The 5th Season #prayfortrey (Blog)

No, it’s not the 5th season of Grey’s Anatomy, your favorite sitcom, or the latest hit on Netflix.  For me, for Jay, for Collin, for my family, it’s the 5th season of our life without Trey.  My boy.  My heart. (Number one thing NOT to say, “Has it been that long?”) To me, it was yesterday.

I have blogged for years about my grief and groaning, and for some, it has helped.  For others, I’m not sure they have understood.  It will be the same with this season.  As I thought of this coming year as a “season”, this scripture came to mind in Ecclesiastes 3.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

What gain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”

In this scripture, the writer, Solomon, does not define the length of time for a season.  Is a season a month, a year, 5 years, ten years?  One commentary said, “Ecclesiastes offers the Christian an opportunity to understand the emptiness and despair that those who do not know God grapple with. Those who do not have a saving faith in Christ are faced with a life that will ultimately end and become irrelevant.”

Solomon was telling us a very important fact.  Solomon tells us that life is really a matter of timing, for timing is everything. If timing is everything, just how am I going to handle this season?

Episode 1

I can tell you every date beginning January 1 to July 7, 2012, but I won’t.  Jay and I lived a nightmare.  Trey only had two (I think two) occasions that he broke down in tears with me.  Both of those occasions were because he was worried about our family and how we would hold up after he was gone.  I felt it was necessary to see me strong and tell him that we would be just fine and that God would take care of us.  Why? Why did I not tell him that I would be lost without him? Why did I not tell him that losing him would devastate my entire existence?  It’s the truth.  The only thing that has been holding me together has been God’s grace.

This season never ends.  If you grew up during my childhood years, we watched our home movies on a reel to reel projector.  That is what my mind is like; a reel to reel projector is replaying blips of Trey’s life over and over in my mind and as much as I grab my head, as much as I cry tears, they won’t go away.

People look at me at church when we sing 10,000 Reasons, Lay Me Down, The Stand, and Forever Reign as tears flow down my face.  I know those that don’t know me are probably wondering why in the world I am crying. I will always cry when we sing those songs.  They bring back memories of his last breath, his moments of worship during these favorite songs, the exact moment he asked that Anna Wakefield sing Your Great Name at his funeral.

One thing that comforts me (again, through God’s grace), Trey had underlined in his bible Ecc. 3:11.  Wise beyond his years, Trey looked over the first 10 verses and rested on the fact that God had put eternity in his heart.  I wish I had one ounce of his wisdom to look beyond the worldly pain to what God has for us in eternity.  I have to say, with respect, when people say to me that I will see him again in heaven, you have to remember that I am his mother.  I am mortal, human, but I do hold Christ in my heart.  I say all of this to tell you that even though he is in heaven, I want my baby here! I want him back! I have cried out to God for just one more moment with him.  Mothers…I think you get that.

Episode 2

I can’t believe Collin is going to be a senior.  I am in the process of making arrangements for his senior pictures.  With this, comes excitement because I didn’t get to experience this with Trey and I want it to be a good experience for Collin.  We have made the decision for the place and the clothing…wow!  As I held him in my arms the Saturday night of Encounter at Central Church, I told him, “You will always be my baby.”  Collin carries such heavy burdens for a teen his age. I wish I could take them from them.

In July, Collin will turn 18, another milestone in our family.  I see all of his friends turning 18 and it excites me as we prepare for the time that he will turn 18 and he will gain the responsibility he has longed for.  My prayer is that with responsibility will come wisdom.  Or maybe that should be reversed!!!

Episode 3

July 5 will be the 5th anniversary of Trey’s death.  The 5th anniversary of #prayfortrey.  I had the opportunity to go back and read messages from that time period and I am overwhelmed with the love and support we were given.  I still have people that I meet today tell me that they prayed for us.  But as with most St. Jude families, the prayers do not need to end.  To tell you that I relive that day a couple of times a week is an understatement.  I truly, truly, could not do life without some of Trey’s close friends that have remained in our lives.  If I tried to list them, I would forget someone.

July 31 Trey would be 21.  I dread his birthday because he loved celebrations and I just don’t know how to handle this one.  I am seeing all his friends turn 21 with all the joy life can bring and there is no life to celebrate.  I don’t know if we will celebrate his birthday or his home going.  Either way, they are both milestones that we will not overlook.

Season Finale…to be continued

I cannot tell you how much we have treasured your prayers over the last three months.  We have battled a scare with Collin having kidney surgery, and now we are battling Jay dealing with cancer.  I can tell you we are fighting hard. We know that God did not promise days without trials.  He only promised that He would be with us during those days.  Those that have read my blogs know that I am very transparent.  I can tell you there have been days that I have cried out for God and asked “WHERE ARE YOU?” This is not out of lack of faith, but out of frustration with our circumstances.

Why would Jay have to get cancer again? Why is Collin still homebound and not back at CHS? Why did he have to have a cancer scare and have part of his kidney removed? What are they going to do when he goes back to St. Jude in March?  Why is my Trey baby in heaven instead of trying to finish up college and finding a sweet young girl to marry?  Are people still missing him like I am? God, please, just show up! So many questions, but yet God tells me…Be still…I’m not done yet.

But God, I’m tired! I’m exhausted! I’m depressed! I am on · the · very · edge.  But you say to me in Matt. 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Rest? You mean the kind that I’m getting now by going to bed at 6 p.m. and getting up at 5:30 a.m. and not accomplishing anything in life?  The restless kind of sleep that gives me continuous migraines I can’t keep under control?  I think He means peace.  When will God give us peace?  Again, I hear Him say the familiar verse, Philippians 4:6 & 7 “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” I love how the Message words this scripture.

So a couple of days ago, that’s exactly what I asked you to do.  #prayfortheerwins  You didn’t know (1) I was having a migraine, (2) Collin is struggling with homebound school, (3) Jay has not felt good for a couple of days, (4) Jay took the EMS Lieutenant’s exam on Thursday while not feeling well, (5) Monday was the nine year anniversary of Jay’s dad’s death, and (6) Valentine’s Day was the last day I took Trey to the pediatrician to find out what was wrong with him.  Our hearts have been heavy and all I knew to do was reach out and ask for prayer.  One friend texted me to ask me if everything was okay, my dear friend Shawn.  If there is anything I learned from the Central Church youth Encounter weekend, it is okay to share your burdens, tell others you love them because you are not promised tomorrow, tell them you appreciate them, and pray for each other.  WE ALL ARE SUFFERING WITH SOMETHING!

Again, thank you for praying for us.  I am praying for you.  I know that God has a plan for our family.  I don’t know what it is and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a control issue.  But there’s one issue I don’t have.  I know, without a doubt, that he bore my sins on a cross to save me.  That’s my promise and the answer to all my hurts and questions.  Eternity.  Jesus.  And someone now, at the end of writing, I’m calm as the glassy sea.  Do I have all the answers? No. But I know who does and I know where to go to get them.  I think I am blessed.

