There are times when…

There are days when…I am incredibly sad, especially as the holidays get closer.

There are days when…I don’t pray.

There are many days when…I am angry. 

There are many days when…I don’t understand His plan and why hurt, pain, and disease continues.

There are Sundays when…I just can’t get out of bed. It has nothing to do with being lazy, not wanting to worship, or the choice to do other things. It is just a feeling of walking into His house so downtrodden.

Does that make me any less than who I am in Christ? I don’t think so.

One of my favorite devotion books is New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp. What I read this morning hit me smack in the feels!

“Biblical faith never requires you to deny reality.

You don’t protect the message of the gospel by denying your own spiritual struggles, and God surely doesn’t need you to defend his reputation by faking it. You must not meditate on the judgment of God. You must not squirm at the thought of his presence. You must not allow yourself to wonder if he loves you. You must not see yourself as unworthy of his care. You must not work to measure up in his sight. You must not think that he acts more favorably to you when you are obedient than when you sin. You must not beat yourself up when you fail. You must not envy the worthiness of the person next to you, as if he or she is more accepted by God because he or she is more spiritually mature than you. You must never run from God in fear as you think of the empirical evidence of remaining sin that you give every day.

There is nothing we could ever think, desire, say, or do that could in any way add to the forgiveness and acceptance that we have received from God based on Christ’s work. You are perfect in the eyes of God because the perfect righteousness of Jesus has been attributed to your spiritual account. You are righteous before God even in those moments when you say what you are doing is not righteous. You measure up in his eyes in even on those days when you don’t measure up, because Jesus measured up on your behalf. Meditate on and celebrate the amazing grace that has completely changed your identity, potential, and destiny.”

It is not my story, my husband’s, or Trey’s that I want you to hear. It’s the story of a like-minded family in Christ who loves the Lord and is struggling like we did 10 years ago – Mike and Beth O’Neill. When I said I get angry, this is why. I hate what cancer is doing to this precious family and I can’t fix it. I can’t heal him, I can’t send him where he will get better treatment, and I can’t change any circumstance that is surrounding their struggles. They walked with us EACH day when Trey battled his cancer and they have continued to pray for us.

Is it okay for me to be angry? Absolutely. I asked the person who walked with us just as close as a family member, (Pastor) Keith Cochran. I consider him family. I asked him about anger. He said, “Yes, I was angry at cancer for affecting another life. Angry at how people try to personalize it. You know, the “I know how you feel, my grandfather had cancer…” It’s not the same. Even if it is, it doesn’t help. People mean well, but either say the wrong thing or say nothing.” I told Keith he was right on point. I put my anger in the category with sadness and hurt…not hate.

I don’t have an answer because I could honestly be eaten up with anger if I let cancer be the source. Sometimes it is just hard to accept that God’s plan is not our plan. Personally, it is hard to see my husband continue to battle cancer, go to treatments every three weeks, and know that Collin must think about it too. I don’t think Satan wears me down. I think I wear myself down. I let my ankle pain and the fact that I have been in a boot since April (after surgery in September) push me into a more depressive state. And then I get angry at myself for being depressed!

I want to go back to what my devotion said. “Biblical faith never requires you to deny reality.” What I need to remember, while my reality may shake my emotions to the point of anger, it will never shake my faith. Never. Christ is my center and he needs me to turn my focus off my reality (that sometimes sucks).

“I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” John 16:33

Please join me in praying for the O’Neill family. And remember, as I have said many times, it is okay to NOT be okay.

Oh, did I say I hate cancer?

CaringBridge link for Mike O’Neill below I hope you can access.

https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/mikeoneill/journal/view/id/636a69365b8484635e4bb11c?utm_source=JEN&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=JEN+email&token=ZXlKMGVYQWlPaUpLVjFRaUxDSmhiR2NpT2lKSVV6STFOaUo5LmV5SjFjMlZ5U1dRaU9qUXhOelV3TkRnc0luSmxjMjkxY21ObFNXUWlPaUkyTXpaaE5qa3pOalZpT0RRNE5EWXpOV1UwWW1JeE1XTWlMQ0owZVhCbElqb2lhbTkxY201aGJDSXNJbWx6YzNWbFpFRjBJam94TmpZM09URTROVGd5ZlEuT09ZM3FSU2xxeVJhMlRsZWY2WEFSd0VjS1VaVGY1a1VUOFVXOXZMdGpuOA%3D%3D&utm_content=visitsite

Lessons Learned in 10 Years

To be honest, I have started this blog probably five times with five different topics. One being things I have learned over the last 10 years since Trey’s death. I want to be encouraging, uplifting, and point others to Jesus, who has been my comfort. But there has been…

10 years of not driving after just learning;

10 years of Collierville graduations;

10 years of friends getting married;

10 years of new babies;

10 years of new jobs after college;

10 years of an empty chair;

and I’m supposed to be okay with this, yet I am not. I know, no one said I had to be okay. But in our culture, it is taboo to talk about the children we have lost…especially say their name. My child is no different than yours, and my love is no less, mine is just in heaven. Matter of fact, my love might be greater because I cannot touch him, talk with him, smell his cologne when he walks through the room, watch him primp in the mirror, hear him yell at the television during a football or basketball game, watch him play the sports he loved, and most of all, be a witness to him worshipping Jesus. Some days I feel so robbed of time.

