Depression and Suicide

img_2685Random conversations.  Facebook messenger.  Email.  Text.  Coincidental meetings. All females with the same issue…loneliness. Many with depression.  We are all the same age and all in the same phase of life.

Out of those conversations came these remarks:

“I go home and just go straight to bed.”

“I go home and just go to my corner of the couch.”

“I never go out with friends because I don’t have any.”

“I sit and watch television by myself.”

“I’m in bed when I go home, just me and my glass of wine.”

“…and since I don’t work, I don’t even have work girlfriends.”

“Maybe we should start a no friends girlfriends club!”

“I feel like social media leads to a lot of depression.”

I’d like to pick it up with the last remark.  We smile and waive, laugh at puppy pictures, “likes” on baby pictures, “love” on scripture pictures or postings, all the while using social media as our backup friend.  Yet we are the people posting the puppy pictures, babies, and even pictures with our husbands that are either never home or never in the same room. I don’t think society allows us to deal with reality because our character will be judged.  Personally, I have never cared.  Oh, I lie.  I do care or I wouldn’t have dealt with depression since age 18.  But, here I am.

According to USA Today, “The suicide rate for white children and teens between 10 and 17 was up 70% between 2006 and 2016, the latest data analysis available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although black children and teens kill themselves less often than white youth do, the rate of increase was higher — 77%.”

We are losing too many of our young adults to suicide and asking why. Yet we can’t deal with our own depression and suicide issues.  It is very hard to help someone else when you cannot help yourself.  I get it.  It is the “walk in my shoes” syndrome. I’m there with you.

If you look at the symptoms in children and adults for depression according to Mayo Clinic, many of the symptoms are the same.  Symptoms such as:

  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
  • Frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide

You might ask, “What does this have to do with me in the bed when I come home?” A lot.  I look at my son and I wonder what he thinks of me.  Then I remember my mother on the couch my entire childhood and it all makes sense.  Depression.

What does God say?

I like what how the Message phrases Galatians 6:1-3:

“Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.” 

Stoop down and reach out!

How do we decrease the rate of suicide? How do we uplift the depressed? We share burdens.  Are you too good for that?

Even with Jesus, loneliness and depression is very difficult.  Satan is very powerful and he knows how to turn every thought against you.

There are moments of pure vulnerability and uncertainty no one sees but God during your loneliness.  You try to make sense of it all while nurturing raw wounds embedded deeply within your soul.  These wounds may be from many different sources such as death, a spouse, children, or even church.

I have tried to throw myself into scripture and prayer crying out to God.  I’ve tried to be around friends at work to forget the loneliness.

           The struggle is real.  It is real with depression and suicide. 

These are topics people do not like to talk about.  Just like you don’t talk about sex at church, or depression and suicide really.  Well, I will talk about it.

A friend of mine said while teaching bible study that sometimes we like to find our answers when we cry out to God in our darkness by opening up the Bible to a random page and just pointing to a verse.  We then believe that is the scripture the Holy Spirit sent to us as an answer to our problems.  As much as I would like to believe that God works that way in coping with depression, I’m not sure that is His intention.  He wants us to seek Him constantly – in and out of depression.

Do you just want to throw in the towel?

Some days.  I believe God does heal our wounds of depression.  I believe he binds up our beautiful mess with a proper healing.  I know He provides sweet conversation with friends of like mind.  Though they may be few, they MAY be all you need.  It is all in HIS timing.  It might be the day I see Him FACE TO FACE! I can only tell you with my experience, it can be debilitating after losing a child.  The most hurtful thing you can say to a mother is that it is time to get over it and move on.  Nope, nada, ain’t gonna happen. Not soon.  I’ll grieve, in some manner, with an amount of depression, (even a thought of suicide, maybe) for the rest of my life for my baby boy.  But my faith is NOT diminished! I know that God still holds me in his hands and I take comfort in the song that says… “It’s your breath in my lungs, so I lift up my praise, lift up my praise to you only”.

I’m still on the road…a long and winding road.

But be encouraged! Oh Jerusalem!

“But now take another look. I’m going to give this city a thorough renovation, working a true healing inside and out. I’m going to show them life whole, life brimming with blessings. I’ll restore everything that was lost to Judah and Jerusalem. I’ll build everything back as good as new. I’ll scrub them clean from the dirt they’ve done against me. I’ll forgive everything they’ve done wrong, forgive all their rebellions. And Jerusalem will be a center of joy and praise and glory for all the countries on earth. They’ll get reports on all the good I’m doing for her. They’ll be in awe of the blessings I am pouring on her.” Jer. 33:6-9

The Wrestler

Jay was a wrestler so he liked to wrestle with the boys. He had Trey pinned to get his phone. Parents do that just to irritate their kids, ya know.

I remember the laughter…just as if you had tickled him when he was five under his armpits. It became contagious.

Tears from laughter fell.

Tears fall from grief.

Wrestling. What do we wrestle with? I’m wrestling with migraines, depression, grief, a dying dog, and to be honest – God.

Where do you want us God?

Tears fall from frustration and stress.

Eight years ago they wrestled. Today, we are still wrestling.