Yes Jesus Loves Me

Yes Jesus Loves Me

Yes Jesus Loves Me

The Bible Tells Me So…

FRIEND-LESS (Blog)

“So no one told you life was gonna be this way
Your job’s a joke, you’re broke, your love life’s D. O. A.
It’s like you’re always stuck in second gear
When it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your year, but…
I’ll be there for you
(When the rain starts to pour)
I’ll be there for you
(Like I’ve been there before)
I’ll be there for you
(‘Cause you’re there for me too)”

You know the rest of the song.  Of course, it’s the theme song from the show Friends.  I’m raising this subject because it has been an overwhelming theme of posts I’ve seen from so many friends on Facebook.  Just this week, a friend of mine posted:

“Ironically, there are times I feel like I have a lot of friends and then there are times I feel, not so much.
Anyone else? (I promise I’m not feeling sorry for myself as much as I’m just recognizing inconsistency in my thinking)”

Her responses were astounding! Women from all walks of life, including myself, answered with a resounding YES!  I know my friend well enough to say that her post was not a pity party post, but more inquisitive, just as she said.  I knew some of the women that responded and I felt like I was jumping up and down saying, “Here I am, over here, right here, I’ll be your friend!”

Women…Men… Why are we wired this way? Women can have a thought at 10 p.m. and feel the need to call a best friend and share a thought.  Women can ALSO have a conversation while using the restroom! Admit. It.! You’ve done it! We desire the connection.  It’s a different connection between a man and a woman.

“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Prov. 18:24

So why are we failing in our friendships?  This is just my opinion and I am NOT a counselor or psychologist.  I think for one, social media has taken the place of our friendships.  A faceless post with a likes here and there is NOT a relationship, friends.  It’s a phone in your hand, a computer, or ipad.  It doesn’t take the place of eye contact, the touch of a hand, a hug, or the inflection of a person’s voice.  That is what we are lacking dear women.  Satan, my favorite idiot, knows this!

I go back to John 10:10.  “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”  Don’t you think God wants us to have abundant friendships in our lives?  That’s why people say, “Don’t let Satan steal your JOY!”

Dr. Randy Kamen, a psychologist, wrote in the Huffington Post:

Whether is it with friends, family, a therapist or a support group, women find it healing to tell their stories. We want to talk about our emotional experiences and to process what has happened and what we might do going forward. If friendships can enrich our physical and emotional lives, the question becomes why so many women find it challenging to nourish them. Ruthellen Josselson, author of Best Friends: The Pleasure and Perils of Girls’ and Women’s Friendships explains that when we get busy with our work and family, the first thing we do is push away our friendships due to lack of time or energy. We lose sight of the strength we provide each other and the healing benefits we derive from our friends. As the research suggests, we need to build and maintain these important bonds to protect our physical and emotional well-being.

I am presently doing the bible study Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst.  It is about learning to be a person that is Living Loved, or when you feel left out, lonely, and rejected.  I’ve only been in one session and read five chapters of her book and have soaked in so much knowledge of rejection and what Jesus can do for me.

You would not think that a child’s death would be a cause for loneliness and rejection.  Jay has told me time and time again that it is just that people do not know what to say to me or how to approach me.  I’ve even lost friends that I had for years because they said they could not be my friend anymore because of their own sadness over Trey.  Rejection hurts.

We started the session by listening to Lysa by video.  I felt an instant connection.  I loved it when she said (paraphrased): “I hated when I looked on Instagram and Facebook and saw my friends in pictures and I wasn’t invited.”  I felt like jumping up and down.  Well, actually, I did raise my hand and said “Amen!”  That’s when it makes you question, who ARE my friends?

This stood out to me in Lysa’s book:  “No, it’s not wrong to need people.  But some of our biggest disappointments in life are the result of expectations we have of others that they can’t ever possibly meet…Here’s the secret shift we must make: Do I walk into situations prepared with the fullness of God in me, free to look for ways to bless others?”

Does social media fulfill that? I don’t think so. But we are so stuck in and addicted to the concept it gives us.  IT IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR ACTS OF SERVICE!  I’ve said that before.  We must be diligent in changing the way we WANT our friendships! Do you want keep texting a friend that you have never met or finally set up that coffee date? (You know I’m talking to you.)  Do you really not have time?  What if God is wanting you to bless someone with your time? Or maybe, you are going to be blessed by someone else and THEIR time but you are not willing to let go of yours.  We all do it.  Trust me, I’m guilty, because I don’t think I’m worthy of anyone’s time.  (Remember, Satan is an idiot!)

Time.  Investing in others.  Loving.  Giving.  All things worthy of a bonding friendship that glorifies God.  God takes pleasure in US!

So, from the words of the movie Ghostbusters… “Who ya gonna call?”

We Pray for Blessings (Blog)

“We pray for blessings

We pray for peace

Comfort for family, protection while we sleep

We pray for healing, for prosperity

We pray for your Mighty hand to ease our suffering

All the while, You hear each spoken need

Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things.”

I have recited these lyrics before, Blessings by Laura Story.  Unfortunately, they became all to familiar to me again two weeks ago as Jay, Collin and I walked into St. Jude for his kidney surgery.  Blessings? Peace? Healing? What was I walking into again?

My fear was just that, walking into St. Jude and sleeping on the couch that makes a bed as I would watch Collin sleep.  I anticipated the bed separating as it had in 2012 as I watched Trey sleep for so many nights.  Yet God did hear our spoken need.  We spent our time in the new Chili’s ICU step down unit and not in the same area where we had been with Trey. What a blessing.  It was so nice for Jay and I to feel a little bit of the chest pressure release.

Dr. Davidoff, who performed Collin’s surgery, consulted on many issues with Trey when he formed pseudo cysts.  His associates, staff, nurses, etc. were all familiar with our family.  I was allowed to go with Collin into the operating room as he was put to sleep.  Collin kept exclaiming he didn’t feel sleepy.  We all joked because we knew the seconds were clicking down before he would be in his nice, deep sleep.  I hovered over him and told him I loved him and to enjoy his nice sleep.  About that time his eyes began to roll back and they shut.  The nurses and doctors said that would take very good care of him.  I couldn’t help but say, “You better take care of him because he’s my baby and he’s all I got. The last time I left here, I left my other son.” And I began to lose it.  A sweet nurse walked me out and assured me Collin was in good hands.

A surgery that we were told that should last maybe four hours lasted six.  All I could think about was, “I can’t believe I’m sitting here, I can’t believe I’m sitting here.”  As Jay and I sat in the surgery waiting room, another family was experiencing our March 6, 2012 (Trey’s diagnosis day).  We tried to be comfort to the family, tell them what to expect, tell them not to be overwhelmed by doctors, nurses, residents, social workers, etc. and just ask for a time out! Their world was falling apart as their daughter was in surgery the same time as Collin.  I just wanted to take their pain away and it made me even more mad at cancer.

Surgery was successful as they removed a 20 percent wedge from the back of Collin’s kidney that contained a cyst.  When we finally got to the room at around 8 p.m. Tuesday, I was ready for rest.  I guess my mind had forgotten the every hour to two hour visits by the nurses and even the doctors in the middle of the night.