When I attended a bereaved parents retreat in May, it did not go unnoticed to me that Trey has been in heaven the longest. I listened to people and thought to myself, “It’s been 10 years so why don’t I feel any different than those that lost their child several months ago?” I feel as empty as the sweet lady who lost her daughter in March to cancer. Fact is, that emptiness is never filled, our hearts never “mend”, we are never the same, and we shouldn’t be.

I have prayed and prayed that I would have the opportunity to talk with Collin about Trey and things that were on my heart. Collin drove me to Madison Molnar’s wedding and on the way home, we were able to have the conversation I had wanted for some years. Without giving details, it was so good to hear that he is no longer angry. I told him if he was, it was okay because sometimes I am. We are human. We talked about marriage and children. Collin said he does not plan to have any children because he does not want to watch his child go through what Trey went through. My heart melted for him. He said when the time comes, he would adopt. We talked about how much he has changed in 10 years. Going from 12 to 22 has been a hard road for Collin, but I have clearly watched the hand of God in his life.

Trey’s life, illness, and death not only changed our family, but many others. My sister and I were talking about a friend who thought her daughter was saved until Trey’s funeral. Another friend walked the pancreatic cancer journey with his father, and because of Trey’s story that he was able to share, his father is in heaven. As a Christian, seeing God be glorified should be one of our main daily objectives. Trey did that with his life, in his illness, and through his death. But I’m still his mother.

I will still grieve for the rest of my life; holidays will never become easier; my love will never dim; and this heart will forever feel shattered. Just because Trey is in heaven, as I have said many times, I will not stop saying his name or telling his story, thus the Polo hats.

What have I learned in 10 years? Some things may seem crass, but still important in the grieving process.

  1. The love I have for Trey is no greater than the love another parent has for their child, especially a bereaved parent. Loving him and shedding enumerable tears will continue until I see Jesus face to face.
  2. As much as I would like for this to have happened, the world did not stop when Trey died. People kept going to work, kids went to school, families planned trips to Disney/beach, and the sun rose and set even though I begged to go back for one more day, one more moment.
  3. Do not have high expectations of others, because they will disappoint you (and not of their own doing). They have not walked in your shoes and any bereaved parent will tell you that you would not wish this hell on anyone in order to know the depth of pain.
  4. I’m a member of a club I cannot leave, did not choose, yet I pay dues every waking moment.
  5. Everyone grieves differently, even a mother and father. Yet you must respect each other and there must be grace.
  6. Photos and videos I have of Trey are some of my most prized possessions. It is a harsh reality he will forever remain 15 years old. Document each moment of life because only God knows the day and time you will be called to be with Him.
  7. Learn to be forgiving. People will do and say things that will blow your mind. Make sure you have an outlet.
  8. Lean into your grief. Accept grief and have the coping skills to manage your day, and it is day-to-day. It will hit like a tidal wave, knock you off your feet, and keep you in a frozen state.
  9. Just because you are grieving does not mean you are weak in your faith, that God is not working in your life, and that you do not have value to your church and community. Satan is the father of lies and I have listened to him too many times and convinced myself I am alone on this journey, when it is very much the opposite.
  10. There is nothing I could have done to change the trajectory of Trey’s journey. I firmly believe, as it says in Psalms, God formed him in my womb, knew his name before he was born, every hair on his head was numbered, and the plan for his life was laid out before he took his first breath. Let me be clear, I have to remind myself of this DAILY! A mother’s instinct is to protect and there was nothing I or Jay could have done to protect him from the cancer that invaded his body.

Through all the turmoil, grief, and suffering, I still believe God’s plan is perfect. God does not ask nor does He need our permission to carry out His plan. We need to be willing to be molded to fulfill it. Is it easy? Absolutely not. The last 10 years have been difficult in ways you will never understand. But God understands. He is faithful.

I cannot and will not hide from my grief, because it would also mean I would be hiding from Trey. I am not over the loss; I will never be over it; and I will always crave for Trey to be remembered.

How can you feel joy, pain, grief, and love all at the same time? Because you have known deep sorrow and the precious gift of unspeakable joy that life can bring. And a puppy helps too!

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials; for you know the testing of your faith produces endurance.” James 1:2-3

“And on that day when my strength is failing, the end draws near and my time has come; still my soul sings your praise unending, ten thousand years and then forevermore.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul, worship His holy Name. Sing like never before, O my soul. I’ll worship your Holy Name.” 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman

And Trey took his last breath, opened his eyes and saw His Savior. My Jesus.

I miss you, my goofy boy.

Healthy In Heaven – July 31, 1996-July 5, 2012

Help Give Back – 10 Years

It’s hard to believe Trey met Jesus 10 years ago July 5. There have been so many changes (good and bad) in the last 10 years of this grief journey. God has truly ministered to us with comfort, new friends, and sweet reminders that this is not our home. We WILL see Trey again.

I had someone ask me if we were going to do something since “10” is a big number. To be honest, I had not given much thought. The days of spending July 5 with his friends have come and gone. That is not a bad thing! They now have sweet families of their own and know the love a parent has for a child.

I want to get to the point. Trey always wanted to give back when he is was ill. He had a servant’s heart. I tell people one of the few times he got upset was after he talked with Peyton Manning. He asked me why he didn’t call another St. Jude patient. At the time, we tried to make things happen but it just didn’t work out.

