I was reading my 13-year-old’s Facebook page the other day, chuckling over his answers to some goofy Q&A he’d posted when it struck me yet again just how different this kid is. For the question “Worst day of your life?” He’d responded “idk. Lol”
“Blake, you goof. You really don’t know the worst day of your life?” I called out to him from the living room.
“Nah. They’re all good.”
“What about the day you died?”
“I slept through that. And when I woke up, you let me watch movies and eat whatever I wanted.” He gave a humble half-shrug. No big thing. Dying. Coma. Months of therapy. Learning to walk, talk, tie a shoe again. Re-learning to read, write, do arithmetic. No worries. He got to eat all the chicken and fries he wanted.
That’s Blake. Utterly, perfectly Blake. His personality has always been larger than life. He’s charming and gregarious, though as a child gregarious looked a bit more like spastic.
When I was 15, my oldest nephew was born. I still remember holding him in my arms and looking down into his blue, blue eyes and wishing with all my heart to someday have a little blue-eyed boy of my own someday. God heard that prayer and gave me three of them.
Our blessings weren’t without loss. More than once, I didn’t make it past the first trimester of a pregnancy. The first one hit the hardest. Perhaps because we didn’t have any children at the time. Perhaps it’s because it was the only pregnancy to be confirmed by the doctor. The only one I saw the flutter of a heartbeat before feeling the sharp pain of loss. Those were dark days for me. Losing our little one left a deep, wrenching hurt in its wake. I vividly remember that time in my life. The pope was in town. I’m not catholic, but it was still a pretty big deal. I worked in the same Mom-and-Pop diner I’d been working at when I met Adam. (I’d been his waitress, in fact.) I was driving home from work one day, down Highway 30 in St. Louis, just passed the intersection of 270, when a feeling of peace settle over me. I felt as if God was assuring me that it was going to be okay. Everything was about to change, and Adam and I were going to have a son.
September 30 of that year, Dylan was born. To quote my mother-in-law, he was perfect. Motherhood did not let me begin with a false sense of security. When Dylan was three weeks old, he began choking in his sleep to the point of turning blue. During the ER visit after that first choking episode, the hospital told us they thought he had meningitis. We were quarantined with our new infant, who had to undergo a spinal tap that took three days to get results on. In the end, they said “Whoops, we contaminated his blood sample. Here’s the bill.” It leveled us financially and left us wondering what caused our son to stop breathing in his sleep.
Many tests, apnea monitors, and sleepless nights later, I listened to my mother-in-law’s advice and put him on a lactose-free formula, just to see what would happen. The apnea stopped and he never had another moment’s trouble. As a young couple living in a mobile home on a shoestring budget, I wish we’d listened to her before letting our doctor convince the scared kids to run the battery of tests on our baby. It would have saved everyone a lot of pain and it might have meant a different story for our financial future.
Our marriage fell apart for the first time somewhere in between Dylan and Blake. I still remember the reasons why, but none of them truly matter. The real reason was that Adam and I were both still, and would be for some time, putting what we needed from the marriage ahead of God or our children. It wouldn’t be until we fixed that glaring problem that we’d develop the relationship the world sees now. In between the two? There was a lot of stupidity and pain. Truth be told, we’re still not who the world sees—far from it—but is anybody ever really?
We also had a few positive pregnancy tests in between Dylan and Blake. I can’t take the pill without horrible side effects, no matter how light the dose. I didn’t mind, though. I wanted a houseful of kiddos. Adam wanted two. In the end, God gave us three. But there was a time that I was sitting across from my doctor hearing that I needed to come to terms with the fact that Dylan would be an only child – or I needed to schedule an appointment with a fertility specialist to find out what was happening between the positive pregnancy test and the first spots of blood that invariably followed. About the time I gave in and said “Okay God, you win. If I’m meant to have only one child, I will thank you for him. He’s wonderful,” was about the time I got pregnant with Blake.
My marriage fell apart for the second time seven months into that pregnancy. We were separated when Blake was born. I remember being alone in the delivery room when they laid him on my chest. He blinked at me. Even as my heart melted, I had two thoughts. The first was “This one’s mine.” And the second was “I wonder if he’ll grow into those lips.”
