Friday, March 14, 2014


“You have to take risks. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.” Paulo Coelho

I love this quote, not because it encourages risky behavior, but because it challenges me to get in the game...the game of life.  Living life with God is risky at its core, because sometimes He asks us to do things that walk us right out there on that thin, shaky little limb, and sometimes it's right in front of everyone whose opinions we care deeply about.  There are no guarantees the result will be a win and it is likely what happens next will include failure.  But what if?  What IF that great big risky thing God is asking of you results in lives being forever transformed?  Is it worth the risk of miserable failure?  Sit down, kiddos, and let me tell you a story.

It began back in about 1993.   I was a young mom with six little children.  The oldest was 13 and the youngest was 2.  My husband and I had just taken a risk.  A big one.  We bought a huge, five bedroom older house way out in the country on 90 acres of land.  At the time we had a nice salary, and could easily handle the payments. We wanted our children to experience living in the country, and since we home schooled, the rural life lent itself well to our goal of providing our own needs and exposing our kids to rural life. We didn't take into account that the septic tank (who knew WHAT a septic tank WAS?) was built for two people, not eight, and that inside that great house lurked a series of unfortunate, costly repairs.  Neither did we know that my husband's stable place of business would acquire a new manager who would fire the entire senior sales staff within one year of our house and land purchase.  

For the next six years, we hung onto our house, our sanity, and our marriage by the skin of our teeth and the ability of my husband to turn our land into a profit-making venture.  In the meantime, our children lived the life of which we had dreamed. They adventured, they explored, they built, they caught, they learned. They experienced the thrill of having first a 1,000 pound longhorn steer and then a buffalo loose on our land.  They experienced waking up to a yard full of escaped emus.  They learned which snakes were poisonous and how to avoid chigger bites.  They built their own fort, high up in an old oak tree, complete with booby traps and a clever communication system.  They helped their dad cut and burn lots and lots of trees, and witnessed the miracle of thousands of monarch butterflies hovering in our 100 year old oaks. They tried to ride the old lame nag we rescued from a glue factory.  They helped their momma plant and reap a huge garden.  They fished and shot at turtles in the pond,went on day-long explores, and looked for crawdads in the stream. And they met Laura. 

We were attending a church with Laura's relatives, whom we barely knew. When they learned we had once taken in a rebellious, pregnant teenage girl, albeit for only three weeks, they called us on the phone and asked us a big, very risky question.  Would we be willing to take in their 15 year old cousin from Minnesota who was making very bad decisions about drugs, alcohol, and friends?  After all, it would be hard for the street gang to find her at a house way out in the country in Texas, right? And we home schooled, so she wouldn't be out of our sight for a moment. The police had told her parents that if she was not sent far, far away, her life and safety would be at risk and that she would be dead or in prison within the year.  Her parents had already taken extreme measures by boarding up the windows in Laura's room and had taken to sleeping on the floor outside her door in an attempt to keep her away from bad influences. She still managed to escape them.  We thought, we prayed, and we answered yes. I still don't know why we did, except we sensed that this was God's provision for Laura.  We really had no idea what this was going to look like. Would she hate us?  Would she escape and run back to Minnesota?  Would she corrupt our innocent little children? Would she kill herself?  

Within a few days, her parents, with the cooperation of local police and the school she occasionally attended, surprised her in the hallway of her school, threw a coat over her head, and whisked her out to their car and got on an airplane bound for the Lone Star State.  I try to imagine her dismay as the rental car drove miles and miles away from the airport down a country highway and then down a very long, isolated driveway.  There on the front porch stood the Brady Bunch, with smiling, expectant faces.  We watched as she exited the car, head and shoulders slumped, lifeless, unstyled hair falling in her face. The boys' clothing and combat boots completed the picture.  I remember there being very little communication from her that day or in the week ahead.  There was much begging and crying the next day as her parents left to head back to Minnesota, leaving their oldest daughter in the hands of a family they had never met.  Talk about courage and selflessness.  Talk about risky decisions.  Sometimes all you have left is to risk.

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This is a picture from the day Laura came.  In case you can't guess, Laura is on the far left, and her sister is on the couch.  The other three are mine.

We became wardens.  Loving, caring, but very watchful wardens.  Laura had no access to a telephone, and her only activities were going to church with us and to a ballet class with our daughter, where she was forced to sit and watch ballet under other parents' watchful eyes until I came to pick them up. Even so, our telephone rang in the middle of the night and a teenage boys' voice asked for Laura. My husband, ever the protector, calmly explained to the young man that when you live in the country like we did, if you hear noises at night, you shoot first and ask questions later.  That was the first and only call from the gang, whose loyalty, after all, went only so far.

Then a beautiful thing happened.  Laura began having headaches and stomach aches.  Or so she said. They were so bad that she needed to go back home or she might die.  Not wanting her to die, I made an appointment with our family doctor, who got the down-low before our appointment.  As he gently began questioning Laura about her ailments, he looked directly into her eyes and asked, "So, Laura, Becky tells me you've lived on the streets.  I would guess that you are pretty street smart, then, right?  If that's the case, and you want to go back to that life so much, why haven't you used your street smarts to escape and get back home?  Do you know what I think?  I think you have found a really safe place where you can be a teenage girl again and where the pressure is off.  I think you know that this is where you need to be right now."  The tears began to fall and the first few bricks came tumbling down.

Next came the after-dinner dance parties in the kitchen with six adoring little faces smiling and laughing with her.  Then came a trip to Express to buy some new clothes, courtesy of a check from her mother.  Was that a glimmer of happiness on her face as she saw her fashionable reflection in the mirror? Slowly, slowly, her hair became styled, and when I walked in on her and our 11 year old daughter trying on makeup in her bathroom, I knew I was witnessing a transformation from the inside out. 

Somewhere in the months that followed,  what I saw on the outside started happening on the inside.  It is a true miracle, in my opinion more a miracle than a dead man raised, to see a heart soften and change, to see a hardened, dark face become a place where smiles and laughter lived.  She reveled in her new brothers and sister.  She loved to stop and talk to cows.  She had a blast at the China Spring Rattlesnake Sacking Contest.  She even ate rattlesnake.  She took to Texas like a duck to a june bug.

Did "stuff" happen?  Of course! There were bad attitudes to deal with, my kids learned who Puff Daddy and Snoop Dog were (and probably some other things I don't know about), and  I was spread pretty thin with the drama of a rebellious teenage girl who initially didn't want to be there.  Was the risk worth it? A thousand times Yes! Laura eventually returned home to her family, and after a few missteps, made a 360 degree turn.  She married her high school sweetheart a few years later.  We traveled to Minnesota for the wedding.  My two oldest children were in her wedding, and Chris and I were so blessed to be "Honorary Foster Parents."  Laura is now is the stunningly beautiful and Godly mother of three children whom she home schools. She and her family are strong Christians and follow God with all their hearts. Our God is a Redeemer!

Could God have used another method, individual or family to accomplish the same results?  Of course, He could have.  But OUR family would have missed out on the incredible blessing of knowing Laura and her family and watching her transformation from caterpillar to butterfly.  Risk is risky, and there can be big downsides, but you have to take risks if you want to really live.