What I didn’t anticipate is how dark the night is.  I once heard a theological argument about faith.  In that argument, to prove his point, he said that dark is the absence of light. There was so little light and the night does NOT feed peace.  The night can feed anxiety and fear, memories from the past, faces replacing faces, time going back.  Before you realize it, you can’t breathe. Inhale Lisa, Exhale Lisa.

As I tried to help Collin, he would become angry and not want to be touched.  He had tubes from his nose, a catheter, two IVs, oxygen, and beep, beep, beep, as we repeated BREATHE COLLIN, BREATHE.  In the night I paced, he called my name but he didn’t know what he needed and I couldn’t help him. I prayed for the sun as I would doze off in the wee hours of the morning.  Jay, bless his heart, slept in the parent room because we knew Collin might not rest because Jay would snore and I would prefer to be in the room anyway.

Each morning was the same of giving Jay my update of our night and Collin not remembering anything that happened.  I think there were two days I didn’t leave the room because we could order food from the room and I didn’t have to leave Collin’s side.

We waited for him to progress so that he could get tubes out, IVs would blow, he couldn’t eat (he’s lost about 10 pounds) and all during this time he could not tolerate the light.  I have always feared the dark to the point of panic.  I think the ONE night that was the brightest was Wednesday night when Dr. Sara Federico FLEW in the room while Collin was sleeping.  Her arms fly while she talks and she laughs and smiles all at the same time. There is no way to not feel joy when she walks in the room.  It was such a relief to see her and she knows how to calm me.

Collin had his days mixed up, thought he missed Christmas, and at one point just looked at me and said, “Can’t you just call Aunt Donna to come pick us up?”  This was Thursday when I was with him and Jay was seeing his surgical oncologist at West Clinic.  I wanted to be with my husband as he was seeing Dr. Tauer AGAIN but now, for another occurrence for a different cancer, but I needed to be with Collin because he couldn’t even stand up.  I wanted to scream, “WHERE ARE YOU GOD!” Oh, wait, I think I did a couple of times.

The blessing is that Collin’s cyst came back benign.  It was a relief for all of us and I know, especially Collin.  He will not have that in his body to worry about what it is any longer.

There were many lonely days and exhausting nights.  Jay had to work some of the time we were there.  Maybe I have been watching too many Hallmark movies because this post doesn’t end with a positive, inspiring note. I’ve just been told so many times by my friend, Tami Theobald, that writing is a way of healing.  Maybe this is what will bring peace.

I can truly say, I will never have true peace until I’m in heaven with Jesus and my son.  I think that thought became too real.  I also learned a few valuable lessons the week at the Jude.  Collin doesn’t flinch when you call him Trey when he’s on drugs.  That’s one.  (I didn’t do that.  The nurses did.)  No two patients are the same.  That’s two.  Shave your face if you know you are going to have an NG tube because the tape doesn’t stick to facial hair and it pulls on the tube.  That’s three.  There are a few others I’ll keep to myself.  Just know, if you are ever scared, facing a surgery with your child in a familiar setting, needing a shoulder or hand to hold, I’m your girl. That’s four.

Signed,

Trying to hold it all together.

Praying I will conquer fear with MORE faith in 2017 as the Erwin family faces the battlefield.

 

 

Marriage and Toothpaste (Blog)

Marriage…toothpaste…bonds…whitener…cracks…sparkling…protection.  I bet you never thought marriage (or just relationships in general) had so much in common.

I’ll never forget when I was 19 and dating a young man who I was sure I was going to marry.  He said to me very prophetically, “What if you squeeze the toothpaste in the middle and I roll it up from the end?”  My thought was, “That’s what you’re going to base a marriage on?”  Looking back, I guess he wasn’t far off.

Marriage is hard.  I recently had rotator cuff surgery and Jay has been sleeping upstairs to help my arm heal and let me get quality rest.  I’m sure most women might say, “My husband wouldn’t do that!” It takes sacrifice.

Let’s talk a little bit about sacrifice, a subject I know a lot about.  I talked with two friends this week who are suffering from sacrificing a loved one.  One said, “This horrible roller coaster never ends does it?”  My other friend expressed how everywhere he looked, he now sees babies because he just lost his baby grandson.  He said, “There are times I just have to go to the car and let it go.”  Sacrifice and suffering.  There are so MANY more out in my friend space that are suffering from sacrifice during the holiday season.  We’ll be honest, it’s just not “Happy” Thanksgiving or “Merry” Christmas.  God hears us and He is there to comfort when friends just don’t understand.

This world hurts my heart.  It takes so much from us.  I was searching the scripture last night to help heal my heart and God led me to Acts 1:7.  “He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know.'”  Wow.  Even though this word was directly from God, it had so much healing for my heart about Trey all over again and for Collin.

I had someone ask me recently, “Are you reliving Trey all over again?” I told them yes. (And oh, I miss my buddy so much.)  For those that do not follow me on Facebook, Collin has a cyst on his kidney that has changed from a year ago which they realized at his last checkup in late September.  He had been complaining of flank pain and it was exactly in the area of the cyst in the kidney.  Dr. Sara said, “Trey should not have died from pancreatic cancer, so we are going to treat this as rare and be cautious about this.”

The good thing about the cyst at this time is that it is not showing any blood flow to it indicating a tumor or mass.  Collin goes back to St. Jude on December 6 for a MRI, sees Dr. Sara on December 7, and sees the kidney doctor on December 8.  At this time, because of Collin’s inability to focus and stay on task, he is homebound with school until further notice. I truly believe my Collin has been through more than he needs to bear.  Hear me when I say, they have not said Collin has cancer.  But just like Dr. Sara and I were talking, they also told us at one time that Trey did not have cancer also.  So my mind is all over the place.  I just can’t imagine where Collin’s mind is going at this point.  But, I come back to the scripture.  Romans 8:18 “Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.”  I have to keep putting my trust in His word.

Needless to say, with all of this on my plate, I have been squeezing the toothpaste in the middle and it has hit the ceiling, the fan, and all four walls.  Jay said to me one day, “Do you want me to talk to you the way you talk to me?” What a slap in the face I deserved.

Marriages (or relationships) are…

  • Complicated
  • Ugly
  • Joyful
  • Struggle
  • Satisfying
  • Unique
  • SACRIFICE

And I’ve just named a few that Jay and I have experienced over 25 years.  So is toothpaste. Jay and I have actually had a conversation about this recently.  He bought some whitening stuff and it tastes like I just emptied baking soda in my mouth.  But you have to suffer through the taste to gain the benefits of the toothpaste.  Marriage is the same way.  You have to walk the road of the trials in order to reach the end together, stronger.  Some don’t make it.  I can CERTAINLY say, since Trey’s death, we are an exception.

I am blessed to have the husband that I do.  This week I called in my stress and outrage and said, “I have had it, that’s it! I just want to leave and never come back!” Have you ever said that? Maybe? Or thought it?  I’m not sure what he thought, but he listened and as a result of my stress, he took action.