Don’t get me wrong, Dylan and I have been two peas in a pod since the moment I laid eyes on him. We’re inseparable and the world knows it. But with Blake, given the state of my marriage, I felt this instant “It’s you and me against the world and I promise right here and now, I will not let this world be cruel to you” thing going. Adam and Blake are close now, but that was a hard-fought closeness. It took them years to overcome his absence in that first year of Blake’s life.
As a single mother with no maternity leave and no other means of support, I had to go back to work when Blake was three weeks old. By that time, I was working in HR at a physical therapy company in St. Louis. I took on a second job waiting tables at a bar to help make ends meet. It was too much too soon and I found myself on my doctor’s table saying “I feel like my uterus is going to fall out, doc.”
“That’s because it is,” was his response.
Given the uterine prolapse and the fact that I was divorced, finding myself pregnant by Christmas with baby number three wasn’t a planned thing. I would joke that Blake was the break-up baby and Chris was the make-up baby, but the truth was that I was mortified. I knew how the world looked at me, pregnant with my ex-husband’s baby. When I had to sift through employee emails at work to investigate a threat that had been made against my boss, I got to read it, over and over, just what the rest of the office thought of me and my pregnancy. I’d always loved The Scarlet Letter as a teenager. There is something beautiful in the notion that the world seeing your worst frees you. In many ways, that pregnancy was my own scarlet letter.
The only person who was truly, completely, and utterly happy at the news had been Dylan. If you ask him now, he says he still remembers how excited he got when I told him he was going to have another brother. And I needed that – someone else to be happy about the baby. A life is always a blessing, no matter the circumstance. Dylan’s innocent joy kept me anchored to that.
And Christopher was a ray of sunshine from the moment he made his appearance. From a young age, he had an infectious smile, which he shared any chance he got.
For the boys’ youngest years, we rented a small house in Crestwood from Adam’s parents. I moved back in toward the end of the Christopher’s pregnancy because I was having complications and my doctor had told me I shouldn’t be living along with two small children. I didn’t have anywhere else to go, so I told Adam he didn’t have a choice. Once we were there, we both decided it was too much tumult for the boys for us to separate again. We decided to try our best to hold it together for their sake. My mother-in-law once said that Adam and I would probably be perfectly happy living next door to each other, raising our children as friends. It was a pretty spot-on description.
For much of their childhood, I worked too many hours in a never-ending battle to keep the bills paid and the pantry filled. Even after Adam had his degree, he was struggling to put it to use. Every time he would find a job, he’d get laid off and would have to go back to bartending or waiting tables.
I went back to college when I was pregnant with Blake. I remember taking my art history final the day after I gave birth to him. The kid next to me said “Whoa, I partied too late last night.”
I responded with “I gave birth yesterday.”
“You win.” He’d ducked his head down and went back to his test.
It would be 2007 before I finished my degree in Communications. I’d chosen that and a marketing emphasis because it was the most logical thing I could think of that would use my love of writing.
Things got a lot better for us financially by 2008. Adam had found his way to a good job as a project manager and I had a job in the Communications Department at Scottrade. We moved from poor to middle class that year, and we even bought a house in Eureka, the town I’d graduated from. In 2007, we had tried unsuccessfully to move to the Ozarks. It lasted about six months, ended in disaster (literally, a tornado), and we’d spent six more months in my parents’ basement recovering financially from the decision.
So when we had our act together in 2008, we decided Eureka was the compromise between Adam’s suburban upbringing and my deep-seated desire to return to my rural roots. The house we bought was much cheaper than the realtor and bank were telling us we could afford; we wanted to play it safe. Besides, it was more than twice the size of the house we’d been living in for years. It felt like a mansion. In many ways, it was my dream house.
Moving into that home began a period of rest for us. Aside from marriage trouble, we were happy. The bills were paid. My relationship with God had flourished in the years since Christopher’s birth. We had a passel of rescued dogs. Our kids were content. Adam worked from home by that point, so he was there to get them off the bus. I loved my job. Things were good. So good, we finally had the money to realize a childhood dream that had eluded me thus far: we bought horses.
I found Rollins Ranch through Craigslist, when I answered an ad for horseback riding lessons. Dylan had been in lessons off and on for a couple of years. He was a natural and I got to live vicariously through him. I’d wanted horses since, I don’t know, birth. No, it was more than a want. It was more like a deep yearning. Every time I had begun to realize my horse dream, something horrific happened to keep me from it.
