The probation came. It was grueling, long and hard. On the inside I was devastated on the outside I was strong and supportive and encouraging. My husband was hurting and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. When my family hurt I hurt. Like a papa bear I wanted to come to the rescue of Danny and my children and I was powerless. Somehow though I just knew, it might slow us down a bit, but we would persevere. When the going gets tough, the tough get going and we were tough.
The wins and successful recruiting continued. They beat legendary winners like Joe Paterno, Tom Osborne, Barry Switzer, Bobby Bowden, Vince Dooley and Woody Hayes. To me I was on a fast train to nowhere.
It's a Boy! The headlines read. Gifts came from everywhere. We adored our girls but we had hoped someday for a son. I think mostly for me because we had lost our first son. I wanted to help carry the Ford name on. We named Lee, Danny Lee Ford, II. I did not get to go to the funeral. I did get to hold him. We were so young. We didn't know what we were doing about a lot of things. Although we were happy to have a son, Danny and I never cared what sex our children were. We just prayed for a healthy baby. I remember going to the hospital 3 times at least when I was pregnant with our first child, Jennifer, because I might not have felt her move. Lee was born. I had planned his induced birth so Danny could be there with us when he was born. Crazy living. The labor was long. They had planned to do a c section and things began to turn around. He was born and seemly healthy. Danny left recruiting and a policeman, our dear friend, Joe West brought us home from the hospital. As it turned out Lee had seizures, grand maul. They manifested themselves as a extremely slow breathing. They would last for approximately 15 minutes. I moved his bed into our bedroom so I could keep watch on him and I did. Looking back I don't remember sleeping much in those days. The week after he was born we were at our first ballgame. We were unaware of the seizures at this time. Again, a policeman came and got us all and took us to a box where Lee could be protected from any exposure to illnesses and germs and the girls could be with me. Again, I though I was being a good mother and supportive wife.
My dad came and stayed with us for a while. I never will forget it. I was cooking supper. The phone rang. It was Danny. He wouldn't be home til late again. Someone knocked at the back door and the girls took off running. Running into each other and the wall. I went to settle them down and see who was at the door. By the time I got back supper was burning. I remember looking up at my dad and he said Debs, this is the best time of your life. Dad had also struggled with a mental disorder. I knew he had lived life and what he said was suppose to be true but it wasn't.
I got them all, Dad and the girls settled in at the dinner table holding myself together somehow. Lee began to cry. As fast as I could I hurried into our bedroom, picked Lee up in my arms and began to hold him tight and nurse him. As I rocked and I rocked the tears poured. I thought I have 4 beautiful children, a husband that is successful, a gorgeous house, great friends and family and I am so miserable I can hardly stand it. My close friends who began to know me said you need to just allow time for yourself. I thought, this just adds to the long list of things to do. I have four children.
My good friend, Ann Harris, who was also over the girls who helped recruit at the time, said I want you to meet my pastor and his wife, John and Kathy Hall. When they couldn't console me they called a relative of theirs Peggy McKreight who God was using in young women's lives in a remarkable way. Finally I was hopeful. I had spent my adult life reading and studying endlessly, trying to find the answer as to how to fix my life. How to be happy. I met with Peggy. I spent an hour pouring out my heart. I had never done this before to anyone or even myself. I began telling her how I had this life and marriage and how miserable I was. How I couldn't do it all any more. After listening compassionately she said, "Deborah I think you have sin in your heart". I was devastated. I thought she hasn't heard a word I have said. In reality I must have been thinking doesn't she see it is all him and not me? Again, holding myself together I left as fast as I could. I couldn't get off my mind what Peggy had said to me. Then something I had not experienced since I first became a christian, was happening. I was repententing. The Spirit was convicting me of my sin. My heart was too hard to sense the conviction of the Spirit before. Plus I thought you just repent when you first become a christian. I didn't know we were to have daily repentance. I saw I had bitterness, resentment and anger in my heart toward Danny. I didn't see it then, but also toward God. Neither one had given me what I thought I wanted and needed. Danny had become my idol. I was looking to him to give me only what God could give me. I had this unbelievable joy and freedom. I didn't see all this then, as I said, but it was something that God was beginning to show me. To set me free and give me the life I so longed for in Him. I began sharing my story everywhere, about my unbelievable joy, Christian Women's Club, churches, FCA, women's groups. Anyone that would let me, I went to tell them about the sin that had kept me captive, the sin of my heart and the joy and peace I now had.
