The Beginnings of our Family

by David Crank

"For I know the plans that I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart."
Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NAS)

Our First Year in College: The Lord's mercy to us!

Lori and I were the same age and both began college in the same semester. I chose to attend North Texas State University, in Denton, Texas, because of their strong music program, honors program, and a small work/scholarship. Lori chose Texas Woman's University, also located in Denton, Texas. She was planning to study Occupational Therapy and found that it was cheaper to attend TWU in Texas than the school in her own state offering this degree program. So there we were, on opposite sides of town in different universities.

I came to college with lots of hopes, dreams and fears. I had grand ambitions, but was overly idealistic and nave in many areas. Outwardly, I believed I could do anything, inwardly I saw my inadequacy and felt a sense of desperation. I realized God was my only true hope. I had sought after God from my early youth and read much of the Bible, but without a lot of understanding. Though I believed I had a personal relationship with God, and knew I was dependent on His mercy and forgiveness, I did not have a good understanding of salvation and may not have truly been a believer. Though I seemed to be a "good kid", I wasn't really. And I had bought into all sorts of philosophies and lies prevalent in that day.

But God showed His lovingkindess and mercy in how He reached out to me in the college dormitory. He placed a young and growing Christian in the room adjoining mine and just one room down across the hall, a more mature believer who would be both my friend and mentor. Through these I became involved with other Christians, active with Campus Crusade for Christ and involved in a local Methodist church (a rather unusual one - popular even with many Baptists). Now I truly understood what I had been reading for years and confirmed my salvation through faith alone in the saving work of Christ!

I began to study the Bible in the early morning and the evening, to complete Campus Crusade discipleship materials, to read numerous Christian books, to memorize scripture and spend whatever spare time I had in the fellowship and encouragement of believers. Thus began a period of rapid Christian growth, which resulted in my becoming something of a leader within Campus Crusade.

Lori had become a Christian in her early teens from teaching at church and influences from her grandmother. But she had not had solid teaching beyond that. She was far away from home for the first time, with no friends or family near, and with independence without accountability. Lori was nave and left totally unprotected in a very dangerous environment. But by the grace of God, she became involved in a church in which she began to receive effective teaching to encourage spiritual growth. And she also found a Christian friend there who lived nearby in the same dorm as herself - providing a place to go to get away from her Satan worshipping roomates.

COMMENTARY: College On Being Rescued,
Sending your children away to college can be a very dangerous thing! Especially if they are not very well grounded in the faith, mature and wise about the depravity and philosophies they may encounter there. Daughters are particularly vulnerable being out from under their father's protection and subject to being preyed upon by men - even ones claiming to be Christian! ... the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife,..., the LORD being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city.
Genesis 19:16 (KJV)

As Lot was rescued by the mercy of the Lord, even so were we!

Our Second Year in College: Courtship & Engagement.

I began my second year in college with a new perspective on life, a new life purpose. I was excited at how the Lord was changing me! But I was also very desirous of a wife. I had been something of a loner all of my life and had longed for a wife to be my best friend/ soul mate/ life partner since about 13 years of age. But I had been shy around girls and had minimal dating experience.

My best friend and mentor had just become married, mid-way through school. I had just had my life turned around and my ideas about many things transformed. I had now studied about Christian dating and marriage and observed some good real life examples. Now that the Lord had so changed the direction of my life, I felt that this might be the time when He would bring my future wife to me. But don't misunderstand - this wasn't a plan on my part to go looking for the right girl. Rather it was an impression, which I believed to be of the Holy Spirit, that He was going to bring her to me. My plan was to be busy about what He had for me to be doing, treating all Christian young ladies as sisters, but being open if He led towards a particular one. And by now, my ideas about what was desirable and important in a wife had changed a lot!

At the beginning of the fall semester I began to take more of a leadership role in the college group at church. I began to sing in the church choir and to get to know some of the adults in the church. Among the many girls there (the church was near TWU) was Lori. I had neither met nor noticed her the previous year at church, nor had she paid much attention to me. While planning a ministry opportunity with the college group, Lori came forward with ideas for singing and testifying at a nursing home in town. So my first real acquaintance with Lori was from planning this. She had worked at the nursing home and thus knew the people and particulars needed and so was a key contributor to the planning.

