Grief Multiplied


Writer’s Note: Losing a loved one is hard, but when you have no idea about that loved one’s spiritual condition, the grief is multiplied times infinity. I know. I’ve experienced this place of excruciating limbo with two of my loved ones so far this lifetime. I wrote about it a few years ago following the death of one of my brothers and I share it today again because its message is so important.

Whether you are the griever or the “lost,” this post is for you. I do hope you will take some time to read, comment and/or share it if you feel so led.

And, if you have not accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior or you have, but for whatever reason haven’t shared your decision with your loved ones, please consider taking the next step today–if not for yourself, for your loved ones. Please don’t take a chance on leaving them to wonder if they will see you again. 

Lastly, if you are the one left behind to wonder, just know that God will NOT NOW OR EVER leave nor forsake you and He will help you through it. He certainly did me and my family.

May God continue to wrap us all in His infinite love and blessings and may we all feel His Presence today and everyday. Amen and Ehmen.


September 7, 2016

One year ago today, I heard your voice for the last time.

I miss you, dear brother.

Truth is, I have missed you every day since you left us, but as we move closer and closer to the one year anniversary of your death, it has been especially hard.

While the grief process continues and I have taken many strolls down memory lane remembering your life, these last few days have found me especially reflective of your death. Those were dark days, brother. Painful days. It was so hard to watch mama as she realized she had to let you go. No mother should ever have to bury her child.

It was hard to watch the interaction between you and Karen. It was obvious that she was the love of your life. As dim as your eyes became, the soul-depth love you had for her burst forth like a beacon in the darkest of nights. It was heartbreaking and heartwarming all at the same time.

It was hard for all of us who loved you to say goodbye, but we didn’t have a choice. All of our days on this earth are numbered and, ready or not, one day the last day will come for all that have ever drawn breath. Still, I can promise you none of us were ready for it to be your time.

At the time, the worst part of it all, Gary, was not really knowing your spiritual condition; not being sure that you had accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Not being sure that you would soon enjoy everlasting life with our Father in Heaven. I know that it was said many times right before and after your passing that a man’s faith is a personal matter and that one doesn’t have to talk about it, but that just isn’t true. No words will ever be able to express the extreme heartache not knowing levies on the hearts of those who struggle with the thought of never seeing their loved one again.

It is the same wrenching heartache that I felt a few years prior when I, as an adult, began to deal with the tragic death of our daddy decades before. In talking to mom one day, I discovered that at the time of dad’s death, she wasn’t certain of his salvation. Like you, he was a man with a heart of gold and a man of great respect and humble attitude, but, unfortunately, they had never talked about it. Having been only eight when dad was taken from us, I never really got to know him. I can only hope for another chance on the other side.

But, back to you. Your last days were heavily laden with prayer, by me, by family, by friends and the church. Though I didn’t really get the opportunity to talk to you directly about God, our cousin Patty did. Still, we weren’t sure where you stood and that hurt more than anything. But, then something happen. I was getting ready for your memorial service. It had been an emotionally charged week and I really wasn’t thinking about anything. My mind and emotions were taking a well-needed time-out when, out of the blue at exactly 7:53 a.m. September 10, 2015, the following words floated into my mind. As clear as the spoken word I heard Him say: “I know his name, child, and he knows Mine.”

Now, Gary, that’s not a phrase that I had ever heard and I knew instantly that it was the still small voice of our ever-loving God. Powerful words swaddled in that unsurpassed comfort and peace that can only come from Him. I just knew and it’s all I needed.

I was so excited and relieved that when got to your memorial service, the first person I hunted down was Patty; and when we hugged, I excitedly whispered the good news. She, too, began to grin from ear to ear.

“Brenda,” she told me. “I prayed all night and all the way up here, begging God to show either you or me that Gary was with Him.”

Sigh. What a beautiful gift. I can’t tell you how much easier it made it to say goodbye. You know it rained during your service that day and I can just remember thinking that it was apropos. In fact, I think it was Heaven’s way of helping us mourn our loss while celebrating its gain.

Now, what about dad?

Though I have spent the last several years hoping and feeling like he is probably with you in our eternal home in Heaven, I have never received such certain reassurance as I did with you. Until this week. Enter another cousin. This one, Debbie, one of Uncle Don’s daughters. She had read a recent post about how hard it was to hear that daddy’s salvation was also unknown to those who loved him most. It spurred a memory that she shared, probably a nudge from God, if I had to guess.

