No Room For an Angry Heart (Blog)

Psalms 143: 7-10

“Hurry with your answer, God!
    I’m nearly at the end of my rope.
Don’t turn away; don’t ignore me!
    That would be certain death.
If you wake me each morning with the sound of your loving voice,
    I’ll go to sleep each night trusting in you.
Point out the road I must travel;
    I’m all ears, all eyes before you.
Save me from my enemies, God
    you’re my only hope!
Teach me how to live to please you,
    because you’re my God.
Lead me by your blessed Spirit
    into cleared and level pastureland.”

Does this prayer sound familiar? It does to me. It’s the words that I have not been able to form in my head for months and God sent these verses to me this morning for my family. As I have been wrapped up in all the “what if’s” of life and the uncertainties for tomorrow, I forgot what an awesome God we serve.

I have been itching for months to put thought to print, but as I told a friend today, I want to make sure that my intention is pure, always.  I always seek to honor and glorify God with my words and never to strike another down.

You see, satan knows where he can wiggle in our head and hearts and in turn, we wound others.  I’ve done that recently with my tongue in my family.  I can say, oh how it felt good to let that go. But how did it feel on the receiving end?  It didn’t matter that some of it might have been truth, it was how it was said; angry, mean, and vindictive. We use truth as an excuse for our anger.  Not my proudest moment.  I’m certainly not proud to boast of my sin, but I hope that someone will learn from my sin.  Sin in my own family.

That’s where it starts, in our own family.  We have certainly faced more than any family’s fair share of stress, hurt, despair, anger, death, guilt…I could go on.  God has been faithful because WE have chosen to be faithful to Him.  If we turned our backs on Him, the anger and hurt would continue and eat us alive.  I hope you are following me and thinking outside the box.

1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

We have been devoured and are crawling out of a pit that we allowed ourselves to be put in.  A pit of depression, anger, and many other things.  I am determined that satan will not have the last word in our family.  Have you been in that pit so deep when you look up, even the tiniest of light is so faint that it flickers between daylight and dark to confuse you?

Two wrecks within 48 hours, neither were our fault.  My car was totaled and Jay’s needed $5,000 worth of work.  We cannot recover reimbursement for our deductibles. Our driveway did look like a used car lot.  So many things I cannot mention.  Stress is mounting like the Dukono volcano eruption.  I have actually said, “Where are you God!?”

Satan is not only confusing our families, but he is confusing our children.  Look what the world is telling them.  Just look at the news! He is telling them that HATRED is GOOD! Not in the book I read.  Do you really think that historical figures are the root of what is going on in our nation?  Satan is using historical figures to uproot our nation and we are falling for it.

I drove by Jefferson Davis Park at 7:30 a.m. today where there were multiple police cars, news vans, and people already gathering.  My mind went to 1 Peter and I pictured a lion low in the grass by the trees, waiting.  Is that how we as a nation have learned to live?

I also have to think about what is happening in our churches.  Friends, they are suffering.  Satan is alive and well in our churches.  FRIENDS. . .CHURCH IS FOR THE HURTING AND IMPERFECT PEOPLE! It’s for ME! If you are not there to love people like ME, then I don’t belong there.  I don’t understand WHAT is going on in our churches today, except people have a problem loving people WHERE they ARE.  Can you love my son where he is?  If so, where are you?  Can you help a grieving family who has lost a son and understand that grieving doesn’t last a year. If so, where are you?  Here is where I pray He “Points out the road I must travel. . .” because we are searching with open ears and hearts.

I am thankful we have a forgiving God.  I told multiple friends recently that I have been taught compassion, love, forgiveness, and mercy.  That is exactly what I have tried to be the example of in my family. . .until I lost it.  As I have said so many times to our young people who are dealing with SO much on their plates and some that are angry, God is big enough to handle our anger.  He formed us in our mother’s womb and He knows our heart and words before we speak them. (I just wish He would have provided some tape close by recently!)

