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!
Thank You for promises kept. All of them. So many promises since the genesis of time, all of which You honor, never letting a single one fall by the wayside.
But, while I thank You for all of those promises kept and for all the fulfilled promises to come, the one that touches me most deeply today–Father’s Day 2019–is found in Psalm 68:5—“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” Oh, how this promise has impacted me as You so carefully wove it into the lives of my earthly family when we lost our patriarch at the hands of a murderer.
But, not only is it a personal promise that covers me and my family, it’s a promise lovingly written in broad strokes to cover all of us who for, whatever reason, grew up with anything less than a good earthly father—whether that father was absent by no choice of his own or one who willfully ignored and disregarded what his children needed most of all: to be loved, cherished, protected and valued.
Still, if I am completely honest, I still sometimes struggle with feeling loved, cherished, protected and valued. Deep down I know that I am, because not only do You say that I am, but You have proven it time and time again throughout my life.
Help me with this, Father, and thank You for always being there no matter what and for standing in the gap for my earthly dad who I miss deeply even all these years later. Amen and Ehmen.
I always address you as child, because no matter how old you are or what you have or haven’t done, you will always be just that–My child. I chose you before you were born and will continue to choose you every single day of your life throughout eternity. Nothing and no one can every change that.
Brenda, I am sorry that you did not have the opportunity to truly know your earthly dad. He is a wonderful man who also loves you very much and with who you will one day be reunited. He eagerly awaits this ultimate family reunion and, in the meantime, keeps busy enjoying His many heavenly rewards of which you are one.
We are both very proud of you and the way that you are learning to lay all the twists and turns of life at My feet so that I can make your path straight. Keep your eyes on Me and, together, we will walk heart-first into My will and your purpose.
But, be careful, My Child, not to let your feelings disrupt what you know in your spirit to be true. Feelings can be fickle, a product of the flesh which, by human nature, is weak. Just like the words of a self-professed prophet, you must always test each and every feeling against My Word, the place My truth—and yours—live and breathe; the place where love–My eternal love and affection for you, My child, resides and awaits the moment you allow it to be etched on your heart, never to be forgotten again. On this Father’s Day, I give you this gift. Drink it in. Trust it. And, know, Child…
I have searched you thoroughly and I know everything about you ( Psalm 139:1), even the very hairs on your head are numbered (Matthew 10:29-31). I know when you sit down and when you rise up (Psalm 139:2) and I am familiar with all your ways (Psalm 139:3).
For you are My offspring (Acts 17:28) who I knew before you were ever conceived (Jeremiah 1:4-5) and who was made in My own image (Genesis 1:27). I chose you when I planned creation (Ephesians 1:11-12), My child. You are not a mistake, for all your days are written in my book (Psalm 139:15-16) and in Me, you live and move and have your being (Acts 17:28).
It was Me who knit you together in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13) and Me that determined the exact time of your birth and where you would live (Acts 17:26). Yes, Child, you are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) and it is My desire to lavish My love on you simply because you are My child and I am your Father (1 John 3:1).
Know this, too, My Child, I offer you more than your earthly father ever could (Matthew 7:11) for I am the perfect father (Matthew 5:28). Every good gift that you receive comes from my hand (James 1:17), for I am your provider and I meet all your needs (Matthew 6:31-33).
My plan for your future, Child, has always been filled with hope (Jeremiah 29:11), because I love you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). My thoughts toward you are countless as the sand on the seashore (Psalm 139:17-18) and I rejoice over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17). I will NEVER stop doing good to you (Jeremiah 32:40), for you are My treasured possession (Exodus 19:5).
I am your greatest encourager, child (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17) and I am also the Father who comforts you in all your troubles (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). When you are brokenhearted, I am close to you (Psalm 34:18), for as a shepherd carries a lamb, I carry you close to my heart (Isaiah 40:11).
I am your Father, and I love you even as I love my son, Jesus, (John 17:23) who came to demonstrate that I am for you, not against you (Romans 8:31) and tell you that I am not counting your sins (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). He died so that you and I could be reconciled (2 Corinthians 5:18-19) and His death was the ultimate expression of My love for you (1 John 4:10).
Don’t you see, Child, I gave up everything I loved that I might gain your love (Romans 8:31-32). If you receive the gift of my son Jesus, you receive Me as well (1 John 2:23) and nothing will ever separate you from My love again (Romans 8:38-39).
I have always been Father, and will always be Father (Ephesians 3:14-15). My question is…Will you be my child (John 1:12-13)?
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.