It wasn’t until I attended a bereaved parents retreat about a month ago that I came up with the idea after talking to many parents. What was Trey’s trademark? POLO! I put Polo hats on him from the time he was a baby and he kept with the love of those hats in all colors! Sometimes he wore them facing forward and sometimes to the back…but he always had his yellow Polo hat. I still have all his hats except for a few I gave to his close friends after he died. One particular, I remember going to St. Jude to take his hunter green Polo hat to Kristina Hunsucker who was fiercely battling cancer at the time. She was a friend of Trey’s and I just thought having one of his hats would comfort her. She did lose her hair during treatment and I know it was special for her to have one of his hats.

Fortunately, Trey did not lose a lot of his hair during his treatments. I think God knew he could not handle that part of his journey. But there are many children who do! So, I want to purchase as many Polo hats as I can to give back in memory of Trey’s faith, courage, and bravery during his cancer battle.

This is how you can help. If you feel led, please donate a dollar or $5 to help me purchase at least 13 hats. I’m in Pigeon Forge, TN for a mini vacation and I want to start buying them now at the outlet. As they always say, no amount is too small. You will be a part of giving back to a child in need of a smile during a very dark time.

You can Venmo me at Lisa-Erwin-6 and I will keep a list of his “loving friends and family” to put on a letter that will accompany the hat telling of his journey. If you do not have Venmo and want to help, just send me a message and we will honor that commitment. This is just another way to keep Trey’s memory alive and at the same time, help a child. Trey would totally do this.

If I have tagged you in this blog, please do not feel obligated. It’s just a way of spreading the word that we ARE still considering “all things joy” while continuing to walk this grief journey together. We don’t have sponsors or the #prayfortrey fund (that went to Collierville High School for his scholarship).

I hope this will give you a warm feeling of doing something to honor our sweet boy’s 10th year with Jesus. If you are not able to give, I would love, LOVE to receive any memory you might have of how his journey made an impact on you as I am putting together several Shutterfly books of his journey.

Thank you to all those who STILL love us well until we see him again!

“Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when encountering various trials, for you know the testing of your faith produces endurance.” James 1:2-3

P.S. Please excuse any typo or grammar errors! I did this on my phone!

The many phases of Polo!

Chaotic Beauty

Beauty from Ashes. “To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.” Isaiah 61:3

“Gloom despair and agony on me. Deep, dark depression, excessive misery. If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all. Gloom, despair, and agony on me.” You’re singing it, I know. It’s okay. How many watched Hee Haw on Saturday night? Roy Clark and Buck Owens made those lyrics such a comedic moment.

Despair and chaos. They are such good friends. They both cause a loss of hope. I think you will agree our country is experiencing such despair and chaos.

Six months ago chaos envaded our home on many levels. In October of 2021, I found myself in the middle of a battle with good and evil. I posted on Facebook asking for prayer for the Erwin family. I was screaming inside, but knew the quickest outlet for my frustration was a plea for prayer. Only my husband, close family, and two best friends knew what was happening in our household. I had begun having more headaches, panic attacks, and anxiety induced heart arrhythmia.

DESPAIR AND CHAOS

  • While Jay and I were on vacation in Wisconsin in October, Collin called to say that he was moving out that weekend. This was the weekend we were returning from vacation. While this is the natural process your grown child should take, the selfish mother in me knew that I would be alone when Jay went to work. The loneliness began to overtake me and flood my soul with thought of losing two boys. Yes, that sounds a little crazy, but if you have sent a child off to college, you understand.
  • Jay had his regular visit at West Clinic right after Collin moved out. The cancer hole (that’s what I call it) on the side of his neck had stopped moving in the direction of closing. Instead, the hole was getting a tad bigger. Even though his CT scan did not show the presence of cancer, Dr. Tauer was concerned about the changes. Dr. Tauer asked for Jay to have an MRI before his appointment to see his surgeon, Dr. Fleming. It has only been in the last few weeks that Dr. Tauer called Jay to tell him they did not see anything suspicious on the MRI, but he still wanted him to get Dr. Fleming’s opinion. Jay saw Dr. Fleming in December and he told him the only way to know before having surgery to close the hole is to do a biopsy.
  • Without going into a lot of personal detail (names have been changed to protect the innocent, haha), I began to see the direction of my 23-year career at Burch, Porter & Johnson go in a different direction. Joe was doing much better at practicing to retire, and I felt the parts of our well-oiled machine begin to rust. Things around me at the office began to fall apart and I did not understand the changes. I craved support from a firm that had walked with my family through many difficult times. Satan was having a field day with my emotions causing havoc on my body.

THE DAWN OF HOPE

As many say, you can’t make this stuff up. On Saturday (the day after my visit to the internist about my heart-who wanted me to see a cardiologist), I received a friend request on Facebook from Steve McDaniel. Steve is an outstanding estate planning attorney I have known for over 30 years (before going to BPJ) and a friend of Joe’s. Without hesitation, I accepted his request and told myself I would check with him on Monday. I actually mentioned it to Jay that night and thought – “That sure was out of the blue.”

Monday morning (Nov. 8) the following email exchange occurred between the two of us:

Me: “You sent me a legit friend request – right? I wanted to make sure it was you.”

Steve: “Yes, it was me.”

Me: “I’m glad! I might be calling you soon!”

Steve: “Not that you are looking, but we have a paralegal who retires December 10 and has not been replaced.”

Me: “Oh my goodness. We need to talk.”

