Thursday, January 28, 2010


"The Sullivans"
by the Willow Tree Collection

Over the past month or so, I have been debating with myself about prayer. Let me start off by telling you that my faith has not been shaken by Sara's death, but made stronger. I feel like I have a better understanding of who God is, after going through this trial. However, as the human mind often does, I want to be able to understand and comprehend what is going on and why. This is a fruitless task, because God's word tells us that...

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways," declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts that your thoughts." --Isaiah 55:8-9

Here are some of my thoughts on prayer...

Why do we pray? If God is separated from time and knows what is going to happen in the future, what do our prayers accomplish?

Do we pray to change God's mind or to change our hearts (to put them more in line with God's will)?

Do we, as God's children, truly have free-will or are we predestined to follow the path that God has laid for us? Do our actions here have an effect on the future? If we have free-will, God knows all and is "separated from time" so, He knows what is going to happen in the future, so is it really free-will?!?

Some of my conclusions...

I pray because God tells me to. "This, then, is how you should pray: " 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name..." --Matthew 6:9

I pray because that is how I communicate with God. Relationships cannot exist without communication.

God's mind has been changed in the past by the peoples prayers and God tells us "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." --Hebrews 13:8.

So, if His mind has been changed in the past, the prayers of the people can change His mind today.

I know that 1000s of people were praying for Sara, but God did not answer our prayers for earthly healing. I have often thought, "What if more people had prayed for her...would it have made a difference?" I do not think it would have.

If I found out that my prayers would never change God's mind would I continue to pray? ABSOLUTELY! God's word tells us to "Be joyful always, PRAY CONTINUALLY; give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." --1 Thessalonians 5:17

Lastly, I do not think I will ever be able to know the answer to the free-will/predestination debate on this side of Heaven.

The following passage is what I read last night in STREAMS IN THE DESERT.

Before we can establish a new and deeper relationship with Christ, we must first acquire enough intellectual light to satisfy our mind that we have been given the right to stand in this new relationship. Even the shadow of a doubt here will destroy our new confidence. Then, having seen the light, we must advance. We must make our choice, commit to it, and take our rightful place as confidently as a tree is planted in the ground. As a bride entrusts herself to the groom at the marriage altar, our commitment to Christ must be once and for all, without reservation or reversal.

Then there follows a time of establishing and testing, during which we must stand still until the new relationship becomes so ingrained in us that it becomes a permanent habit. It is comparable to a surgeon setting a broken arm by splinting it to keep it from moving. God too has His spiritual splints He wants to put on His children to keep them still until they pass the first stage of faith. Sometimes the trial will be difficult, but "the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast" (1 Peter 5:10). - A.B. Simpson

Now, for what most of you have been waiting for...

"Chloe discusses her dreams with Nannie (my mom)."

Update on the Ertmers - Brad, Holly, and Ethan are doing great. Holly had a checkup with the neurologist this week, and he said things look good. The tumor was benign, but Holly will continue to visit with the neurologist twice a year for the foreseeable future.

Uncle Brady and Ethan

Thank you for your prayers for them. They TRULY appreciate them, as well. Thanks for checking up on us.


slotmachinemimi said...

Brady, Everytime I read one of your post, you make me think very deeply about life, God and my relationship with Him. I question why things are a certain way, but as you stated, certain things will never be known while here on earth.

Oh my, how Chloe is growing! She is certainly becoming the "social butterfly"! Please keep up with the pictures, we love seeing her! You and Chloe remain in my thoughts. Susan

bass family said...

Beautiful thoughts. Thank you so much for sharing. I think you did a great job explaining something that we'll never truly understand until we get to heaven. What a beautiful girl you have there... praying for you both tonight.

Muriel said...

Your thoughts on prayer really hit home. Regardless of whether we think our prayers are being answered the act of praying seems to bring closeness to God and fosters our relationship with him.
Chloe is getting so big! I love her voice. May you continue to find peace and happiness in the future.

e said...

I've never commented before, because really, what could I contribute? You probably get a trillion comments.

