Scripture reading and study are so important, but it can sometimes be difficult to either find the time or discover a method that suits us. Like me, you may have gone through many different Bible studies and tried various forms of "having a quiet time."
My husband and I have now been married for 18 years. Wow, how time has flown! We’ve had 13 addresses and 2 children, bought 5 houses, earned 2 college degrees (since marriage), moved cross-country twice, been in sickness and in health, have forsaken all others, and hope to continue on for many decades to come.
I’ve written pieces of our story before on my former blog. Surprisingly (to me), this always garners a great deal of interest, and several people have asked me to write the whole story. I think that’s a pretty good idea if for no other reason than having it written down for our children to read someday.
If you’ll allow, I’m going to plagiarize myself on this first installment, since I wrote about the beginning back on the 20th anniversary of the day we met. Then I’ll pick up the rest of the story.
Twenty years ago, I was a 20-year-old co-ed at Auburn University. I had a small group of close friends including the two pictured with me below, was active in my church, and was just generally progressing through my courses. The guy I thought was going to follow me to Auburn didn’t. A couple of crushes from my freshman year had come to nothing. And while the Summer after my freshman year turned out to be the unexpected Summer of Two Boyfriends, neither one had proven to be long-term.
This was during the time when Evangelism Explosion was all the rage in Baptist churches, and Lakeview Baptist in Auburn was no different. I had attended the orientation meeting for EE a few months prior but felt that the Lord was not leading me in that direction (which was pretty surprising at the time). However, in January the classes started up again and, with a lot less on my plate for that term, I sensed the All Clear to go ahead with the training. [Side note: David had also considered starting EE in the Fall but ended up waiting until January.]
I showed up to the meeting all alone. While there, I learned that everyone would be assigned to a team of three people. My name was called out by the leader. “Laura, you’ll be with Russ and David.” I had no idea who he was talking about, so I went around the room asking, “Are you Russ? Are you David?” Eventually, I found them. (In the picture below, David is on the left, and Russ is on the right.)
After some brief introductions, the three of us headed out to Russ’s car. He had already been trained as a leader in EE, so David and I were about to get some on-the-job training in visiting some students who had recently attended a service at Lakeview. Before heading out, Russ prayed.
Now, I have to tell you that I am not one of those people who go around saying “God told me this” or “God told me that.” Gentle Spirit nudges, yes. But an actual voice, no. This was different. While Russ was praying, I heard – as clear as a bell – “Laura, I’d like you to meet your One” (because, like all good church girls, I was looking for The One, and God, being omniscient, knew the terminology that I used). I actually opened my eyes to see if anyone else had heard what I heard. Nope, just me.
There were two guys in the car with me, but it didn’t occur to me to ask God which one He was talking about. I naturally assumed that He must mean the one praying. (To date, Russ is the most awesome pray-er I know.) So when I got back to my dorm room, I told my roommate, the girls pictured above, and my mother (on the phone), that I had met my One. “What’s his name?” they asked. “Russ Lynch!” I answered.
I began to pursue Russ with all the gusto that a shy introvert can muster. (To this day, I don’t think he ever realized what I was doing.) I didn’t miss a church service or an EE meeting. I wouldn’t have missed anyway, but I confess to sometimes having several motives for being there. When our church built a new building and we walked en masse from one site to the other, I made sure to be near him in the caravan. When he suggested that the two of us prayer walk around campus, I eagerly joined him. What a wonderful husband he was going to make!
There was one problem: he already had a girlfriend at another college. Never mind, I thought. My Dad was engaged when he met my Mom, and clearly that hadn’t stopped anything. It was a bit of a blow to hear about the Other Girl from time to time, but I wasn’t deterred. After all, I was in Auburn. Other Girl was not. Russ and I were becoming good friends.
David was harder to get to know, even though he was also at church and EE every week. In addition to his class load, he worked the early shift at UPS. Being also a rather shy introvert, he didn’t participate in many of the social activities with our church’s college group. He did, however, come to one such activity.
In April, we had a Snipe Hunt. It was ridiculously dumb, but also fun because there were at least a hundred college students there. The girl beside me in this picture (Candice) was there, too, and she and I were grouped with David and another guy. (Russ wasn’t there.)
