Monthly Archives: March 2016

He Won’t Put More On You Than You Can Bear

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My dad’s diagnosis was a total shock. I was still grieving my mother and now I have to deal with this. “Really God?

I remember sharing the news with my Deacon and Minister Icie after service. I could not get it all out before I broke down and started crying. I guess the development of my faith was still a work in progress. Minister Icie and my Deacon prayed with me and told me to trust God. That night I prayed to God. I wasn’t certain what my future held but I knew Who held my future.

I began doing research and talking to my dad about his treatment options. I was alarmed when he told me that his cardiologist advised him not to have chemo therapy. How dare she make a determination like that?! What exactly were her motives?! I needed to speak with her because I was very unhappy with her recommendation.

I obtained her telephone number from my dad. When I called she was out of the office. So I left a polite yet stern message asking that she call me back. When she did, i learned that she advised my dad not to have chemo therapy because his quality of life would diminish and that was a concern of his. I asked her if he chose to have chemo therapy what the prognosis would be. She said because he was already in stage IV, not good. I became sad all over again.

I spoke to my dad in an attempt to persuade him to have the treatments done. He was adamant that he did not want to. We talked about him moving to Philadelphia to be closer to me. He did not want to leave my mother. I could see trying to convince him of anything was futile so I dropped it. He continued on living and I continued to pray and believe God for his healing.

By his stripes my dad is healed.

The holiday season soon arrived and I spent Thanksgiving with my dad. It was different. It was the first holiday we had ever spent together without my mom. I know he was happy I was there. I also know he was lonely and missing his wife. I was concerned about him. I couldn’t help but think of the stories I had heard about how grieving spouses do not live much longer after losing their life partner. I was afraid for him. But I gave my fear to God and continued to pray.

The Christmas season was upon us and my plan was to relax. December 23, 2011, my sister friend and I made plans to cook and spend Christmas Day between one another’s apartments. She lived on the first floor and I was on the second so we could even stay in our pajamas if we wanted. How convenient was that?! That evening we discussed our plans to clean and cook on Christmas Eve.

I was tired and so I laid down to take a nap. My dad had called me earlier that day to inform me that he was not feeling well and was going to the emergency room. I checked on him periodically throughout the day and the last time we spoke they were running test and he promised to call when he returned home. At approximately 945pm the telephone rang, waking me from what was suppose to be a short nap. It was a doctor from Pitt County Memorial Hospital. My heart sank. The doctor was calling to inform me that my father had been admitted because he was having difficulty breathing. She went on to say that it was so severe that she wanted to intubate him but he was refusing. The doctor said that my dad told her he would not allow the procedure without speaking to me first, and she wanted to know if I could come to the hospital.

I didn’t know what to say. She lost me at they wanted to intubate him. Finally I responded, “I can come to the hospital but I probably won’t arrive until tomorrow morning.” She asked was I local to which I replied, “No, I live in Philadelphia.” She apologized because she assumed I was local. She then asked if I would speak to him over the phone because if they did not intubate him right away, he was not going to make it through the night.

Really God?

My dad was afraid. He asked me what I thought?

What did I think?!

I wanted to scream YOU WILL DIE!!! Instead I reiterated what the doctor told me. I told him I was on my way. He said, “I will wait for you to get here.”

I called my aunt, my dad’s sister, who was in town at the time for the Christmas holiday. I explained what was going on and she said she would go back to the hospital. I got up and threw a few things in a bag, made some telephone calls, and got on the road. My sister wanted me to look for a flight. But the next one out wasn’t until the next morning. I was sleepy and I was looking at at least a seven hour flight. I thank God for my brother Will who talked to me most of the ride. I did have to pull over and go to sleep. But praise God I arrived safely the next morning around 7am.

The entire trip I was praying and asking God to have mercy and not let my dad die. All the while, every hour or so he had my aunt call and check on me. I chuckled because my mother did the same thing whenever I would come to visit.

Thankfully God answered my prayer and not only was he still alive but his breathing was normal. He still was not out of the woods, however. There was still the matter of the cancer which as it turned out was the cause of his breathing troubles. After a family discussion my dad decided to have the chemo therapy. The plan was after the treatments, when he was well enough, he would relocate to Philadelphia. In the meantime, someone needed to be there to handle my dad’s business while he was in the hospital. As well as care for him when he was discharged. Since I was not working I was the logical choice. Besides, he was my dad, and the way he cared for my mother…….there was no way I could say no.

Honor thy father and thy mother that your days may be long.

