The Next Two Weeks

This will be short. As I told my Pastor yesterday, I planned trip for Jay for next week with Collin (per his request), and a trip for me for the next week thinking I would be excited and they would occupy my thoughts. I was wrong. Nothing can keep Trey from the forefront of my mind.

Last night I was alone. Jay was working and Collin was still at camp with Central Church. I had to go into Trey’s room to get something. It was just on my mind and I had to get it. I started going through drawers to see if I needed anything else and I kept running across things we had decided to just leave there; t-shirts, socks, personal items, bathing suits, and there were his yellow shorts. His yellow polo shorts that hardly fit him when we ordered them for Hawaii. I just picked them up and before I knew it, I was crying uncontrollably and on the floor next to his bed. His bed…the first time I made up his bed was this week since his death.

Then I went to his t-shirt rack and found his long-sleeve superman t-shirt he wore to high school camp this time last year, and this tie-dye tank that he wore in the picture with his Aunt Donna the week before he died. I don’t know why God took me down this memory road to cry and grieve. It only made for a painful night’s sleep.

I didn’t hear any “It’s going to be okay” from God. All I could do is submerge my face in this t-shirts and try to inhale as much smell as I could. Nothing.

Over the next two weeks I will be working on myself to move the grief process along. I’m not saying that these weeks will be easy. They will be excruciating. I was kidding myself when I thought I could move through this time with my head held high and just go along like nothing was wrong. My son is gone. He will never come back. Never walk in that door, smile at me, and say love you mama. I heard that literally everyday.

Instead, Jay and I will be leaning on each other and taking care of Collin. When we cross your mind, please pray for us. As I have said many times, his presence fills our house in a mighty way, but in many of your lives, he is very much a distant memory. We understand that. It will take time for us to turn the pain into joy. Only with God’s help can we do this. And that’s exactly what I am working on. My identity in Christ, my stronghold, my Rock, my Redeemer. He has never left us and never failed us.

Pray for me on Sunday as I speak at the University of Memphis and that God will lay on my heart the words that I need to say. Thank you all for your prayers for the next two weeks.

For Good…
Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a skybird
In a distant wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good
Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I’ve been
Changed for the better?
I do believe I have been
Changed for the better

And because I knew you…
Because I knew you…
Because I knew you…
I have been changed for good.

Stepping out of Your Comfort Zone

Today, I did something I thought I would never do. I got a tattoo. I know, some of you are probably very shocked. I’m almost 50 years old and I have no business getting a tattoo. I researched this subject by listening to podcasts by John Piper, reading articles by Relevant Christian on What the Bible Says about Tattoos, I talked to several pastors, I discussed it with my family, and most importantly, I prayed about it. Of course, my 83 year old mother wasn’t too thrilled.

This idea has been going on in my head for months and months. I knew what I wanted it to look like, what I wanted it to say, and where I wanted it. I called to make the appointment and they told me it would be a year! A YEAR! I sent a text to a friend of mine, Dawn McMillian and told her that it would be a year. I knew that she had an appointment for her soon to be 18 year old son as a surprise for his birthday. She sent me a text later and told me don’t worry about it, June 15 at 3:30. I said what? She said she took care of it, I was going with her family. Well, that took away a year of changing my mind!

Today, we went to the very reputable Ramesses’ and I went first. Jay was there to hold my hand, thankfully. It really hurt. Bad. All I could think about was how much Trey had gone through being poked and prodded with needles and this was nothing compared to what he suffered. I covered myself with his UT blanket that covered him when he died. Good thing because I hugged it tight.

After it was over, I went to sit in a chair and wait for J.D. to go. Immediately I began to think – what have I done! About that time, I got a text from Keith Cochran, our former youth minister. He attached a video from a men’s conference. It was a huge conference center filled with men singing 10,000 Reasons. I just smiled and sent him and text and told him that I had just gotten my tattoo! Jay had to leave and go to work and I stayed with the McMillian family.

I sat and sat, and as my leg was throbbing I watched J.D. get engraved on his arm UNASHAMED – Romans 1:16. He was in some pain too, by the way. Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” His tattoo did not take as long as mine and before we knew it, we were on our way home, all bandaged up.

My thought was that I was not going to share the picture or the news of my tattoo until people saw it. As I was in the parking lot in Kroger, a sweet lady approached my car to ask if I was Lisa. I said yes and we carried on a conversation. She told me she read my blog and told me how strong I was. I told her I was not as strong as she thought I was and that I get very weary and worn.

On my way home from Kroger, I began to think, did Christ get weary and worn? Did he ever just want to stop sharing God’s word and hide? Then I began to think, what have I done to my leg? Just as I was pulling up to Peterson Lake, 10,000 Reasons came on the radio. I just began to cry uncontrollably. The verse that got me – “Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me, Let me be singing when the evening comes.”