We found out that the next day was David’s birthday, so we hatched a little plan. That day at lunch, she and I showed up where David lived (which we affectionately called The Good Little Christian Boys’ Dorm because several Lakeview Baptist guys lived there – including Russ). We “kidnapped” him and took him out to lunch to celebrate.
He and Candice got along very well and talked at length at lunch. In fact, I suspected that David was interested in Candice and began to think they would make a pretty good match. That was fine with me. I already had Russ.
That afternoon, in addition to bringing by a thank-you card left under my door, David called me. While we had never had a lot to say to each other in person, we talked with surprising ease on the phone. We decided to go see the free movie on campus that night. He rode his bicycle to my building, and we walked from there.
Gradually, David and I became good friends. We would talk on the phone occasionally and go out to dinner. Once, we went to Montgomery to watch the circus. We always had a good time. But there weren’t any sparks.
Well, except for this one time.
So as I was saying yesterday, our dates were dates in name only (although he did always pay). There was no romance going on. Not a hand being held, not a lip being kissed. In fact, I thought he was boring. I said, more than once, to my friends and my mother, “Please don’t let me marry that boring David Baggett!” No sparks at all, except for one time.
My friend, Sonya, and I were preparing to spend the summer in Seattle with Campus Crusade. On or near our last night in Auburn before leaving for the summer, she and I – along with David – spent the evening hanging out and gathering up various things to take on our trip. For some reason, we ended up at a dollar store, and when we got to the crayons (another side story I’ll spare you), I mentioned that I had always wanted the 64 box of crayons. (Surely I’m not the only kid who wanted those. My parents always stuck strictly with what was on the school supply list. Pretty sure I maxed out at 24.) David bought them for me.
[David remembers this slightly differently. He thinks Candice was also there and that it was Wal-Mart instead of the dollar store. It was 20 years ago, so who knows?]
Then we somehow ended up beside some railroad tracks and decided to flatten some pennies. This part I do remember very clearly. (Kids, if you’re reading this, don’t try it. I’m pretty sure it’s illegal.) (Mom, I’m pretty sure this is the only illegal activity in which I participated at Auburn.)
Yes, I still have that penny. I also still have that box of crayons.
Between the crayons and the train rushing by us, I suddenly wanted David to kiss me. I wanted to kiss that “boring” David Baggett right then and there. (I was beginning to see that maybe he wasn’t that boring, after all.)
But we didn’t. And the train passed on by. And the moment was over. And the feelings did not return for a long time after that.
I’ve often teased him about how much pain could have been avoided if he had just kissed me that night. But that’s not how our story was supposed to go.
I was headed to Seattle, and a guy from Indiana was waiting for me there.
Summer Lovin’, had me a blast. Summer lovin’, happened so fast.
Since the moment had passed with David, and since Russ was still talking about Other Girl, I was ripe for the pickin’ on our Summer Project. Within a few days of arriving, I started dating this guy named John. I thought for a while that he might, in fact, be The One (apparently forgetting what God had said), and we dated until sometime after Christmas. Since he lived in Indiana, this led to several trips back and forth which was fun. I stayed with girl friends of his, he stayed with friends of mine (maybe even Russ if I remember correctly??). He’s also the reason I first learned how to e-mail. (Back in 1994, it wasn’t an easy process!) It was a fun several months, and he and I are still friends on Facebook, but it wasn’t meant to be. (Ironically, he and David get along well thanks to Facebook. That’s always weird.)
So in January 1995, I was back to being boyfriend-less, still friends with David and going out to dinner with him periodically, still hoping Russ would get a clue, and watching things beginning to change. During that year, my roommate would get married, one of my best friends would leave for pharmacy school, and my brother would move in with me. Russ spent the Summer in the Philippines, although we wrote many letters back and forth. In one letter, he actually said I was “one of the greatest people to ever draw breath.” I kid you not.
That Fall, a storm was brewing.
In the Fall of 1995, I was in my senior year at Auburn (set to graduate the following March), my freshman brother had become my new roommate, and my beloved Tigers were off to a 3-1 start of a season that would end with a lackluster 8-4 record but an Iron Bowl victory. Terry Bowden was the coach, Patrick Nix was the QB, and Stephen Davis was our main running back. (It makes me feel a bit old to know that Stephen Davis, Jr. is now on the team….) My original group of close friends had all but disbanded due to everyone heading in different life directions.
