As I lay here looking out my bedroom window, comforted by the view of the trees that help make my home, I am moved by how beautiful they are, even in the winter as they stand stark and naked. I guess in comparison to the lush greenery of spring and summer and the breathtaking colors of fall, others might not think they are so spectacular. But I do. Because I know what lies beneath and inside. I know what is to come. And so it should be with all of life. We should focus on the beauty in today, no matter what the season, for it is the knowledge of what is to come that makes the difference. All things adorned in hope and promise are a sight to behold. Amen and Ehmen.
Though I know in my soul that God is in control, I can’t help but feel off-balance these days. In a two-week span, I lost a job and co-workers that I loved dearly followed by the loss of my dear mother, the last of my parents. Those who know me probably remember my father was murdered when I was a child.
And, so here I sit, an unemployed orphan. Maybe that sounds a bit melodramatic, but, even at almost 60 years old, there is really no world nor age group in which that doesn’t sting. A lot. As a caregiver for my mom for the past five or so years and as one who was deeply invested in the hospice volunteer program which I had built from the ground up, these life-altering events left me shell-shocked, particularly in the slow-crawling few days following mom’s funeral planning and funeral.
I nestled myself in the joy that radiates from my beautiful grandbaby for a couple of days, but when she was back at home with her mama and daddy, I was right back in the land of the lost. I know there is plenty I should and could be doing, but I feel stuck; suspended in time.
And, so here I still sit. An unemployed orphan trying my best not to feel sorry for myself; trying my best to not be anxious, but to cast all my cares upon the Lord, as today’s bible verse from 1 Peter, 5:7 so reminds.
I know that I know that the Bible is true and that God is with me no matter what. But, because of that, I have also been beating myself up about feeling sad and lost. I guess you could say I have been grieving grief. I began to wonder if sharing such raw feelings might make myself and others question my loyalty to and faith in God?
Fortunately, I was not allowed to wonder that for long as His beautiful still, small voice rang out not so quietly in my heart.
He reminded ever so gently that I should never hide my sadness or my grief or even my momentary feelings of being lost. Our Savior, was himself, as Isaiah 53:3 describes, a “man of sorrow and acquainted with grief.”
And He, in fact, cried. Not once; not twice, but three times in scripture, He cried. Look it up in John 11:35, Luke 19:41 and Hebrews 5:7-9. Each is near the end of His life and each shines a light on what matters most to our loving God. He is “touched with the feelings of our infirmities,” according to the writer of Hebrews 4:15.
It’s perfectly okay to grieve losses. It’s a part of being human. It’s okay to feel lost, as long as we don’t stay there forever and as long as we remember that we always have HOPE in the Lord. I may not be able to see the big picture yet, and I may still feel sad and worry, but in my heart of hearts, I know that I know that God is indeed in control and has a plan for me far better than any plan I could ever muster.
I also know that I should rejoice in the many blessings that surround me—praying friends and a praying, loving daughter and son-in law that have my back no matter what; a beautiful granddaughter to carry on my mom’s legacy and name; and, above all, a Father who calls me His child and wants only His BEST for me.
As far as the job, I don’t know exactly from where my next paycheck will come, but I KNOW Him and, just as He has always done, I KNOW He will come through, making sure I wind up in the place that I am needed most.
Thank you, God.
Thank you for the incredible memories of my mom and for the knowledge that she is finally out of her suffering and in Your Presence. And thank you for always, always standing in the gaps, no matter how wide they may seem to me. Nothing is impossible for You; nor for me when I walk with You. I love you, Father, and I am beyond thankful to be called Your child. I will never refer to myself as an orphan again, because I am not now nor will I ever be without You.
My mama loved hummingbirds. In fact, one of her very favorite pastimes was sitting in her recliner and watching as the little cuties dipped, dived, swooped and hovered while sipping the sweet nectar we prepared and put in the bird feeders hanging just outside her window.
She could tell you which little birdies were repeat visitors from previous years and which ones were new to the neighborhood. She could tell you which were the most aggressive and which were a little on the sweeter side like the nectar they enjoyed.
But, for me personally, perhaps the most memorable thing about my mother’s love for hummingbirds is the times when they were absent. I will never forget that day in May 2020. Like pretty much everyone on the planet, the pandemic was taking a toll on my mama, and she wanted nothing more than to see her beloved hummingbirds once again dancing in the air around the feeder. But, for some reason, sans the two that visited a few times that March when the feeder first went up, there had been no little bird visitors that year.
She was so disappointed, and I was disappointed for her. So, on the morning of May 15, 2020, as she sat sleeping in her chair, her face turned towards the window as if she had fallen asleep looking for her little friends, I began to pray and asked God to please send her a hummingbird to brighten her day.
