the #MFD~#MPD

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If you are a reader in Memphis, you will know about the upheaval being caused with the City and the Memphis Police Dept. and the Memphis Fire Dept.  Many lay people are looking for answers and understanding to what is exacting going on! I’ve seen some comments on Facebook and I have had to just strike them up to pure ignorance of not knowing the facts of the situation.  So I thought I would use my platform to inform – fact v. fiction.  After all, I do have a vested interest.  My husband has been a firefighter/paramedic for 10+ years with the City.

Since July 1, I have been studying the book of Proverbs.  The first 8 chapters have a resounding, recurrent theme.  Solomon, the writer of Proverbs, begins almost each chapter by saying “Listen to my instruction…pay attention and gain understanding…let the wise listen and add to their learning, and the discerning get guidance.”  Without understanding, there is no wisdom.

1.  Many assume that there is just an INCREASE in the health insurance premiums for the City employees.  The health insurance is two-fold.  For current employees, such as Jay, his insurance will increase by 24% by the end of the year.  Collin will remain on his plan and we are assuming he will pay the family plan rate.  I am required to get insurance with my own employer.  So we will be paying two insurance premiums for one household.  Retirees now have NO health insurance at all.  This includes widows of those who have died in the line of duty.  Now that would attract you to a job, wouldn’t it?

2.  They (City Council) have been talking for months about doing away with the employee’s pension plan.  Now remember, since Jay started more than 10 years ago, he has not been putting into Social Security.  We have no Social Security benefits.  We have a Pension.  They want to go to a 401(a), not a 401(k).  Having a pension to live on once you retire is the one thing that attracts firefighters and police to the job.  They know after putting in their service, they will have a pension to live on for retirement.

3.  The City Council has talked about taking away the employee’s death benefits.  This is of great concern to me.  Remember how the City rallied around our family when Trey was ill and after his death? I can’t imagine my husband being called to a City Council member’s house, falling through the roof, dying and I do not receive any death benefits.  Well, you say, go out and get outside insurance.  We can’t.  Jay has a pre-existing condition – cancer.  Many firefighters and police have pre-existing conditions, back problems, knees, shoulders, etc. that would make their premiums out of this world or impossible for them to gain insurance for their spouse to receive.  These men and women pick up and handle 300 pound men and women as they pull them out of burning houses for a living.  It reminds me of the Duck Dynasty episode recently where Jayce and the guys tried to be firemen for the day.  Hummm….

4.  I know so many are excited about the new projects going on around the City.  But it doesn’t make sense that we are trying to build a “greenway” for bikers to New Orleans when we can’t take care of our City employees.  There are many City projects that are either in the works or have failed.  What about the Fairgrounds?  Crosstown Building?

5.  If you REALLY want to dig deep.  Research the PILOT program.  Payment in Lieu of Taxes.  This is a program where large businesses are given tax breaks.  It is a program that is offered to businesses to retain them in Memphis and Shelby County through incentives.  One incentive is the tax benefit. Are you making up the difference to the City in taxes?  Do you know how many millions of dollars have been saved by theses companies in 2013? $42 million.  Okay, where’s that money?

Now…what if this was YOUR job?  You would be praying for wisdom and our City leaders while supporting your co-workers.  We need the support of our city.  The elected leaders will continue to run the city as they see fit, line their pockets, put your public officers at risk, all with lower pay and benefits.  They are tired of it and they are walking out.  Is it right for our city streets to go unprotected? That is a call by the individual.  But as it stands right now, if they put all these changes in place, you will have 65 year old men fighting fires because they can’t afford to retire and they will be dying on the job.

I know, be thankful for what we have.  But if your losing it, why not fight for what you were promised?

 

#prayfortheErwins (BLOG)

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It’s the beginning of a hard week. It’s the end of the second year. As Jay and I talked to our sweet psychologist Thursday, he told us as he has counseled grieving parents, you can’t put a cap on years, whether it’s one, two, three. He sometimes says four or more, especially in our public situation.

We flew Trey to St. Jude on Saturday, June 30. On Monday, June 30, Collin leaves for church camp. I’m glad he will be surrounded by his Christian friends so his mind will be occupied. As much as he tries to tell everyone he is just fine, I still believe next week will be on his mind. He is human, after all.