Read 1 Corinthians, Chapter 3, this morning before I headed off to work. Verses 16 and 17 hopped off the page.
“Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy and you are that temple.”
God lives in me! Why in the world do I worry about such trivial things? Perhaps that phrase, “in the world,” is a clue. I must quit thinking so small and acting as if it is all up to me or the people around me. It is a God thing. I am a God thing. I have nothing to fear. Thank You, Jesus. Amen and Ehmen.
As I sit in the silence, I’m soothed by the ticking of the grandfather clock in the foyer. It’s a welcomed sound, one that I could hear as often as I’d like, if I just took the time. But, I don’t.
Indeed, this beautiful time piece has been ushering the minutes in and out of my home for more than a decade now and yet I rarely hear its sweet, rhythmic voice simply because I allow the noise of everyday life to drown it out.
I come home and turn on the television. I listen to the radio or talk on the phone. I dial up videos on my computer. I create noise. Any kind of noise. Silence, after all, would mean I was doing nothing, wasting time.
The irony is that silence is far from a waste of time. It’s a most beautiful thing; that time and space in which we get to know ourselves and allow our own hearts to synchronize with that of our sweet, sweet Savior.
Shhhhhhhh. Turn off the television. Turn off the world. Quiet. Can you hear it? Beautiful, peaceful and holy silence. The heartbeat of God. It just doesn’t get any better this side of Heaven.
Lord, I come to You now in the presence of every person whose eyes land on these words. I know that it is not by accident. Lord, we NEED you now more than ever. Our friends and family members are sick and dying, but YOU, God, have the ability to heal them and to obliterate this virus from the face of the earth. We know that nothing happens without Your knowledge and we know that You are ultimately in control. Help us to sit in that truth and remain good stewards of Your Word and Your Church. Help us to be kind to one another and to put other people—even those we don’t agree with—first. Help us to take care of one another the way that You intended. Help people see past the political party lines and remember we are all made in the image of You. Help people to not put personal freedom over compassion for their fellow man and help those worried about this virus to be met with understanding and compassionate responses rather than fighting and mocking. Help me God with my own fear as I lean on You and trust You while using the sound mind you gave me to make safe choices that are right for me and those closest to me. Touch our world and our country, Lord. Heal us from border to border, every family, every person. Eradicate COVID 19 and make it disappear as quickly as it came. Hear our pleas, Lord. It is in Jesus’ mighty name we pray. Amen and Ehmen.
Writer’s Note: This was originally written in 2017 after I left my fulltime job of almost a quarter of a century and began an almost three-year long journey of working for myself. While I have become pretty skilled at creating order in the home workspace, this pandemic has rocked many of us, making waste of the sense of order we knew. Three months in, many of us have found our way to a new normal, but some I have spoken with recently are still struggling. Don’t be ashamed. It happens to all of us at one time or another. Truthfully, I still struggle with letting my life get out of order at times. Always have, actually, even before the pandemic. If this is you, I hope this post gives you a little hope today.
June 12, 2017
It’s okay child. I know your brain and emotions are scrambled right now, but I am here and I know your heart. Just breathe. Speak My name when you feel overwhelmed or at a loss. Let’s come up with a schedule together. Something to keep you on track. Do not feel less because you need this. Order is necessary for all of life. Order, in fact, was the second most important ingredient in Creation, second only to love. Can you imagine a world with no order? What if the sun rose only when it felt like it? What if the moon and the stars were random about their appearance and nighttime blanketed the earth at unplanned times? Yes, child, everything must have an order to be successful in the long run. If it was and is important for all of Creation, it is important for you. Let’s start with your daily schedule and then we will continue to work on your schedule for fulfilling your calling and purpose. I am proud of you, child. You have a mission and a calling and I am so pleased that you desire them so. Together, we are unstoppable. You are unstoppable. Don’t ever forget that. And, if you do, just come back into My Presence where I can remind you. I’m always here, day and night, from beginning to end, creating your present and your future with beautiful mixture of love and order.
The Beautiful Order of Creation…
Genesis, Chapter 1:
1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
6 And God said, “Let there be an expanse[a] in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.”7 And God made[b] the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so.8 And God called the expanse Heaven.[c] And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
9 And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so.10 God called the dry land Earth,[d] and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
11 And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants[e] yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so.12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons,[f] and for days and years,15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so.16 And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars.17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth,18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.19 And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
20 And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds[g] fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.”21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.22 And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.”23 And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so.25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
26 Then God said, “Let us make man[h] in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Genesis, Chapter 2
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation…