Chaotic Beauty

Beauty from Ashes. “To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.” Isaiah 61:3

“Gloom despair and agony on me. Deep, dark depression, excessive misery. If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all. Gloom, despair, and agony on me.” You’re singing it, I know. It’s okay. How many watched Hee Haw on Saturday night? Roy Clark and Buck Owens made those lyrics such a comedic moment.

Despair and chaos. They are such good friends. They both cause a loss of hope. I think you will agree our country is experiencing such despair and chaos.

Six months ago chaos envaded our home on many levels. In October of 2021, I found myself in the middle of a battle with good and evil. I posted on Facebook asking for prayer for the Erwin family. I was screaming inside, but knew the quickest outlet for my frustration was a plea for prayer. Only my husband, close family, and two best friends knew what was happening in our household. I had begun having more headaches, panic attacks, and anxiety induced heart arrhythmia.

DESPAIR AND CHAOS

  • While Jay and I were on vacation in Wisconsin in October, Collin called to say that he was moving out that weekend. This was the weekend we were returning from vacation. While this is the natural process your grown child should take, the selfish mother in me knew that I would be alone when Jay went to work. The loneliness began to overtake me and flood my soul with thought of losing two boys. Yes, that sounds a little crazy, but if you have sent a child off to college, you understand.
  • Jay had his regular visit at West Clinic right after Collin moved out. The cancer hole (that’s what I call it) on the side of his neck had stopped moving in the direction of closing. Instead, the hole was getting a tad bigger. Even though his CT scan did not show the presence of cancer, Dr. Tauer was concerned about the changes. Dr. Tauer asked for Jay to have an MRI before his appointment to see his surgeon, Dr. Fleming. It has only been in the last few weeks that Dr. Tauer called Jay to tell him they did not see anything suspicious on the MRI, but he still wanted him to get Dr. Fleming’s opinion. Jay saw Dr. Fleming in December and he told him the only way to know before having surgery to close the hole is to do a biopsy.
  • Without going into a lot of personal detail (names have been changed to protect the innocent, haha), I began to see the direction of my 23-year career at Burch, Porter & Johnson go in a different direction. Joe was doing much better at practicing to retire, and I felt the parts of our well-oiled machine begin to rust. Things around me at the office began to fall apart and I did not understand the changes. I craved support from a firm that had walked with my family through many difficult times. Satan was having a field day with my emotions causing havoc on my body.

THE DAWN OF HOPE

As many say, you can’t make this stuff up. On Saturday (the day after my visit to the internist about my heart-who wanted me to see a cardiologist), I received a friend request on Facebook from Steve McDaniel. Steve is an outstanding estate planning attorney I have known for over 30 years (before going to BPJ) and a friend of Joe’s. Without hesitation, I accepted his request and told myself I would check with him on Monday. I actually mentioned it to Jay that night and thought – “That sure was out of the blue.”

Monday morning (Nov. 8) the following email exchange occurred between the two of us:

Me: “You sent me a legit friend request – right? I wanted to make sure it was you.”

Steve: “Yes, it was me.”

Me: “I’m glad! I might be calling you soon!”

Steve: “Not that you are looking, but we have a paralegal who retires December 10 and has not been replaced.”

Me: “Oh my goodness. We need to talk.”

Steve had no idea the circumstances in my life. He only knew, as everyone else did, that Joe had retired and the direction of my career was not clear. That is how I felt after much upheaval among the ranks. As the email progressed, it turned into an immediate plea for Steve to take me into his firm. I did it without a second thought. Things were moving fast, like within hours. The partners met Monday evening and Steve sent me a confirmation text that one of the attorneys would be sending me an email. Salary…increased. Paid time off…increased. I was in shock, but not questioning God’s movement.

Within two weeks, God opened a door, shoved me through, and closed the chapter of my life at Burch, Porter & Johnson. I can honestly say that even though I knew it was what God had intended for me, the decision to turn in my resignation was difficult. God covered me with an overwhelming peace. December 1, 2021, I began a huge, new chapter as a paralegal at Williams McDaniel and God loudly closed the door at Burch, Porter & Johnson. I honestly could not have walked down that path of decision making without my husband, family, and my besties (Becky and Andrea).

As the months have gone by, Jay and I have watched Collin mature into a responsible young man. I no longer wake early in the morning worrying if he will wake to his own alarm. My baby, all grown up. As I said at Christmas, it has been a joy to slowly see a smile return to his face and hear the laughter when he joins us for dinner once a week. He knows this house will always be his home as we watch him fly.

