Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Walking by Faith Step by Step

Still learning to adjust to the death of my son Joseph, over a year ago, and on the heels of the death of my mother-in-law, who we had been praying would get better, I recently received some news about my brother.  A report from the doctor had initially been given my family about three years ago that he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and that they would have to remove some tissue to see how far advanced it was.  On and off meds, chemo treatments, medical procedures, ups and downs, God had shown Himself faithful, because although my brother had some very rough moments to say the least, he was still here and still cognizant.  I thank God for my oldest brother and youngest sister who were with him, and are with him, daily and tirelessly, to see and to make sure that he has everything he needs and to make life as comfortable for him as it can be.  I know for a certainty that being a caretaker is far from being an easy task and requires a great sacrifice.

Somehow when I was told that the doctors said my brother was in stage four and that there was nothing else they could do for him, it had not really hit me until I saw him.  You see the last time I had seen him was about two months ago and he was up and talking, and I was able to take him grocery shopping and he was telling jokes and talking about putting a puzzle together (you all know how much I love puzzles and how that warmed my heart).  So when my family and I went to see him the day after Thanksgiving it came as a shock for me to see him the way he was.  And although he seemed totally oblivious to who we were, he wasn’t, as he held my cheek, kissed me and smiled at us.  It took everything inside of me not to break down in that moment, in the presence of my girls, my grandson, my husband… him.   And I didn’t.  We left shortly after that as he had grown tired, and I felt like crying knowing that it could very well be the last time I might see him again.  But I held in the tears again and just believed that all would be well, for that moment that I had.

You see just two days earlier, a dear brother in the Lord at our church, had just shared with us of how he had received a report from the doctor that his wife may be undergoing kidney failure.  His wife had a major stroke.  She lost the use of her hands.  She could not talk.  She could not feed herself.  She could barely walk.  And in just a few years, we at the church, have witnessed how God has raised her up.  How God has restored her health.  How she is talking, walking, using her hands, helping us out in the ministry, with the back to school give-away, decorating.  Our dear brother tells us how she cooks and cleans and helps him in his business.  God has really done a miraculous work.  So when I heard this report after knowing what God did, it threw me for a loop.  How do you go from that to this and then back to that?  I asked. And then when I saw my brother, it shook my faith to the core…  Again.  An all too familiar feeling.  One that I have yet to adjust.

When Joseph was killed by that driver who ran the red light, my faith was shaken.  I had so many questions for God… how could He allow that to happen?  Why would He allow it to happen?  What did Joseph do?  What did I do?  What did any of us do?  Did he/we deserve this?  Why wasn’t I there for him?  Truth is, things happen to us.  Things that can and will shake us to our core.  Things that will challenge what we believe.  Things that will challenge our faith.  And this is where I was with this. 

I asked the questions.  Again.  What God?  Why?  What is going on?  What in the world?  What is this?  Every what, why, question you could think of, I asked it.  I was discouraged, disappointed, dismayed, etc...  (Just a side note:  Whenever you start with the feelings of dis…., you end up with dis-belief.  Not a good place to be).  Anyway, I didn’t know what to think.   I did stop believing.  My faith was shaken.  Sunday was coming, church was coming and I didn’t even know what to say to anybody.  I asked myself as I asked my husband (my Pastor), how am I supposed to encourage somebody to have faith when my faith has been so shaken?  And my hubby told me, first of all, it was okay for me to be me.  That it was okay to share from a place of where I am.  That God doesn’t expect me not to feel.  But he also said this, that he also had to share from the same place when Joseph died, when his mom died, and as he kept his eyes on God he was able to do what God wanted him to do.   Those words stood out for me as I remembered what God spoke to me earlier that morning.  He kept his eyes on God.  He kept his eyes on God.  In order to keep your eyes on God you have to have FAITH.

