I need to start off with a few confessions. First, normally when I write a newsletter, I start off with something light hearted. Well this newsletter is not really going to follow that pattern. This will be more of a recent testimony. My second confession is that I like to think I am in control of situations. I guess I could blame part of it on my personality, but I think it comes with the job. When you start a ministry and keep it running for the most part as a 1-man operation for over 14 years, you have to be in control, or at least make it appear you are. It is really hard for me to be in situations where I can see how things could be done different if I was in charge. I have to remind myself, that I am not leading this event, and I don’t need to express my thoughts. The fourth thing I want to confess is that this is probably the most challenging newsletter I have ever had to write. With that being said, I hope what follows will bless someone’s life.
My biggest confession is that in 2019, I have not felt in control at all in life. This year has not been a good year for my family. As most of you know, my mother had some serious health issues over the last few years, and for the last 5 years, I had been her primary health caregiver, which included taking her to run errands and to doctor appointments, helping her get up sometimes, helping her get dressed, and helping her with her hygiene. When we would meet someone new, she would always say, “this is my son Cullen, he is also my cook, my driver, and my laundry man.”
Two years ago, she started having episodes with breathing problems, her body was not able to get rid of carbon dioxide, so it would accumulate and make her sleepy, and at times she would see things that weren’t actually happening. She had been in what I would consider pretty good shape since then. This year that changed. On New Year’s evening, she woke up somewhat agitated and confused. The problems lingered for a few days. Fast forward to Super Bowl Sunday. That morning Jayda and I were going to church, so I helped Mother get up and use the restroom, and when I was getting her back in her chair, her eyes rolled. I knew how Mother acted when she was upset, and it didn’t include rolling eyes. I was somewhat worried, but Mother assured me she was okay. Jayda and I went to church, and got home and we all had lunch and decided to take a nap before the NFL championship game. I tried waking her at 5:00 so she would be awake for the game. She had a hard time waking up, and when she did wake up, she wasn’t making much sense.
So, with some convincing from her brother in North Carolina, we called the ambulance and took her to the emergency room. She stayed in the hospital until February 14th. During her stay, we learned her challenges with carbon dioxide was getting more severe. One day I went to see her, and the nurse asked me about her desires for DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) . I knew the situation was severe, but that question hit me pretty hard. During her stay, they tried a CPAP mask, but she couldn’t tolerate it. One doctor said he knew of a mask that went in her nose. Then of February 20th, I had to call the ambulance again. She had a hard time waking up that morning, and a friend came to stay with her while I went and had lunch with Jayda. I got home, and Jeanie said Mother was confused when she woke up. Her body was shaking, and again her eyes did something strange. At the hospital, they thought it might be a stroke or a seizure, but both were ruled out. So, on February 22nd, Mother was sent to Carillon for rehabilitation. She stayed there until March 10th, she had had enough and was ready to come home. She stayed at home until March 19th.
Again, on March 19th, I had a hard time waking her up, so I once again had to call the ambulance. (I had gotten much better at calling the ambulance, and was more relaxed, but it was a challenge being the only one home at that time.) We got her to the ER and they did more testing. Finally, that evening, they moved her to ICU. At some point, they told us her carbon dioxide level had gotten to a 90. After they got her settled in ICU, we had another discussion on her DNR wishes. I got back to ICU on Wednesday morning, and we had another discussion on DNR. We had a good friend, our pastor, and my sisters come up to see her. We had lunch together, and we talked about palliative care. I had to go do some ministry work and pick Jayda up, so when we got back, the lady from the palliative wing was there. She said Mother would be moved to palliative care that evening. So around 8:30-8:45, we moved her to palliative care. After a few minutes, Jayda and I left so Jayda could have a shower and do homework. Dad stayed a little longer. On Thursday morning, March 21st, at 12:42 am I got the phone call from the hospital telling me Mother had just passed away. I WILL NEVER FORGET THAT MOMENT! I felt like my world came crashing down. I woke Dad up and told him, and then told Jayda. We all cried. We went to the hospital and met our pastor and the rest of our family there. Mother looked so peaceful, but it was hard to believe that she was gone. At the same time, I knew she was at rest and that now she was totally healed in heaven.