I have to ask you as I ask myself.  What are we saying to our community about what the hatred is doing in our nation?  How is it filtering in our family?  And just maybe through our schools.  Many things we cannot control, but what we CAN control is our prayer life. We can pray for our children, our families, and our nation.  It is our duty.

Well, as a mother, I might have messed up recently, but that doesn’t change the love in my heart.  It doesn’t change that we are going to continue pressing toward the goal.  We know God is faithful. He is a GOOD father! My words for 2017 continue to remain BE STILL.  I am praying this not only for my family, but for our nation.

But can I ask, has there been a time where you have turned your back on Him? Maybe because the stress was too much to handle or you’ve been angry.  Maybe because you thought you weren’t worth forgiving.  We are ALL worth forgiving.  As wretched as my anger has been, for losing my baby, for what is happening in our lives, my PRECIOUS Lord and Savior, HE FORGIVES ME! Just because I asked.  And I certainly do not deserve it.

On the way to work this morning, I heard the song Blessings by Laura Story.  This was the first song played at Trey’s funeral while people were entering the sanctuary.  These words hit me and hit me hard with tears.  Thank you for loving our family and for praying for our family.  And remember, we are just passing through. . . .

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 us way too much to give us lesser things

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we have faith to believe

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
It’s not our home

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the achings of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise

To All The Migraine Suffers! (Blog)

Maybe you’ve wondered when certain situations arise in your life, “Why me?”  In the midst of holding my head, rocking back and forth, many times crying, I’ve wondered why I have to be in such pain.  I’m reminded of the Excedrin Migraine commercial when the mother puts the mock migraine head gear on and afterwards hugs her daughter exclaiming she never knew what she had been going through.  My mother has said that to me in the form of feeling guilty for my migraines.   Please know, I have NEVER blamed my mother!  She is my greatest prayer warrior.

Usually my blogs are about God doing something in my life with a butterfly story ending, but I thought I would explain a little bit about me and my migraines since it IS my blog.  First, my migraines ARE hereditary.  This was not discovered in the beginning.  I have had migraines since 2nd grade and you can ask Eloise Thompson (a secretary at Marie’s Day School), she just thought I didn’t want to be at school.  No, my head was hurting.

In the 1970’s, what did you do with a child that continuously told a parent that their head hurt? The general practitioners didn’t know what to do.  So we went to a neurologist and psychiatrist at LeBonheur.  I remember getting physically sick at the smell of the EEG glue, and I’ve had plenty.  Plus the embarrassment of coming to school with flakes of glue in your hair and being made fun of by the other students.

When the neurologists and psychiatrists (one of which just recently died) tell the parents that they think it would be best to keep the child at LeBonheur for observation, the parents automatically trust the physicians.  Why wouldn’t they? They are seeking answers!  But what I don’t think the parents realized is that the child was going to be put in the psychiatric ward…children screaming…empty beds…school alone.  Did they not believe that my head hurt? Where was my momma? My daddy? Not long after my stay (maybe several weeks) they came.  They rescued me and took me out against the doctor’s wishes.  The horror of that place still haunts me.  I’ll never forget that was when one of the children got out of the locked door and jumped from the building.

Then came new doctors and new medicines, along with new trauma.  A local drug store switched medications with and older person that had been prescribed tranquilizers.  By the time my afterschool care babysitter realized it, I was sleeping all day and failing 3rd grade.  Needless to say, the problem was resolved out of court, but recovering and catching up what I had missed in 3rd grade was not an easy task.  My 3rd grade teacher had the gall to write a letter to my mother about how I was a bad student.  I still have it.  There are things you just don’t forget.

By 6th grade, my father had been diagnosed with ALS and during a visit with his neurologist, my mother mentioned my headaches and he said that he would see me too.  FINALLY! A doctor that diagnosed me with migraines (after spinal taps, trial drugs, tests that made you feel like a test rat) that I inherited from my father’s side of the family.  Since that time, it’s been a struggle, from neurologist to neurologist, to find someone to who is knowledgeable about migraines. To this day, I do NOT blame my parents for my migraines.

