Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Love Story to Warm Your Heart

Guests of the Indiana Right to Life Gala in Carmel were greeted by old fashioned Christmas carolers last evening. The Long Family Singers were delighted to perform!

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

Though the temperatures had dropped during those hours, the conversation with John and Maria had surely warmed my heart.


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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

When a Tiny Old House Changed My Perspective

“God wouldn't do this to me!” I assured our Realtor as we walked through the tiny two-bedroom house.

Ceiling tiles, paneling and old carpet adorned every room, including the eat-in kitchen and small bathroom. I HATE ceiling tiles, paneling and carpeting, especially in a kitchen!

Terry spent a few minutes in the house before rushing out the back door with the children to explore the 15 acres that came with the house. I felt bad that he would have to forget about those glorious acres, which included several outbuildings, woods and a creek. The 963 square foot house was much too small for our growing family and had only one bathroom. 

God would never do this to me, I repeated. Poor Terry.

We’d been “homeless” for a few months, since our previous home sold and the large house we’d bid on had failed inspections. When that deal fell through, we found ourselves in a rental in one of the worst neighborhoods. Terry was anxious to get his family into the country as planned. I’d had concerns about every house we looked at and knew Terry was getting frustrated. I made a decision to keep my mouth shut and simply trust the Lord to handle the situation.

Just days before, two pink lines revealed that “Baby #9” was on the way. Mother’s Day was approaching and I decided to wait to share the news with Terry and the children. No one else knew but the Lord.

Terry submitted an offer on the house. The owner counter-offered. Terry groaned; it was still out of our price range. Terry re-submitted and once again groaned at the counter offer. He tried one last time, but said it wasn’t looking promising. With a smile in my heart, I reassured him that the Lord knew where we were supposed to live. He called later that day, screaming, “WE GOT THE HOUSE!”

A week later we moved into our new home. I was grateful for two things: Our new house was a mile from my Dad’s; and it was springtime, which enabled the children to spend their days outside. Once autumn ushered in cold weather, we would become “closer” than ever.

By November, I was in need of a serious attitude adjustment. I felt cramped and discontent in our small space. I did not appreciate this little old house with all its paneling and ceiling tiles and carpet in every room. I was angry at Terry for bringing us here and even angrier at God for not intervening. I was a mess.

One rainy morning, I broke. Escaping into the woods alone, I sat by a babbling brook, sobbing my heart out to the Lord. I was finally ready to acknowledge my negative feelings and repent of my anger. Hours later, I came out of those woods a changed woman. Surrendered and broken.

Contentment was not instantaneous, but it did come in time.

Our little house has seen many changes since that rainy November day in 2004. The back bedroom and bathroom were completely gutted and remodeled in 2007. The ceiling tiles have all been removed and most of the carpet is gone. We tore out the stairs, re-routing them into the kitchen (from our bedroom), and took out half the wall between the living room and kitchen to open up the rooms and to allow the wood stove heat to circulate. Five winters ago, Terry and the girls completely renovated the attic, turning it into a beautiful bedroom for seven girls. Yes, the alterations have been slow, but drastic.

However, the most significant transformation has been wrought in my heart, by my Savior. He used this little old house to teach me contentment and to me, this has been worth more than a brand new mansion.

It is well with my soul.

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