LOVING THE LITTLE THINGS Andy Hollifield 11-2-17
Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Psalms 127:3-5 Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. (4) As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are the children of thy youth. (5) Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.
2 Timothy 1:12 For the which cause I also do suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.
1 Samuel 1:27-28 For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him: as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord. And he worshipped the Lord there.
These are just a few verses pertaining to children that God has proven firsthand in my life. On December 29th of 1995, my world came crashing down and there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop it. After trying desperately to start a family, we finally found out in November 1995 that Diane was about 6 or 7 weeks pregnant. We had been married about 3 and a half years by then and just when it looked like our dreams of children were never going to happen, that ultrasound declared that we had finally become the one thing we had both always longed to be: parents. Now, before I get too far into this let me explain something. I believe that when you conceive and know that you have an unborn child growing in the womb, from the moment you find that out, you are a parent. Your whole mindset as well as your priorities in life change with only two words; “I’m pregnant.” Whether you are the man or the woman, the entire world takes on a different view and the once confident person that you were becomes a scared to death, yet ecstatic, bundle of nerves and doubt. You all of a sudden realize that you are clueless about being a parent. You all of a sudden worry about even being able to keep a tiny human baby alive let alone help it grow into a functional and honorable young man or woman. What you fail to realize at that moment is that there is no instruction manual (except the bible) and that your parents felt just as incapable as you at that point in their lives.
As I mentioned earlier, my world came crashing down in December. After the wonderful thanksgiving and all the plans for the new addition to the family in mid July, plus Christmas and the joy among all our family that this time next year, we would have a little one to make a fuss over. Life was great; and then early in the morning on the 29th, only 4 days after Christmas, the bottom fell out. Without being graphic, some things happened that required an immediate trip to the doctor and an emergency ultrasound. From there on it is kind of a blur. You hear those words from the doctor that no parent wants to hear and at that moment everything sounds so muffled and distant. Words have just become a dull roar that you can’t even comprehend and don’t want to. We heard the doc say that nature has a way of culling out what can’t survive for whatever reason. While that was somewhat comforting, it also angers you inside because you wonder “why was it my baby that was “culled out?” Why was it my baby that “couldn’t survive?” A million questions among the heartbreak and no answers to any of them. It’s probably even worse as a preacher because you are supposed to be strong and close to God and able to withstand pretty much anything; you’re “God’s man.” Not at that moment. You are just another devastated parent that has just been told that your family has died. Twenty one plus years later, you are still the parent of that child. You wonder what it would have been and what he or she would have looked like. If you think we felt emptiness then; that was nothing. After having to wait until the doctor’s office opened up after New Year’s day to have the surgery, you come home at that point to a home that seems so cold and quiet and lonely that now only represents your shattered dreams. The emptiness and loneliness comes from the realization that you left home that morning as a family and came back as a couple. Not knowing if, due to past health issues, we would ever get another chance, we were beyond devastated. All Diane could do was cry and I felt guilty because I was hurting but didn’t feel like I could cry enough. I was numb. Not only had I lost my child but I somehow had to help my wife that was so distraught that I worried that over time, if she didn’t get pregnant soon, she would have a nervous breakdown. I remember having to preach on that Sunday morning and all I could preach on was the grace of God. Only by his grace did I get through it but it sure seemed in a way like I couldn’t feel any of it but in another way, like I was being gently bathed in it by the Holy Ghost.
Months went by and Diane became worse and I began to focus more on her condition than my own hurt. It was so bad that I remember going over to my dad’s and talking to him and asking him to pray because I didn’t know how much more Diane could handle. Along about July of 1996, things finally took a turn for the better when Diane got a positive test confirmed by the doctor. At long last we would have our family. We still had a piece missing but this would definitely help with the healing. Fear soon found its place in our lives again when an ultrasound revealed low amniotic fluid. No reason why that they ever found but it was just low. There were frequent ultrasounds because having lost a child, she was considered high risk especially with the amniotic fluid. I don’t think we ever talked about it but I know looking back we both had to be thinking the same thing; were we going to once again receive the same devastating news we had before?