So, I contacted my landlord in Philadelphia and explained what was going on. I told them I would vacate the apartment in February.

My dad started treatment and I was handling his affairs. How ironic that I would be in North Carolina now. We had a lot of time to talk, and one conversation in particular was very enlightening and healing. I cannot recall how the conversation began. But in a nutshell we talked about my dislike for him when he and my mom started dating and how our relationship developed over the years. I told him despite any feelings I may have had about him, I truly admired how he cared for my mother til her death and that I would forever be grateful for that.

On January 27, 2012 I returned to Philadelphia and vacated my apartment. I gave away everything that would not fit in my car. And what I wanted to keep but couldn’t transport in my vehicle, I left in my girlfriend’s garage. I hate moving so much but I told myself this was it for a while. I’ll be in North Carolina caring for my dad and God will let me know my next move.

I arrived back in North Carolina on February 2, 2012. It was a Thursday. I had caught a cold while I was in Philadelphia and I was feeling pretty bad. I did not want to go to the hospital to see my dad for fear of giving him my cold. So I called to let him know I had made it back safely and to see how he was doing. I told him I would come to see him over the weekend.

On Saturday I ventured out to the hospital. It was a sunny day and unseasonably warm; at least to me it was. When I arrived at the hospital I was not prepared for what I would see. My dad was having an exceptional day. He was laughing and joking. He had shaved and the color of his skin looked great! I sat with him most of the day. We talked about relocating to the DMV after his doctor cleared him for travel. It was really a great day and I was hopeful that God was allowing the chemo treatments to work and my dad would be just fine. I went home feeling grateful.

I was still feeling under the weather so I rested for the remainder of the weekend. Bright and early Monday morning the phone rang. I glanced at the clock and it said 8:25am. The caller ID said Pitt County Memorial Hospital and I figured it was my dad. I answered the phone. “Hello.” It was my dad’s Doctor. She asked me when was the last time I saw my dad. I told her I saw him Saturday and was surprised at how great he looked. I told her that I had returned to Philadelphia to move all of my belongings and in the process caught a cold. I told her that I didn’t want to give him my cold so I was staying away until my cold was gone. Her next statement was unexpected……

You need to come to the hospital. There has been a change.

“What kind of change,” I asked. She said my dad had taken a turn for the worse and his team of doctors needed to talk to me. My heart sank. I said, “ok, I’m on my way.”

When I walked into my dads hospital room there were at least 15 doctors and nurses in his room. One of the nurses was fighting with my dad to keep his oxygen mask on. He was struggling to breathe. I walked further into the room until I could see my dad clearly, and I gasped. The man in that bed was not the man I saw on Saturday. He looked like he had aged 20 years. His skin was dark and he was fighting for every breathe. There was so much commotion going on but my feet were glued to the floor. I could not move.

I continued to watch as the nurse fought with my dad. I could tell my dad wanted to say something. Finally I yelled, EVERYBODY JUST STOP!!!!! HE IS TRYING TO SAY SOMETHING!!! All movement and talking ceased immediately. My dad removed the mask. He looked the nurse square in the eyes and said, “there is nothing else you can do for me.”

My heart started racing. The tears began to well up in my eyes. And I knew I was going to cry. But I didn’t want to cry in front of my dad. I didn’t want him to see the fear I was feeling. I stepped out into the hallway and started crying. My dads Doctor came out and began to tell me that there was nothing else they could do for him. The cancer had spread throughout his body and his organs were shutting down. She said the best thing for him at this point was to transfer him to hospice care and make him as comfortable as possible. And I needed to make that decision.

I could not believe what I was hearing. I was scared and afraid and felt completely alone. I called my Aunt Rita. She came to the hospital and we hugged. She went in to see my dad. While she was talking to him, my dad and I locked eyes. He saw me crying, and the look I saw in his face will forever be etched into my memory bank. I had to make a decision and I had no idea what to do. Lots of thoughts were going through my mind. What would my dad want? Why am I in this position? What was God trying to teach me? Why did God think I could handle this? I called my dad’s sister and niece. I explained what was going on and that a decision had to be made. My aunt, without hesitation said, ‘you are there with him. You do what you feel is best.’ I did not know what to do. This was an adult decision and I did not want to be an adult. I did not want my dad to die. I wanted my mother.

After wrestling with what to do, I made the decision to stop all treatment and have my dad transferred to hospice care. For a little less than 72 hours I would sit and watch my dad die. I called my parents pastor to come to the church and pray. I kept watch. Monday night. Tuesday. Wednesday. On Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 8:15 am, I received the call that my dad had died. Sadly, it was also my brothers birthday. But here I was again, having to bury another parent.

