Posts made in September, 2011


I was having coffee with a friend the other day when she brought up the subject of “synchronicity.” I can’t remember exactly how it came up, but I was telling her the first time I’d run across the term was while reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. In a nutshell, the author explains that synchronicity is one of those curious moments when you say to yourself… wait a minute, whaaa? It’s a coincidence – a happy clash of fate that seems pre-destined, like it was always meant to be. According to Cameron, these synchronous moments demonstrate “the hand of God, or good, activated by our own hand when we act in behalf of our truest dreams, when we commit to our own soul.” Synchronicity is a powerful force, and the trick is to pay attention to it.

So, it’s odd I was having this discussion about synchronicity with this particular friend at that particular time. Here’s why.

Last week, I received a package in the mail from one of my favorite aunts. Inside was a little book called Angel Unaware, written by Dale Evans (yes, THAT Dale Evans, of Roy Rogers fame). There was also a note from my Aunt Carol (a fellow book lover) that said, “I’ve hauled this little book around with me since 1956. I’ve read it and reread it and cried every time. It’s time to pass it on and I know you will enjoy it.”

I opened the book, and on the front cover was an inscription that said “Passed on to Joy Baker with love 9/15/11.”

Angel Unaware, by Dale Evans Rogers

I smiled and leafed through to the Foreword.

This is the story of what a baby girl named Robin Elizabeth accomplished in transforming the lives of the Roy Rogers family. Our baby came into the world with an appalling handicap, as you will discover when you read her story. I believe with all my heart that God sent her on a two-year mission to our household, to strengthen us spiritually and to draw us closer together in the knowledge and love and fellowship of God. It has been said that tragedy and sorrow never leave us where they find us. In this instance, both Roy and I are grateful to God for the privilege of learning some great lessons of truth through His tiny messenger, Robin Elizabeth Rogers.

I recalled that I’d heard of this book before, but didn’t remember reading it. I continued on to the first page.

Oh, Father, it’s good to be home again. I thought sometimes that You had forgotten me, Down There. Two years Up Here doesn’t seem like much, but on earth it can be a long, long time—and it was long, and often hard, for all of us.

Wait a minute… whaaa?

When You lifed me up from the earth, just a few minutes ago, it was Sunday, and my Mommy and Daddy were crying, and everything seemed so dark and sad and confused. And all of a sudden it was bright and clear and happy, and I was in Your arms.

Wait one cotton pickin’ minute… whaaa???

Here’s the thing. In 1999, my good friend LeeAnn (the same one I was having coffee with on Friday) also lost a two year old child. Her name was Emma, and she died from brain cancer. Even more ironic, LeeAnn and Dale Evans were almost exactly the same age at the time their daughters were born.

But still, that’s not the crazy part.

After Emma died, I was really lost… and pretty mad. For the first time in my life, something that I had REALLY REALLY prayed for didn’t work out. Emma died, despite my prayers, despite all our efforts and pleas. She was only two, and her death tore me apart.

I tried to think of something I could do to take some of LeeAnn’s pain away. My friend Betsy suggested I write a book about Emma. So I did… and here’s where things get really… well… SYNCHRONOUS.

I called the book Emma’s Gift and here’s the Foreword:

This book was written in loving memory of Emma Clayton Butcher, a beautiful baby girl who was diagnosed with a highly malignant brain tumor when she was just a year old. Her brave fight lasted only a year, but among her Circle of Friends, Emma left a special gift. A renewed faith in God, in heaven, and the precious gift of friendship.

Here’s the opening paragraph:

There was a bright light. It was a beautiful light… warm and glorious. It filled the room and lifted her up, up, up. There were beautiful voices. Singing. Praising. Comforting. This place was filled with love! And finally, there was peace.

“Father!” the little angel called. “I’m home!”


This little book that my aunt had carried around with her since 1956 was almost a direct parallel to the story I wrote to honor Emma over forty years later. We even wrote from the same voice… using first person to describe events from the two year old child’s perspective. (And here, I thought I’d been so clever.)


I went back and looked at the inside cover again. “Passed on to Joy Baker with love 9/15/11.”