But, as a religious person myself, I don't believe that our paths are predetermined by God, rather, I believe that God knows us so perfectly and intimately that He knows what choice we will make. He just knows us that well. How comforting!
And, definitely, prayer certainly is (mostly I think) to align OUR will to HIS will along with pleading for -- and receiving -- comfort.

I heard once in church a couple of things that I often find myself repeating (without going into it, I was orphaned when I was younger) that have comforted me:
-God knows the end from the beginning.
-God knows us better than me know ourselves, thus, He knows just how to succor us. How comforting!

You're doing a good job with all of this :)

And the baby? What a doll.

PA LaPresti's said...

Oh Brady she is getting so big! What a beautiful daughter you have. Thank you for sharing with us. Also happy to hear that Holly, Ethan & Brad are all doing good. Your words really touch base. Take care & God Bless.

Donna said...

Thank you for once again helping me to grow stronger in my faith with God.
And thank you for sharing Ms. Chloe with us. Even my grouchy husband had to smile when she talked!

Jessica Faith said...

oh wow she is CUTE!!! who's that talking to her in the video? adorable!!!!
we keep you, the ertmers, and katie's (sorry i forget their name - your friends whose kids are Quinn and Clark i believe). we're praying for all three families!!! God is in control!!
keep up the pics and updates!!

Jamie Bone said...

I left a message for you once before that I live in Angie's neighborhood, so that's how I found your site. My best friend has Stage IV colon cancer and has been battling for two years. She's at the end of her road now. She will turn 33 next Friday, February 5, but the doctors have stopped treating her, and wtihout a miracle, there really isn't much time left. She has two small children, and she will leave her husband behind, who has had a really terrible time handling all of this, as you really CAN imagine. I follow your blog for these reasons: 1) I too believe in the power of prayers, and it's important to me to keep you and your family in my prayers each day; 2) You write really well, and I enjoy the excerpts from the readings you find (I'm working on my doctorate and never get to read anything but texts); and 3) Because I find such comfort in your posts, and I intend to share your words with my friends so that they can find comfort as well. Thank you for what you do. Thank you for being such a good daddy. And thank you for opening up and sharing what must be so terribly painful so that the rest of us can grow, help, sympathize, and more important than anything, learn from your faith so that we all may become closer to God.
No need to tell you this - but my goodness what a beautiful little girl you have!
Jamie Bone

Jessica Faith said...

and that is a pretty sculpture at the top of the post... so sweet!

Paige said...

Thank you for the update on Brad, Holly and Ethan. It's great to know they are doing so well. Your post regarding prayer was so wonderful. You're right, there are just certain things we will never know this side of heaven. I can't wait to find out, though! Do you know what a precious little girl you have? I know you are so blessed by her! Thanks for the updates. Praying for you, Chloe, Brad, Holly and Ethan.

Stephanie Anne said...


I check on your blog constantly for updates and get so excited when I find a new one.

This one, however, was especially touching. I have often found myself questioning as to why we should pray if God already knows what is in His plan for us. I just have to keep faith in knowing that as I pray to Him I am continuing to grow in my relationship with Him.

I absolutely loved hearing Baby Chloe talking. She is getting so big and more and more beautiful every time I see her.

I am also very glad to hear that Holly, Brad and Ethan are all doing well. You are all very lucky to have each other as friends for such support.

By the way, did you hear that Brent is flying the coop? Yep, he is supposed to be moving in with a friend this weekend. It will be strange not seeing him and Sadie outside all the time. Let's pray that all goes well for him and that Sheryl doesn't get too lonely.

Take care and God Bless you and Chloe.

Stephanie Anne

Leslie said...

Thank you so much for posting your thoughts on prayer. I, too, question at times the point and effectiveness of praying. However, as you said, I pray because I want to improve my relationship with Him, and also as an act of obedience, since He commands us to pray.

I can not believe how much Chloe has grown just since your last post. I thoroughly enjoyed the video of her talking. What a precious daughter she must be. :0)

Launa said...