As you know, Uncle Don also left this earth way too early. He died in a car accident when he was in his early 30s, leaving behind a beautiful bride and two beautiful young daughters. Daddy always made sure to stay connected to them and our families were quite close, I am told.

What I didn’t know was that Aunt Vera Lee, Uncle Don’s widow, had spent some time in the hospital visiting daddy during his last days. Debbie relayed a sweet story that her mom had shared before she passed about how they sang a hymn together and that daddy had been the one to start the singing. She also relayed how she had felt the presence of Uncle Don in the room with them, so heavy, in fact, that she said she actually spoke his name out loud.

“Brenda, Mama said that she was convinced that she felt Daddy Don’s presence so strongly because he had come to show Uncle Billy the way,” my dear cousin wrote in a note this week. “And we all know the devil doesn’t send someone to comfort and guide you on your journey home.”

Sigh. Another beautiful gift. We will see you both again! And Uncle Don, who I never knew. And Grandma. And Granddaddy. And our beautiful aunts, Aunt Hazel and Aunt Vera Lee. You are all there waiting for the rest of us and celebrating every moment with our Awesome and Beautiful Creator. I can only imagine, but boy oh boy do I enjoy imagining that day!

But, until then, I still miss you. And, yes, there are still tears, but they are no longer all sorrowful. They are also intermingled with tears of joy knowing you are enjoying everlasting life and that one day we will meet again.

Until then, to you and all of our loved ones previously departed, much love from earth to heaven.

Amen and Ehmen.

Stopped In Their Tracks: It’s Going To Be All Right.


Writer’s Note: I first recorded this blog entry in February 2016. It was during a time of storms and health scares and God showed up to comfort me in a miraculous and undeniable way. I share this again because God guided me through this same health scare yesterday as well as a series of other storms that have occurred over the last month, bringing my mind back to this very event as He continues to comfort me and let me know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that He is right here with me and it is indeed going to be all right. I don’t necessarily know the details of how it will all work out, but He is PATIENTLY teaching me that I don’t have to know. I just have to know and TRUST Him. If you are going through anything at all right now, if you feel scared, alone, or simply need something to boost your faith, I hope you will read this. God loves us, y’all. He really, really does!

deer image for amenandehmen

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.—Hebrews 11:1

What a beautiful, hope-inspiring verse. It flows like honey from the lips of whomever recites it and gives comfort to all who struggle with the troubles and tribulations that are guaranteed to come as long as we continue to live and breathe this side of Heaven.

However, when you are in the midst of those troubles, most of us would be less than truthful if we said that we did not ever doubt. Indeed, sometimes our confidence in what we hope for DOES wane. Sometimes we’re NOT so assured that the things we cannot see are fully under the control of a loving God who will use them for our good.

The fact is, sometimes, when life gets hard, uncertainty will often fuel fear instead of hope and, if you are like me, it becomes more about survival—just putting one foot in front of the other—than it does about resting in peace and hope. It becomes more about drifting in seclusion and fear than living in the presence of God and trusting His promises fully and completely.

Truth be told, as much as I love God and as much as I know in my heart that He is always present and always worth trusting, I have still loitered in a self-imposed seclusion at times; wandered aimlessly through shadowy valleys where cares and concerns take the form of dark and menacing shadows hell-bent on blocking the light in my life. In fact, over the past few months, it feels like I have stood frozen and wrought in fear more than I have walked in peace and rested in trust and faith, even though I absolutely know better.

Thank God I know better. Thank God for the proverbial and omnipresent life-line that He continually invites us to grab hold of and uses to pull us back to a place where we can see Him, hear Him, and feel Him. Thank God, He never gives up. No matter how many times we drift away and lose sight, He just keeps offering Himself to us over and over and over, repeatedly reminding us that He is right beside us and worthy of our trust.

So, as I continued to occupy that valley between fear and worry and complete trust in Him, God started pulling me back to Himself. And, just as He often does when there is something He wants me to really hear, He began putting the subject in my path so many times and in so many ways that it was simply impossible to deny. It seemed that He used practically every thing I read and heard to assert the same truth. Trust Me, He said again and again.

And, trust me, I had heard quite a few messages in the last couple of weeks. Realizing my spiritual and prayer life was collecting dust, I had recommitted myself to the daily habit of spending my half hour drive to and from work either praying or listening to podcasts by various preachers and teachers. It’s something I had enjoyed for several years and I was hoping that it would get me reconnected and out of this cycle of fear and worry which I had fallen into. And, of course, never one to disappoint, God Almighty, the Teacher of teachers, showed up and picked up right where we left off.