Speaking of being human, being human has taken over my complete being. I’ve been able to share with a dear friend whom I trust, and I know there is light at the end of this very, very dark tunnel. I just pray there isn’t a train in this tunnel somewhere. He said something very wise. He asked me, you have been so busy taking care of everyone else, making sure Collin is okay, Julianne, Jay, have you even truly grieved yourself? I had to say no.

God never promised us an easy road. He only promised that He would be with us in the valleys. I know that He is with me during this time, but sometimes, as some of my dear friends might be willing to admit, the nearness is hard to feel when you are all consumed with loneliness and sadness. I am so incredibly blessed to have my boss by my side. He also lost his son. We were talking yesterday about the differences between our grieving. He said how he tells so many people how strong I am and he hears from others how incredible I am, but he looked at me and said, “Lisa, you are not that strong.” Boy, he knows me. You just can’t lose a child and be okay. I truly believe only parents that have lost a child know what I am feeling.

We have received so many prayers over the last two years. I almost feel guilty asking for more prayers. But isn’t that we are supposed to do for each other as Christians? Lift each other up, encourage each other, hold each other accountable… I remember talking in my book about having “hang in there” friends when Trey was sick. That still applies when you are grieving. Some people can’t be around people that are grieving, and that’s fine. It takes a special friend to listen to you cry. I’ve done a lot of crying alone, but sometimes, crying alone does not do any good. People need to hear you so that you can WILL yourself to feel better.

It’s all so complex and I don’t claim to understand all that I am walking through. I finally had to cry out to Collin this week to explain to him that I missed Trey because I grew him in my belly just like I grew him in my belly and I want him back and I miss him terribly. I’m so thankful Collin listened to me as I was able to express my feelings for the first time…and it’s almost been two years. Jay is the most patient father and husband, but he grieves too, just in a different way.

I know what the word of God says. I know that Trey is in a better place. I know that Trey would not want to come back here. I know, I know, I know…but that does not stop our suffering on earth because this is not our home. I’ve never been in a valley like this and I pray you will intercede for me and ask God to lift me high above the mountains.

Jay and I will be with Trey’s friends on the 5th. They miss him as much as I do. But we will laugh and remember the days that brought us so much joy with my goofball son. And maybe release some purple balloons from the roof of the Peabody. After all, Trey was all about having friends together. I think that’s why he went to Jesus so peacefully because he was surrounded by so many that loved him and he had been at peace for so long.

My prayer is that those that have read my book know that our faith runs deep and we know that God is with us. You don’t walk through what we did and not come out the other side without Jesus holding your hand. I hope, if you have not purchased it yet, you will do so to see how God used Trey in an incredible way. We still marvel at how God brought so many things together. I still can’t eat oatmeal without thinking about him. He was “A Mighty Dragon.”

So for now, “When you don’t know what to say, just say Jesus.”

It’s VBS Time…Everywhere!

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Vacation Bible School is such an important time in the life of a child. It’s a time where they are excited to come to church because they know there will be games, cookies, stories, and they are not ashamed to invite their friends. How many of you asked Jesus into your heart at VBS? I bet many. It’s so fun to watch them as they are captivated by God’s word. And for some of the children, it is for the first time. Can you imagine? For some children, for the FIRST time!

There is a catch to VBS because it is only through the 5th grade. In the 6th grade, at most churches, at least at Germantown Baptist, you begin serving. That’s one of the many times I remember Trey beginning to serve so young. It might have just been wheeling the juice cart from room to room, but it was giving back.

Many parents have worked in VBS for years with their children in their rooms as helpers. Since I work fulltime, I have not been able to work in VBS. That has never stopped me working alongside my sons. Because of the timing of Trey’s illness, I was never able to serve with both of them at the same time on mission trips, but we did a lot of scouts together, and the BBQ Grill Ministry at GBC. My heart dropped on this last trip to Nashville as I watched Collin pull up trees. I realized he had gone from the 5th grader in VBS to a strong young man. And we were serving together.

I don’t know if it is something that Jay and I instilled in our children or a gift that God gave them. Either way, they both have (had) a heart for service. I know Collin is upset that he is missing VBS this week, but mandatory football practice has to come first.

One thing about serving WITH your children, you get to see the blessings first hand. Some kids may think you are trying to be all up in their business. I remember one trip to Panama City where Jay went as the paramedic and I was the counselor. Collin got the luxury of tagging along. It was Trey’s first high school trip. He was so afraid we were going to get into his dance space. I tried to reassure him he would be so busy he would not even see me. I’ll never forget one morning Trey coming up to me at breakfast and giving me a hug and telling me “Good morning! Where have you been?” I thought to myself, told ya so.