Steve had no idea the circumstances in my life. He only knew, as everyone else did, that Joe had retired and the direction of my career was not clear. That is how I felt after much upheaval among the ranks. As the email progressed, it turned into an immediate plea for Steve to take me into his firm. I did it without a second thought. Things were moving fast, like within hours. The partners met Monday evening and Steve sent me a confirmation text that one of the attorneys would be sending me an email. Salary…increased. Paid time off…increased. I was in shock, but not questioning God’s movement.

Within two weeks, God opened a door, shoved me through, and closed the chapter of my life at Burch, Porter & Johnson. I can honestly say that even though I knew it was what God had intended for me, the decision to turn in my resignation was difficult. God covered me with an overwhelming peace. December 1, 2021, I began a huge, new chapter as a paralegal at Williams McDaniel and God loudly closed the door at Burch, Porter & Johnson. I honestly could not have walked down that path of decision making without my husband, family, and my besties (Becky and Andrea).

As the months have gone by, Jay and I have watched Collin mature into a responsible young man. I no longer wake early in the morning worrying if he will wake to his own alarm. My baby, all grown up. As I said at Christmas, it has been a joy to slowly see a smile return to his face and hear the laughter when he joins us for dinner once a week. He knows this house will always be his home as we watch him fly.

Today (Friday), Jay will have his pre-op bloodwork for surgery on Thursday, January 20. Dr. Fleming decided that Jay needs to have a biopsy done by surgical procedure because the area he wishes to access is close to his carotid artery. I would not be human if I did not admit that I worry. History causes us both anxiety. Jay has come to the point of wanting the wound closed. This will be a complicated surgery and we both know that there cannot be evidence of cancer. We are praying for a clean report to pursue this avenue. After 10 years of surgeries, biopsies, chemotherapy, and radiation, it’s time. (BUT! Dr. Tauer did tell Jay that if cancer ever returns after the surgery involving a plastic surgeon, he will be able to resume chemo.)

Ten years. It was ten years ago the cancer in Jay’s neck began to surface. It has been 25 years since his first melanoma surgery (December 1995). Ten years ago we also began a journey no parent wants to travel. It is hard to fathom it has been 10 years since we were told Trey had cancer. As I have said many times, for this mother, it was yesterday and he is still 15. If people do not understand that grief will always be a part of our lives, I’m okay…you move on and I’ll move on. I have gained friends through my LimeLife family that have also walked this journey and new friends in my workplace that knew our story before I walked in the door. God provides and preserves.

As despair and chaos unexpectedly collided over that last six months, I have struggled to maintain the hope I have in my Jesus, and find the beauty in my circumstances. In my daily devotion this week, God spoke to me so clearly. “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Ps. 42:5

January 12 – From A Shelter From the Storm

“It is difficult to remain hopeful when you are depressed and everything you do seems to fail. You can, however, fight this situation.

*Believe that God is greater than your circumstances and any problems that are weighing you down. Accept the victory in His holy name. “In all things we are more than conquerors.” Rom. 8:37

*Lay your problems before the Father in earnest and specific prayer.

*Believe steadfastly that God can and will achieve something glorious through this dark period in your life. “And we know that all things work together for good for those that love the Lord.” Rom. 8:28 (One of my favs)

*Make a conscious effort to turn your eyes away from yourself to see the world in need. God has a purpose in all things.

God is still on the throne and still in control.”

If I read this devotion six months ago, it would not have spoken to my heart to help me remember the need I have to continually and totally depend on the Lord. Period. The beauty is in God’s timing. The recent turmoil brought me back around to a point of dependence and trust.

If you are or have ever been in a place where you feel the chaos of this world is overtaking you or swallowing you whole, remember that there is beauty in the suffering. One thing I vividly remember after Trey’s funeral on July 7, 2012, is the rain that started to fall at the graveside service. I said to myself, “It is July and 90 degrees! Why is it starting to rain!” When we returned to the church, it was still raining. Courtney Jordan (Dahlsten) and Karson Jones (Iberg) convinced Jay to step outside the Faith Building doors and stand in the rain. What did God provide? A beautiful rainbow. A reminder of His promise He is always near.

He is always near during the chaos to majestically show His beauty.

Covid. God is still near.

Cancer. God is still near.

Job change. God is still near.

Job doubts and difficulties. God is still near.

Your baby growing up. God is still near.

10 year, heart-wrenching anniversaries. God is absolutely still near.

Till the end of time. God is still near.

The Lord has blessed my soul.

Only God. . .

“”But God” brings hope when we can’t see a way through.

“But God means ashes aren’t the end of our story.

“But God” says God, not our circumstances, always gets the last word.” Lisa Appelo

I love this quote, but I would change the “But God” to “Only God.” Read it again. Only God brings hope when we can’t see a way through. Only God determines our story. Only God gets the last word. It begs the question, where is your hope? For my family, always, only God.

Friday evening I was on the way home from the Collierville football game. My phone rang and the name Sara Federico came across the caller ID in my car. I anxiously answered the phone.

“This is Lisa.”

“Is this Lisa?”

“Yes! Sara, are you really calling me?” I said that because I thought I had accidentally called her.

Sara continued, “Everyone is okay.” I thought, well, that’s so sweet to check on us after the tragic shooting in Collierville.

I replied, “Yes! We are all fine! Jay wasn’t at work and we are all okay.”

Sara said, “No Lisa, everyone is okay. I’m with your sister and she has been in an accident.”

It took me a minute to put two and two together. I knew Judy probably had gone out because it was a friend’s birthday. But I said to myself, Judy never goes out at night. Sara went on to explain that she had decided that night to take her daughter to Dick’s for soccer shoes. Only God.

