Monday, January 19, 2015


My mama's been gone now for two years.

But she is still "mothering" me.

Still teaching me.

I'm a better student now.

A better listener.

Silence does that.

It softens the heart.

And tunes the ears.

My mama's name was Aubrey Neeze Flowers Rainer.

But that wasn't her given name.

Her given first name was Auba.

I loved my Grandma Flowers, but where she got that name who knows?

Of course, her name was Amonteen.

That might be the answer.

When Mama was a young mother herself, she officially had her name changed.

Yes she did.

She went to the courthouse and paid the fees to have her name legally changed.

Many of her friends and family members already called her Aubrey, the name she had chosen for herself.

But it was important to her to have it done officially.

Once and for all.

I can just hear my mama's thoughts:

"I'm too smart to have a name like Auba.
And I'm too pretty to have a name like Auba.
And there isn't anyone keeping me from changing my name except myself."

So she did.

She was like that.

My mama still answered to the name Auba.

My dad called her Auba when only close family members were around. When others were around, he lovingly and respectfully called her Aubrey.

My grandmother called her Auba until she said goodbye for the last time.

I was telling the daughter of my mama's BFF, (her  BFF for 70 years), about my mama's name change. She reminded me that her mama always called my mama Auba. She thought maybe it had just been a nickname.

It's obvious that my mama didn't mind the people that loved her, and had known her before, calling her Auba.

But she knew she was Aubrey.

I think I need to make a name change like my mama did.

I think I need to do it once and for all and every day thereafter.

I am answering to names that don't describe me.

That don't describe the new me.

And the person that calls me the worst names, the names that hurt the most, is me.

They are spoken out of my head and my heart.

They are spoken out of unbelief and shame and habit.

God has made me new.

And He has given me new names to call myself.

It's probably five years since I walked into a counselor's office and sat down and poured out my broken heart. Her first words to me were, "You don't know who you are in Christ."

Truer words have never been spoken.

I know the names that God calls me.








An Overcomer.

Sometimes I answer to them.

Sometimes I even call myself by those names.

I even remind others that these are their new names.

But I still answer to the names that hurt. The names that are lies.

My mama answered those that called her Auba, even after her official name change, because she knew they loved her way-past any name.

But the old names that I call myself don't have anything to do with love.

Just a few days ago, when January 10th came around, and  two years had passed without my mama, I thought about how brave she was.

She was so brave those fourteen months on Hospice.

She was brave when she spent twelve of those fourteen months without the love of her life. The love that had been by her side for 60 years.

And I thought about how brave she was, as a young woman, to say no more. No more being called a name that doesn't describe who I am.

My mama used to tell me to quit doing a lot of things.

"Don't bite your fingernails."

"Don't slouch."

"Don't wear so dark of a lipstick."

"Don't drink those awful Diet Cokes."

"Don't talk on your phone while you are driving."

But on that two-year morning, when I cried because I missed her, I heard her tell me to quit doing one more thing.

"Quit calling yourself the wrong names. Quit answering to them.  Your name was legally changed at The Cross. Stop it now. Once. And. For. All.

 After all, I am still your mother and you, My Baby Girl, have "a beautiful inheritance."
 (Psalm 16:6)"

I am Blessed by God the Father through our  Lord Jesus Christ.

I am Chosen by Him before the foundation of the world.

I am Holy and Without Blame before God.

I am Adopted As His Child through Jesus Christ.

I am Accepted.

I am the Beloved.

I am Redeemed

I am Forgiven.

I Am Covered In His Grace.

Ephesians 1:3-7

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


This post contains some honesty that might be misunderstood as me asking for pity.

I am not.

Though, if I were to be honest, if I thought for one moment that pity would help ease any pain or despair, I would have begged for it a long time ago.

I know better.

December 7, 2014

I've tried over the years not to let certain days on the calendar have control over my life.

I do not want them to become "little gods" to me. Days that I bow before, and give power over  my emotions and my moods and my memories.

Days like Thanksgiving.

The last holiday we spent together before Ethan was hurt.

The last time I talked to Ethan on the phone.