So for me – my prayer today is from Psalms. “But You, O GOD, the Lord, deal kindly with me for Your name’s sake; Because Your lovingkindness is good, deliver me;”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭109:21‬C485D394-E1FA-4C03-A158-3F22CAD0A8EA

Righteous Anger vs. Real Anger

You deal with anger a lot when you are grieving.  Many Christians like to categorize our anger as “righteous.” But when does that righteous anger cross the line and become just plain anger?

I have found myself angry a lot lately.  I won’t sugarcoat it.  Ephesians 4:26 says, “When you are angry, do not sin, and be sure to stop being angry before the end of the day.”  This anger has led to so many other things, such as depression.  (You should see my house – war zone.)

Why am I angry? I hate cancer.  Oh, wait, another sin…hate.  I feel like instead of being eaten up with cancer, maybe I’m eaten up with sin.

Let me tell you why.  In the last three months, my husband has had surgery for malignant melanoma and basosquamous cell carcinoma; July was “Trey” month, his birthday and the anniversary of his death; I lost two good friends to cancer; and, I have another one that has just been diagnosed who is fighting for her life.  Collin’s endoscopy that was scheduled for August has been rescheduled for November.  I won’t even mention that Aretha Franklin died of pancreatic cancer.

I have to make it clear that I am not angry at God and I don’t know why.  I think because I have a healthy fear of the Lord.  I know God is good.  I think most people would be angry AT God believing that He is the cause.  Yes, I have shaken my fist in the air a couple of times over the last six years, but that has not resulted in any relief or extreme pleasure.

Can I admit that I am angry at the people working in research? Why haven’t you found a cure? Why do you keep saying you’re so close?  Don’t say you’re so close and lead us on.  I remember researchers saying that about ALS in 1982 before my Dad died and I don’t believe they are any closer than they were 30 plus years ago. I had to get that off my chest.

I want to place my anger somewhere.  When we are angry, we all want to place blame.  I do not know who to blame anymore.  I remember so vividly when the doctor who was from genetics came to see Trey at St. Jude to tell us about the P-16 gene.  They told us that it was passed from the father to the son and Jay immediately turned to the wall, became red, and tears began to flow down his face.  Dr. Sara’s hand suddenly grasped his shoulder and she said, “Jay, this is not your fault.”  I believe Jay carries that burden, as do I for giving birth to my children.  (It does take two, ya know.)  There is NO anger towards Jay and NO burden he should carry since God in His almighty power, knowing beginning to end, had a plan and purpose for Trey.

Wait, what?  …since God in His almighty power, knowing beginning to end, had a plan and a purpose…  My apple watch just told me to BREATHE.  And I think I just received an invisible B-12 shot!

Hummm.  “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:19-20

You might not see me in an outrage with my anger, but am I using this anger to help others, help them heal, grieve, or need Jesus? That would be righteous anger.  I don’t know that I am, but I want to.  I just know that God is not finished with me yet.  I am thankful He still catches all my tears.  I stepped out of the car crying yesterday…because the Dragons will play their last game in the stadium where Trey played.  Oh, my heart aches.  It aches for the past that cannot become the future.

I watched a video I recently taped for Trey.  The person asked if I liked it.  I told him that I had told Jay all I talked about was Trey’s faith and said nothing about how Trey suffered.  Jay and I got a good laugh how that sounded coming out of my mouth.  So did the person on the other end.  Maybe it not always about the suffering or the anger – righteous or not.  Maybe it’s just all about the faith.

Hey Buddy…It’s that time again :o(

Hey Buddy,

You are ever on my mind this week.

Six years ago was beach week.  Did I miss something that could have made you feel better? You had trouble breathing and I couldn’t help.  Your pain had increased tremendously, but I never would have thought your cancer would have spread so quickly.

All the “if I could have’s” and “what it’s” in grief make things so much worse.  Then someone will say to me, “But at least he is not in pain any longer.” Oh buddy, you now me better than anyone and if I didn’t have a whole lot of Jesus, I’d slap the fool out of them.

Three generations. Your Papaw, your Uncle Barry and dad, you and your brother. Cancer doesn’t play fair.

We got a perforated letter in the mail from St. Jude this week.  You know what that means; an appointment for Collin.  I just put it on the refrigerator, told him, and didn’t say anything else about it.  But he misses you.  He is defending your name now.  Collin has come so far.

I know people might be tired of seeing your videos I post, but if they are like me, I can’t hear your voice any longer.  Even though your clothes are still in your drawers, the smell of your skin is gone.  Sometimes, I have to stop and remind myself that you DID exist and you aren’t just a person in a bunch of pictures in my house.

Your dad is fighting hard. He sees the doctor in July to talk about his last round of cancer now that his neck has healed. You know nothing is going to keep him down.  But he’s getting tired.

You’d be so proud of your cousin Becky working at St. Jude in research.  I know there is not a day that goes by that she does not think of you.  And she loves the Kid’s Kafe!  Bobby is a nurse too.  Both of them making sure that people are taken care of for the future.

The future…what does that mean?

I think about research.  I think about our family.  I think how cancer has shortened the lives in our family.  Sometimes, I still get angry that you were only 15.  I know, I know.  I hear you.  It’s okay Mom.  But Trey, I’m a mom and I can be angry sometimes.  I’m not angry at God.  I just get angry at the situation.  What are people doing about it?  Are they working for a cure?

