Are You Experiencing a Spiritual Attack?

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Trapped in a barn stall I couldn’t see it, but I felt it’s hot breath on my skin. It snarled and loomed over me. I spun around feeling for the door to escape, but there was none. I flailed my arms to push it away from me but felt air as it darted out of the way reappearing behind me.  I woke up screaming.

That same morning around 5 am, I found my husband, Jay, sitting on the sofa, staring into his coffee cup. He’d asked why I was up so early, and when I told him, his eyes widened.

He’d had the same dream, only in his version he was in a small garage.

Days later, a misunderstanding arose at my husband’s employment, gossip and backbiting ensued, and Jay experienced so much fear over our financial future and doubt in what God had told him to do, it landed him on the kitchen floor dry heaving in the middle of the night. There he surrendered his financial future to his Heavenly Father. Afterwards, he resigned from his position, and God quickly paved the path for him to open his own business. For what Satan uses to kill us, God uses to resurrect us.

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I’d lost my sister the year before, and we’d used much of our savings to build a farmhouse, after a season of prayer and confirmation it was what God wanted. As soon as the farmhouse sat completely furnished the enemy struck. Many times, the enemy attacks after an act of obedience, especially if it is one that makes you step out of your comfort zone. So, I knew in the middle of our adversity it was more than a physical attack.

This was spiritual.

What I didn’t realize at the time was God allowed it to strengthen our faith in His provision.

There are ways to recognize when you are in the middle of spiritual warfare. The following are signs or symptoms you may be under a spiritual attack.

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  1. Indecisive Behavior:

Like the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz who can’t seem to make up his mind on which direction to go, this could be you. You pray but can’t seem to hear the Father on a major decision you’re making for your life. You’re told conflicting advice by your friends and loved ones which only makes you more confused. If you find yourself in this dilemma, recognize the enemy is the creator of confusion. He loves to muddy the waters.

“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.” I Corinthians 14:33 (English Standard Version.)

If you can’t make a clear-cut, God-guided decision then do nothing. “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalms 46:10a. (ESV)

In our culture, indecision or waiting is looked upon as a weakness, but God is clear He calls us at times to be still. Don’t snatch the reins or run ahead; but allow God time to reveal an answer. It’s in the waiting faith germinates.

 

  1. Fear and Anxiety:

If you feel chronic fear or anxiety you could be experiencing a spiritual attack. The enemy uses fear to stop us from moving forward. When I set out to design the farmhouse, I wanted a quaint little place, but Jay knew God wanted us to build a larger home. I became riddled with fear and anxiety over spending our cash in building what I began calling the “ark.” Jay insisted God told him to build a house that future generations could use as a safe haven in case of a financial collapse. I set out praying for confirmation and peace. One Sunday after our house’s foundation had been laid, I went to church while Jay stayed behind with our sick daughter. I prayed in the pew that if it wasn’t God’s will for the ark to be built He would cause something to happen to stop it.  Pastor Chuck Carter at First Baptist Windermere took the podium, opened his Bible, and read, “By faith Noah being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household.” Hebrews 11:7 ESV. God spoke directly into my fear and anxiety and gave me the peace of mind to move forward.

I underlined that verse and wrote in my Bible “Farmhouse confirmation.” God has a word to calm any fear and settle any anxiety. Don’t know where to start? You can find many of the calming verses right in the middle of your Bible in the book of Psalms. Just let it fall open.

We may never see our farmhouse used for the reason it was built, but we have seen it used for His purposes in the interim as a place to minister to others.

 

  1. Loss:

Are you in a season of loss? Loss of health, a death of a loved one, depleted finances, a straying spouse, loss of peace in your home, loss of hope. All of these and more could be indicative of a spiritual attack. If you find yourself in a season of loss as I have, cling to God’s promises.

