The Friend I Almost Lost

For the third time in 3 years the pregnancy test was positive. But it was 1986 and they were known to be inaccurate sometimes so Benny and I decided to test again.

Yep, for the third time in less than three years we were expecting a baby.

Josh (almost 8) and Jaime (6 1/2) were thrilled.  We were relieved because two little brothers had rushed into their lives in the past 2 1/2 years. And one of them was a tantrum-thrower!

About six weeks into the pregnancy I was put on bed rest in an attempt to keep baby number five alive, but Dr. Crowe told me to prepare myself to miscarry. During the weeks that followed Josh and Jaime potty trained 2 1/2 year old Jesse, played with 14-month old Joey, made lunches, did household chores and took good care of Mommy until Daddy got home each day. We all prayed daily that God would protect their baby brother or sister.

Janelle Marie was born on September 4th to the delight of a family who had prayed for her birthday. As I held my baby girl in my arms tears streamed down my face. God had spared my daughter’s life. She was an adorable, smiley baby who captured the hearts of all who came in contact with her.

Memories of “Missy” (a name her brothers still call her) are flooding my mind today. I’m smiling about the time she excused her disobedient choice to cross the street in front of our house alone with, “Mommy, I couldn’t help it. My feet just starting walking into the street!” I can’t remember the number of pages (no cell phones back then!) we received from babysitters asking us to call home because she was throwing tantrums and refusing to go to bed. After searching Northern Virginia for Dalmatian panties to complete a themed 6th birthday party, she opened them and rolled her eyes: “Underwear. Dalmatian underwear.”  There were annual vacations to Nags Head, North Carolina, including Dowdy’s for rides and cotton candy — where in 1997 God spared her life a second time when her courageous daddy was willing to sacrifice his own to save hers.  How many hours did we all spend watching BRYC basketball games with Jaime and Mel as her coaches? Oh…and who would have thought the13-year-old who passed out when a doctor started drawing her blood would someday become a nurse! My favorite memories with her include twelve years of homeschooling at kitchen tables on Rockwell Road and Rosalie Way.

All teens have some rough times — Janelle’s were uniquely hard. Some painful family challenges were followed by moving from her beloved childhood home the week before her 13th birthday…just days before a mono diagnosis required several months of quiet recovery. Another move less than a year later to Orlando resulted in a lengthy season of few friends while she battled grief following the death of the best grandmother ever. Missy responded to the loneliness and boredom by reaching for doctrinal books on her dad’s bookshelves. Those years forged a depth of relationship with God and love for truth that helped her develop convictions, cultivate spiritual gifts and experience the hard fought treasures of providential loneliness.

Her later teen years also brought challenges in our relationship. Mothers and daughters often misstep during these awkward years when one is trying to provide needed motherly guidance (and sinning along the way!) and the other is trying at times to push the envelope of young adulthood prematurely. I remember one especially hard day when our mutual accusations and hurtful words sent us both to our rooms in frustrated tears. Janelle’s affection for the rightful claims of scripture resulted in her reaching out to a wise older woman in our church to help her through bitterness toward me, and I likewise solicited counsel for ways I was tempting and exasperating her. I cherish the day when we were able to ask one another’s forgiveness.  Her humility opened the door for the warm and delightful friendship we share today.

18 months ago we waved goodbye as she drove away from her wedding reception with the godly man for whom she had waited and prayed. One of the convictions her lonely teen years produced was a robust commitment to trust God to bring her a husband in His time rather than  search for one through causal dating. Eric captured her heart two years before she captured his, yet her dad and I watched her trust God’s will to unfold without manipulating to get her way. When Eric approached Benny to discuss his desire to pursue a deeper friendship with Janelle to investigate whether marriage might be in their future, Benny told him some news. As a young teenager Janelle insisted that any young man who wanted to consider her as a wife would have to gain not just his permission — but that of her four brothers.

This brave young man met with Josh, Jesse, Joey and Jake to talk about his intentions, and 6 months later all the Phillips men agreed to a proposal. He also invited the family to hide in the bushes at a nearby park the evening he put an engagement ring on her finger.

Missy, today I’m thinking about the day the doctor handed me a precious baby girl. It was truly one of the happiest days of my life.  I’m grateful that I’ve had a front row seat watching Him grow you through tough family times: losing Nannie; realizing at times that your only friends were siblings; having to accept help from a younger brother with Geometry and Logic; maintaining your convictions to wait for a godly man; and embracing Dad’s legacy of deep affection and sacrifice for the church.

You’re a big girl now. You have a husband and a home. Lord willing, you’ll get to Mommy your own children soon — after years of practice on a baby sister and a crew of adoring nieces and nephews. Someday I pray God gives you a daughter who brings you the joy you have brought me. If so, if you have a hard time finding babysitters willing to endure her tantrums or go through tough times in her teen years, don’t worry. God will give you and her both the grace and humility to walk through it all.

And then she’ll be one of your best friends.

Happy Birthday, Missy.