We talked about urgency in bible study and I shared your story.  We had no idea you’d be gone in four months.  That’s how we need to be about sharing about Christ.  Because we do not know how long our neighbor, friends, co-workers are going to be here.  It’s urgent for them to know our Savior.  I’m so thankful you took your faith to an urgent level.

My desire to get to heaven is urgent.  That’s why I understand the ugliness of suicide.  Don’t worry Buddy.  I won’t do that to our family.  But I was at that point after you died and I DID call someone, Papa K.  I DO know that suicide does not determine your eternity.  So many people are hurting in this world.  I’m glad that I am able to talk about it with anyone who needs to talk about it.  It doesn’t make me a bad person.  Geez. You know that!  I could not make it out of bed each day with you gone without my Jesus!  My headaches have been so bad lately, I haven’t made it out of the bed.  You know your daddy is DA BOMB at taking care of me! And COLLIN TOO!

This scripture is stuck in my head that you had highlighted in your bible:

Ecc. 3:11-12 “He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live.”

I’ve taken off work next week and we’ll be together as a family.  Not sure if we’ll do anything.  I might go get some purple balloons for you. Or maroon for Coach Mike! You know he’s doing great!

So for me, buddy, the future is about two things, an urgency for research and Christ.  I hope we can get that message out and young and old will grasp it.

One thing I hope people do is donate to West Clinic in honor of our family. 

Three generations have fought cancer and have been treated by West Clinic.  I can’t think of any other way to honor you this coming week than this.  We need research dollars!  Even small dollars!

Remember the white napkin you posted on Instagram? You are SUCH a bad person! Oh but we laughed and laughed till all our stomachs hurt.  Memaw didn’t think it was funny.  And this was the week you pulled the orange pants story.  So many memories I’ll never forget.  But so much pain that floods my mind and the anger when you knew you had to leave the beach because the cancer had returned.

Know that so many of us are thinking of you this week and next.  It will be such a hard, hard week.  But I think you are preoccupied with Jim Daddy! Weren’t you go happy when you saw him! I told him before he left this earth to tell you how much I loved you.  I hope you got the message.

I love you Buddy, thiiisssss much!  I still have things to do here, but I know I’ll see you soon.  #dogoodwhileyoulive

Click here to donate:

http://fight.westcancercenter.org/goto/lisaerwin

erwin-138-2

Praying a Child Into Maturity

Over the years as friends have expressed sadness when children either graduated from high school or left for college, my reaction has been, “Suck it up buttercup.”  There have been only a few people I have been brutally honest with and reminded them – Trey did not graduate, nor did he leave for college, so you can do this!

Now Collin has graduated high school.  God has shown himself in a big way over the last month.  Collin is in welding school and is living at home for the next year, so I am not experiencing separation.  However, Collin has been ready (he thinks) to be on his own for a long time and we have wanted that for him.  He has one year to finish welding school and during this year, I am praying the scripture that God has given me before he will be leaving.

Our children are on the edge of adulthood.  They are desperate to be adults but have one foot in the door of immaturity.  Why is this such a hard transition, especially for our precious boys?  I have researched the internet, read many articles and studies, and they have astonished me.

There is a study commissioned by Nickelodeon UK (yes, the child’s network) that said men do not mature until age 43 and women mature 11 years earlier! This explains it! (I jest. But really? 43!)

Many articles refer to this study. WHAT! Check out the reasons (from www.medicaldaily.com): (You’ll get a laugh and just think about it.)

  1. Finding their own passing of gas and burps amusing
  2. Eating fast food at 2:00 AM
  3. Playing videogames
  4. Driving too fast
  5. Finding rude words amusing
  6. Driving with loud music
  7. Playing practical jokes
  8. Trying to beat children at games and sports
  9. Staying silent during an argument
  10. Not being able to cook simple meals

I would like to share the little nuggets God has shown me to pray for Collin.  I’ll be honest; they just popped out at me on Pinterest and BAM – God said, Lisa, listen to me.  I have Collin.  This is for the mothers (and fathers) who are experiencing many waves of different emotions.  I know many that have already left for sport camps, academic camps, and then will continue on to college. Many are staying home! YAY! I know we cannot push our children into maturity (my frustration).

I firmly believe we can pray them through this time of their lives.  We may spend a lot of time on our knees.  God pleads for us to come to Him with the desires of our heart. Some of our broken hearts go to God daily with our children.

I have a sweet example of praying for our children. At Baccalaureate, Marti Ponton asked me to pray for Evan for an exam for the next morning.  I sent her a text that morning and said I had prayed for Evan.  Marti texted me back and said he had passed the exam.  There is nothing more precious than a mom praying for another mom and their child and telling them! #Foreverbonded

BE INTENTIONAL IN YOUR PRAYING!

#Momprayers

May my child know Christ and the power of the resurrection! Philippians 3:10

Father, I pray my child know you love him even more than I do.

Father, may my child be content with what he has been given. 1 Timothy 6:6-9

Father, please place within my child a desire to know you.