Come on God!!!!! What are you doing?!image.jpeg

To Everything There Is A Season

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“…A time to kill and a time to heal…” ~ Ephesians 3:3

Healing does not happen overnight. It is a process. Sometimes a long, hard, and challenging process. During that process there are good days and bad days. Sometimes the process can make you question if you really are on the path to healing. And sometimes the process helps you to realize you cannot do this alone.

After the women’s retreat I shut myself off from the world. For one month I stayed locked in my apartment only allowing a select few access to me. I knew that I needed time to digest what had happened. I knew I needed to spend time with Jesus. During that month I cried, I reminisced, I laughed, and I cried some more. During that month I, for a brief moment, wished I had given my mother the one thing she wanted more than anything, a grand baby. I even had a dream during that month that I did have a baby, a girl, and I named her Theon. During that month I cleaned clutter (people and things) from my life. During that month I regretted not moving to North Carolina, somehow thinking if I had been there she would still be alive.  And during that month it hit me…..I was now a motherless daughter who had lost her connection to this world and who was trying desperately to find her place in a world that her mother no longer existed. It was a month of ups and downs; highs and lows. But through it all, Jesus kept me.

 

I decided to return to school in the fall. My sister questioned if that was a good idea. I believed it was. I needed to feel useful again. I needed to bring a sense of normalcy to my life. So I registered at Temple University as a full time student. What I would learn by the end of the semester is that I was not ready.

By January 2011 I felt like my life was falling apart. I was still in school but finding it increasingly more difficult to concentrate. I would fail two classes that semester and as if that was not traumatic enough, I received a health diagnosis that shook me to the core. It was not a life threatening diagnosis. However, in my present state of mind it felt like a death sentence. I was depressed. I could not stop crying. I felt like I was having a nervous breakdown.  My life was spiraling out of control and I needed help.

My church had a grief ministry so I reached out to them for help. I thought that I would be attending the weekly group sessions at the church. But God knows what we need. Instead of attending the group sessions, I was sent to a therapist outside of the church for one on one counseling. Once a week I met with a therapist in her office. Our sessions went beyond me grieving my mother. Our sessions touched on areas of my life that I had kept hidden. My therapist brought to the surface things that challenged me. Our sessions had me on my knees in prayer. And of course there were those sessions that made me emotional. But I will forever be indebted to my sister-in-Christ for seeing what I could not.

My sessions ended after a few months. More healing took place. I was beginning to feel normal again. If there is such a thing after losing a loved one.  I was no longer crying every day.  It was only every other day at this point.  There were songs I could not listen to without crying.  I would look at her picture and cry.  And one day I was driving down the street and just started crying.  But crying is part of the process, right?  It is said crying is good for the soul.  So surely something was healing with all of the crying that I was doing.

The summer of 2011 was good. I registered for classes at Devry University.  It was something I debated doing but I could hear my mother’s voice pleading with me to finish my degree.  Even in death I wanted to please my mother.  So I registered for classes.  I felt ready. I was excited.  I still wasn’t working but God was providing.  I wasn’t missing any meals and my bills were being paid so I was enjoying having the summer off.  During that time I began to envy those teachers who are able to be off during the summer months.  Life was getting better and I was happy about that.

But then another bombshell. Life was up to her old tricks again.  Life wasn’t done with me yet.  The death of my mother wasn’t enough.  She had to throw another boulder in my direction.  One year and four months after my mother died, my dad was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer.

 Damn…………here we go again.

God Can Handle My Anger

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Life never prepares you for the devastating moments. Those moments that shred your heart into pieces. You’re never prepared to have your world rocked in such a way that you question your very reason for living. No, life doesn’t prepare you for or give warning of those moments. Instead, she comes on a mission, ruthless, not really caring who she hurts. And I was hurting.

The drive to North Carolina was the longest drive I had ever made. I had made that drive a dozen times or more, but the drive the day after learning my mother had died was brutal. My head hurt. My heart heart. My mind was racing. I could not stop crying. And my insides were screaming MY MOTHER IS DEAD! MY MOTHER IS DEAD!! GOD WHY?!!