From here, most of you know how the story ends. We had a beautiful little boy that has grown into a fine young man who got saved at home about 3 years ago after watching a Gaither Homecoming program while walking the treadmill. He told his mom when he got off the treadmill that he just got saved. She came and told me and after questioning him extensively, I feel like he knew exactly what he was talking about. He had always been on a higher spiritual plane than most people since he was a baby. I have written before of him being non verbal for years but yet talking to his angel one night and then later talking out loud to God. Don’t get me wrong, he has had a whole host of health issues in his life including numerous respiratory infections, ear tubes five times, reflux and swallowing issues as a baby that had him on a breathing monitor for a few weeks or months and also he had the meningitis episode. Also, he was diagnosed at about 4 years old as being mildly Autistic. As hard as that has been and still is to deal with, I believe that it has shaped his personality and made him the most loving little guy you could ever hope to meet. He has maxed out at somewhere around 14 years old mentally according to the doctors. That means that I will always get to have my little boy. We don’t ever have to wonder where he is or what he is doing because he is almost always with one of us.
In November of 1997 at Faith Baptist Church in Barnardsville, my pastor Bruce West preached a dedication service. I said that to say this: God truly has kept that which I have committed unto him. My quiver may not be full of them but this one child is as great a blessing as anyone could ever ask for. That brings me around to my point about little things. I was thrilled to find out I was wrong about what he was capable of. I have mentioned before that his sixth grade teacher got him to sing “I’ll Fly Away” in the end of the year school program. Little did I know how that one day at school would dictate his future for probably the rest of his life. He sings in church quite frequently.
Many of you know that I just got back from a trip to Florida taking the left over backpacks that we couldn’t get delivered in Texas the week before. Tyler, to my surprise, wanted to go with me so I took him. We got to have a lot of father-son time and he never closed his eyes all the way there and back. The little things I noticed that meant so much pertained not to me or the work of the ministry but to his love for the things of God. As we were traveling, he got all excited when he would see a cross on the side of the road. The thing I believe he got most excited about were several billboards that contained sayings about God or scripture. He was exuberant when he seen one. As a parent, it does me good to know that something over the years has stuck. I am not trying to take the credit away from God but I do believe even stronger than ever, in Proverbs 22:6.
Tyler started his life going to Kentucky on mission trips and before that program ended, I formed H.O.P.E. Ministries in March 2002. Tyler was raised in the front seat of an Isuzu box truck that my dad owned for his courier business. He was so young that for a lot of that time he was in his car seat. Most every month, my wife my son and I would make our monthly relief trip to Kentucky. Ever since he was a baby, he has been an excellent traveler. He didn’t go to sleep at all going to or from Florida. He is excellent with directions on a map and not so much telling them to anyone. He is an absolute joy to travel with and his love for the Lord and the little things such as billboards, crosses, and even church billboards. He has such a compassionate heart and always says after passing an accident scene that he hopes that nobody got killed or hurt. He also loves gospel music and especially the Gaithers. Just his excitement about finding them on the radio Sunday night was a blessing.
All of those little things may not mean much to you but I just wanted to share this with you. The reason I wrote all that at the beginning just so you could have an idea of where he came from and where he is now. It also proves out that if you do take the time to train them up in the way they should go, not only will they not depart from it but they will embrace it. As a matter of fact, spending three days in a truck and a couple of nights in motels helped remind me of where his mom and I had come from. My quiver may only be filled with one, but that one makes me a truly happy man. After all, it was for THIS child I prayed and from that night in November of 1998 at that little church in Barnardsville where we dedicated him back to the Lord, God has used him to touch countless lives. It has been a long and rough road at times but time in a truck will help you realize that it’s not big fine vehicles or the best electronics or big boy toys and guns that make my life such a special place to live. No, it’s not the big things but the best things in life are still free. It’s really all of those “little things” that God has blessed each of us with that make life truly worth living. Maybe it would do us good if we did a lot less complaining and a lot more thanking God for all the “little things.” Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!