Father, thank you that nothing can separate my child from Your love! Romans 8:38-39

Father, I pray my child will love righteousness and justice. Psalms 3:3-5

Father, I pray my child sees those who are lonely and seek to include and encourage them.

Father, I pray my child’s mind is guarded by Your peace. Philippians 4:7

Father, may your Holy Spirit teach my child. John 14:26

Father, I pray you will lead my child with Your light and Your truth. Psalms 43:3

Father, I pray my child will know joy even in the tough times. James 1:2-4

God, may my child make wise use of his or her time. Ephesians 5:15-16

Lord, Help me to catch my child when they sin. Ephesians 5:13-14

God, may my child hide Your word in his or her heart.  Psalms 119:11

Father, I pray my child will be generous and ready to share. 1 Timothy 6:18

Father, I pray my child develops a forgiving heart.

Father, I pray you help my child focus on the important things in life! 2 Corinthians 4:18

There are SO many more.  You can find them on Pinterest under MomPrayers.  This certainly does not exclude men!

We, as parents, need to pray our children know Christ fully as they enter adulthood. 

I remember, just in four short months, I watched Trey mature both in life and in Christ.  Your child may reject your words.  If so, love him by deed, example, and prayer.  Trust me, your children are watching you – at every age.

God’s word will not come back void nor will our faithfulness! Here is to raising the next generation!

Let me hear you! #momprayers #prayermatters #raiseupachild #classof2018

 

 

 

What is With This Generation!

Okay, calm down. I’m not attacking the generation.  This is just my opinion and observation.  Agree or disagree, it’s just an observation.

I work in a profession where communication is the utmost key.  You cannot walk into a courtroom and not be expected to be able to effectively communicate with a judge, jury, or opposing counsel – much less your clients and co-workers.

It has come to my attention that even the younger generation of lawyers have need for communication and writing skills.  What has happened in the last 20 years?

I can tell you! THE CELL PHONE! THE IPAD! ANY FORM OF ELECTRONIC DEVICE! Even email is a culprit!

Prime example –

I was in the car with my son and we had the radio station on the 80’s.  He wasn’t impressed.  A song by Culture Club came on and I said, “I bet you don’t know who the lead singer is of this band!” As Collin continued to stare at his phone, he grunted, “No, why should I.” I laughed and said, “I was YOUR age! And it’s Boy George!” No response.

It took me back to a time that we did not have cell phones to stare into.  When we started college, we took tape recorders to class IF we wanted notes to take home. And, most of all, when we wanted to talk to people, we called them from our LANDLINE! Wait, who has a landline anymore?

What my main concern is are we teaching our young people to communicate with our older generation?  Here is what my husband was taught and passed on to our sons.

  1. ALWAYS take your hat off when you come inside a building (including restaurants, classrooms, and churches).
  2. When you meet/greet someone, look them in the eye and shake their hand.  This ALSO goes for women.
  3. When speaking, speak loud enough for the other person to hear you so that they do not have to ask what you said multiple times.
  4. Last, but NOT least, by all means, stand when someone greets to introduce themselves.

Somehow, I think these simple rules have been lost in the technological world of communication.  I feel like I am back peddling in teaching these rules at this point, but it does not hurt to remind our youth good communication manners.

I’d also like to ask another poignant question.  Have your own personal friendships suffered due to technology? I know mine has.  Should Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, texting, all the “stories” be our main form of communication?  I’ll leave it there.

So graduates, go into the world BOLDLY! You do not know WHOSE hand you may shake that has had an impact in history of this great country and might impact your life as well.

Oh, and I’m not telling you when I graduated.

Ready to hug and shake hands!

 

Cancer Visits Again

He said, “Sissy, I think my cancer is back.”

I replied, “I know.”

That is where we began approximately two plus weeks ago with the small lesion on his neck.  Just the two of us.  Husband and wife, ready to fight again.  Jay did not hesitate and he picked up the phone and called West Clinic.  The nurse told him that if she did not get him in that week to see Dr. Tauer to begin retaking his chemo pill that he took last year.  She called back and said he wants to see you Wednesday (March 28).  It took everything I had not to go with Jay, but there are some things Jay likes to do on his own.

I immediately felt alone because this is how satan wanted me to feel.  I decided to reach out to a few of my friends that I knew would pray immediately for us, who have walked this cancer path, and would support my abnormal feelings.  What I received were words of encouragement, obvious questions, and the ultimate reminder that God is in all things no matter what the circumstances may be at the time.

On Monday, April 2, Jay had scans on his abdomen, chest, and neck.  Dr. Fleming also did a biopsy of his neck and removed a mole from just below the biopsy on his neck and a mole on his shoulder.  Normally, visits at West are an all-day occurrence, but Jay was glad to be done by 10:30 a.m.  It’s amazing how West Clinic is such a well-oiled machine.  There are days that you can wait to see a doctor for hours, but the quality of care that you receive cannot compare to anything we have in Memphis.

Wednesday, April 4, the nurse practitioner called Jay late in the afternoon.  When he called me, I heard it in his voice.  It was the tone in his voice that made me want to sit down.  The cancer in his neck has returned as basal cell.  Both of the moles removed are malignant melanoma.  All the nurse could tell him is that they were planning on surgery and they would see him next Monday (April 9).  I felt like a balloon that slowly was leaking air.