Today (Friday), Jay will have his pre-op bloodwork for surgery on Thursday, January 20. Dr. Fleming decided that Jay needs to have a biopsy done by surgical procedure because the area he wishes to access is close to his carotid artery. I would not be human if I did not admit that I worry. History causes us both anxiety. Jay has come to the point of wanting the wound closed. This will be a complicated surgery and we both know that there cannot be evidence of cancer. We are praying for a clean report to pursue this avenue. After 10 years of surgeries, biopsies, chemotherapy, and radiation, it’s time. (BUT! Dr. Tauer did tell Jay that if cancer ever returns after the surgery involving a plastic surgeon, he will be able to resume chemo.)

Ten years. It was ten years ago the cancer in Jay’s neck began to surface. It has been 25 years since his first melanoma surgery (December 1995). Ten years ago we also began a journey no parent wants to travel. It is hard to fathom it has been 10 years since we were told Trey had cancer. As I have said many times, for this mother, it was yesterday and he is still 15. If people do not understand that grief will always be a part of our lives, I’m okay…you move on and I’ll move on. I have gained friends through my LimeLife family that have also walked this journey and new friends in my workplace that knew our story before I walked in the door. God provides and preserves.

As despair and chaos unexpectedly collided over that last six months, I have struggled to maintain the hope I have in my Jesus, and find the beauty in my circumstances. In my daily devotion this week, God spoke to me so clearly. “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Ps. 42:5

January 12 – From A Shelter From the Storm

“It is difficult to remain hopeful when you are depressed and everything you do seems to fail. You can, however, fight this situation.

*Believe that God is greater than your circumstances and any problems that are weighing you down. Accept the victory in His holy name. “In all things we are more than conquerors.” Rom. 8:37

*Lay your problems before the Father in earnest and specific prayer.

*Believe steadfastly that God can and will achieve something glorious through this dark period in your life. “And we know that all things work together for good for those that love the Lord.” Rom. 8:28 (One of my favs)

*Make a conscious effort to turn your eyes away from yourself to see the world in need. God has a purpose in all things.

God is still on the throne and still in control.”

If I read this devotion six months ago, it would not have spoken to my heart to help me remember the need I have to continually and totally depend on the Lord. Period. The beauty is in God’s timing. The recent turmoil brought me back around to a point of dependence and trust.

If you are or have ever been in a place where you feel the chaos of this world is overtaking you or swallowing you whole, remember that there is beauty in the suffering. One thing I vividly remember after Trey’s funeral on July 7, 2012, is the rain that started to fall at the graveside service. I said to myself, “It is July and 90 degrees! Why is it starting to rain!” When we returned to the church, it was still raining. Courtney Jordan (Dahlsten) and Karson Jones (Iberg) convinced Jay to step outside the Faith Building doors and stand in the rain. What did God provide? A beautiful rainbow. A reminder of His promise He is always near.

He is always near during the chaos to majestically show His beauty.

Covid. God is still near.

Cancer. God is still near.

Job change. God is still near.

Job doubts and difficulties. God is still near.

Your baby growing up. God is still near.

10 year, heart-wrenching anniversaries. God is absolutely still near.

Till the end of time. God is still near.

The Lord has blessed my soul.

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

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

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

 

4838-4796-0252, v. 1

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

Iphone 2017 447

 

In St. Jude/Out St. Jude

That day is very vivid in my mind. It was so hot as we sat in the car. It we just the two of us, Jay and I. July 5, 2012. We had just walked out of St. Jude for what we thought was the last time and left Trey’s sick cancerous body. We both looked at each other and said, “What are we doing to do now?” We had no idea where the next 7 to 8 years would take us and that it would keep us at St. Jude.

Soon after Trey’s death, Dr. Sara Federico contacted us and set up an appointment for Collin to see her. We knew that he carried the same malignant melanoma gene that we believe caused Trey’s cancer. Dr. Sara told us that normally they send patients out for screening since they do not actively have cancer. Dr. Sara loves our family. She petitioned the powers that be and also because of Trey, Collin remained a St. Jude patient for screening. . .until February 19, 2020.

What my head was saying in both instances was the right thing.

“THIS IS WHAT IS NATURAL AND NEEDS TO HAPPEN!”

But my heart had emotions swirling like a carousel at Disneyworld. The picture below shows Collin walking down a long hallway at St. Jude as we enter the Chili’s building to go to our car to leave. What you DON’T see is that he was so happy he was walking and weaving from one side of the hall to the other. No more Kid’s Kafe, no more patient number, no more little red wagons, and no more painted halls. Now, it will be West Cancer Clinic. Leaving with one child and left without one child.