At first I saw Lori as a valued co-laborer, a sister with a heart to serve God and a heart of mercy towards old people. But very quickly I began to see more. We seemed to have a lot of the same vision and values concerning family (both extended and what we desired for future family). And I was quickly becoming fond of her as she also was of me. Over what seemed like many months (but truly was only 6 to 8 weeks), we saw a great deal of each other: at church, after church at the home of a church family that hosted the college group, at choir practice, at Campus Crusade meetings and riding to and fro in my car (since Lori had no vehicle). Then there was a Campus Crusade party and a Crusade weekend retreat, and there were phone calls, talking in the park or in a "visitation room" at her dorm, etc. We spent a lot of hours together in a short period of time and became very fond of each other. I had been sufficiently shy and unsure of myself in this realm, that at the slightest hint from Lori, I would have backed away from the relationship. But Lori responded favorably at every step along the way.

I began to see strong hints that Lori loved me. I felt the same but had purposely avoided saying so. I had read in a Christian book that a young man should not say "I love you" unless he was ready to follow with the question, "Will you marry me?" Was I sure Lori was God's choice for me? Before the Thanksgiving break, Lori suggested we should pray about our relationship, meaning whether we should "slow down". For me the issue was whether I was certain she was God's choice for me to marry and I should propose. I returned, after much prayer, prepared to ask her to marry me. Though a little surprised, she did not hesitate to respond affirmatively and thus we were engaged. Within but a week or two after, I received a call from Lori's older sister (already married), who had heard about our engagement. She was requesting that I be with Lori when she told her that their mother had died of a stroke and that I might go with them to Peoria. I did, and that was how I met my future in-laws!

At Christmas time, Lori returned home to Peoria for the spring semester, helping her dad and younger brothers after the death of her mother. At the end of May, she returned to Denton and we were married there on June 1st. Shortly after we married, we attended Bill Gothard's Seminar on Basic Youth Conflicts. Wow, our eyes were opened to a lot of foolish things we had done and a lot of others things that needed attention in our lives and marriage!

In retrospect, we see that there were many aspects of our courtship that were not right or were just plain foolish. We did not involve our parents in our marriage decision. We foolishly thought we didn't need their advice or approval concerning either whom to marry or the timing of marriage. Though we were perhaps more responsible and mature than many of our age, we were not nearly as mature and prepared for marriage as we thought! And though we had grown a lot and had recently had the benefit of good instruction concerning Christian marriage, we were still young in the Lord and naive about a great many things. We did not anticipate the extent to which our background differences would produce opportunities for conflict. Nor did we realize the extent of our own immaturity and selfishness. We have taught a significantly different approach to our children!

Our First Year of Marriage: Hardships but learning to trust God.

Our first year as husband and wife was both wonderful and awful! Being married was a wonderful blessing from God and what a precious gift He had given me in Lori! But it wasn't all the smooth sailing / no problems I naively expected. We had a lot of conflict that first year as all our differences came to the forefront. Things like being raised in very different parts of the country, family economic and type of job differences, only child vs. second of five, besides the differences in our temperaments and family customs, all contributed to differences of viewpoint. I had expected my spiritual walk after marriage to be better than ever, but I found myself really struggling and not understanding why God was allowing us to have these difficulties. In truth, it was the beginning of a lot of real spiritual growth and learning of wisdom, but it took time and we had to be humbled a lot first.

Up to the point of our marriage, I had never had a job. We had planned for Lori to work and support me through the rest of my schooling, even as my mother did for my dad. Fortunately, I had some money saved up or we would have been broke from the start. And to make our financial picture worse, Lori also had some debts related to her schooling (not much - but for our situation, they were sizable). So we were NOT very well prepared for marriage financially! So after our brief and cheap honeymoon, Lori went out and found a job while I registered for summer school. But when I couldn't get the courses I needed, I decided to seek employment myself for the summer. So I got my first job working at a small airport.

Another of our plans was quickly changed as well! We had planned to delay having children until after I finished school. But shortly after we were married, I found that Lori really wanted a baby now! After really reexamining this issue, I had to admit that my reasons for delaying children were not right, they were related to selfishness and common views of our time and culture, rather than a Biblical viewpoint. So we changed course and stopped using birth control and desired to have a child now.

Shortly thereafter, Lori was having some problems at work plus having some morning sickness like symptoms. This caused us to reexamine the idea of the wife working outside the home. We decided Lori should quit her job and I should be the one supporting our family - however low our income might be. We would just learn to live on less! God was teaching us to step out in faith when He showed us the path to follow.

Then, a mere two months after our marriage, Lori's father had a heart attack. So I quit my job and we went to Peoria for a month to help care for him and the family. When we returned to Denton in the fall, I was back in school and looking for a new part-time job. Lori was pregnant, and we were looking for a cheaper place to live, all things considered. We found a trailer to rent on a lot a little ways out of town that was dirt-cheap.