I remembered that on Thursday, we were scheduled to go to West Clinic to film short messages for their upcoming West Fight On Campaign.  I knew Jay would not be “gung ho” about doing this, but I explained to him, this is exactly WHY we need to do this, because I am fighting for YOU.

As I pondered what my short message would be for the West Fight On filming, God began to remind me that HE himself is who is fighting for me…for Jay…for Collin…and for you.

“Do not fear them, for the Lord your God is the one fighting for you.” Deut. 3:22

The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.” Exodus 14:14

In addition, my favorite…

“He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power.  Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” Isaiah 40:29-31

Collin has been trying to decide on his next tattoo (he has Trey’s birthday and Trey’s signature on his thigh).  He has said that he wants either Philippians 4:13 or Isaiah 40:31.  I have quizzed him about both of these scriptures to make sure he knows them by heart and what they mean to him.  As I was turning to Isaiah last week, I realized in 2010 (when he was 10), I had traced his hand print over Isaiah 40:31 in my bible.  I shared this with him. I pray that this makes a lasting impression on what I have prayed for him for more than eight years.  He also is fighting a battle.

We all fight battles and many outside our own bubble do not know what is going on inside our households.  God DOES hold that key.  I truly believe that.  When I began one of my West messages and had to speak the words that I fight for THREE GENERATIONS that has been touched by cancer, it did not just roll off my tongue.  There were several takes because it was stuck in my throat.  The thought that the Erwin family has fought (and unfortunately lost to) cancer for over 25 years is overwhelming.  There has been ONE constant in our lives.  God has never, ever left us.  He has never forsaken me.  Have things been rough? Have I cried out to God for answers? Of course I have.  He is my Father and He is the one who gives the answers.  Right now, Jay and I do not know the answers, but we know we have each other and a faithful Father.

Jay and I will see the surgeon on Monday.  We know they have a plan for him.  We do not know if it includes radiation, radiation and chemo, or just chemo.  I do know several things.  I WILL continue to FIGHT for my family.  I WILL continue to lean on my Father for strength for my family and myself. There might be days that I will not get out of bed, and that is okay.  I might even miss church.  Nevertheless, MY God will never leave the Erwin family.

You might ask how do you do it.  Because we STILL count it all JOY! Yes, we do! Because I remember one year ago today, God showed himself in Trey’s body. He continues to show Himself through Trey and many others.  So if you are facing a trial of ANY kind, remember:

  1. Fight! Moreover, He will fight with you.
  2. Count it all JOY!
  3. Give HIM glory in ALL things!

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you KNOW the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3

 #prayfortheerwins

Carebridge Trey

The Walkways (Blog)

It hit me. Like the blustery, cold wind outside and a heavy weight on my chest, so unexpectedly as I pulled into the parking lot.  “It’s just a parking lot,” I told myself.  But my car instinctively knew where to drive and where to park.

The walkway was long to the Faith building.  I felt as if I was going in slow motion even though I willed my feet to move faster.  I watched as people in the their bundled coats whirled by me, but all I could do was glide.

One by one the memories came and haunted with voices swirling in my head.  “Mom, watch out!” The thoughts of endless touch football games in the open field that was filled with small pot holes made me smile.  I was always afraid of broken ankles from that area.

As I looked to my right there was a tree.  It took my breath.  Over the passing of time, the tree has grown from a twig to be an adult tree, thriving and surviving.  No longer in harm’s way of being stepped on by the barrage of children during Pumpkin Parties and a blow up bungee cord run.

“Hey Mom, look up!” I hear Trey’s voice coming from a place I KNOW he probably should not be.  Just that one time when your child finds his way up the stairwell onto the roof…with youth leaders.  And of course, he informs me later that he goes up there all the time. (WHAT?)  Why did God give him a super hero mentality? Was that part of his faith? He sure couldn’t fly, although he tried, many times and failed (bike, trampoline, pools, home plate, etc.).

As I continued to walk, I came upon the split in the walkway that leads to another door.  My heart sank a little lower as I knew this very short walkway was always filled with teens on sunny evenings looking for something to do after the service.  There was always a heavy debate whose car would be taken, whether they would go to Bacon’s house to swim, and sometimes just sitting (or jumping – don’t ask) on the hood of their cars for hours was enough.  Those were the days that hanging in the church parking lot by the walkway was “cool.”

By the time I reached the door, I told myself, “Lisa, you could have parked on the other side and walked around.” Collin was at basketball and I knew I could have walked up another familiar walkway.

I bet you’ve never thought about the different walkways as you enter a building.  Then my heart skipped a beat thinking that the other way around the church would have probably brought me to my knees.  As you enter the doors by the Cafe, look to your left.  There is a small garden of rocks.  Many of you might not know the story of the rocks in that quaint area.

At DNOW in 2012, the leaders turned the Faith building into a mock funeral home.  There was a casket, funeral directors, and even Cindy Few standing next to the casket singing your favorite hymns.  The kids did not know what was in store for them as they would enter the room in a single-file line to walk by this casket.  They were instructed to peer into the casket.  What they would see was a mirror giving them a reflection of themselves.  Afterwards, they had time to think about their reflection, the sin in their life, and the analogy of how we can bury our sins through Christ.