You might ask why I went through my history of headaches.  One day, Collin called from school and said that his head was hurting bad.  One of the school counselors got on the phone and told me she could see it in his eyes that he did not feel good.  I heard it in his voice.  TWO big indicators if you look at someone 1) they are having problems with their eyesight, and 2) they might be hoarse (my first indicator).  I told her to send Collin home.  I didn’t want to be that mom that didn’t believe her son.  Sure, Collin admits he has used his health to get out of school.  What kid doesn’t! But I usually know the migraine symptoms.  And, by the way, Collin will be seeing a neuro for his migraines.

I have said over and over that God blessed me with a wonderful husband.  He is patient, loving, tender, BUT he DOES ask me…Have you taken your medicine? That’s when I want to run across the room and with a single bound, surround my hands around his neck and tell him, “DO YOU THINK I’M AN IDIOT AND I LOVE THE PAIN?” I say all of that in humor.  He knows there are days that I am hurting so bad that I get confused and don’t know what to take next.  Just last night, I asked him, “Jay, what do I take?” and that is when he starts with my list. I had pills in my hand that I couldn’t even name them and I kept pointing at it and he called the name of it.  That is where his sweet patience comes in and he begins going down the list of my medications and helps me figure out what I can and cannot take together. After a first round of meds does not work, we will go for a second round of different medications.

LORD, THANK YOU FOR GIVING HIM THE DESIRE TO BECOME A PARAMEDIC!

Several years ago it was suggested by my neurologist and a friend who is a doctor at Mayo that I should visit Mayo to get a full checkup.  I did so, with first class treatment, and was told that I am a classic sufferer of migraines.  This is something I will suffer with all of my life.  When the pain gets to the point that I can no longer manage it with medication, I need to go to the ER.  It’s just that simple.

This is my problem and the problem for MANY migraine suffers.  We are getting to the point that we can no longer manage our pain with oral medication.  I was recently diagnosed with gastroparesis (GEEZ, what is that?).  Simple terms, your stomach doesn’t work.  After having tests done, they told me that the continuous use of migraine medications had done nerve damage to my stomach, so it was not working properly.  This means, the oral medications are not digested and moved into the blood stream quick enough to kill the pain of the migraine.  After I have had a migraine for approximately two days, taken all the meds I can take, I usually end up at the hospital.  Fortunately, they know me and know what I need.  UNFORTUNATELY, they are beginning to crack down on the distribution of narcotics.  I am not a drug seeker and when I am in pain, I get very angry.  It’s ugly.

What can trigger my migraines?  These triggers vary, but my two biggest factors are weather and stress.  I know.  That can trigger any kind of pain! Who needs The Weather Channel! Just call me! I’m like a cow or a dog and I can tell you how soon the next front is moving in!  I have learned that using the nasal spray, Mucinex-D, and maybe a Medrol dose pak during the spring (daily) helps ward off several bad days.  I also have a WONDER pain doctor that the Lord provided to me over 25 years ago and we tease each other how we have been through so many things together.  Dr. Moacir Schnapp KNOWS how to treat my pain.  But he also knows when it is time to go to the ER.

When it comes to stress, sometimes it hits you before you can avoid it.  It might be a project at work, dealing with a teenager, finances, marriage, or another illness.  Prayer is my go to when stress has invaded a space in my life that is ultimately causing me pain.  Through prayer, in one instance, God led me to leave a job.  Probably the most stressful time of my life was spending days and nights at St. Jude.  My God protected me each night.  Do you know that I never got a migraine when I was with Trey at St. Jude? How good is our Father?

What medications do you take? My precious mother has prayed for years for me to be healed and I know God hears her prayers.  Healing comes in many forms and it might be the answered prayer of the right medication.  I can tell you that I have tried just about everything on the market and some that are not approved by my insurance!  You get to a point that you are tired of being the guinea pig, but you know what is right for you.  In order to protect myself, I won’t list my medications, but I do believe one medication has been a big answer to prayer.  Relpax.  You might have tried Imitrex or Maxalt.  They did not work for me, but Relpax has done the trick if I catch my headache soon enough. No, I have not tried botox for several personal reasons, but it might be on the horizon.  Mayo suggested botox as a last resort.  No, I will not try acupuncture or chiropractor (especially since I just had neck surgery).