In late September, a storm started churning in the Atlantic that would eventually wreak havoc on the Lovely Village of Auburn: Hurricane Opal. Auburn is not particularly close to the beach (about a 4 hour drive), but this was a big storm. It was still a hurricane as it passed through South Alabama.
Matt (my brother) and I were living on the 3rd floor of an apartment building, and we dutifully put big X’s on our windows with masking tape. (Supposedly this would keep the windows from shattering in a million pieces. Most likely, it was pointless.) We had a few visitors that night. Russ was there. I had gone out a couple of times with a guy named John Curtis, and he was there, too. There was another guy there, too, whose name I can’t remember, but he was about 6’7″ and really old. Like 30. Ha! Anyway.
As both the wind and the drunken Hurricane Parties swirled around us outside, the 4 of us were huddled in our little bathroom, Russ was sitting in the bathtub, and we were singing praise songs. Shockingly, that was too much for John Curtis and the other guy, and they left. I never heard from John again after that. Oh well. If you can’t huddle with me in the bathroom in the middle of a hurricane, you’re not the man for me.
Russ ended up spending the night with us. To avoid being right beside windows, we had moved all of the mattresses out of the bedrooms, so I remember sleeping in the kitchen. Russ and my brother were in the den. I also remember trying to not to move much in my sleep to avoid waking up with terrible Bed Hair.
The power was out at our apartment when we woke the next morning. Neither my brother nor I remember exactly how long it stayed off but I believe it was a couple of days. However, we did still have running water which is more than could be said for where David was living. On the second or third morning, he showed up at our apartment to take a shower looking pretty rough and smelling even rougher. We let him in and headed out to a place on College St that had power and served breakfast.
This particular part of this story isn’t all that related to mine and David’s story, I suppose, but it’s certainly one of my most memorable experiences at Auburn, and my son wanted to know about it. He’s been asking me to write Part Four for a couple of days now. I love that he’s so interested.
In 1996, things get a lot more interesting.
Life has a way of taking unexpected twists and turns.
I started out at Auburn as a chemical engineering major. That first quarter of classes, I attended a required course that went like this: every week, we would watch a presentation about a job that a chemical engineer could get. I kept waiting to find one that didn’t strike me as less fun than a root canal. That never happened. As it turns out, I hate going to chemistry lab, and I love working the chemistry equations, so I changed my major to math at the end of my freshman year (thus ensuring I would never earn a six-figure salary). Auburn had (has?) a 5th year Master’s in Education program, and I planned to complete that after graduation and become a high school math teacher like my beloved Mr. Booth at Hartselle High School.
During my senior year, I had to get a professor or two from the math department to sign off on my application to the School of Education. One of those professors was one of my all-time favorites, Dr. Richard Zalik. He had a strong accent from parts unknown (most likely Eastern Europe), and he taught my Differential Equations courses. While he had no problem signing the paper if that’s what I really wanted, he encouraged me to pursue a master’s in math instead to become a college professor. His 3 recommended schools were Dartmouth, the University of Maryland, and Georgia Tech. After being very briefly tempted by the first two, I decided that, if they were all equally good programs in his eyes, I’d prefer the one closer to home. So I applied to Georgia Tech’s PhD program in Applied Mathematics and was accepted.
(I joke that I went there on a minority scholarship. It’s somewhat true. When I was interviewed, the professor mentioned that they really needed more American females in the class.)
In March 1996, I graduated from Auburn (as I mentioned earlier, Auburn was still on the quarter system and had not yet switched to semesters), and I moved back home to my parents’ house until it was time to move to Atlanta for grad school. For the first month or so, I substitute taught, including one particularly brutal week in a junior high social studies class. Then I began working for a travel agency as a sort of Girl Friday. That was a super-fun job with a wonderful group of ladies. It also helped to pay for my new much-loved blue Mustang.
Back in my old room at my parents’ house, I came across a bunch of old love notes and such from a high school boyfriend. In an uncharacteristically bold move, I called his parents’ house (the beauty of a small town is that no one moves or changes phone numbers), and they gave me his new number. He was in the Army at Fort Campbell. After talking on the phone several times, we decided I should come up there for a visit, so I did. I was anticipating this Most Awesome Grand Reunion. While we did have some fun laughs reminiscing, no flame was rekindled. I had built it up pretty big in my mind, so I crashed pretty hard. But it was clearly not meant to be.
