Only God. . .

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

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

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

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

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

“This is Lisa.”

“Is this Lisa?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Not Proofed! Just word vomit!) #onlyGod

Suit Up!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isn’t the church called to pray?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer warriors, suit up!

Collin’s MRI Results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This boy makes me smile!

My Promise.

Day 30. My Promise.

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

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

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

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

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

encouragementchallenge

Yesterday…Today…Tomorrow

Yesterday…

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

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

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

Today…

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

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

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

Tomorrow…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Different Perspective – Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day Post from Lisa Erwin

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

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

Lisa Erwin

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo enclosed with Trey’s note

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Lisa Erwin

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

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

Day 100 Thursday. Girls.

When Jay and I started thinking about having children 25 plus years ago, we knew we wanted boys. We both were raised loving and participating in sports, so we both wanted as many boys as God would allow.

As most know, God had a special plan for our boys. They played sports, were involved in scouts, school activities, but most of their time was spent at church. It wasn’t anything special we did as parents. It was just our way of life. If there was Sunday School, they went; children’s choir, they went; youth events, lock-ins, mission trips, summer trips, choir tours, you name it, they went.

I asked Trey when he entered middle school how he would feel about me teaching Sunday School. He didn’t care at all. Most kids would cringe if their parents were involved in any activity they were affiliated with. Not my boys.

I began teaching 6th grade girls (remember Andrea Lindsey?). So Andrea, whenever you were in 6th grade was when I stepped into the youth department at Germantown Baptist. I thought, I’ll just help and take roll. That’s not exactly what God had planned.

I began teaching 9th grade with Kerri Flowers. I fell in love. I fell for a group of girls struggling to find their way in a world with darts from Satan coming from every side. They became my girls.

Little did I know what God had in store for MY future! God would turn those I taught into young women of God who married Christian men and NOW having their own children. Jay and I have walked through many dark days and we have been covered in love by our girls on many occasions.

Last night I had dinner with three of my girls. Missed Leighton Newman Bond! Katie Beth Jordan (who just happened to marry Trey’s best friend, Cody) brought baby Hayes with her and I got to snuggle with one of the next generation of God’s little children.

After losing Trey, my heart was so empty. Each day these girls have filled our lives. They have included us in their walk with the Lord, getting married, many house moves, and having babies. We’ve laughed and we have definitely cried.

Last nights at dinner as we were joking about how I was determined to have boys, I received the most heart-warming compliment. Madison said, “You thought you wanted boys and now you have girls!”

Jay and I cannot express how much we love these little families. What a blessing to watch God grow their lives into so many dreams they have for their future, just like we did.

“Train up a child (or teenager) in the way she should go; even when she is old she will not depart from it.” Prov. 22:6

Obviously I added teenager and changed the pronoun. It speaks to something I have mentioned many times. If you have the opportunity to invest in the lives of young people, do it! You WILL be blessed in abundance! Tomorrow night (Friday), Madison, Julianne and I will be together to worship with Natalie Grant. If you see me walking on clouds, this is why! Praising God with my girls…I can’t think of a better way to spend my Friday night!

Pictured Madison Young Korthoff, Me, Katie Beth Hopkins Jordan, and Julianne Shiles Snider

Anxiety…I see you.

We are all living busy lives, even in a Covid-19 world. Our children do not have a normal routine and are having to alternate school days (if they go at all). Our jobs are in a fluctuating state of working remote to being in the office for longer hours. Week to week we have to make the decision to attend church because of Covid-19 exposure, with many choosing to worship via streaming. And then there is the weather! I think you would all agree that finding “our norm” is very difficult.

Unfortunately, our bodies suffer from the day-to-day life that we have now created. For me, most know that I suffer from chronic, severe migraines. Saturday started my latest battle of trying to determine what was the best course of medication before going for the big guns. I felt some chest pressure and thought I had congestion and chalked it up to my sinuses. With the weather front moving in, I know many have been having the same issues I have.

Sunday morning it hit full blown. I was determined to not let it put me to bed for the rest of the day. Fortunately, after taking many different prescribed medications, my headache began to ease. In place of my migraine came anxiety. A full blown anxiety attack.

If you have ever experienced an anxiety attack, you will know exactly what I am about to tell you. Remember, panic attacks and anxiety attacks are different. Panic attacks will usually come and go within 10 to 30 minutes. Anxiety can last for days.

The elephant in the room had moved to sitting on my chest. My legs felt like they could run a mile with my feet never touching the ground. As the afternoon turned into evening, my hands started to feel numb. I knew exactly what was happening. My head kept trying to tell my body, you will be fine. Jay was reassuring that I would be fine. I told Jay, “My head knows everything you are saying, but my body does not!”

