Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fairy Tales, A Birthday...

(And Hope for Hard Times)

My son Bryant was (is) a special kid… Now I happen to think that ALL kids are special, each in his or her own way. Children are  given  loaned to their parents to nurture, teach, encourage, discipline and prepare so that they are able to make their positive mark on the world.

If only we parents fully understood this. Shortly after Bryant’s suicide, Travis and I saw a grief counselor. His instructions were the same as the flight attendant who informs air passengers in the event of emergency to secure the oxygen mask on yourself before you attempt to help a child or anyone else. The counselor advised us to do everything we could to stabilize ourselves so that we would be able to help our other children process the loss of their brother.

I think this is a good principle for the parent/child relationship in life in general.

It is true that you can’t give what you don’t have. So it follows that a healthy (mentally, emotionally, spiritually, relationally) parent will be best prepared to pass that good health on to their child(ren). An unhealthy parent will not.

(I feel the need to say that there are also no guarantees. There is no absolute formula for success in parenting. Like playing the stock market, there are general guidelines that usually produce a favorable outcome. But there are no guarantees. You can be healthy, do a good job by your children and still have things turn out negatively. I also know of many “success” stories of children who made it, despite having had unhealthy parents and all kinds of terrible odds against them.)

Last night Travis and I read thru the journal I started keeping for Bryant when he was a little boy. Over the years I wrote periodically to him about our life, about his specialness to me and what I hoped his life would be like. (Tears)

I read thru the journal again this morning. Today, on his 19th birthday, 229 weeks (exactly 1604 days), since he left, reading about his life makes me smile. He had a short but wonderful life. In just 14 years he: received the “Daniel Award” in Kindergarten for the boy in the class with the best character; attended Flight Camp and flew a small plane with his instructor; swam/fished in the Chesapeake Bay @ Boys Camp in 2000; cut the Ribbon at the Grand Opening of KIDS Inc.; went to Disney World twice with his grandparents (thanks Mom & Pop Stoves); toured the Nation’s Capital; waded in the Atlantic Ocean; spent a week touring New York City (just a few months before the Towers fell in 2001); observed a bear in the wild in Gatlinburg Tennessee ; built a bird house and model car at Home Depot Kids Workshops; participated in Debate Training and Tournaments; performed in church and community plays; was a talented shooting guard in Basketball; danced in the rain at age 12 --just because he felt like it :D; was the undefeated family champion at Putt Putt Golf; was a fierce UNO, Connect Four, Flinch, Phase 10 and Monopoly player during family game times; was a history buff, especially the Civil War and an avid reader— BRYANT read EVERYTHING, the USA Today, all kinds of books, a favorite title was, “The Watson’s Go to Birmingham” & anything on Greek Mythology; was an accomplished piano student and swimmer; Old School music lover; his 8th grade SAT complete battery score was “Post -High School”; was the #1 Auburn & Indianapolis Colts fan. And last but not the least bit least, all time world record holder for most CHICKEN eaten!

He was bright and funny. He loved life. He had a rich life. We miss him so. Why did he have to leave? Sometimes life seems to make no sense.

One weekend a few months ago my family and I were having a leisurely afternoon in a Books a Million bookstore. I ended up settling comfortably in a chair with a stack of books on one side of the store. Travis took the kids over to the youth section. A few hours later as we were getting into the car to go home, Travis began to tell me about an experience he’d had inside. He was reading and the kids were playing when he noticed a cute little blond headed boy, about 3 years old, playing with our kids. The boy’s dad sat down near Travis and they eventually got talking. The boy’s father, a man in his late 30s asked Travis about the book he was reading. It was a book on faith and they discussed it for a few moments. The man told Travis that he hadn’t been to church in a great while and that he was in quite a difficult spot these days. He shared that he’d lost his corporate job more than a year previously. The wife, also corporately employed, had moved out of their home and they were currently splitting custody of their son. She wanted a divorce. Their family home was in foreclosure. Travis began to talk with him about his (our) own struggles and the faith that has sustained him. He said the man began to cry. Travis encouraged the man, assuring him that God cared. That all was not lost. That our struggles come. to. pass. That he could make it, that he would make it. They finished talking and the stranger gathered his son to leave. Travis said that the man got almost to the door with his boy when he turned, came back and said, “Thank you. You just don’t know. Thank you.”

Just a few days ago I was at a nearby library. I was sitting at a table looking thru a few books. I also had with me the library’s copy of the Bible. There was an older African American man, (I’m guessing mid to late 50s) sitting near me as I was reading and writing. He probably looked older than he was. You know the kind of person who looks like maybe they’ve had a tough time in life. The man was with two boys who were working on the library computers not far from us. One of them looked to be about 12. The other boy was well over 6 feet and looked about 16 or 17. I noticed them because they would periodically come over to the man and their interactions were noticeably respectful…

The boys finished up on the computer and it seemed they were about to leave when the man (their father) saw the Bible near me. He spoke to me saying, “Are you a Christian?” I answered that I “most certainly” was, then he said, “Well I’m trying.” I said, “Brother, you don’t have to try to be a Christian. You just make a decision for Christ and stick with it.” He said it was hard. He began to tell me about his life. He said the factory where he worked had shut down earlier this year. He was separated from his second wife and everything in life seemed to be upside down. I began to share a little of my life, in contrast to my KNOWLEDGE and UNDERSTANDING that God is good no matter what. I told him about Bryant’s death and how life often makes no sense but that God is always God. I told him that God knew about what was going on with him and that God cared. That he just needed to call on Him. (Jeremiah 29:11-13) He shared some more. He and the boys were sleeping in their car. School had started. He was trying to figure how to get them registered without proof of an official residence. He began to cry. Right there in the middle of the library.