The anxiousness, stress, and worry robs a marriage and family of what God intends for a faithful, reliant relationship with Him.  No marriage is perfect.  I picked up on this on the way to the Carrie Underwood concert when we had the radio on The Message and I told Jay to change the station.  Collin agreed because all The Message is about is sad songs.  It let me know that he related worship music to sadness.  I am certainly guilty of that for the last four years. But WE have to choose revival.  Just like Chris Conlee said at the Highpoint service Sunday night, WE ARE REVIVAL.  That hit home with me.  I want to BE change. How can we BE the REVIVAL or the CHANGE if we don’t allow the Holy Spirit in to work?

I can only be that by letting God take stress and worry. I have to make decisions for myself, get on my knees and pray for my family.  All the preaching in the world to my child is not going to get him to church or change his work schedule (or even get him to clean his room!).  It won’t make my marriage more affectionate, stronger, or longer.  Got to let go. Only Jesus.  Only Jesus.

So while I’m still grieving through the holidays, and people are screaming about all their peeps being home, I just want to strive to be toothpaste for Jesus…bonded, sparkling, and protected.

Collin’s Story (Blog) He Calms the Seas

WRITTEN WITH PERMISSION

You are 12, you are settling into middle school, and just trying to figure out what life is all about.  The next moment, your family brings you to St. Jude to spend time with your brother with no explanation.  Within a few days, you are taken down a hallway where your parents sit you down and tell you that your brother has terminal cancer.  The question comes, “Is he going to die?”  Even though you know the answer to the question, you sugar coat it as much as you can to guard his heart.  There sits Collin with tears in his eyes not knowing what to say or how to walk back in to talk to Trey.

Bravery or confusion?

During Trey’s illness, Collin and Trey spent a lot of time together.  I know that Collin cannot recall that time, but they watched movies, he slept in Trey’s room, they played video games, and anything Trey was invited to do, Collin went also.  But during the process of the illness, we failed to keep Collin informed on Trey’s condition.  As a mother, it is just inbred in us to protect our children, even if it is from what something we knew was inevitable…death of his brother.

After Trey’s death, we thought it natural to seek counseling for all of us since we had just experienced one of the most painful events a family could fathom.  To our surprise, Collin did not respond to counseling. There wasn’t a question in the book that he would answer.  You were not going to crack Collin Erwin and he let you know it. Not only did he not respond, but he began to act out at school and bring home poor grades.  Since I lost my father when I was a senior in high school, I was not totally surprised at his reaction to Trey’s death.  Because of this “kindred spirit”, I felt on some level I could relate to Collin and help him open up to me.  I’m his mother, after all.  Even though my heart was shattered, I knew Collin was hearing me on some level.

Heart or head matter?

We continued to seek counseling for Collin because we knew he was also dealing with knowing he would be a St. Jude patient for the rest of his life since he also carries the P-16 gene – until we hit a wall.  That wall was anger.  I thought to myself this was normal.  Collin was angry because Trey was gone and this is the normal progression in the grief process.  I knew anger and I’m an expert at this grief process, of course.  Then came the outbursts, the anger against Trey, words I didn’t understand, words that hurt, things that Trey did before he died to hurt Collin.  Trey wasn’t perfect and they were normal brothers.  But they never got the chance to bridge that gap of teen years into a friendship of protection and unconditional love.  At the age of 12, for Collin, that relationship was cut off.

Over the years I heard many angry words about Trey, church, God, and family that I just knew were not in the sweet heart of that little boy I once knew.  But now he was 16 and bigger than me and could get in a vehicle and drive away with his anger.  The anger turned to depression accompanied by many hours of sleep, days of sleep.  There were some days I could look into his eyes and not even know the boy I was looking at.  He was a young man that didn’t care about himself or life.

On the evening of January 31, 2016, Collin and I had been having our usual elevated conversation.  I was trying to be the rational parent and have a conversation with a teen that was angry.  Once they are angry, they get angrier.  Without going into the details of our conversation, Collin admitted to drinking since he was 13 after Trey died and that at this point he had nothing to live for.  I saw the signs earlier, but I just could not catch him.

Parents, you cannot have a rational conversation with an angry teen.  Give.It.Up.

That same evening I made a call to our pediatrician and he told me to take him directly to Lakeside.  We arrived at Lakeside at 11 p.m.  Collin admitted to the counselor at Lakeside that he had thoughts of harming himself, so by law they had to keep him.  At 4 a.m. on February 1, 2016, he was being transferred to Parkwood Hospital in Olive Branch, Mississippi, because Lakeside did not have any beds. I did not know at the time what a blessing God was providing.  The EMT who transported him by ambulance recognized our name and said that he went to school with Trey.  At that point, I wanted to crawl under the gurney.  I then understood how Collin felt being confronted by someone bringing up Trey’s name at a time that you just did not want to talk about him.

It was hours before he was admitted to Parkwood.   All this time we sat together in a small room not talking.  His body was contorted in a chair with his hoodie pulled so far over his face it reached down to his neck. He wanted to disappear.  Jay was at work and could not be with us.  No one knew where we were or what was going on.  I was exhausted, as was Collin, and I was questioning every decision I was making.  My heart sank as Collin had to remove his belt, his wallet, and all his belongings to turn them over to me.  He walked out of the room and left without a word or a glance back at me.  I did not know when I would see him again.  I wanted to reach out to hug him, but I knew he would push me away.  I told him I loved him.  He would not look at me.

During this time, Jay and I did a lot of crying and re-evaluating.  I cried out to ministers at several churches who had been there for me in the hard times.  Many stepped up and wanted to go see Collin but Collin was not allowed visitors.  It was a very lonely time for us.  We knew that Collin blamed us for where he was and what he was going through.

I spent the time when I was alone praying through Collin’s room with worship music playing very loud.  I prayed in his bathroom, over his bed, in his closet, over his walls, and I prayed satan out of his room.  I did this for many, many days.  I prayed Ephesians 6:12 over him.  “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”  I screamed at satan repeatedly, “YOU WILL NOT HAVE MY SON OR MY FAMILY!”

I also prayed Psalm 30:1 and where the word “me” was, I inserted Collin’s name.  “I will exalt you, Lord, for you rescued Collin.  You refused to let Collin’s enemies triumph over him.  You are not willing to give Collin up to his spiritual enemies, Lord. You aren’t willing to let Collin go.  You will fight for Collin and complete the Victory in Collin.”

I relented over the many days I had NOT done this over the last four years and how maybe we would not be at this point if I had been faithful in praying over him.  We had been praying for four years to see a change in his anger…and here we were.

You can ask anyone that has been to our home, these scriptures and many others are taped in my personal bathroom on the wall…my war room.

Collin spent the next three to four weeks in group and one on one therapy.  He was in therapy classes with kids that did not have parents or kids that parents were not coming to see them or were incarcerated.  We had approximately three opportunities to see him.  During one of those sessions, he told me that he hated Trey and would never forgive him for the things he did to him.  His anger spewed like a hole in a pipe that had burst.  As a mother, my heart was broken.  I felt like a failure and that there was no healing for my boy or our family.

