Osiyo, dear Floggers! Faith Phillips here. So good to be back in regular contact with you again. I’m here to tell you about a new book, but this time it isn’t mine. We opened Okie Noir Press as a small publishing house over a year ago, with a future plan to publish my books and the books of other regional writers, especially young people writing in the Cherokee Nation. I finished teaching in May with the intention of finally publishing my fifth book, “The River Book”. But my plans almost never work out. The Creator usually has something better lined up when I ask for guidance and listen for the answer.
Exactly one year ago, on August 29th 2020, I received a strange call. The name of my precious friend, Jimmy May, showed up on the caller ID. We almost exclusively communicated by text, so I immediately sensed trouble. I answered and Jimmy said, “Leslie Christian’s twin grandsons have drowned. They’re being life flighted. Pray now.”
I didn’t ask for details. I hung up and dropped to my knees. After I finished praying, I contacted The Rev, our home group, friends and family to ask for fervent prayer. Leslie had been my roommate during the single most paradigm-shifting experience of my life – my first trip to Malawi. She had been a critical part of my experience there, accepting and encouraging me even though I was riddled with self-doubt. She made such an impression on my life that I wrote about her in my second book. I felt at least a small fraction of her pain as I waited for news.
As the days passed by after the initial drowning incident, it became clear that my friend would live in a state of long-term grief. My prayers changed then and I began to ask, “What can I do to help my sister?” I waited. Then, several months ago, the answer came in the form of a manuscript. This manuscript told the raw, true-life account of what it feels like to mourn a baby from the perspective not just of Leslie, but of her entire family and their community. More importantly, the book tells the story of what it feels like to suffer unspeakable grief and still cling to your faith. As I read through the manuscript I was struck by its gut-wrenching honesty. I wept many times and I still do as I continue to prepare the book for publication.
This book is not just about one family’s loss. Ultimately, Rise Up will foster a community of people who can network and provide support for one another in the face of great tragedy. We welcome you to join the Rise UP Leslie Christian Group page here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/520386559052657
I am always grateful for your loyal readership. I leave you now with an excerpt from Leslie Christian’s Rise Up.
From “Rise UP: A Story of Tragedy and Triumph”
We questioned our decision as we pulled out of the kids’ driveway. Has that ever happened to you? I mean, really, what would it have hurt if we had just taken the boys with us? We could have tag teamed with the errands. We could have had one more night making memories with them.
“Nah,” we thought.
“There will be more time,” we said.
We knew we would see them tomorrow. Have you ever really considered how precious time is and what you should prioritize as your most important decisions? In our story, we will consider that question forever, from now on. As for our choice, we pulled out of the kids’ driveway having made our decision. We would see them in the morning for church. Little did we know in a few short hours our lives would be changed forever. We would learn that we were wrong. There would be no more time tomorrow.
My husband and I went on to complete our errands. I purchased my outfit for the Colorado family pictures. Clayton got his hair cut and we headed back home to finish chores. We had a roast with potatoes and carrots waiting on us for supper. After a busy weekend schedule with toddlers, it wasn’t just the twins who had a scheduled nap. We looked forward to one, too.
That plan was interrupted at home by an unexpected call from our youngest daughter’s boyfriend. He wanted to come by and talk with us privately about our princess, Bridgett. Up we went to the country Dollar Store to get the gravy mix we had forgotten.
Now, let me just say here, part of our country life almost always involves living off the grid. Cell phone service is terrible on a good day. So, as we were driving, you can imagine our surprise when a Facetime call from the twins’ mom came through. We were excited to see the boys because, as you might have already guessed, we thought they were calling to show us their swimming pool moves. You will recall I had promised a big pool swim after they woke up from nap.
But nothing in that moment matched any scenario we could have predicted or imagined, even in our worst nightmares. When I swiped the green button on my phone to speak with my daughter all we heard were terrified screams.
“Mom get here…(pause)….Mom my boys…pool….drown!”
Lost connection. We called back to see our baby girl giving CPR to the babies and screaming, “Mom, get here….(compression)….(breath)….Mom, my boys have drowned….(compression)….(breath).”
We lost the connection for a final time and that was it. Clayton and I flew north with the understanding that the big pool swim had somehow transformed into the most tragic moment of our lives.
My first thought: PRAY. Pray boldly. Pray with confidence. Pray scripture. God has performed miracles before. Believe. Believe in God. Believe He will do it again. Then what? Call. Call my dad. Call my strongest prayer warrior. Call someone I know who will have service and will call all our family prayer warriors.
FAST, Clayton. Go FAST. Get to my kids. REPEAT.
Decisions. Let’s just go ahead and talk about that right now. Clayton and I will be presented with more decisions in the future. As you read this story, you will too. Let your decisions be guided by what is most important in life. You really are not promised that, “we will see them in the morning for church,” moment. Weigh that final decision carefully when you pull out of the driveway.
But the Lord is our banner!“
Pre-orders available this fall, exclusively on ReadBooksBy.Faith. Publication date, December 1, 2021. #okienoir