The casket was taken outside and the students gathered around a large hole in the ground.  It was such a chilly evening and the students were snuggled in close.  After Keith Cochran spoke, several of the students were given the opportunity to shovel dirt on the casket.  I distinctly remember Trey trying to pick up the shovel and throw the dirt on on the casket.  The shovel slid on the ground as the dirt fell off the shovel onto the casket.  The students were then escorted back inside for a “resurrection” party to celebrate their sins being buried…where the rocks still remain.

Since January, Jay and I have been visiting our home church, Germantown Baptist.  For me, even though the walk into the building has been hard, it has felt like home.  For Jay, as he told me, visiting has been difficult and he waits each time as he has walked into the building for Trey to come around the corner.  My heart and soul aches with understanding.  But there is something there that gives me peace.

Last Sunday, Jay and I walked into the church from a different walkway.  We entered the building through the main entrance.  As we walked up the walkway, I prayed, “Dear God, please do not let us linger here if it is not your will.  Please guide us in the direction you would have us go.”  It was not a magical or audacious prayer, just a simple plea.

Pastor Charles preached about storms and I believe it was anointed by God!  He preached from Mark 4:35-41.

Jesus Calms the Storm

35 As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 36 So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.

38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

39 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. 40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”

We always think when walking through the storms that God is not there and that He is not able to handle what we are facing.  I remember thinking when Trey got sick, “What have I done!” Pastor Charles was quick to point out that when storms come into our lives, we can fall into a trap of thinking that these storms are a punishment from God.  Pastor Charles reminded me that we can be right in the middle of God’s will, doing exactly what He wants us to do, and the fieriest storms will come.  Just as the Jesus was with the disciples in the boat and they were doing as He instructed.

“Sometimes, those storms will come when we are doing exactly what Jesus told us to do.” Charles Fowler.

Storms that tests us produce a crisis of faith.  (Sounds like James 1:2-3 to me!) Does God have the the power to deal with my storm and will He?  How many times I have asked myself that question and pleaded with Him to take it away from me and our family.  I can honestly say sometimes I feel like PigPen from Charlie Brown who carries a cloud of dirt wherever he goes, his own little storm.

I relate to the disciples asking Jesus in verse 38 if He cared if they were drowning.  I’ve often wondered that in my crisis of faith.  Do we sink or swim? Where are my swimmies!! The answer was simple when Pastor Charles said, “Do you believe that Jesus can speak peace in the midst of your storms?”  He can handle our storms, He hears our cries, He knows each fear before we face it, and most of all, He knows our hearts! NO ONE knows our heart like God.

After the service, Jay and I went to talk to Ben Cowell, the youth pastor, about many things in the Erwin home.  He gave us such sound advice and prayed over us as if the rafters were reverberating.  After a stern talk covered in love, Ben began to walk backwards and pointed at us and said, “Welcome home.”

Jay and I walked to the car and did not say anything as the cold wind hit us.  “Click, click,” went the seat belts.  Jay said, “Do whatever you’ve got to do for us to re-join the church.”  I said, “Are you sure?”  He said, “Are you sure?” I responded, “Yes! My prayer has been answered!”

Wednesday night as I walked the walkway to the Faith building again, I noticed the uneven sidewalk and the cracks in the concrete and I smiled.  I remember holding two little hands walking up that sidewalk when the building was first built.  There will always be memories of my boys, crisis in my faith, and times that I just can’t walk up that walkway.  But there is one phrase that offers the most peace in my life. When I reach heaven, I will see MY Jesus with MY boy with seats next to him and they will say…

Welcome Home.

Mercy and Grace Collide!

There has been one common theme I have gathered on social media the last few days.  Many people were very glad to see 2017 go.  As I read and read, I pondered the state of our society and just why people think 2018 will be any different than 2017.  For some, many things were out of their control, i.e. deaths, accidents, illnesses, job changes.  For others, I wonder about the heart.  Will 2018 make a difference if there is a heart change?

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matt. 6:19-21

The Erwin family certain had its ups and downs as I tried MY BEST to “be still and know that He is God.”  In every situation, I questioned God’s mercy as He delivered us over and over again.  I deserved His judgment so many times, yet He was faithful and merciful even when I didn’t see it in front of my face.

There was still anger in merciful deliverance.  Hummm…have you been there?

He also TAUGHT me how to use His mercy in my own family.  So many times I cried out to God begging for mercy with Jay’s cancer as I watched him suffer earlier in the year with the side effects from the drug he was taking.  It caused horrible body cramps that would land him in the floor and there would not be anything I could do but wait until the cramps passed.  Thankfully, we believe the drug did enough of its job and Jay does not have to take it anymore.  Wait, is that grace? And I was begging for mercy.  Grace is when God gives us good things that we do not deserve and could never earn.  I could never earn the bountiful blessing he gave to Jay of healing.

