Ebenezer Series — The Early Years

Ebenezer Series:

Acknowledging God’s magnificent hand in my

otherwise ordinary life

LauryWithKitty on PicMonkey

I was kind of a sickly kid. Born with bronchitis, jaundice and a milk allergy, I kept my parents busy with doctor visits and at 6 months, an extended stay in the ICU. My sources tell me {thanks Mom} that my mere conception was a miracle in itself and that I could not tolerate oral antibiotics and was always on the small side. I know I was often sick for holidays, family vacations and class trips. I remember the ninth time I had pneumonia–I missed two weeks of school in fifth grade–and thankfully, I haven’t had it since.

Shy Laury--preschool age

I was also extremely shy.  I now call it “dysfunctionally shy.” I am not proud to admit this, but I didn’t utter a word directly to one set of my grandparents until I was 8 years old. In kindergarten and the first couple years of grade school, I would find my favorite place to stand at recess and do just that. Stand there, and watch the other kids play with each other. I was not sad and didn’t feel left out. I just had no desire to interact with them. Strange, I know. Needless to say, I got the lowest marks possible on my report cards for “plays well with others.”

I was the youngest of three kids and there were six and seven years between my siblings and me. I was used to playing by myself and my best friends were the cats on our farm and our dog. I loved being outdoors, wandering around and getting lost in imaginative play with the dog by my side and a cat in my arms {or apparently around my neck}.

Laury with cat on shoulders

I had a couple of cousins whom I adored and I would be so filled with joyful anticipation of playing with them that I could hardly sleep the night before a family get-together. But otherwise, multiple kids playing together was foreign to me and school definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone.

Fortunately, I did become less socially awkward and began to form good friendships with my classmates, but I was still labeled “quiet” and “shy” quite often, and for good reason.

Because I had older siblings, I knew there would come a day in my freshman year of high school when I would be required to participate in a forensics competition. Every time I thought of it, my stomach felt sick, but for so long, it was still years away.

Then one day, there I was, a freshman needing to declare what written work I would choose for my oral presentation. I don’t recall why, but I chose to deliver a prose piece—my edited version of a short story entitled “The Scarlet Ibis.”  It was an emotional story and I worked and worked to whittle away excess content so that it fit into the allotted timeframe, but still held its dramatic appeal.

Freshman year in high school.

Freshman year in high school.

I rehearsed in my head and in front of the mirror and dreadfully, in front of Mrs. Nodolf’s jr. high English class—one of the requirements. I wanted to do my best and to my surprise, she gave me an “A.” She said I had grown tremendously in the last year and that she wouldn’t be surprised if I went on to regionals.

And that is what I feared most. If I did well at our local school competition and got an “A,” I would automatically be qualified to move to the next level and present my piece to a larger audience at a different school. To me, it was an unbearable thought. But I had a good piece and if Mrs. Nodolf gave me an “A,” there was no reason I shouldn’t move on to regionals. What to do…what to do.

I had prayed for wisdom and confidence and that God’s will would be done. I wanted to do a great job, but I didn’t ever want to have to do it again. I wanted to put in my 4 minutes {or whatever it was}, sit down, take a deep relaxing breath and be done and move on with life, having conquered my most dreaded task to date.

The night of the competition came and I was struggling with a cold that I had developed. In my nervousness, I didn’t think to have a tissue with me as I approached the front of the room. I began my speech, and my nose began to run. I began to sniff. I would speak and sniff. Sniff and speak. My mind was racing, as I spoke emotionally on behalf of the characters in the story, all the while thinking of how embarrassing it would be if the judges saw my nose running down my face. My words flew out of my mouth. Sniff. Faster and faster my words came. Sniff.  And I was done. I found my seat, along with a tissue in my bag, and was pretty sure the worst was over.

In another hour or so, the grades were posted. I got a “B,” along with judges’ comments of “good piece but needs to slow down.” There was my answer. I smiled. I was done. I had never been more thankful for a cold.

One of my good friends moved on in the competition and at some point needed to switch to a new piece. She inquired about mine. I don’t know if it was against the rules or not, but I let her borrow my edited piece and she went all the way to State with it. Better her than me {I thought at the time} and it all ended well.

Chillin' with my beautiful cat, Silver, on one of the rare occasions that she was in the house.

Chillin’ with my beautiful cat, Silver, on one of the rare occasions that she was in the house.


  1. Jim says:

    Wonderful. So simple and transparent and yet so warm and compelling. Who would think a story about a runny nose could be a testimony of answered prayer to a young, skinny high school girl? Thanks for sharing. Really a beautiful piece. -Jim

    • Laury says:

      Wow, thanks Jim. That is a very encouraging note–thanks for taking the time to leave it. And mostly, thanks for being a lot kinder to me than my husband is to you! 😉

  2. Janie Manus says:

    I remember how painfully shy you were. While not that shy, I was quite shy (I always got that comment on my report cards, but I never got in trouble for talking! 😉 ) I would have been like you with that speech. Thank goodness we never had to do anything like that in my schools! I finally took a speech class in college & that terrified me, but helped. Jeffrey most definitely didn’t get those genes from me! lol

    • Laury says:

      Yes, Janie, I am so thankful that although I never spoke to you when I was young, we now have a friendship that I cherish 🙂 I wonder how my kids will do w/public speaking. Currently they both seem quite confident to speak their mind–ha! but we’ll see what the future holds.

  3. […] I did very well in school, but I always longed for the day I would be done with it. I liked to learn, but I didn’t like busywork and college always seemed like a strange unknown–a foggy distant land that I would never enter. I was not mature or confident enough to venture out. How could I possibly step onto an unfamiliar campus and take classes with people I didn’t know on subjects I wasn’t interested in so that I could get a degree in heaven knows what? It was all so vague and I did not seek out anyone to help me navigate my options {don’t forget my dysfunctional shyness}. […]

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