God led me to His Word.  He led me 2 Corinthians 5:7, We walk by FAITH, not by sight.  And then God reminded of a devotional I read back in 2013.  I took a note from it that I journaled that says this… “We don’t walk spiritually by an electrical light, but by a hand-held lantern.  And a lantern shows only the next step, not several steps ahead.  Our walk is one of faith, step by step, moment by moment decisions.”  I spoke about this last Sunday in a reflection, but imagine if you will… light.  Everywhere.  That means everywhere you look you can see whatever is there.  God says that is NOT faith.  Faith is the substance of things HOPED FOR, the evidence of things NOT SEEN.  So if you can see it, it is NOT faith. 

Now imagine this… there is no light.  Everything around you is dark.  You CANNOT SEE anything.  But if you have faith a light shines exactly where you are.  Right where you are.  In that moment.  In that spot.  Ahead of you is still dark.  But where you are is light.  God says that’s faith.  NOW FAITH IS.  FAITH IS NOW. 

God says He gives us faith for the moment.  NOW FAITH IS.  We don’t have to worry about what is going to happen ahead of time.  The Scripture says do not worry about what will happen tomorrow.  Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.  Our walk of faith is a moment by moment, step by step, decision.  God is with us every step of the way, lighting the path.  He is in the future.  He is already there.  And He stands ready to provide whatever we need for that moment when we get to it.  We just need to operate in our RIGHT NOW faith.

I don’t know what is going to happen with my brother.  I yet believe that God is good.  I yet believe that he is in God’s hands.  I yet believe in the report of the Lord, that by His stripes he is healed.  I yet believe that absolutely nothing is too hard for God.  I believe that He is a God of miracles.  And I make the decision to walk by faith, step by step, moment by moment, trusting that when the next moment comes, God will be there, giving me the faith that I need to get through it, in whatever way that will mean. 

Because God is real and so must my faith be.

A servant of the Lord,
Sis. E

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Thank You For Being A Friend (Your Friendship Matters)

Been led to share this coming on the heels of our Women’s Tea, where our topic was “Friendships Matter.” 

God has spoken and He still is speaking a lot about friends, revealing hearts, what is in mine, and what is in others.  Or more so what I perceive to be in others.  Certainly everyone is not meant to be your friend and just because we might consider them as such, does not mean that they are.  But as discussed at the Tea, if we allow Him to and if we are open to hear, God will reveal who your friends are and where in your life they belong, which will not only give you peace but them as well.  God will also remove people from your life the way He deems.  We would save ourselves a lot of grief if we would allow God to do so and stop trying to do it ourselves.

Anyway, friends...  Some are just like us.  Some are completely opposite.  Some are in your life for a reason.  Some are in your life for a season.  Some friends stretch us and help to mold us. Some friends we are supposed to stretch.    Some friends show us what not to do, which actually help us to become better people.  Some friends we pray with, some friends we hang out with, while there are some we just sit and chill with.  But one thing is certain every friend should allow you to be you.  And when you feel as though you don’t have that space to be who you are, it may be time to reevaluate.  Not necessarily getting rid of the friend, but just knowing where they belong at any particular period in your life.

At the Women’s Tea, a new friend of mine and each one of the Favoured Women of God, (the name of our Women’s Ministry) spoke from a different sub-topic.    Needing A Friend, How to Pick Your Friends, Dealing with Expectations, Recognizing False Friends, Categorizing Friends, Being A Friend and Knowing How/When/IF to Walk Away.  And each one of the topics crossed over to another topic in some way.  But God has been dealing with me specifically on Needing A Friend and Dealing with Expectations.

As I shared there, I have never been more aware in my life of needing a friend than I am now.  Following the death of my son, Joseph I have found myself more in need of friendship than ever before.  For months leading to this and up until this day, I have dealt with a host of emotions, seemingly from friends, including, betrayal, separation, loneliness, and unforgiveness.  And my first reaction to all of this was simply to pull away.  To be by myself.  And I struggle often with that, but God yet keeps bringing me back to what it means to be a friend.   And I can’t be a friend or have one even if I insist on being by myself.  So with that in mind, I want to share some thoughts about friends that God has shared with me.

