Proverbs 18:22: He who finds a wife finds a good thing,
And obtains favor from the Lord.
Over the years, the Lord has given Stacy and me the opportunity to travel across the nation with our children. We have been blessed to share with thousands of families at homeschooling conventions and various family camps. Early on, we made a decision to always take our children with us.
This choice has been a multifaceted blessing. Since we are a homeschooling family, our travels allowed our children to learn about our nation and its rich history. We also have grown closer as a family (I suppose this is the result of being crammed into a van together for weeks at a time). In addition, bringing the children actually supported our message; it allowed the Lord to use our little ones as examples of what we were sharing. It helped our message ring true.
For instance, one mother in Montana approached us and said, “Thank you for bringing your children with you! It is so encouraging to see that you are a ‘real’ family.” I wasn’t sure if I should take that as a compliment or if I should be insulted! She went on to share how she had heard many speakers over the years paint verbal pie-in-the-sky pictures of what a godly home should be, but, she had often walked away feeling discouraged.
This poor woman imagined what a particular speaker’s home must be like—in picture-perfect detail—and knew she could never measure up. She considered how God must have somehow overlooked her, her situation, and her hopelessness.
In contrast, as she listened that day to teachings on God’s design for the family and heard stories of how that played out in our own home, she began to get it. She saw first hand how our children are most definitely not perfect (especially after long stretches of travel), and she left with hope. She walked away knowing that by God’s grace, as she embraced His ways, the Lord would help her build a godly home. Living real life before others can be a great testimony!
So for years, we have taken the entire family with us on the road. There have been a few times when we took only a subset of our little ones, but, there have always been McDonald children with us—helping us to validate our testimony and let others know that God indeed uses imperfect homes for His glory.
But this weekend was different! I received a call from the NICHE board, asking me to come and encourage their leaders for their annual summit. I could have gone alone, heading out early in the morning and returning late in the evening. Or we could have taken some of the children, our more recent model; now that some of the children are adults. But, I told Stacy I wanted to take just her – and spend time together, alone, in Des Moines.
Stacy was not excited with this decision. First, she is still nursing William. Yes, he is 2 ½ years old, but she is not sure if there will be more of these blessings and he’s not interested in giving it up! Also, Emma still likes to come visit us in the middle of the night. Grace and Abigail often make an appearance in the morning. How could she go with me when the little ones “need” her?
I was insistent, but was wondering if she would agree—I wouldn’t have forced her if she wasn’t comfortable. So to be safe, I still reserved a room with two beds. As the days for our departure approached, Stacy continued to struggle. I was prepared to take the children, but I was still hoping for our rendezvous!
The day came. It was time to go. And we left together, and alone! The whole trip to Des Moines was a joy! We spent the whole trip talking. When we arrived, I asked the clerk if the bridal suite was available. It wasn’t but they did move us to nice room with one bed and a balcony. That evening, we went to dinner at a nice steakhouse. We had a leisurely morning getting ready, and then I spoke to the group and we enjoyed a bit of fellowship with these precious saints. Later, we met a family for dinner and then headed for home.
For me, this was a great time of focus and reflection. We needed the time to pray together without distraction. You see, these past few months have been filled with a mixture of rejoicing and difficulty. Being alone helped us consider some of the challenges we have faced and seek God’s plan for our future. Praying together is so powerful!
What a joy to spend time alone! For those who are counting, this was our first time away from the children overnight in seven years. I relished the time alone with her; not that I don’t love my children for they are my joy and crown, but our time alone is priceless!
Thank you, Stacy, for putting up with me. And I really didn’t even notice the 10 calls home to check on William!