A Bathtub of Blessings

Liz Hammond

“And I will make them and the places all around my hill a blessing, and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing.” Ezekiel 34:26 ESV

“I’m sooooo bored… I wish I could just take a long bath”, my daughter Faith whimpered.  

She had come down with a nasty cold at college and was feeling terrible. 

Faith loves dorm life; however, there’s one little problem…she doesn’t have access to immerse her aching body into a porcelain pool of warm water and soak the blues away. When at home, her nightly routine is to fill the bathtub to the brim with bubbles and Epsom salt and marinate in it until she is prune-ish. She’s a lot like her Momma; we both prefer baths over showers. Trust me, you don’t want to see our water bill.

“Oh sister, I am so sorry you are still sick. Are you taking the vitamins I sent you? Are you staying hydrated? Do you need more cold medicine? Do you have a fever?”, I inquired with Motherly concern.

“I ran out of medicine. I need to get to Walgreens, but I don’t feel like going. And I’m tired of just hanging out in this boring dorm room by myself. I just wish I could lay in a bathtub and relax. It would help take my mind off my sickness.”, she sounded off in frustration.

I completely understood, and my heart hurt for her. But I knew that she needed me to remain positive and help her see the proverbial ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. After encouraging her, I prayed with her. 

“Daddy, You know how sick Faith is right now. She is in need of Your healing hands. I am asking you to do what only You can do, bring peace to her body. I know You are right there with her, even though I can’t be. Help Faith to know she can call on You and trust You in all things. Please show up and show off so that she understands how much you are involved in her life. Thank you for taking care of our girl. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.”

“Mom, the campus Nurse wants me to get tested for the Corona virus, because of my symptoms. I have to go to a drive-through testing site. Then they are putting me into isolation until we get the test results.” At this point Faith began to cry.

“Well honey, you should get tested, and then we will know for sure. You will be fine. Honestly, I don’t think you have it, but since the college nurse is telling you to do that… Can you muster up enough strength to go?”, I asked.

Sounding full of congestion, she whined out, “Yes ma’am. I just don’t want to be quarantined for another 10 days again.” 

Yes, she used the word ‘again’…

When Faith first arrived at Lancaster Bible College, she had only been on campus for 6 days when her pod of 5 girls all had to be quarantined because one of the girl’s had tested positive for Covid-19. They had been in contact with her. So, Faith and 5 other student volleyball players were isolated and quarantined off campus for 14 full days. They missed out on the 1st two weeks of college life activity. And not one of them acquired the virus. It was crazy to say the least!!! And just the thought of having to do it ‘again’ made her really emotional.

‘Again’, I reassured Faith that God was with her, and that something really good was going to come from all this hardship she was experiencing. She had been through so much the past 2 years, BUT GOD provided, protected, and prepared her along the way. And this time wouldn’t be any different, so ‘again’, we were going to trust God.

That particular word ‘again’ is so significant. It means: in addition to what has already been mentioned, another time; once more. 

We recount and rehearse God’s faithfulness and goodness in times past, and when we do, it builds our confidence that He will do it ‘again’. We can say with certainty, “And I know You will do it again!”

Fast forward a couple hours…

Faith arrived in the ‘apartment of isolation’ as we sarcastically termed it. This time the call came via video face time. Swiping the green answer button, I saw my daughter’s sweet smile. 

“Mom, you’re not going to believe it… this apartment is huge and NICE! Look at this place. You are really not going to believe this… (as the video camera panned the kitchen, dining area, living room, bedroom, and then into the bathroom)

Mom, there’s a BATHTUB!!!!!! I finally get to take a bath and soak as long as I want!”, she said with the enthusiasm of a little girl on Christmas morning.

“Oh my goodness sister! That is awesome! Look how good God is to give you just what you have been craving… a BATHTUB. Isn’t God so amazing! Yay!!! Again, that is the goodness of God, Faith. He loves you so much and wants you to know without a doubt that He is with you and cares for you… even more than your Dad or I ever could. Thank You Jesus!!”, I exclaimed.

“Yes ma’am”, she chimed in… “But Momma, I don’t have any drinks or food or bath stuff. What am I gonna do?”

“Faith, can you go to the pharmacy and at least get the meds you need and pick up some Epsom salts for the bath? If you can do that, I can call your coach, ask her to get you some groceries and bring them to you. We will send her money via cash-app. Faith your coaches love you, and I am sure they would be happy to help. Quickly get your meds and then come back and rest.”, I said.  

I had Faith list some specific food and drinks she desired, (and I will just tell you here and now, this girl has champagne taste…lol!) Tru-Moo chocolate milk, Bakers chocolate melting dip with fresh Strawberries, nacho cheese Doritos, Blueberry Gogurts, peanut butter and grape jelly Uncrustables, ice cream, Kraft Mac & Cheese microwaveables, spring waters, and the list goes on. Poor thing, she didn’t want too much!  

