Thirty Years

I do not remember much about 1991 and what I do remember is beautiful and heart-breaking.  We had Alex’s eleventh birthday party at Pizza Hut in Webster Square.  Family and friends came from all over to help us celebrate and those same family and friends carried me and my parents through the darkest of days.

            We knew the end was inevitable and we spent days and nights anxiously praying.  Sunday morning, September 1, we went to church and the hospital had explicit instructions to call the church immediately and we had someone posted near the church phone, just in case.  After services, a couple from the church, Dennis and Laura, invited me to attend a cookout with them.  I went and had about as much fun as a seven-year-old could.  Mom and Dad sat by Alex’s bedside, just waiting.  Later that evening, they met us at church.  After the service was over, Dennis and Laura invited me to sleep over.  My parents agreed and off I ran, probably with Jen (their daughter), giggling about the fun we would have.  Eventually, bedtime came and off to dreamland I drifted.

            I think it was around 2 A.M. or so on September 2, when I woke with a start and saw a blazing, brilliant star light up the night sky.  At the time, I thought it was part of a weird dream, and back to sleep I went.  Later, that same morning, sometime after breakfast, Dennis took me back to my place for clothes and a toothbrush.  I walked into our living room, hugged my Mom, and was asked to sit down with her on the couch.  I sat, and with Dennis on my other side, she told me my best friend was gone.

            I knew he had been sick for a long time, and this was coming, but being so young, I could not fully grasp the full concept of grief.  The day we buried him, it was raining and cold.  I remember because I kept hiding my face in the knitted pink poncho (with fringe) that Mommy had made for me.  When I was much younger, I would imagine finding him because, to me, he had just run away and was lost.  Eventually, I came to realize he was gone for good.

            That is when I got angry.  Why him and not me?  Please, take me and bring him back.  This is not fair.  And, for many years, I held onto to that anger like a five-year-old holds their favorite teddy bear.  After that, I finally and truly accepted he was gone.  What makes it easier, is knowing without a doubt I will see him again someday.

Alex was the first in our family to become a Christian and get baptized, followed by Mommy, me, and finally Dad.  I had the blessing and the privilege to witness our beloved childhood pastor, David Smith, baptize two of my sons many years later.  That, for me, was one the greatest blessings in my life.

            I can still see Alex marching up and down the hospital hallways, preaching to anyone who would listen and handing out teeny red Bibles to anyone we passed.  My brother was such a bright soul, and I cannot imagine how many he led to God in his short life.

            This week marks thirty years since he went home.  Some days, it still feels like yesterday.  I know there are many words to describe the ones left behind after a death (widow, widower, the bereaved, and so on).  Yet, there are no words to describe a sibling who has lost a sibling, 

            So then, what am I?  I am a warrior.  I am a warrior because I have to keep running this race called life without Alex until the day he greets me at the pearly gates with that beautiful smile, a big hug, and a “how did you ever make it up here Sis” in his typical big-brother fashion.

Impossible becomes Possible with Him

Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

2020 was no picnic for anyone.  While the year started off alright, by mid-March COVID hit and everything changed.  Curfews were enforced, schools and businesses were closed, masks were mandated, and many lost their jobs. We also lost a lot of loved ones.  To me, Facebook seemed flooded with sympathy and condolences for the grieving.

Seven months into the year and three months post COVID; the undeniable slammed into our family, sat itself down…and took my beloved Dad.  I remember crying out to God to save him or if He was going to take him to take him soon so he would not suffer.  Then I would berate myself with guilt for feeling that way.  We had prepared for the end, and we spent the last two weeks of June just…waiting and praying and watching.

We got a call from the hospital one day that he had turned a corner and would most likely recover.  Since the doctor’s had already said this was the end, Mommy and I didn’t believe it and I raced to his bedside, convinced his doctor was an absolute quack.  After arriving at the hospital, the Physical Therapy staff came and got him up and seated in a chair.  I was allowed to feed him lunch and he seemed to brighten.  I gave him a hug and a kiss after lunch then danced and ran all the way home calling everyone to tell them “Daddy’s going to make it.”