Why do you make so many trips to the hospital? If I do not catch my headache in time, I have to resort to stronger medications.  Sleep is very important.  If my sleep patterns are off, my head will begin to hurt.  There are weeks that I feel like all I do is go to work and go home to bed.  Do I like living this way? Of course not! But I have to find the balance in my life to keep going.

One of my last trips to the hospital came after on a Sunday morning at 3:30 a.m. I couldn’t take it any longer.  The nausea was coming quicker than I could control it.  I was at the stage that I had to hold my head and just sit in a rocking position.  I had been on the couch all night sitting up so that the blood flow would not go to my head.  I staggered to the bedroom and pushed gently on Jay as he jumped to the ceiling.  “Jay, Jay, can you take me to the hospital? I can’t take it anymore.”  And off we went.

So, if you see that I have posted about having another migraine, I ask that you not take my post lightly.  Many people suffer with chronic pain and push through it daily.  Please know that you are not alone in YOUR migraine suffering.  There are many things we can do as chronic suffers to help our pain.  It’s a matter of learning how to manage.  That’s the key. Manage!

John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” On THIS I can rely!

I’m looking forward to that blessed day that we ALL will be pain free, no more medications, and no more hospitals!

Another Sunday in the bed with a migraine. Unfortunately, I was out of my Relpax and tried every medication I had in the house.  Like I’ve said before, trust me, I have plenty.  But nothing eased the pain.  Jay had to go to the fire station Sunday morning and I told him I just couldn’t make it and I would call Collin who was house sitting at my sister’s.  I called him and without hesitation he was on his way home.

There are times that I cannot believe how God blesses me in my time of need.  “Oh, you’re Jay’s wife!” the nurse exclaimed.  I texted Jay and he reminds me of how I have looked at pictures of her dogs on Facebook.  Then, blessings of ALL blessings, there will be doctors that we know and have gone to church with!  He walked in one Sunday and immediately said, “I know it’s that time of year.”  There wasn’t a list of questions, just a better solution to help me.  AND IT DID!  Collin was making fun of me because I couldn’t complete a sentence without falling asleep.  THAT’S how well God takes care of me and my headache was gone!  Honestly, I can tell you, there is a point that I worry about paying the ER deductible.  Then, when I get to the point of not working about the ER co-pay, it’s time to go because I know God will handle it.

So, trust me when I say, I’ve tried oils, special drinks, special pills, special diets (the peanut butter is nasty), and none of it has worked.  My only surviving aunt on my father’s side is in her late 80’s and she STILL has migraines.  I even had a hysterectomy to help control my hormones to help try to control my migraines…didn’t work.  While I appreciate all of your suggestions, I wanted you to know just how long I have been battling these nasty things and they are just a party of who I am.  I know God is in control and he hears me when I’m screaming.  Trust me.

Know the Different Headaches!  So many people say, “Oh, I have a migraine.”  I will ask them the classic questions, “Which side does it hurt on? What triggers your headaches? Are you having problems with your eyesight?” Most of the time we can narrow it down to sinus.  I am NOT a doctor, but many people know how long and how bad I have suffered with migraines.  My migraines are 90 percent of the time on the right side of my head.  This is where I receive my occipital blocks (shots in my head).  If people say that it is only behind their eyes, I usually ask if they have sinus problems.  Usually they do and we both can relate it to weather.  I do get weather related headaches.  They are not fun either.

Your sinus headache will normally not be brought on by bright light or perfume.  Both of those are BIG no-no’s for me.  You can drive by our house and everyone will be home and there will not be one light on.  We just navigate in the dark.  I even work with low lighting.  The bulbs over my head are not at full strength.  As for perfume, thankfully everyone around me knows that perfume kills.  There were so many Sunday mornings when I sang in the choir that I had to leave before singing because ladies would not obey the rule of no perfume.  I sent Trey and still send Collin back inside to rub their cologne off as much as possible. OH THE SMELL OF AXE! That stuff should have been outlawed!  I think Trey bathed in it!

