“She believed she could, so she did!”
This saying adorns a coffee cup which one of our daughters gave to my wife. These inspiring words fit Sarah Waddell to a tee.
On June 6, 1981, a sweet 16 yr old girl said, “I do.”, to an ornery old farm boy who thought he had life figured out. In his eyes, the young girl was to be a farmer’s housewife who loved staying at home, keeping house, gardening, canning, tending tobacco, milking, and any other chore that loyal farmers’ wives were expected to carry out on a regular basis.
As a prerequisite for agreeing to allow that beautiful young girl to marry me, her mother made me promise that she would complete high school. She graduated as an expectant home-bound 18 years-old student, a few short months before giving birth to our first child, a daughter. She helped me milk and drove the tractor for the first load of tobacco the day our daughter was born. Being a mother seemed to come naturally to Sarah, as she trained both me and our newborn during those first years.
In 1984, I decided to go to college in a small town in western Tennessee to earn a degree in Bible. Sarah packed our belongings, we loaded them into a cattle trailer, and off we went on a new adventure.
Her Aunt Shirley made me promise to encourage Sarah to take as many classes as we could afford during our time at Freed-Hardeman. She earned a few college hours, but much of her time was spent working so that I could carry a full load to graduate as quickly as possible. Her jobs ranged from fast food service, to the college cafeteria, to cleaning toilets in a girls’ dorm, to being an assistant minister’s wife.
In 1987, I graduated and secured a position as a youth minister for a congregation in Alabama. Once again Sarah packed our belongings and we headed down the road on a new adventure.
In Alabama, we worked as a youth ministering couple. I was the one hired, but she was the backbone of success. Sarah exercised her organizational and social skills to assure any events I planned proved successful. During our time there, she gave birth to our 2nd child, a bouncing baby boy.
In 1989, I decided to move back to Kentucky to take on a full-time pulpit preaching position, so Sarah packed our belongings and we headed down the road on a new adventure.
The church with which we worked in Kentucky was a small, mission type congregation. The members accepted us as family and we stayed with them for 12 years. During those years Sarah gave birth to our third child, a daughter. She continued to care for and nurture all of us as a stay-at-home mom, and to faithfully uphold her “duties” as a preacher’s wife.
Yet deep down she wanted more from life. Several of her female friends who had for years depended upon their husbands as providers suddenly found themselves to be single moms. Although talented in many ways, these women found themselves on the job market not possessing the training or skills needed to secure a well-paying position. They were forced to try to make a living for their families by working minimum wage jobs. Reba was singing, “Is there life out there?” The TV ads all seemed to target young professionals, and even the christian women’s magazines were geared toward working moms.
One day, after having heard one of Beethoven’s symphonies barked for the hundredth time by dog puppets on Sesame Street, Sarah decided it was time to further her education. This would help her feel more secure should unforeseeable calamity strike, and it would help her feel as if she were contributing more to meeting the family’s needs.
In 1994, Sarah packed her backpack with school supplies and headed out the door on a new adventure.
The next few years proved to be exciting and many times nerve racking as we all juggled schedules, tried to meet deadlines, organized activities at church, and scurried to make ball practices. I had taken on a second job to try to meet expenses so this added to the chaos. Through it all, I can honestly say that Sarah never once neglected any of her responsibilities as a wife and mother. In the Fall of 1998, she graduated from Campbellsville University earning a BS degree in middle school education.
This time, she packed her teacher’s bag and headed down the road on a new adventure.
Sarah soon found that in a lot of ways, earning a degree is much easier than landing a job, but persistence and prayer paid off. Her new position and her accreditation were not an exact fit, so emergency certification through a “5th year degree” proved necessary. Sarah also knew that eventually she would need to earn her Rank 1, so once she settled into her new role as a teacher, she began working toward a Masters degree in library science.
During these years, we learned by experience that any system controlled by government thrives on bureaucracy and politics. We also learned the financial bottom line and government funding often determine hiring practices, and that the education system is not exempt from such pressures.
In 2010, after 11 years of teaching in several different districts, Sarah found it best to pack away her teacher’s certificates and to head down the road for a new adventure.
The seed for the new adventure was planted when Sarah landed a job as a unit clerk at the community hospital. She always enjoyed learning the names and uses of various medicines, and has always been very good at providing care for her family when anyone has been ill. So, in 2011, she began filling in the basic course gaps of her college resume, and applied to the nursing program of Western Kentucky University. In 2012, she was accepted into the program and took on a full-time course load of studies to fulfill the requirements for an associate’s degree in nursing. All the while, she continued working the night shift as a full-time unit clerk. She excelled enough in her studies to be inducted into the Alpha Delta Nu Nursing Honor Society.
On May 17, 2014, Sarah Waddell, a mother of 5 (2 sons-in-law), and a grandmother of 2, packed her bag once more, this time a nursing bag, and began yet another new adventure.
Since that time, our family has continued to grow, adding a daughter-in-law and two more grandchildren. Sarah works full time as a registered nurse at a regional hospital. She hasn’t slowed down, nor has she ever neglected any of her familial responsibilities.
Indeed, “She believed she could, so she did!”
“I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
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