You might not remember, so I’ll give you a hint. Who is Sara? Dr. Sara Federico was Trey’s oncologist at St. Jude and became Collin’s doctor after Trey died. During Trey’s battle, we had more than a friend/patient/family relationship. We love Sara and she loves our family.

Sara told me that when she got to Judy, all she could say is call my sister, call my sister. There was another witness with my sister who had her phone. Judy said, call Donna Thorne. Sara paused and said, “Wait a minute! I know this family! Give me that phone!” I can hear her with that little giggle she has. And I am sure her cheeks were beet red. She was very concerned about her daughter who was in the car and witnessed what SHE had just witnessed.

As Judy was driving south on Germantown Parkway in front of Wolf Chase Mall, someone pulled out in front of her. Judy t-boned the car and swerved to avoid hitting the car again, and drove into a ditch. The only way I know this is because Sara saw it happen. Only God.

Sara told me on the phone that she had already talked to Donna. Judy was breathing and all her vitals seemed to be okay. She said her chest hurt, her knees, and Sara said her wrist might be broken. Sara indicated that when she saw smoke coming from the ditch, she thought the car might be on fire. It was the airbags.

Sara kept me on the phone until she knew paramedics were there. Sara said that it had taken an enormous amount of time getting in and out of Dick’s and she was actually complaining about it while in the store. We BOTH agreed and knew why she was detained at Dick’s. She was meant to help my sister, Judy. I promised I would update her the next day after we knew Judy’s condition. Only God.

My first question was what company responded? Memphis or Shelby County? It was MEMPHIS! Donna could hear Judy screaming through Sara’s phone. I can’t imagine Donna’s panic. I was relieved to know that the paramedics that transported Judy to Germantown Methodist knew Jay, my husband. Again, Only God.

When I called Jay to tell him what had just happened, he told me that she would probably be at the hospital all night. The hospitals are incredibly busy with Covid patients. Thankfully, Judy was put on the hall with broken bones and not Covid. Judy arrived at the hospital around 9:30/10:00 p.m. Donna had her home just after midnight. All night? No, God provided the best care for her and got her home.

Sara was right! They determined at the hospital that Judy had broken her left wrist. After her appointment with the ortho today, she was told she also has a hairline fracture in her right wrist and strained ankle. She is in a boot, has a soft cast/wrap on her left arm (in purple, of course), and a removable splint on her right wrist. The doctor said that she did the most damage she could do to her knees without actually breaking anything. Her bruises are numerous. We know that her days will get worse before they get better.

When I look at the pictures of her car, I repeat, ONLY GOD. God had his angels surrounding her the whole time.

After the events of the week, I was reminded that even in the midst of tragedy, uncertainty, and fear, God is always in control. It is hard for us to tangibly see Him in control and at work during these circumstances. We begin to question His sovereignty and His goodness. All He asks is that we trust He will work all things out for good. I will admit that I don’t always see the good – especially in the waiting. Doubt and anger can become a frequent friend.

We do not have all of the answers as to what exactly happened Friday night when the car pulled out in front of Judy. But we do know that God kept her safe, provided angels to surround her, and an unknown witness who prayed for her out loud while they were waiting for the ambulance.

Proverbs 3:5-6 is such a simple scripture that we sometimes pass it over because we know it so well. Write it on your heart and be thankful He knows your every need. GOD knows your every need. ONLY GOD knows.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.”

Please continue to pray for Judy as she heals and for Donna, who will be taking care of her.

(Not Proofed! Just word vomit!) #onlyGod

Suit Up!

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Eph. 6:18

I believe prayer and prayer requests come in many forms. If you see a post on Facebook and a friend requests prayer, what do you do? You type, “Praying!” Most of the time, the person on the other end never knows whether they are prayed for or not. It is just assumed. Sadly, I am seeing a lot of those posts lately.

Last Sunday morning just before the church service was to begin, my sister and I had an older member come up behind us in the pew. She immediately asked our names and if she could pray for us. Shocked, I immediately said well, okay. She prayed the sweetest prayer for God to lead, guide and direct us (not in those words). Right there. Music playing. I lost it. It caught me so off guard that I began to sob. I told her that she reminded me of my mother who passed away last year. My sister understood. Our mother was our greatest, most faithful prayer warrior.

After two emotional baptisms, our pastor, Pastor Matt Brown, began the service by saying (and I paraphrase) that people walk in the church doors with many things going on in their lives. He said, there may be someone who has recently lost their job, received a terrible medical diagnosis, and some might be having problems with their children. He then asked if anyone in the congregation had a burden that the church could pray for, please stand so the church could pray and love on them. I didn’t hesitate, I stood. What surprised me is out of a congregation of hundreds, only a hand full stood. My thought when I stood was that I have many burdens!

  • I feel a burden for those with Covid. It is attacking my friends and family (vaccinated and unvaccinated) like a leach latching on to healthy bodies. This burden is for our entire nation and it is causing division. Satan is having a good time with that!
  • I feel a burden for what is going on in Afghanistan. I am living in my snug home and innocent women and children are losing their lives. There are many in other countries who are worshipping in hiding.
  • I feel a burden for the lost. Our pastor is teaching us how Jesus is better. He is our hope. How do we reach the lost to let them KNOW Jesus is better without exhibiting the love Jesus has for us? I keep saying, friends be ready. Jesus is coming soon.
  • I have a heavy heart for my friends who are suffering in many ways.
  • There are many days that I walk in the sanctuary and I don’t see a three-step stage with two urns of flowers on each side. I see a casket. A casket that held my 15-year-old son. I hurt for my sister who works at the church knowing the hard days she has just walking the halls with all the memories of the kids running the halls…”Aunt Donna!”