The last time he went swimming in the Gulf by himself.

The last time I saw him pull out of the driveway in the white Jetta that he loved and said he would drive forever.

It is crazy how those days are branded in my mind.

Time may fade some of those days, but there are two days that will forever be marked on the calendar of my heart.

One is the day we lost a part of Ethan.  December 7th.  The other is the day God gave us the best part of him back.   April 19.

My eyes weren't even open two Sundays ago when I knew that it was December 7th.

As important as it is for me not to dread this anniversary, and to let it have power over my life, I've learned that it is just as important not to deny it, or the pain it brings.

I guess, over the past ten December 7ths, my mind has settled on different aspects of our losses.

But this eleventh December 7th, my mind settled on Ethan and Ethan alone

I sat in my dark living room, and wondered what it must be like "to be him."

I wondered what it must be like for him, most of the time, to be an observer and not a participant.

I wondered what he thinks when he looks at his Facebook page, or hears about family and friends living their dreams and relishing their accomplishments.

I wondered what it feels like to live such an isolated and obscure life. To only visit with me and Jim and his brother day after day.

The other day he was excited to find on his iPad an e-mail from a special friend. Jim and I didn't have the heart to tell him that he hadn't noticed the date, and it was one from 2010.

I wonder what Ethan feels when he is misunderstood.

Many times people will ask Jim and me about what he would like to drink or eat instead of asking him.

People think that because Ethan speaks softly that he doesn't have anything to say.

People that aren't quite sure what to say to him, wind up saying nothing at all.


That morning I wondered what it was like to be Ethan and my heart broke.


In the very beginning of this journey, God gave me a beautiful gift.

It has been my salvation in moments like the morning of December 7th.

That gift is found in the words of Psalm 63:8,

"Trust in Him at all times, you people.
Pour out your heart before Him.
God is a refuge for us."

From day one, before we ever made it to Ethan's hospital room in Gainesville, God gave me permission to pour my heart out to Him.

He assured me that He was a safe place to empty myself of all anger, frustration, pain, grief, and doubts.

God assured me that He already knew what was in my heart, and that His Love for me was strong enough to hear it over and over again.

There was nothing I could say that would separate me from His love.

He was inviting me to come to Him in my brokenness. (I've since learned that in our brokenness is the only way we come to Him.)

So on this eleventh December 7th, I poured out and I poured out until there was nothing left, and then I got up from the couch and started getting ready for church.

Jim and Ethan let me off at the door to find our seats while they parked the car.  The ushers are always kind and willing to do whatever it takes to make Jim and Ethan comfortable.

I remember feeling almost numb as I waited for them to come and join me.

The earlier tears were gone. I was spent. This earthen vessel, the cracked jar that I am, was empty.

The worship began, and determined not to let this day on the calendar win, I opened my mouth and the words came and I sang like I was an American Idol contestant and God alone was the judge.

The young pastor stood and began to read from Isaiah 53.

We are emptied to be filled, and my filling had begun.

"He is despised and rejected by man, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief 
and we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;  
He was despised, and we did not esteem him."

With those words, the Words of God, a wave of comfort rolled over me.

It is a mystery to me as to how, but I became lost in that wave and for a moment, I felt as though I couldn't breathe.

I realized that I would never know what it felt like to be Ethan.

I can imagine, and I think sometimes that we are called to take the time to imagine what it feels like to be someone else, and maybe that is where empathy and compassion are born, but I know I will never really know what it's like.

Being swept up in this wave of comfort I knew that, although I would never know, Jesus does.

Jesus knows exactly what it feels like to be Ethan, and He knows exactly what it feels like to be Ethan's mother.

He left heaven to rescue us in so many ways.

And part of His rescue mission was to bring comfort and healing to our broken hearts. To defeat despair with hope. To replace rejection with His acceptance. And to exchange loneliness with His presence.

He did this by being tempted in every way man was tempted, and by experiencing every hurt that can find its way into man's heart.

Jesus, by becoming fully man, though He was fully God, knows exactly what our tears represent. He knows how to intercede on our behalf to the Father.