Not long ago I read a post on prayer by MckMama at and I was so moved by it that bookmarked it and here's a section of it...
"Maybe the point of prayer, if it isn't to get God to do what we want, is instead to bring ourselves into alignment with God so that we can be close enough to Him to be okay with what He decides instead of feeling like we need to try to get our way. Maybe the beauty in having lots of people pray for Stellan is not that the numbers of their prayers will influence God as it is that there is beauty in the number of people who may draw themselves near to God by praying."
Stellan is her son who was sick with SVT but by a miracle is SVT free and healthy as can be.
I really liked the way she put the things I couldn't articulate into words on paper... hope you like it too.
By the way the pictures of Chloe are adorable and the video of her babbling is priceless!

Shelley said...

Your posts always challenge me, that is why I love them! Your faith is so strong. Tonight I really needed the encouragement your words brought.

I tend to fall asleep at night, praying, and I mentioned it to our pastor's wife at Bible study one week and her response blew me away. She told me, "It's ok. I can't think of anything that would make Him happier than for you to feel so comforted talking with Him that you end your day each night in prayer and conversation with Him." While I do not like that I sometimes drift off while praying I am glad to remember that it is a great way to end my day, talking with the Lord.

Thank you for sharing with us all! Your baby girl is beautiful :)

LoganTodd said...

She has Sara's smile I think--big & contagious! She is beautiful. Your faith never ceases to amaze me.

Abby Johns said...

I am a lurker on this blog, and this post has inspired me to de-lurk myself.

I feel like prayer, even if it doesn't serve the purpose that many think it does, does serve some purpose.

Praying for others gives us time to think and feel for others, rather than just dwelling on ourselves. Perhaps prayer is God's way of encouraging us to be mindful of others.

I also think praying, like you said, is built-in time that we spend meditating on God's love and our faith. Sometimes prayer takes on a more formal form, like when we get on our knees and really focus, sometimes it takes a less formal form, like when we read a news story or pass a hospital and quickly ask God to be with those people.

Some of my prayers have felt directly answered, like the many times I have felt restless in my life and God has provided for me some way to feel the wheels of change. Other times, like when my own mother was struggling with breast cancer, my prayers weren't necessarily answered in the manner that I had hoped they would be, but I still felt comforted by God, and that was during a time when I was struggling with my faith and beliefs.

Your faith and sense of calm (at least in your blog posts), and those like you encourage me in my own walk with Christ.

Thank you for sharing so much with all of us!

Peppermint Patty said...

Your little "monkey girl" is quite the cutie!!

Stori said...

Thank you for this.

Diana said...


Your blogs are so inspirational and touch my heart. I know that the "why" will never be answered but we know that Sara is happy in Heaven with Jesus!! Chloe is so beautiful and is getting so big!! Thanks for posting pictures and I see that she's a talker just like her mommy. My thoughts and prayers are with you and Chloe. May God keep blessing you. He has everything under control!


Heather said...

Chloe is looking so much like her Dad these days!

Misty Mitchell Bonham said...

I see Sara in Chloe's smile and you in her eyes!! She is such a precious gift from God. I agree with Jamie Bone....God knows us so well that He knows what we will do before we even do it!! How wonderful and awesome is He!! I've been going back several times this week to my Monday devotional..."Whatever life holds for you and your family in the coming days, weave the unfailing fabric of God's Word through your heart and mind. It will hold strong, even if the rest of life unravels." So true and perfect for things that are going on in so many of our lives today.

Always in my thoughts and prayers,
Misty Bonham

Melissa said...

She is adorable...has the same pink jumper as my daughter. I love your post..I have the same debate with other people.

Christy said...

Too cute Brady. Chloe looks like the perfect mix of you and Sara.

Dalana said...

Your words and your faith are amazing. I am thankful to you for being obedient to God and for sharing your story. Your blog has helped me to see how faith can bring you through some of the worst times in a person's life. I hope that you are saving these for your beautiful little girl to read one day. She will be able to see that your faith in the Lord helped you and so many others.