Now, I don’t want to say that He harped on and on about that one thing that I was obviously needing most at this point in time, but I will say He was quite persistent. Days turned into weeks and podcast after podcast, sermon after sermon, in one way or another, all dealt with same subject: trusting Him; living in His presence; walking and dwelling with the Holy Spirit; not fearing; and, finally, believing in His good plan for my life, no matter what.

Everyday. It didn’t matter who was delivering it, the message was the same. Steven Furtick. Andy Stanley. Joyce Meyer. Louie Giglio. Over and Over. I couldn’t hide from it. Though, truth be told, I really didn’t want to.

I wanted nothing more than to honor God and find that place of peace for myself where my trust in Him is unbridled. And, so, on my way home one day, after hearing Joyce Meyer preach on the Holy Spirit, I turned off my radio and began to pray. From the Eisenhower exit to Hartley Bridge, I prayed for God to once again heighten my ability to sense the Holy Spirit as well as my ability and desire to follow His lead. I asked to hear His voice loud and clear and to once again be able to trust that everything in my life would be used by Him. I asked for reassurance that it—that I—really was going to be okay. “God, show me that it’s going to be okay,” I pleaded.

As I rode along praying from the deepest reaches of my heart, I suddenly became overwhelmed with this feeling that I was in danger. Completely out of the blue, I sensed that there were deer in the woods parallel to the interstate I was driving on and that, at any moment, that they were going to dart in front of my car. I can’t explain it, but it was so real and so intense that I began to feel panicked.

My first instinct was to brake and slow down, for I figured that slowing down would either keep me from hitting them or, at the very least, lessen the impact. However, when I looked in my rearview mirror, there was a car practically tailgating me, rendering that plan null and void. Next, I considered changing into the middle lane, thinking that I could perhaps put a little more distance between myself and them, but, yet again, a car was fast approaching there as well.

Finally, I did the only thing I could think of left to do, and I blurted out the following plea, “Lord, please just stop them in their tracks! Stop them in their tracks, Father!”

Just like that, the feeling of looming danger dissipated just as quickly as it had started. I took a deep breath and thanked God for this unseen, but deeply felt occurrence. The sense of danger had been so real, but, thankfully, this peaceful, safe feeling felt just as real. That in itself was enough, yet my impromptu lesson on trust wasn’t quite over. Just as I was exhaling a breath of relief, my eyes were almost magnetically drawn to the woods just beyond the road’s shoulder. I couldn’t believe what I saw. There, standing tall, his body half in the woods and half out, was a deer! Head held high, looking in my direction and poised like he had literally been stopped in his tracks!

Though I would have been content with the feeling of relief I experienced a split second earlier, God knew that I needed to see it with my own two eyes. In fact, if you recall, I had just asked Him to come close and to show me that it was going to be okay; that I was going to be okay; and He did just as I had asked! Astounded, I immediately began to gush words of thanksgiving and praise.

Oh, how very much he taught me in those precious seconds and in the hours that followed as I recounted this beautiful experience.

For one, my initial response, as you may recall, was to try and do something myself. I checked the rearview mirror to see if I could slow down and then checked the side mirror to see if I could change lanes. Then and only then did I call out to our Lord to take control of the situation. I don’t know about you, but I do that all the time. I try everything in my power first, when I could save myself a whole lot of trouble by just asking God for help to begin with.

Secondly, I fully believe the woods are symbolic of things that have been going on in my life. Unknown things, such as my health, have been weighing heavily on me and causing angst. But, in just a few moments while driving down I-75, our beautiful Father in Heaven sent me a reminder that just like He controlled that deer in the woods that He was also in control of my health, my future and anything else that I might not be able to see. All I have to do is call out to Him.

Lord, I will never be able to thank You enough for answering me when I call out to You and for being relentless in Your pursuit of me. No matter how many times my trust falters, You never, ever leave my side. Thank you for SHOWING Yourself to me when I need it most and doing so in such a way that I know, without a doubt, that it is You. I shall never forget the image of that deer standing on the roadside, half in the woods and half out, obviously stopped in his tracks just by my asking. Your word says, “Ask, and it shall be given; seek, and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you.” And, as always, you are true to Your word. My dear sweet Jesus, I promise to work on trusting in You completely; to remember that You see everything that is going on—even the things behind the scenes—and that, no matter what, you will use it all for my good, all because I’m your child and I love you. Thank you for loving me so and for teaching me to look at everything through eyes of faith and trust. Oh what a difference it makes. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen and Ehmen!