Sometimes friendship is a bit uneven.  One friend will often carry the weight of another, or seemingly do more than the other.  It does not mean one is not a friend.  If we find ourselves questioning why they don’t do such and such, then we are the ones who are not being friends.  Friendship comes from the heart.  You don’t do something for a friend and then expect that friend to do those things with you or for you.  That’s what you do.  That’s who you are.  It’s not what they are.  You do you.   Don’t expect your friend to do you, too.  They can (and will) only do themselves.

A friend is someone who assesses the needs of another and wants to meet that need without requiring the same.  Don’t pick up the heavy load and then ask your friend why are you not helping me.  Pick it up and be willing to carry it (without proclaiming you are carrying it) for as long as you need to UNTIL your friend has the strength to carry it with you, even if it is her load.

A friend is someone who is there when you pick up the phone.  One they can lean on for support.  They are ready to step in (when and if they can) and help you even if it means their own plans will suffer.    

A friend is someone you want to spend time with even if the time you spend together you are not necessarily doing anything.  One of the best measurements of friendship is that you are comfortable with the uncomfortable.  You don’t have to force yourself to talk when there is silence.   I love that about my husband and even with my children, that we don’t have to talk, sometimes it is just the being there.  TOGETHER.   I often have conversations on the phone with my daughter, and I don’t hear anything except her breathing.  We don’t feel like we HAVE to say anything.
God said, “Friends are consistent, persistent, but never insistent.” 

Friends are consistent... they are unchanging over a period of time. 

Friends are persistent… they continue firmly, without wavering, in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.  Friends endure. 

Friends are never insistent.  They do not insist or demand something (especially which one cannot give).  They do not simply refuse on the basis of just because.

A friend does not insist on having her own way.  And in learning this, I am learning that I cannot demand things from my friends.   Especially if they are just not capable of giving it.  A hard lesson, but one I have come to accept.

Isn’t that what love is?  1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NLT it says, “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. (Remember that the next time you keep count of how many times you do something for a friend?)  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 
Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”   

God also said, “Friends do not feel obligated, they feel obliged.”

Obligation comes from you.  It’s a demand you put on someone else.  To be obliged comes from them.  It’s a demand they put on themselves. 

Your friends should not feel like they are obligated to do something and you should not have to compel them to do anything.  Friends do it simply because they want to.  They oblige.  They give in (and of) themselves freely without question. 

And a friend loves at all times.  At ALL times.  Even when friends are not lovable.  And here is where God flipped the script on me, because He showed me, ME.  Even when I did not feel like loving or allowing myself to be loved, if I am to be a friend or call myself one, I am supposed to love.  AT ALL TIMES.  Which sometimes might mean picking up the phone when I’d rather not.

That’s what a friend is.  That’s what friendships are made of.  And that’s why friendships matter.  Because God does and He is love.  And His love never fails.

So in whatever category you may fall, I thank you for being a friend.  My friend.  Your friendship matters.

