Excerpt from Blog, “From My Front Row Seat”( http://susanatblue.blogspot.com)

“Miss Susan, I don’t know what I want to do with my life…”  A few years ago, Lauren was taking my work ethics class where we identify a career path right before graduation, which can be daunting with past criminal history and unexplainable gaps in employment.  I was a little concerned Lauren might fall back into addiction if we did not find something to keep her excited and motivated.  That is when it hit me.  “Lauren, what about the field of aviation?”  

She immediately latched onto that idea, so I invited Jim, a pilot friend and donor, to meet with her to discuss all aspects of aviation.  It was in that meeting Lauren decided to become a pilot and Jim amazingly offered to help her get her license and loan her his own plane to do it.  Jim even had a friend by the name of “Grumpy,” with 32 years in the Air Force under his belt and an endless list of awards, who agreed to be her instructor.   
This path has been anything but easy.  Lauren has stretched herself beyond limits she even knew she had, and she has jumped through a million hoops to prove to the FAA that she is no longer an addict and can handle the responsibility and pressure of flying.  Weaker individuals would have quickly folded.  
Lauren has persevered through many tears, endless study, countless surprise drug tests, ridiculous delays, multiple medical evaluations, and lots of sleepless nights.  However, through it all, she has given God all the glory.  

One of the greatest thrills of my life has been to see Lauren fly solo over the Blue Monarch campus.  It makes my heart skip a beat every single time and it is so fun to see all the women and children run outside to cheer her on.  Sam, our dog, goes nuts because he thinks he owns even the airspace over our property.  Every one of those women walk back into the house believing in themselves a little more and I am convinced even the children begin to dream bigger in that moment.  The impact is tangible and shows on their faces.
Last week Lauren finally got her pilot’s license after nearly a three-year struggle, and yesterday I was honored to be her very first passenger.  It was almost an out-of-body experience as the two of us flew over the Blue Monarch property and I was able to see the women and children run outside and wave at us – from Lauren’s perspective this time.   
Lauren’s story will be a Blue Monarch legend.  I see every day the impact her determination has on the women of Blue Monarch – it gives them hope and teaches them to not give up, that their hard work and perseverance will eventually pay off.  They absorb it and take it to heart.

As I watched Lauren so confidently maneuver the plane, manage all the many instruments and gears, communicate by radio in a cryptic language only pilots understand, and gaze across the sky as if she owned it, I could not help but think back on the woman who sat in my office and wept with overwhelming brokenness, and absolutely no hope, just a few years ago.  My word, look at her now.  She is not just a fighter.  She is a warrior inspiring other warriors just like her.

I like to teach every woman at Blue Monarch “the sky’s the limit!”  But Lauren has taught them it is actually true.

Susan Binkley, Founder and President of Blue Monarch – Long-term, residential recovery program for women and their children.  931.924.8900, bluemonarch.org

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