Aira Bauman said...

I was spending the evening with a friend the other night and we were discussing our faithfulness and she told me about your story and your blog. Needless to say, I spent the next day reading your blog. I am so inspired by Sara and your faithfulness through this entire life experience. I wept through the blog and continued to be in awe of the both of you. You are an amazing man and father. WOW! Sara had a smile didn't she. I could feel the love she expelled in her life even through the pages of the blog. Your story has changed my life. Chloe is such a doll.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
Romans 8:26

Thanks for sharing,
Aira Bauman

DAWN said...


I love the pic of Chloe sitting up in her Bumbo seat, she looks ever so big! :)

wonderful words and thoughts AGAIN, thank you so much for sharing yourself, your family and your faith with all of us.

Lisa said...

So true! Brady your daughter is an angel here on earth...Chloe is absolutely darling and precious. What lucky little girl to have such a fantastic daddy! thank you again for sharing with us...I look forward to reading updates on you and Chloe as your strength and determination are so inspirational to me!
Be well..
Lisa :)

Beth said...

This post reminded me of the sermons that have been preached at the church I attend. The pastor used that same passage in Isaiah. Here is the link if you are interested in listening to them. They are the ones titled "God's in Control".

Praying for you and your daughter.

John & Michelle said...

Brady, I needed to hear just what you posted here. We are foster parents to a t-tiny baby girl born on 1/8/10. We brought her home from the hospital on 1/10/10. I trust the Lord to answer my prayers but in this case am finding it tough to pray for his will and not my own. I want her to be our daughter, as I am unable to carry a child. Please lift us in prayer. Thanks, Michelle

Anonymous said...

Great Post, I learn every time you post your thoughts on things like this. THANK YOU!

Chole is looking GREAT! Your doing a great job Brady.

Rachel Kerbel said...

Those ARE very tough questions that I think so many of us Christians have struggled with at some point through our walk with Christ! There is an article from the Grace To You's website titled "If God Is Sovereign, Why Pray?" These are the bullet points he expands on: 1. God has ordained prayer as a means by which He accomplishes His eternal purposes. 2.God actually does respond to prayer. 3.God is able to respond to our prayers. 4. Jesus modeled a life of prayer. 5.God has commanded us to pray. It is on the website:
Great questions that all Christians should ask in order to know God on a more intimate level through the study of scriptures, thanks for challenging so many readers who come across this blog (such as myself through a friend of a friend of a friend).

Heidi said...

I found your blog through a friend and have been lurking ever since. I've grieved and rejoiced with you and love your heartfelt writing. I am de-lurking myself now because I saw some of my past struggles in your recent post and wanted to share what I learned from a friend. That whole free-will/God's in control thing has always baffled me and it just may not be for us to understand fully, but this explanation was at least able to lay the debate to rest for me: God is the author and we are the characters in his novel (a tragedy in our terms, since all life ends in earthly death). Just as when Tolkien wrote his books, he knew every decision his characters would make because he wrote them in, but from the characters' perspective they were in full control of their decisions because they couldn't look out of the book and see the author and tell him to do something different. They did just what the author decided, but we in a whole different world so it felt like their own decision.

Hope that makes a little sense :).

Mama Kat said...

First time post here, but have been following Sarahs story for quite awhile. I just finished a book that has changed the way I think about prayer. Its a must read, and can't believe that thru my 20 years of being a Christian I had not found this book. Its called "Invading the Impossible" by Jack Hayford. It was written in the 1970's, and I was suprized to see how relevent it is for today.
By the way, my cousin passed of Cancer just days after Sarah did, leaving his wife and 2 young children. He was diagnosed and within 1 month was gone to play in the Almightys worship band. Young as well at only 35. As always you and your entire family is in my prayers.

Ashley Andreano Photography said...

Thank you for posting Brady! Praying for you and your family always!

Daniel & Ashley Andreano

brittany said...

Thanks for sharing. My best friend and I had these same discussions about prayer a couple of years ago. It's so great to hear other's thoughts on them.