In the split second of standing, not all of those burdens and thoughts went through my head. What went through my head was YES, ME! Church Love Me! Pray for me! It was only when I sat down that I realized that I was one of few that stood, unashamed to say, yes, pray for me. I also realized that friends probably thought, “Oh, she’s just missing Trey.” Yes, but that was not reason! I’m more than a grieving mother. I will always miss my son.

Isn’t the church called to pray?

Isn’t the church a home for the sick and hurting?

Did anyone else hear the young girl who was baptized say her father had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer? It stabbed me in the heart. Just those words. (Since beginning the draft of this post, I have exchanged texts with Casey about her father. Such a blessing.)

As I left the parking lot of the church, I started to feel like a wrecking ball had just swung upside my head. Wait, why didn’t anyone else stand? Was Pastor Matt really prompting for the entire congregation to stand for a congregational prayer? Did I miss something he said? Are we so caught up in the proper way to act in church that we can’t wave a white flag to say, hey, over here! Whoo hoo, I have needs.

My sweet Madison saw me stand from the choir loft and called me Sunday afternoon to make sure everything was okay in the family. I told her everything was fine and we began to discuss the church service.

We are a blessed congregation at Germantown Baptist. In our exuberance of settling in with a new, wonderful pastor, I hope the church will not get comfortable. Complacency will not prompt our souls to reach out to pray over others, like the sweet lady did Sunday morning over me and Donna (despite her own circumstances). She was the hands and feet of Jesus. We cannot be the hands and feet of Jesus with a grumbling, divisive spirit. That also applies to our marriages.

In Paul’s letter to the church of Thessalonica, he emphasized the importance of prayer to keep their faith strong by praying without ceasing. If we took Paul’s words literally, we would pray around the clock, day and night. I don’t know about you, but for me that would be a challenging feat! May we all strive to increase our communication with God, and have a spirit of prayer for others.

Oh, by the way, never assume someone’s needs. It’s always a good idea to ask how you can pray for them. My hope is that when I see others in need, I will reach out, inquire about their needs, and be intentional in praying for them.

Prayer warriors, suit up!

Collin’s MRI Results

We are so appreciative of everyone who has checked on Collin’s MRI. I wanted to reach out to follow up with the results. I could have posted this somewhere else, but like my sister says, “document, document, document”. My mind isn’t what it used to be! Can I get an Amen?! (Not about ME!)

Collin had his MRI a week ago Monday, July 26, at West Clinic. This was his first MRI at West since transitioning from St. Jude. The normal procedure for Collin over the last 9 years was to have his MRI and then see Dr. Sara in clinic that afternoon for the results and a checkup. Everything was always fine and I actually never saw a written report of his MRI. Now with Trey, I requested a copy of everything he had done! Even his bloodwork each morning at 4 a.m.!

As the week progressed, I had several ask if I had received a call from West Clinic or if I had called them. Honestly, I would get busy and forget to call. I also thought they would call Collin since he is now over 21.

Yesterday, Jay had an appointment with his surgeon, Dr. Fleming. We are hoping to get him scheduled for surgery the beginning of December to graft his neck. After hearing from Jay’s doctor’s appointment, it dawned on me that I had not heard from West Clinic. I thought the easiest way would be for Collin to set up his patient portal. Results are there, right? Yes, they were.

I read his MRI yesterday afternoon and as I told Jay, the feeling of blood draining from my body was overwhelming. I was probably white as a sheet. Pancreas. I saw that word. Tears immediately began to flow, but I pulled myself together and went into MAMA mode.

I know, you are probably thinking this is over the top and you are about to hear Collin has cancer. NO. This is what I read…Questionable punctate signal abnormality in the pancreas. Then further, attention is warranted on subsequent imaging to exclude cystic lesion. WHAT! Google, my friend, what does that mean? Punctate is spots or “dots”. You could have scraped me off the floor.

I began to text and call everyone I knew at West Clinic to get to someone that could explain his MRI to me. I was so afraid they would get to Collin before they would talk to Jay or me. I asked Collin this morning if West calls him, have them call me.

After several phone calls this morning, I finally heard that voice, Kurt Tauer here! How ya doing kid?! (I don’t think he really needed to know. He knew.) We discussed his MRI and Dr. Tauer wants a CT scan done. He thinks these spots could be just fat and he might have a fatty pancreas. Yes, I’ve said all of this to say Collin might have a fatty pancreas. Just like Dr. Tauer said, “Of COURSE it would be his pancreas”. We are hoping to get it scheduled for Friday.

I can’t tell you how proud I am of Collin. He said, “Well, if it is cancer, we got it early”. I told him that we are really getting the cart before the horse.

Now my point. We all are experiencing some kind of suffering whether it be physical, mental, or financial. A friend texted me this morning, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Gal. 6:2 I know of another family who has been very transparent about their journey with their mother by asking for specific prayer requests. With Collin’s permission, I am doing the same.