High School Guy had made some not-so-great choices along the way, and I was disappointed and disillusioned. While I was much the same person as before, he was not. But in a way that only God can arrange, it actually prepared me to appreciate what was coming next.
Because of the 1996 Olympics taking place in Atlanta (with the athletes housed in the new dorms at Georgia Tech), the Fall term did not start until the beginning of October. A couple of weeks before then, I got a call from someone I hadn’t talked to in almost a year: David Baggett. He had been training at Fort Knox for the National Guard during my final months at Auburn. I had sent him a card, but he doesn’t remember getting it. He was back at Auburn by this time, still working at UPS and taking classes for his degree (that 5th-year master’s in education for which he had come to Auburn in the first place).
After talking for a bit, he suggested that we plan a trip to Six Flags for the first Saturday I was in Atlanta. I excitedly accepted. It surprised my family how happy I was that he had called me. It surprised ME how happy I was about his phone call! Why on earth was I happy to be going out with “boring” David Baggett?? Regardless, we had it all planned. He would come to Atlanta from Auburn, and we would spend the day at Six Flags.
October 12, 1996
I had survived my first week of graduate school at Georgia Tech and was very much looking forward to seeing a familiar face. David showed up that morning in his black F150 pick-up truck, and we headed to Six Flags. It was a lot of fun. We rode plenty of rides, laughed and talked, and just generally had a great time. Afterwards, we had a late supper at The Varsity. Then he drove me back to my dorm, walked me to my apartment (where I once again had this brief moment of wishing he would kiss me good-night – he didn’t), and I watched out my window as he got back into his truck and drove off. We hadn’t made any plans to see each other again, but I figured we would continue to talk from time to time. We had become pretty good friends over the previous 2 1/2 years.
When I got back from classes on Monday afternoon, I had two messages on my answering machine. One was from my mother, and the other was from Russ. They both said the same thing.
David had been in a terrible car accident on Saturday night. He was in the ICU at Georgia Baptist Hospital. And he might lose his leg.
Turns out, he had fallen asleep at the wheel just outside of Atlanta and veered into a guard rail. Thankfully, no other people or vehicles were involved. He wasn’t wearing a seat belt, but this was one of those 1-in-a-million times when that was for the best. The airbag didn’t open, and the steering wheel ended up pinned to the back of the driver’s seat. David had been slung over to the passenger’s seat with his leg stuck between the dash and the seat. A Good Samaritan pulled over to check on him and called 911. When the ambulance arrived, they decided that would take too long. A helicopter landed on the interstate and airlifted him to the hospital. Very soon after arriving, he was in surgery to try to save his right leg.
After I got the messages, I called my mother for more information. David’s parents had gotten to the hospital sometime on Sunday, and each time they went back to see David in the ICU, he had thought of more people they needed to call – his boss at UPS, his friend Russ, and eventually me. David hadn’t remembered my phone number, but his parents were able to track down my Dad’s veterinary clinic in my hometown, and then my Mom had called me.
When I got to the hospital a very short time later, Russ was in the waiting room along with David’s parents. I could have picked them out of a crowd of thousands. There was no denying which two people were David’s parents.
(Funny side note: I had thought all along that David had feelings for me beyond friendship. After all, he kept coming over to my apartment and taking me out to dinner and such. As my friend Sonya once said, she thought “David Baggett’s sun rose and set on Laura K Pearson.” So I was kind of surprised when his parents clearly had never heard my name before. I wanted to say, “But I’m Laura! You know – Laura? David’s unrequited love??” Ha! Clearly, we had been wrong about that.)
David was in the ICU for almost a week, and I went to the hospital every evening. His mother loves to talk, and she especially loved this random girl who seemed to care about her son, so I learned lots of things about his family and about him (especially little kid stories). In spite of not knowing me before then, she almost immediately assumed that I was, in fact, David’s girlfriend. One night when it was time for everyone to leave, she said, “Go ahead, Laura. Kiss him goodnight!” Yikes!! Talk about an awkward moment. David and I just looked at each other with this mix of horror and confusion, and I bent down and kissed him on the forehead. Before that, the heart monitor was doing a slow and steady beep…beep…beep. Suddenly, it went beepbeepbeepbeepbeep. I still smile when I think of that.
