Horse of a Different Color

When I was growing up, I went to church with a family that I often heard the mother called a prude. You never heard a bad word come out of her mouth, or that of her husband. There was NEVER alcohol. I do not remember rated R movies in their household. I remember laughter. I do remember struggles about the music that their child listened to, but instead of lecturing, they gave it to God. I remember at that time thinking, “How can you be THIS good?”

What I realize now is that they made a choice. They made the choices not to use foul language in their home, along with all the other choices in life. I was talking to my sister this morning about this subject. We talked about how we were raised in a house with a horse of many colors (Dad). But she reminded me that when both of us first started our families, we had an agreement that we could discipline each other’s kids because we made the same choices. You may laugh, but Donna and I did NOT like the word FART! Not sure that lasted too long. But one thing that did last, you did not tell each other to shut up and video games were screened until an appropriate age. My boys were not, and are still not, raised in a house of foul language or alcohol. That is our choice.

I remember when Trey was 14. He had hit the age of making sure we knew he was approaching manhood. I will never forget the day he told me, “I’m not afraid of you.” I thought to myself, “Where in the WORLD did that come from?” So Jay and I just went with it. What I didn’t realize was Trey was battling his own spiritual warfare inside of making these decisions for himself. He was a freshman at Collierville High School and we had just ended a relationship FOR him.

Yes, I ended the relationship. Our home was not the Cleaver household. There will be forever etched in my mind Trey standing on the balcony yelling at me how much he hated me, how much he hated God, and wished he did not live in our home…then he kicked the wall. Without the kids knowing, I walked out of the house, called Jay and told him what had happened. He was on his way home from work. I was headed straight to Bretta and Keith Cochran’s house in tears begging them to tell me what I had done wrong! Later that evening, I went into Collin’s room to tell him goodnight and found him crying. He was upset because of the yelling and Trey saying he hated everyone – which he took it to mean him too. I marched myself into Trey’s room and told him, “Your brother thinks you hate him!” Trey said, “What?” I made sure Trey made it right with Collin that night. And you thought the Erwin family was always living a life of love and sweetness? HA! We are raising children!

This is the transformation of my horse of a different color. This is just one of the events that transpired before God reached down to Trey in February of 2011 and spoke to him during our Family of Families weekend. Not that Trey “changed” because he was always a loving child. But he finally realized something my devotion said this morning, “You are the only Bible some unbelievers will ever read, and your life is under scrutiny every day. What do others learn from you? Do they see an accurate picture of your God?” That is where YOUR choice comes in.

If you have not caught on by now, the horse represents you, your family, or your loved one. And if you have never seen the Wizard of Oz, then you are just out of luck.

I like the way Peter says in the Message translation, “Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.” (1 Pet. 2:11-12). Hum, don’t make yourselves cozy in it. How about, don’t be accepting of the foul language around you. Stand firm for your choices. Stand firm for the future of your family. I promise that your choices WILL NOT be the popular choice among some and you MAY lose friends. We are trying to teach Collin this very difficult lesson. We are trying to teach him about his choice of friends and music. What’s in your heart comes out your mouth; (Matt 15:18) what you say is what you mean. Test it. (Taken from Ken Freeman) Don’t get cozy. You may find you only have four months left in this world.

Collin and I were at St. Jude this week (praise God he’s clean for another 6 months!), and while we were waiting for his MRI in pre-op, he heard a child behind another curtain call his mother a B%&*# several times. Collin’s eyes got real big and he looked at me and said, “Did you hear that?” I acknowledged with a nod of my head and tried not to make a big deal of it. (Because I knew he would make it bigger.)He knew it was wrong and I didn’t have to tell him. Don’t miss the opportunity when you experience these opportunities to tell your children, that was wrong and that is not how we act.

There is scripture that is very easy to remember to help you live your life in service and glory to the Lord. If a group of 9th grade girls some years ago can memorize it, you can too, or tape it to your computer, your mirror, your dashboard, your refrigerator, put it in your child’s lunch. “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31)

We aren’t perfect. Only Christ was perfect. My devotion also said, “Even those who hold to a high view of Scripture may sometimes fail to obey it. We need to be reminded that the authority of God’s Word isn’t simply a doctrine to be affirmed, but a priority to be pursued.” I think our goal should be to keep our horse (family) of a different color one shade. Since Jesus wore a robe of purple, that is what I choose as my color. My family will stand firm and rooted in God’s word and we WILL make it a priority to pursue it. There are days that we may fail. But, how else are you going to know how to lead your horse if you don’t read the guidebook?