“He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalms 147:3 (ESV)

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)

 

  1. Insecurity:

If you’re experiencing a painful season of feeling inadequate in your appearance, talents, skill set, employment, or relationships, you could be listening to the enemy. Satan loves to make us feel as if we don’t belong, we don’t have what it takes, or we don’t look like we should because that will keep us from progressing in whatever God has called us to do. While God amplifies our potential, Satan magnifies our deficit. Tune out the enemy by keeping your mind and heart focused on the Father. Abide in Him.  “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forevermore, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” Isaiah 26: 3- 4 (ESV)

 

  1. Guilt:

The enemy uses our past to enslave us. Do you find yourself constantly digging up past mistakes and wallowing in them? This is another way the enemy stops us from living the life of freedom God intended. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gently and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)

If you find yourself rehashing past mistakes that you’ve already asked forgiveness for, you’re not believing what Christ did on the cross was enough. I have a friend who rebelled for a period of time when she asked God for forgiveness for all she’d done, she stated immediately she felt light and freedom from the heavy burdens she’d been carrying. Upon her return to church, some in the church felt she didn’t look guilty enough, but she refused to walk with a hung head. God forgave her. She stood firm on His promises.

If our sin hurts someone else we need to ask forgiveness from all the persons affected by our mistakes, but the enemy will use others who were not affected to peel back the scabs of old wounds. Stand firm in the promise of His forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9 (ESV)

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These are just some of the signs the enemy is meddling in your life. As with all things, an attack has to first slip through the fingers of God to reach us. If you are experiencing one, remember God has allowed it. There are many reasons God uses spiritual warfare in our lives some are to strengthen us, shape our Christ-like character, help us learn to rely on Him, build our discernment between good and evil, and learn how to overcome the enemy. Remember, without facing an opponent we will never fully utilize God’s power within us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 7: December 19th

Chapter 7:

“It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.” Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Christmas rushed in without flourish or elation. The traditional aromas of a basted turkey, pumpkin pie, and Granny’s potato salad vacated Momma’s kitchen, as multiple containers from well-meaning friends moved in. Perusing the contents one could surmise fried chicken and ham is Suffolk’s comfort food. Regardless, grief robs the appetite.

Like the scene from Charles Dicken’s The Christmas Carol, where an abandoned walking stick leans against the fireplace and a tiny chair is vacated, Tricia’s imprint survived her. The bird in the Black Forest clock she purchased for Mom, still coos every hour. Part of me wished the bird croaked out of respect for the departed, but I know time is a healer, for it to stop in the darkest hour would be torture for a grieving soul. God ushers us through the darkness by allowing the birds to coo, the sun to show up in the morning, and the moon to work the nightshift.

Tricia’s hand-painted ornaments dangle from the Christmas tree. They hold a sacred value now. Years ago, she gifted us with her first attempt, a messy painted Orca for my son Nick. It broke. I’d do anything to have it back now. Why do we hold the relics left behind tighter after the benefactor departs? Maybe we’re holding onto to a piece of their talent… a shred of their spirit…proof she once was.

Mom’s den is full of us. We remain a loud lot, still talking over one another. Albeit her voice is silent, as if one instrument is missing from the orchestra. I miss her laughter and that ever smack on the arm she gave you when she found something funny, which sometimes threw you off balance.

I never suspected last Christmas would have been her last. Looking back, I wish I’d known, for it wasn’t a joyful Christmas for her. Unfortunately, some announcements have to be made.

Tracey (Brandon’s wife) walked into the kitchen. “Tricia slipped out crying. She drove off,” she said. I dropped the pan I was washing back into the sudsy water and snatched a towel.

“I was afraid of that,” I said. “We have to find her.”

An hour later, Mom and I gathered her in our arms, and together we mourned over the opposite directions our lives were taking. Like a moving walkway, she was going one way and I another, while both of us wanted to put on the brakes.

The next day, we stood outside our parent’s house, waiting on Momma to go shopping in Smithfield. A wall of tension divided us, both riddled with our own guilt for the day before.

“Look, I’m sorry for yesterday,” she said. “It’s not that I’m not happy for you and Jay, it’s just…hard you know?”

“I would have felt the same way,” I said.

“It’s just this…while you’re growing life, I’m growing cancer cells. You’re getting ultrasounds while I’m getting PET scans.” She pointed towards my abdomen. “Your looking forward to the day you meet your baby, while I’m dreading the day I’m saying goodbye to mine. You’re looking ahead and making plans, while I’m remembering the past and trying hard to hold onto what I have left.” Her sad eyes pleaded with me to understand.

I’d chewed on the irony of our situation, but I’d never truly digested it until then.

“Anyway, I just need you to know how I feel,” she said.