I told her it would be handled, and not to worry. She thanked me and twinkled those beautiful brown eyes that were puffy with sinus inflammation.

After we hung up the video call, my initial thought was to contact her basketball coach Joy and ask for her help. But almost immediately, I felt in my spirit that I needed to reach out to a friend of mine who lived a few minutes from LBC campus. Her name is Melissa. She was a classmate of my younger brother in grade school, and our families were great friends. Her parents were some of the most generous, loving Christians we knew growing up. 

When Faith arrived at Lancaster, my friend Melissa reached out to me on Facebook and told me that she had seen a post about Faith being at LBC. Melissa wanted me to know that if Faith ever needed anything, she was right down the road and would be more than happy to help. 

So, I decided to take her up on that offer. Through FB messenger I shared our dilemma with Faith and simply asked Melissa to grocery shop the listed items, if at all possible. I would send payment to her via cash app. 

Almost immediately I heard back from Melissa, telling me that she had seen my recent post about requesting prayer for Faith’s sickness. She was about to reach out to me asking if she could help in anyway.  

—Isn’t that just like GOD?!? He goes before us, knowing what we need and prepares the hearts of His children to be used by Him as a blessing.

Another dimension to this incredible story is that Faith’s volleyball coach is best friends with Melissa, but we had no idea until Faith showed up at Melissa’s house for a team getaway gathering and swim party. Melissa recognized Faith from my Facebook pictures and introduced herself as one of her momma’s childhood friends. Faith called me later that day and told me about meeting her. Then, Melissa recently welcomed Faith and her roommate over for dinner, and invited her to come over, do laundry or hang out whenever she needed a break from dorm life. 

‘Again’, Rob and I were just astounded at the providence of God in our girl’s life…orchestrating people who can be Jesus in the flesh to her while she’s hundreds of miles away from us.

Now back to the story at hand…

I have to share a part of Melissa’s response to my plea…

“So sorry to hear that she’s so sick! I’ll be glad to help! I have time and can pick up these items and get them to her. Please don’t pay us—we are always thankful for opportunities to help others and to be the ‘hands and feet of Jesus’ in this way!”

By the next morning, Faith had all the groceries she requested, plus some, filling the apartment.

Melissa became a benefactor of a bathtub of blessings!

Talk about “blown-away”! Talk about blessings!! I am still shaking my head in utter amazement and how the Lord comforts and provides for His children.

Before we move on, it’s imperative that we understand the principle behind it, or we miss out on the greatness of the impact. He chooses to use us. WE are called to be a blessing. WE get the opportunity as Melissa so aptly conveyed… to be a vessel of that blessing.

God blesses us, to be a blessing. This is a truth we have all declared in our Christian communities, but do we really live it out? It’s a truth we have taught our children, but do we always model it? It’s a question we must consistently ask ourselves, Do I seek to be the hands and feet of Jesus?  If not… why? If not now… when? 

“You” could be the means that God uses to bestow a “Bathtub” of blessings.

Sure, the scripture uses the term “showers” of blessing but you get the gist of what I am asserting. My friend Melissa brought a bathtub of blessings into my daughter’s world when she allowed her, probably, very busy schedule to be interrupted, her finances to be involved, and her heart to be engaged. Not only did Melissa’s benevolence make Faith’s month in a huge way… it deepened and strengthened her soul’s ‘faith’. 

Being a recipient of such generosity, Faith wanted to share her blessing. She actually packed a goodie bag full of extra groceries for her friend Mandy who also had to be isolated. (proud Momma moment right there!)

God showed up and showed off in a most profound of ways…He gave Faith a Bathtub of Blessings amid the chaos and crisis of sickness. Faith knows she is His beloved daughter, and He is intricately involved in her everyday.

Time and time again God proves Himself faithful. Why do we ever doubt His goodness?! 

Let me add one more bounty to that Bathtub of Blessings… 

Guess what? Faith’s Covid-19 test came back ‘negative’. How about that! 

On Friday when she got the results, she was allowed to re-enter and resume dorm life. We spoke on the phone later that day.

“You know Faith, I think God allowed your nasty cold and virus symptoms so that He could get you in the ‘apartment of isolation’. Because, only in that separation could you enjoy what you had been craving since August… a few nights soak in the ‘bathtub’!

I hope and pray that in sharing… it encourages you to know that our God is close and near to the poor in spirit, He is a faithful Father to His children, He is intricately involved in your life, and He is gives us opportunities to be the hands and feet of Jesus to His children. 

According to Ezekiel 34:26, God is the One who sends the showers of blessing; and at times, we get to be the shower that pours out the blessing.

Why not go fill somebody’s bathtub with blessings today! 

No More Night

“There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.” Revelation 22:5 NIV

Everyone remembers the moment they were told they had cancer.