Sure enough, just a few hours later, as I delivered her some lunch, she was beaming as she excitedly announced she had finally seen a hummer! Was it a coincidence? Absolutely not! That was all our loving Creator. When I told her about my prayer, she sat smiling for hours, a few tears of joy trickling down her cheeks. You could tell she felt His love. I did too
The birds disappeared again after that day, but I think that, too, was by design, giving Him another chance to show the two of us just how much He really cares about us. Fast forward to July of 2020. Mama had not been feeling good for several days and I was very worried. She had some cold symptoms and, of course, COVID was top of mind. So, as I was outside on my lawn tractor mowing the grass, I began to pray fervently.
I asked God for protection for her, for Billie and the sweet baby we had recently learned she was carrying, for my brother who was fighting cancer, and for me and all my family and friends. The pandemic had been so overwhelming. As I prayed, I also asked God if He could send us a sign that everything was indeed going to be okay. Then, I decided to be even more specific. I still remember the words that came from my heart: “Lord,” I prayed, “please let mom see a hummingbird. When I have asked before, You have always faithfully sent her one, so will you please send at least one more?”
I came back in the house and honestly forgot about it until the next day when I went into her room to check on her. As I stood in front of her asking what she wanted for breakfast, she began to grin from ear to ear.
“Oooooh, I forgot to tell you, I saw a hummingbird yesterday. It’s the first one I’ve seen since May,” she said. “It was just the one, but he seemed to really fill up at the feeder and hovered in front of the window for a while.”
I could hardly speak. This time tears rolled down my face as I told her about my prayer. We both felt Him whispering in our ears, “It’s going to be alright. I’m here.”
Today, the day after we laid her to rest, I still hear those words, “It’s going to be alright. I’m here.”
As I stood outside this morning, I got a sense of déjà vu. My body did not move an inch, but my heart and mind whizzed through this past year to a day last November that looked pretty much just like today. The sky was clear and blue, and the air was just the right amount of cool.
The morning of your memorial, I remember leaning against my car and taking a few deep breaths, drawing in the peace that surrounded me. It was if nature itself was taking pause to salute your life. The leaves twisted and twirled to the ground, landing in silence. The birds held their whistles, and the squirrels and chipmunks treaded so softly across the leaves, you could almost hear their breath. The peace welled up from within and exploded without.
That same peaceful silence returned at your celebration of life service. Again, nature seemed to take pause to salute you just as the men dressed in their Navy blues slowly raised their white-gloved hands in patriotic gratefulness and reverence. Soft sniffles and cries became the audible sounds of hearts not ready to say goodbye and perfectly harmonized with the faint and gentle sounds of the water moving across the rocks in the river below. Your river. Your home. A pandemic may have caused the change of venue from the memorial chapel to the riverbanks of your own backyard, but I’m here to tell you it was absolutely perfect.
I can also tell you this, big brother. When the sound of that bugle began filling the silence with Taps, it was one of the most moving moments I have experienced in almost 60 years of life. The melodic notes that once signaled the end of the soldier’s day perfectly and gracefully signaled the time to symbolically lay you to rest. A silent hero, humble and true, your work on earth was now done and done well at that.
I know it has taken me a little while to be able to put pen to paper, but sometimes when something overwhelms me, it just has to marinate inside a bit. Today, the day before the anniversary of your passing, I want to say thank you, big brother, for being just that—a big brother. Thank you for standing up for me when I was too young to stand up for myself. Thank you for being there every single time I needed you as I became an adult. When life slapped me down, I always could count on you to help pick me back up. I hope I was able to do that for you in at least some small ways over the years. Thank you for opening up to me and for the special bond that we shared as adults. And thank you for being good-looking, especially since I am realizing more and more just how much we actually favor
Most of all, however, thank you for your heart and for your dedication and loyalty to your country and to your entire family.
It was not long after Gary died, that you were diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a frightening disease on its own, but completely devastating when combined with all the other health issues which had plagued you for decades, most of which were probably attributable to Agent Orange.
I watched from the sidelines as you fought like your life depended on it. Of course, your life did depend on it. But, IT wasn’t the real reason you did anything that you did. You fought these diseases with every fiber of your being, not for yourself, but for others, like your wife, and mama, both of who had already been battered by overwhelming loss.
You valiantly fought and bravely endured, just like you did on the blood-drenched soil of Vietnam.
Once a hero, always a hero, I guess.
I love and miss you, Stan. Save my seat at the table.
As I sit here in tear-soaked silence, the pain and heartbreak is still as real as it was 20 years ago.
BUT, as bad as it hurts, I find myself thanking God for bringing good out of even the worst circumstances.
Those beautiful souls did not die in vain as many, like me, made our first steps back to God that day.
Amid the rubble of our lives, I finally looked up and began searching for the right church for myself and my then 8-year-old daughter. Not only are we still members of that church today, but my daughter is on staff there and we are both living out our God-given purposes.