As a child, my fondest memories were of my grandpa’s farm. Roaming those 200 acres freely with a pack of dogs in tow was the highlight of my summers. I even had two pet calves one summer, Jacob and Henry. The summer I turned 14 was the year my grandpa said we were going to start horse shopping. Only what he thought was a stiff neck turned out to be bone cancer, and I instead spent the summer taking care of him as he faded under the weight of an illness that had been too far advanced to mount much of a fight against it.
Grandpa said he wanted to see the trees turn one last time. He died October 29th that year, just after the peak weekend of fall in the Ozarks. The farm I loved so dearly was sold because his heirs couldn’t agree on anything else, and my childhood dreams of living there someday were gone. Ah, but I can still see those wild and gnarly hills in my mind. I can still remember running through those woods with my ragtag pack of four-legged friends.
My grandpa cultivated my faith as a child. He answered countless questions about God as we’d sit on the porch and watch the deer graze in our meadow. It was the farm that cultivated my imagination and my love of adventure.
For a while, as a teenager, I found my horse fix in the form of my sister’s father-in-law. He had eight, all wild as fox hairs. He allowed me to hang out with them whenever I wanted in return for me watching them when he was away. He even said I could have the youngest filly to keep if I would gentle the others in to make them more marketable. Being young and invincible, I’d done it. How I didn’t break my neck or get my head kicked in, I have no clue. I’m sure my guardian angels will tell me all about it someday.
I had no idea what I was doing with those animals. I’d never had the first horseback riding lesson or ridden a horse outside of trail or pony rides. Instinctively, I communicated with them the way I saw them communicate with each other and, by some miracle, it worked. They were all gentle as lambs with me by the time they were sold, even the stallion. (That statement right there is enough to make people who know horses wonder how I’m alive.) When the farm’s owner remarried, the first thing to go was the horses. I couldn’t afford board in St. Louis at the age of 17, so my beautiful Wildflower was sold with the rest. I can still see her standing on a hilltop with the sunlight making her mane shine gold. That little red roan mountain pony had become my best friend in the four years we’d known each other. I tell myself someday I will see her again, even if it’s on the other side.
The third time I toed up to buying a horse was on our previously-mentioned attempt to move to the Ozarks. A voice in the back of my mind told me to hold off on buying the filly I’d had my eye on. When we lost our home and most of our belongings to the storm, I realized why. It was hard enough being homeless without a horse in tow.
When we started lessons at Jack’s barn, it was a godsend. He raised phenomenal quarter horses. In addition to the lesson horses he had on hand, there were always a handful of babies to dote on. Dylan and I both took lessons from a teacher who’d worked out an arrangement with Jack, the owner. For some reason, Jack took us under his wing and the relationship deepened. It was more than a barn. It was a family. The boys and I were there every spare moment – especially Dylan and me. We leased a horse from Jack and eventually bought two: Samson and Sassy.
Samson was a weanling foal we bought so Dylan could be part of the process of raising and training him. We all adored that colt and his comical personality. He was amazing, his conformation was perfect, and his red coat shone like a copper penny in the sun. Dylan and Samson were the best of friends from the start. Everyone who watched those two together knew they were witnessing something special.
Sassy, a tall classy bay, was my girl. I was crazy about her, even though she made me earn every inch of our relationship. I learned so much on that horse. Most of her siblings were competing in cutting and reining competitions; she’d missed her chance to train because she’d had strangles as a foal. But she was the best trail horse I’d ever seen. I trusted her in woods and on hills. Oh, the ground we covered together.
I eventually took over as a barn helper for Jack. I gave his beginner lessons; he only worked with advanced students. I exercised his horses for him and we helped clean stalls. One of my favorite memories of that time was trot races in the golf course, a particularly well-manicured front pasture that doubled as Jack’s driving range when he didn’t have horses on it. Dylan and I would saddle a couple of horses and “race” at a trot, up and down the field, laughing until our sides hurt. We’d always find out afterward that Jack had been watching from the windows in his kitchen. He’d tease us as we’d stop in for goodbyes.