I can’t thank those enough who know that prayer is the best thing for me.  You are wonderful friends and God has truly blessed me.  I pray you NEVER have to experience a migraine.  EVER!

Thank you Lord for a wonderful husband, son, and family that takes care of me!

Grieving Community Again (Blog)

As with most of Collierville residents, my heart has been very heavy over the last 24 hours.  Those that knew Chris Dufour are asking themselves so many questions.  They are some of the same questions these sweet kids (a lot of them I call my own) asked five years ago when Trey died.

Why?

We don’t know why.  Only God knows why.  I read a quote today that says, “Grow through whatever you go through” by TobyMac.  I dare ask, haven’t we grown enough? Of course not.  We will continue to grow until God decides we have done what He needs for us to do on this earth.  So that brings us back to Why?  We have to trust that God holds the answers to all our earthly questions and one day, just ONE DAY, when we see him face to face, it won’t matter.  But for now, we have to take to heart that those we have lost have done exactly what God had planned for them.

Does This Change Our Hurt?

Just because God has chosen to take our loved ones (even our PETS!) does not mean we are not going to grieve and grieve heavily.  I grieve MORE today for Trey than I did five years ago.  We all are grieving for Chris because there are no answers, which makes things worse.  Julie and David did not have time for closure, so our grieving is a little different, but yet one thing is the same…we still miss and cry out for our sons.  Is there a little anger in the hurt? Five years later I can say yes, a little.  I can admit that because I KNOW that God is big enough to handle my anger and tears.  He can handle yours.

I Don’t Know What to Say, I’m Empty!

We are all empty and I might go as far to say some may be nauseated.  For myself, I have named it sensory grief.  I want to assure you as a parent who has lost a child, there is nothing you can say AND THAT’S OKAY! We love hugs, and always the words, “I’m praying for you.”  We always love to hear about our child.  His name is not taboo. Remembering him keeps his memory alive.  Just like all your posts on Facebook about Chris. It helps memorialize him.  This is something his parents will be able to go back and read in years to come and KNOW how much he was cherished and loved by his friends.  He was truly blessed.  My heart has been so heavy for the Class of 2014 (Trey’s class) and 2015.  I have some of the same memories you do, how funny Chris was, football homecoming, and many more memories.  Make sure you love on Julie and David and tell them how much Chris meant to you.  It will help your grief and will certainly help theirs.

Where Do We Go From Here?

That is a very good question because it is one I continue to ask myself.  I thought the community was just beginning to heal from the loss of our precious Grant Roberson. The grief of his loss affected the younger classes at CHS.  As a follower of Christ, it is in my nature to point us back to Him and His word.  I know from Trey’s battle, if only just one was touched and changed for His glory, Trey’s battle would have been worth it.  I know that was Trey’s desire.  If one person is changed because of Chris, the angels will rejoice. I know that because of Trey and Grant, lives were changed.  It could be someone you know.  How awesome to find out someone began to look at life so seriously, how precious it truly is, then they begin to question their relationship with God!

There is HOPE in Christ! This is the only thing that can calm our grieving hearts.

“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:26-28

In our weakness, as we grieve, when we cannot pray, the Spirit prays for us! Oh, how God loves us.  Take that to heart as we grieve together.

In closing, as I said in my book, we all grieve differently.  It will take time and some will grieve longer than others for Chris.  You have to be patient with each other.  Please remember that for Julie and David, life has stopped as they know it.  Chris will always be the same age.  These are the same burdens Jay and I carry.  In the weeks to come, love on them as you have continued to love on us.

I am not a professional, counselor, or teacher.  I am just a grieving mother who lost her precious boy too soon.  I leave you with this hope…

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are NOT worthy to be compared to the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18

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.

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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!