So don’t let your children talk you out of serving with them, whether it’s VBS, mission trips, church camps, retreats, etc. You just might be blessed more than they will be. I have memories that can never be replaced or taken away. Pictures in my mind of worship that will forever fill my heart. Memories of Trey in a closet at GBC cleaning it out (I think in 6th grade), because Keith, Ron, or Steve told him to do it. But he did it with a smile on his face! (See pic).

“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.” Romans 12:9-13

Collin and Trey Serving

“A Mighty Dragon”

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Well, it’s not perfect, but it’s done. My book is finished. You can find it on Amazon and just search Trey Erwin. I’ve had a couple of days to reflect on it since it went public with the proof I’ve had. Before I hit “Publish”, I glanced through the book for any glaring errors, found one, fixed it, and resubmitted it for publishing. I didn’t read the book from cover to cover. I had already done it so many times, and so had my editor.

Then, one evening, I decided I would sit down and try to read the book from a “readers” perspective. The second page had two mistakes! I was in tears! The first two errors were obvious because of the font. Then, there wasn’t a period at the end of a sentence. Then, there was another mistake in a sentence. What was happening! Had I uploaded the wrong file? It threw me into a panic attack…and then embarrassment. I felt like a scolded puppy hiding under the bed. I felt like I let Trey down.

On the way to Collin’s graduation this morning, God spoke to me. He reminded me that the only one that was perfect on this earth was Jesus Christ and I should not be embarrassed. I had been forgiven for my many sins and mistakes. It’s by God’s mercy that He forgives our mistakes. The mistakes I made were in writing a book (for the first time, I might add) about my son for the glory of God. As long as God is glorified, I don’t care if there is a period missing, because God doesn’t. It’s just something the perfectionist in me has to get over. My prayer over the book is that God’s light will shine through Trey’s testimony.

I can tell you it wasn’t easy to write. I had resources laid out on my bed everywhere. His St. Jude medical records, my bible, his tweets that I had bound, Jesus Calling, two computers and this was usually until after midnight most nights when Jay was working. Memories flooded late at night which led to many sleepless nights. Maybe it was those late night tears that caused the mistakes!

One other thing I would like to add. Trey made mistakes. Even though the book highlights only a four-month period of his life, he was at one time a normal teenage boy WITH A MOUTH! Well, he is his mama’s child, isn’t he? In his little brother’s eyes, he has been elevated to sainthood by others and that is hard to follow. Collin knows that Trey was not perfect but he has yet to understand the full impact of life of service to the Lord. I think that comes with maturity. We are praying for maturity and understanding to develop.

So, if you get a chance to buy “A Mighty Dragon”, remember, it was written from my heart, not from experience and its purpose is to tell of Trey’s plight while bringing our Heavenly Father glory.

“A Mighty Dragon #prayfortrey The Story of Trey Erwin”

Letter to the Class of 2014 (HEY READ)…I can’t tag you all!

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Dear Class of 2014:

I might get the chance to speak to you as a whole before graduation, but just in case I don’t, I wanted to write you a letter. This way, I will be able to address the graduates from Houston, Germantown, MEHA, Harding, and other schools.

I am so proud of you. I can say that in all honesty without being your parent. I’ve watched you over the last four years struggle with the loss of your friend, Trey, and rebound to be much better classmates and friends. Not to mention, you have been wonderful to our family.

I have watched you handle relationships, exams, sports (wins and losses), and most of it has been over social media. I have prayed for you to have strength during those times and learn to be overcomers. I will never forget being stranded on the side of the expressway and you were tweeting out to me wondering where I was because you were going to come change my tire! (Kyle Dailey!) You have learned to love outside your box.