I shivered. A cold breeze stirred up the dead leaves. One floated on the wind past us. I resisted the urge to catch it, allowing the wind to spirit it away. I pulled my sweater closed at the nape of my neck. Tricia was never bothered by the cold.

“It’s not fair is it?” My voice cracked.

She shrugged. “It’s life, but sometimes it’s hard to take.”

“I want you to know I’d never try to get pregnant. I had other plans for my…Well, I would never do that since you’re…” Suddenly, everything I wanted to say at that moment seemed cruel.

She smiled understanding my struggle. “You can make it up to me.” she said.

“How?”

“Just promise you’ll get really fat,” she said.

We laughed. I should have seen it coming, our traditional jab. The laughter filled me with hope. She’d still love me, though I reflected health and vitality, the very things slipping away, like water through her fingers.

She placed her hand on my baby bump. “You’re already showing.”

“My body just knows what to do by the fourth one,” I said.

Her smile faded as her eyes met mine. “When she comes, I will go.”

Like the quick, feathery touch of a hummingbird across your cheek, for a moment I thought I’d imagined the words; nonetheless, I stepped back as if she slugged me. “She? Wait. What do you mean?”

“I mean you’re going to have a girl, and when she comes it’ll be my time.”

I turned away, so she couldn’t see the pain her words caused me. “You don’t know everything Tricia Baines. Besides, Jay’s track record proves he only makes boy babies.”

She grabbed my arm. “Listen, I know.” She needed me to believe her. It felt disrespectful…shallow even… to argue with someone standing on the banks of eternity awaiting permission to cross.

She looked up at the sky and took a deep breath. The sun shined on her yellowish face and the wind flittered through her short twigs of chemo frizzed hair. “I’m not saying this baby will replace me,” she said. “Of course, no one will replace me.” She laughed. “God just knows you will have a tough time, so He’s giving you this baby to…you know…keep you busy.”

Acceptance filled her voice, like a soothing lullaby. She leaned on her faith for strength and dignity, while I carried the burden of survivor’s guilt, the weight of it left me hunched. I’m sorry for being healthy. Sorry for being pregnant. Sorry I get to see your daughter grow up and your boys get married.  Sorry…sorry…sorry… There was never enough.

That day, I packed her words away in my heart, and the moment I heard my daughter’s first cry they rushed back. Isabella was born without one push, as if she propelled herself into my world knowing her mission, to save Mommy from sinking into despair. I wondered how God could put such a tender heart in me and expect me to survive the stretch it endured on August 7th, a day of great joy fused with incredible dread of what was to come. Isabella came into my life, as my sister was leaving. For a brief moment in time, two precious feminine spirits met in the physical realm, as if the baton of girlhood was handed off, and the weary one passed on into the spiritual.

Twelve days before Tricia died, Thomas held Bella in front of her, and her eyes focused on Bella’s toes.“I see you eyeing those toes,” Thomas said. “Ya’ know you want to touch ‘em. Go ahead.”

Slowly the back of her cupped hand barely caressed the top of Bella’s foot. It was the last touch Bella felt from her Aunt Tricia and cost Tricia all her concentration and energy to give it. The last bit of love she could muster for an infant she would never know.

True to Tricia’s prediction, Isabella Fawn was born at 4:15 in the afternoon, and Tricia died close to that time, nineteen weeks later.

She didn’t live to see another Christmas.

A Place to Belong

One of my sister’s favorite songs was “Where I Belong” by Building 42. Tricia would turn it up in my car, and nod her head to the music when it poured out the radio. At stoplights, one would see a bald-headed banger, whom might I add, was normally off beat.
You had to love her.
One night the words of this song must have played in her mind, as her son and daughter help her from her chair and into the kitchen, where the family lingered over their meal. Startled to see her up and moving, for the doctor had given her 48 hours to live a few days prior, everyone stopped talking.
She shuffled over to Momma and kissed her mouth. “Momma, I want to go home,” she said.
“You are home sweetie.” Mom replied.
“No…This is not my home. I got to go home!”
“Do you mean your eternal home?”
“Yes” She said before shuffling over to Dad. “Daddy I want to go home.”
Dad realizing what she wanted replied, “That’s alright baby,” he nodded. “You go on home now.”
“Thomas,” she turned to her husband. “I want to go home.”
Once satisfied all understood her intentions, she returned to her Lazy-boy chair, and around two weeks later, she went.
She went home to be with her Jesus.