As you can see these last few months have been very challenging. It was frustrating and scary for Mother and for us, when she would have one of her “spells”. It was hard seeing her health situation worsen. I still tried to do ministry work, and there were many times I didn’t get much done, which bothered me some. When she was at rehab, I would go at least 4 times a day to see her, and often when we got ready to leave at night, she would beg us to stay longer. I literally got worn out in February and March. When she was at home, she would sometimes wake up in the middle of the night, and need something. It was hard to be patient, and not get upset. Sometimes we did good at it, and other times our weariness took over.
NOW FOR THE GOOD NEWS
I didn’t feel like I had much control over the last two months. I wished I could have somewhat taken away the carbon dioxide from her, but I couldn’t. Her only hope was a CPAP mask, and she refused, and I told her I would never make her wear one. As I look back now, I can see God had all this in control. Just like the Phillips Craig and Dean song says, “In the good times and bad you are God alone. You are on your throne.”
Mother and I spent a lot of time together those last couple of months. I was amazed so many times, how Mother would say something positive about the nurse (hair, nail polish, etc.). She was feeling bad, but she still encouraged others.
As I look back to her last few days, I know God was preparing me for what was to happen. That Monday night, as I tried to go to sleep, an unexplainable sense of uneasiness came over me, a sense that something was about to happen. So, when Tuesday came, and she went back to the hospital, I wasn’t totally surprised, but is was still difficult. I had to miss a meeting that Wednesday evening. I normally would have been upset, but I again I had a sense that I needed to be with her at the hospital that night.
That Tuesday night at the hospital, after the DNR talk, she said she wanted a grilled cheese sandwich from Sonic. Dad didn’t want to get her one, and Jayda had to shower and do homework. I took Jayda home and then went to Sonic while Dad stayed with Jayda. I got back to the hospital, and helped Mother eat her grilled cheese (she wouldn’t eat the crust, too many calories, so I had to peel the crust off and eat it. After we got done eating, she wanted me to call Jayda so they could do their nightly ritual of doing the Lord’s Prayer together. After we hung up, she asked me to pray for her. One of her favorite things was to hear me pray. As I finished praying, she tried to pray, and even though it didn’t make sense, I sensed she was praying a prayer of blessing over me. Little did I know that would be the last time I would pray with her. I stayed a little longer, and laid my head on her shoulder and we held hands, and had our last quality time together. As I left, I reminded her how much I loved her. I am so thankful God gave me that special time.
The weekend after Mother’s death was hard. The house seemed so quiet and empty. We all chipped in and got the house cleaned and everything. We had two good friends come in from out of town and spent time with us Saturday night. That night, as I tried to sleep, I felt a sense to look up Biblical numbers. Honestly, I had never been into Biblical numbers. I looked up the time of her death 12:38. 12 represents God’s authority, 3 represents completeness and 8 represents a new beginning. Combining the numbers, under God’s authority Mother’s time on earth was over, she had been made complete again, and had started her new beginning in Heaven. As I was thinking about this on Sunday, I remembered her birthdate was 12/26/38. So, take away the day, you are left with another 12/38. I felt God reassuring me, that all this was under His control.