A servant (and friend) of the Lord,

Sis. E

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Wilderness Triumph

Very often the things that we must go through, in order for us to grow, require suffering and hardship. Alone time and separation. In a place, a dry place, albeit, we consider the wilderness. Immediately after Jesus was baptized of John and God declared “This is My beloved Son,” the Bible says in Matthew 4:1, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”
Many have the idea, just as Job’s friends, that when someone is in the wilderness or when they are going through, it’s because they have done something wrong and God is punishing them. Or as some have said, they are reaping what they have sown. Not so. Go back and read that Scripture again. The Scripture says, it was the Spirit that led Jesus into the wilderness. It was the Spirit of God that directed Him there. The Spirit of God ordered His very steps right into suffering.
And suffering He did. After Jesus was in the wilderness and fasted for 40 days and 40 nights... here came the devil. To tempt Jesus. To make Him suffer. Three times, the enemy plagued Jesus with what He might have wanted to fulfill His need, but definitely not what He needed. The enemy does the same to us too you know. Troubling us, plagueing us, torturing us with thoughts and desires, that if we were not alone, we would never even consider.
But if God leads you to the wilderness, God has a purpose behind it. He has a reason for doing it. And we do God an injustice when we believe otherwise. Myself included. Certainly God has a plan. The Word says it’s a good plan, a plan to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future. Just as He did with Jesus.
What we fail to understand though sometimes is, somehow we believe that if God led us into the wilderness, He is calling us to rest and since He led us there He won’t let anything trouble us. Not so... again. For it was not until AFTER the Spirit of God led Jesus into the wilderness, the attacks came. And for some of us, the attacks still come.
God separates us. He calls us apart. He brings us onto the mountaintop for a time. He brings us into the wilderness for a time. Those are periods of testing. Periods of refreshing. Times to grow and stretch our faith. But we are not and will not be immune to attacks from the enemy. His whole purpose is to kill, steal and destroy no matter who you are, where you are and regardless if God brought you there.
And even in those times where we are fasting and praying, it does not mean that we will be protected through it or that nothing is going on, or going to happen. During these times we are being tested the most, for whose strength will you lean on? In your own strength, even while you fast, you will fall, every single time.
But in God’s strength, and in the power of His Word, you will be able to stand. In God’s strength, you will be refreshed through your wilderness journey and for that moment that you need it, be given the sufficient grace to get through it.
Thanks be unto God, who always causes us to triumph IN Christ Jesus.
God is real. Even in the wilderness.
Still, a servant of the Lord,
Sis. E

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Vampire Spirit

Lately God has been speaking about forgiveness.  In little ways, He has been dropping subtle (and not so subtle) hints for me to forgive.  It’s funny how many times I have shared on this very topic but it yet always seems to come up. 

For any of us who struggle with hurt, we have to know that we might be struggling with forgiveness, also.  Somehow they go hand in hand.  Not saying that they should, but they yet do or can. 

Anyway, a major part and I believe at the foundation, the core of our belief in Jesus Christ, is forgiveness.  And our ability to forgive.  After all, this is what sent Jesus to the cross.  To die on our behalf, that we might be forgiven.  But God says, if you do not forgive others of their wrongs, neither will He forgive you.  So no matter what Jesus did to take away our sins, our injustice towards others, if we continue to hold on to unforgiveness in our hearts toward other people, will not be forgiven.

I was chewing on this word forgiveness, again and God sort of painted a picture for me.   Of vampires.  Yes, you read that right… vampires.  With all the shows on tv, and the movies much is said about vampires and zombies and flesh-eating creatures.  And for me, God often shows me something in the natural to make a spiritual point.  And this is what He said. 

Vampires, zombies and flesh-eating creatures, (oh my…) thirst for blood.  That is how they survive.  That is how they thrive.  And we, when we do not forgive, do the same.  Because we have been hurt, sometimes we thirst for blood, have a desire to see the one that has hurt us bleed.  Not so much in the natural (first natural, then spiritual).  As a vampire who hungers and searches for blood, he has a need to feed that thirst.  Only once he feeds, he doesn’t stop wanting to feed.  He continues to have the need.  When he gets the blood, for him, it doesn’t get better, it only gets worse.

The same is true of us.  When we hold on to hurt, we have that same need.  That need to feed.  We want the other person to hurt.  Hurt people really do hurt people.  We want them to feel our pain or some kind of pain.  Desiring to see them cry, like we do.  Experience some type of hurt, emotional, mental, some of us actually want to hurt them physically.  And then once we see them hurt, it’s not enough.  That is how revenge works.  It’s a need to feed a vengeful spirit that doesn’t end.  Always having the yearning to see whoever hurt you, hurt even more.  And it’s fueled by unforgiveness.