  1. Pray Dr. Tauer can get the scan covered by insurance in order to it this week. When he said two weeks, I said, uh no.
  2. Pray for a clean and clear CT scan with no questions.
  3. Pray for Collin as he works the next couple of days and that he does not let fear enter his mind. (He says he’s fine.)
  4. Pray for Jay and I as our minds have already gone down this familiar path of waiting. My thought yesterday on the way home from work was that I must have JOY in the waiting. (James 1:2-3)
  5. Pray that when he has the CT scan done, we will be able to get results quickly and nothing will fall through the cracks.

I KNOW God hears. I KNOW God answers. I am not merely a believer, but a follower. Followers take action. “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” John 12:26

So we are laying this at His feet and ask that you help us by doing the same. Thank you West Cancer Center for all you have done and are doing for our family.

This boy makes me smile!

My Promise.

Day 30. My Promise.

About a month ago I was contacted by Daphne Kirk who has followed our journey since Trey’s diagnosis. She is from the UK and asked if I would be willing to tell our story on her podcast, Radical Lifestyle, with her son.

I find it NO coincidence that Daphne sent me the podcast today and said it was on the web. What an honor to share Trey’s story around the world for Christ.

My promise? I will continue to tell of his courageous battle against pancreatic cancer, bring awareness, and tell of his devotion to the Lord. Always.

“Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give.”
‭‭Hebrews 4:14-16

Thank you, Daphne Kirk, for letting me share about my boys!

encouragementchallenge

Yesterday…Today…Tomorrow

Yesterday…

I am a creature of habit. There is not a day that goes by that I do not check my Timehop app on my phone or look at my memories on Facebook. Some may think I am dwelling on the past. Believe it or not, the past holds sweet memories that help me get through the tough days of the present.

Today on Timehop, I discovered several memories that just touched my heart revolving around my children. Doesn’t everything revolve around our children? Collin returned from Kia Kima (scout camp) 13 years ago very sick. After taking him to the doctor, we were told he had pneumonia. He was such a sick little boy and I was scared out of my wits. Even our Labrador Retriever knew something was wrong and didn’t leave his side in our bed. Collin’s remarks stick in my head, “I told you I was sick.” Yes, you did. I learned to listen, listen to him and to my instinct as a mother.

Nine years ago, Bretta Cochran and Kari Coudriet returned Collin and Trey’s best friends to Memphis from New Orleans after learning Trey would possibly have a life-altering surgery. Trey wasn’t going to face this possibility without his brother at home (or his best friends). What do you do first? You build a fort, of course. I have no idea why this was on Trey’s bucket list, but it was. Once everything was built, Trey, his brother, and his friends crawled under the blankets, played video games, and told Trey about the mission trip. There was a lot of laughter, exhausted kids, and plenty of donuts from Paula Williams. If walls could talk.

Today…

Collin had his first appointment today at West Clinic. I was told that only one person could go with Collin, so I volunteered Jay since he is also a patient and knows the ropes. It absolutely ripped me up inside to not be able to be with Collin, to take care of my little boy. As Dr. Tauer said, you aren’t a little boy anymore, you are a man, and we will proceed however you feel comfortable. Collin agreed to move forward however Jay and I thought best.

Dr. Tauer explained to Collin the importance of preventative treatment when you have a hereditary cancer gene. I cannot count the number of times Dr. Tauer repeated himself to Collin saying, “I know this is so much for you to handle and I just can’t imagine how you are doing it.” I wanted to jump in the conversation and brag on how the little pneumonia boy whose brother died of cancer has grown into a strong (handsome, I might add) young man. He is tough, hard-working, independent, but still knows he needs his mom and dad. Did I mention he is handsome?

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12

Tomorrow…

With all of the yesterdays and todays rolled together, Jay and I have learned not to depend on the promises of tomorrow. I never imagined this would be my life. You think you have learned from mistakes, planned for your future, and sometimes God shuts the door on your plans and dreams. Do we stop dreaming because God changed the direction? Absolutely not. We still build a fort because it is on our bucket list. We still plan on our trip to the Mediterranean because it is our dream cruise. God doesn’t close the door on our lives, only things we pray are not under His will. He wants us to hold our plans and dreams loosely so that He can work through them.

“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Ps. 37:4

God is in the smallest and largest of details. If we will only listen to the still, small voice in our spirit, He is faithful to reveal a glimpse of the blueprint for our lives. If I would have seen that blueprint 10 years ago of what our future would hold, I would have been tempted to beg God to change His direction for our lives to avoid the pain and sorrow. Oh, BUT GOD! He knew I would not be the strong person I am today without yesterday. That also goes for Jay and Collin. It gives me HOPE for tomorrow. Our frustrations of today should be our pleas to God for a different tomorrow. I have a friend going through a very difficult medical situation and all I can promise her is that He DOES hear! What our tomorrow will be, only He knows. I cannot imagine not being able to rest in His hands.

Yesterday…Today…Tomorrow; sweet memories to cherish, opportunities to grow and learn, and promises only God can give for what is best for our lives. Simply put…faith changes everything.

1. Remember, Jesus overcame even death. Whatever seems worst to us now is, in fact, surmounted by Jesus eternally. Even death is no match for our Savior.

2. Know that God is with us in the midst of pain. While we wait for a problem to resolve itself tomorrow, Christ demonstrates His comfort now. We are reminded to make Jesus the object of our longing today. His “yes” isn’t as important as His presence.

3. Entrust tomorrow to Jesus. Jesus wants our trust. He makes many promises beginning with “I will” (future tense). Do we believe God when He says “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am”? (John 14:3) When Christ says “you may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it,” (John 14:14) can we rest in that right now? Yes we can.” Candace Lucey

A Different Perspective – Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day Post from Lisa Erwin

I am honored West Cancer Center asked me to write about Mother’s Day from a different perspective.

