Vol 1, Num 3 :: 2002.10.11 — 2002.10.24
Every time I see a sunflower, it reminds me of my sunshine, Hannah, the person who made my life bearable during many hard times. She is the daughter of my favorite (and only) daughter, Gail.
At the time this story started, Gail was a shy, obedient, loving, and sensitive 19-year-old. She was a sophomore at a nearby Christian college and worked part time at an office supply company. She always socialized in close circles of friends. During the summer of 1989, she started dating. Someone at church had a relative named Brad who she thought would be nice for Gail, but this first serious relationship did not seem right from the beginning.
First of all, this fellow was not a Christian. He was very heavy into Dungeons and Dragons. He would walk into our home, turn on the TV, and not even say hello. In a few short months, Gail’s personality changed. She was her own person with her own agenda. No one could talk to her anymore. Not her mom, dad, or her 17-year-old or 10-year-old brothers. As my husband, Rich, and I prepared for our Sunday School Christmas party, Gail slipped in the house with a strange look on her face. I can always read her like a book, and asked what was wrong. She said nothing at first, but finally showed me an engagement ring on her finger and announced she and Brad planned to be married on July 13 of the following year. Needless to say, Rich and I didn’t enjoy the party too much that evening.
Gail hurriedly purchased a wedding dress on January 23. My husband and I constantly reminded her of the fact that Brad was not a Christian and that his lifestyle was contrary to what she believed. But she was so excited that someone was interested in her, she didn’t seem to care. We continued planning for a July wedding. Because of our emphasis on the importance of a Christian husband, Brad began going to our church membership class and joined our church that spring. Slightly encouraged, we gave him a personalized Bible and provided a celebratory cake for their Sunday School class and in April, my sister threw a shower for Gail.
However, we continued praying over their relationship. Despite Brad’s participation in our church, their relationship still didn’t seem right. Then, on Mother’s Day, May 13, 1990 Brad took the engagement ring back and called off the wedding. Gail was devastated. All of the shower gifts were returned. On July 13, their intended wedding date, Rich and I wrote each of them a letter explaining how we felt and reminding them of the Lord’s hopes for them individually.
Gail had been commuting to college before, but when the fall of 1990 came around, we felt it best for her to live on campus to begin her junior year. She had planned to move out of our home if she would have gotten married, but living at school did not go well. She seemed to be homesick and needed the attention of someone who knew what she had been through. She moved back home and continued a busy life going to school and still working at the same company.
Periodically, Brad would show up and complain that Gail was bothering him. We asked him to please call us if that were the case and we would have a talk with Gail. But something was not right once again. Gail had a certain, recognizable look in her eyes.
Then, Rich came to visit me at work on Valentine’s Day of 1991. I already knew what he was going to say. Gail was pregnant. It was Brad’s child and he would not marry her. We called our family together for Sunday afternoon tea that weekend and Gail shared her news and asked for their prayers. That same Sunday, after the evening worship service, we met with our friends, shared our story and asked them not to pass it on as gossip but rather to hold us up in prayer. We felt like we were at a funeral home as everyone came up and offered their condolences.
Gail was due in the beginning of October and together we began counseling with a Christian adoption agency so that Gail could determine whether she wanted to give the baby up for adoption. I was grateful that she never considered abortion. We made several trips to counseling in the evening so Gail could talk in groups with several other girls who were expecting. We also went to family counseling. I remember a counselor asking me in front of Gail what I thought of my daughter. She was surprised when I said she’s the best daughter anyone could ask for. After all the talking was done, she decided that she couldn’t give this baby up and would raise it on her own with our support.
On August 5, 1991, Gail and I began prenatal classes. I wanted to stand by my daughter no matter what. I prayed until I didn’t know what to pray anymore. Many times I remember just saying, “Help.” Every morning when I woke and every night before I slept, I would sing to myself, “Precious Lord, take her hand. Lead her on, help her stand. She is tired, she is weak, she is worn. Through the storm, through the night, lead her on to the Light. Precious Lord, take her hand, lead her home.”
Early on the morning of October 5, my daughter woke me because she was having contractions. Hannah Elizabeth was born while Rich and I were in the room, with Rich cutting the cord. I accompanied Gail to the parents’ meal served at the hospital before she came home.
Hannah has been my sunshine since that day. For two and one-half years, Hannah lived in Gail’s room and everyone pitched in to help with the baby as Gail continued with school and work. Gail was completely in charge of taking care of Hannah when it came to feeding, bathing, laundry, babysitting, etc. We would help if asked for a certain time.
Near the end of 1993, Gail met a driver named Alex who would come into her office frequently and they began dating. Once again, this young man was not a Christian and we voiced our concern. We even made an appointment and talked with the pastor of the church where Alex said he was a member. The pastor couldn’t understand our concern. He said Alex didn’t come often but he could always count on him when they needed money. We shared that Alex didn’t believe in creation, a God, the devil, etc. The pastor said that was OK and that we can interpret the Bible many ways. We knew something was not right once again.