By choosing to experience all the pain and sorrow of humanity, Jesus became our safe place.

Our refuge.

The words "He knows" were repeatedly whispered in my head throughout the service.

I still hear them today.

"He knows."

"He knows."

We ask for answers.

We search for theological explanations and doctrines that will ease our pain. That will make sense of the senselessness.

But sometimes all we get is "He knows. He knows."

And I've found, as we enter the eleventh year of this journey, that "He knows" is enough.

This particular Sunday was Communion Sunday.

Sometimes Ethan participates and sometimes he doesn't. It breaks my heart when he chooses not to, but it is his choice. It is his way of dealing honestly with his doubts. I once talked to a friend about this. His answer surprised me. "Praise God he is honest. God can always work with honest people."

But this Sunday, on the date that marks so much loss, Ethan received The Bread and The Cup.

He chose to do as Jesus had asked on that last night with his disciples . . . "Remember me."

I wondered, as I watched the beauty of his remembering through the corner of my eye, did Ethan hear what I heard?

Did he too hear that Jesus knows what it is like to be him?



God is with us.

Emanuel, God is with us and He knows.

"Now that we know what we have -
Jesus, this Great High Priest with ready access to God -
let's not let it slip through our fingers.
We don't have a priest who is out of touch with our reality.
He's been through weakness and testing, experienced it all -
all but the sin.
So let's walk right up to Him and get what He is so ready to give.
Take the mercy, accept the help."

Hebrews 4:14-16
The Message

Monday, December 1, 2014


Thanksgiving 2003

"Joy and pain are but two arteries of one heart that pump through those who don't numb themselves to really living." 
 Ann Voscamp

I wish that quote wasn't true. 

But it is.

If we don't allow ourselves to feel pain, to even embrace it, we won't experience all the joy that God has for us.

Like I said, I wish that wasn't true.  I wish we could pretend pain away. Deny it away. Stuff it in some corner of our hearts where it would stay. Out of sight. Out of mind.

But living doesn't work like that.

If we really want to live, we must allow both of the arteries of pain and joy to pump into our hearts.

Cutting off one will only kill the other.

Jim and I have learned that truth over the years.

And because we choose joy and to really live, we stand in our kitchen holding each other tightly, and look at the last picture we took of Ethan "before."

We stare at that beautiful face, and remember what it was like to see him stand and walk. We remember his dreams and the dreams we had for him. 

We lean on each other as we grieve for what was lost, and what we so desperately want back.

We refuse to deny. We refuse to pretend. We refuse to believe that God sets a limit on grief and tears and His compassion.

The pain was overwhelming and our breaths were taken away.

But God came. Like He always does. And He wiped our tears, and we went back to the turkey and the celery and cornbread.

Jim and I had a lot to do to prepare for our Thanksgiving dinner, but the most important preparation was for our hearts.

We had to unplug the artery of pain and let it flow freely to make room for the joy God wanted to pour into our hearts.

And that is exactly what He did. 

He poured in joy and we really lived.

I remember the cradle and all the joy it brings.

Our Savior. Our Peace. Our Hope. Our Way.

But there was also pain that first Christmas. The pain of a sinless man entering a sinful world and the death this baby would die.

I remember the cross.

The scorn. The rejection. The excruciating physical pain and the terrible weight of the sin of the world.

But oh the joy of the cross.

The joy of grace flowing freely down upon us. The joy of uncondional love. The joy of Jesus doing for us what we could never do for ourselves. 

The joy of the words: IT IS FINISHED!

The cradle. The cross.  Both beautiful pictures of joy and pain pumping through one heart.

I also remember, that in the end, joy will be all that is left.

One day there will be no more crying. No more busted dreams and bodies. No more pain.

Until that day, we refuse to numb ourselves to the pain as we gratefully accept all the joy and the living God has for us.

"Keep your eyes on Jesus, 
the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. 
Because of joy awaiting Him, 
He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. 
Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God's throne."
Hebrews 12:2 


Thursday, August 28, 2014


There are some nights, when I fall into bed, the only prayer I have is "Thank You."