We have an oximeter at home, which if you do not have one, get one. It measures your pulse and heart rate. Every thirty minutes I would ask Jay for the oximeter. My rates were normal.

I took a bath thinking it would surely relax me. All it did was raise my heart rate and send me outside to the cold to attempt to bring my body temperature down. Trust me, during this entire time I was doing breathing exercises. Breathe in through your mouth, hold for 4 seconds, exhale slowly and repeat.

Jay kept asking me why I would not take the Xanax I have that is prescribed for this very thing! In my mind, Xanax would suppress my breathing and I was trying to explain to him that the cure for my anxiety would cause me MORE anxiety. Is it going to be this way every February? That was my thought.

What is my fear? Taking medications that slow my breathing because I am afraid to go to sleep. This started for me at age 18 after the loss of my father and when someone stole my identity to seek drugs. Once a pattern of anxiety comes into your life, it just does not go away. You have to learn to control it, daily.

About 7:30 p.m., Jay came to sit closely by me on the couch and hold my hand as we watched American Idol. After beginning to take my nighttime meds (that also doubles as a medication for anxiety), I slowly began to calm. But I knew bedtime was coming. Night. My biggest fear.

At 10:30 p.m. I went to bed praising the Lord for a calm spirit. As we do each night, Becky, Andrea (my best friends) and I were telling each other goodnight by text and Becky said, “Fear is a liar!” I immediately went to the song by Zach Williams – “Fear is a Liar”. I rebuked Satan and began to recite 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” I slept.

Friends suffering with anxiety during these strange days, I see you. I hear you. I feel you. But so does our big God. I am not saying anxiety is gone, because today (Monday) it still lingers and I made it through the day with the help of Xanax. But I know when I go home I will be able to relax, nothing will happen to me, and I will sleep.

If you suffer from anxiety like I do, I hope you know you are not alone. Anxiety is real and it is SCARY. That heart attack you feel is coming on is controllable. The best thing (next to Xanax), is to make sure you have a support system in place during this time. I could not have made the night without my husband. Trust me. I was crying and telling him if the Xanax did not work, he was taking me to the hospital! And you know what he said? Okay.

Unfortunately, since I wrote this, my migraine returned on Tuesday. I immediately went to my pain doctor. Not only am I blessed with a wonderful husband, but I have a doctor who I have been with for over 30 years. Dr. Schnapp’s his first remark was, “Are you trying to kill yourself?” He said that the combination of all my medications caused a medication induced tachycardia event evidenced by the anxiety. I told him my oximeter said my heart was normal! He showed me how to record an EKG from my Apple Watch to my Iphone. Life changer. Advice – get an Apple Watch and use it if you have anxiety!

“Anxiety might be your superpower, not your kryptonite. Changing my perception of my anxiety has helped me see that it doesn’t diminish my value in my career or as a parent, and might even enhance it.”  Alice Boyes Ph.D Psychology Today

The reason for this blog is to say I am not ashamed I suffer from anxiety. I think I’ve been through quite enough in my lifetime to cause a little anxiety. I want YOU to know you are not alone. Anxiety is real. Even though you feel like you are on the edge of death, you are not. Remember to rest in the strength of His arms. “He is our comfort and strength, a very present help in time of trouble…though the mountains shake and the waters roar, we will not fear!” Ps. 46:1-3.

“Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith. I don’t agree at all. They are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the Passion of Christ.” C. S. Lewis

Grateful. Thankful. Blessed. Retirement of Joe Duncan.

His name is Joe McDaniel Duncan. Not Joseph. Just Joe. Sometimes he has been weatherman Joe, Dr. Joe, Joey, and Muscles to some of his friends.

As of March 1, 2020, we celebrated 21 years of our partnership at the law firm of Burch, Porter & Johnson. How do you just say, I’m walking away from this life I’ve known for 54 years. For me, it has been 32 years in the legal field. In the back of my mind I knew this day would come. Joe Duncan is retiring and next week is his last week. It’s time. Time for him to enjoy life with his wife, Lee, who has become one of my closest, dearest friends. I could write an entire blog about Lee and how she has become my prayer partner, my 2 a.m. friend, and the best older sister a person could ever had. I cherish the girl time we have together!