It wasn’t the last hospital kiss we would have.
David was in the ICU for almost a week, then in the hospital for two more weeks, followed by two weeks at a rehab facility across the street. While the most obvious challenge was saving his right leg, he actually had more surgeries done on his left leg, specifically his knee. For him, the worst part of all was having to go to the hyperbaric chamber periodically which was supposed to help with the healing. It was excruciatingly painful. A couple of times, he simply refused to go.
His parents returned to Alabama once he was in a regular room (except for some weekends when they traveled back to Atlanta). I went to visit him every evening during visiting hours (except for some weekends when I was traveling back to Alabama to visit my parents). I’d sit with him, we’d talk about our days, and we would watch TV together. Once, I was allowed to spring him out of the hospital for the day, and we went down to Auburn to collect some of his things. I know it was November 16th because we listened to the Auburn/Georgia game on the radio coming back to Atlanta. Sadly, Georgia won it in the 4th overtime.
I definitely fell in love during those weeks. I was amazed by his bravery through the whole thing. Although he was frustrated by the situation and in a lot of pain, he never gave up, never got down and depressed, and never blamed God for what had happened. He was still the same David I had always known. But now, he was also my hero.
Taking care of someone stuck in a hospital bed can create interesting and awkward moments. I remember one time he leaned over to rearrange the sheets, and I got a glimpse of the very top of his read end. (It was no more than what you might see from a plumber….) In a very strange way, that was a turning point for me. Before then – with the exception of those very brief moments when I had wanted to kiss him – I had really never thought of David as a MAN. He was just a friend. A buddy. And he had felt the very same way about me.
David’s feelings for me were changing, but it was an incredibly confusing time for him. We did finally kiss sometime in November (can you believe I don’t remember the date??) and several times after that, but it just wasn’t really working. The sparks still weren’t flying. He was on all kinds of medication (including major antibiotics for an infection that developed in his right leg – I had to put on surgical garb to go into the room for several days), and he was trying to figure out what his future was going to be like now. How would he finish his degree at Auburn? The Monday after the wreck he had been scheduled to finally become a driver for UPS after working there for several years. For the foreseeable future – and maybe beyond – that was no longer an option. How would he make any money?
A few days before Thanksgiving, David went home from the hospital facing a major decision. All of the bone between a few inches below his knee to his ankle had been completely crushed in the wreck and removed during surgery. He was unable to raise or lower his foot at the ankle, and his leg was being held together by external stabilizers.
There was a procedure that might be able to save his leg by gradually regrowing the bone. It involved wearing an Ilizarov apparatus. The process would likely take at least two years, during which time David would likely be unable to work or return to school. It also wasn’t guaranteed to work. Some patients came down with infections during the procedure that caused it to fail.
The other alternative was amputation.
When I went to David’s parents’ house to visit during Thanksgiving break, he asked me what I thought he should do. It was time to decide.
While David had been in the hospital, our friendship grew even stronger. But the “love” part of this love story was not yet getting off the ground. At one point, that part came to a standstill. In fact, I had a couple of dates with a guy I had met at Georgia Tech during that time and after David went back home. He was a nice guy, working on his PhD in Aerospace Engineering. We had a class together, and he lived just down the hall from me. But a Michigan Lutheran and an Alabama Southern Baptist had quite a few differences, so nothing really ever came of it. Besides, my heart was still taken by that guy at Georgia Baptist Hospital, despite my efforts to put that all behind me.
As I mentioned, I did go to visit David at his parents’ house during Thanksgiving break. As I was about to leave, he asked me whether I thought he should go ahead with an amputation. I said yes.
Confession: my motives were not entirely pure. I knew that the Ilizarov procedure – even if successful – would lead to at least two more years of limbo for David, and I didn’t think things would ever move forward between us while that was going on. However, that wasn’t the only reason it was the better choice, and I believe David had all but made up his mind already when he asked me my opinion.
David made the wise, difficult, brave choice. The surgery was scheduled for December 13, 1996 – Friday the 13th. This picture from yesterday’s post was taken the day before.
As soon as my classes were over that day, I went straight to the hospital. David had already been taken back for surgery so I waited with his parents. Guess who else was there…. Russ. And Other Girl.