One person not mentioned in my article is Barry Erwin, Jay’s brother, who passed away from cancer in December 1996. Collin Erwin, my sweet boy, is named after his uncle Barry. We miss you Barry, another part of the Erwin generation taken by cancer. God gave me a mother-in-law who loves the Lord. We walk together on this journey and she is my praying guide. I’m blessed.

Lisa Erwin

The Erwin family has three generations of cancer in their family, all linked to a rare genetic mutation. Their oldest son Trey passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2012, and his mom Lisa continues to fight to keep his memory alive while being there to support her younger son Collin.

“On Mother’s Day each year, I am reminded of the undeniable role of actually being two mothers. I am a grieving mother to a son who no longer bursts in my door with a smile that lit up a room. I am also a mother to a son who is striving to find himself while dealing with the heaviness of loss, doctors, tests, and the reality of what the future might hold.”

Lisa and her family are passionate about supporting the fight against cancer and the need for new and more effective treatment options. “Funding for cancer research is so important. Without research, there would be no hope for Collin.”

How do you prepare yourself for this Hallmark holiday we call Mother’s Day? Some of us are members of a club we never volunteered for when our child was diagnosed with cancer. Most of us share the pain and emptiness Mother’s Day brings, even while celebrating our own mothers. This day has been very bittersweet since my son, Trey, passed away in July 2012 from pancreatic cancer. Honestly, it is a day my grief is a little heavier than most days.

Mother’s Day note from Lisa’s son Trey in 2012

The last Mother’s Day with Trey was spent in Hawaii, his paradise. I remember waking up that morning with an envelope next to my bed. “Mom” I opened it to find a notebook piece of paper saying, “Happy Mother’s Day, I love you thisssss much! Trey.” He enclosed a picture of the two of us from the VOLS Orange and White football game we attended in Knoxville a couple of weeks prior.

Photo enclosed with Trey’s note

That “love phrase” is what we always said to each other. That was the last text he was able to read on July 5, 2012, “I love you thissss much! Mom.” I knew he was desperately trying to read the massive amount of texts he was receiving after we let the public know that he would not be with us much longer.

Many mothers mourn on Mother’s Day. Sadness overtakes the joy of celebrated motherhood and we long to hold our children that we have lost to a cruel cancer. The friends of our children are growing up, going to college, getting married, having children, and Trey forever remains 15 years old. There are days that I sink to the floor in tears with grief because this reality hits me so hard. And honestly, I’m trying to reel in a little “unfairness” towards Collin too.

Just because I lost Trey does not mean I suddenly stopped being a mother to my youngest son, Collin. Just in the last month Collin has become a patient at West because he turned 21 in July of 2020. St. Jude knew it would be best that he is followed closely by West Cancer Center since he carries the same mutant melanoma gene as Trey. It has taken me over nine months to pick up the phone and make the call for an appointment. As a mother, if I didn’t make him go, then maybe the gene would go away and there would be no cancer in Collin’s future. I know in this mama’s heart I cannot take that chance. I believe sometimes the children left behind are loved so fiercely, it’s hard to let them fly.

On Mother’s Day each year, I am reminded of the undeniable role of actually being two mothers. I am a grieving mother to a son who no longer bursts in my door with a smile that lit up a room. I am also a mother to a son who is striving to find himself while dealing with the heaviness of loss, doctors, tests, and the reality of what the future might hold.

Throughout the day, I’m sure I will not be able to resist scrolling through the sea of photos on social media of mothers with their children, young and old, and wonder was there something I missed; a drug or treatment we didn’t pursue; or, my failure as a mother to do everything in my power to help Trey survive. Do not misunderstand. A mother’s faith is not weak due to continual grieving of her child.

I know cancer did not define Trey, his purpose and faith in God directed him. Cancer did not define his grandfather, Jerry, does not define my husband, Jay, and WILL NOT define or deter Collin’s future. Three generations of West Cancer Center patients. We are forever indebted to Dr. Kurt Tauer for his love, honesty, and support for the past 26 years of this familial cancer journey. My prayer is that with West Cancer Center’s help, I will continue to have many more Mother’s Days with Collin. I will remain faithfully by his side as he endures each scan, endoscopy, and doctor’s appointment praying God would spare him.

I will remain ever hopeful that advances in cancer research will lead for better treatment options and better outcomes for other families like mine. I will continue to work to support the work of West Cancer Foundation and raise funds to fuel innovative research to find cures for this terrible disease. Without funding for research, there might not be hope for Collin.

I have said many times, the biggest fear a mother has is that after the death of their child, their child will be forgotten. Every mother who has lost a child deeply desires for others to say their child’s name. For someone else on Mother’s Day, your purpose might be to say their child’s name and acknowledge them as their wonderful mother. This Mother’s Day will not be lost without thinking how many people still greet me by saying, “I know you. Are you Trey’s mother?” My proud reply, “Why yes! Yes I am.” My purpose as a mother…fulfilled. I will enjoy Mother’s Day with my Collin, but in the meantime, I know Trey is enjoying paradise with Jesus and knows his mama loves him thisssss much.

Acknowledging all who have loved and lost on this Mother’s Day.

-Lisa Erwin

The Erwin family at the beach in 2012, one week to the day before Trey passed away from cancer

Lisa with her sons Trey and Collin in Hawaii, Mother’s Day 2012