Trying to understand tragedy and suffering in the world is difficult for all of us. Find out how a faithful mother and her little girl have faced it together. Our guest blogger, John Schott, provides insights from their remarkable true story.
Three Little Girls: The Madysen Acey Story,
by John Schott
Three little girls. Wow, how can three little girls who don’t even know each other soften me so much? How I view the world. How I view grace. How I view the sovereignty of a God who is near. A God in the mess of life.
The first little girl, Debra, is one I knew back in second grade. She was smart and she seemed to want my attention, which as a boy annoyed me. I was arrogant. One afternoon, I ran up from behind her full-speed and planted the heels of my palms square into her back and plunged her face-first, in her dress, with her books, into a wet, hard, gravelly puddle. She was covered head to toe, bleeding from her knees, and crying profusely.
I don’t know whether Debra and I ever had a conversation throughout elementary school, middle-school and high school. Ever . . . that is until I was about 39 years old. By that time I had already been broken like a wild colt. I had spent the last several years picking up the pieces and facing a lot of difficult truths about myself. And Grace was flowing into the cracks of my brokenness. I received a group email from Debra. Her words shook me to the core. Debra wrote to everyone she knew, even me, to request prayer for a family she came to know when she relocated to Mississippi. That’s when I first encountered the name of girl #2. Ten-year-old Madysen Acey.
The largest tornado in the history of Mississippi had wreaked havoc throughout the state. The next day, Madysen was at a friend’s house playing on a tractor. When she lost her balance she reached out to catch her fall by grabbing onto a downed power line. It was enough electricity to kill a steer. Madysen survived, but she lost her entire right arm, half of her left arm, and had severe damage to her hip. Later, Bethanne would share how, as she arrived on the scene of the accident, Madysen consoled her mother.
I wept in prayer for this little girl and her family. I think I cried for five straight days at least. I lost count.
Girl #3 is my daughter, Olivia. It was still April, but May was fast approaching. Birthday plans were to be made for Olivia’s 9th. Olivia wanted a simple party at the playground for as many girls as she would like to invite. As Olivia reviewed the list of guests she said, “I don’t need 32 presents, Daddy.” Olivia had her mind set to make it a fundraiser. A fundraiser for Madysen. And that’s what we did. “A Mess of a Party!” Messy games for Madysen with cake and drinks. It was a great day!
I’m part of the Bible Study group mentioned in RLB, the little band of believers who meet in the Bevington basement on Sunday nights. We prayed for Madysen and her family constantly and grew to love the family in Mississippi we never met.
Two people with RLB connections were taken as much as I was, namely Rob Thomas and the wife of “Jay the Pacifist.” Madysen, her Mom Bethanne, and her brother, Braxton were never far from our minds and hearts. We subscribed to Madysen’s CaringBridge site and over the months that followed, we learned that she was making slow, painful progress. She was determined and working hard in therapy. The therapists and nurses loved her and she loved them.
There’s a verse from Jeremiah that had its grip on me back in 2008. I wasn’t surprised to discover it was one that Madysen’s Mom clung to as well:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV).
Ironic, you may think. A woman is at a hospital bedside coping with her daughter going through real suffering. Severe suffering. And she is sure of this promise. This unwavering promise. Don’t you think it’s also ironic that the same verse made an enormous impact on another little girl, Bethany Hamilton, pro surfer? Soul Surfer. Shark attack survivor.
Pride is blinding. But faith . . . faith is not blind. It is eye-opening. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, sweeter than walking with God by faith, particularly in the mess of life.
The passage in Jeremiah 29 continues,
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.
Bethanne knows this, too. One day she wrote,
She still amazes me in how strong and patient she has been the last ten days. Not to say she hasn’t had her moments, but for the most part she has been an inspiration to me. I’m very anxious to see why God chose us for this. Not that I question him. Just curious to see what he has in store for us!
So are we, Bethanne. So are we.
To go to Madysen’s CaringBridge page click HERE.