I think about this all the time now. My sister Tricia knew this was not her home. In the end, she peeled herself free of the layers of this world… useless ambitions, materialism, obsessions with beauty, jealousies, grudges… to name a few. One by one, little by little, until all she wanted sitting in that chair was to be home with her Lord. I believe that is why allowing God’s timing in death is a gift to those who witness it. We get a glimpse of the truest form of someone’s spirit, shining through when all that useless baggage leaves them.

Around five years ago, I yearned for a simpler life. I wanted to move to Clermont, and give my boys a chance to grow up with the freedom to roam and have outdoor adventures. My boys loved visiting my family in Virginia where they could fish, hunt, and stomp through the woods, and I longed to return to the life of my youth.
My husband on the other hand, loved the convenience of living right down the street from all the five-star restaurants and the entertainment Disney and Universal had to offer. He said Clermont was too far out, and besides, he was not the “country boy” type.
If you are having trouble getting your husband to agree with you, I recommend sicking God on Him. I prayed God would change his heart, and make him want to move to the boonies. This advice comes with a disclaimer, God sometimes changes them too much, so be careful what you pray for.
Not long after, Jay took up hunting. Suddenly his closet was full of camouflage. Can I say here, I really don’t like camouflage? I grew up in Suffolk, Va. and hated camouflage then.
It didn’t stop there, out popped the flannel shirts on weekends, and casual work days. He grew a beard, and became a member of the NRA. He sold his Jaguar and bought a Ford Dually pick up truck. This was out of control! Did I mention he killed an alligator, and one day I found the thing on his feet. There is a line people! Alligator cowboy boots on a black man is just not normal! Between you and me, I’m giddy they are a little too tight.
My uptown city boy was changing and I began thinking ‘who is this mysterious cowboy lying next to me?’ Friends in Orlando must think he’s having a mid-life crisis.
In the middle of the madness, a dear friend told my husband he felt God wanted him to buy a farm. He invited us to come see a horse ranch he was considering. Jay and I spent the weekend at the house, skeet shooting and taking rides through the woods on the “quail truck.” We fell in love with the beautiful topography, for down every trail the trees and land produced something new to see.
Our last night there, while the trees tugged down the sun, I strolled through the large white barn. The stalls were clean and empty. There were no sounds of horses neighing or the swishing of their tails, but I imagined the stalls filled with stallions.
I prayed that if God didn’t want our friend to purchase this farm, then please allow a family to own it. It was used by an elderly woman to entertain her friends in card games, but this wonderland needed children running through it.
Unbeknownst to me, God was already answering my prayer, for in my womb my daughter Bella grew. The Father knows the desires of our hearts before we do.
Our friend purchased the farm and we made several weekend trips to see them. On one of these occasions, he offered us a plot of land to build a house. We didn’t have the funds to build a house at the time. We talked it over and prayed about what to do, while Jay steadily grew closer to the Father.
Soon, all the projects Jay worked on for the last 10 years began closing at the same time, and the money we complained about having to wait for, poured in at once.
I am still awed how God turns things around.

I was at the farm, the day my sister went home. I was standing on the lot we picked to build our house, I looked up at Jay and said, “I wish my sister could see this.”
Knowing her heaven call was imminent, he squeezed my shoulders. “Maybe she will,” he said.
I happened to glance at my watch at that moment, it was a little after 4:00pm.
A few hours later, back at our friend’s house, my family finally reached me to tell me my sister passed, and I wanted to know one thing.
“What time was it?” I said.
“It was a little after 4.” Momma replied.
I have to believe she saw the place where my temporary home will be, on the way to her eternal one.