Lord, where are you? I’ve been crying for you! Is this what Collin’s life has come to? Where did we go wrong?

Because of Collin’s anger, Parkwood recommended long-term care.  Our insurance only covered a certain amount of time inpatient, but they would cover until the end of April for outpatient care.  Collin drove to Parkwood every day after school and attended therapy from 5:30 to 8:30 Monday through Friday.  We attended family sessions on Tuesday evening, which were not always successful.  Finally, at the end of April, Collin learned to use his coping skills when he felt anger, and agreed to follow a program set up by Parkwood and by us as his parents.  His grades began to come up and Kristy Krotzer became a part of our daily life at CHS as we made sure he followed the rules we set for him to follow.  If he did not follow the rules, he would return to Parkwood as inpatient (no drinking, go to church, do your best at school, take your medication).

We felt like we had a new lease on life.  We thought we had a start at a new family.  Collin had admitted to manipulation in therapy and using us by lying to get what he wanted. Parents, they become masters.  Therapy for a few months doesn’t always cure all that ails the heart, mind, and bad habits.  Anger doesn’t just run away.  It’s like sin, it creeps in suddenly and will wreak havoc in a family or relationship before hearts can heal.  So many times I wanted to say, “Do you know what we are going through, do you know what my son is going through?” But let me back track a little bit about anger.  It’s not LIKE sin…it IS sin.  I was angry too.  Angry at the people that had given my boy alcohol and their parents, angry at the friends that weren’t running to our door to rescue us.  But only God can rescue a sinking ship of sin.

May came along and Collin was able to finish his sophomore year and pass all of his subjects.  We were sweating a couple of subjects.  I cannot praise Collierville High School enough for how they integrated Collin back into school after him being out for a length of time.  I also want to take this opportunity to say to parents who are dealing with kids who are drinking.  Do NOT be naïve to think they are not doing it under your nose, even while you are at home.  Seek help.  Believe it or not, insurance will only require you to pay the co-pay.  You could be saving your child’s life.  Seek professional help.  Do not think you can handle this on your own.  Jay and I will admit now, it’s the best decision we ever made, yet the second hardest thing we have ever done in our life, walk out and leave another son.  I will NEVER forget what the counselor told us after with left our first inpatient session.  She said, “You go home and don’t worry about Collin.  We will take care of him.  You pray and strengthen your faith.  By doing so, you will be strengthening Collin.”  I fell in her arms crying telling her that is what I needed to hear.  She repeated, “We will take care of Collin, you take care of your faith in God.”

Collin and I went to Oasis which is the Central Church youth camp at Panama City Beach the end of June.  Many during that week were saved, getting baptized, and re-baptized.  It touched my heart deeply as I heard so many stories so similar to Collin’s.  I distinctly remember during the counselor meeting as we were praying, I fell to my knees and began praying out loud and begging on behalf of Collin.  I prayed for God to touch his heart.  I talked to his counselor and knew that Collin had shared his story of Parkwood for first time with the friends in his room.  That was a big step for him.  We left Florida without Collin checking a box on a card or being re-baptized, or professing any kind of change in his faith.  But I knew he was rejoicing in his heart over the changes his friends had made.  There was a smile on his face.  He was talking to adults.  Most of all, he took a picture with me.

On July 13, Collin called me at work and reminded me that Jay and I would be gone on vacation over Trey’s 20th birthday.  My mind began to reel very fast with the thoughts, “Why does he care, why is he bringing this up, this is odd, okay what does he want?”  He went on to say that since Jay and I were going to be gone, he talked to Tim Few (one of Trey’s best friends) and they decided they wanted to get matching tattoos.  I said, “WHAT? You’re not getting a tattoo! You’re only 17!” He went on to say that he decided he wanted to get Trey’s birthday and his signature.  I began to cry and I asked him, “Why, all of a sudden, do you want Trey’s name permanently on your body?”  He said that he had just been thinking about him a lot.  I told him he would have to do better than that.  He said he just had to move on and like I had said in therapy, Trey was gone and there was nothing he could do.  I said I had to talk to his dad and we would talk.  I hung up the phone in shock.

I talked with Jay and he agreed we needed to know more of Collin’s heart.  Jay was not totally against it and neither was I. Collin and I talked the next day.  I said to Collin, “Collin, you have spent the last four years with your mantra being how much you hate Trey.  How can it change so quickly?” He repeated what he told me the day before.  He just decided it was time to move on.  I said, “Collin, I have to ask you, not as a counselor, but as your mother, have you forgiven Trey?”  He said, “Yes.”  I said, “What I am worried about is once the tattoo is on your body and you look in the mirror, your anger with Trey will resurface and you will not know how to handle it.”  He told me he would.  I said, “Okay, what are you going to say when someone sees the tattoo on you?”  He said, “I’m going to say that’s my brother’s birthday.”  I played devil’s advocate.  “Why do you have your brother’s birthday tattooed on you?”  Collin replied, “Because he died when I was 12 and I was confused and it caused me to have a lot of mental problems and it reminds me I’m all better now.” I began to cry and told him I’d take it.  Jay agreed.

Forgiveness and acceptance.

Why are we so surprised and in doubt when God answers our prayers?  We had been praying for Collin for four years and Collin had finally come to the point of acceptance of the place where he would put Trey in his life.  We are such an instant gratification society.  We wanted Collin to have instant healing, grieving, no anger, and check the box on the re-dedication card.  As parents, we have to remember to not put our kids in a box.  They do not fit a mold and will not always check a box, go to a four-year college, or make A’s and B’s.

One thing Collin and I did talk about the day we went to get the tattoo was the part God played.  He said, “I know you want to think this is about God but it’s about Trey.”  I said, “Collin, I’m not saying this is about God and I think it’s great you think it’s about Trey, but you have to realize that you would NOT have a change in your attitude unless God had touched your heart.”  Collin’s face began to get a little red.  I said, “It’s okay to admit that God did something in your life.  It doesn’t mean that you have to go announce it to your friends, but your tattoo will be your testimony and you will need to learn to tell it.”  We have talked more about developing how to tell his story, because he definitely has one!

Collin has led a lonely teen life.  He has been judged by his peers and Christian adults.  What is important for Collin to know, he has a safe home where he is loved and NO ONE, NO ONE has walked in his shoes.  And until now, people have not known the road he has been walking.  And still…many have not lost a brother and have to go to St. Jude in October to make sure his tumor markers are normal and his MRI is not showing any signs of cancer.

Yes, I ask you.  Walk in his 17 year-old shoes and hold to your faith without anger or questions.  Our children are NOT perfect and Collin WILL mess up, but what I have told him and all of his peers, the beauty about God’s grace and mercy is His forgiveness.  Please tell your child there is forgiveness with our Savior.  We are not promised tomorrow. Are you concerned about approaching the subject because you are afraid of what your Christian friends might think?  What about the nights of worry where he will get the next drink, marijuana, or will it be pills.  From what I am told, it is everywhere.