Scriptures on God Being in Control
I am somewhat sorry, that this testimony was longer than most that I write. It just seemed appropriate to talk about this year, and my Mother, and the love we had for one another, and the Love of God for me and my family. I know there are others who are going through rough times in your lives. It may not be as extreme as what I have gone through, but you are facing a trial. You may feel God has turned His back on you, you don’t understand why you are going through, what God is doing, or what He wants to accomplish. Again, let me remind you, He is in control of your situation, you have to look for His provision and allow Him to mold you and shape you into the person He needs you to be. I have a few scriptures that might be helpful: Genesis 50:20, Isaiah 41:10, John 14:27, Joshua 1:9, Matthew 6:25-34, Romans 8:31-39, Psalm 91, and Philippians 4:7
More to come
I am moving on with life and ministry. I had the privilege to preach the following Sunday after the funeral. Someone asked me if I could do it. My reply was life goes on, ministry goes on. Some days that is easier said then done. As I have reflected on this “season of life” (read my last newsletter), I know there are some sermons that have been birthed through this time. In God’s time, they will be preached. I have looked back over some sermons I have preached and the things I said, and some writing I have done, and I realized God was speaking those words (spoken and written) into my life for the season we are going through. For example, as I began to write this newsletter, I opened up the last one on seasons of life, and in bold print on page 1, it says “seasons are under God’s control”. Thank you, God, for your reminder. I am reminded of Psalm 126:5 “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.” I have cried every day, and that is okay, God blesses those that mourn. Each day gets easier. I know God will use this season of mourning and weeping, for His purposes. As a follower of Jesus that gives me no greater joy.
In closing, this newsletter was challenging because having to share my testimony is still not easy. Any time I would write something, the first person to read it was Mother. She would often cry at what I had written, and brag about it. Now, I can’t share it with her. Again, that is okay. Mother left quite a legacy. She knew God was in control. The nurse said her last words were “Jesus come get me”. God was definitely in control, when He called Mother home to heaven, and He will always be in control. Our job is to not forget that!
All-Star Sports Camp
Our 16th annual All-Star Sports Camp (hard to believe it has been that long) is scheduled to take place July 15th-July 19th. Right now, we are 95% sure we will be able to host the camp at Cavazos Middle Schoo1 in North Lubbock. The school is having work done of the roof and the air conditioning systems, so they are checking to see when the work is scheduled for. We have already chosen backup locations in case Cavazos doesn’t work out.
We have chosen our theme for this year. Our theme is: I am a Child of God based on John 1:12. Here is our daily themes in daily order: Monday, I am Chosen by God, Colossians 3:12; Tuesday, I am Special to God, Ephesians 2:10; Wednesday, I am Loved by God, John 3:16; Thursday, I am a Friend of God, John 15:15; and Friday, I have purpose in God, Jeremiah 29:11.
This year, we are also changing our volunteer orientations. We require our volunteers to complete orientation on a regular basis. It amazes me, but even after 16 years, new issues arise, and we have to prepare for them. For example, last year, we added a Lubbock ISD police officer at camp each day. This year, we will enhance our camp safety measures more. This year our entire volunteer orientation will be available online, and can be completed at the volunteers’ convenience (as long as it done before camp starts). We hope to have all the trainings available online by June 1st. The camp leadership team feels this will be easier on everyone. We will require new volunteers to attend a new volunteer orientation. We feel we need to meet with new volunteers in person, rather than online. On the Saturday before camp, we will have our Camp Walk Though. This will be the third year we have done a walk through. The walk through will be held on the campus where sports camp will take place. The walk through allows us a chance to bring our supplies to camp, get things set up before Monday, for everyone to learn the locations where everything will be located, and for our volunteers to get to know each other before camp. Camp sponsorships will still be $25 per child.
Here are some important dates you might want to know if you plan on helping ASSC 2019.
June 1, 2019 All online-orientation will be available for people to start completing
June 15, 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. New Millennium Baptist Church 101 E Queens
June 29th, 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. New Millennium Baptist Church 101 E Queens
July 6th, 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. New Millennium Baptist Church 101 E Queens
July 9th, 7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. New Millennium Baptist Church 101 E Queens
July 13th, Times will be announced later. This is the Camp Walk Through. ATTENDANCE IS MANDATORY! This will be your chance to see layout of camp activities, we will discuss camp safety, and you will receive your camp t-shirt.
Annual Golf Tournament
Our annual golf tournament is scheduled for May 4th. The golf tournament will be at Shadow Hills Golf Course and tee-off will be at noon. The format will be a 4-person scramble, and the cost will be $100 per person. Lunch is not provided, but there will be hotdogs after the tournament is over. This year, we are honoring the mother of two of our loyal supporters, and we are calling the tournament the Earlene Caddell Memorial Golf Tournament. Portions of the proceeds will also benefit Sharp Academy, which works with students who have dyslexia.
