by Tammy Trent
It’s a beautiful, sunny, soft, breezy day here in Nashville, Tennessee. I find myself feeling a bit lazy today. Everything on the other side of the window in front of me says “come outside and have some fun.” While everything on this side of the window says, “close the blinds and crawl under the covers.”
I think closing our eyes and crawling under the covers somehow makes us feel like everything will stop. The circumstances, the pain, the hurt, the questions, the disappointments. All of it. But every time I do that, eventually I have to open my eyes again and there I am facing the same things. At that point it becomes a choice for me. I can either choose to push back the covers and stand on my own, or I can choose to stay in the state I’m in. Lonely, hurt or sad.
These are choices I still have to make at times, since the tragic death of my husband, Trent Lenderink, September 11th, 2001.
I’ll never forget that season in my life. Summer 2001. I was personally at a place where I think I was questioning God’s will for my life. What was my purpose in life? What did God have for Trent and me? What was OUR purpose in life, and was I walking in that already? You know that place: Loads of questions and just wanting fulfillment and direction.
In the middle of it all, I was asked to go over to Jamaica on a missions trip. The timing seemed perfect. After all, I’d be able to get away from computers and cell phones and just have this time with God and with Trent by my side. One of my favorite, most calming places in the world to be…with Trent…anywhere.
We packed our bags to enjoy a week full of adventure and a much needed vacation before we were to begin our missions trip. We had one day off in between the two, so when Trent showed me his top 10 list of things to do for the day, I picked the Blue Lagoon.
The drive would take us well over three hours to get there. But incredibly, it was worth the wait. There, nestled back in the beautiful green foliage, was this enchanting little restaurant that sat on the edge of the water. Once again, Trent had found us a memory to talk about for years to come. It was such a peaceful place. Trent was so excited to be there. I could see it in his eyes as he kept staring out into the Lagoon. He couldn’t wait to finish his lunch so he could prepare himself for another great adventure–perhaps something new to journal about.
I sat there watching Trent suit up for his dive. He put one flipper on after the other and was preparing his face mask for the water below. Trent looked at me through his mask, said he’d be back in 15 minutes, smiled at me, sank beneath the surface and was gone.
Trent’s 15-minute adventure has turned into a life-long adventure for both of us. He never resurfaced that afternoon. The search began and continued the very next morning. The morning of September 11th, 2001.
A day that is etched forever in the history of America is a day that will be etched on my heart forever, as well. The morning of the 11th, at the home of perfect strangers, I stood watching as the second plane plowed into the Twin Towers in New York City. And in a total state of shock, moments later I fell to the ground as these very words plowed into my personal world: “Tammy, we’ve found Trent and he has not survived.” Trent was gone. Just like that. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t see. And all that would come out of my mouth was, “What happened? What went wrong? What part of the plan didn’t work? What part of my prayers didn’t work? Trent Baby, what happened? Jesus, what happened?”
Then, the unthinkable, I was given the news that my family was grounded on planes all across the country and could not get to me when I so desperately needed them. I cried out to God and a miracle happened. I received a phone call. My father-in-law had landed on the Island of Jamaica in the early morning hours of September 11th, before America was attacked and he was now making his way over to me. He arrived safely and although I was extremely grateful for him, I must admit, I longed deeply for my mom to hold me like only a mother can. The next ten days that followed were almost unbearable as my family was stuck in America and I was stuck in Jamaica.
Looking back now, I know those were very critical days for me. Days that would mold and shape my faith and bring me to the very presence of God and His existence in my life. And it was something that I would have to rely on by myself for years to come. You see, in our life together, if the answers didn’t come soon enough from God, I’d run to Trent for help. Now that Trent was gone, I was looking to my family for help. To save me, to rescue me, to comfort me. But I knew that God, in His sovereign way, allowed me to face those days alone without the help of my family so that I would look to Him to save me, to rescue me, to comfort me. It was at those moments I could feel Him putting my life back together again. Just knowing He was real was the start.
Some days I still feel like I’m standing on the edge of the water. A piece of my heart will always be there. But I can honestly say that almost 15 years later, I am so thankful for healing in my life. That kind of restoration can only come from a real, loving, living God. I chose Christ years ago for better or for worse. It’s just like a marriage, when you commit your love and life to someone till death do you part. I committed my life to Christ as a teenager when I said, “I do.” There’s been better in my life and it’s so easy to serve and follow Christ during those times, but when the very worse blew into my life and brought me to my knees that speechless afternoon, I knew that the only one I could turn to was Jesus…while on my knees. There was strength in that moment at my weakest hour.
Because I have Christ, I have hope and because of that hope, Trent is now a part of my future, not my past. What a promise that the world could never offer me. But Christ did. A future. I love telling people that around the world. It’s not so much telling them as much as it is showing them. Continuing to get back up on that platform; singing, dancing, smiling, laughing and even crying at times. Showing people that God is real and that He understands is so important to me now. And even though I’ll never understand all the “whys” myself this side of Heaven, I know I will one day. So I stopped asking those questions long ago and began asking God, “What now?” My plan changed in a moment of time, standing on the edge of the water, but I know that I know as hard as it’s been for me, that God’s plan has never changed for my life, nor Trent’s. And even though I hurt so deeply, I knew it in the quietness of that lonely hotel room in Jamaica. I closed my eyes tightly and I could see Psalm 23: The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures and He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake and even though I walk through the valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil, for you are right here with me.
I have gotten through this, not somehow, but triumphantly. I am choosing life. I am choosing to believe. I am learning to breathe again. I sing about it, I write about it and I live it. I am an overcomer through Christ. And one day I will stand before the Father and say, “It was worth it all. Thank You for choosing Trent and me. I hope I honored You through it.”
* * * * *
Author and music artist Tammy Trent’s ministry has taken her all over the world, speaking at women’s conferences, church events, and retreats in South Africa, Australia, Singapore, Columbia, Ghana, Canada & the US. She has authored 3 books including, Learning to Breathe Again: Choosing Life and Finding Hope After a Shattering Loss, Beyond The Sorrow: There’s Hope in the Promises of God, and she co-penned the hilarious & brilliantly illustrated Children’s Book, The Log Family: See You at the Beach with her late husband Trent Lenderink who sadly never got to see his work completed.
To learn more, visit www.tammytrent.com.