More Godbumps. Emma died on September 10.

Not sure what all this synchronicity is about, but you can bet I’m paying attention. You see, Emma’s Gift was the first book I ever wrote. I sent it off to a Minneapolis publisher and was close to having it published. The whole process made me think, well heck, this writing business is easy.

It turns out, the writing business is not easy. In fact, it has kicked me in the ass for the past decade. But, I’ve learned a lot… about the industry and myself. I’m not sure I’ll ever have the good fortune of having a book published, but I do know this. Writing is who I am… it’s what I love… and I have Emma to thank for getting me started.

So, Emma… if you’re listening, thanks for the gift… again. I think I’ll pop in on your mom again this week. I have a good book I think she’ll enjoy.

Emma’s Gift

This book was written in loving memory of Emma Clayton Butcher, a beautiful baby girl who was diagnosed with a highly malignant brain tumor when she was just a year old. Her brave fight lasted only a year, but among her Circle of Friends, Emma left a special gift. A renewed faith in God, in heaven, and the precious gift of friendship.

There was a bright light. It was a beautiful light… warm and glorious. It filled the room and lifted her up, up, up. There were beautiful voices. Singing. Praising. Comforting. This place was filled with love! And finally, there was peace.

“Father!” the little angel called. “I’m home!”

“Well hello my beautiful child! Come give me a big hug, I’ve missed you!”

The little angel ran to Him and was swept up in His strong and loving arms. “I’ve missed you too, Father!”

“Come sit with me now, tell me of your adventure,” He said.

The little angel sat on his lap, not sure where to begin. “Just start at the beginning,” He said gently, “And don’t leave out a thing.”

“Well,” said the little angel, “my adventure started when I was born. My
mommy named me Emma.”

“Emma…” said her Father. “That’s a beautiful name. Graceful, yet strong. Just like you, little one. Go on.”

The little angel told of being a baby. She tried to explain the feelings of love, and trust, and warmth whenever Emma’s mommy held her in her arms. She described her mommy’s smell, and her voice. She described the special love she felt whenever her mommy would sing songs to her, or rub her tiny back.

Then she described her daddy. Strong and comforting. He made her smile, and she made him laugh. He was a fun daddy, and she loved him very much.

And there were other special people. Her mommy’s friends, who also held her, talked to her, and made her feel loved. There was laughter then, and so, so, so much love.

“But then I got sick,” the little angel said. “My mommy and daddy looked sad and worried. They held me and rocked me, and they loved me like always, but now they cried instead of laughed.”

“How did that make you feel, little one?”

“It made me sad to see them so sad. But they loved me more than ever. Everyone loved me… my mommy, my daddy, and all my special friends.”

The little angel told of her adventures in the hospital. The scary doctors with their needles and tubes. They said nice things, and they smiled at her nicely, but then they would give her owies, and it made her very, very angry. But her mommy would hold her again, sing to her, and rub her back, just like she always did. It would make her stop crying, and it would remind her how lucky she was to have such a wonderful mommy.

But the owies kept coming, and now, when she looked into her mommy’s eyes, she could see such deep sadness. Sometimes it was hard to stay awake, and sometimes she just felt like going home. “Remember when you called for me Father?” asked the little angel. “You told me to come home, but I didn’t want to leave my wonderful mommy. That’s when you told me about the gift.”

Her Father nodded, and said, “Yes of course, go on. Tell me about your gift.”

“You told me to leave a gift for my mommy. Something wonderful, so that she, my daddy, and her friends could look to it and always remember me. But I was so little, and so weak. I didn’t know how to make a gift. I couldn’t cut or paste, or glue or tape. I couldn’t sing, or dance, or write. But then I remembered the greatest gift of all… your love, Father.”

The little angel stopped, and tears came to her eyes. “It’s OK little one, tell me how you gave them your gift.”

“I quit fighting you, Father. It made me sicker, but it brought them all closer to you.”

The angel cried and cried. She told Him how she missed her mommy, and her daddy, and her friends. And oh! How she loved Him! But it didn’t make her miss them any less.

“There, there little one. Don’t be sad, for you have done God’s work, and you have done a wonderful, beautiful job.”