  • 21 Birthdays. Birthdays filled with unique gifts, love, and lunches at Paulette’s where K-pie is (“IS” because I don’t intend to stop) always shared between the three of us (me, Joe, and Lee). Unsweet tea, just like me.
  • 21 Christmases. So many bittersweet for the both of us, but they always spent most of their time in North Carolina (Lake Toxaway) and I was so glad when the first of the year came around. That meant a new year and a new beginning.
  • 21 Years of firm celebrations. The one thing I love about Burch, Porter & Johnson is that we like to celebrate and eat! It doesn’t matter what the occasion. If it was attorney/legal assistant related (Assistant’s Day, Bosses Day, Valentines, Christmas, someone’s birthday), we were never embarrassed to sit next to each other.
  • 21 Years of arguments and apologies. If there is one thing I learned working for an honest, ethical man is when you make a mistake, own it, no excuses and move on. But sometimes, there is just something in you that makes you say NO! If you know me, I have done that plenty over the last 21 years. But you can always say no in a loving way such as, “Don’t you think it would be better said this way?” I can count on one hand the number of times we have actually argued and he has made me fuming mad. When he tried to make up, I always knew it because he would come to my ledge with the biggest smile and say something like, “Your hair is pretty today.” What? Go away!

The one thing I respect most about this man is that when he knows he is wrong, I do hear “I’m sorry, you were right”. But it is then followed by a joke because it doesn’t happen often.

As I think about Joe’s retirement and how he will fill his time, I know what he will do.

He will enjoy more walks with his two dogs Holly and Lily who happen to be such a big part of his heart (and mine too).

He will be able to travel to see his grandsons play their ballgames, spend more birthdays, and holidays. They need their Papa Joe!

Joe and Lee will spend so much time at their home in North Carolina. It’s beautiful and it is where they rest and enjoy friends who own houses in the mountains. They have blessed us by allowing us to escape Memphis and spend time there and the view from the lanai is breathtaking. I have so many pottery pieces in my home from there!

Lastly, he will have all the time in the world to play as much golf as his heart desires! Travel for golf, watch golf, take lessons for golf, read about golf, you name it! More importantly, walk onto the course from his backyard and play golf with Lee. There is the Lee and Joe Duncan Rhodes (College) Invitational and they both will be able to take a more active role in the women’s golf tournaments and travel. He and Lee put so much time and love into the program and the girls at Rhodes College.

There will be changes in so many lives. I will hear a sneeze, a cough. No, that’s not his because I know it. Laughter from down the hall in a conference room. No, that’s not his because I can hear it all over the office. When he laughs, he makes everyone smile or laugh too. When a client walks into the office, there is always a handshake or a hug. Something that has been lost.

My alarm clock will not go off at 5:30 a.m. anymore. I know he won’t be at his desk at 6 or 7 a.m. and we won’t start working at 7:30 a.m. My phone won’t start dinging with emails from him around 6:30 a.m. because I have a special notification for his emails. Actually, there will not be the catching up about the weekend, sports, and everything we have going on in our lives or the list of things that need to be done for the day. He listens and we laugh. Sometimes there are tears. He lets me talk about Trey because he understands. He lost a son. He walked me through that nightmare. I could not have survived without his guiding hand.

I remember the first time I ever walked in Joe Duncan’s office and I saw a framed picture of Isaiah 40:31. I knew it wasn’t a coincidence that we both had the same favorite scripture.

“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up as eagles with wings.”

There has never been a time that we were uncomfortable talking about what God was doing in our lives or the world around us. Matter of fact, without his advice, I know I would have made a lot of bad decisions along the way.

As odd as it may sound, the thing I will miss most is over the years we have been able to pick up on how each other feels at first glance in the morning.

Lisa: “Do you have a headache?”

Joe: “YES!,I woke up with it and couldn’t go back to sleep. So I just came on in to the office.”

Lisa: “Have you taken anything?”

Joe: “Not yet, but I’m about to with my coffee. Is yours hurting?”

Lisa: “Just a little. Is it going to rain?” Joe immediately turns to his computer.

Joe: “Let’s look at the radar.”

Joe and I both suffer from migraines. We have both tried every concoction and recommended treatment known to man. I cannot emphasize how good God is to have given me a person to work for who understands when you say, “Okay, I’m done, my brain can’t take anymore.”

Funny fact is that before I came to Burch, Porter, a friend of mine told me that I shouldn’t come work for him. I couldn’t imagine why. I told them I wanted to try because sometimes it just takes the right people to click. Who knew the bond that would be created between our families? During that time, I learned he was only four years out from grieving the loss of his son which was never talked about. Never. Until I lost my own.