Jack was a hard mentor – always demanding better, never failing to rail at you for the slightest wrong move. Dylan and I both hate to ever do anything wrong, so the time we spent under Jack’s tutelage was intense. And, even though Jack was quick to chew us out if we overcorrected or missed a cue, he was also quick to boast to anyone who’d listen that Dylan and I had the most natural seat on a horse that he’d ever seen. Sometimes I wish he’d boasted less; I could feel the weight of his praise every time I’d ride there – people watched, constantly and intently, to see if we’d live up to it.
But I loved that hard old cowboy. Maybe it was because I never stopped missing my grandpa, or because my relationship with my dad wasn’t always the best. Or maybe it’s because Jack had given me the gift of horses, but I loved him fiercely. Sometimes, I think it would baffle Adam how loyal the rest of us were to the barn. The place stressed him out. He tried to be a part of our love for horses, but his infrequent visits always left everyone tense.
There were two other important things happening in this period of rest and happiness in our lives. The first was that I’d decided to pick up my pen again and write. I’d always loved writing, but I’d never been comfortable sharing my words with others. I did once, in fourth grade, and had been ridiculed by my peers for it. After that, I only shared my words under duress. No amount of praise from those peers could erase that first reaction, though, and for years I would write entire books and screenplays, only to pack them away when finished. I stopped writing before Blake ever came along.
But one day, the stories swirling around my brain just refused to be quiet any longer. I decided to not only give writing another go, but to get serious about trying to publish those words. I came close to realizing that dream fairly quickly, in the grand scheme of things. It didn’t feel quick at the time, but looking back, it was. Within a year of setting my mind to it, I’d had multiple conversations with agents – no small feat – and even found myself sitting face to face with the president of major literary agency in New York. She told me, point blank, that I would have to choose: Either keep writing the books I’d been writing or pick a style that was easier to sell and have a successful career as a writer. The books I wrote were apparently too much of a paradox to properly market. They were too much a mix of light and dark, too hard to classify.
I cried for a solid day after that conversation. Then I decided I cared more about telling the stories I wanted to tell than I did about a career and I decided to self-publish. By spring of 2011, I had four books self-pubbed. I gave the ecopies away for free to help raise awareness for human trafficking. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of publishing those books, and they’d done surprisingly well since their release. The girl too shy to share an essay in class suddenly had over 10,000 readers from all over the world. I got fan mail. It was crazy.
The other big thing that was happening at that time was my job at Scottrade had shifted, and I was working in their training department, building and teaching communication and writing classes. That job meant I traveled, often to Denver and sometimes to Arizona. I adored both places, but by March 31 of 2011, the travel was starting to wear thin. I’d just gotten back from a trip that day. I missed my kids like crazy. I remember Blake had had a bad day at school; some kids had been bullying him. I picked them up and Adam took off work early and we decided we’d go as a family to the barn before trying the Culvers that had opened in town while I was away.
We never made it to Culvers that night. Instead, my happy little world came crashing to my feet.
... to be continued.
There is vagabond in my blood. I only have to look to my grandparents’ generation to find migrant farm workers on my daddy’s side. Even before that, they moved around the country quite a bit after arriving from Europe. Tracking down my family tree before the days of Ancestry.com meant lots of road trips north. I had an uncle who died train hopping out west; he was a vagabond. My own daddy has the itchiest feet on the planet. Even after retiring from the military, he can never sit still for long. If work isn’t giving him an excuse to travel, he finds one. He once accused me of moving more than anyone he’s ever met. I respectfully ask if he’s met my sister, or if he’s looked in the mirror to see who we inherited our gypsy feet from.
Warring with that migrant nature is the deep desire for roots, for a place to belong. On my mama’s side, we had the family farm in the Ozarks that grounded my family for generations. Even for those who didn’t live there, it was the place everyone returned to. It’s been more than 20 years since the farm was sold, and I still feel its absence in my soul as I watch the world spin from the outside looking in and wonder what it would be like to have a place you’re from.
When we moved to this area in 2012, all I knew of it was that Buffalo, Missouri was the only place I could get cell phone coverage in between Lebanon and Stockton Lake. I’d never even heard of the town that’s registered as our official address. When my mother found out I was moving here, she told me my great-grandmother was actually from Buffalo. The romantic in me wonders if I was returning to roots I didn’t even know existed.
It’s been a hard-fought five years, finding our place in this tiny town. Sometimes it seems as if the land itself has tried to buck us loose. We’ve fought record-breaking droughts, floods, and everything in between. The people here are so used to everyone operating under a set of common knowledge, sometimes it’s hard to keep up when you don’t have that piece of the puzzle.