It was Saturday, December 19, 2020, at OBICI hospital inside the emergency room where my Daddy first heard those shocking words, “Mr. Bragg, you don’t have covid pneumonia, you have cancer.”

“After reviewing the ct scan, what we initially thought was fluid… are in reality, masses. You have 2 masses in the lobes of your lungs. It’s cancer”, the doctor said with calm assurance.

Sitting across the sterile room in a corner chair, I felt as if the room went dark.

My Daddy lay barely 5 feet from me in the hospital bed, covered with blankets and mask still on his face, but he didn’t flinch when the physician made the startling admission.

“How do you know that? You didn’t do a biopsy already, did you? How can you tell my Daddy that he has cancer without proof?”, unfiltered, I blurted back at him.

“Ma’am, I would never share this sort of serious information if I wasn’t certain. The radiologist reads these kinds of reports dozens of times a day. It is cancer, Mr. Bragg. I’m sorry to have to tell you that. Now, do you have any questions for me?”, he responded without hesitation.

Daddy still lay motionless. I walked over to his side, put my hand on his precious forehead, gently rubbed his hair and said back to the doctor, “He is in shock, we both are, but I’ll speak for him.”

Honestly, I can’t recall what else was said while the doctor was in the room… but after he left, I exhaled, fought back the tears and lump in my throat, held Daddy’s hand and told him, “Daddy, we’re going to get through this.”

Then I simply cried out to God, “Oh God, we need you now more than ever. You are right here with us and we are trusting You to get us through this!”

December 19, 2020 Daddy’s 2nd ER visit

While waiting for the paper work to be released from the ER, I excused myself to the restroom knowing that I was about to break down and didn’t want to do it in front of Daddy. I quietly called my sister Chandra, who was waiting to hear back from me about his visit.

The moment she answered, my voice began to quiver and cry, “Chandra, the doctor did a ct scan of Daddy’s abdomen and lungs… its not covid pneumonia. He has masses in his lungs and lesions on his liver. It is cancer. Daddy has cancer.”

In shock, Chandra said, “What? What? Liz, is Daddy ok?”

Then she began to cry, “What did Daddy say? Is he ok… Liz, is Daddy ok?”

I told her that Daddy hadn’t spoken a word, that I thought he was in shock, and that we were coming back home. I hung up the phone, opened the restroom door, and told Daddy we were going home.

Upon being dismissed, I helped my Daddy carefully move from the hospital bed into a wheelchair and pushed his weary body down the hallway; masks covering both our faces, his head drooping to his chest, I walked with the resolve of a daughter fighting for her Daddy’s life… “They may not care about you, but I do; and we’re gonna get through this together.”

I need to rewind a bit on the story to give you better understanding of why I felt like the medical community didn’t care…

The Monday before, on December 14th, I had taken him to the same ER because of the critical effects Covid had caused in his body. He was lethargic, unable to eat, and severely dehydrated. After the initial triage procedures, an X-ray was taken of his lungs and Daddy was diagnosed with covid pneumonia. Honestly, I wasn’t surprised at all… I knew he was really sick. Crazy thing is, the ER physician didn’t think he needed to be hospitalized. Instead, he was prescribed another antibiotic, told to go home and rest, and call his primary doctor if he wasn’t feeling better in a matter of days. I say ‘another antibiotic’ because Daddy had been on a regimen of strong antibiotics since August due to 5 separate surgeries for skin cancer of his ear. (Just add another antibiotic to the list… no big deal!… is what I sarcastically thought to myself.) Truth is I was livid! I couldn’t believe how they could see the sordid shape my 84 year old Father was in and yet turn a blind eye to truly treating him.

And now, 5 days later, we found out it wasn’t just covid, it was cancer!

Over the next several days, both my sister Chandra and I were in the thick crisis of covid and cancer, which threatened to take the lives of both our Momma and Daddy. Tuesday the 15th of December we had to rush my Momma to the ER. Running a fever of 103, short of breath and lethargic, she was diagnosed with Covid Pneumonia and also sent home with cough medicine and antibiotic. Shaking our heads in disgust, it seemed that these healthcare facilities weren’t stepping up or equipped to deal with the life threatening pandemic problems affecting the elderly. It felt like the proverbial, “washing their hands of them, and sending them home for slaughter” routine.

By December 22nd, my Momma had to be rushed via ambulance to Maryview Hospital with wheezing, shortness of breath, high fever, and Oxygen saturation levels at 66. She was hypoxic and admitted to the hospital for 25 days, and placed on a ventilator for 9 days. Because of covid, no family visitation was permitted. All advocating for her life had to be done by phone and online. It was a horrific nightmare trying to communicate with nurses daily, much less doctors.

The tension and stress which we were under was so intense, it caused conflict, panic attacks and extreme anxiety. Plus my sister Lisa and I caught covid while we were caring for my parents, so our health was also at an all-time low.