When I started, he instructed me to put drafts he needed to read on the edge of his desk. I remember quietly walking in his office because his back would be to me and sliding the paper on the edge. I think I ran out of the office before he could see me. Friends in the office said that he had taken a previous assistant’s typewriter away until she got her filing done. Seriously? Bahaha! (Yes, we were even using the dos system then.)

His office was on one side of the building and mine was on the other. But there was NO mistaking that voice calling loudly, “LeeSA.” (Oh, crap). And I ran saying, “I’m coming!” That call down the hall has still continued to this day. And I still go running. Respect.

We moved into a new building several years later and that is where we have been for many years. We would work late, prepare for divorce trials, will contests, but something developed during those hard-working years. Joe and I became what he called a well-oiled machine. I knew what he wanted before he asked, could finish his sentences, remembered phone numbers and names for him, and it made his practice, I hope, a little easier. I was (am) his assistant, paralegal, court runner, any title he needed at the time. We were (are) partners. After losing Trey, I looked back on that time of first working for Joe and it made sense because I was doing exactly what he was doing, just trying to work and make it through the day.

God has a purpose for all things. There is no doubt He brought us together for many reasons and stories for both families that will last a lifetime. This well-oiled machine is being put on the shelf after a lifetime warranty of good work, replaced parts, and oil changes from time-to-time. To be honest with you, I bet you can imagine I am not dealing with this very well. I could use the prayers, as could Joe and Lee. There have been many, many tears lately and will be many next week. I guess I’m getting old because I don’t like change, especially this one. I will forever work for Lee and Joe Duncan. He is not my employer or boss – he has always been my partner, mentor, confidant, father-figure, and most of all, best friend.

Happy Birthday to the man that can tear the phone book in half and jump flat-footed onto the top of the counter at work. You will always amaze me. I love you both.

Circa Christmas 2009

xmas 2008

 

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A Pure Heart is Better Than Purell!

He slept. His cheeks were as red as Washington apples in August. There had not been much movement, only quiet sleep. During the night he spiked a fever and we headed to St. Jude. When we arrived, we realized he was down to 113 pounds. Yet the doctors still did not know what was causing this sudden fever. Cancer.

Fast forward to March/April 2020. You are sitting in a room with a St. Jude child, their family, and the child is dying. The doctor is there, nurse practitioner, and the mother is falling apart. If you are the nurse practitioner, what do you do? This mother, just like Mary, is watching her child die before her eyes. It was not her choice nor did she cause it. The room is spinning and she doesn’t know what to do except cry in pain for her child. The nurse practitioner, breaking all rules of social distancing, finally grabs the mother and holds her while she cries. She said that the mother dissolved into the human touch and love she offered. Yet she still wore her gloves and gown….Think about the children at St. Jude during this time not being able to see their parents during treatments. Not this mother.

Purell. Purify. Purity. Pure.

Purell is an advanced instant hand sanitizer that kills more than 99.99% of most common germs. It is an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and works in as little as 15 seconds! That’s better than Mr. Clean! But as you continue to break down the word, do you know that there is a purity test you can take to see how pure you are according to today’s worldliness? Well that’s important! Not. Pure. I also think of Pure Cane Sugar. Heaven. No contamination.

I have honed in on James 4:8 and what the bible says about purifying ourselves.

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

As with most of the world, my mind has been whirling as we have been experiencing something we will probably never experience again in our lifetime. The Corona virus has infiltrated homes and disrupted lives to the point of loss, despair, and anxiety. This last week, I heard a commercial on the television while I was in the kitchen. I do not remember if it was the news talking about the Nashville St. Jude Run or the St. Jude Home, but I immediately slammed my fists on the granite countertop and said,

“I’m tired of hearing about St. Jude!” Jay was shocked.

I should be yelling about the Plexaderm commercial. (Ya’ll, that has got to go!) But it was just one of those days that I finally let my feelings go that I normally do not express. Pain. Have you been pushed to the edge lately? I am so thankful for the mercy and grace of our Lord always.  We should be using this time to study His word to strengthen our faith.

The common thing I am hearing from people is they want to experience more intentional relationships with each other, show love and gratitude (whether physical or not) when we step out of what seems to be a large bubble. For most of us, it will be very hard. Hard for those of us that are not normally people that step out and hug. But one thing I heard that struck me – compassion is not a sign of weakness. What about sympathy or empathy?

We eventually were able to get Trey’s fever down 8 years ago this week. And he started packing for Hawaii. Whether it’s Covid or Cancer – hug your loved ones with a pure mind and a pure heart.

“What I am eager for is that all the Christians there will be filled with love that comes from pure hearts, and that their minds will be clean and their faith strong.”

1 Timothy 1:5

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