After what seemed like a drive across country, we finally arrived in Greenville. My dad met us outside and immediately grabbed us and hugged us tightly. It felt like he was not going to let go and I expected him to start crying at any moment but he did not. I could see the hurt in his face and I have to tell you, I had not really considered the pain he was feeling. Not only had I lost my mother, he lost his life partner. The woman he met before I was born and vowed if he ever had another chance with, that it would be forever. No, I had not considered the pain he was feeling. I was caught up in my own pain. Selfish? Maybe. But the woman who gave me life; my best friend in this world; my cheerleader and biggest supporter; my inspiration; my mother was now dead.

I had a ton of questions so that night my dad and I talked. I told him that I had spoken to my mother an hour before he called. I told him that when I called she was sleep. He said he called around 7pm and did not get an answer so he left work and went home. What I did not know was that they had a code; if at any time he called home and she did not answer, he was to come right home. This code was put into place after my mother was home alone one day and fell. She was unable to get to the phone to call for help and had to lay there for hours until my dad came home. So on the night she died, after calling home and not getting an answer, he rushed home and found her on the bedroom floor.

My mom had a Do Not Resuscitate certificate above her bed. But in spite of that my dad started CPR. I can not say I blame him. And I can not say I would not had done the same thing. Yes, her wishes were not to be resuscitated. But in that moment emotions and adrenaline take over and nothing else matters but saving your loved ones life. My dad said after a few moments he realized his attempts were futile. So he called my cousins and 911. It is still unclear why she was on the floor. The assumption is that maybe she was going to or coming from the bathroom and her heart gave out. She never did get the heart medicine that she needed. The appeal was still pending. Ironically, three weeks after my mother died, the medication along with a letter saying my mother had won the appeal, came in the mail. To say I was mad is an understatement.

As I listened to my dad recount the events of that evening something hit me; I was the last person she spoke too. As I thought about that, I began to cry. God blessed me with hearing her voice one final time. I had not spoken to her all day on that fateful day and that was unusual. But God, in his awesomeness, spoke to me in his still small voice and told me to call her before I went into church. For a long time after her death I played the “what if” game. What if I had not listened to God but instead said, ‘I will call her tomorrow?’ I would have missed an opportunity to tell my mother I loved her before God called her home. I can not put into words how special that was for me. I can not adequately describe how grateful I am to God for that blessing. But not only the blessing of being able to say one last time, “I love you mommy” but also the blessing of hearing her say one final time, “I love you too baby.” If you have never buried your mother or anyone close to you then this may be hard for you to grasp. But for those who know the relationship I had with my mom, they understand. And it is something I will always be grateful to God for.

Planning my mother’s funeral was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. My mom was special, and I wanted the service to be special. I am grateful for my best friend who flew in to help and to keep me sane. I am grateful to my sisters Beth and Lenora who were unable to be there but helped in ways they can’t even imagine. I’m grateful to Joe and his mom and aunts who drove from Charleston with enough food to feed an army. I’m grateful to my church family and the countless other people who called, text, and mailed cards. The outpouring of love was truly amazing and I will forever be grateful for the love shown to my family during our season of mourning.

It is said that you never know how strong you are until you have to be. I found out how strong I was…..or wasn’t……when I saw my mother lying in the casket. Before Jesus came into my life I had visions of me jumping in the casket with her. But in that moment he was my strength. He held me together as I kissed her and told her that I love her.

The service was nice. Friends and family came together to say good night to my mommy. By the grace of God I spoke….and finished. And I played one of her favorite gospel songs, I Love The Lord. At the burial it all seemed to really become final. This was it. I would never see her again. I requested to not have the casket lowered while I was there. I don’t think I would have been able to handle that. I said my final farewell and left.

I would be remiss if I did not mention how grateful I am to Mrs Coley. My church’s annual women’s retreat was taking place the week of my mother’s funeral. I had not planned on attending so I never paid the fee. While I was in North Carolina, Mrs Coley called me and asked when was I returning to Philadelphia. When I told her she said, ‘good because I spoke to the organizer and told her what happened and she has worked it out for you to attend the retreat.’ I was flabbergasted. I did not know what to say. Mrs Coley told me that I needed to be around my church family, my sisters-in-Christ.

Two days after my mother’s funeral my brother and I bid my dad farewell and headed north. After dropping him off I headed to the hotel. I was greeted with hugs and kisses and words of comfort. I learned who I would be sharing a room with and it was at that moment that I realized God was still covering me and protecting me. As it turned out the woman I was sharing a room with had recently lost her mother. God knows what we need. And I was yet to find out.