By January 24th, we had spent 42 challenging nights. Endless nights pronounced by pain and insomnia that Daddy endured, intolerable nights marked by inhumane loneliness that Momma withstood, and sleepless nights strained by continual caregiving that we sisters sustained.

Somewhere along the journey, Daddy told me, “Nights are the hardest.”

Daddy’s endless nights

“My stomach starts hurting me really bad at night, so I sit up on the couch trying to see if it will feel any better.

Nothing I do seems to help it.

The hours seem like endless nights, and sometimes I hear the enemy telling me awful things.

Like there’s no hope.

I stare up at the ceiling and pray to God.

I pray for Momma cause I know she’s all alone and scared.

That God will bring her home safe and healthy again.

I pray for all my kids and grandkids.

I pray that God will heal me, but the pain and sickness haunts me at night.

It’s like the enemy is laughing in my face.

Nights are the hardest.”

One of us sisters was always downstairs with him, sleeping on a pallet in the same room with him, so that we could help him through the long, difficult nights. He would wrestle through and try not to wake us, because that’s just who Daddy was. He appreciated our care for him, but he hated ‘putting us out’ to aid him.

I have never been a sound sleeper, but knowing the nights were the hardest on Daddy, you better believe I heard any rustling of movement or moan Daddy made. Immediately I was up off the pallet, right at his bedside saying,

“Daddy, I’m right here, what do you need?”

He would gently respond, “I need some ice”… or

“I gotta go to the bathroom”… or

“I need a drink”… or

“I need another blanket”… or

“I need to get in the recliner”… or

“I’m alright Liz, I am just awake and can’t sleep.”

Every night before turning out the light by his bedside, we’d gather around Daddy to pray. One of us held his hand, the other rubbed his feet, and the other played with his hair. Soothing him to sleep, we lifted our hearts cry up to Jehovah Rapha, our Healer and asked Him to keep Daddy in perfect peace through the long, dark night. We prayed for healing. We prayed for Momma. We praised God for His immeasurable love and grace in our lives. We thanked Him for the opportunity to serve and care for our parents. We placed our trust in Him to see Daddy through another night until the glorious day where there would be no more night at all.

Daddy loved the song, “No More Night” by David Phelps. Over the last 5 months of his life as he battled the ravages of cancer, we played the music over and over again for him. The lyrics are a promise to the suffering, to those who know what ‘night’ truly represents… that when life’s final breath is taken here on earth, there will be no more night for those who trust Jesus Christ as their Savior… for they will live in eternal light with the KING.

“The timeless theme, Earth and Heaven will pass away

It’s not a dream, God will make all things new that day

Gone is the curse from which I stumbled and fell

Evil is banished to eternal hell

No more night, no more pain

No more tears, never crying again

And praises to the Great I Am

We will live in the Light of the Risen Lamb

See all around how the nations bow down to sing

The only sound is the praises to Christ, our King

Slowly the names from the book are read

I know the King, so there’s no need to dread

No more night, no more pain

No more tears, never crying again

And praises to the Great I Am

We will live in the Light of the Risen Lamb

See over there, there’s a mansion

Oh, that’s prepared just for me

Where I will live with my Savior eternally

And there will be no more night, no more pain

No more tears, never crying again

And praises to the Great I Am

We will live in the Light of the Risen Lamb

All praises to the Great I Am

We’re gonna live in the Light of the Risen Lamb”

Daddy passed from death into Eternal Life with Christ on April 29, 2021

There is no more night for you, Daddy.

You are living in the Light of the Risen Lamb!

Who I’m Becoming

by M.B.R.

November 10, 2020

“Where are you from?”…
Despite being a rather simple and straightforward question, it still causes me to hesitate for a second and mentally analyze what the most honest yet appropriate response would be. My automatic response is proudly “Louisville, Kentucky”, the city of horses, rabid sports fans, and the setting for my life as far back as I can remember. However, I know that some people, myself included for that matter, are implying the place I was born, the explanation for the person staring back at them. To answer that, we’d have to draw an arrow to the other side of the world, to Fuling Chongqing, China.

In the midst of third world poverty compounded by overpopulation, orphans were very common in bigger cities in a country that legalized the One-Child policy for planned population growth. I was one of those. I was too young to have any memories of then, but I’m told we were in tiny cribs head to toe and next to each other, living off the bottles and meager portions of rice they had to divide amongst all of the babies there. This bleak and impoverished setting provided the opening for my life; and yet, it was just a step into a completely new world and story.

My journey begins with an older couple thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean who were unable to have children. After much deliberation, prayer, and extra motivation due to age and overcoming health tribulations, the process was in the works to adopt a little girl from China. After months of paperwork, social work visits, passports, vaccines, and so many other technical legalities I don’t fully understand, they were standing in an orphanage, holding a child that they could call theirs. This would chart a course for a whole new direction of my life, but I can never fully leave those origins behind.