I’ve spent years praying for Collin and I continue. Raising children is not for the faint of heart, and they can break our heart. It’s like puppies when they know they have done wrong, our children do too.  They don’t want to hurt us, .  This summer, only through prayer, grace, and mercy did I watch my son turn a tragedy into a triumph to where I have never been more proud of who he is…not perfect, but my son.  He worked to graduate one semester early and is a graduate of Collierville High School and heading into the Tennessee College of Applied Technology this semester. Grace has a purpose and every day we live as an act of God’s mercy.  For four years, Collin saw mercy and grace in someone daily at CHS who guided him and loved him.  Without Kristy Krotzer, Collin’s life would be so different.  OUR life would be so different.  I walked in her office one day and there was this picture of a kid on her bulletin board.  My Collin.  Collin keeps reminding me how to extend grace and mercy.  Isn’t that what children are for?

I have been battling my health for months and my battle is not done.  If there has been an emotion to go through, I’ve gone through it.  But we are close! Mayo Clinic did what they were supposed to do, but I came home still stick and not able to eat.  I talked to Mayo and they told me to see my doctor in Memphis.  I saw Dr. Farooq and he told me there is a possibility I have what is called Median Acurate Ligament Syndrome or Dunbar Syndrome (nurses will know what this is).  As I sat crying in his office, totally exhausted of all emotions at that point, he took the time to show me on the computer a model work up of the Celiac Artery and Ligament.  This artery provides the oxygenated blood flow to the abdomen and its organs.  If this artery is blocked or the ligament it kinked, this will cause EVERY symptom I have been experiencing.  So I am waiting to have an angiogram to find the blockage, possibly schedule surgery with a vascular surgeon, and hopefully get back to a normal life.

Have I questioned God? YOU BETCHA! I’ve searched scriptures, and even began visiting our home church, Germantown Baptist.  God continues to lead me back to the same scripture that I have around my house:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3

That scripture is a direct promise of mercy and grace.  I think mercy and grace are best shown in salvation that is available through Jesus Christ.  We deserve judgment, but if we receive Christ as Savior, we receive mercy from God as we are delivered from judgment.  Just as with the scripture above, if I face my adversity with joy and glorify God, the testing of my faith will not seem as hard.  I know, I’ve experienced it!  What GRACE!

Because of the mercy and grace we receive, we are able to bypass judgment and spend eternity with Jesus.  Can we start 2018 with joy knowing that we will one day be with Him because our sins are forgiven?

“Let is then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

There is a Facebook status that is going around where you ask the following:

“Leave a positive word I can carry into 2018 that starts with the 1st letter of your name. It can only be 1 word. Then copy this to your wall so I can leave a word for you. Happy, healthy, and prosperous New year to my wonderful fb family!”

I fell for it because my love language is Words of Affirmation.  I share this because so many are searching for “words” to define their year and to help their resolutions.  I did that last year.  But what if we were this way EACH DAY?  I looked at each word and I thought, this is what a Christian is called to be! THIS needs to go on my prayer wall for encouragement! So as Mercy and Grace collide there will be forgiveness, kindness, loyalty, joy, strength, courage, warmth, compassion, passion, hope, laughter, blessings, but most of all, salvation.

Do you know who has all of those attributes?  I think in 2018, instead of a word, I will strive to be more like my Savior who has shown me more mercy and grace that I have ever deserved.  Has it been easy? Absolutely not.  But I look forward to the day that I can stand before my Savior and He will be able to say to me, “Well done thy good and faithful servant”.

May you search your heart for the same mercy and grace.

Pass me the Mayo, Please

As most of you know, I have been at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.  This began over 2 months ago when I began to feel sick, not being able to eat, nauseated, and began dropping weight – presenting as my gastroparesis does.  I went to see my doctor at GastroOne (Dr. Farees Farooq), who I have the utmost trust.  We both thought that my gastroparesis was acting up and he did what any doctor would do, treat the symptoms and took some blood.  I explained about the pain on my right side and asked him if he thought it could be my pancreas.  He said he didn’t think so.

So we went forward for two weeks treating my symptoms and I had lost over 10 pounds.  So I called him and told him I was not getting better, only worse.  He asked me to come in immediately and we scheduled an endoscopy because he was afraid there was a gallstone lodged in my bile duct years after my gallbladder had been removed.  Before surgery was when he realized my pancreatic enzymes were elevated and he planned on looking at my pancreas.

Once my endoscopy was done, everything looked fine EXCEPT my pylorus muscle which is usually open to allow your food to pass into your digestive system.  Mine was almost closed.  He opened it with a balloon to 8 mm.  He said if he opened it any wider, he would take a risk of pain for me and putting a hole in my stomach.  We hoped this would do the job.

Still, a week later, I returned to him to talk about these results and he wanted to take more blood work to see if my elevated pancreatic enzymes were a fluke.  It was not a fluke and they were still elevated.  After conferring with another doctor at GastroOne, they recommended that I come to Mayo to have several tests that are more invasive with more expertise than in Memphis.  Next thing I know, I get call on Monday and my first appointment was on Thursday (of last week).

My mother-in-law, Cecelia, and I caught a flight Wednesday to Rochester and I had my first appointment on Thursday.  I learned so much information in just my first appointment.  He told me I had pylorus stenosis, just by reading my records.  It is a condition where the opening between the stomach and the small intestine thickens usually by scar tissue.  I don’t know why did he not think my pancreas had anything to do with what I as going through, but they did want to check it. Big revelation for me, you cannot have gastroparesis and pylorus stenosis at the same time even though they produce the same symptons.  Yes! can have salad again!