During dinner there were conversations happening all around me. I did not have much of an appetite and honestly wanted to be alone. But I knew my sisters were not going to let that happen. Finally, the opening program began. The worship leader came to the mic and began praise and worship. I remember her saying how good God is; how faithful God is; how awesome God is. I remember her saying how he protected us and provided for us. And then she said, “you prayed for your loved one to be healed and God healed them” and in that moment I became angry with God. I started crying and I had to leave the table. I stepped out into the lobby and just sobbed and then I heard Minister Icie’s words, “if you want to be angry with God, then be angry with God.” I never thought I would, but in that moment I found myself very angry with God for not healing my mother and allowing her to die. I was angry and I let God know how angry I was. But I would learn that God can handle my anger. In fact, I would learn how much God can handle my anger and feel God’s love even in the midst of my anger.

I finally made my way back into the worship service. The preacher was finishing up but wanted the women to participate in an exercise. She had us form circles of 8-10 women. Each woman was holding a glass. A deaconess came around and filled our glass with water. The water represented the baggage, unforgiveness, pain, hurt, negative emotions that we were holding on to. We were to hold that glass of water, praying and releasing those things which were hindering us to God. We were instructed that when we were ready we were then to pour our glass of water into a basin that was at the front of the room.

My glass of water was heavy. As I thought about the past 10 days and the anger I was feeling in that moment, I did not want to pray. I wanted to stay mad. I was hurting. And so I stood there. My glass was heavy. One by one women were leaving my group and pouring out their glass of water into the basin at the front of the room. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t even pray. After awhile my deaconess came up to me. She asked was I ok and I began to sob heavily. Immediately I was surrounded by other deaconess who laid hands on me and began interceding for me. I remember someone taking my glass and the next thing I knew I was on the floor, crying….crying….crying…..for what seemed like hours. I finally got myself together, retrieved my glass of water (I still had to pour my glass of water into the basin at the front of the room) and began praying. The overwhelming sense of peace that came over me was amazing. I could feel the love of God embracing me and I began to weep even more, but for different reasons. Finally, I poured my glass of water (anger, hurt, pain, grief) into the basin at the front of the room. In that moment, my healing began.

 

The Day My World Ended

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The Day My World Ended

I have heard it said before that a person who is about to die knows it.  I can’t explain how they know.  I guess it is a feeling that they have.  I guess it is a feeling that my mother had.  I asked her what she meant she was going to die. She said she could feel it and she was at peace with it. I, on the other hand, was not accepting this. I immediately went into daughter mode and said, “Lady, you’re not going anywhere. God has already promised me that you will be around for my wedding and graduation.” And for me that was final!

I completely shut down all talk about my mother dying. I went right to God. My mother wasn’t going to die. No way!  My mother never mentioned it again and so I knew she had put those thoughts to rest.

June 18, 2010 was my last day at my job. I felt such a peace about it and was excited about what God was going to do. I was ready to start school in the fall as a full time student. And had all sorts of plans for my summer off. Yes, it was going to be a great summer!!

June 29, 2010 was my sister’s birthday and my niece’s baptism. It was a special day. I woke up to the sun shining brightly through my bedroom window. And I could hear the sweet melodic song of the birds. I always imagined that they were worshipping God. I said my prayers then started my day. It was going to be a joyous day!

I cooked me some breakfast then decided to see what was going on in the land of Facebook. As I scrolled through my timeline I saw the usual vacation photos, engagement announcements, baby photos, and of course the occasional rant. It was good to see that all was normal in the land of Facebook. As I continued to scroll through I came across an inspirational post that made me pause:

 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me ~ Psalm 23:4

As I read the scripture I thanked God for his promise that he would be with me, protecting me, no matter what I faced. It was comforting to my soul and gave me peace about my future.

I continued on my day, running errands before returning home to get dressed for church. Because I was in a leadership position I had to wear white and looking rather handsome I might add. I made the short drive to church. As I pulled into the parking lot I saw other churchgoers beautifully dressed and I could not help but think this was going to be a wonderful service.

As I parked my car I heard, “call your mother.” Initially I was not but then realized that I had not spoken to her all day. I dialed her number and as I waited for the call to connect I glanced at the car clock, 6:25pm, ok I have a few moments. After the third ring I heard my mother’s sweet voice say “hello.”

 Hi mommy!

Hi Chocolate-Chip.

Are you sleeping already?

Yes baby, mommy had a long day and I’m tired.

Ok. I’m at church now. I’ll call you tomorrow.

Ok baby. Mommy loves you.

I love you too mommy.