Today, the farm house stands. We went vertical in July and in record timing the house was decorated and awaiting guests by Thanksgiving eve when Jay’s side of the family came pouring in. It was pure chaos! Due to the baby boom in the Adams family we hosted 4 newborn babes, and 13 children overall. God answered my prayer in the dark barn that night.
We can sit on the front porch and see the cows, and from the back porch we watch the horses. It may sound dreadfully boring to some, but to me, it is paradise. I don’t know if God wants us to move there permanently. He tends to reveal things little by little, step by step.
What I do know is while living in hectic Orlando, my heart yearns for the farm. It is a place to write, paint, and enjoy communion with other Christians. A place I feel at home and have peace.
It is a place to abide, to be still and know, but God calls us to be a light in a dark world doesn’t He? Let’s face it the darker the world gets the more we will be required to stand up and stand out.
We are not called to live for the security of our farm house, but for our eternal home.
What does a life lived for the eternal home look like?
It is a life lived with an uncompromising faith, giving unto others, loving God with all your heart, mind, and soul and believing His word is truth, whether you like it or not. It is a life not bound by political correctness, materialism, sin, a life of serving others, not self- promoting, not standing up for your rights, not complaining, and not filled with stubbornness. It is a life of sharing the good news of a Savior, and allowing your life to bring God glory. There may be persecution. There may be suffering. It is a life poured out for the sake of Christ and can only be lived by keeping your eyes, heart, and mind on Him. It is a life that will be messy, filled with temptation, and imperfect I can guarantee it.


Currently, I have two homes, both of which I concede are not really mine, for my true home, my eternal home is in heaven, and I can’t wait to see what God’s imagination creates for me. I wonder the day Tricia and I sip our iced teas on my heavenly porchs, if I will have the view of flying pigs off the front porch and unicorns off the other?

Finding Contentment in the Dark Part 2

Phillipians 4:12-13
12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
I finished nursing my infant, laid him in his bassinet, and reached for my suitcase. I was going to run for it… escape in the cover of night. This was not the motherhood I signed up for, and my sanity was at stake. My baby cried day and night from colic, before falling asleep in the wee hours of morning. He threw up all day, sometimes projectile style, giving Mommy a taste, and if that was not enough that week the pediatrician peered suspiciously over the growth chart, “And… how often did you say you are feeding him?” she asked.
Let’s just say he nursed so often, I barely had time to slop on the utter cream before he rooted me again.
He was failing to gain weight and I was failing motherhood.
In one year, I had everything I thought I wanted, a beautiful home with a pool, new furniture, a new husband, a new dog, a new town, a new name, and on the day of our one year anniversary a new baby….It was maddening!
I missed my old life, coffee with colleagues, the satisfaction of achievement, wandering the beaches of the Tampa Bay, My worn sofa in my own apartment, and most of all… freedom. The first year of marriage, Jay and I drifted down the inter-coastal of marriage fighting over who would man the oars.
When Nick was a few weeks old a friend asked, “I bet you can’t imagine your life without Nicklaus in it?”
I plastered a blissful look on my face and said, “I had no life before him.”
Meanwhile every fiber of my being screamed, “Somebody give me my life back and while you’re at it, I’d like my bootie back too!”

I was discontent.

The word contentment as defined by the world is “A state of happiness and satisfaction.” I would argue God’s definition is slightly different. According the Holman Bible Dictionary contentment is “An internal satisfaction which does not demand changes in external circumstances”
In 2013 a Harris Poll revealed only 1 in 3 Americans consider themselves very happy or very content.

Today, I’ve noticed a rise in restlessness among women. Those that seem to have it all, the nice cars, the big house, the great kids, seem to be the most dissatisfied with their life. In my experience, having it “all” didn’t equal contentment as one would think, because I was looking for contentment outside of myself. It is not your circumstances that produce peace. I found three actions I needed to take in order to bring my life into state of contentment.

I.. Identifying your Purpose:
God blessed me with a purpose greater than myself and He trusted me with a baby. He had more faith in my abilities, than I could muster in myself. During those difficult months, as I carried that screaming infant around in my arms, I often wondered, what was God thinking giving him to me? I didn’t realize at the time, there was a new purpose in my life. You have to realize your purpose, and if you don’t have one, ask God to reveal it to you.