I have considered moving. It’s what I do when life gets too much, I think. Perhaps it stems from a promise I made myself as a teen—if things ever seemed too hopeless, I’d go somewhere new and start fresh rather than cause myself harm. More than once in the past five years, I’ve looked longingly at the map and considered my options. I should go somewhere warmer, closer to the ocean, closer to my friends. This place doesn’t want me; I don’t fit here.
But here’s the thing: I’m an odd little duck. I don’t fit anywhere, not really and not for long. That’s part of being a writer, an observer—someone who throws herself headfirst into a thousand different things just long enough to master them and move on. I think it’s all tied up in the one thing I never stray from: writing stories. I’m always learning so I can document. I’m always observing so I can capture details. The same sensory disorder that makes me a freak in so many ways makes it possible for me to describe a touch in such detail.
It’s taken me nearly forty years (I still have six months until that mile marker), but I’ve come to terms with being weird. I make it my goal as a mother to three weird children to help them embrace and harness their quirks early on, to save themselves some pain.
And sometime in the past year, I have realized something else about myself: If I’m going to not fit in anywhere, I’d like to not fit in here, in this place. I want to connect to the roots of my past in this small town and flourish as the oddest little flower this place has ever seen.
This might not be the deep, wild and woolly Ozark Mountains of my childhood, the ones I’ve dreamed of and written about so often. The hills are more rolling here. The people are different somehow. But it has become just as much a part of me and my story.
For some time now, I’ve felt compelled to tell not just the story of Blake’s accident, but of the journey that it set us on. One night, one moment, changed each of us, and it changed our family. I realize now that story is part of this one, my journey home. My figuring out what happily-ever-after looks like to me.
I started writing that book last fall, and I’m still only four chapters in. I don’t know why, but I can’t seem to force myself to sit and write. When I do sit down, the words flow. But they also leave me tired. It’s been a long, hard six years. Perhaps I’m afraid of what I’ll find if I look at them too closely. Already the process has begun to change me—for the better, but it’s been an uncomfortable journey nonetheless.
All of this is to say that I’ve decided to give something new a try. I plan to release one chapter each Monday on my blog. Perhaps that will force me to keep pace. When the story is finished, I’ll pull it together into a book and send it to the editor. But I have lots of books out there; this less about adding to that list and more about sharing my story in hopes that it will inspire someone else to rewrite their destiny if need be.
Maybe it will give someone else hope that if their world is shaken, good things can come of it.
One of the hardest things to do as a parent is to watch your child struggle, knowing they must fight their way through the obstacle their facing so they can come out stronger on the other side. When Blake has his accident, I could walk beside him, but the battle was his to fight. I couldn’t do it for him, no matter how badly I wanted to.
Last fall, Blake joined the local archery club and has since set his cap on competing in the Olympics someday. It was smooth sailing at first—archery seemed to come naturally to him and he excelled effortlessly. The kid could shoot a bow for hours and not wear out. (Which is saying something, considering it’s 28 pounds of force he’s pulling against with each shot.)
Then he hit a wall. Scores started falling and no matter how much he practiced or tried, he couldn’t seem to improve. As his mom, I could encourage and cheer him on, but the fight was his to win.
Blake’s doctors would say that for him to be in archery at all after a brain injury like that is a medical miracle, to excel in archery—to the highest ranks of archers—is asking too much. But Blake has never been one to let the accident hold him back, and this was no exception. He refuses to let it be his excuse to settle.
The first weekend in January brought with it a practice tournament to prepare everyone for State. Blake, despite his efforts, got the lowest score there. He left incredibly discouraged and down on himself. I told him that everyone had those days, everyone had failures. It was what you did with them that mattered. I encouraged him to make the week leading up to the state competition his “training montage” so the victory at State would be even sweeter. All week long, the entire family would periodically hum the theme from Rocky at him, a joking reminder of what he was working for.
He worked hard, listening intently to everything the coach said and practicing every day. When I couldn’t take him to the range, he practiced outside in the bitter cold.