Christ had imprints of the nails in his hands and side that he had to prove to Thomas in John 20. Thomas, after touching His hands and side said, “My Lord, My God!” Jesus said to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”

I mentioned that story because most tattoos are personal. They tell a story, as do scars. Trey’s favorite movie was The Lion King and he was Simba~always. After Dr. Sara told him that he had cancer, the only thing that he tweeted was “Hakuna Matata” which means no worries. Trey had no worries. He knew his future and what God had in store for him. If anyone sees my tattoo, I will be able to tell the story of what God has done in my family, through Trey, and through James 1:2-3, with perseverance and faith, we have no worries.

Thank you J.D. McMillian, for I learned a lesson today. I am UNASHAMED. And I STILL have more to tell through God’s grace.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” James 1:2-3
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The Reason I Cry

I had a conversation with a friend recently on our mission trip to North Dakota and I explained to them why I cry during certain songs that we sing. When people see me crying, or just a tear rolling down my face, I think they think immediately I am missing Trey. Sometimes that is true. I have always been in the choir, since a child. I have grown up paying attention to the lyrics and their meaning. You can find such a deeper connection to God and worship when you actually know the words you are singing!

One of Trey’s favorite songs was The Stand. We sang it at his celebration. (I still can’t say funeral.) Since I have been so involved in the youth for so many years, I was able to watch Trey grow in his worship experience, much like I am watching Collin now. I’ll never forget Bretta Cochran sending me pictures from middle school camp of Collin worshipping last year unashamed and unabandoned and my heart just soared. For a boy who is so introvert, I knew it was true worship for him.

The words to the song are as follows:

You stood before creation
Eternity in your hand
You spoke the earth into motion
My soul now to stand

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

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

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

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

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

For me, it’s a song that will never get old. I captured a picture of Trey and Julianne worshipping to this song at camp several years ago.

Now, pay attention to the lyrics and maybe you’ll understand why I cry. God has all power, he created us and knows our every move and choice. He knows our failures, our sins, and our heart. But who came to take all of that away? His son, Jesus Christ. There is absolutely nothing we can do to repay what he did on the cross for our sins. God sent His son to save us. I just take it a little further…He sent his son to save MY son because my son is already in his eternal home. So when I am crying, they are tears of thankfulness, humbleness before my God.

As parents, we are so selfish for our children. We often say that we would die for our children. I know Jay said that when Trey was diagnosed. But you see, Christ already did that. He suffered the pain and anguish on the cross for Trey. That’s why I cry. He did that for my baby, already knowing that Trey would one day suffer four months of tremendous pain and nausea. That’s why I’m “In awe of the one who gave it all.” And that’s another reason why we have always had such a peace. Trey knew that ALL along. His soul was surrendered to the Lord and all he had was His.

One thing that does bother me is that our youth sing and don’t pay attention to the lyrics. I’ve wanted to stand before our youth and tell them this story so many times but have not been given the opportunity. I want them to make a difference in someone else’s life by the way they worship and have surrendered to the Lord. There are two precious young men that were close to Trey since childhood that openly worship God unashamed, Josh Luke and Tim Few. I know that sometimes they are persecuted for things they do or say. But I want them to know that they are leaders and I pray for them all the time. God has a place for them because “God’s spirit is alive in them!” I know Trey is cheering his brothers on!

So if you see me crying, don’t feel sorry for me. The next thing you know I’ll be praising God with “Arms high and heart abandoned, In awe of the one who gave it all!” That’s what I pray for others. I was talking to a friend yesterday, Ryan Mullins. I was in much-needed advice for the direction of our family. I am so blessed to have Ryan and Anne in our lives. When Ryan and Keith Cochran preached at Trey’s celebration, they started a hashtag that I hope will continue – #dontmissjesus. That’s what would be Trey’s greatest desire, that you don’t miss Jesus!

So buddy, here’s to you! #dontmissjesus! Thank you Jesus for dying for my sins and saving me, my family, and our Trey!

Here am I…Send me!

Someone asked me if I was sure I wanted to go on the mission’s trip to Fargo, North Dakota. I said you bet I do! This is the only trip during the year that the high school and the middle school are combined for one purpose. It brings them together to bond. This was Trey’s favorite trip of the year since 6th grade. It taught him how to be a better servant.

I find it humorous that what Trey tweeted one year ago yesterday fits every mission trip we’ve gone on – “Things can change in a blink of an eye, but knowing that it is nothing that my God can’t handle, takes away all unnecessary worries!” You see, we always leave with an agenda for the week of where we will working, singing, staying, and sometimes God has other plans.

North Dakota is having very cool weather for this time of the year. And on top of that, there were threats of thunderstorms during the week. That’s like us having threats of tornadoes. With the land as flat as it is, flooding is very damaging.

On Monday, the plan was to sing at two nursing homes and do their chapel services. Both buses ended up at one nursing home. Half the group sang and half the group did the puppet show. We all then came together and sang for their chapel time. The nursing home residents were so blessed by our being with them. We loved watching them sing along with us…they just grinned! We had some women that really liked our young men!

