By Marilyn Tinnin
Ann Brand Colbert
When Ann Colbert’s only daughter was killed in a horrific automobile accident at the tender age of 25, who could have blamed her if she had let that grief completely swallow her whole? It has been 31 years since the unexpected phone call interrupted a crisp November day and a stranger’s matter of fact message delivered the devastating news. Christy Colbert Butler’s car had been struck from behind by a logging truck and exploded on impact.
Every detail of the morning is etched in Ann’s memory, and through the years as she has thought back on that day, she views it through the lens of her deep faith and trust in a loving and sovereign God who made good on His promise to never leave her or forsake her.
It was not by chance that her first thought as she processed the news was what she calls, “My scripture. Romans 8:28. Romans 8:28. It was as if it fell out of the sky.”
That verse says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
Her comfort was in having no doubt that Christy was in the presence of the Lord. Ann remembers Christy accepting Christ as her personal Savior at the age of seven, and that relationship never wavered. Everything Christy ever did in the realm of academics, the arts, or service to others, she did with such a wholehearted effort. She never wasted a minute of her God-allotted time or an ounce of her God-given abilities. It was as though Christy was ready. She had completed her earthly assignment.
Ann, who is a ten-talent person just like her daughter, took a more roundabout path to a genuine relationship with God. She had “a perfect childhood and a great upbringing.”
Hometown Houston was small-town Mississippi at its best. If the doors of the First Baptist Church were open, the Brand family was in their pew! She was baptized at age nine and although she knew a lot of Bible, she says she really did not know there was more to being a Christian than just being able to find her way around the Good Book. She went off to Ole Miss where she majored in elementary education and continued to date her high school sweetheart, Thomas Colbert.
They married after graduation and soon moved to Forest where Thomas went to work for Farmer’s and Merchant’s Bank, the forerunner of Community Bank. Ann taught school for a few years, became very involved in the music ministry at the First Baptist Church, and eventually became a full-time mother to Christy and Tom, who was six years younger than his sister.
Several years later Ann began to have a nagging thought that she was not a Christian at all. “There was nothing going on in my life at the time that would cause me to suddenly start thinking that. But there was a strong conviction in that thought and it just would not go away.” She was struggling, but the struggle led her to search for answers.
This was during the Jesus movement of the 1970s. There was a renewed interest in the Holy Spirit, someone Ann had heard very little about up to that point. She joined an in-depth Bible Study and began reading serious authors like John Stott, C.S. Lewis, and Francis Schaeffer. Her search for Truth and for an authentic relationship with God was constant.
One evening as Ann was sitting on her bathroom floor praying, ready to receive any and everything God had for her, she experienced what she can only describe as “an encounter with Christ. It was as if warm rays of sunshine just came down and surrounded me.” She slowly felt herself leaning forward, but it was as though a gentle force was controlling her body, and she went all the way down on her face. An overwhelming warmth and a sense of wonderful peace enveloped her. The warm rays remained for a brief time and after a few minutes, she felt their Presence slowly ascend and disappear.
There was no speaking in another language—no voices at all—just that presence that filled her being.
It happened just that way, and there has never been a moment when she second-guessed or doubted the experience.
After Christy’s death, Ann constantly drew from the scriptures truths she had learned over the previous 15 or so years. One of her habits each night was to leave her Bible open to a praise Psalm on her bedside table and each morning before her feet hit the floor, she would read that praise Psalm. “I did that for a long while,” she says. It was a routine that helped her heal as she focused more on God’s sufficiency than on her grief.
She also poured herself into her art and her music becoming both a published composer and an accomplished artist. Her work was requested as donated auction items by the Heart Association’s “Art for Heart,” the Junior League’s “Mistletoe Marketplace,” and Reformed Theological Seminary’s annual fundraising dinner.
When life feels stressful these days, she goes to her piano and plays for her own enjoyment. Despite the fact that church choir was such a key part of her life for decades, it is now her great joy to sit on the back pew at Lakeland Presbyterian Church with Thomas, her husband of 57 years.
They travel some, but the great delights of their lives today are their granddaughters Anna and Claire. Four-year-old Anna is a student at Hartfield Academy. She quotes scripture and shares Bible stories with her grandmother, and she fills a place in Ann’s heart that only Anna can. Eight-month-old Claire will have a big sister and a grandmother to be sure she loves the Word as much as they do.
Ann has a quick wit as well as a very keen mind. She says her best advice on living a meaningful Christian life is to remember this constant habit. “Confess and repent. Confess and repent—again and again.”
It must work. The joy on Ann’s face reflects a heart that is light and pure and a woman who has a direct line to her heavenly Father.