Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thank God for this Hay

As a former minister’s wife, I sat under more than my fair share of sermons between the numerous conferences, special services, revivals, retreats, etc, etc. However, when I'm forced to recall any of them, it is Martha Tennison's testimony that is locked into my long-term memory best. She and her husband, Don, were the pastors of a congregation in Kentucky. I still can't wrap my mind around the tragedy she shared years ago. It will forever be engraved on my mind… and in my heart.

The Kentucky Guide wrote: “The collision and subsequent fire involving a church bus at Carrollton, Kentucky on May 14, 1988 was one of the most disastrous bus accidents in United States history. About 11 PM on a Saturday night, a drunk driver traveling the wrong way on an interstate highway collided head-on with a school bus which was in use as a church bus. The initial crash was exacerbated by the bus catching fire and difficulties encountered by the occupants attempting to evacuate the crowded bus in the smoke and darkness.”

This bus (carrying 63 children and 4 adults) was returning from King’s Island Theme Park. As parents (unaware of the crash) were arriving at the church to pick up their children, Martha and Don learned that their son was one of 6 people who miraculously escaped this disaster unscathed.

At the beginning of the bus trip, Allen had been sitting near the driver. However, he noticed a girl seated at the back of the bus that was new to the youth group. When no one appeared to be talking to her, he traded seats so that he could join her. Because of this move, he was strategically positioned for evacuation when the bus exploded in flames. Unfortunately, the person he traded with perished. The force of the collision and the ensuing fire had rendered the front exit unusable.

There were 24 kids & 3 adults killed in this bus crash. 34 were injured: some burned beyond recognition. Martha Tennison is careful to address this bus crash as a tragedy and not an accident. She said, "It's not an accident when someone decides to drink and drive."

There were many stories that came out of this that would grip your heart and make your hair stand on end, but I will spare you most of those details.

However, one story she told (although still difficult to hear) has stayed with me and has been the quiet voice of reason when frustrated about the little things. It’s the story of one mother who lost her 13-year old son and had been unable to forgive herself due to the last frustrated conversation that took place between them. She was frustrated with things from work and took it out on him for a number of things including that of not cleaning up his room.

Afterwards, her son tidied up his room and then went to bed, crying himself to sleep. Due to her work schedule, she wasn't able to touch base with him before he boarded the bus on the day of the crash. Later, when she walked into his "clean" room, she found a note taped to his mirror. It read something like this: "Dear Mom, I didn't clean my room because you told me so. I cleaned my room because I love you."

Martha told of her own frustration when her husband and son would come into the living room and empty the hay out of their boots onto her floor. She would always find piles of hay to which she would scold them for.

After this tragedy, she walked into her living room, picked up those piles of hay, raised them up in the air and thanked God for her hay.

Such a gripping story. It really makes you stop and reevaluate priorities.

My prayer is… Lord, regardless of what stage of life I’m in, help me to always be thankful for my piles of hay. May I never take this season of life for granted. May I not get distracted away from those things that really matter. May my family know and feel my love for them and not my frustrations and… May I never dwell on my regrets so much that I live in them.

So, today I am thankful for… the pencil sharpener in the coat closet, dry cleaner stubs on the closet floor, notebook scraps, socks, cheerios, and the kitchen sink under the coffee table, stairway filled with things little feet walk past, cups that were once filled with cheerios or apples all over the house, miscellaneous computer parts all over the house, washed, dried & folded clothes in the dirty clothes pile, miscellaneous papers in various stacks throughout the house, empty toilet paper rolls or paper left on the floor, nail polish on my nice hand towels, crumbs… lots of them, vitamins in the sofa, lumber that needed to be torn down and hauled, spots in the carpet, garbage that has spilled over onto the floor, band-aids in the lawn, clothes under the bed, food left on the counter…

Thank God for this hay.

If you'd like to read more about this story, you can find it here.


  1. wow, this was an awesome I needed to hear. I just got back from helping my cousin go through my aunt's house (she died in march) and things are quite tense between she and her sister. I came home today frustrated and mad at how family can treat each other......thank you for this reminder.

  2. Wow, that is heartbreaking, but an eye opener as well. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Oh dear, no, I can't read more about it "here". That was enough to make me cry. The story about the mom with the 13 yr. old son got to me since mine is almost 13.

    I, too, am thankful for all of the junk that kids throw my way!


  4. I remember hearing her testimony at Women's Convention and I've thought about that illustration many times over the years when I've become frustrated with my dh and dc. Thank you for sharing. I am thankful for all the paper airplanes, signs, books and scraps left over. I'm thankful for the scattered toys in the den, the cereal bowls that they can never remember (no matter how many times I remind them) to take to the sink. I'm thankful for the clothes on my daughter's floor and even the crumbs that I sometimes find in my bed.


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