We were already working in the small country church with the youth. (I had been teaching kids since I was 10 years old, because there was no one to teach the 4-5 year olds on Sunday nights.) So, we had our honeymoon (which consisted of one night, and a morning of laughter and memories). Returning to the house that we had spent the last month of our engagement on, getting it ready to move in to, we stepped back into the role of "official" youth leaders.
So, before we had our own kids, we had kids flowing in and out of the house - at all hours of the days and nights. We lived about a mile from the church, and most of the youth were living in the community as well. They would either ride their bikes to the house, walk if the weather permitted, call one of us to come pick them up, or get off the school bus at our house.
Laughter filled the space of our home.
Along with the laughter, there were serious conversations, teaching moments, stern talks, and a few tears. But always, always, always, there was respect, honor, and gratitude, shown by them to us. We respected them for the people they were - not just "kids", but real people, with real thoughts and real feelings. Not just "kids" to be told what to do, how and when to do it.
Rick stood firm and strong in demanding respect at all times, in all situations. No matter how frustrated or upset they might be, no matter the words they said - there was always respect in their voices when they talked to either of us, or to one another.
Those kids knew they could talk to either of us about anything, and about everything, and they did. What they didn't feel comfortable discussing with their parents, they were open and honest in our home with us. We made sure they understood there would be times that we would talk to their parents on their behalf, or that we would go with them so they would feel the strength to talk with their parents.
Then I became pregnant with our daughter. When she was born and brought home from the hospital, her "brothers and sisters" surrounded her with love, with care, with attention. Then 16 months later, they did the same for our son.
The years passed, we moved a few times. Those kids grew up to have lives of their own. Life changed for all of us.
It didn't matter where we lived, our home was a magnet for kids.
We sat down one night for supper - Rick, me, Mandy & Joshua. Joshua was about 4 years old. I looked at Rick, he looked at me, and the quietness of the home made us take a deep sigh. lol
Suddenly Joshua pushed his plate back and said, "I'll wait."
"Wait for what, baby?" I asked.
"Wait for my brothers and sisters to get here."
I got up, walked around to his chair, knelt down, and explained to him that his sister was at the table, and that he didn't have any other brothers and sisters.
He puckered up and cried his heart out. I held him as he cried.
When he calmed down, he wanted to know if they had all gone to Heaven.
I looked over at Rick. The look of shock that was on his face, must have been on mine, too!
In that moment, we realized that our 4 year old son was crying because he thought all those kids that had been in and out of the home for his whole life had all died suddenly!
Rick came over, knelt beside me, Mandy (5 years old) wrapped her arms around my neck ... and we had a family time there while supper got cold on the table.
Daddy explained to the kids that these others were not their blood brothers and sisters (not without a lot of arguing from a 5 year old girl and a 4 year old brother, I might add). But that they were our family, their brothers and sisters of the heart - no matter the color of the skin. "They have different color skin, daddy? I haven't seen that!"
Oh my precious babies' hearts of innocence and love!!!
Daddy went on to explain how that the "brothers and sisters" had their own families to eat supper with, at least sometimes. And that they would still be free to come and go at will, as long as they followed the rules of the home.
Finally, after a long conversation, filled with a few more tears, much laughter, many hugs ... we finished a cold, yet most delicious, supper. Daddy and Momma were filled with pride and joy that our kids just "got" the whole unity and love and joy of living, working, and playing together.
I will say this - - our kids kept that, still retain that today.
Joshua and Michael will fight anyone who says they are NOT brothers. Oh my heart!
I have shared all of this to say this:
In those 35 years of being Rick's wife, and Momma to so many, I was treated with love, with respect, with honor, and always, always, thanked for everything, from a glass of water to a full meal, or simply a listening ear and heart - usually with a kiss on the cheek, or on the forehead (as the kids grew taller than Momma, lol).
I worked hard to keep our home clean and in order.
I served kids and adults alike.
Rarely did I do any of it alone.
Almost always at least one of the kids would be there to help me clean, helping and learning as I cooked, carrying anything that needed it, working along side me as we talked and shared.
I never had to TELL them to do anything.
I would ask for help, and most of the time the kids were clamoring to be the one to help Momma.
We would go for a walk, not sure what we looked like. lol
I've wondered if we resembled a piped piper at times?
A white man & woman walking out front, and this trail (or train) of kids - all ages and sizes ... and colors.
Ever so often, it was just the 4 of us ... but not as a rule.
All the boys would vie for being "Momma's guardian" on the walk.
I carried a bag because of the treasures that would be found and offered to me.
Mandy, Joshua, and I were talking not long ago about those times.
I asked if I were remembering correctly, were there any fights? Any major arguments? Any hurt feelings?
The answer was "No".
Thru all the years, with all those kids from the varying backgrounds, different races and religions.
The only arguments and fights that we EVER dealt with were the ones between Mandy & Joshua over typical brother / sister stuff!
I asked them how they felt about having shared their home, their stuff, their daddy & momma, with so many.
"Momma, we would not have had it any other way! We are so thankful that you and Daddy raised us like that!"
These memories are treasures to my heart.
They bring smiles to me, and soft tears as well.
But it also explains why I don't understand the divisions of today, the disrespect, the dishonor.
I cannot comprehend when kids raise their voices against adults, in anger, showing total disregard for authority.
I cannot wrap my mind around kids telling adults, "NO! I am not going to do this or that."
I don't understand the kids not being grateful and thankful for all that the adults do for them, having this whole "I want more!" attitude.
My heart cries out for those memories to be more than just memories now.
I sorely miss that life I lived all those years.
I would gladly do them all over again.
No regrets of those years and times.
However - -
I miss being respected.
I miss being honored.
I miss being guarded & protected.
I miss being loved.