Walking Through Tragedy with Honor

Walking Through Tragedy with Honor

This is a difficult day and your prayers are coveted for my brother, his wife, for MacKenzie’s mother, for MacKenzie’s 3 brothers and two sisters and for Baylees mother and family. Your prayers are coveted for the assailant and his family.

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law came over to pray with me this morning.  Praying with someone out-loud is the best thing a person can do for someone else.  Just hearing someone connect with God on your behalf is amazing.  If you ever wonder if you should do it…the answer is always yes!  Even if it is a simple, “Lord help my friend”.  Do it.


photo of MacKenzie Noel and her daddy

MacKenzie Noel with her daddy, Joel.

Today I will experience something I never could have imagined.

Incredulous is the word that best expresses my thoughts and feelings over the past year and today even more.

  • Today the man who murdered my niece, MacKenzie, a year ago will be sentenced to life in prison without chance of parole.
  • Today I will sit in a courtroom with my brother who has suffered irreparable loss and grief. Grief I cannot fix.
  • Today, in the courtroom with our family, will be the family of the assailant, who is barely 20. This family is also suffering irreparable loss and they are our friends.  We were young marrieds together.  Some of my siblings raised their children in the same church, shopped at the same stores, had their hair done at the same shops.  We were connected to this family whose son has brought irreparable loss to them and to us.

photo of MacKenzie Noel and Baylee

MacKenzie Noel and Baylee – safe in the arms of God…

Crazy thoughts

I could write a letter to read to the court, to let the assailant and the world know how this tragedy has affected myself and my family.  I can be quite good at speaking the truth – but in this case I’m not sure it would be done in love, or that I could even get through it for that matter.  As the letter formulated in my mind I knew it was not meant to be said….or thought.  My brother will have the words to express the great loss.

What do you wear to a sentencing…I mean really…is there a standard?

How should I react when I see people from “the other family”.  What is the right form of expression in this situation?  How do I walk this out in honor.

But God….

This morning, in the midst of these crazy thoughts our Heavenly Father reminded me that He, more than anyone, understands.  He watched His own son be tortured and murdered by His own people, the people He was in covenant with.  He watched the sin of those people – who he had relationship with – sin so vile and so dark, piled upon his own son to the point The Father had to look away.  It’s a wonder He didn’t just blow up all of the earth and humanity at that moment…but He knew redemption was right behind this tragedy.


We have seen glimpses of redemption as two of our young family members have gone through much needed rehab programs.  We have seen a new life born to fill the void MacKenzie left.  We have drawn closer to our Lord and closer to each other.


The Challenge for us is Honor

And we have been challenged.  If the assailant had been a stranger we could have been vicious and hurtful with our words.  We could have “talked trash” about this young man and his family.  We could have hated from the depths of our soul.  But we can’t.  We know these people.  We know their faces, what they sound like when they sing.  We remember how much they wanted this child and how they prayed for him.  Some of us watched him grow up. We love them and we feel for their loss.


At the memorial service a year ago my brother stood and encouraged those in attendance not to hate.  He reminded us that there were three children lost that day, not two.  When MacKenzie and her boyfriend Baylee lost their lives, the assailant lost his future and his family lost the hope of a bright future for their son.

I admire my brother and all the parents of these children, for the effort they have made to not become bitter and let anger overtake their lives.  They grieve, they experience all the emotions accompanying that grief and they have reached out for help in dealing with it, help from others and help from God.


This is a challenge to walk in honor.  My mind knows it is right, and yet there is that voice of the flesh and the needling of the enemy of our soul that cries “unfair!”  We should be able to scream and shout of the injustice, to be angry and bitter and carry a torch for our lost loved ones.  But the Holy Spirit reminds us, “vengeance is mine says The Lord, I will repay.”


God Loves the Assailant

We are also reminded that this young man is part of his parent’s covenant relationship with Christ and there is redemption and forgiveness for him as well.  We are reminded that to hate is the same as to murder.  We are reminded, if we cannot forgive then we will not be forgiven.  This is most difficult.


Our primary task now that MacKenzie and Baylee are safe in the arms of God, is to first to walk in honor and in love.


Second, to pray this young man into God’s kingdom.  To go to the throne of grace, not so he doesn’t have to pay for his crime but so his heart and mind can be redeemed and his destiny – God’s plan for him fulfilled.


Psalm 139:16

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.


This verse reminds us that this young man has a book, just like we do, written by God before he was even in the womb.  God will redeem but we must love and pray.


Walking Out Honor

A year ago, on February 27, 2016, when my brother called to tell me the news, I immediately heard the Holy Spirit say… “do not react in the flesh through this time, respond in the Holy Spirit.”  That voice is still clear today in this and many difficult moments and the 30 Days of Honor reminds me that I must walk daily in honor, in every situation.  For I am the Bride of Christ.  My groom understands every circumstance, emotion and trouble I face.


Walking out honor feels somewhat strange, like an out of body experience.  I watch myself walk through this time.  I check my thoughts.  I readjust.  Sometimes I go sideways…but not for as long as I used to.  Mostly I rely on God and His wisdom and Strength.


MacKenzie, are you in that great cloud of witnesses, cheering us on to honor, telling us it’s much better where you are…we are trying our best to get through this crazy life.  You are missed and deeply loved.


Are there times you find yourself doing things differently in difficult situations because you are the Bride of Christ?  Because you walk in Honor?  I’d love to hear your story.


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