By that time, Other Girl (her name is Jennifer, and she’s a wonderful person) was no longer a concern of mine. While Russ will always be one of my favorite people, he’s not the love of my life. My heart belonged to David. Even if he wasn’t yet sure he wanted it.
David’s parents returned to Alabama as soon as the doctor told us everything had gone well. (That is still incredibly bizarre to me, but you’d have to know their family dynamics to begin to understand it.) Russ, Jennifer, and I waited until he was out of recovery and brought back to his room. After a short time, Russ and Jennifer left, too, so I was the only one with him that first evening right after the surgery. The anesthesia made him pretty sick, so I held the bowl and wiped his brow. It was surreal seeing him without a foot, even all tightly bandaged. His right leg now ended just a few inches below his knee.
Although it’s not something he ever would have chosen, David would be the first to tell you it was one of the best things to happen to him because of everything that came into his life because of it. But first, he needed to heal. A few days later, he went home to begin that process and learn how to function in this new life.
Over the next couple of months, we talked on the phone periodically. I finished up my first term, went home for Christmas, and then returned to Atlanta in January. David was healing up while living with his parents in Alabama, in the process of getting his first prosthesis, and building up the strength to learn to walk again.
Then February came.
I started attending a singles’ Bible study in Atlanta called 7|22, led by Louie Giglio. It was a great study attended by hundreds of people. Honestly, I was also hoping to meet some eligible Christian singles of the male variety while I was there. (I know. God had already introduced me to The One, but since neither Russ nor David seemed to have gotten that same memo, I thought I must have been mistaken. David had made it clear he only wanted to be friends, so I was moving on.)
One night after the study, all of the cars had a piece of paper left on the windshield advertising a Valentine’s singles dance (to be held on February 28th, for some odd reason). Thinking that lots of the people in the Bible study might also be there, I really wanted to go. But I did not want to go alone since I had a history of attracting strange weirdos in situations like that.
Defying all logic, I invited David to go with me. The same David who had just recently started walking on crutches with his new leg for some reason agreed to go to a dance with me. So it was all planned. He would go with me to fend off any weirdos, and I would be there looking for love.
I needed a new dress for this occasion. Having never been a sorority girl, I kind of envied those who owned a Little Black Dress. I found one I thought would be just right.
David arrived on Friday afternoon (having recently upgraded to a cane), and the plan was for him to head back to Alabama that night after the dance was over. Since I had just gotten back from class, I went into my room to change into the dress pictured above. I walked out and, for David, everything changed in an instant. (Remember my big turning point that day in the hospital? Well, this was David’s big turning point. He finally realized his buddy Laura Pearson was a woman.)
He didn’t say anything right then, but he mentioned that it might be best if he spent the night on our couch and went back home on Saturday instead. (My apartment consisted of 4 tiny bedrooms – I had 3 roommates – two bathrooms, and a common living area and kitchen.) We went to the dance, and I have to tell you, it was one of the saddest looking things I’ve ever seen. There were all of maybe 10 people in attendance, and I was extra-glad to not be there alone because the other men there were of the creepy weirdo variety.
When a slow song came on, we hobbled out to the dance floor and did that high school homecoming dance stand-in-one-place-and-sway move. Each time walking back to our table, he’d hold my hand just a bit longer. Eventually, he quit letting go altogether.
After an hour or so, we decided to go get some supper. We ended up at J Alexander’s. While we were sitting in the waiting area, a random man started serenading us. (That sounds like it would be really weird, but he was a great singer, so it was actually an incredible moment.) After supper, we went back to my apartment and sat talking and laughing way into the night as my roommates, one by one, came back home from wherever they had been.
Then he kissed me, and this time, there were sparks aplenty!
We stayed up talking and smooching until around 4am. During that time, David started talking about making plans for our future. Yes, we were talking about marriage on our first real date.
We already had a solid friendship. We already had shared beliefs. We had already experienced some “in sickness and in health.” Now we had the one missing piece – chemistry.
We spent all of the next day together after getting some sleep (me in my room, him on my couch), and we went to the Coca-Cola Museum. Sunday morning, he went to church with me, and then it was time for him to head back to Alabama – two days after originally planned.
Less than 3 months later, I had a beautiful ring on my finger.