Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Story of Shay...

One of my fav pics of Shay
  Shay DaSu Greenawalt Nothstine.  Today she turns 40 and I wanted to celebrate her in one of my favorite ways - telling stories.  Stories of my Shay are in another post, This Mother's Day so I will try not to repeat too much.

Shay is my number one - the first born child.  I have said often that God knew what He was doing making her the first, as she was pretty much a breeze her first few years.  Had she been more difficult, I may not have ventured a second and third time into motherhood :)

I was just a kid when Shay was born - 14 years old.  That's a long story - we call it "The Wilderness Story”, because it starts out with her dad and I running away to live in a tent for almost a month in a southern Indiana forest.  The story of her beginnings is amazing and still humbles and inspires me all these years later.

The odds were stacked against us.  But as I have learned, betting on the long shot is what gives you the greatest return.  Looking at us today, you may not see the evidence of the rough beginnings - or do you?  Certainly the evidence of the miraculous, the beyond our belief and great redemption is there - it has made us who we are.

To recall her rough beginnings 40 years ago may seem silly to some - why don’t you just celebrate?  But it is vital to me.  Because who she is today, who she will be tomorrow, stems from the awesome story of her beginnings.  Beginnings that defied the odds, the naysayers and a million obstacles.  It is a part of the celebration.

The truth is, I may have birthed Shay, but she gave me life.  Her life started at a time when I had lost my way, my sense and thought very little of myself.  The choices I was making were leading me from bad to worse.  But from the moment I knew she was a part of me, that all changed.  The new life that had been created became my focus.  Protecting, nurturing and providing were now all that mattered.

I can remember laying in bed the week or so before she was born.  We had a bassinet set up in our bedroom and as I looked over at the bassinet this thought came:  “Next week there could be a live baby in there".  It excited and frightened me all at the same time.  Her creation gave me inspiration to be a good mother, but I had no idea if I could pull it off.

Shay came into the world spinning - literally.  In the delivery room the doctor thought her birth would require a few more pushes on my part and almost did not catch her as she rotated with my last push and shot out like a spinning football.   She came out dancing.

Just born

Black hair, large brown eyes, a flat little nose - I memorized her face because I had heard of babies being switched after they were born and I did not want that to happen to me.  In those days (1973) mom's hands were tied down - yes, yes they were - and so I could not hold her or count her fingers and toes until I was out of the delivery room.

What to name this little 7 pound bundle?  I knew “Shay” was going to be her first name from early in my pregnancy.  I had seen it spelled differently and decided to spell it Shay.  Her middle name?  Well, her Aunt Patty helped us with that - it is a combo of her parents - Dave and Sue.  We thought we were cool.

Is it Shay or a Cupie Doll?
The name Shay, while made up on my part because I liked the way it sounded, became evidence years later on just how involved God was in every part of her beginning.  When Shay was about 9 years old, my niece Cathy was using my concordance to look up words and she found the word “shay”.  It is a Hebrew word meaning gifts.  The inference is not a gift from God, but a gift TO God.  Something I thought I had made up had been around thousands of years.

In the beginning, we had people telling us we were doomed to fail.  Shay's dad was only 17, so not much more experience in adulthood there.  But we had gotten ourselves into the adult world quickly and we embraced it.  With my dad’s help, Dave got a job - a terrible job in a factory making fiberglass sousaphones.  But, it was a job.  He worked there many years, hating every second of it, but it supported us.

Shay and her daddy
So, that's the short background. Shay was the first born of 3 children.  There are so many stories to tell, but I will pick a few that I believe describe her well. 

It seems Shay was born loving God and loving people.  She always had a heart for the down trodden and neglected.

When she was about 7, we saved enough money to go visit Dave's brother Larry in California.  He lived in the Bay Area and we went to San Francisco for a day.  I remember thinking how large the city was and so full of things and people.  One thing I had never seen before was there - homeless people.  At least, we assumed they were homeless.  People gathered in spots all through the city, leaned up against buildings, fountains, walls.  Little bags of "things" next to them.

One lady in particular caught Shay's eye.  A woman with no shoes and green feet.  It was awful - they were swollen and discolored and I am not sure if she could even walk on them.  She was sitting leaned up against a fountain I think.  We got a few feet past her and Shay started to cry.  "Whats the matter?" I ask.  Shay responds “That lady doesn't have any shoes.  We have to buy her shoes."  She was heart broken.  Knowing that any money we would give her would probably not go for shoes, I tried to make some excuse.  But Shay would not be silenced and played the Jesus card - "Jesus would give her shoes."  Oh my.  Now, we had committed to the Lord not long after we got married and raised the kids to believe in God.  This is the dream right?  Your children bearing the fruit of Christ.  So here is the scene - six of us (Dave, Shay, Job, Larry (Dave's brother) and Marge (their mom) standing in the middle of the sidewalk in San Francisco, hundreds of people bustling by.  Shay is crying, her heart broken for the woman with green feet.

What to do?  Even if giving her money was a good idea, I had little money.  We bought our tickets to California by scrimping and saving for a year and using our Kroger receipts to get some deal on plane tickets.  I said to Shay, "Lets pray for her".  She thought that was a good idea.  So, we stood in the middle of the sidewalk praying for the woman with green feet.  It was enough and we moved on.  Shay would regularly bring home kids from the neighborhood and school that were rejected, beat up or treated poorly at home.  Her heart was huge.