You have lived inside your Collierville box for a long time. I think Trey’s death stretched your Collierville box and the perfect idea of life. Now you are about to step outside the Collierville box and experience so much of what life can throw at you. It will not be easy. God never promised us an easy life. He only promised that He would walk with us every step. You will be tested in mighty ways. It will be YOUR decision to overcome the temptations and you cannot put the blame or decision-making on anyone else. “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord.” Ps. 31:24

One more little tidbit of advice. Some of you will be going off to colleges that are hours away. Some may be travelling only as far as the U of M campus. Either way, you are gaining a new independence from your parents. With this new independence comes separation. I remember when some of you were complaining about being in school and Trey tweeted something about the fact that you needed to be grateful because he wanted to be in school. Here is my point. When you leave your parents, believe it or not, they will miss you terribly. Most moms will cry and dads will become sentimental. Be kind and stay in touch with your parents. I can’t stay in touch with Trey, do his laundry, or wait for him to come home on the weekends; but your parents will. Be sensitive to them. They have sacrificed much. They will experience only a touch of what Jay and I have felt as you leave. And you know what? You can stay in touch with me too. Nothing has meant more to me this last year than hearing from Trey’s friends while they have been experiencing their freshman year at college. Sometimes, it was just a 30 minute conversation with Cody Jordan. If that warmed MY heart, think of what it will do for your parents! You, my friends, are an extension of the son I raised.

You will take Trey with you wherever you go. More than that, you can’t just leave God at home either. Who are you when no one is watching. God is there. Make much of your life and make grand memories. Invest in others by paying it forward in blessings. But most of all, live like Jesus. Don’t be afraid, you can do it. Be different. Be a leader and don’t follow the crowd. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12

I love you,
Mama Lisa

The Stand by Hillsong – Trey’s fav.
You stood before creation
Eternity in your hand
You spoke the earth into motion
My soul now to stand

You stood before my failure
And carried the cross for my shame
My sin weighed upon your shoulders
My soul now to stand

So what could I say?
And what could I do?
But offer this heart, Oh God
Completely to you

So I’ll walk upon salvation
Your spirit alive in me
This life to declare your promise
My soul now to stand

So what could I say?
And what could I do?
But offer this heart, Oh God
Completely to you

I’ll stand
With arms high and heart abandoned
In awe of the one who gave it all
I’ll stand
My soul Lord to you surrendered
All I am is yours

ALL YOU ARE…IS HIS! (Watch over them Buddy.)

Grand Canyon

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Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon? My sisters have with the family and they have told me of the awesome sight. It’s just something I cannot imagine. Personally, I have no desire to go there. I can’t comprehend wanting to go look at a big, dry hole that people try to jump over on their motorcycles like idiots. Just thought I’d throw that in there. I’m sure it’s hot there, and there’s not a beach, so why go? Point made. At least for me.

I bet you are thinking, what in the world does the Grand Canyon have to do with anything? Well, in my usual fashion, I caught myself humming today.

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

That’s when I began to think about the Grand Canyon. On earth, other than the oceans, that is the only vastness I have to measure God’s love for me and that is nowhere NEAR how much He loves me. That love has carried me through a very lonely time the last two weeks and it will be even worse the next three weeks. I put this in my book, but I remember vividly crying on the alter in 2012 on Senior Sunday praying that God would have Trey here to walk across the stage on Senior Sunday. Mama’s can be selfish sometimes.

Even though there might be a smile on our face, our hearts are breaking…all of our family. Bobby, my nephew is graduating from U of M on Saturday. Trey would be so proud. So many of you have been so very gracious not to send graduation invitations to Trey’s own graduation. We thank you! I have cringed every time I have had to look through the mail. I don’t expect you to understand, and I know there are MANY that will say “She needs to just get over it.” I’ll be glad to trade my grief for your daily struggle in a heartbeat. Remember, you do not always know what is going on behind closed doors. I have received many sweet texts regarding sensitivity. I have been blessed by the pouring out of love for our family during this time. That is why I have remained off Facebook, even though my Twitter feed flows over. We are thrilled for everyone’s accomplishments! We truly are! But in some ways, it reminds me of my own failure. The promises I made to Trey. I’m so thankful God catches every tear.

“But I will boast in Jesus Christ…” He gives me strength when I don’t want to get out of bed each day. He tells me I can do it another day. He reminds me that Trey doesn’t like it when I’m upset. (D. J. reminds me of that too.) He reminds me that there is a season for everything. This is just another season and there will be many used to strengthen me. He is sharpening me and will use me. When that day comes, I will be ready. Right now, I grieve.

My boss shared a scripture with me today, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30. It made me think maybe I’m not strong enough to love with all my heart, soul, and mind. I feel zapped of everything. So where do you get your strength? The word of God.