Ever since being brought back to the United States at ten months old, an American citizen the moment the plane touched down, I have lived in the same house in the same city for my sixteen plus years of life. Therefore, I always have considered myself very firmly an all-American girl, complete with the “too-urban-to-be-country” Louisville accent that is very loosely classified as southern.

On the other hand, every part of my physical being from my hair, eyes, complexion, and very DNA is rooted in a completely different place and culture. It’s the dichotomy of being physically one hundred percent Chinese but my daily life and experiences being one hundred percent American, so I’m not completely one or the other and don’t feel rightrepresenting one at the sake of the other. As a result, coming to terms with both of these parts of myself is something that has taken much time and is still in progress. .

One of the great blessings of living in the United States in the 21st century is the more widespread acceptance of people of all kinds of ethnicities, backgrounds, and appearances, but I’m not going to pretend that it’s perfect. One of the fundamental longings of humans that God has placed in us and is amplified in this broken world is a need to be accepted and to feel like we belong. We, in our brokenness, will often take anything that makes us different from those around us, whether that be the amount of melanin produced, affecting our skin color, IQ points, class, career choice, or literally anything that makes us individuals, and use that as a means to try to make us feel like we intrinsically fit better within the world than those who lack those certain characteristics. In other words, it’s like a golden retriever saying it’s more of a dog than a Maltese because it’s bigger and has fur instead of hair; that would be quite ridiculous wouldn’t it. They are both different with very distinct appearances, quirks, and needs but are just as fundamentally dogs as each other. Humans get tripped up on that though, and sometimes it’s ourselves that trip us up the most. That has definitely been my biggest personal struggle.

I’ve never been teased or ridiculed or faced a form of racism for not looking like the people around in me. In fact, younger children tend not to notice, and my peers throughout my pre-teen and teen years think it’s an interesting fact but are so used to being around me that it’s almost forgotten. I’ve been in completely opposite environments when it comes to diversity and ethnicity, from my public elementary school where I had a unique mix of Hispanic, African American, Asian, and white classmates and friends to the small private Christian school I currently attend where the overwhelming majority is white middle to upper-middle class kids. I can honestly say I have appreciated and enjoyed both of those experiences for their differing perspectives, challenges, and opportunities. As I look at my experiences, the problems I’ve faced with my identity have never come as a result of outside torment, but rather as a result of my own insecurity and need to feel like I have a place.

Throughout my life and especially in my elementary years, I have always been what you would call socially awkward. Never quite understanding and relating to kids my age, I didn’t have many friends. Instead I preferred to dig in the dirt, read, and talk to my teachers about their lesson plans. I didn’t know it then, but that resulted in me being quite lonely and feeling like I didn’t fit in my life, like a square block trying to go into a circle hole. Those feelings have lingered into my present.

When I became old enough to really grasp and understand that people look different and that I didn’t come into my family in the conventional way, that planted another seed of something that disconnected me from the people around me. It didn’t grow into insecurity until my teenage years. My sister was also adopted from China as were my only close friends, so it was almost a little bubble. However, I noticed the feelings of not quite belonging in little everyday moments that tend to stick with adopted kids.

For instance, hearing about how my mom was a spitting image of my grandma and my cousins comparing themselves to old pictures of their parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents, and I just sort of sat awkwardly, knowing that I wasn’t physically connected to my loved ones in the way they were to each other.

This was never said to me by anyone, but I seemed to do what humans so often do and pinned my sense of not clicking with the people around me onto what’s often easiest: what you can see.

I was so desperate to be “normal” that I came to resent anything that made me an individual, which included my black hair, eyes so dark it’s hard to see my pupils, and olive complexion in a world overflowing with family members on both sides and my current best friends with hazel eyes and blonde hair turned to brown by time. It’s almost easier to think that because I look different, I’m not accepted… rather than letting someone get close enough to know me, the way I think, love, and view the world, and then rejecting me all the same. It isn’t even at its root other people’s opinions of me, it is me in my heart not knowing who I am or what I’m meant to be.

I can’t say I’ve got it all figured out now, but I have made some progress. Fundamentally, having a deep-rooted knowledge of my identity first and foremost as a child of God because of the blood of Jesus Christ in my place and His resurrection giving me a new life, I’ve been able to let all the other aspects of my worldly identity sort of fall into place.

I’m one of a special group of people God has chosen to give the testimony of being adopted, given a new name, and new life twice, first by my earthly mother and father and secondly by my Heavenly Father. He saw me in the womb of the mother I don’t know and softened my heart to the point where I surrendered it to Him that morning in my bedroom nine years ago.

Now sitting on my couch typing this amidst much racial tension and division in our nation, I can’t say the pull will ever go completely away.

To this day, I will still stare awkwardly at the mall food court ladies offering samples for the Chinese restaurants as they speak to me in Mandarin before hesitantly pointing out that I only speak English. On other days, I’ll confidently make a well-timed “Made in China” joke to my white friends, and they pause for a second before I burst out laughing from the unique position I’m in.