The unthinkable happened. Danny lost his job. I am sure you would like for me to tell you what happened. The truth is I don't know. We never talked about it. Other people talked to me and said that about that same time Danny wanted to build a dorm for the athletes. I knew Danny thought a dorm helped him keep up and take care of his players. He wanted them up and in early classes. He wanted a curfew at night and them at every practice. He wanted to know who was in their room. He was their away from home dad and it was their home away from home. I went to the next FCA meeting. I was one of the sponsors, Carolyn Ellis and myself, Cliff Ellis, the then, basketball coaches wife at Clemson. Young people were coming from as far as I could see when I drove up. It was packed, actually overflowing. Kids who had never been to an FCA meeting were there I suspect. I told them how Danny and I were good. We loved them and Clemson and we all would be fine. That when hard times came the relationship you have with God before then will sustain you. There was a huge gathering of people all through downtown that continued to the Presidents house, Max Lennon. They were all caring candles. It was like a death.
We packed up our things. Stored them in a barn at the farm, don't ask me why, the university had helped us get the farm after the National Championship. It was absolutely no help in taking care of our beautiful things. We then moved to our small but wonderful house on the lake. I had designed it and it was beautiful to me. The whole front was glass with a gorgeous view of the lake. It had a stone fireplace and vaulted ceilings and a light kitchen. I loved it there. I would take the kids skiing late in the afternoons. The water was like glass. I remember sitting on the dock one day with Lee while he was fishing. I committed Lee to the Lord. I said Lord you have saved Lee. I promise to do my very best to give Him back to you. To raise him and my girls to love you. In the midst of it all I was so unbelievable thankful for the gifts God had given us. Danny spent his days taking the girls to school and with Lee at the farm. Lee was something else. He would put on those blue jeans and cowboy hat and off they would go. Danny was lost and hurting and I could feel it. My heart so ached for him. He was trying to not let it show. Back to Lee. They came in one day from the farm and told me the four wheeler had caught on fire, with Lee on it. There was a bird's nest on the motor that had burned as Lee started the motor. Lee took off on the burning four wheeler and drove it straight into the pond. OMG Gods grace has so been with that kid. I would pray as they left for the farm everyday, "Lord please keep that kid safe." He was such a little risk taker, not afraid of a thing. Still is to this day. Jennifer was a big help carpooling especially Elizabeth to all her games. Lee would sometimes go with her. Elizabeth was some more athlete herself, taking the love of sports from her dad. Ashleigh was baby sitting with her love for children and doing all her crafts. She was so creative. They all were church going kids. Ashleigh went to Clemson for a year. Then Jen went off to Alabama, following in her dad's footsteps, being a Bama Belle. Helping the football coaches recruit and entertain the players and their family. Leaving her on that corner that day in Tuscaloosa was like my right arm was being cut off. As I looked in my rear view mirror, I saw two girls kissing. I know we all are a mess and no one needs Jesus more than me but I was leaving my baby girl in a wold I didn't know if I had prepared her to handle with tears streaming down my cheeks. In my heart of hearts I knew I had not. All I had known to do with my children was to meet their physical needs, get them in church and be with their dad as much as he and I could work that out. I had no idea how to deal with their emotional needs, their relationships or their heart. I had taught them about the bible's facts but not about a relationship with Christ and with others. I didn't teach them to guard their hearts and how to love people well. I didn't know myself but I would learn.
Life was going on and even though times were hard for my family I was beginning to enjoy the freedom of the gospel. I was taking a bible study, with Kathy and John, who were now my pastor and wife too. I was beginning to grasp through this study called Sonship by Jack Miller that the gospel was not just to become a christian but it was to live the christian life. That repentance and faith was for everyday. I had the repentance down pretty much but was lacking greatly in trusting God, although that was part of it. My lack of faith would later be revealed. At least at this time I was seeing my sin. Some of my self righteousness was beginning to fade away, some! Danny was called to help Joe Kines in Arkansas. Then named as head football coach of Arkansas by Athletic Director, Frank Broyles. With two girls now at the University of Alabama, Elizabeth, Lee, Danny and I were moving on. I was thankful Danny was back in his love. Little did I know my whole world was about to crash and burn.
Again, thanks for reading, supporting us through this unbelievable story of God's faithfulness to the faithless. Things got worse, much worse before...Well God had to tare it, everything down, us included,