It was a sunny day in Dillon, MT. The women, myself included, were just heading back to Carl’s grandparents house after spending some time out in town. We drove slowly down the long gravel driveway and up to the house. The plan was to load up the car, the kids and leave town.
My daughter, Lauren, who was then about 16 months old (or pretty close to this age) was roaming around in the front yard. My two older kids, Madison and Nathan, were only a few feet away playing with one another. Carl and his father, Larry, were in the side yard as well rolling up sleeping bags before heading out.
I looked at Lauren with her cute little curls and looked around the yard. There were four people in the yard. I decided to go into the house to go to the bathroom before we got on the road. I went to the bathroom and washed my hands. I was in there 5 minutes or less.
I went out to the front yard, and I didn’t see Lauren right away. I scanned the yard for her, but I didn’t see her. I asked Madison and Nathan if they knew where Lauren was. They said that she was around. I went around to the side of the house to find Carl. I asked him where was Lauren. Carl said, “She is in the front yard.” I said that she wasn’t.
At this point, I was just starting to go into what I will call Mommy panic, but was trying to calm myself down with the assumption that she couldn’t be far. After all, it had only been literally a few minutes.
I went back into the house and searched in every room. No Lauren. I began to ask Carl’s mother, aunt and grandparents if they had seen her. I told them I couldn’t find her. Again, trying to calm myself. Surely, I would find her at any moment.
It took a little while to rally the troops. However, pretty soon the whole family began to realize there was no sign of her. I think, like me, we all thought she couldn’t be far, because we had all just seen her. We all headed out from the house like spokes of a wagon wheel. Everyone heading out in a different direction to check a shed, the field, the horse stall, etc. I looked up the long driveway to the road, but discounted it almost immediately that she would walk up there. With her little legs, I found it highly doubtful she would have had the time to walk down the long driveway much less not be noticed by Madison and Nathan who had been playing in the front yard with her.
I began to search the front field and the drop off at the edge. No Lauren. I walked toward the back of the property. I could hear shouts for Lauren from Carl’s family in the air so I knew no one had found her yet.
Minutes ticked by. 10 minutes. 20 minutes. 30 minutes. This was my baby! She could barely even communicate. If someone found her, she wouldn’t even be able to give them any information. What if she had walked up to the road, and someone kidnapped her never to be seen again. I remember being so filled with fear and only being able to pray, “Oh, Jesus, please.”
I briskly walked to the back left part of the property all the while calling for Lauren. I came up to a small creek about 2 feet deep and about as wide. I knew in an instant that this creek would be a death sentence for Lauren. She would not have made it if she had found it.
My fear turned to sheer panic as I started running at full speed to the left checking every inch of the creek. I remember praying, “Oh, Lord, please don’t let this be my story. Please Lord, no.” I prayed for her safety as I literally ran up and down that creek desiring to find my baby, but at the same time dreading what I might find. No Lauren.
I came to a bridge which I crossed. I remember after I crossed the bridge, I stopped cold on the path. “Lord,” I prayed, “I know you know exactly where she is right here in this moment. Please protect her and lead us to her. I don’t know how much more I can take.” It was taking every fiber in my being to not break down in sobs. I was trying to be strong.
40 minutes. I knew we needed to call the police soon. I could see some men out on their property in the field and decided to ask them if they had seen her. I asked and could hear my voice cracking and shaking from the emotion. They had not, but offered to help look for her as they asked about her clothing and got ready to hop of their four wheelers.
It was then I heard everyone calling me with the words, “Carl found her.” I told the farmers, and I ran. I was met by Carl’s sweet grandfather properly nicknamed “Smiling John”. His smile beamed at me as his eyes welled up with tears. The flood gates of relief had opened for me. The hot tears flowed freely now. “Carl found her,” he said to me as he and I embraced. I whispered to him how scared I had been.
It still makes me weep to tell the story. I have never been so scared. I really don’t like to talk about it. It was so traumatic.
Where was she you might wonder? She had walked down the very long driveway to the main road. She had taken a left and walked across a bridge which went over an irrigation ditch. She took another left and was about half way down the road holding some grass up through a fence for a cow to eat. Physically in one piece. Totally safe, but oblivious as to the danger she was in. She was well, but surely not where she should have been.
This is how old my kids were at the time of the event.
Matthew 18:12-14 says,
Can I just encourage you today that God wants to find you! If you are lost or if you have lost your way temporarily, He wants to find you. He is a good Father! Jeremiah 29 says if you seek the Lord with your whole heart that you will find Him. If an earthly mother can rejoice so genuinely and deeply at the finding of her child, how much more can the Heavenly Father rejoice over His child who was lost but now is found!