On a deeper side, as I get older and come closer to the point where I start considering relationships and such, I’ve recently been processing that chances are I will marry someone who looks different then me and I from them, and if we were to have children, they would receive none of the features of the people I’ve been raised and loved by my whole life.

But isn’t that a beautiful thing though, and a very small representation of the future where people of every nation, tribe, and tongue are united together at throne to worship the King of Kings forevermore.

When considering all the chapters of my story already written, the ones in progress, and the ones yet to be penned, I’ve ultimately determined that, while important and key to explaining part of who I am, “where I’m from” isn’t as critical as “where I’m going” and “Who I’m Becoming”. While the answers to those aren’t yet clear, I trust the God whose plan for my life has been evident from the start will continue to guide my paths.

Holding Out Hope To You

Hope is secure!

HOPE that is found in Jesus. John 16:33

You…

You can…

You can rest…

You can rest assured.

There is Hope.

His name is Jesus.

Running Barefoot Through the Pigsty

June 26, 2020 Grace.Rescued.MeHome

Elizabeth Hammond

Have you ever been camping? I mean somewhere in the uncivilized wild, toting only meager provisions… like a zip-up tent, sleeping bags and flashlight, oh and instant coffee. No you say?… Well, neither has my husband, Rob. His idea of going camping is staying at the Marriott Hotel in the tourist city of Gatlinburg’s mountains. He has no affinity for appreciating survival skills outdoors, and that’s stating it, mildly! I didn’t grow up camping either, but in my late 30’s, I felt God calling me to broaden my horizons and go on an 18-day mission trip to South East Asia. It would include a “backpacking” excursion through the rural villages of Tibet. Although I wasn’t too thrilled with the idea of “roughing it”, there was no doubt in my mind that God wanted me to go. And can I just tell you… it ended up being one of the most amazing, spiritual experiences I have ever had in my life, both with God and people.

But I came back with something, I wasn’t expecting, that left a lasting impression.

On day 15 my entire body broke out in a rash; my skin was covered from head to toes with itchy, raised, red patches. The mission team leaders didn’t seem to be too concerned about my rash. Hmmm… maybe that’s because they were not the ones with the incessant compulsion to tear their skin off. I can laugh about it now, but it was not a laughing matter then. The only treatment I was so kindly administered was a topical antibiotic ointment; I think it was Neosporin. You know what they say about Neosporin… it can cure leprosy. Right!? Not so. After I came back home to civilization, my doctor told me it was likely caused by fleas and possibly parasites after sleeping in make-shift, Tibetin beds of straw. He treated me with an oral antibiotic and prescribed a more powerful cream. The healing process was slow. Not only did the rash seem to last forever, but it also left some visible scars.

Recently I came across a story that really grossed me out. While it was the title and picture that captured my attention, ugghhh, the video attached to the article nearly made me nauseous. I don’t advise you watching the video on a full stomach. If “a picture is worth a thousand words” then let that suffice. However, the story about this little girl’s feet is riveting and so applicable.

She traveled with her American family on a holiday vacation to a remote part of Brazil. One day for fun, they toured a pig farm, and the ten year old girl was seen running barefoot through the pigsty. Her parents didn’t think anything of it until two weeks later when she complained about her feet hurting. To their shock and horror, the soles of her feet were covered in disgusting lesions. They took her to a medical clinic and the doctors diagnosed the infection known as Tungiasis. That is when creepy little critters or sand fleas enter the toes, soles and heels of the feet. They suck the blood of the host and burrow into the skin and lay their eggs causing inflammation and pain. Thankfully, the doctors treated her, removed the fleas and eventually her feet healed. Hopefully you made it through the story without barfing.

In both cases, my skin rash and her feet infection… We both came back with something, we were not expecting, that left a lasting impression.

How about you? Have you ever been innocently involved in an area and when you stepped back from it, you realized something additional attached to you… that you didn’t sign-up for? Kinda like the rash or the infection. Maybe it regards a relationship, be it a friend or co-worker or a love interest. And the closer you became with that individual, something negative stuck to you like glue and you have a hard time shaking it off. Like the green slime from the movie, “Flubber”, it clings to your being and the more you try to peel it off, the further its oozing sliminess stretches around you and confines you. It could possibly be an institute of spiritual teaching, be it a popular new pastor, progressive theology, self-help tools… but something latched onto your belief system and hijacked it. And now you are reeling in disillusionment and disbelief. You don’t know which way is up or down.

It’s time to get real with yourself, if you are in pain. How would you fill in these blanks?

The journey of ___________________ that you pursued innocently enough

has attached you with _________________________ that you were not expecting,

and now has left a lasting impression of _______________________.

Maybe you are living in that space in between the infestation and the manifestation. You are totally unaware that you have been infected. I promise you… you have been infected. It’s only a matter of time before you experience the painful reality.

Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing some of those parasites that are infecting us, both you and me. I promise to tell the truth about these sand fleas who burrow into our minds and contaminate our hearts. What I reveal will be out of love and concern, and with much humility but after major preparation and research. We need to talk about the parasites of Deception within the church. It’s time that we wake up and know the truth and where to find our healing. My hope is that you will join me as we learn how to guard ourselves against these deceptive flea bags.

Ephesians 6:11 ‘Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places.”

Put on your shoes with me. Let’s stop running barefoot through the pigsty.

https://www.foxnews.com/health/girls-feet-infested-with-parasitic-sand-fleas-after-running-through-pigsty-barefoot

Necessary Calls

Necessary Calls

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that prisoner was you.” Louis B. Smedes

Bzzzzz…My cell phone vibrated in my hand as I was cardio walking, listening to a podcast interview. It was a call from a friend of mine, Tammy. 

“Hello there…” I answered. 

After the initial pleasantries and something about her back being-out and heading to the chiropractor for an adjustment, she said, “I needed to tell you that what I shared with you yesterday was not ‘it’. I mean, that’s not all there is to ‘it’…there’s more. Remember when I said, ‘Sometimes that I sense an angst come over me, a sort of anxiety about our connecting’? 

Well, there’s a specific reason I have been feeling this way towards you, and God has been dealing with me since yesterday about needing to be honest with you.”

When I heard the words, “angst” and “anxiety” referring to the way I made her feel, it felt like the wind had been knocked out of my stomach. Instinctively, my pace slowed down, and I responded, “Ok, yes, please, get it off your chest; I’m listening.” 

She began sharing painful memories from grade school, where I called her hurtful names and treated her as unimportant. She explained that most kids go through rough times with developing relationships, but that my poor behavior towards her, unknowingly festered in her heart through the years. She became acutely aware of it during one of the most painful seasons of her life, caring for her dying sister. 

“I didn’t ever want to tell you this, but I know I must. When my sister was losing all her hair, eyebrows and eyelashes due to the chemotherapy for her progressive cancer… she felt like she had lost her femininity. One day I walked into her bedroom and she was sitting on the side of the bed sobbing. I noticed she had her cell phone in her hand with a picture of you and a couple friends posing like models in black leather and lace. She cried out, 

‘Look at them! Liz is a pastor’s wife and she’s dressed like that and trying to look so sexy and why? Why is she doing that… doesn’t she care how that makes me feel. Here I am with cancer and I just want to feel pretty. Why doesn’t she care how this makes me feel?!’ Tammy’s voice eerily sounded like her sister’s, and she continued to tell me… 

“So, I took the phone out of her hand and told her we were going to have a delete-some-friends party, and I personally went through her friend list and rid it of any female who posted pictures of their bodies provocatively… then we laughed. She no longer had to have those sexy pictures in her face reminding her of what she no longer could be. Then we drove up to the store, and I bought false eyelashes and an eyebrow pencil and used my artistic gift to draw eyebrows and glue eyelashes onto my beautiful sister.” 

She related how these experiences involving me have been harboring in the deep recesses of her heart and that must be why the angst and anxiety surfaces concerning me. God had revealed the private pain and it was time for her to forgive me. 

Upon hearing my friend recount the painful memories of how my actions had caused such heartache and damage to her spirit… It stopped me dead in my tracks. Tears welled up and poured down my face. It was a catalytic moment. For the first time since September 2018, I realized my sin had affected more people than just my immediate family. God used the admission of Tammy’s unresolved issues with me and the exposure of her sister’s frustration to bring to light what I was oblivious to. All of the sudden photo flashes of people began surfacing in my mind’s eye… women I led in Bible studies, choir members I worshipped with in church, youth from the high school my husband was the head of school and where my children attended, Facebook friends who followed me throughout the years, and broken girls whom I ministered to in the Anderson County jail. Instantly I became overwhelmed with the thought of how I must have disappointed them. For some I may have been the cause for why they gave up on their faith and walked away from God. You have no idea what mental images and thoughts flooded my mind. 

Regret. Have you ever felt the sting of regret? Regret not shame

There’s a distinct contrast between regret and shame. Regret is feeling sad, repentant, or disappointed over something that has been done, especially a loss or missed opportunity. Whereas shame is painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior. Regret leads to repentance; shame produces humiliation. Believe me I know the difference; I’ve lived it out, and I do not walk in shame because God extended forgiveness to me when He brought me to my senses and I confessed my sin. When He poured His mercy and grace into my life, the shame I felt was lifted and eradicated, and God filled me with true joy. However, settling back into the reality of my personal family life revealed the consequences of my sin and how it affected each of them. I have regret.

Seared into my mind is a vivid encounter I had with my daughter Faith just a few weeks after coming home.