There is still a little time for you to get involved. You can get involved in 3 ways. First, we still have room for a few more teams. Second, you can be a tournament sponsor. We have different levels of sponsorship, with the cheapest being $50 which will sponsor an individual golf cart. Sponsorships can be from businesses, and be made in memory of or in honor of any individual. The third way you can donate an item for the silent auction or to be given away at the tournament. One lady playing in the tournament donated two quilts that her daughter made to be used in the silent auction.
I already know that this year’s tournament will be better than last years. We already have more sponsorship money than last year. There has been a group of ladies who have helped organize the tournament. This is yet another reminder of God being in control. With everything that has happened this year, I could not have pulled the tournament off by myself. God knew what He was doing when he had me to talk to Earlene’s daughter by naming the tournament after her mother. To get more information about the golf tournament, please go to: https://livingabundantlytx.com/golf-tournament-form/
A New Look to our web page & Social Media Presence
Our web page: www.livingabundnatlytx.com has been hosted the last two or three years by ourchurch.com. After being with them for a few years, they “redesign” your web page, to give your page a new look. I am in the process of editing and adding new things to our web page, and we are excited to see it actually get launched. The new design allows us to do some new things. One, is we will have a section where we can highlight and promote our ministry partners and corporate sponsors (something we are trying to add)? We also now have a section where we can have videos of the sermons I preach as well as sermon notes for each sermon as well. For those who didn’t know, I have been given to privilege to preach at least once a month at New Millennium Baptist Church. The web address to the page will remain the same. We are hoping to have the new page up soon, so keep your eyes open for the new page.
In connection to the web page, we realize that we need to do a better job utilizing social media. To be honest, the only social media I regularly use is Facebook. I keep track of things going on through it, but I do not regularly post personal things, and seldom will post ministry related posts. I know I need to do better. The ministry has a twitter account and Instagram, but again they have not been really used. I know I have to do better using social media. We have launched a YouTube channel. We have begun videotaping and using Facebook live when I preach, and so we will post the sermons on YouTube as well. On YouTube search for Living Abundantly Ministries. We can also post our sports camp videos, and videos from camp on there as well. If you regularly use YouTube, search for Living Abundantly Ministries and subscribe to our channel.
Like everything else in life, social media can be good as well as evil. I am saddened by how much negative and personal things people post on social media. At the same time, social media allows us a chance to get Christ focused messages out there as well. Sometimes when I preach there is a small crowd at church, but then I will check later, and many people have viewed it on Facebook. We will never fully know who hears our messages or how God uses them. If you have any ideas on how we can use social media better than we are, please let me know.
Ways to Support Living Abundantly Ministries Online
I wanted to remind everyone of the online ways you can support Living Abundantly Ministries.
Flipgive. Flipgive is an “online” shopping mall. There are many different stores and restaurants. These include Nike, JC Penney’s, Target, and Wal-Mart. Each business gives back a different percentage back to us. Here is the link to our Flipgive fundraiser https://www.flipgive.com/teams/43796-living-abundantly-ministries
Great American Store. This site allows you to purchase items from magazines to tumblers, to other fun items. Here is the link. www.gaschoolstore.com our organization id is: 5136346. When it asks for student id, just click skip this step.
Amazon.com If you purchase anything from Amazon, you can support us as well. Go to the following webpage. smile.amazon.com/ch/75-3153403 This is an ongoing opportunity for the ministry.
Ways to Connect with Us
I wanted to make sure that everyone has ways to contact the ministry. Our office phone number is 806-368-8983. Our mailing address is: Living Abundantly Ministries * P.O. Box 16491* Lubbock, TX 79490. Our web page is www.livingabundantlytx.com. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org . Don’t forget you can also find us on: Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. If you received this newsletter through the mail, and are capable or desire to receive it through email, you can subscribe to the newsletter at the following link: https://livingabundantlytx.com/connect-with-us/newsletter/.