The first stop of the day, we knew, was going to be the most difficult. And as we drove up to the nondescript brick building, my anxiety grew. “Father, please give me your strength,” I said to myself so no one else could hear. Everyone in the family was looking to me to lead them. And as we walked in, my wife with cake in hand, our children and my mother-in-law along with us, I became more confident that this was the right thing to do. That this was what HE wanted us to do.
There were six people in the dimly lit room…six 9-11 operators. I’ve known them all for better than 10 years, and they were my lifeline while I was a deputy sheriff in Coffee County, GA. There was one man, though, that we sought out. He was the first person I addressed with a hearty handshake and man-hug. “Good to see you, Brother,” I told him as we embraced. The 9-11 director and the others came out of their offices to see what we were doing. We told them that we wanted to share something with them, but they had no idea what it was. My wife handed me the cake, and we began.
Rewind about 16 hours earlier. Lena and I had been praying about what to do on March 19th…the day marking a year ago that Mia was called home. We didn’t want to celebrate it, but we did, however, want to mark it somehow…to honor our daughter’s memory and to honor God. I knew we had two choices: one- to gather together as a family, spending the day doing whatever we could to get through the grief, or two- we could do something to take our mind off of our loss. The morning of the 18th, I chose the latter. The afternoon of the 18th, so, too, did Lena. Though neither of us knew it until that evening, God put it on our hearts separately to perform a random act of kindness for someone. It really took on another identity when we started talking together about it. We decided that, since Mia was three months old when she passed away, we would perform 30 random acts of kindness for people throughout the county, and our girls would help us come up with our list. And almost immediately, the weight of our burden became lighter. We actually became excited.
The morning of the 19th our family sat down to breakfast at Holt’s Bakery in Douglas, GA. They have the most wonderful homemade donuts that will ever melt in your mouth! At that time, our girls didn’t know what we had planned, but they knew we were going to do something. As we ate, their curiosity grew and grew until we finally let them in on our idea. When we finally told them, they were floored. They couldn’t wait to get started. There were six of us, so that meant that we each would come up with five things to add to the list.
Now back to the 9-11 center. As we told the operators, all friends of ours, what we were doing and why we were doing it, and why we wanted them to be our first stop, they were speechless. As I was talking, my voice broke, and I had to fight back the tears. The person that I was focusing my attention on, Jimmy (I don’t think he’d mind if I used his first name), was the one that took my call that fateful day. He was so overcome because it was my daughter that passed that he couldn’t finish the call. He had to let his assistant director talk me through where I needed to go when I was en route to the hospital. We embraced each other tightly, our lives forever intertwined by that one phone call. They all thanked us for the cake and the blessing, and we moved on to the rest of our mission.
I thought about sharing with you more of that day, but, after counsel from my pastor, decided against it. You see, I definitely don’t want to mess with my blessings. Suffice it to say that God showed us 30 different times that we were walking where He wanted us to walk and doing what He wanted us to do. And our family grew closer to Him and to each other, not to mention thirty more people were blessed to hear the story of our beautiful little Baby Butterfly.
Now to the scripture and to the choices. The verse I have for you is, in my opinion, one of the most defining moments throughout human history. It’s the moment Jesus went to the garden in Gethsemane…
“They went to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, ‘Sit here while I go and pray.’ He took Peter, James, and John with him, and He became deeply troubled and distressed. He told them, ‘My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me.’ He went on a little farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting Him might pass Him by. ‘Abba, Father,’ He cried out, ‘Everything is possible for You. Please take this cup of suffering away from Me. Yet I want Your will to be done, not Mine.’ Then He returned and found the disciples asleep. He said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Couldn’t you watch with Me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
He had a choice. He could have chosen to run, fleeing from the grove and hiding for the rest of His days. He could have chosen to stop spreading His Father’s word, to stop healing and performing miracles. Instead, and thankfully for us, He didn’t. He CHOSE to fight through His fear and suffering. He CHOSE to follow through with the Father’s plan for Him and, ultimately, for us. He CHOSE to be who God wanted Him to be…the Savior for all mankind. And I’m so grateful He did.
We all have choices to make every day of our lives. What do we want to wear to work or school today? What will I have for lunch or for dinner? What will I do with the $20.00 bill that dropped out of the man’s pocket in front of me, unnoticed to him? What do I say about the people who wrong me when they’re not around? How will I spend each day dealing with the loss of my daughter?
These choices, while not all have dire consequences if we pick the wrong one, determine who we are. They define our lives and the way we affect everyone we interact with on a daily basis. Will you choose to do the right thing and travel the narrow path that’s a difficult climb at best…the path that has the ultimate prize at the end? Or will you choose the way of a fallen world- the life that says, “I, I, I…me, me, me?”
On Mia’s Angelversary, we chose to follow Jesus. We were not going to let our pain, and grief and agony get the better of us. I’m so thankful that Lena was right there with me in that decision. She’s been making AMAZING progress over the course of the last month, and Tuesday was a breakthrough day. I shouldn’t have expected anything else. After all, when you follow God and His will for your life, can it work out any other way except perfectly?
This song is an amazing song by Ricardo Sanchez. Moving forward is what we are doing, one baby step at a time. I pray its beautiful words, and our testimony, bless you all abundantly.
Be a blessing…