The next day he was sent to rehab and though everything else was still backwards and upside down, the shine seemed to shine brighter than ever.  The following day, we received word that he had stopped eating and swallowing so a nasogastric tube was decided on.  Before the procedure, he developed a fever and was brought back to the hospital.

Dad decided long ago that he wished to die at home and so we honored his wishes.  We brought him home on America’s birthday (fitting for a retired Soldier) and he went to his heavenly home the very next morning (which happened to be a Sunday). 

I remember that day as clearly as it just happened yesterday.  My eyes were barely opened before I grabbed my phone and texted Mommy “how is he?”  Her reply of five words still echoes today.  Five simple words that would alter our lives from that day forward.

It’s been just a little more than a year and in that time many things have changed.  COVID seems to be winding down, I’ve got a great job, we’re all just a little bit older and wiser, but nothing has changed more than my faith in Christ.

I’ve always had the habit of having absolute faith…in the valley.  As soon as God pulled me out, I’d try to be good but eventually I’d take over, things would be fine for a little while and then like a newly licensed teen driver with a phone in my hand and my eyes on the screen, I would crash into another valley and beg for God to rescue me once more.  I would “reaffirm” my faith and things would be fine…until once I again I took over.

This cycle continued until my greatest fear was shoved in front of me and I could no longer avoid it.  Since losing my Dad, I find myself immersing more into worship and the Bible and praying.  Most of all, I’m keeping my place in the passenger seat and letting God drive my faith.  I still have my days where I pout and whine and yell but like before and as He will again and again, always, and forever, God reminds me that with Him, all things are indeed possible.


Aly Kat

Grief: Remembering the Past, Living in the Present, Accepting the New Future.

Mommy loves to tell the story of the day I was born.  As soon as I was all cleaned up and looking beautiful, they handed me to my Daddy.  Of course, I was yelling my fool head off as babies tend to do.  He smiled, patted my rear, and snuggled me close.  Thus, began my first true love in life.  As fate would have it, I turned out to be the last of 5 children (and the last of us girls).  This led to Daddy seeing me as his princess, his munchkin, or his brat, depending on my behavior of the day.  I can still remember standing on his feet and dancing as a little girl.  Once, he got sent down south for an Army National Guard thing.  He bought everyone t-shirts as a souvenir while he was there.  Everyone but me, that is.  He bought me an ARMY teddy bear dressed in fatigues, jump boots, the whole nine.  I really was his baby and he loved me unconditionally.

Like all kids, I wasn’t always an angel and I’ve definitely had my share of “I hate you” fights with my Daddy.  I’m talking about screaming, yelling, slamming doors, etc.  Then we’d storm off to our separate corners and usually scream about the other to Mommy (she really makes a great mediator).  Then we’d slink back with the sad face and hug, kiss, and talk it out and we were best friends once more (until the next argument).

My Father was also a strict disciplinarian (as is my Mother).  Both had no problem putting me and my siblings in our places no matter where we were or even what the occasion was.  Usually, I was the one getting hollered at and punished but after a bit, I kind of figured stuff out and life started making sense and in spite of the discipline I received, I eventually grew up (to a point) to be a semi-normal adult (married with kids and all).  

I have many fond memories of my Dad and not a day goes by where I don’t wish I can pick up the phone to call Mommy and hear him yelling in the background “I need to talk to her”.   He and I swapped books by James Patterson frequently and loved discussing them.  I can still hear him singing his favorite hymns with joy and yelling at “idiot drivers” as he called them. 

My Father stood tall, strong, and proud.  He served this country and retired as a Staff Sergeant from the Army National Guard.  He was with Mommy for over 40 years.  He raised 5 kids who in turn started raising their own kids and then the great grandkids.  He worked hard for his family, loved us all fiercely, and seemed to lead with an iron fist (really, he was teddy bear).  I spent 36 years with my first best friend in life.  I’m now closing in the 1st year without him.  Some days are harder than others but each day I try to remember the man my Father was and then I strive to be the daughter he always boasted about.

Much ♥.

Aly Kat

Gifts

Psalm 149:3 

Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!

1 Peter 4:10-11 (ESV)

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

What are your gifts?  What brings you completely into His presence and fills you with such joy and contentment?

