This Ain’t Prettyville.

2009-12-hawaii-rainbow-180px I’m not sure exactly how to begin this post.  It has been brewing for a couple weeks and a couple months, plus a few more months.  So I’m just gonna jump in and hope for the best.


The past few years – and most definitely the past several months – have birthed in me a combination of emotions similar to those one might experience on a really great, but very scary, roller coaster ride.  Thrill, terror, uncertainty, breathlessness, laughter, bone-rattling chaos, occasional nausea from rapid change in direction… and pure, unadulterated joy.  And let’s not forget whiplash!


At the risk of boring you to tears, I must recap 2008 very briefly to make my point.  Please bear with me as this isn’t just a self-indulgent assumption that you need a play-by-play of my personal life.  I do have a point in this.  


January of 2008, Scott got a promotion at work and a raise.  Up went the roller coaster.  But then  February was filled with heartache as our son suffered social problems at school which came to a crisis point the week after his 11th birthday.  Then, in the first week of March, he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Questions we’ve had for years were answered by the diagnosis and a million new questions were born.  The next two months were a blur as we studied, saw doctors, connected with other parents, altered his diet, attended seminars, and we were intrigued to scratch the surface of learning how his incredible mind operates.


In April, overwhelmed and tired, I went to Chicago on business and ran into an old friend named Chonda Pierce, who is a singer and comedian.  We caught up on 10 years of life in one wonderful conversation and found that we still shared so much in common though it had been a long time since we had caught up.  I discussed with her some of the things I had been writing about life and healing, and she expressed an interest my songwriting ideas because she was putting together a new recording.  I’ve been writing lyrics no less than 15 years but no one has ever recorded one of my songs.  I hadn’t discussed the songs with her because I hoped she would record them.  My purpose was to talk about some perspective I had gained through difficult times.   Whether or not she would end up using my songs, I felt encouraged for the first time in awhile after the weeks I’d just been through.  So the coaster headed up again.


In June, I co-wrote a song with a fellow-preacher’s kid named Bryan Duncan called “This Ain’t Prettyville” for Chonda’s project.  That was an amazing, funny and fulfilling experience to say the least.  


The very next month, in July, Scott lost his job very suddenly.   And in August, Chonda recorded “This Ain’t Prettyville” and she loved it so much she decided to make it the title song on her upcoming live video.  Writing has always been my own personal form of therapy, but never has that fact been more true than writing this humorous song about life not being pretty… right smack in the middle of this turbulent, unbeautiful year. 


During August and September, Scott reconnected with his dad, whom he had not seen in more than 25 years.  He was totally prepared for the first conversation to be strained and perhaps unfulfilling, but it went wonderfully.  That was just the beginning of a sweet and serendipitous new friendship.  As our children have gotten to know their grandfather and his wife, we saw an unexpected sense of excitement in them to finally know the once-stranger who had only been a ghost to us before.  Something about knowing him felt complete and Scott needed to know – regardless of whatever happened in the past – that his father genuinely cares about him and wants to stay in touch with him.


Throughout the fall, over and over again, challenges were met with joy… needs were met with provision… and there was never a dull moment on the crazy roller coaster ride of 2008.   Scott received several opportunities for freelance work and, during the second week of December, actually got paid to go to Hawaii for 8 days.  I was invited to attend as well, all expenses paid.  The house we stayed in with three other friends was GORGEOUS and right on the coast of Oahu.  This blessing came on the heels of our 19th anniversary.  I was plagued by the world’s most annoying cough while we were there, but that didn’t diminish the incredible experience of being in this beautiful paradise together. 


Our first full day there I reflected a great deal on this past year and how it has changed our perspective on life.  It has reminded us Who our Source is… and who it isn’t.  But even still, I get so self-dependent at times and try to work things out myself.   As we enjoyed an oceanside lunch, a full, vibrant rainbow formed over the ocean right before our eyes.  Inside, I couldn’t help but wonder if God was trying to reiterate to me that He is in the midst of fulfilling His promises to me.  Just in case I missed that message, another rainbow appeared within the hour.  As we drove along the coast we saw more rainbows!  By the end of the day, we had seen six rainbows.  SIX!  I couldn’t help but pray silently, “Okay, God… I get it!  You obviously are saying that You will keep your promises!”  What choice do I have but to believe Him after six rainbows?!