Once again, Gail got engaged and they set a wedding date of August 27, 1994. Things did not go smoothly with this rough-edged guy who lived by himself on a farm in the Chicago suburbs. Gail spent more and more time drifting away from her family. We begged her to be more concerned with little Hannah.
We began planning a wedding again, working through such issues as what to do with the reception menu, since Alex was a vegetarian. But Alex did not like our control over Gail and so on Monday, June 13, 1994, Rich got a call from Alex that he and Gail decided to get married on Friday, June 17, and if we wanted to, we could come. It would take place at his church with the pastor we had talked earlier. On the day after the phone call, Alex showed up with boxes and began packing up Gail and Hannah’s room. We begged Gail to reconsider and not to leave under these conditions. By this time, Gail was 23 and we didn’t feel that we do anything to prevent this. She was a big girl. On Friday evening, she walked out with Hannah and got married. Rich and I parked outside the church and prayed. We could not go in. Our sons, now 22 and 15, went inside, heard the short ceremony, and then joined us in tears outside.
The following Sunday, the 19th, was Father’s Day. Gail came to the door with a gift for Rich, which he couldn’t even accept. The following Saturday, Rich and I left on a weeklong mission trip with our high school students, including our younger son, Dan. It was an incredibly difficult thing to do. That Sunday was Gail’s 24th birthday. We mustered all the love we had for her and called her from Kentucky to wish her a happy birthday We had left a gift for her, a gold bracelet with Xs and Os on it. We missed Gail and Hannah greatly.
On their scheduled wedding date, August 27, Gail and Alex decided to have another ceremony at their farm where everyone could come to enjoy their marriage. Many refused to come, including some of my family, because of the circumstances. We weren’t sure if we wanted to be there, but continued to support Gail and show Alex that we cared. When we arrived, Brad was one of the guests. Before we walked outside, we gave Gail an ultimatum that either we would go home or Brad would. She tried to tell us that Brad was a friend of Alex, but then asked him to leave.
All this time, our sons were living through this, too. Four days before Gail’s renewal service, Steve, our older son, came home from a date with a girl from work. He had said he had something that he wanted to share with me right away. He had felt sorry that this girl didn’t have much of a social life because she had a small daughter and asked if I would mind if he dated someone with a child. Steve was sensitive to this girl’s needs because he knew what his sister had gone through and he was also sensitive to his mom’s concerns as well. I told him it was too bad that there wasn’t a nice Christian guy like him around when Gail needed one. The Lord had prepared us all to wear the shoe on the other foot.
Meanwhile, Alex needed some help at work. He runs a moving company and our younger son Dan was just the ticket. Little did Alex know that Dan never keeps his mouth shut and always expresses exactly what he believes. That brought about many long discussions concerning Alex’s beliefs or unbeliefs and Dan told him exactly where he was wrong and what the Bible has to say about each subject. Alex also played brass and Dan played sax and guitar, which has helped spark a closer relationship as well. I started getting Alex interested in playing at our church and in our chime choir.
But Hannah was living with Alex. When she left our home at two and one-half, she knew her Christian songs; she knew her night-time and meal-time prayers; she knew Who made her so pretty; she knew the Lord’s prayer. She was a little missionary in that home. She wanted daddy to read her a book, and every night before she went to bed, we had read her a Bible story. I truly believe that she was one of the major reasons why Alex joined a local community church on April 13, 1997. Gail and Alex served as youth sponsors for the high school age youth group. I’m sure Alex has much to learn as a new Christian, but none of us are ever finished learning.
By the way, Steve told his girlfriend, Leanne, on their second date how important the Lord was to him and that he could not marry someone who was not a Christian. When they came out of the restaurant, Steve’s car had been stolen. I guess the Devil didn’t like what Steve had to say. Steve and Leanne continued dating for three years while she came to church with him, joined the church, and worked with the junior high youth group. Three years to the day after they began dating, they were married and Steve became the father of Ashley.
It turned out that their wedding was the same day Steve’s brother Dan, who was the best man, had to be at college for freshman orientation. Steve and Leanne decided to have a morning wedding with a reception from noon until four. We left and came home to our packed van and trailer towing Dan’s car and left at five for a ten hour drive. The boys said they knew we would manage because we had been through a lot worse. Well, we did manage, and since that day, Steve and Leanne have been blessed with a second daughter, Lauren. Both Lauren and Ashley were baptized last spring. Gail and Alex have also been blessed with three more girls and they have a fifth child on the way. And Dan married the love of his life almost two years ago.
Hannah still spends about every other weekend with Rich and me. We still read a Bible story before bed and sing our song together often: “You are my Sunshine.” It was a long nine years through a dark tunnel and we learned so much along the way. As the light slowly appeared, we can only thank God for His constant care and leading. When one falls, many ripples are felt and seen by others in their world. The question is, what do we do with these unexpected waves? Roll with them. Be a blessing to others so you can be blessed. It’s all about grace—God’s grace.