Fast forward to teenage years and she decides to go on a mission trip (one of many).  Jamaica I believe it was. Not the tourist part of Jamaica, but the part where real locals live.  She came back full of fire and very aware of the excesses we Americans enjoy.  When her brother Job complained about mowing the lawn (with a gas powered mower), she lit into him about how kids in Jamaica cut grass with sickles and blades by hand!

High School graduation
After high school she joined "Teen Mania", a group that travels the U.S. and other countries preaching the gospel.  She was gone for a year.  At that time, they were based in Tulsa, OK. We rented a van and packed up her stuff and took two days to drive there.  This was my first child "leaving the nest".  I was a mess.  Oklahoma was so far away from South Bend, Indiana!  I was so depressed after leaving her there we drove straight home and I cried most of the way.

In July of that year, Teen Mania organized several mission trips and they needed parent volunteers to help in Miami, the hub for many of the out of country trips.  I volunteered and flew to Miami, in July.  I will never do that again!  There is no air to breathe in Miami in July.  The humidity stagnates everything.  We ran from the doorway of the hotel to a taxi!  Anyway...

It was just a couple days, but I got to see Shay and her room mate Angie.  They were going to drive from Florida back to Oklahoma with their Teen Mania crew.  (They traveled the country in vans and "box trucks", illegally sleeping in the back.  I don't think I knew this at the time...but I digress)  So, I am leaving for the airport to return to South Bend and I want to say one more good bye to Shay.  It was an odd feeling that I had that day; I did not just want to say good bye, I HAD to say good bye.  I had this sense that it might be the last time I would see her.  I was almost in a panic because I could not find her amongst the throngs of teenagers in the hotel.  I looked in several places but no Shay.  My ride to the airport was about to leave and I saw her friend and room mate Angie.  I grabbed her, hugged her and tearfully told her to tell Shay I said good bye and that I loved her.  I left thinking she probably thought I was nuts, but I needed a connection to Shay.

Shay and Angie
On the plane ride home I had an uneasy feeling.  I could not shake the sense I may never see Shay again. So, of course I did the only thing I could do - I prayed.  I prayed for protection, I rebuked the devil, I pleaded the blood.  I was compelled to pray.

I got a call from Shay early in the morning after I got home.  Their caravan had been in an accident.  She had been asleep in the back of one of the trucks when they went off the road and from what I remember, into a ditch.  Everyone and everything went flying.  Suitcases and supplies tumbled and covered her.  She was trapped inside, in the dark.  Thank God, they unburied her from the truck and she was unharmed.  She told me another kid's mom was also taken to prayer for them that night.

If you know Shay, you know she loves to dance.  She started young taking lessons - she was still in diapers.  I took dance lessons throughout my childhood and loved it, so wanted her to experience that as well.  She is incredibly gifted and to see her dance is to be taken to another world.  She and her sister Anna danced their hearts out at our church for years and brought something that can tend to be very boring (worship dance) to another level.  Shay’s passion for dance and gift of choreography transformed us from earth to heaven.

Dance recital
Dancing with her cousin Vaughn
Shay is a mover - not just physically, but emotionally and mentally.  About 20 years ago, my niece was pregnant and planned to move in with us.  The house we lived in was in the hood, not in the best shape and did not have room for 2 extra people.  I had just gotten a job as General Manager of a new restaurant, so financially we were doing better.  We decided to move, but really had not begun looking at houses.  Shay’s dad and I were at a stalemate as to how much we would spend, so with no budget we could agree on, we did nothing.  Well, this did not sit well with Shay at all and so she started looking.  

She told us about an open house that was happening.  The house was way out of our price range, but she said “Lets just look!”  So we did.  We did not end up buying that house, but it broke the stalemate we had and got us moving.  Not long after, we found the house of my dreams and purchased it.

Shay is someone who is never satisfied.  I don’t mean that in a negative way - it is one of her greatest strengths.  Because she does not want to become stagnant, or settle or become lukewarm.  There are those who have failed to recognize this as an asset and can become irritated at her “pushing”.  It is such a great loss for them.  What many don’t understand is that when you start from behind, you get ahead by building momentum. Momentum requires strength and force.  Staying ahead requires endurance.  Shay possesses those qualities.  I say if you have Shay in your life pushing you, you are blessed indeed.  Chances are you will not get lazy and will see things change for the better.

Shay is a fighter yet full of compassion.  She demands much, but gives more.  She is beautiful not only outside, but inside.  She steps in where others run, she sees possibilities instead of failures.  And even though her hurts run deep, her heart remains open to love.

There are so many accomplishments to list when I think of Shay - her missions trips, career, mothering to both Ashton and Kristin, dance, design - these things are so much a part of her.  Of course when I think of her, I think of her most as my daughter.  And she is a fine daughter indeed.  We have our fights, but we make up.  She is one of my favorite people to spend time with and we share many common interests.  

Chicken and Waffles in Times Square

Tender moment at church

At this point I struggle with what more to say because there is so much more!  It is hard to condense all that is in my heart to this one blog post.  Because Shay’s birth was so life changing, I look at my world as “before Shay” and “after Shay”.  Her birth was the beginning of a grand journey that has been a great adventure and still has lots of road left to travel!  She is a precious soul that I am so very proud to call my own.

My Shay.  I am forever grateful you are in my life.  You mean more to me than these words can express.  There is so much more ahead of you.  Embrace it, don’t fear and be who God made you to be.  Your times are in His hands and His love for you will never fail.

I love you Shay baby.  Thanks for being mine.


This is my Shay - laughing - seeming to say "I am 40 and I don't care!"