Rob, Christian, Faith and I were having a much-needed conversation about my being back home after a 6-month absence/separation. I poured out my heart, telling them how sorry I was for the darkness I willing lived in for the past 7 years, and I asked them to forgive me. In the corner of the room, propped on the floor, my daughter sat motionless except for the tears welling up in her eyes. She buried her face in her hands and tried to stifle her emotion. I recognized she was deeply hurting and she didn’t want to express her pain. Faith is not one to be direct or open about her feelings, she is a stuffer; but I knew it was time for her to let out what had been bottled up for months, maybe even years. I walked over to her and sat right in front of her, so that we were face to face. Reaching out my hand to hold both of hers, I said, “Faith please look at me…” 

“No, I don’t want to talk. I don’t have anything to say. And I don’t want to hurt you… I’m afraid if I start, I’ll say something that I’ll regret.” she whimpered.

“Faith, you can tell me anything. I want you to express your hurt and pain to me. I need to hear it from you. I know I have wounded you greatly. You didn’t do anything to deserve it. You have every right to be angry at me. It’s time to get it out. God wants to heal your broken heart, and it’s not going to happen overnight; it’s going to take time. But first you need to let it out. Please talk to me…” I pleaded.

Through muffled cries, she told me… “I don’t know what I want from you anymore, Mom. Even before you left, it was like you really weren’t here. You were always wanting to be by yourself, going on girl’s trips to get away from us. Then you told us that you were leaving all of us and moving to Florida. You gave up on us a long time ago, and I had to learn to live without you. Now that you are back… I don’t know how to open my heart to you again.”

At this point, Faith began to buckle under the weight of her emotion and sobbed. It broke my heart to see her in such agony. I wanted to grab her and hold her and let her cry in my arms… but I respected her space. Instead, I inched closer and continued to hold her hands in mine, and through my own tears said, “Faith, I am so sorry for all the ways I have inflicted pain on you through all my selfishness and darkness. I was not a good Mother for the past 7 years. I neglected you and Christian. I was an absent parent. I was a terrible role model. I was running from everything I knew to be right and away from God. You were deeply wounded by my actions, and I am so sorry. I am praying that God will enable you to forgive me and help you to open your heart and life to me again. I will wait. No pressure. No time limits. I will wait until you are ready to forgive me. I love you and want to be the Mom that God created me to be for you and Christian.” 

I wish I could tell you that in that moment all things were made right between she and me. I can’t. But I can tell you this… Because of Jesus, all things were made “new”.  His grace and mercy began a healing that night that is still ongoing today. Nearly 2 years have passed since that catalytic encounter and our relationship has recovered in unimaginable ways. She hugs me now. She calls me Momma again. She asks me to rub her back in the mornings. She invites me to go shopping with her. For Christmas she hand-crafted a coffee mug from pottery and colored it red just for me. This past May she painted the words, “Happy Mother’s Day 2020” on a beach scene décor that I absolutely love! And favorite of all… she lets me lovingly call her “Sis” again.

God is in the business of Restoration. He is the Redeemer of time wasted and lost. He is the “Resurrector” of dead relationships

After Tammy shared her hurt on the phone that day, she forgave me. Our relationship was released from the turmoil of unresolved unforgiveness. Which brings me to the purpose of this article…

Many of you are friends or family of mine, like Tammy and Faith who have been wounded by my sin. Your relationship with God suffered because of the negative impact that my influence had in your life. It’s time that I tell you, “I am sorry. I truly am sorry for the disappointment and disillusionment you felt because of my failures. I let you down as a ministry leader when I ran from the whole reason for ministry… God Himself. Please forgive me. I want you to know that I have been set free from that darkness. God has set my feet on solid ground again, and I humbly praise Him for His grace and mercy. You matter to me. Your pain matters. I give you permission to reach out to me and share your pain if you feel that can bring you healing. Your healing matters to me. If God can “bridge” that gap for Tammy and restore hope for Faith… He can do it for you. Nothing would bring me greater delight than to know that your joy has been restored.

I am tagging my friend Tammy’s personal story of our dilemma. Read it. I pray it encourages you to deal with the “hard word” you might need to share in your relationships, and that it brings healing. Maybe you, like Tammy, need to call somebody today and speak the word of forgiveness. Go ahead, make that call. Bzzzzzzzzzzz, that’s a powerful sound! Bzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Tag by the Hallelujah House https://tammycarteradams.com/2020/06/19/allowing-our-hurts-to-inflict-hurt/

https://www.facebook.com/lizbragghammond

https://www.instagram.com/grace.rescued.me/

Rating: 1 out of 5.
  1. Liz…I am so very sorry for the pain you and your family have had to endure. I know where your…

  2. That brought tears to my eyes. The love of this family is amazing.

  3. thank you for your kind words… I look forward to checking out your wife’s book. Anything on the heart and…

  4. Great to see you writing Liz. Not only can forgiveness heal the heart but writing about it can too. People…