Collin still has road to walk.  But he will never be alone because he has his family and most of all, he has Jesus.  We are blessed by our boy and know he is destined for great things.  One day, he will understand tough love as a parent and I encourage you to exhibit tough love if you are experiencing satan’s darts in your teen’s life.

Continuing to pray for strength for our boy and his story.

There is forgiveness and He has calmed the angry seas.

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10,000 Reasons and Then Forevermore (Blog)

I am sure I have blogged about this before, but I really want to know, what is YOUR favorite worship song? 10,000 Reasons has catapulted to the top of the charts of all time favorite worship songs of our era. I have to say, 10,000 Reasons is NOT on the top of my list of worship songs.  Surprisingly, many haven’t a clue.  That is why I STILL continue to tell my testimony (and you should too).  Just in this last week I have had the opportunity to tell about Trey and Jesus twice (one while having a nerve block on my neck – literally while in the OR…and it continued to post-op!).  Back to 10,000 Reasons…

Sunday night we had Girls Night Out at Central Church.  Our Sunday school class had reserved two tables to sit together for the evening.  The topic was about mentoring and friendship.  Before the speaker began we had a time of worship.  When the first chord hit, I knew, and my head went down.  I thought to myself, “Keep yourself together Lisa, keep yourself together.” I saw my friend Gina Johnson turn a little red, then standing next to me was Laurie Phillips and she began to cry.  All of a sudden, my precious friend Treena Thomas ran up behind me and put her arms around me and we both just began to cry.  A lady behind Laurie asked her, “Oh, has she lost her husband?” Laurie told her, “No, she is Trey Erwin’s mother.”  See, not everyone knows his story and I realize not everyone will care to know it.

I am thankful my sweet friends know the meaning of 10,000 Reasons and what it means to our family and how it has impacted our life.  I’m even MORE thankful that Matt Redman knew how much it meant to us and emailed us after Trey died.  He wrote in an article, which I am attaching, that there are reasons he writes songs such as 10,000 Reasons and it’s not to win awards.  Matt’s reward will be in heaven for the lives he has touched for his song that has caused people to worship.  I received the article from an outside source after Trey died and was told that the person in the article “in the hospital bed” was Trey.

Laurie went on to say after the event was over that she doesn’t hear the song without thinking about us.  I thought that was so sweet.  I want people to remember Trey, but more importantly, I want them to the soak in the last verse of the song (which is the verse that Trey took his last breath):

And on that day when my strength is failing

The end draws near and my time has come

Still my soul will sing your praise unending

10,000 years and then forevermore.

Shouldn’t we live that way everyday? Will I still cry when I hear the song or sing it? Absolutely.  It’s like most people with How Great Thou Art.  Will I still need friends to surround me when I hear that first chord? You bet! Do I want you to let me know when you hear it on the radio or sing it in church? OF COURSE! Why? Because it’s not about me.  It’s not about Trey.  It’s about helping a friend.  It’s about being His hands and feet.  It’s about spreading the name of Jesus.  If Trey doesn’t make you think of Jesus, his purpose on earth failed.  And that should be our purpose also, when others look at us, they see Jesus.

I actually asked Trey’s friend, Tim Few, who is on staff at Central now, to warn me when we are doing 10,000 Reasons.  Sometimes he can’t get to me in time and he will say, “Mama, I didn’t know till the last minute.”  I’ll usually say, “It’s okay bud.” Some people have certain signs to help feel their loved ones near.  For me, even though it is a sinking, heavy feeling, my Trey will always be near when we sing that song.  I can’t always get the words out and I can’t always lift my hands in praise, but my heart…my heart is always with my boy and Jesus.

Worship.  And let your heart be with Jesus.  And please, please, always be a friend. Never judge and never assume. I’ve learned the hard way in the last four years.  Selfless friends are hard to find.  If you can find just one, you’ve found a jewel.  You never know when those around you are hurting.

Matt Redman_Page_1Matt Redman_Page_2Matt Redman_Page_3

 

Viva Las Vegas! (Blog)

If you know me well, you know I love to travel.  God is good because gave me a husband full of adventure and a love to see the world outside of the box we live in each day.  If we learned anything from Trey’s journey, it was to begin a bucket list and pursue it with all our might. On our bucket list was Las Vegas for our 25th wedding anniversary! I want to share with you a little of our trip since so many shared with us.

Most people think of Vegas as Sin City and the place where you naturally would want to go to gamble. Vegas offers much more (to my surprise).  I was shocked at the number of families in our hotel and walking the strip.  I will admit, the summer after I graduated high school, my mother took me to the West Coast and I went to Lake Tahoe.  I walked through casinos with my mother where you did not see ANY young children! My how times have changed.

I began my search through the airline, Allegiant. Their fares are so low that you cannot beat other airlines. Yes, you do have to pay for certain carry on luggage, beverages on the flight, but you still end up paying less than you would flying with another airline. Especially if you package your air with a hotel. That is what we did and flew on their schedule and ended up staying 8 days in Vegas for an unbelievable price in a suite that we would have not been able to otherwise afford. So do your research! I love that part of planning our trips!

I call myself an OCD travel planner. If we are going on a trip, we do not leave without a color-coded excel spreadsheet with each day planned. (Just ask my sisters – they have survived Hawaii and Disney multiple times.)  Each day has confirmation numbers, telephone numbers for excursions, rental car numbers, you get it.  Believe it or not, I left Memphis with a blank spreadsheet with nothing pre-planned for us to do. (And we survived!)

We stayed at the Venetian Hotel which is the sister hotel to the Palazzo. My mother-in-law stayed at the Palazzo on a visit to Vegas and told us of the shops and convenience to restaurants. This is an understatement.  It has to be the most beautiful hotel on the strip. We can testify that it’s the biggest.  Jay and I made it our goal each day to see if we could make it from one end of the hotel to the other without getting lost.  This is NO LIE!  We would circle through restaurants, high-end shops, back through the restaurants, through the Palazzo Hotel, end up on the Palazzo casino floor, wait…the Venetian is at the other end.  Then, we would turn around and head back.  There is a REASON they do not have windows!  The first day, after walking the strip, including walking to the M & M store, we calculated we had walked almost 10 miles.  Jay’s achilles was swollen where he had surgery and I had chin splints.  We couldn’t walk the next day or the next.  We laughed at ourselves trying to make it to the elevator!

We did see two shows, Cirque du Soleil O at the Bellagio and Cirque de Soleil Michael Jackson One.  Both shows were fabulous.  If you are in Vegas and are a Michael Jackson fan, do not miss this show.  We opted out of buying tickets to see Jennifer Lopez or Mariah Carey, or Donny and Marie Osmond.  That might have been a mistake, but one I can live with.