II. Fill your Spiritual Well.
I was empty. Those first years, I was a Sunday Christian. I neglected my quiet time and veered away from God’s guidance. I was stepping out on my own, and attempting to mother in my own power. When you are lacking in your personal walk with Christ, you can expect the fruits of the Spirit to weaken within you. I was impatient with my baby and husband. I lacked peace, self control, long suffering, and love.
Several nights practically tossing Nicklaus into Jay’s arms and yelling, “I can’t do this anymore. You take him!”
“He’s only a baby!” Jay said.
I stormed to my bedroom and slammed the door. I resented Jay because he was able to go to work and have the life I gave up. Meanwhile, I assumed he thought I was a bad mother.
I was the woman at the well filling my bucket with destructive thoughts leaving me spiritually dehydrated.
(The story of the Woman at the Well illustrates the need for a relationship with Jesus. You can find that here https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+4.)
III. Surrender to God’s authority.
I had to surrender to God’s authority and will for my life. Surrender doesn’t come natural to me, I tend to paddle against the current, but I am thankful God’s will is much stronger than my own. With grace, He has bent me into crying “mercy,” many times in my life.
My most recent surrender was my sister. For four years, I obsessively threw out the life-savers trying to find the cure for her breast cancer, while God’s will was to bring her to the shores of eternity.

Before my daughter was born, she patted my belly and said, “When this baby’s born, it won’t be long for me.” She knew I would struggle with letting the life line slip from my fingers.
She was right, around the time Bella was born, I stopped searching for miracles, for Tricia was slipping away, and by the time Bells was a few months old, I was begging God to take my sister.
The two events back to back was almost too much for my heart to bear. I had to let go of my closest earthly relationship (beyond Jay) and embrace another baby, just as I was settling into my writing chair and spit shining my laptop.
Surrendering to God’s will is not always easy, but always brings peace.
The house was so quiet the night I reached for that suitcase. I grabbed clothes off the hangers when Jay began to snore, and my baby made a gurgling sound from his bassinet. I glanced back at the two of them, and knew I was at an important crossroads. I had a decision to make.
I hung the clothes back in my closet. I loved them too much to leave.
‘What kind of mother abandons her newborn?’ The thought landed me on the bathroom tile in a pool of tears. I told God I give up, I’d do whatever He wanted me to. I asked Him to help me find contentment in being a wife and mother and admitted my fears of inadequacy. God’s response to me was as clear as if He was sitting right there beside me. It is the only time in my life, I swear I heard him audibly speak to me.
You know what He said?
“Tammy, the baby’s sleeping. Wash your face and go to bed.”
You thought it’d be some ground shaking insight didn’t you? God isn’t about nonsense.
It was my first test of obedience. I washed my face and went to bed, and that was the first night Nick slept for five hours straight. I felt like a new person the next morning.
I found peace and contentment in surrender, even while navigating the white waters of fear, insecurity, and colic.
Finding contentment is not finding happiness, it is finding peace. It takes work on your part to be content. You must find God’s purpose for your life, pursue a relationship with God, and surrender to His authority or will, through these actions you will find your contentment.
Nick is now sixteen years old, and he is a blessing to me. He became such an easy baby once his stomach issues disappeared, and I found joys in being his mother. By the time he was nine months old, I became pregnant with colicky Christian, and there was a whole lot of surrendering after that boy was born, but that’s another story.