St. Jude, Again?

I have been having the most vivid dreams lately. Usually, I do not remember them when I wake up, but I have been remembering every detail. Last night, the entire family was in Dr. Tauer’s office and Collin was on a hospital bed. He was sleeping very comfortably. Dr. Tauer said, “It’s a glioma.” I knew immediately it was a brain tumor. He told me he needed surgery immediately and began to go down a list of surgeons. Funny thing – they were mostly from my OB-GYN group! Finally, he talked with a surgeon on the phone that was on call with West Clinic and Collin went into surgery. I woke up.

Trust me, I’m not one to read ANYTHING into dreams. If I did, I would have been dead a long time ago from all my recurring tornado dreams. But it’s odd I would have such a dream when Collin is scheduled for his check up at St. Jude on Monday. He will have his routine blood work and an MRI, then see Dr. Federico for the results of the MRI. St. Jude parents know this is an all-day event. You may wonder why he doesn’t have more testing. Any kind of testing with radiation (x-rays) CAN aggravate the mutant cancer cells.

Collin does not talk about going to St. Jude and we do not talk about it with him. It’s just something we do. He knows he has the P-16 gene and this is a part of life. But for me, this visit will be a little different. Collin is 15. Yes, 15. It seems like yesterday he was 12, short, and a little pudgy. Now, things are changing! One thing that has changed the most is he looks like Trey. It might be something only a mother can see. He does not accept or appreciate the comparison. He is not Trey.

But, there is one thing they have in common – being 15 years old at St. Jude. As I type, my hands go numb, my throat sinks to the pit of my stomach. Not that I’m worried. It’s just, what if? What if the gene decides to present itself? I’m scared to say I don’t think I could bare it. God might see if I could. Here I am, one of those mothers that wait for months, weeks, and days for tests that can determine the outcome of my child’s life for at least another six months to a year.

I have many friends on Facebook that are St. Jude mothers. I watch their posts as they go through trying times of chemo, surgery, radiation, sickness, another diagnosis, and my heart breaks. I usually do not say anything. I only “like” their posts as to say “I know what you are feeling and I am praying for you”.

If you think the pain, hurt, aching, and longing for your child gets better in this short of time, you are wrong. You are just a little more numb and you don’t talk about him as much to others because they’ve heard so much about him before. So you keep the pain to yourself; snap at your husband, argue with your child, and see little happiness in what is left of the day. And people ask, “How ARE you?” with emphasis on the “ARE”. And you smile and say, “Just fine, how are YOU?” Be careful when you ask. You might get the truth.

I see little happy families and I think – I wonder if you have ever considered losing your child? I hope it makes them appreciate them more as they have written in crayon on the walls. And you think panicking when you lose him in a retail store is scary. Those are just the simple things in life.

I’ll take it one extra step. Do I look like everything is fine because we aren’t falling apart or wearing black 24/7. I don’t cry during every song. Does the congregation as a whole think we’ve moved on? Heavens, I hope not. Trey’s medication hasn’t even been touched. Collin won’t wear his clothes that are still in his closet. Collin won’t even call THAT ROOM Trey’s room. I go upstairs only when it is absolutely necessary. That’s Jay’s job.

I don’t want to sound like I am complaining, maybe just mourning. I’m just honestly scared for Collin. What mother would not be? I am so thankful for what I do have. I know things will be better after Monday and I hear, “Everything is clear!” Ann Voskamp said, “We give thanks to God not because of how we feel – but because of Who He is.” That’s how I can still walk into church and praise God, because of who He is – because I am still hurting. I can struggle with getting out of bed because God knows I love Him no matter what the day brings – even if it brings news I don’t think I am strong enough to hear. I know He’s strong enough to carry me. He’s been carrying me all along.

“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord; I wait for God my Savior, my God will hear me.” Micah 7:7

I treasure the devotion book A Shelter From the Storm which was Trey’s. June 27 seemed to be particularly encouraging to him from his highlighting. Today, son, you have encouraged me by your faithfulness.

By the way, have you thought about Christmas? I bet you have. There is no greater gift than a donation to St. Jude to help in the research for children like Collin. They now have someone on staff researching the P16 gene (a mutant melanoma gene) and its genetic mystery! I’m so thankful! Help THEM help children! Or you can still purchase A Mighty Dragon on Amazon as a great way to spread the gospel during this season.