The day after we got home from our paradise, I went to the doctor about my cough and he treated me for whooping cough.  Yes… whooping cough.  As in the pertussis virus that we’re all vaccinated against when we’re children.  My doctor wasn’t sure I had it, but was required by the Indiana Department of Health to treat it like pertussis.  He did some awful test involving wire swabs that went so far up my nose they burned my eyes, and he said I should get results from the state by the first of the year!  FIRST OF THE YEAR?!  (Somewhere in there, he informed me that I am a ‘biohazard’!!)  He cheered me up only slightly with the announcement that even if I did have it, I wouldn’t be contagious after taking the antibiotic for five days… so I would “only” be quarantined for five days whether not we had test results.  That would take me to December 23rd.  Did he not realize I still had LOTS of Christmas shopping to do?!  Apparently not.


Anyway… here’s why I’ve told you all this.  I sit here by my Christmas tree today reflecting on this year, all fogged up on codeine cough medicine while smelling my wonderful pineapple candle from Hawaii,  and I’m here to tell you that every difficult thing has had some redeeming quality.  Thanks to this cough, I’m finally taking the time to write this blog when I would otherwise be out killing myself to make this this best dang Christmas ever.  


This definitely ain’t Prettyville… but that’s the beautiful thing!  It’s the life we have been given.  No one promised it would be uncomplicated.  And no one guaranteed we would be perfect at it.  In fact, I can personally guarantee that we will be downright BAD at it without a ton of support and prayer.   We can only control so much.  But God has promised that He would give wisdom to everyone who asks for it, without holding back.  I’ve got six rainbows that say He will make good on that promise.  Here is an actual photo of the first of those six rainbows…




12 thoughts on “This Ain’t Prettyville.

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  1. So good to be reminded that God will fulfill His promises to us, we just have to trust and wait on Him. I’m reminded of that everyday of my life Em. Thanks for sharing!!!


  2. oh, I LOVE this post and I LOVE that you are so real!! I am a bit anxious about 2009, as Kenny doesn’t have much (any?) work lined up with the downturn in the economy & construction industry and 15 employees depend on him for their salaries. Maybe the Lord will show me a rainbow soon! He has always provided during slow periods before — and I’m sure He will again … but I do get a bit anxious. Need to work on that!


  3. Oh …. and I am SO going searching on YouTube RIGHT NOW for “This Ain’t Prettyville”!

    You knew Michelle Waddell, right? She’s a big Chonda fan! I’ll have to head Michelle this way and send her a copy of the song!


  4. hi emily… i’m very much encouraged to read about your life in 2008 and i pray your year will be blessed by God next year and the years after too~ i too had my share of roller coaster ride this year and after reading your entry, i sense that God is asking me to be still and listen like how Mary chose to listen at the feet of Jesus when He visited their house. many a times i’m unable to be still, in fact, more restless to just sit there and be still. sometimes prayers become so difficult though i know of His promises in my life… in fact, another downhill ride on the roller coaster is on for me again… thanks for the sharing! God bless u all~


  5. You’ve been on my mind lately.
    Our 2008 wasn’t
    ‘Prettyville’ either–with a big,whopping hit taken by my family last Thursday. I haven’t been sleeping or eating. Just stressing and praying. Trying, trying SO hard to give it all to God. I thought of you and all your family has been through this year and forced into my head these thoughts: ‘ If Emily can take all that and still be the gracious, Spirit-filled person I met at FF, I can get my act together.’ So reading your blog today is surely a ‘God-thing’.
    Thanks,Emily. You make this hard, old heart soften a bit.


  6. Emily, I thought my rough times have been bad this past year and still continuing, but I see I am not alone and during your rough time you took the time to reach out to me. Wow, I knew that you had a specialness about you that you could just see without you even saying anything. It is what I call a God thing. Even though you are going through the toughest times in your life God still uses you and you don’t even know it sometimes. I just believe that somewhere in all that I am going through that God is going to use me to help someone else that is going through something similar or just plain use me. I told him that I would go through anything as long as he would use me. You are a strong Lady whom I admire. I pray that God will continue to give you strength to do what you do and also to touch and heal your body as well as your son’s. I Pray a Blessed New Year for you and your family and that his hand would be upon everything that you do. Thank you so much again for sharing your life with us. It really helps me see the light of a lot of dark days.

    Merry Christmas, to You and Your Family,
    Jerri Ward


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