As I hung up the phone I said aloud, “wow she sounded so peaceful.” She must have been in a good deep sleep, I thought.   I walked into the church and as is customary greeted my church family with hugs and kisses. At 6:45pm the praise and worship team began to set the atmosphere for the nights worship experience. At the same time, announcements were scrolling on the big screen. It was the usual information, ministry announcements, upcoming events, job opportunities…..and then I saw it……the scripture for the evening sermon:

 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

I read it and thought, “didn’t I just read the same scripture this morning? Maybe God was trying to tell me something. Maybe I’ll have a clearer understanding by the time service is over.”

Praise and worship was high. Everyone was on their feet singing, clapping their hands and tapping their feet. Everybody on one accord celebrating Jesus! In the midst of the celebration I heard, “Check your phone.” I pulled out my phone and saw that I had three missed calls from my dad. It was 7:15pm. I stepped out into the hallway and dialed his number.

As I waited for the call to connect I noticed three deacons standing in a room talking and I could hear voices behind me. My dad answers.

 Hey Mr. Butch. You called me?

She’s gone!!

Wait! What?! Who is gone?

She’s gone baby. Mommy is gone.

My entire world turned dark. I dropped the phone and let out a blood curdling scream. I could see the three deacons turn in my direction. I could feel myself slowly collapsing to the floor. Suddenly I felt arms around me and I could hear voices but I couldn’t form words. I was still screaming.

“Is she ok?” “What’s wrong?” “Oh my god, I hope it’s not her mother!”

It was the voices of women. I knew these women. But I couldn’t speak. I could only scream. They held me and someone was praying. After what felt like an eternity, they helped me up and led me into the choir room. Within minutes the room was full of people. I was being fanned. People were praying. I had stopped screaming but I was crying…..uncontrollably. Finally I said, “Please get my sister. She’s in the sanctuary.”

Within minutes my sister appeared. And for the first time I said, “My mother is dead.” Everyone gasped. Some people started crying. Someone else started praying again.

MY MOTHER IS DEAD!!!

My sister asked, “Who do you want me to call?” I gave her the names of my three people and she walked away. I asked someone to find my deacon so I could let him know. While I waited for him and as word began to spread and more people poured into the sanctuary, Minister Icie appeared. She grabbed my hands and started praying and I started sobbing again. After she finished praying she offered what was probably the greatest advice anyone outside of my mother had ever given. She said do not let anyone tell you how you should feel in this moment. Do not let anyone tell you how long your grieving should last. If you want to scream, then scream. If you want to curse, then curse. If you want to be angry at God, then be angry at God. But do not let ANYONE tell you how to feel. She hugged me then walked away.

I thought about what she said and the only thing I could respond to was, “why would I be angry with God? I can never be angry with God.”

Simultaneously, my sister and the person who went in search of my deacon appeared before me. My deacon had already left the church but a message was left on his voicemail. My sister had called my people and Joe was on his way.

As I sat there feeling alone, confused, sick, sad, and empty Psalm 23:4 came to mind. God was telling me something. He was preparing me. He was reminding me that he was with me and that he would comfort and protect me. My deacon and deaconess called. They prayed with me and told me to let them know what I need.

Joe finally arrived and I was glad because I needed air. I needed to be alone. I had to process what had just taken place. We stood in the parking lot for a few moments. My phone just kept ringing. My dad had called family and now they were calling me. First Aunt Rita. Then Jackie. Then my godmother Sheila. Finally Mrs. Toni. Then my friends started calling. Foya, Lenora, Will. It was so overwhelming but I know they were only concerned.

Joe followed me back to my apartment and when I walked in, it felt as though I walked in for the very first time. I slowly walked into the living room, sat on the sofa, and just stared at the wall. We sat in silence for a while before I said, “I need to call my brother.” I dialed his number. He asked why I was calling so late. I said, “Mommy died.” Silence. I asked was he ok? He said, “I’m ok.” I told him to call his job and let them know what was going on. I told him I would pick him up the next day so that we could go to North Carolina. He said ok and the call ended.

Joe stayed a little while longer before leaving. He told me to see him before I got on the road. He left and I was alone with my thoughts. But not for long. The person I was dating came over. I still sat there staring at the wall. He wanted to stay. I made him leave. I wanted and needed to be alone.

After he left I sat in deafening silence. I replayed the day’s events in my mind. How could a perfect day end this way? Then I said…….

“My mother is dead.”

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…….

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT?!!!!!

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WHAT?!!!!!