People are hurting.

In this country and worldwide. Right next to you in your office or cubicle, in your neighborhood, across the screen on the www, across all socio-economic and cultural lines,...in the library and at the bookstore. I was praying once earlier this year and I began to ask God why there was so much suffering in this world? His response came quickly and clearly. He said, Sharmayn, I made this world and filled it with goodness, with everything you would need to have a good life. Then I put you (mankind) in charge. Most of the problems the world is facing are not because I don’t care. They are because YOU (mankind) don’t care.” (Genesis 1)

Travis met a woman at work last week. She, her husband and three children are career international missionaries. They have just returned here for a 6 month sabbatical from some part of Russia. Travis told me she said they had been on this last assignment for 7 years. She said that in all that time NOT ONE PERSON accepted faith in Christ. NOT ONE. She said that there is such a heavy “darkness” – a resistance to the things of God – there that even the young children are permitted to regularly view pornography. (I will surely be discussing that on another post.) This family has worked faithfully to try to help, regardless of the outcome. They are living for something more than personal happiness and satisfaction.

I have said before that we are not here for what we can get. We are here for what we can give. I think one of the reasons our country has experienced this economic slump and national hardship is to remind us of this truth. Somehow we decided that life was all about getting stuff.  When in truth and actuality, life is really all about our SOURCE-- and not our resources. All our stuff-- our ability to produce, acquire, store and maintain stuff, is an unsure foundation upon which to build a life or place our trust. Here today, maybe gone tomorrow. If all my hope is in my job, my bank balance or financial portfolio, (or even my earthly relationships) the stuff I can put my hands on, what happens when Bernie Madoff has made off with all my money? Or my job is gone? When my marriage ends? Or my child is gone?

This time last year when I was apart from my husband, I was praying and asking God to fix our mess, to give Travis a change of heart and bring him home to his family. I felt God say, “My Daughter, I have heard your prayers. I allowed Travis to explore what he thought might be the answer to his troubles, I allowed all this to bring him to the end of himself. I permitted him to fall (and fail) so that he would have to put down his idol-- his ego and pride... his foolish attempts to make and find his own way. He tried to make you his god. When you failed, as you surely would, he decided that he would be his own god. Now My child, you are not to take up that idol and attempt to make Travis your god. I know that you love him and want him to come home. But  I Am the Only One you can’t live without.

Too often we have believed the fairy tale of life. That there really is such a thing as an American Dream. And that it is ours to be had.  That we should have it. A perfect family, a white picket fence, a dog and not a trouble in the world. It is the stuff of make believe.

The things we see have been made from what is unseen. (2 Corinthians 2:14; Colossians 1:15-16) The unseen things of life are MORE REAL than the seen. The Bible says that we should “walk by faith and not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7) That just means that we are able to recognize the difference between the facts and the truth. There is a big difference between the two, you must know. Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation” (fact), He goes on to say “But take heart (be of good cheer), I have overcome the world.” (truth) (John 16:33)

Four years ago when my son died, I had to have something deep and real to anchor to. Or it would have been too much to bear. Last year, when my life was again blown apart, there had to be something – SOMEONE – to believe in, a TRUE King who COULD put humpty dumpty together again.

Life is hard. But I am a witness that God is AWESOMELY GOOD. Come what may, Jesus is the only one I can’t live without. He is real. He wasn’t just a good man. He was fully man and fully God. (Philppians 2:5-11) His Spirit (RUACH) is my comfort always. May He be yours as well.

Happy 19th Birthday to my sweet baby, Bryant Colin Stoves! Looking forward to seeing you again one day soon!


“ Comfort, yes, comfort My people, says your God.” Isaiah 40:1

“ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; Who comforts us in all our tribulation that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 (NKJV)

“All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus, the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it He brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (Message Version)

"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:18).


  1. Awesome Sharmayn. I know I haven't seen you in over 20 years but I hear your voice when I read your blog. I see a wonderful marriage ministry in you and Travis. He is using you both so well as only He can. Love Vanessa c/o85

  2. Ummmm, no accident that both you and Travis have had opportunities to witness! And, YOU DID IT! That's the most important part! You didn't just think, "I should talk to that man", you didn't think, you just reacted. How many missed opportunities I have had. I applaud your courage and tenacity and faithfulness. Maybe the man wasn't the only one who heard. Just think, there are lots of aisles in that place....! Love u

  3. Thanks so much for sharing. I never knew. Your story ministered to me also. I have a listening ear and people confide in me. It is so true that people are hurting. Big time. Times are difficult for so many who struggle to look " sane" like everyone else. The reminder that Jesus is the only one you can't live without is a good reminder to those who are at the end of their ropes and don't have faith. Life is hard. Jesus gave us everything and we rejected Him but thank God for His forgiveness, grace and mercy. I'll have to re read this. Thank you!!