Amazing Grace

Posted: August 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

ImageOn a Sunday morning in the Fall of 1995 I awoke in a hotel room in Little Rock, AR. I was on the second week of a three week jag in my five state region. I was managing sales people for a church pictorial directory company. I was back in my own Memphis region after a disastrous excursion to the Pacific Northwest that cost my wife her job, my son his position at a great private school, and we had come within about ten minutes of selling our house. I had been yanked back to this territory on a managerial whim at the last minute. Things had recovered somewhat, and I was on track to earn the highest salary I had ever earned.

And I was the loneliest I had ever been in my entire life.

I can picture that hotel room from that morning even though all hotel rooms look the same when you live on the road. My task that day was to drive to New Orleans and hire two teams of sales people starting the next day. I remember looking at my face in the mirror and having an overwhelming sense of dejection.

My prayer that day was more of a sigh. I groaned in my spirit and wondered aloud if God even liked me anymore. When I looked back at what I had recently been through—isolation in Washington state, two cross-country trips moving every stitch of clothing I owned, and having to tell my family of the sudden change in plans at the whim of unseen business magnates—I couldn’t help but think that I had fallen out of favor with the Almighty and that he was punishing me for something. I felt unloved. I felt unlovable. I felt completely alone. I asked God, without much conviction that He would even hear, much less answer, for a sign that he loved me.

I got out my Rand McNally road atlas (this was all just before the burgeon of cell phones and GPS devices) and planned my route for the day. The simplest way to get where I needed to go was due East on I-40 to Memphis, turn south on I-55 and be in New Orleans by five o’clock. But I knew if I went through Memphis there would be no way I could get that close to my family and not stop and see them. I did not have time to do that, so I looked for ways to cut off the corner off the triangle and avoid even going by home at all.

The drive that day was silent. I didn’t play any music or any of the ubiquitous motivational tapes I had collected. My PMA (positive mental attitude) fuse was blown. I was numb. I was just going through the motions and working up a good mad.Image

The closer I got to Memphis, the stronger the need to see my son and wife became, and I went through endless justifications to keep to the original planned route. Soon, though, I found myself swinging by the church my wife and son attended without me so many times just before services let out. I parked the car and was aware that it was very quiet. The halls of the church were still as I made my way to the sanctuary for the service to end. It was so still I could hear my own heart beating in anticipation of their hugs and voices.

The service ended and venerable deacons opened the doors wide. I made my way through the crowd to find my wife. My son saw me first and gripped me in an iron hug. I went up behind my wife and kissed her on the neck. She turned around in shock and almost whopped me one, but then she embraced me warmly.

She quickly said we had to go to lunch, that she had to talk to me. I shook my head and said I only had time to say hi and that I had to be on my way to get to New Orleans by five. She sighed and said, well I have to tell you something. You know that spare bedroom? You know how it needs to be painted, she said. Well, we need to paint it. I groaned to her, asking what had they done to the room while I was away. Some disaster? Some mayhem that caused damage that had to be repainted and repaired?

No, she said quietly, taking my hand. We are going to have a baby.

I reeled at the thought. Hadn’t we been trying for six years to have another baby? Hadn’t we lost at least two babies in miscarriages? Hadn’t our trusted and loving obstetrician told us it would be impossible to have more children? We’d even had my son praying for a baby brother or sister. Hadn’t we sold every piece of baby furniture and divested ourselves of all baby accouterments except for mementos like first shoes and the odd sentimental toy? And now we were having a baby? Now?

I didn’t even have time to celebrate this news. Business compelled me to leave. I hugged and cried and said goodbyes and began the longest, most intense prayer experience of my life. I prayed to my Heavenly Father all the way to New Orleans. I felt his presence seated next to me in the car. I felt his arms around me as he told me, Now you asked for a sign, didn’t you? Well, I think so much of you that I am going to give you this little life to care for and raise for Me.

For five hours I prayed and rejoiced and was lost in the ebb and flow of powerful love from God. When I got to New Orleans I jumped out of the car, ran into the hotel and checked in, ran to my room and dialed the phone for home. The phone rang, and my beautiful wife said, “Hello?”