My mother would have a few more hospital stays. She also had to have surgery which was petrifying for me. But God brought her through it. I recall a few nights after her surgery, my dad went home while I stayed for mommy duty. I was missing lying next to her, so for a few moments I climbed in the hospital bed with her. I relished in that moment, but if you’ve ever spent even one night in a hospital you know that the chances of getting any sleep are slim to none. My mother finally came home and was doing really well. She had to use oxygen because the scleroderma was affecting her lungs but she was home and I was happy.

In October 2007 my mom and dad came to Philadelphia for my retirement ceremony from the Air Force. I was so happy to have her there and she was beaming all the way. I had stopped fasting by this time but I was still believing God for complete healing for my mom. I had even began looking into surprising them with another cruise. But because my mom used an oxygen tank, the hopes of another cruise quickly diminished.

By late 2009, early 2010 we learned that the scleroderma was now affecting her heart and there was a particular medication that she would need. Unfortunately, Medicaid did not cover the medication and there was no generic brand available. And even more disturbing was the medication was almost $10,000! Yes, you read correctly, $10,000! I was livid and worry began to set in once again but I prayed and stood on God’s word that he would provide the medication that my mother needed. I reminded God everyday that my mother had to be at my wedding and my graduation. So I knew that he would answer my prayer and heal her.

But even in the midst of believing, I still worried and still doubted. I know it is said if you are going to pray, don’t worry; and if you are going to worry, don’t pray. But I was really struggling in my faith at this point. My mom seemed to be deteriorating and I feared the worse.

My biggest fear was being home…..alone….and receiving a call that my mother had died. I was not sure how I would handle that news alone and so I told God my concerns. At this point it may sound like I was giving up, but I really was not. Although I had days that I struggled in my faith, i still told myself that by his stripes she is healed. And I thank God for the prayer warriors who were covering me.

Mothers Day 2010 I spent with my mom. As was custom, I kicked my dad out of their bed and I cuddled up with my mom. Actually, he was use to it so when he knew that I was coming he would take his place on the couch. My mom and I had a great weekend together and I told her I would be back as soon as I could.

Upon my return to work, I learned that I would be laid off because of the recession. I was not surprised because God had already warned me that it was going to happen. I was excited (go figure) and saw it as an opportunity to finish my bachelors degree full time. My mother on the other hand went right into mommy mode. She wanted me to pack up my apartment and move to North Carolina. I assured her I would be just fine. But should the need arise I would be on my way.

Shortly thereafter my mother told me she wanted to have a family meeting. She said she wanted my brother and I to come to North Carolina so that she could talk to us. I asked her about what and she said she wanted to talk face to face. But I wouldn’t let it go and then she dropped a bombshell:

We need to talk as a family because I am going to die.

The Battle Is Not Mine

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The Battle Is Not Mine

The book of Ecclesiastes teaches us some fundamental facts about life: Life is fickle. Life is fragile. Life is fleeting. And Life is futile. In fact, as my pastor points out in his sermon titled ‘The Facts of Life’, if you are a babe in Christ the book of Ecclesiastes is not the book to read for encouragement or inspiration.

I have read the book of Ecclesiastes several times and each time I have thought the author, King Solomon, must have had a difficult life. His life must have been filled with such trials and tribulations that he came to the conclusion that life sucks….plain and simple. But ironically, King Solomon also penned the book of Proverbs and in Proverbs 3 he reminds us to “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not to thine own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he shall direct your path.” So in my interpretation, although King Solomon may have had a difficult life he knew that through it all if he just trusted God, it would all be alright. A lesson I would soon learn.

My First Lady and the women of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church went on a women’s retreat; a four day Carnival cruise. I love to cruise so I was excited about the retreat and excited about what God was going to do on the retreat. The Church Ladies (a group of ladies who became friends then family) decided to stay in Miami on the front and back end of the cruise. For four days we had our spirits fed, we were challenged, we laughed, we cried, and we worshipped and praised God. And in the most unusual way, God let us know that He was there. We were on one of the decks having praise and worship. Suddenly a bird appeared from nowhere and hovered over the deck. Now, if you have ever been on a cruise you know that while in the middle of the ocean you never see any wildlife; particularly birds. But here was this bird, hovering over the deck for a few moments, before finally flying away. It was an amazing experience and all any of us could do was worship God and thank him for his presence.

On the last day of the cruise, before docking back in Miami, we had service. The preacher gave each of us a warning.  She said the enemy would be waiting for us when we returned home.  Well, the enemy did not wait until I returned to Philadelphia; he showed up in Miami.  Not even two hours after returning to Miami I received a call from my dad telling me that my mother was in the hospital and they did not expect her to survive.  I had to get to North Carolina.  I immediately went into panic mode.  Everything that I had received during the four day retreat went out of the window.  My mother was in the hospital and she may die.