No, we didn’t go see Hoover Dam.  So many friends told us before we left that the heat was going to be so different in Vegas and I just couldn’t understand that concept…until I got there.  If you didn’t have a bottle of water with you at all times, you were in trouble.  At least in Memphis you can sweat a bottle of water!  The dry heat wore us out.  We actually slept EVERYDAY from 3-6 p.m. and would then go to dinner.  I don’t think I have ever done that on a vacation! Oh, that’s what vacation is for!  Jay would be on the couch in our suite in front of his TV and I would be in our king bed in front of my TV and we snoozed.

There were two days that we did choose to get out in the heat.  I pre-arranged for us to have cabanas next to one of the pools because I knew Jay would not be able to handle the sun.  What a set up!  The cabana had a television, fridge (stocked with water), couch, chair, air condition, fan, chairs outside, misting system, and your own waiter.  Even with all that, Jay and I could only stay in the heat from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.  We were in our room in time for our afternoon nap.  The cabanas were well worth it.  If you were in the sun, you were not in it long without getting in the pool.

Besides shopping (and yes, I hit an outlet mall!), I would have to say that our evening dining was what we enjoyed most. We had a lot of referrals,  talked to locals, and to some that frequented Vegas every year. Taking all of that into consideration, I think we only had one bad experience and it really wasn’t a BAD experience.  It just wasn’t what people had told us to expect and that was the Caesar’s buffet.  For the price we paid, well, you don’t want to know.  We were told to try the Wynn buffet and it was surprisingly better than Caesar’s.  Vegas hotels are very much in competition with their buffets.

For reservations, I used the app Open Table.  In the comment section for special occasion I put 25th wedding anniversary.  It’s amazing how service steps up a little when they know you are celebrating your anniversary.  Not to mention the nice dessert you get at the end of your meal.  We ate at Delmonico (Emeril Lagasse’s steakhouse) 5 star, Buddy V’s (Buddy Valastro  – the Cake Boss) 4 star, Yardbird (Known for their fried chicken), Caesar’s buffet in Caesar’s Hotel, Wynn buffet in the Wynn Hotel, and I can’t leave out In and Out Burger TWICE!

I would like to share an experience I had walking from dinner at the Wynn hotel.  I rounded a corner on a long walkway on our way back to our hotel and I saw a large black man in a purple jacket.  It just so happened I had a purple tank top on and Jay had on a purple t-shirt.  That was not planned.  It was August 4, several days after Trey’s 20th birthday.  Jay and I had spent July 31 grieving Trey together.  I felt this was an opportunity I could not pass up. I approached the man (as Jay kept walking) and I looked straight at him and said, “Do you know what purple stands for?” He looked at me with a grin and said, “Minnesota Vikings? Baltimore Ravens? TCU?” He kept naming every sports team he could think of and I gave him a minute as I grinned. I finally put an end to his torture.  I said, “No, it’s for pancreatic cancer.” He cocked his head and said, “I thought that was for breast cancer?”  I said, “No, pink is for breast cancer.  Purple is for pancreatic cancer.  My son was 15 years old when he passed several years ago of pancreatic cancer and he loved the Lord and he loved purple.” He got the biggest grin and he said, “Can we get our picture together?” I said, “Sure, cool.” So I have a picture with a man in a purple coat that turned out to be one of the security guards for the Wynn Hotel.  When I walked away, he had a smile on his face.  I don’t know why.  Maybe he likes purple too.  But I told Jay when I saw the purple coat, God opened the door and I couldn’t pass it up.

All in all, even though we didn’t walk the strip each night, stay up all night gambling, go see Hoover Dam or Lake Mead, we did exactly what we wanted to do for our anniversary which was basically waking up and having no agenda.  Don’t get use to THAT Jay Erwin! We’ve got another trip to plan and THIS time, we are going to a BEACH in 2017! A beach in the Caribbean!

Let the research and planning begin!

 

Unworthy (Blog)

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7

I have a confession.  While driving to work this morning, I was talking with God and simply asked Him for blessings (keeping the particulars private).  All of a sudden a wave of tears came over me and I began to cry out to God, “Why am I asking for blessings when I feel so unworthy?”

Do you ever feel unworthy of God’s blessings when life is hitting you hard each day?

In Rick Warren’s Four Laws of God’s Blessings, he says, “When you care about helping other people, God assumes responsibility for your problems. And that’s a real blessing, for He’s much better at handling your difficulties than you are.”

Whoa.

In reading Rick’s quote, my thought is, am I holding on to something I need to let go of in order to receive a blessing.  As a matter of fact, (transparency here), when I was praying, through my tears, I told God that I just could not ask for a blessing when I am still hurting about Trey.  Am I playing a little blame game here? Certainly not me?  I immediately cut off my conversation off with God.

As I pulled in my parking garage, God clearly spoke to me and reminded me of the Beatitudes.

Matthew 5:3-11

 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.”

 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Blessed…Blessed…Blessed.

I realized I am worthy of God’s blessings because I am His child.  God desperately wants to hear from us as His children, even through our tears.

I have shed quite a few tears these last two weeks because of the anniversary of Trey’s death.  It never gets easier with time.  Trey’s words resonate in my mind from his testimony.  “I’m not doing anything but sending out a tweet from a bible verse I read that day and all the glory goes to God in everything.  I’m not inspiring anybody.  I’m being used by God and I’m just wanting all the glory to go to him and none, none, none to me.”

Trey just wanted God’s will to be done.  Isn’t that what we all want? Trey didn’t ask to be blessed. When Dustin May asked a few of us to describe the blessing we receive when we serve, what would we say.  I told him the blessing I receive is seeing God glorified. I have definitely seen God’s glory over the last four years.

As I have thought more and more this morning, I am reminded of the awesome power God gives us to go forth WITH His blessings to minister to others. I am also reminded of the part satan plays to tell us that we are NOT worthy of anything God has to offer.  He tells us lies from the pit of hell!

So YES! I AM WORTHY because I serve a risen Lord who died for my sins. And no matter what, through joy, heartache, and pain, Thy Will Be Done.

This song is my heart and deepest prayer as we face Trey’s birthday on July 31.  He would have been 20.  Jay and I will be out of town on his birthday for our anniversary and I pray that our friends will surround Collin and our family that day with love and prayers.  YOU still bless us with your outpouring of love and support.  #weareblessed

Beach family

 

You make me BRAVE!

Tonight, my mind would not let me rest, especially when God heard my prayers.

A part of grief is bitterness and even though at the time of Trey’s death I did not ask myself “Why?”, I have found myself with that question popping up in my mind.  My sister is dealing with the same grief.  Lord, why Trey? Why not healing? Why all this pain? Why the isolation?

I have prayed and prayed for God to come to me with comforting words to share so that I could share something positive.  The words never came.  I have refused to write about my never-ending grief.  It’s there.  I know people are uncomfortable talking about it.  My own family can’t talk about it.  Hello??? I lost my son! My heart literally breaks every day and NO, you CAN’T imagine how I feel…until you’ve been there.  But you can pray for me.  You can hug me.

I had the conversation with a friend the other day and he said, “…people just don’t know how to respond.  I even often worry that I might say the wrong thing or that something would be taken wrong.  I just push past that and pray for God to give me the right words.  I know we can be stronger together.”  What a concept! Stronger together!  I told him, “You get it!”  I know he prays for me and my family.  What a blessing.