We spent the afternoon in a park for lunch. It was really cold. At least for us. This is when we had the opportunity to play elbow tag. It was fun to watch the new kids (young and old) learn this favorite game. It took me back to one of the last times Trey played and the two people I have pictures of Trey linked arms with, one picture with his buddy Daniel Roberts and one picture with Bryn Norton, Ron’s daughter. He loved Bryn and Conleigh. At first, when the game started, Collin went up into the gym set by himself and did not play. I joined him to check on him knowing that something was bothering him. All I did was sit with him. All it took was mama just being there for a minute and being with her son and then he said, I think I’ll go play. We both knew Trey was missing.

We spent the rest of the afternoon canvassing the neighborhood for the block party for Tuesday evening. The kids had so much fun. You always say if you only reach one person for Christ, that’s one more in the kingdom. There was a little girl with a lemonade stand. It was cold outside and every door my group went to was closed. But one of our groups encountered the little girl with the lemonade stand. Her daddy told her that she would not find anyone that would drink her lemonade but she was determined to put it up. Drew saw her first and talked to her. He told her that he knew of some people that would buy her lemonade. So one of our groups came to her stand and wiped her out while Tim Brown, the pastor we were working with, had the opportunity to speak to the father. God used the little girl and her lemonade stand.

Monday evening we went to the RedHawks ballgame! We were so proud of Tim Few who sang the national anthem! Ron danced for his dinner on the field (and won), and Drew and Caleb Howe dressed in chicken suits and raced across the field! Ballgame, embarrassing your leaders, hotdogs, foul balls, and lots of fun!

Tuesday began with a little confusion. Both busses ended up at Churches United for the Homeless. One bus was going to go the service project and one bus was going to go canvass. This is not what God had planned. The homeless shelter has a clothes closet for the homeless. There were bags and bags and bins that needed to be sorted and hung up or sorted. The kids worked so hard all morning.

At lunch we took the kids the to Space Aliens for some fun arcade and food time. At that time, Tim had been watching a storm system come in. It was decided to cancel the block party for the evening. We went back to Churches United to keep working.

Tuesday night we went to a local church to eat sandwiches and play games. The outpouring of hospitality by the local churches for us to meet at the last minute was so impressive.

Wednesday morning we did the same thing. We went back to Churches United. There were kids restocking the kitchen, fixing a bathroom leak, stocking shelves with baby clothes, and hanging women’s and men’s clothes.

At lunch, our kids cooked for their residents and we surrounded the room and sang. Once the residents had been fed, our food was not ready and we had to keep singing. Some residents were singing along, some were crying. I couldn’t help but cry. It was June 5, exactly 11 months since Trey had died. Many adults knew and few of the kids realized it or recognized it. It was a sweet time to surround the people that we had been working for so hard. The remark was made that what we did would have taken them all summer to get accomplished.

The afternoon was spent with the groups being spent being split between canvassing for another block party and working at the Dorothy Day House which is a place for homeless to low income families to come to purchase food. This group spent the afternoon stocking shelves of donated food.

Wednesday at 6 pm was our block party! We had a baseball and soccer clinic led by Duffy Guyton, crafts led by Karen Stonebrook, puppets led by Ben Lane, inflatables, games, free food, face painting, nails, it was all there! God held off the rain till it was time to leave at 8 pm.

We headed to Temple Baptist like we did every night to debrief. This was my favorite part of the week. Drew led this time of the week and asked the students different questions. The first question was what’s the one thing that someone did that you would like to encourage them publicly about? The kids were raising their hands so fast you couldn’t keep up with them. Some of them might have seemed so small to others but they were so important to that person. This is the time that you sit back and see what bonds your group together after working so hard all day. Kids from the age of 12/13 to 18.

The second question was what will make tomorrow better than today? What we heard most – attitudes. Everyone would get so tired during the day and it was easy to get cranky. We pushed and pushed water!

The last question was what did God speak to you during your time with Him personally? We spent a lot of time on this subject. I’d like to keep this between the group. God has His hand on our group. He kept us safe from injury, from illness, and most of all, the kids realized that no matter what we have planned, everything is in God’s plan, in His time, for His purpose.

That’s why I think it’s so ironic that just one year ago yesterday Trey tweeted about God changing things so quickly and we should not worry about it. Did he know something we didn’t know? I don’t think so. I just think he had a little better insight to how life can change so quickly, just like for so many of the homeless we served.

We never know where God will lead us tomorrow. Part of our devotion time this week was from Isaiah 6:8-10. “Then I heard the voice of The Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” The rest of that scripture goes on say how God told Isaiah to tell the people, “Listen hard, but you aren’t going to get it; look hard, but you won’t catch on.”

We know some are not going to get it. I remember having this conversation with Trey and how frustrated he would get that people just didn’t get it! As long as we answer the call to go, plant the seed, just as we did this week, God will come behind and fertilize what has been planted.

I am so proud of every student that answered the call for this trip and worked so hard. We saw so many changes in students. Our next goal – extend the mission field to Germantown as we did in North Dakota. Learn to serve our own.