As we continue to answer that 911 call to our hearts with passion and purpose, I pray we make a real difference for the Kingdom of God. I pray we all do, in honor of the Almighty as well as all of His children who He welcomed home on September 11, 2001.
Writer’s Note:The following is a true story of God’s faithfulness and kindness in the face of a difficult time in life. It is a true story of answered prayers and of people allowing God to use them. If you ever feel a nudge from above or have a thought that perhaps doesn’t exactly make sense, follow your gut. There is no telling what story God wants to write. Amen and Ehmen. –Brenda.
Erin had long dreamt of her mother seeing her walk down the aisle in her wedding gown. She dreamed of her mom sitting on the front row and watching as she said “I do” to the man they have both grown to love so much.
But there was one huge problem. Her beloved mother is terminally ill and likely won’t make it to the October wedding they have been planning.
Enter Serenity Nurse Case Manager Erica and CNA Nicole. A week earlier, they both were at the patient’s home to check up on her and, as she showed more signs of decline, they discussed her situation with Erin. Seeing the devastation that registered in Erin’s eyes as she realized her mom probably wouldn’t get to see her get married, Erica and Nicole made a suggestion.
“Why not get married next week here in the living room,” Erica inquired.
With Erin’s agreement, Erica and Nicole got busy planning the July 1 event. They shopped for decorations and flowers and called in Robbie, Serenity’s chaplain, to officiate the ceremony. They also called me, the office’s volunteer coordinator, to arrange for a wedding cake which volunteer cook-extraordinaire Barbara was happy to bake.
Everyone was thrilled to help make this special day happen, but no one more than me. Afterall, I had already seen first-hand as God divinely intervened to match this beautiful family with Serenity in the first place.
Rewind to a Friday morning just a few weeks earlier when my phone alarm twirped and tweeted a reminder that I had a long overdue eye appointment later that day in Macon. Realizing I had completely forgotten and already booked my day with patients, I made a mental note to call and cancel and went about my day.
After visiting patients in Byron and Lizella, I made my way to Macon to see my next patient, but on the way, that patient’s wife called and asked if I could delay my visit by an hour. About that same time, a second reminder for my eye appointment popped up on my phone, reminding me not only of my impending appointment time, but also that I had forgotten to cancel it. About that same time, I also realized that I was just a few minutes away from the doctor’s office. Fate seemed determined to get me into that exam chair.
I headed over to the appointment and jumped out of the car to head inside. After closing the car door, however, I felt a nudge to reopen the door and grab my Serenity nametag. I always take it off in the car because it makes the seatbelt more bothersome and, though I obviously didn’t need to wear a name tag to go into a personal appointment, something just told me that on this day, in this office, I indeed needed it. Not one to ignore such nudges, I obliged and clipped it onto my shirt as I walked inside.
After being shown to the exam room, I was soon joined by one of the doctor’s assistants. The assistant, who introduced herself as Erin, sat at a nearby desk and began asking questions to gather information. She paused, however, when she turned and faced me.
“You work with Serenity,” she asked softly. The question consisted of only four words, but her tone made it obvious that there were a lot of feelings behind it.
“Yes, I do. Do you know us?”
“Well, I, I guess you could say that,” she stuttered quietly. “My mom has cancer and her doctors feel it is time to call in hospice. They suggested either Serenity or another hospice here in town.”
“I have been reeling ever since they uttered the word hospice, and I had no idea which one to call. In fact, I prayed all night last night, pleading with God to give me a sign and help me take the right next step,” she continued, tears welling up in her eyes. “You are obviously that sign.”
As I listened to Erin’s words, I knew at once that the events that brought me into the office and the still, small voice that led me to put on my nametag, was far from coincidental and I eagerly shared with them with Erin.
“And you weren’t supposed to be my patient, but the other girl had to leave,” she said, exhaling a deep sigh of relief as she experienced her prayer being answered in real time.
Erin signed her mother up with Serenity the next day and, as is so often the case, the Serenity team quickly became like family to her and her mother. They care for the patient’s every need and aid and advise Erin all along the way, including helping throw her this beautiful impromptu wedding so that her sweet mama could see her say “I do.”
And what a perfect ceremony it was.
Though disease has diminished Erin’s mama’s ability to communicate verbally, it was obvious that she was deeply touched. There was a glisten in her eyes and an almost palpable air of love that circled bride and groom as they took her hands into theirs.
“We can never thank you all enough,” Erin said, leaning in to kiss her mama on the cheek. “Thank you for letting God use you and for being the answer to my prayers.”
The older I get, the more and more truth I find in the old saying, “time flies.” In fact, every year the old tick-tock seems to sprout bigger and faster wings, hijacking the moments and carrying each one of them far, far away.