Chloe is beautiful. Some of those pictures she looks exactly like Sara and some of them she looks so much like you! What a good mix!

The Lugo's said...

She is so precious!! Thank you for the beautiful words. Still praying for you and Chloe.


Tim said...

You do not know us, Brady, but we have been following your blog since "a friend of a friend" of yours in San Antonio share your story with us. Many of our friends and family have been praying for you and read your beautiful entries since Sara's death. Thank you for sharing your heart, and God's Word, with all of us. You truly encourage and inspire us, your brothers and sisters in Christ. We will continue to share your story, as well as your blog, with others for days and years to come. Zephaniah 3:17
Love in Christ,
Jen and Tim Zittle
VA Beach, VA

Aunt Beck said...


I do not know you except through the internet - I don't even remember how I came upon your posts, but I have been praying for you and keep up on all your updates. As a sister in Christ I have been so proud of your walk and have cheered your successes and cried at your heartache. I keep telling my family to pray for you and your sweet baby girl. I have never written to you (and know that you get bombarded with emails so please don't feel the need to reply!) Just wanted you to know that my husband, children and family have heard me talk about you. I am copying a note I sent to my niece. Can't wait for heaven to see our Heavenly Father first of all (but have to admit that seeing our precious loved ones who have gone before us is also a huge motivation to be there!!!) I will enjoy meeting you and your sweet wife and baby their - just think...all of eternity to bask in God's love and have the answers to our questions, satisfaction to our imaginations, and have all tears wiped from our eyes! Amen and amen :) Much love from Phoenix, AZ


Please read this blog: from the "Praying" post dated January 28th. This is the young man I've told you all about that I don't know how I found but have been praying for him and his sweet little baby girl Chloe. He lost his wife just a few days after they had this baby. I love his post and he asks (and answers) several questions that we have discussed before. His love for the Lord just makes my heart soar. I don't know him but I am so proud of him!!

Aunt Beck

Jen said...

I don't know you and you don't know me, but you have been close in heart and mind very much throughout the past months. You have a BEAUTIFUL baby girl and I'm so glad that you "share" her with us. :) Keep on keeping on...

Dani said...

God bless you, Brady. I'm so deeply moved by your story, and blessed by your faith. May the author of your biography continue to give you strength and joy in the journey.

Anonymous said...


I "check" on you from time to time to make sure "you're doing okay," and each time I come, I see that your faith in God continues to grow stronger and stronger. Your strength and reliance upon God amaze and inspire me all at the same time!

Chole is beautiful!

~Mrs. Lady Sofia~

shar said...

Hi, I do not know you personally, only through your blog when a friend posted on Facebook to ask for prayer...I have been keeping up since then...not only has Sara's story and the story of your family left an imprint on my heart, but my little two year-old daughter just came up while I was reading this and looked at the pictures and said, "oh! it's baby jesus!"
So know that Chloe is making a huge impact too!!! May God continue to bless you each day!

K said...

When I saw the "Sullivan" Willow Tree's, I thought I was going to cry! You are so strong, in faith & in life, and you are going a wonderful job! I pray for you & Chloe all the time, because GOD is GOOD all the time! :) Your blog is such an inspiration to me!! I really enjoy reading!

Kel said...

I first came across your blog through a friend ..during Sarah's final days with you. Then I had shared it with my daughter whose husband is army and they are in Germany.She had never been away from home and was having a time. Wanted her to see real faith and love between the 2 of you and how yall made the most of your duty stations... she loved it. Ending her blog with is this what being saved is? As she spoke of herself and how your blog had touched her! Now she is expecting the first granbaby...and so..this blog continues to encourage her and my son in law. Your truth and honesty is refreshing. We believe.. but we are human and we do have questions..and you sharing yours lets people see that's ok.. we are learning everyday. Christians don't have to have all the answers..just a desire in the heart to learn them I feel. Anyway Chloe is growing up so fast! Seeing her sitting up in her seat.. wow! Thanks for sharing touch so many people! love hugs and prayers frm Dickinson,Tx Kel