Grief exposed; Truth revealed


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.

–Amen and Ehmen

Hummingbirds from Heaven


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.”

 I love you, mama.

Saying Goodbye: One Year Later


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.

He Chose Her Before She Was Born


Writer’s Note: Today marks the 27th anniversary of the glorious day that God made me a mom. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the birth of my one and only than by re-sharing this post from three years ago. It started out as a post bragging on my baby girl and turned into my testimony, a story of God’s grace and His passion and compassion for all of us; His talent for using all things for the good of those who love Him. All that said, I must include a warning for those of you who know me. There may be things in this post that you may not know about me, things that I am not particularly proud of; however, as I continue to watch God take both the good and the bad and weave them into the most incredible stories–such as the story of my little girl–I think it is important to be real. Our world today is too much in need of hope to not be real and to show how God is always and in all ways looking out for us. Even when our situation looks like a complete mess, God is busy behind the scenes. What looks like rubble to us are building blocks for our Creator. We just have to get out of the way and let Him work! Thank you, Jesus, for being the cornerstone of my life and thank you for Billie. I am blessed beyond deserve.

Billie was far from an ordinary kid. To tell the truth, she has never been ordinary a single billie preachesday in her life. Even before she had made it out of the womb, this wee little girl had begun spinning a story of goodness and love that, looking back, could only have been penned by the master author Himself. Not to say that God doesn’t leave His fingerprints on all his creations, but with some it is just a little more obvious. Such is the case with my daughter.

Just the knowledge that she existed had lifted me out of the downward spiral my life had taken when I turned 30. Always the responsible, level headed one, something about turning 30, combined with a devastating turn of events in my life, had put me on a path of self-destruction. Alcohol. Gambling. Even drug experimentation and unprotected sex. Things I never thought in a million years I would do. But, for a short while, as a lost soul trying to find my way, I did them.

It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in God. In fact, with the help of my college roommate, a sweet and kind preacher’s daughter, I had accepted Him as my Lord and Savior back in college. But that’s about as far as it went. I did consider myself a good person and, upon occasion, would even shoot up a prayer or two when things got tough. Saved or not, however, sitting in a pew was not a place you would find me on Sunday morning at that time in my life. Churches, I felt, were just too full of hypocrites.

And, in my heart, I fully believed that to be true as that had been my experience with the church when I was growing up. Being pushed to the altar by friends who had just the night before drank themselves into a stupor made absolutely no sense to me. Not to mention that it seemed like the preacher was always preaching about hellfire and brimstone; the fearsome, formidable God he painted in his sermons not leaving much room for the loving God of reality.

Yeah, I believed in God, but I didn’t truly know God yet and I certainly hadn’t learned what it meant to fully give my heart and my life to Him; to have a personal relationship and to walk with Him in complete faith.

From my limited perspective at that moment in my life, I was—as I had been for some time—alone. My earthly father had been killed when I was just a little girl and I didn’t yet understand the extent of love, forgiveness and purpose my Heavenly Father had for me. In my mind, I had no other choice but to take care of myself and to be my own safety net. Seeking God’s guidance for my life wasn’t even a consideration at that point.

Fortunately, God intervened anyway.

Enter Billie—the answered prayer that I didn’t even know I needed.

Having veered so sharply off the path, it seemed as if baby Billie truly was God’s way of reeling me back in, bringing the poor choices I was making in life to a screeching halt and replacing them with proof that He could take the most troublesome of situations and use them for good. This yet-to-be-born baby was was a living example that would continue to prove this most wonderful promise over and over as the years went by.

I pretty much did a 360 and began trying to live as healthy as possible, following my obstetrician’s advice to the tee. I quit drinking, smoking and any other dangerous habit I had been dabbling with for the past few months before her conception. I quit not because I thought it would keep me out of hell, but because it was the right thing to do. I had a baby on the way; a life that depended solely on me to survive and I didn’t want mess that up.

I even agreed to marry her father, though we had known each other less than a year. I just seemed like the right thing to do. I can’t really say that I loved him, but I figured I’d eventually fall in love with him. After all, we were having a baby together.

Needless to say, without going into details, our marriage was like the house built on sand. When storms came that first, emotionally-charged and stressful year as I also dealt with health issues and worries about getting Billie into the world safely, the marriage collapsed and we gave up on one another.

God, however, did not give up. Not only did he bring Billie into the world and keep her safe, but He made it more and more obvious that He had a plan for her. And, like David of David and Goliath fame, He had no plans of waiting until she was an adult to use her. Truth was, He started using her before she even exited the womb, making sure that this new baby gave both her dad and I exactly what we needed in our lives at that point. Billie’s dad actually credits her arrival for finally facing and defeating his own demons.

All that said, I still didn’t attend church as Billie began to grow up. Until, that is, the heart-wrenching devastation of Sept. 11, 2001, a day that rattled me to my very core. All of a sudden, I realized that not only had I been holding God back in my own life, but I was keeping the greatest blessing He had ever given me away from Him as well and was compelled to do something about it. We began visiting churches, but none felt right. They didn’t feel welcoming, which I equated to being full of hypocrites. I didn’t yet understand that many people attending church were just as confused and lost as I was; and that it wasn’t necessarily hypocrisy they exhibited, but the same ignorance and stubbornness I had been carrying for years.