Friday, I took off work early so we could head to the tournament. I wanted to give the boys a night in a hotel and I didn’t want the impending snow to keep Blake from his tournament. Of course, nothing went as planned—from work emergencies that had me stopping at McDonald’s for Wi-Fi to put out proverbial fires, to bickering kids, to ending the night with a lapful of lemonade. We couldn’t sleep, and somebody (not us) set the alarm in our room for 5:21 am. The entire experience had me feeling pretty flustered. And then we got there, and the whole thing seemed so big that I was a nervous wreck, and I wasn’t even the one shooting. Per Blake, he was partly excited, partly terrified.
But then he started to shoot, and I could tell he was remembering and doing everything he worked on with his instructor. I couldn’t keep track of his score because I’d forgotten my binoculars, but I could tell he was doing well, that whatever the scores for the day, he’d be able to walk away with his head held high.
Most importantly, I could tell he was having fun and making friends. Blake thrives on social interaction, and he was completely in his element here, doing two of his favorite things: shooting his bow and making people smile.
When he told me his score, he’d scored 44 points higher than the “Please Lord, let him at least score this” amount I had in my head. As the awards ceremony began, I quickly realized that he’d scored well enough to at least place in his division, which was, of course, just about the last division to receive their awards. (Talk about suspense...)
And in true Rocky fashion, Blake’s training montage paid off with a gold medal! (There might have been tears from mom... it's a possibility.) As difficult as it was to watch Blake fight a battle I couldn't help with, but there is no greater feeling than watching your child succeed when they've worked so hard for something. Even better, watching him make good friends and develop into the kind of young men you can be proud of.
I'm in a terrible mood. It's been the kind of week that has me debating between breathing fire and curling up somewhere by myself to have a good cry. Or maybe both. When the big and small things of life, work, stuff start to pile up, it's easy for me to forget what God's done in my life.
I'm one of several authors contributing to a compilation of essays and devotionals that will be released by Vox Dei Publishing in 2016. One of the stories I wrote for that keeps coming to mind. I'm sharing it today because I need the reminder. Some of you know the story, some of my newer readers may not. Either way, I hope it serves as a reminder that God still moves mountains. He's still around and He cares, whatever you're facing, big or small.
Most moments in life melt quietly into the next. Some change everything—you can clearly see the line between life before and life after.
At 6:45 p.m. on March 31, 2011, I was happily showing my husband how responsive my mare, Sassy, had become. Questions about next steps in life had been set aside and the entire family was looking forward to dinner at the new Culvers in town.
At 7 p.m. I was kneeling over the lifeless body of my middle son, begging, “Lord Jesus, bring him back to me.”
The moments in between replayed through my mind every time I closed my eyes for months after. My middle son, who was just seven years old at the time, asked if he could cool Sassy down for me. More like he begged. He’d been bullied that day at school and told me that a horseback ride was the only thing that would make it better. Sassy was in a great mood and had just given me the best ride of her life, so I agreed. Blake had ridden her a hundred times before, so he knew the ropes. The smile on his face as he shimmied through the gate will be forever etched into my memory.
For reasons I will never know, our beloved horse was placid and responsive until, without warning, she spun to the right and bolted. Being bred a working cow horse, she pivoted so quickly and with such a large stride, it knocked Blake loose in the saddle. He held on for a stride before tumbling backwards down the side of the horse.
It happened so quickly he didn’t have time to react or push himself away. He landed in the sand with a thud. About the time I breathed a sigh of relief that he was okay, her rear hoof grazed his forehead. He wasn’t breathing when I fell beside him in the sand. I rolled him over and cleaned the sand out of his mouth. He had no pulse, he was completely lifeless, and CPR got me no response.
I stopped what I was doing, placed a hand on him, and wailed, “Jesus bring my baby back to me.” He sucked in a sharp breath, but his eyes didn’t open. My husband was already on the phone with 9-1-1. My other two sons snapped out of their shock and asked what they could do. I told the oldest to put the horse in her stall and take her tack off so she’d be out of the paramedics’ way when they arrived. I told the youngest to pray.
God bless those boys, they’d just seen the most horrific thing of their lives, but they sprang into action. Sassy had stopped dead in her tracks the instant she’d felt her hoof connect with Blake. She watched from the corner, head hung. Dylan retrieved her and made sure she was okay and out of the way while Christopher fell to his brother’s side, taking his limp hand into his own and praying with all of his six-year-old might.