A few months ago, on one of those tired nights after I had said my "Thank You," I thought of the Lord's Prayer. I don't usually pray memorized prayers, but I was really really tired and I trusted that God would know my heart, and that my words would reach His Ears and His Heart.

I let go of the day, with all of its ups and downs. With all of its concerns and fears. With all of the intentions that weren't fulfilled, and all the boxes that weren't checked. I snuggled down into my covers and opened my mouth to quietly speak the words Jesus taught his disciples when they asked him how to pray. I was expecting to hear myself say, "Our Father, who art in heaven."

But that's not what I heard.

"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want."

I heard the words from Psalm 23. 

I smiled at myself and I thought about the old aunt in the movie National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation starring Chevy Chase. The scene begins with the extended family sitting around the dining room table watching Chevy Chase slice the turkey for Christmas dinner. He then asks his 80 year old Aunt Bethany to say grace and, when she finally understands that he is asking her to say the blessing, she bows her head and says, "I pledge allegiance to the flag." The family joins in and together they say the Pledge of Allegiance.

If you want a laugh, you can watch it here.

Trust me. I'm not eighty. And I do know the difference between the Lord's Prayer and the Twenty-Third Psalm, and between a blessing and the Pledge of Allegiance.

There have been many nights, since the night I felt like I was channeling Aunt Bethany, that my exhausted and spent self has snuggled deep down into the covers and turned my heart back to The Lord's Prayer. I love how each phrase is so simple, yet filled with such power and majesty.

But every single time, "The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want" is what I hear.

It has happened so many times that I now know that the Holy Spirit is praying for me. He knows that what I need to hear on those exhausted nights is that I have a Shepherd. A Shepherd that is watching over me and my loved ones. A Shepherd that hears my prayers without me even speaking a word.  A Shepherd that has promised to give me rest and to restore my soul. A Shepherd who holds me under the canopy of a dark and sometimes frightening sky, and a Shepherd that won't let me go when the morning brings the light.

I have a Shepherd who has proven His Love for me by willingly giving up His Life for me and now whispers to my soul, "It is finished. It is finished. You are mine. Rest. Rest."

"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. "

"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want."

No one could ever write a more peaceful bedtime story.

No one could ever sing a more beautiful lullaby.

"The LORD is My Shepherd; I shall not want."

"I am the Good Shepherd.
I lay down my life for you.
Enter in. Enter in.
Enter in.
I am the Good Shepherd.
As the Father knows me, I know you.
I know you. I know you.
I know you.
And no one can take you away.
And no one can take you away."

Friday, July 18, 2014


Five-Minute Friday
The word: Bloom

I hate the saying "bloom where you are planted."

I can make myself bloom about as much as I can go out in my yard and say bloom to a bush and have flowers appear.

It would be great if flowers appeared by saying bloom but gardening doesn't work that way. And life and success and fruitfulness doesn't happen because I tell myself to bloom where I've been planted.

Trust me. I've tried. And I'm sure you have too.

Funny how we forget the science lesson that teaches that the seed must break and die for life to come from it.

And so it is with us.

I remember a time when I raised my eyes towards the heavens and said, "whatever."

Not the snarky and sassy whatever I had disciplined my boys for saying to me when they were younger.

But the whatever that says I am broken and willing to die to my ways and to my dreams. I had said whatever to the God in heaven, confessing that I did not know what would ultimately, and eternally, would be good for me and for the ones I loved.

But I trusted that He did.

That whatever was the breaking, and the dying, that it took for me to bloom where I had been planted.

And that surrendering of my hopes and dreams, and my ways, spoken in the word whatever, continues to be the fertilizer that gives me life.

I can't believe there are still many days when I tell myself to bloom and I think that I will.

But when I become sick of the ugly and selfish fruit I bear, by trying to make myself bloom, I turn once again to the God in heaven and say "whatever."

And in that surrender, in that whatever, the most beautiful bloom I bear is peace.

"Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the LORD. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.
But blessed be the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." Jeremiah 17: 5-8

Five Minute Friday