Long story short, I continued to search for a church for both me and Billie, who was now in second grade. We ultimately made our way to Harvest Church and—from the moment we crossed its threshold at the Ramada Inn where it was meeting—I knew that we were finally home.      It was an easy choice to make sure that she and I were there every time the doors were open and, with Pastors Jim and Jen as our teachers, we both began growing UP. Billie loved the kids program. She adored the Pink Carpet and her carpet leader, Mrs. Mary. We both loved learning about and getting to know God.

Truthfully, I couldn’t believe the difference it made to know God personally versus simply knowing of Him. He started showing up and showing out in both our lives and it was exciting. It’s still exciting. Even though He has performed and showed me many miracles over the past decade and a half, I still cherish those early God moments that changed my life forever.

Indeed, Billie did grow up at Harvest and I will be forever convinced that Harvest was always a part of His plan for both of us, and most especially for her. In fact, this morning as I watched her—now 23-years-old and the head of the church’s Children’s Ministry—give the message in the main church service for the very first time, my mind rewound itself to a Sunday about 13 years ago when my 10-year-old baby girl leaned over while listening to Pastor Jim preach and whispered this into my ear: “Mom, I know what I want to do when I grow up,” she said excitedly. “I want to preach.”

Well, my sweet baby girl, you did it and you did it good!!!! I love you and I love God for picking me to be a part of your story and, most importantly, for allowing both of us to be a part of His. I thank Him for making you a living, breathing example of how miracles and beauty can come from even the darkest, seemingly hopeless situations. I thank Him for Harvest Church and for making His presence so obvious in the church as well as in both of our lives. May we all continue to fulfill His will and purpose until His Kingdom comes. Amen and Ehmen.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” – Jeremiah 1:5

All Is ‘Whale’ With My Soul


As I lay in bed trying my best NOT to wake up early this morning it was as if God started tugging at the covers. The tighter I pulled them around my shoulders, creating a cozy little comfort zone, the harder he tugged. He often does this when I have been absent from our special morning time together for longer than I should or if I’m dragging my feet on something He has asked me to do. God’s not big on earthly comfort zones and, though I usually fuss about it at the time, I really am thankful that he doesn’t let me kick back too long.

This morning it was about digging deeper into some things I just keep putting off. Truth be told, I often put things off, sometimes for a very long time, years in fact.  Fear of failure and rejection, says I. Disobedience and distrust, says He.

As I lay there silently arguing with him and preoccupying myself with a game on my phone, His still, small voice grew louder to the point that I could no longer ignore Him and, just as I gave in and put my phone away, I heard him whisper the name Jonah.

Jonah? Like the guy that got swallowed by the whale? That Jonah?

Jonah, I heard again, as I reached over to pick up my Bible. Flipping through the Old Testament, I finally landed on the book of Jonah and began to read. And the more I read, the more I began to understand. Never in my life had I seen myself in this particularly story, but here in this moment, on the pages of my own bible, Jonah, it seemed, was synonymous with B-R-E-N-D-A.

Like Jonah, I have been running from certain aspects of God’s calling on my life and, as I read his reflections as he was entombed inside the belly of that great fish, I felt compelled to read the words aloud.

Jonah, Chapter 2

1 From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. 2 He said: “In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry. 3 You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. 4 I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ 5 The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. 6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, LORD my God, brought my life up from the pit. 7 “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. 8 “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. 9 But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the LORD.’ ” 10 And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

Honestly, I think I have been in the belly of a whale for a while now. And thank God. Thank God that he hasn’t given up on me; that he still finds me worthy of my purpose.

One way or another, He will get me there. Who am I to complain about the mode of transportation?

I’m coming, Nineveh. I’m coming.

Amen and Ehmen.

The Black and White Truth of It: Racism is NOT a Pigment of Our Imagination


Facts are facts. I’m a white woman and, according to the known branches on my family tree as well as a recent ancestry DNA test, I pretty much have been even further than the eye can see.

My DNA also says I’m about as British as they come, 73.4 percent according to my genetic molecules. That’s far more British than the average British person today. Of course, that brings me to the most obvious question of all. With stats like that, how in the world was I NOT invited to the royal wedding? And, why hasn’t someone offered me some tea and crumpets? Worse, yet, why don’t I know what a crumpet is?

Anyhow, that’s enough about DNA. It’s just something I have been meaning to share.

Now, back to the point. I’m white. I can’t hide it and, although sometimes I wish I could, I can’t change it. It’s the way God made me. And, although I haven’t always understood this truth, my skin color has afforded myself and my ancestors advantages that my brothers and sisters of color did not, and in many cases, still do not have. I can’t hide nor change that historical fact either.

What I can change is my awareness of and response to the differences and divide society has created between people of different colors, shapes, sizes and ages. Racism is still very much alive and real and I truly want to be a part of the solution not the problem. God made us all and He loves us all the same. We should all be able to wear our skin color like the badge of honor that it is; just another creative twist given to us by the Master Creator Himself.

Concurrently, I ask for grace, in the event that I say something in life or in this blog, in a wrong way. Please know that my heart is in the right place. I like to consider myself “woke” as folks say, but the fact is I grew up in a society that has been asleep for quite some time. Fortunate for me, God placed in me an open heart and mind as well as people who have come alongside me and helped to broaden my horizon; to better understand our differences, but, most especially, our sameness.

Thank you to my old Centreplex family for putting up with me and all my goofy questions over the years, helping to enlighten me along the way. I love you guys with all my heart and I miss you every day. You will always be a highlight in my career and, most importantly, my life.

Lord, please help me and all of my brothers and sisters be a part of the solution in creating a world that is a true reflection of Galatians 3:28–a world where we are all equal and one in You!

Amen and Ehmen.