I did not sleep a wink. I called my dad every hour on the hour checking on my mother.  The prognosis was still grim.  The Church Ladies prayed for me.  I tried praying but could not find the words to say.  Thankfully the Holy Spirit intercedes when we don’t know what to say.  As we arrived at the airport to catch our flight to Philadelphia all I could think about was my mother and how I was going to get to North Carolina.  I called a friend to share what was going on.  She asked me how I was doing and I broke down and cried.  She said, “Trust God. Do not let the enemy do this to you. Trust that God is going to work it out for you.”  After my conversation with her I felt energized.  I felt a fire stirring up in my soul. I felt like I wanted to fight.  And so I began pacing in the airport talking to the enemy letting him know that he will not win this fight! No weapon formed against me or my mother shall prosper! Greater is He that is in her than he that is in the world! All things work together for the good of them that love the Lord and are called according to his purpose! And by His stripes she is healed! Then I said God, I know my mother is healed.  I know that you are protecting my mother and you are keeping her.  My mother cannot die.  She has to be here for my wedding.  She has to be here for my retirement.  I stand on your word God and you made promises to me that I know you will keep.  My palms were sweating.  My fists were balled up and I was ready for war!

My mother improved greatly and was able to come home after a week. But God!!! And it was in that moment that I realized the enemy was after what God was trying to do in my life….build my faith and trust in him.  For so many years I lived off my mother’s faith.  But God wanted to develop my own faith.  The enemy was also after my mind because if he could get my mind, he won the battle.  But God promised……

‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed……for the battle is not yours, but God’s.’ ~ 2 Chronicles 20:15

Developing Faith

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Developing Faith

My mother’s diagnosis taught me the power of the disciplines of prayer and fasting. On this Christian journey, fasting is not an option. The bible does not say “if you fast” it says “when you fast.” And at this point in my walk fasting was a fairly regular practice for me as my church fasted every Tuesday and also during the Lent season for 40 days. But now, I was fasting for my mother’s healing.

But, before I go any further though I must divulge a secret. As easy as it is for me to pray with people, I found it extremely difficult to pray with my mother. Because of that I questioned everything. I questioned my walk. I questioned everything I had been taught. I questioned if I were truly the prayer warrior I claimed to be. I told a friend how I was feeling and what she said made sense to me. She said the reason I was having a difficult time praying with my mother is because…..well….she is my mother. In that moment I was not a prayer warrior, I was a daughter…her daughter. A daughter that was also dealing with the emotional baggage, if you will, of having a mother who was sick.  My emotions got in the way of my ability to pray with my mother and for a very long time I resented myself for that.

But every day I prayed for my mother. And every day I fasted for my mother’s healing from 6am to 6pm.  For those twelve hours I ate no food and only had water or juice. I was determined to continue with this fast until the Lord healed my mother.  And I believed in my heart that God was going to heal my mother.  Oh, but the enemy was on a mission to steal that belief.  He was on a mission to kill my joy.  And he was on a mission to destroy the faith that I had.

In 2007, while at work, I received a telephone call that my mother was in the hospital again. Once again I left work, jumped in my car, and headed to North Carolina. When I arrived I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. She was in pretty bad shape and would be in the hospital for a while. I stayed in North Carolina for as long as I could. Two weeks after I returned to Philadelphia I received a call from my dad saying they were going to release her but she would have to keep the tubes in and a nurse would come to the house every day to care for her. The doctors were not very optimistic that she would pull through. That was not the news I wanted to hear, nor the news I was praying and fasting for.  Immediately a flood of emotions came upon me.  I began to cry and just like that unbelief began to set in.  But God…….the Holy Spirit reminded me that the enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy.  The Holy Spirit reminded me that God is faithful.  And the Holy Spirit reminded me why I was praying and fasting….for my mother’s healing (or so I thought).  So I quickly dried my eyes and begin to let the enemy know Who was really in control! I was praying and quoting scripture and declaring in the name of Jesus that my mother will not go home with tubes, and that she will not die!! I reminded God of his promises and I told the devil to kick rocks!!

Three days later I received a call from my dad saying that my mother was doing much better and that she would be released, without any tubes, within 48 hours! My journey of trusting God and having faith the size of a mustard seed had begun. God was showing me that it was impossible to please him without faith.  I was developing my own faith and not my mother’s faith.  It was another moment of growth and I was grateful.  But, the enemy was not finished………..