As I knelt over my son, praying harder than I ever had before, I distinctly remember the moment where I acknowledged, He’s yours God. I’m asking you to give him back to me, but I trust that he’s yours.
The paramedics came and took him to a nearby hospital, and still Blake slept. At the hospital, they told us he would have to be airlifted to the children’s hospital in the city. They gave my youngest son a stuffed puppy to “take care of for them,” and then they let us in to say our goodbyes. Blake’s little jeans and flannel shirt had been cut away. His face was horribly disfigured. And still he slept.
Once Blake was loaded into the helicopter, we followed in our car, praying and crying the entire way. Blake’s smile was seared into my brain and I grieved I’d seen it for the last time. When we arrived, they ushered us past the waiting lines and back to a waiting room. There, the in-flight paramedics sought me out with tears in their eyes to tell me they were sorry; they’d done all they could. Blake was still breathing, but initial scans showed no brain activity. The doctors gave us no hope. Again, we were let in to say goodbye.
But everything in me railed, NO! God did not give him breath again to take it away now. He will be healed. Our pastor was there, our parents were there, my sisters were there, and my best friend showed up to take my other two boys to eat before going home with her. The next few days were, to say the least, surreal.
Once I got it in my head that God was going to heal Blake, I began to fast and pray. I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t eat until Blake was awake again. Each time the medical profession told me there was no hope, God gave me a glimmer of hope. Each dire pronouncement was met with improvement on Blake’s part. His brain “woke up” on pictures. He moved a finger on command. He squeezed my hand. All spread out over days and nights of prayer. If I slept, it was sitting straight up beside him, his hand in mine.
And then came the day when they said they were worried about swelling on the brain, that they’d have to operate if he didn’t wake up by the next morning. Unbeknownst to me, one of my sisters called the local Christian radio station to ask for prayer. I found out when the first stranger popped their head in to say they were praying for us. As it turns out, the whole city was praying for us. And that evening, a pair of blue eyes made their appearance.
I can’t imagine how scary that must have been, waking up in the ICU, in pain, with a giant tube down your throat and needles in your arms. By the next morning, though, the tube was taken out and Blake was even able to ask me for vegetables. It was my mother’s birthday, April 5. I remember my mama and I both weeping for joy at the sound of his voice.
Time and again, Blake and God defied all logic. We were told he’d be in the hospital indefinitely. He was released in 10 days. We were told he’d need in-patient rehab, he wound up qualifying for day treatment, so he could come home with us each night. They said it would take years before he healed. Six months later, the doctors admitted he’d been healed for over a month, they’d just had a hard time believing it.
Don’t get me wrong—it was a hard road. Blake worked hard each and every day, fighting and clawing his way back to the child he’d once been. The entire family made sacrifices as things shifted and rearranged to accommodate our new normal. I left my cozy corporate job to be with Blake through rehab, which meant we had to leave our expensive home in the suburbs. We went from middle class to poor with a mountain of medical debt overnight, but none of that really mattered in the face of the miracle God was working right before our eyes.
And, in a way that only God could orchestrate, all of those changes put us on a path we were always meant to be on, one we’d been stumbling around trying to find before the accident. The obvious miracle came the moment God put breath back in my son’s body, but it was followed by countless subtle miracles that will forever shape my life and faith.
Since then, Blake has gone back to being the life of the party. He lives to make others smile, and he’s really good at it. We’ve since moved, and people in his new world don’t know about the accident unless we tell them; there are no outward signs it ever happened. Sure, Blake has challenges to face he didn’t have before, but I think those aren’t so much about an incomplete miracle as reminders lest we forget, as we humans are prone to do.
About a year after the accident, a woman I didn’t know approached me to tell me that she’ds been one of the countless people praying for Blake. She’d just come back from a trip to Jerusalem, where she’d given a Sunday devotional at the tomb of Jesus Christ. The story she told was Blake’s.
Sometimes, we act like God stopped working miracles after the book of Acts. But Jesus told us that if we had even a bit of faith when we asked a mountain to move into the sea, it would be given to us.
What mountains do you need moved today?
If you want to be notified when the compilation is available, sign up for Vox Dei Publishing's monthly newsletter to be notified of new releases.
Rolling hills that had been vibrant green just weeks ago were now muted in tone, as if they were taking a deep breath before bursting into the song of fall.