But this week has still been filled with questions and pain.  A deep longing to sit with someone and talk about Trey and cry for my son as I head into an excruciating month.  I found myself crying out to the Lord tonight.

After that time, I realized I had not finished my devotion for the day, which I would like to share with you.

God Puts Pain to Use

I enjoyed breakfast recently with a friend.  Most of our talk revolved around the health of his fourteen-year-old son.  Seven years ago a tumor was found behind the boy’s spleen. The discovery let to several months of strenuous prayer and chemotherapy [at this point, I wanted to stop reading].  The son recovered.  He is now playing high school football and the cancer clinic is a distant memory.

The discovery of the tumor was the part of the story I found fascinating.  When the boy was seven years old, he was horsing around with cousins.  One of them accidentally kicked him in the stomach.  Acute pain led to a hospital visit.  An alert doctor requested a series of tests.  And the tests led the surgeon to discover and remove the tumor.  After the cancer was removed, the father asked the physician how long the tumor had been present.  Although it was impossible to know with certainty, the form and size of the tumor indicated that it was no more than two or three days old.

“So,” I said, “God used a kick in the gut to get your boy into treatment.”

The question at the end was, “Why the kick in gut?”  God doesn’t manufacture pain but he certainly puts it to use.

Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

Oh, this story is so familiar but with such a different ending. How many of us are living with pain and grief, but forget there is a purpose.  We need to be brave in our faith. Satan does not want us to use the power God gives us by recognizing His full purpose.  We all have a purpose.  Trey had a purpose.  I actually reminded my sister this morning as we talked about our grief of Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  That scripture is NOT just for students graduating high school! He still has plans for my life, he has a future for me and I should have hope.

Does what I just said diminish my grief? Absolutely not.  But my God is faithful to answer me when I call.  To remind me that I am BRAVE.  I can make it through this life with friends by my side that choose to do this together!

YOU make me Brave! And it’s okay to cry!

Should I Stay Or Should I Go (Blog)

A gym full of parents registering their kids for camp.  High school and middle school kids running from one table to the next trying to decide who they want to room with, which bus to be on, excitement, drama.  Words are being said, but nothing is heard.

Smiles, laughter, and brief conversations about Sunday School, exams, school, and the outrageous cold temperature.  But wait…I just realized, it’s Laguna Beach Resort.  Still smiles and laughter.

“Do I need to have any information about Collin’s medicine?”

“No, I’m going as I counselor, so I guess not!”  Again, laughter.

What?  I’m going as a counselor? Back to Laguna Beach Resort.  The place where Trey made a video trying out his Lifeproof phone case underwater in the pool.  Where I looked at Ryan Mullins and said, “He won’t be coming back, you know.”  And Ryan responded, “Yes, I know,” as tears rolled down my face.  And the last place he worshipped, hands in the air, sitting with pillows to prop his feeble body in metal chairs a week and one-half before he died.

I’m writing this at 2 a.m. and asking myself if I’m crazy or has God put such deep desire to serve that I just cannot stand NOT going.  I have bonded with so many of my sophomore girls and the excitement of watching them grow in the Lord has me over the moon.  When I was able to spend small group time with them at Encounter and listen about their lives and their struggles, the desire to love them and help the grow in the Lord was unquestionable.  And that was just a weekend.

Have I answered my own question?  At first, I understood that we would be staying on the resort that is located on the beach, which is different from where we stayed with Germantown Baptist in 2012.  It was only until last night did I find out that those accommodations were not available and we would be at a different part of the resort, possibly the same location as 2012.  I had no hesitation in signing up in the beginning and was looking forward to bonding with the kids and also the youth leaders.

Last night I opened the mail to receive a necklace that someone made for me in East Tennessee.  Among the purple beads hangs a small glass tube with three small white/pearl beads to represent tears.  Attached to the tub is a charm with the inscription Psalms 56:8. This verse states, “You keep track of all my sorrows.  You have collected all my tears in your bottle.  You have recorded each one in your book.”

I do not think it is a coincidence that I came home from an evening of looking around a room for someone to understand me or somehow pick up on my loneliness only to have God say, “Lisa, I’m here for your sadness.”  Hear me say, I didn’t expect anyone to realize about Laguna.  I fully believe you have to walk in someone’s shoes in order to feel their pain.

How can he turn such a week that was turmoil for Trey into joy of serving for me? Honestly, that is a good question and something God will need to work out.  I’m going to call on my prayer warriors to bind me up, cover me, and know that I am going for a purpose.  Before I agreed to go, I did ask Collin if it was okay with him.  He is fine with me going.  He won’t have to worry about money! Ha!

I will say that I respect Jay’s decision not to go.  Maybe he’s smarter than all of us guarding his heart.  Jay spent the majority of that week in 2012 taking care of Trey. Trey could not eat and Jay would go to the store and get soup for him to try.  Trey stayed in his room reading his bible or on the beach when it was cool doing his devotion.

He might have been in pain, but he was happy (and goofy).  And maybe it was at that time that God was preparing him for the end since he was able to spend so much time in the Word.  That gives me peace.  It was there that he wrote his last devotion, which I have shared before, but will share again.

Answering Prayer

Mark 9:23 says, “If we believe in him, all things are possible.”  But that does not mean God will answer all our prayers whenever we want or need.

Other passages say we must:

*Pray in line with God’s will – 1 John 5:14-15 “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”

*Pray with the right motives – James 4:3 “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

*Pray with persistence – Luke 11:8-10  “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.  “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

*Pray with a spirit of humility – Luke 18:14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Sometimes, we do not need to be reminded of these guidelines.  Sometimes, it just takes an increase of faith, Mark 9:24 “Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

By Trey Erwin

What a blessing for me to have this written by my son to help increase my own faith and give me a guideline for my own prayer life.  Yes, I think my question has been answered.  I am humbled that God would ALLOW me to serve and I should never take being one of his servants lightly or for granted.  Having the ability to go on a trip and minister to young minds is a blessing.  I ask that you will pray as I go the week of June 27 with Central Church and that God will guard my mind and my heart.  Pray for Collin, all the kids, and the staff!

Satan tells me that I am alone, that I don’t fit in at Central in the youth department, and that I shouldn’t be teaching.  He is wrong.  I know this because I taught at Germantown Baptist and gained some of the most precious friendships with adults and youth that I will cherish the rest of my life.  Society has succeeded in helping beat ourselves down with our thoughts.

This is not about God doing a work through grieving, which He can do.  It’s about God doing a work through faith.  My reliance on Him that no matter what the circumstances, no matter where we will be, I MUST “Count it all joy…” James 1:2-3

Thanks buddy.  I miss you. And way to go God, even at 2 a.m., for holding me tight!

P.S. After this picture was taken, Trey sent me a text and said he wanted to have his hair cut like Ryan’s and told me exactly how Rebecca could do it.  He was always making plans for the future and never giving up.  We should always have hope for the future and never give up.

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