The Two G’s: Grief and Gratefulness

Dear Sisters,
My sister Tricia Baines passed December 19, and the cows on the farm began dying by New Years. When the Baines family heard, they packed up and headed south to the farm to help out. By the time we arrived, over 100 cows were put down, and Thomas ( my brother-in-law), Caleb, and Peyton (their children) had been vaccinating, tagging, and hand-feeding the calves left without a mother. How ironic!
Peyton was feeding the last sick Momma cow by hand. When I heard the news, I prayed all the way to the farm God would heal that cow for Peyton’s sake. Although, one morning Peyton stated matter of fact, the cow was suffering and needed to be put out of her misery. The men grabbed their rifles, and I watched Peyton and Colin jump in the gator to see it done. The answer to my prayer was “no.” Needless to say, it was a sad Christmas season.
By the third month anniversary of my Tricia’s passing, I thought I was surviving without her just fine, for my day was consumed with the unending demands of an infant again, and searching for my missing feline Finley. My husband was out of town for a few days, when the dam broke. The tears sprang up, and I couldn’t stop them any longer. I was dealing with three events back to back that left me broken-hearted and bleeding internally.
While living with me in Orlando, Tricia shared my pain over loosing two cats, and loosing Finley brought those loses to the forefront of my thoughts. She went with me to Tipsey’s (my three- legged Maine Coon) appointment. She sat in the waiting area, while I consulted with the vet over his swollen jaw.
“I’m sorry to report it’s cancer,” he said. The sharp irony of his words pierced through me, and my eyes widened before swelling with tears. He snatched the box of Kleenex and handed it to me.
“I hate cancer!” I said, flailing my arms towards the waiting room. “My sister whose sitting out there, she has cancer. She just received chemo yesterday! What is this the cancer…cancer… apocalypse?”
He looked a little stunned, and unprepared to deal with an emotional wrecking ball who felt her universe was caving in. “I’m so sorry.” He patted my back. “We can put him on chemotherapy, but I believe it will only prolong his suffering. My best advice is to take him home, love him, and spoil him, and when it’s time, you will know.”
When it’s time…I will know…I didn’t want to know.
Tricia’s eyes met mine as I carried Tipsey out. She nodded and put her arm around me. Without words, she knew the diagnoses.
The time came a few months later.
“Make the appointment Tammy,” she said. “He’s suffering.” I knew it was hard for her to watch a cat suffer with the same disease that invaded her.
Once again, she waited while I went in. I knelt beside Tipsey, and told him I loved him. I thanked him for being such a great companion to us. He was the best cat we’ve ever had special needs and all.
The nurse wiped her eyes.
The day I adopted him I intended to adopt a kitten, when this huge Maine Coon chirped at me from the cage. He wrapped that one paw around my neck and held tight and I knew he was mine. He was a lap cat, loved his Daddy’s lap best. At the sound of a can popping open, he hopped down the hall like a bunny and slid into the kitchen doorway. He was a love ball wrapped up in fur.
I looked into his eyes, and nodded at the vet. “I’m ready.”
He injected him with the potion that would close his eyes forever.
“Look at me Tipsey. I love you! You go to sleep now.” His eyes focused on me, and with one last chirp, they went blank.
Tricia came in after, and said her goodbyes.
“I prayed so hard for his healing.” I said on the way home.
She stared out the window. “Tammy sometimes the answer is no. We just have to accept it, even if we can’t understand, no matter how hard we try.”
I knew she was not merely talking about the cat.

Now it seemed once again the answer was no, and I didn’t understand why I was to undergo something painful on the back of the enormity of loosing my sister.
I wept for three days. Exhausted from keeping up the pretenses that I’m okay with it all. I threw on a sundress to attend a baby shower for my cousin, but when I saw my belly pooch, I wailed all over again, so I stayed home. I didn’t want to see anyone, for I felt my God didn’t hear me. I questioned if my pleas fell on deaf ears. I placed all my faith in Finley’s return.
The storm of grief can swallow you just when you’ve safely reached the shore. My missing cat made me miss my sister more. I wanted to cry out to her, for she had been there for two of my cats deaths, but now she was gone.
In Ecclesiastes 3, Solomon wrote “There is a time for everything a time to weep and a time to laugh…a time to mourn and a time to dance… .” There is a time to grieve. If you are in a grieving season as I, there is a coping skill to bring you out of the swells of sorrow It is another “G” word…Gratitude.
Being thankful for my blessings in spite of my sadness keeps me afloat. I have many more things to be thankful for, than to be sorrowful for. My daughter’s giggle, my husband’s love, my boys obedience…(except when it comes to cleaning their room), the ability to pay the bills, the daffodils on my table. I have to accept the no’s just as I accept the showers of “yeses”. I don’t have to understand I just have to trust He knows what He is doing.
Last week, I wrote one last message on our community website regarding Finley’s disappearance. I knew it was a shot in the dark, but I had to try once more. I received a message back from a woman who lives across the highway in another neighborhood. She saw a tailless-orange cat walking into her neighborhood. The boys and I covered that community in posters with the promise of a reward if found.
Yesterday, a compassionate neighbor called.
“He shows up here every 3 to 4 days begging for food. He’s very vocal and seems friendly. I’ve never tried to catch him. I just set the food out, but we’ll try to catch him next time he shows up.”
I am praying it is Finley, and we will be able to get him back, but if it’s not I need to accept the fact that the answer is “no”, and move on. I will grieve the fact I may never see Finley again, but I can be grateful I will see my sister some day.
When my sister passed my former roommate’s mother hugged me and said. “I know right now you are sad, but think about how excited you will be when your time comes, for someone you love has gone before you, and she’ll be waiting for you there.” Now, that’s something to be grateful for. My sister will be looking for me.