If we’re lucky, the good ones land somewhere in the recesses of our memories to be retrieved and enjoyed many times in the future, while the not-so-good just keep floating into the dark abyss of time never to be recalled again. Better yet, they wind up in God’s toolbox where He repurposes them and turns each into something useful.
Actually, the truth is, God promises to always use our stuff. He says so many times throughout the bible and most expressly so in Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and who have been called according to his purpose.”
I hope you’ll notice that He says ALL things; not just some things, but ALL things. All He really wants in return is our unwavering love, another fact that He reminds us of throughout His word, such as in Matthew 22:3, when Jesus himself spoke the greatest commandment of all: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
My prayer today is that all of us learn to love God just like that—with all our heart, soul and mind—for I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it is that kind of love that leads to full trust, obedience and dependence on Him and full dependence leads to guaranteed fulfillment of the purpose for which our Father created us.
And that, my dear friends, will ultimately lead to the words we all long to hear straight from the lips of our Awesome God: “Well done, good and faithful servant. Well done!” Oh, how incredible that will be! I know it’s July 4th weekend here in the United States, but this year, I say let’s forget Independence Day and start celebrating Himdependence Day!
Sometimes it feels like I’m standing heart-deep in the ocean. I see the horizon, the keeper of hope and dreams, in all of its glory. Below it is sparkling waters beckoning me to come in. Above it is a vast expanse of clear blue sky, Heaven’s doorway, it seems.
But just underneath the surface, there is an undertow so strong that it sometimes feels like I can barely stand, much less move forward. I know it is the work of the enemy, life’s antagonist, and yet I still sometimes let it take me under.
What I have to remember is that it doesn’t have to. All I really have to do is breathe in purposefully and deep, take the hand of my Father and face that fear head on, sometimes standing firm, sometimes powering through and sometimes dipping just below the surface and re-emerging in that sweet, glassy calmness that lies just beyond the waves. For our Father knows that once He gets us far enough out, to the point that we can longer touch bottom, to that that place where we are no longer fastened to the world, the undertow has no more power over us.
The horizon, the keeper of hope and dreams, awaits our arrival as the doors of Heaven fling open wide and the glory of God shines for all to see.
Writer’s Note: From the most recent entry into my Dear God Journals. I’m so glad He never gives up on us and is always willing to teach us if we’ll just be present.
April 15, 2021
Here I am. Finally. I know you must surely feel a lot like a parent calling a kid away from a video game. I can be so stubborn and yet you just keep calling me. Thank You for never giving up on me and for continuing to call me back to You. I have known for over an hour when I first woke up that You were yearning for time with me and, as I do so often, I just rolled over and immersed myself in other things to occupy my awake, but sleepy mind. Idleness is indeed a friend of the enemy as he loves to turn it into distraction to catch us up in a whirling, twirling cyclone of disobedience. So, again, thank You for not giving up on me; for continuing to call out to me and grabbing hold of my hand and pulling me out of the storm for a close-up and personal chat with You, my Father, my Lord and Savior. Speak to me Father for I am finally here.
Did you know that you have an army of people who pray for you regularly? It delights Me, that even when I don’t have one-onone time with you that others are speaking to Me on your behalf. I have missed our early morning times together as I know you have as well. Your spirit has been thirsting for connection with Me, but have struggled to make the space and time. You are correct that an idle mind and spirit is satan’s best friend. It creates a fertile ground upon which he can sow his evil seeds and, for you, that is distraction. You must fight back and do, just as you are now, show up and turn your focus to Me, the one who loves you unconditionally. As you have just read in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 3, you are My temple and in My temple I dwell. At all times. Every minute and every hour, you can find Me here in the most inner room. You just have to step inside for full access. I AM yours for the taking.
Just remember that stepping inside means to give Me your full attention; to enter the silence where you can fully hear that quite whisper in the wind…My Still Small Voice. Why do I whisper? I whisper so you MUST draw near. You see, Child, connection happens when there is two-way conversation and two-way conversation can not happen unless you enter this Holy space reserved for you and me alone. Come inside, Child. Close your eyes and listen.
Child, I know you worry that you are not completing the assignment I gave you, but I want you to remember that I only let you see small bits of your assignment at the time as the big picture would be too much for you. If you focus on Me and stay in constant communication with Me, if you focus on Me and are obedient to My Voice, you never have to worry about missing an assignment or letting me down. Just because something doesn’t look like what you envisioned, it does not mean it’s not what I envisioned and what I envision is ALWAYS the best for You. Remember that, Child.
Yes, you have taken some detours over these past couple of years, but you are exactly where I want you during this season. Talk to me every day; about every decision; about every desire; about every thought. For when you are with Me, the enemy has no power. I love you, Child. Welcome home.