Maybe I need to visit the Grand Canyon. There is a lesson to be learned by seeing the wonderment of God’s creation. It might just be the opportunity to stand in awe and realize that when you step outside the city limits of Memphis and Collierville, life is so much bigger than what we are experiencing around us. God can give you a renewed strength.

I leave you with one of my favorite passages (Joe’s-my boss-and Trey’s too): Isaiah 40:31

“…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Learning to walk again, and not be weary.

Serving, Singing, and Missions

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This weekend I went with our youth choir from Germantown Baptist to Nashville for the weekend. The name of our choir is Under Authority which is taken from the scripture Matthew 8:9 “For I am also a man Under Authority…” We have been in existence under the leadership of our Worship Pastor, Ron Norton for I believe, seven years. (Ron, is that right? I guess so, Trey was in 6th grade!).

Our kids have been to churches in New Orleans (several times), North Dakota, Tennessee, and states all across the U.S. that I don’t even remember. During these trips, they have sung in nursing homes, painted houses, cleaned out warehouses, mowed lawns, fixed roofs, painted each other, torn down sheds, had block parties to promote local church events, hung door flyers for local churches, helped with VBS, you name it, they have done it. Most of the time it has been in blazing heat (with the exception of North Dakota, trust me, I was there).

One special impromptu worship experience was in 2012 when they sang in Jackson Square in New Orleans. Trey was ill at the time and we were not there, but Collin was with them. I remember the group coming back and telling me how people came up and joined them in singing. They were so blessed by that moment. It was a moment they will take with them the rest of their lives.

This weekend was just a short trip, but I think our kids put in work in one day that was worth many days at the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home. They cleared a brush area that I feel was the size of a football field. There was poison ivy, ticks, thorn bushes, (no wildlife), and our kids just jumped in and begged for chainsaws. (Uh, no.) They worked till they had splinters in their hands.

Saturday night we spent the evening at Opry Mills Mall and let the kids play at Dave and Busters (a video game place) with a meal provided, the adults could shop, or just chill and watch the ballgames. Either way, it was a reward for all for a hard day’s work.

Sunday morning was an early wake up call to be at the church in Murfreesboro to sing in two services. Even though our group was small in number, we were mighty in sound. Many of our kids could not go because of school and job commitments. During the service I looked on the back row. There stood Collin, 5′ 8″ tall. You know there are kids that just stand and barely move their mouths because they just haven’t picked up the “joy” of singing in UA. That was Collin years ago. As we sang Your Great Name, and tears rolled down my face, I saw Collin singing, really singing. But I don’t give myself credit. I give someone else credit who doesn’t like to TAKE credit…

Ron Norton. What a Godly example for our children. I have been under his leadership for many years in Adult choir and Under Authority and he gives us the freedom to express our worship and has taught many kids that have come and gone how to serve, sing, and worship. He’ll not be happy that I’m talking about him (because he is very humble), but the teaching has to come back to someone. If it were not for Ron, Trey would not have learned how to worship. Ron walked with us every step of Trey’s journey. And now, I see the light, every so slightly, beaming in Collin and I am so blessed. There are so many hours that he lets them be goofy and he puts up with it and shakes his head, but then he’s goofy right along with him. He has earned their trust, their respect, but most of all, there love. And he TELLS them – “You know what? I love you guys!” I can’t imagine any parent NOT wanting their child to be a part of this ministry.

The adults were reminiscing on the way home of the different trips we had been on, including our own choir tours. Most of us, (Cindy Few and I), grew up in churches that we went from coast to coast every summer on choir tours. I am so glad our kids are seeing a glimpse of the history that made us who we are as adults in choir. The worship leaders like Jim Whitmire and Phil Martin that made us sit on the edge of our seats, taught us scales, and different ways to read music, but also put us together with different age groups so that we would get to know each other and bond. Oh, I’m sure you’ll hear stories of how someone put Pringle in the overhead bin of the bus (he crawled in there), or about Jason Herrington (ADULT) being pulled on across a gym floor with a helmet on while riding a roller/dollie thing, or how Collin flicked Stacia in the face with paint. Yes, it was all hard work, but look at the blessings. We have produced children that love music, service, and most of all, they actually like being together.

To me, that’s the definition of a mission trip. We covered it all. We met new people and showed them the love of Christ by serving them. We were respectful in a hotel and spoke words of love by saying “thank you” to the staff (and were commended for it). And we sang of His love. His Great Name. Well done Under Authority.