There first plan was to do an Endoscopy to make sure my pylorus was still open from the Endoscopy I had in early November.  He was afraid it had closed back up.  The instruments they use for the Endoscopy and the EUS (Endoscopic Ultrasonography) are different and larger.  So they are two different procedures.  They promised me they would be able to do both and not have me come back.

The second plan was to have abdominal injections.  Abdominal pain can be caused from scar tissue from previous surgeries (gallbladder) or from stress.

I said, okay, let’s get this done! Then I get my schedule.  Remember, this was LAST Thursday.  They schedule me for THIS Thursday and Friday telling me that I could not eat 48 hours prior to my test, but they would put me on a cancellation list.  I asked how does that work?  Just not eat until you call?  I think even the nurse was flustered.  She promised me that they do all they can to move patients up.  So I didn’t eat Friday, Saturday, or Sunday – except for clear broth and Jello.  By this time I’m down 22 pounds.

Friday, we knew they were not going to call for anything, so Cecelia and I took at shuttle to the Mall of America.  I can’t walk very far without hurting.  That was evident by throwing up a glass of tea at the mall.  But it was good to get out and enjoy the Mall.

I’ve been lucky to have a mother-in-law with me that loves sports, Hallmark movies, and loves to shop.  But it has been hard on Jay not being here.

Monday arrived and Cecelia and I went to the Pain Department and was able to move my injections up to Wednesday, but we had the option to sit as a “checker” in case a space opened up.  While we were sitting there, they called me and told me my EUS/Endoscopy had been moved up to Tuesday at 6:45 a.m.  YES!

We had to be in the Gonda Building at 6:30 and I was one of the first patients.  The nurses, anesthesiologist, and surgeon were all just a nice as they could be.  Once they took me back, I was out…and they listened to me about my anxiousness and gave me happy juice before I even went in.  I don’t remember much after the surgery except they had decided to entebate me because I had thrown up and because so many tube would be going into my stomach.  The cough bothered the rest of the evening, but I was able to sleep.

Wednesday, (today), I was scheduled for my abdominal injections.  These were trigger point injections which I explained to the three doctors in the room that I had received these for my migraines.  They explained it would not be much different.  When I saw the doctor the first appointment, he asked me to do a crunch.  I did it in great pain.  This is when he identified the abdominal wall pain.  When in Memphis, when Dr. Farooq would press on certain areas, I would come off the table.  They explained this tenderness does not reach down to the pancreas or main organs.  This is the muscles in the abdomen protecting the organs.  They marked me with pens and even though there were only two needle sticks, they moved the needles around to release medicine in difference areas of the muscles without completely removing the needle.  Like trying to find a vein in your arm for an IV.  They were using an ultrasound over my ab while doing the injections.  Trust me, I was NOT quiet during this progress, so they knew they were hitting the right spots.

They told me I would feel relief in two days and pain should completely subside within six days.  We’ll see.  I sure am sore.  Try to cough!

We met with Dr. Majunga, the doctor I met with my first appointment.  I told him I was still hurting, of course, but I’m sure that’s being sore.  The doctor said I have gastric outlet obstruction.  The surgeon was able to stretch my pylorus to 15 mm.  I was shown the before and after pictures and as we suspected, the pylorus was almost closed again.  The stretching did cause bleeding and he hopes this will stay.  Dr. Majunga and the surgeon did mention about a stent, but you have to fail two out of three stretching procedures before they will stent the pylorus.

I simply asked, “What has caused all this?”  He said you have a history of peptic and duodenum ulcers, and gastric ulcer disease (combo of both).  I’ve had many Endoscopies and biopsies and they have come back fine.  I will not get the results of stomach and pylorus biopsies for at least 48 hours.  He also told me stress is one cause.  My simple answer was then give me a pill!  His answer was not that easy.  He knew my history from my father’s death (first ulcer) all the way through Trey’s death and he said I had plenty of reasons to have what I have.  But instead of a pill, he has a book for me to read regarding dealing with stress.  He knows my strong faith.  He said this book deals with diets and how to live a better life without stress.  Cecelia said she might be getting one too.  That’s the first thing on my agenda to do before we leave tomorrow.  GET THAT BOOK! Resist ugliness in life, and Consider it all Joy!  I am thankful for my friends that have cared for me!  You are a blessing!

For the future:  I can only drink smoothies or slushes for the next 4 to 6 weeks and then I have to call him and tell him how I feel.  If I feel better, I can begin to introduce solid foods into my diet, but no solid foods until then.  He wants me to stay on my Omeprezole (acid reducer), which I may have to stay on the rest of my life.  I also can take my nausea med (Zofran) as needed.

He wants me to go home and rest over the weekend and return to work on Monday.  He realized my body has been through quite an ordeal over the last week and it takes a couple of days to bounce back.

Thank you Mayo for your excellent treatment.  Thank you Dr. Bob Waller, my friend and confidant, who has checked on me 24/7 (President Emeritus of Mayo Clinic), and a special thank you to my mom-in-law for taking the time to spend a week with me and roll me around in a wheel chair!

What a ride! You’re prayers were felt! Keep praying…we don’t want C biopsies!