 For me, it is dancing when I worship and writing.  I can be having the worst of days and as soon as I turn and cry out to God “I can’t!” He shows up and reminds me that I can.  I flip on the music (usually KLOVE), and I get to singing and praising and it’s like the world drops away and I’m in the safest, calmest, most peaceful place. 

For others, it may be being on a prayer team.  The Bible says, “wherever two or three are gathered in My name, there I am also”.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve reached out to brothers and sisters in Christ asking them to pray and they get right to work and before I know it, prayers are going up from coast to coast.

Being a preacher is not an easy calling but some those who have that gift, I tip my hat to you and pray for you earnestly.  You have such a passion for Christ and some days being a minister can seem daunting.

Find your gift, nourish it, pray for it, then share it.  Pray for others to find their gifts and to have the courage to share.  Pray for our preachers as they work extremely long hours with little pay and often have a family to lead as well as an entire church.  Pray that they get nourished as much as they nourish us.

My Soldier

My soldier once raised his hand;
swore to protect this land.

He stood tall and proud;
never gave up ground.

Right from the start,
he served with heart.

Once he had his fun,
his time was done.

He became a Vet,
one to honor and celebrate.

Now, he slumbers in the land
where once he raised his hand.

His body lays in the ground;
under the American flag he is found.

My Soldier,
who from the start,
served with heart.

                        –Aly

His Song

He laid it on my heart
to write this song.
With trembling hands,
I picked up the pen.
Lord, what if I get it wrong?

Jesus said,
Pick up the pen
and then…

Sing the song of Him turning the night to day;
Chasing my fears away.
Watch Him fix the wrong,
then sing His song.

Lord, I’m scared.
Why should they care?
Please, help me be strong;
help me sing your song.

Jesus said,
Pick up the pen
and then…

He said this would be tough.
I can never lean on Him enough.
When I give Him my wrong,
Then I can sing His song.

Hearing the Call

I don’t remember the exact date, but shortly after my Dad passed, I had been spending a LOT of time with my online friends. I was spilling my story to a friend, and I realized, “hey I’ve got a testimony”. I felt an urge to write like never before. Earth and the world faded away as I began to type and I felt surrounded by love and by peace.

So, I started writing, and writing, and then guess what…more writing. Then I felt a call to share my testimonies of faith (and I’ve got quite a few). Thus, the birth of Faith Like Mary Ministry.

While Faith Like Mary was short-lived, that ministry allowed me to get my feet wet. God still isn’t done and we’ve now become Lifeline Ministry and our vision and mission is simply to be a lifeline to Jesus.

Much ♥,
Aly

Why Lifeline

After the death of my Father, the Lord laid it on my heart to start a ministry.  Hence, Faith Like Mary was born.  Lately, I’ve been feeling a pull to take the ministry in a new direction.  So, I introduce you to Lifeline Ministry.  Why the name Lifeline?  Merriam-Webster defines a life line as:  a (such as a rope) used for saving or preserving life.  The Lord laid Lifeline on me because of the men and women who were my lifeline to Christ. Gerald A. Bankert (my Father), Alex (my big brother), David Wayne Smith (my childhood Pastor), Ethel “Dolly” Taylor (my adopted Mom), Gloria Ferguson (my Godmother), Laura and Dennis Holland (very dear family friends), and of course Patricia Bankert (my Mother).   

Some of these loved ones now reside in the Father’s presence and are finally getting that sweet, well-deserved rest.  I am blessed to still have some earthly lifelines as well.  They keep me grounded and make sure to hold me accountable in my faith.   

The vision and mission of Lifeline Ministry is to be a lifeline to the Father for those who need a lifeline.  We are not doing anything more than throwing out that life preserver in the prayerful hope to lead you to the One who can calm any storm. 

Much ♥, 

Aly 

Eyes so Blue

She has my hair;
and my skin so fair.
Heart on her sleeve;
some days she handles with ease.

Other days, she feels weepy,
and just a little sleepy.
Eyes of blue;
she sees the world in a different view.

Standing firm on His word
has her feeling free as a bird.
Hand-in-hand with the Father,
they walk together.

On the darkest day;
in the blackest night,
He always finds a way
to keep her eyes, so blue,
Seeing in His view.

♥Aly