“It’s going to be a girl,” I said, “and we’re going to name her Grace.”

There was a slight pause.

“Who is this?” she asked.

I laughed and told her I was certain it was going to be a girl so that we could name her Grace. She would forever be known as the Grace of God, God’s answer to a desperate plea for a sign. My wife said that was great, but we should pick out boy names just in case. I told her with absolute conviction that there was no need. I knew in my heart of hearts that she was going to be a girl. Case closed.

I have told that story a lot to many people over these years. If you ask my daughter what her name is, she readily tells how she got her name: “Mom and Dad couldn’t have any more kids, then I came along. That’s why they named me Grace.”

What I didn’t know was that the story was not over. There is a wonderful addition to the narrative.

So fast forward to the present: late summer, 2013. I am sitting in a Starbucks with my now 17-year-old daughter. That morning we had gone to the neurological surgeon for a follow-up visit to remove staples after brain surgery,

About four years ago this precious daughter started developing migraines. She eventually began to have seizures and was diagnosed with epilepsy. You can read about her experiences and her journey with this disease here (the In the middle of the summer we had tried the last medications recommended by her neurologist, and were told that surgery was the next best option. We’d had extensive testing back in January and knew that the seizures were caused by a lesion on the left temporal lobe of her brain, and that it was operable.

Both Grace and my beautiful wife said to do it as soon as possible. The surgery was performed over two weeks at the beginning of August, and she was home recovering by August 10th. The 20th we had the staples removed. The surgeon was impressed at her recovery and how well she was doing. He also handed us the pathology report, an extensive summary of exactly what they had done in surgery and exactly what they found to be the cause of the seizures.Image

We sat in Starbucks looking over the report, marveling at the extended Latin names for simple brain parts and equipment. Then we came to the cause of the seizures.

When the excision was removed and labeled, they noticed an anomaly; cortical dysplasia. A little group of irregularly formed nerves and tissue.

In other words, a birth defect.

The song playing at that exact moment was called “Nothing to Hide.” [link to the song]God pulled back the curtain on the last eighteen years and revealed that he had knit together this precious answer to prayer in the womb with a malformation of nerves. As she grew and developed in the fullness of time, this little lesion of cells caused her epilepsy.

You see, folks, this is why I have learned to never ask “Why.” It has been hard to look at my daughter’s suffering and not question why she had to go through this terrible thing. The only consolation I have gotten is talking to other people at LeBonheur Children’s Hospital who had driven ten hours to get there with an infant seizing all the way. As I would walk down the hallway of the unit I would see families and patients show suffering through the same debilitating disease with to such a greater degree and with much more fierce intensity. By comparison we were abundantly blessed.

But God had written this part of the story even before I woke up on that Sunday morning in 1995. He had started this part of my journey long before my wife ever got the first impression that she might be pregnant. It has always been part of the story, but the Master Raconteur waited until now for the Big Reveal.

I told my daughter that. I said that every person that has been touched by her story, by her smile, by watching how brave she has been; by seeing how effortlessly and courageously she has endured the seemingly unending stay in the hospital; seeing the tedious hours of testing and waiting for seizures to be recorded; noting the indignity of being tethered to telemetry and not being able to move more than two feet from a hospital bed for two weeks; all of this was so that we could stand proudly and say that God is good and that we are ever in the best hands and in the best of care.

This is the real reason Grace is truly, truly amazing.

  1. Lauren Holmquist says:


  2. Dave says:


    Thank you for reminding me how God works in his way, on his time. Grace is a terrific young lady who will understand in time, the miracles that will be laid before her during this life. Your a great dad and you are an even better father.


  3. […] When our dear friend, White Station High School teacher Darrell Hugueley found out he and wife Sandy were having a second child after years of frustrated attempts to give son Kyle a sibling, he knew immediately that the new baby would be a girl and that she would be named Grace.  He recalls that moment in this excerpt from his blog Goodbye Religion: […]

  4. […] also invite you to read Grace’s father’s compelling story on his Goodbye Religion […]

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