But God is real.  Glory to be God who always causes us to triumph.  God cares about us so much that He allows us to see where we might be struggling.  He shows us where we are falling short.  He reminds us of what Jesus died for and what it cost Him.  Especially now in this season.  When Jesus was on that cross, with the two thieves on His sides, with people mocking and ridiculing and stabbing and crucifying Him, He made a decision to forgive.  If He can do that from that position, seeing what He saw, feeling what He felt, who are we that we can’t forgive someone who called us out of our name, forgot our birthday or didn’t meet our expectations.  Oh, forgive me, Lord.

“Vengeance is mine. I shall repay,” saith the Lord. 

Rebuke that vampire spirit within you.  Take away the need to feed and give it (whoever the “it” might be) to God.  He can actually handle the blood.  Selah.

A servant of the Lord, still.

Sis. E

Copyright ©2016

Friday, February 5, 2016

Grief IS NOT A Disease

Grief is not a disease
If you go near it you’re not gonna “catch” anything.
Yeah, you may be forced to deal with some emotion
You may come face to face with some sadness
I suppose a little too much for your comfort
But I promise you, you won’t catch anything
It’s not like Chicken Pox
It’s not contagious
It’s not the common cold
Air-borne, and bound for anything in reach, breathing

Grief is not a disease
If you touch the person that’s grieving
It won’t happen to you
Simply because you reached out to them.
It’s non-transferrable
I promise you, you won’t catch anything
It’s not a disease

Grief is the emotional outcome of a circumstance
An involuntary state of mind that one finds itself in
Resulting from the death of someone they loved
Someone that loved them
Knowing that for this time they will never be able to see them again
That there will never be another opportunity to eat with them
To say simple things like hello, good morning, good night…
I love you
Because the final farewell has been said
And they are no longer where they’ve always been
That’s what grief is
A yearning, a longing for what was and can no longer be
A deep sorrow beyond human explanation
And human touch
And no, you can’t catch it.
Yes, you might feel it.
And it might leave you feeling a certain type of way
Feeling lost, feeling a loss… for words.
But times that by about a million
And you might have a sense even if for a moment of how the one who is grieving feels

It’s not a disease
But it feels like one to them
Especially when they’re treated like it is
By those who stay miles and miles away
Keeping them at arm’s length… not wanting to get too close
Not even by phone

Grief is not a disease
It’s not a condition.  It’s not a disorder.
It’s not terminal. 
And I personally want you to know, you can’t catch it.
But even if you could, you won’t
…you’re not that close.

Copyright 2016 Evelyn Fannell

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Happy Birthday For My Son in Heaven

Here it is.  The day I waited for, 23 years ago.
The day you would be born.
It was going to be a glorious day! 
Having two girls already, “this one,” I said, “will be my boy.”
Dad wanted you so badly. 
Oh yes, he certainly loved his girls (back then and even more so now),
But he was relieved and so happy when you were born.
And the possibility of having to put another dollhouse together, disappeared.
Now there would be blues and greens, maybe some purple and orange, but not pink everywhere.
There would be cars, planes, trains and action figures around the house, taking the place of Barbies.
Race tracks to put together! 
Even I got excited at that prospect.
Our son was born.  We had a baby boy!

I remember the plan we made before you came.
I would go to the hospital of my choice and pretend to be in labor,
so that you wouldn’t have to be born in the city hospital we couldn’t afford, anyway.
Little did I know the joke was on me, because when I got there, I was in labor.
36 hours.
They took a sonogram and told me I was having a girl even at that last minute.
“Oh, no I’m not.” I told them.  “You’re wrong.”
Even daddy made jokes about it and said I had to change your name. 
But I told him, “Nope.  It’s a boy and his name will stay the same.”
J Malik Brandon Fannell, that’s what it was to be.
Too much distress on my body, so they had to take you.
And there you were.  My boy!!!  Our boy!!!
Just like I said.  In spite of the doctors.
And all I could do was laugh.
I think dad chuckled too.
We were so happy!!!
Dad shouted to the rooftops, “No more dollhouses to build!”
And he changed your name.
Let’s name his Joseph.
So instead of the J, it was Joseph.
Joseph Malik Fannell.
Though I wanted you to have a piece of daddy’s name, the Brandon was removed.
Dad wanted you to have a piece of his dad’s name.
Yes, Joseph.