He brought her to the edge of the clouds, and said, “Look there. See? They’re OK. Because they know someday they’ll be here with you. And listen, I can hear them praying! Like they’ve never prayed before. They know me again, and for that, I have you to thank.”

“What are they saying?” asked the little angel. “Do they miss me?”

“Of course they miss you, my dear! They pray and ask me over and over, ‘Why God? Why did you take her after such a short time?”

At this, the little angel laughed. She laughed, and laughed, and laughed. “Poor mommy and daddy,” she said. “What they should be asking is, “Why God? Why have you LEFT us here for such a LONG time?”

He laughed and swung her up in His strong and loving arms. “Now you understand little one! And someday, so will they.”

The little angel hugged her Father, and together, they entered the gates of Heaven.

Copyright 2000 Joy Baker

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September 12, 2001

I’ve been wondering what to write about lately. There’s so much good material… my road trip to Chicago, the Minnesota State Fair, the first day of school, the Vikings season opener…

Ah yes… all good material for sure. However, there’s something important looming. Something heavy.

We dread it; we revere it; we hate to re-live it… but we must.

In three days, it will be the tenth anniversary of September 11th.

Everyone is being asked to remember where they were on that day. Of course, we all know where we were. I was a young mother and had just waved goodbye to my first grader as he boarded the school bus at the end of our driveway. I glanced at the time in the corner of the TV screen and hurried to get my four year old ready for daycare so I wouldn’t be late for my 9am meeting.

The first plane struck as I was trying to find some earrings to match my outfit. Such a bummer. What a tragedy. Those poor people. Now then… silver hoops or beady dangles?

I was making my bed and preparing to leave when the second plane struck. I sank onto the bed, my eyes glued to the Today Show. “Clearly, this is some kind of attack,” Matt Lauer and Katie Couric were saying. I couldn’t process it… couldn’t really understand the implications… all I knew was that this day would go down in history. I watched in horror for a good several minutes before I finally went and scooped up my four year old and hugged him tight. “Look Cole,” I said. “Look at the TV. You’ll remember this day forever.”

About ten minutes later, I dropped Cole off at daycare and somehow managed to show up on time for my 9am meeting. I stumbled through it, then left around noon, finally realizing that no one else would be coming into the office that day.

I don’t remember much else from that long Tuesday, but I do remember this. While I was tucking my little boys into bed that night, I remember being thankful that they were so blissfully ignorant to the devastating events of the day. But then, as we were finishing our night time prayers, Cole said something I’ll never forget. Very quietly, he added, “And God bless the people in the crashing towers.”

God. bless. the. people. in. the. crashing. towers.

That day was so deep… so significant… so tragic. It changed us, and it changed our nation forever. And while people are quick to remember their memories and emotions from September 11th, it’s really September 12th that holds more significance for me. That’s the day our nation woke up at war, and I started to question everything I thought I knew.

What’s Al-Qaeda? Who’s Osama Bin Laden? How could those people hate us so much? Are we bad? What’s wrong with us?

I scoured the internet, searching for answers. I read passages from the Koran, trying to wrap my head around the term “jihad.” I started reading my Bible for the first time, and craved to understand the differences between the world’s major religions. I signed up to be a Sunday School teacher, poring over my weekly lesson plans and trying hard to stay one step ahead of my well-versed third graders.

And, like most… I questioned my purpose. Life suddenly seemed so important. Was I using my God-given talents to make a difference in the world? Or was I wiling away my time, oblivious to any higher meaning?

About that time, I decided I wanted to be a writer. A real one… that actually wrote for a living. I took a writing class and suddenly felt at home… at peace… like I was finally “among my people” and doing what I was supposed to be doing with my life.

But unfortunately, my higher purpose did not pay the bills. So, ten years later… here I am. Still searching, still wondering, still hoping to get it right.

Yet, that’s what we’re all doing, aren’t we? Hoping to get it right?

We search for meaning, strive for balance, wish for happiness, and pray for peace. And at the end of the day, we just hope we’ve set a good example for our children, who aren’t nearly as blissfully ignorant as we may think.

God bless the people in the crashing towers.


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