At dinner we were a bit split up; Haley and Stephanie found seats together at one table, while MacKenzie, Corrie, and I sat across the room. The event emcee was speaker and radio show host Peter Heck, who introduced the main speaker: Fox news correspondent and political columnist Cal Thomas. I quickly bemoaned the fact that I had neither pen nor paper with which to take notes during Mr. Thomas' engaging pro-life speech.
At the conclusion of the event, the girls and I went to reunite with Stephanie and Haley, who were in discussion with an elderly couple at their table. As I approached, the husband looked at my name tag and said, "You must be the mother! We would like to speak with you!" He and his wife had enjoyed conversation with the girls during dinner and after the speeches and were obviously quite impressed with both young ladies. "They are beautiful! And look at how they are dressed. So lovely and modest." Maria exclaimed in a thick Spanish accent. "But their outward beauty is only a reflection of what is on the inside. Please tell us, how is it you have raised daughters with such purity in this culture-?" They peppered me with many questions regarding the rearing of our children before sharing their story with me.
Maria was one of the youngest of 13 children, born and raised in Mexico. They met when John, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed American, came there to work in an orphanage while on summer break just before his sophomore year of college. Maria was explaining how during their brief courtship, they had never been without a chaperone, and that John had stunned her by proposing on their 2nd date! "You knew that quickly?" I asked, taking note of the sparkle in his gentle blue eyes. He smiled and looked at his wife. "I knew after that first date that she was to be my wife!" Convincing Maria, however took a bit longer. One hesitation for her, she explained, was the fact that she didn't speak much English. This detail did not deter John and they were married shortly thereafter.
Maria shared with me that their honeymoon was the first time in her life she had been away from her family overnight! As John began to share details of their early life together, it was obvious that he had taken much pleasure in introducing his new bride to so many new experiences. What an adventure the two have enjoyed together!
Though they were young and in love, their lives were not without struggle. John was a medical student and so money was tight for the first ten years. "He gave me a budget and it didn't change much, even though the babies kept coming," Maria explained.
"The babies"...all ten of them! This was an issue John was not shy in discussing with me, knowing about our large family. He said that allowing God to determine their family size had been a real test of trust for him. But through those years of financial struggle and beyond, they had been blessed to witness the Lord provide exactly what was needed, time and time again. I shared with him how our family sometimes plays the "Game of the Royal Way", which brought tears to his eyes.
The couple shared with me how blessed and fulfilling their life together has been. "Our 41st grandchild was born just this morning!" Maria exclaimed. "Wow! And do you know all of their names?" I asked playfully. John leaned closer to me and said, "Not only can I tell you their names, but I know where each of their tickle spots are!" It is obvious they are enjoying this season of their lives.
Still in love. Still on an adventure together.
Before we parted, John hugged me warmly. "It is so good to meet a kindred spirit." He said. "There are so few of us." Maria encouraged me to continue raising our children for the glory of God and to enjoy this brief time left with my daughters.
I snapped a photo of the girls in front of the tree in the lobby before heading out into the cold December night.
|Stephanie, Corrie, Haley, MacKenzie|