But something was wrong the doctors said
I don’t understand.  You cried like the other babies.
But you weren’t like them.
(Even then you stood out from the rest).
You had to have surgery. 
Three, before your first year of life.
A rare condition you had. 
Requiring a specialist. 
You were so very special.  So very unique.
We just never knew how true that would come to be.

Growing up, we laughed with you.
We cried with you. 
You had certainly had your share of spankings.
And we cried for you.  As parents would say.
“This hurts me more than it does you….” 
So many memories.

The time you fell off your bike and caused me to faint,
Because of all the blood. 
Wasn’t really that much but it could have been to me.
When you bumped your mouth on the bathroom sink
And cracked your tooth in half.  Twice.
I remember you “living” outside. 
You were out there so much. 
Climbing the vine bricks in the backyard,
Digging up bugs in the ground and playing with them
Calling them your friends.
Funny, you wouldn’t go anywhere near one later in life.
I remember how you used to ride your tricycle in the house
And slam into the door whenever daddy was trying to study.
How you ran to the window in the excitement of seeing your grandmother.
“Ahma’s car!  Ahma’s car!”  is what you would say.
And how we couldn’t pass a McDonald’s or Dunkin’ Donuts,
Having to  take the long way home..
For fear you would cry out, “Hamburger, fry” or “Doh doh”

I remember the way you loved your sisters.
Adoring them, even as they made fun of you, in almost every gathering.
Whenever I tried to take a picture.
How you would secretly ask me about dad
And the things he did when he was younger, with me,
So you would know how to treat your girlfriend.
How you admired him from a distance. 
Telling him so, “in your own way.”
He knows that now.  For sure.
I remember watching you teach Christian basketball
And ran him until he was tired.
Making sure every basket went in the hoop a certain amount of times, straight
Before you let him come in the house.
So many memories.
Oh how you loved them all.  How you loved us all.
I saw it in your eyes.

I remember the birthday celebrations of yesterday,
Watching you get older with each one,
How you always had the biggest smile,
Especially when we got it “right.”
And gave you the perfect gift.
I remember one year though, we didn’t quite meet that expectation
And you let it show.
You were like that Joe. 
So honest in your emotions with us.
So much so, I often wondered how you hid it so well with others.
But I realized it was a gift.
Whatever you felt when it came to others,
You bottled. 
Tucked it away so it could be used later.
As you delivered those spoken words so effortlessly.
“Do you really think I have a talent?”  you asked me.
“Oh yes,” I said, in my effort to encourage you.
“Just being able to remember written words like that, is a talent.
And then to recite them, page and page of text, so fluently,
That’s a gift.”

You used that gift well.
Even if it was only for a short period of time.
I believe you touched more lives in your 22 years
Than some do in a lifetime.
To look back now and to be able to see just how much you’ve done
Makes me so very grateful.

So here it is.  The day I’ve been anticipating,
What would have been your 23rd birthday.
And you’re not here.
Who would have imagined that I’d be here? 
That we would be here.
I ask myself, can we really say Happy Birthday to someone in heaven?
How do you celebrate?
We can celebrate your birth and the fact that you were born to us.
We can celebrate the life that you had, the person you were,
And the delight you have given us.
Yeah, delight.

Those words of Michael Jackson could not be more true for you.
For you were…
Born to amuse, to inspire, and to delight.
The road was never easy, but it was worth it and very well tread upon.
Because of you.

Happy Birthday in heaven, Joseph.
You will forever be 22, but you will forever be celebrated.

Rest in peace.  Sleep in peace.

Copyright 2016