As I thought further when I took another picture through the windshield of St. Jude to go along with the 10 million I already have, our hospital is our church. How many of us leave our church, turn around, and feel sadness because of what life is handing us? Feeling cancerous.

We drove away and didn’t chat much, but I kept thinking. Jesus is our healer, our Jehovah Raphah. This last week or two has been very hard on us because Jay had surgery on February 18, my mother died that afternoon, and Collin’s appointment was on the 19th. There has not been a time of whaling or crying over our mother. We were at peace because she wanted to see Jesus more than anything. We were at peace.

I have the verse of the day sent to my phone each day and on February 26th it read, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matt. 5:4. I posted it on my Facebook story and said “You can’t make this stuff up.” I wanted people to know that God was comforting me and speaking to me in the most amazing ways and through friends and loved ones in our church. I actually got excited and began to think more about the church being the hospital and I began to pray that people would know that there are really genuine people in the church there to love and serve you and tell you about how Jesus can save you and give you the peace you so desperately desire.

There are things in our life that we have let sin become a cancer and metastasis to other people in the church. We know their needs to be forgiveness and He is waiting to cure us of all the ugly diseases we carry.  There may not be healing, like with Trey, but he’s healthy in heaven. We know we do not have the power to save, only God. There will be changes, as with Collin. There will be more bad news of cancer, as with Jay. But I know, I KNOW, like I told someone else, He never promised us an easy road. He only promised to walk with us through the valleys. He’s got my hand! You need to grab it too!

Psalms 23 – From the Message.

 God, my shepherd!
    I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
    you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
    you let me catch my breath
    and send me in the right direction.

Even when the way goes through
    Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
    when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
    makes me feel secure.

You serve me a six-course dinner
    right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
    my cup brims with blessing.

Your beauty and love chase after me
    every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
    for the rest of my life.collin st jude

Bloom Where You Are Planted

I can’t believe it has been since September that I have posted, but I know it has been that long that I have been struggling.

I’m going to test your memory. Remember the test that you have taken to know what spiritual gift you have? You may have the gift of  teaching, serving, giving, etc. Many people have more than one. Do you think that God changes these gifts in your life? This is an honest question.

I have had several gifts for many, many years and I have felt a tug from God to go in another direction. How in the world do you say NO to using your gifts? This has caused sleepless nights, bad dreams, stress, until I began to pray about this certain activity.

I was given an amaryllis plant at Christmas and I put it on my desk and I have watched it miraculously grow, produce what would turn out to be the most beautiful blooms. I walked into work last week and saw the plant in full bloom.

I was doing my bible study last week and this jumped off the page at me:

Because we have Christ, no matter WHAT is going on around us, there is always a reason to rejoice. Because Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever;…”

“Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever;…” I looked at the plant again and this phrase came to me – Bloom Where You Are Planted. Okay, so, what? I listened a little closer.  This plant requires NO water. It is not in a pot and is not in the ground. It made me ask the question of myself, where am I planted that I can pour out the beauty of Christ? I immediately started with the area I was struggling and a peace came over me to let it go.

I have two areas right now that I feel responsible to concentrate on in my life; home and work. I have struggled over the last six months to be the person that writes the gratitude list, the person that journals in five colors (and spent too much money to try), that studies from three bibles, that is committed to two bibles studies, and even rearranged my dining room to have a study area.

To be honest, my name is Lisa and I have tremors. I can barely write study notes anymore. I work 60 hours a week (hard). My husband and I need each other desperately during this time in our life to make it through his cancer battle and my migraines.  We just found out today he has another melanoma and there will be more surgery.  My son needs me and he is growing into a wonderful young man and I am SO proud. I need to be on top of my game at Burch, Porter & Johnson for many reasons.  A smile goes a long way.

Bloom Where You Are Planted. . .

“God has planted you where you are that you might be a blessing. He wants you to take deep root. He wants you to bear rich fruit. And if you will draw upon His spiritual power, He will enable you to be a blessing. Bloom where you are planted and bear fruit to the glory of God and the enrichment of others.

God has blessed you with certain abilities so you may invest them in others and bring glory to Him. As you use your God-given talents, you glorify Him and bless others. Draw from God’s spiritual resources and let Him use you to enrich others. (Ps. 80:8-13)”

                                                                                          The Baker Publishing Group

Yes, Lord. I hear you. I will strive to bloom where you have planted me as a wife, mother, and employee. Do not be afraid to step back, look, and bloom.

(Yes, this is my plant pictured)

flower