I also found a job doing construction cleanup in the afternoons and we started learning how to live more frugally. To save money we washed clothes in the bathtub for a while, I walked rather than drove the few miles to work or to school, and Lori looked for ways to feed us cheap! So I got plenty of walking exercise in my new boots Lori gave me for my birthday. The bedroom in the trailer was very small, so to have more room, we slept together on a twin bed instead of a double. We had no insurance, so we were paying month by month to the doctor for the expected delivery costs.

We continued to be very involved in church during this time, singing in the choir and each teaching Sunday school classes to different ages of kids.

Birth of our First Child: A wonderful child, but a bad birth experience.

One night, around Lori's due date, she discovered the bed was all wet - her bag of waters had broken prior to real onset of labor. (By this time we were sleeping on a sofa that opened into a double bed - the single bed would no longer hold us!). So I took Lori into the hospital and the doctor was called. At this point Lori was having only sporadic contractions, so the doctor decided to induce labor. After about nine hours of this, he informed us that Lori's delivery was not progressing adequately. He took X-rays and then informed us that Lori's pelvis was too small to deliver the baby. He also brought in another doctor to tell us he agreed. So they told us the baby needed to be delivered by cesarean section! We had never even thought about this possibility. The doctor made it sound as though her life was threatened if we did not soon agree to the cesarean section. So in our fear and ignorance, we agreed, not fully trusting what we were hearing from the doctor, but not knowing where else to turn.

There were no major complications from the delivery, but Lori was in the hospital recovering for about 5 days (normal for cesareans at that time). We found that the hospital was not very parent/baby friendly. But at least I was allowed to hold Samuel once, after I was fully suited up in scrubs. Of course the cost for a cesarean section was much more than a normal delivery, so we were left with a substantial debt to pay off. But it was afterwards that we received the worst news. We would have to have all of our children by cesarean section and the uterus could only be expected to hold up for a couple more such operations. So much for our desire to have a large family!! We were crushed! This was very hard to take! And Lori was left feeling inadequate, that she could not have babies normally and was denied the experience of truly delivering a baby.

COMMENTARY: Babies & Marriage Difficulties
I suppose that sometimes a new baby added to a marriage that is experiencing difficulties can make things worse. But in our case, a baby was a great blessing to our marriage. A child can be an important unifying factor between a husband and wife who are committed to being good parents. A child added to the motivation to persevere through the hard years and added to our common purpose as a couple.

Our Second Year of Marriage: Full time job, move & our 2nd child.

So we began our second year with a little baby boy, living in a small trailer that seemed impossible to keep cool as the summer months began, with our money pretty well depleted and more owed for the delivery. We didn't have room for more than a car bed for the baby and when we set up the playpen, we blocked the hallway that led to the bedroom and bath!

At this point my part-time job had come to an end and I decided to drop out of school for a year and get a full time job so we could get a better place to live and catch up with expenses. Throughout this time, my parents were a big help with giving us clothes and gifts and some monetary gifts as well. I found a job in a factory building motor homes. At a wage of $3/hour, we were able to find a rent house which provided much more room and, with adding a couple of window air conditioners, could be kept comfortable in the summer.

Just a few months after Samuel was born, Lori became pregnant again. But after our last experience, we were not going back to the same doctor! In talking to others we learned of a good (and less expensive) doctor in a town about 60 miles away. The hospital there was much cheaper as well. So we went to see this doctor. He examined Lori and reviewed the history of her first birth. He told us that there had been no reason for the first cesarean section. Lori could easily deliver a much larger baby than Samuel was. The problem had been not waiting for her labor to start up well on its own. The doctor's efforts to induce labor merely made the labor immediately hard and tiring without producing much effect. This doctor indicated a willingness to give Lori a "trial of labor" to perhaps avoid another cesarean section, if she was dilated enough when she came in.

But alas, six weeks before the due date and before really starting labor, Lori again broke her bag of waters. The doctor tried to delay the onset of labor, but was not successful for long and with the baby being so early and everything else, thought another cesarean section was essential. So our son Daniel was born about six weeks early but was over 4 pounds and only had to stay in the hospital a couple of weeks.

Also during this year we changed churches and become involved in establishing a new Bible church in the Denton area. This was a very hard decision as we had strong ties to so many of the people at that Methodist church. But we longed for fellowship with other young Christian couples, which was not available at that church and were also seeking a church that was a little more like-minded with us in some ways.

Our Third Year of Marriage: Return to college, our 3rd child, and a closed door.

After working full time for a year, I decided to return to college to complete my degree. With having improved our financial circumstances a bit during the previous year, with my working for a fast food restaurant many nights and some important financial assistance from my parents, we were able to make ends meet. Lori was again pregnant with our third child. Lori had really wanted girls and having two boys first made things very difficult for her. But graciously this third child was a girl and it relieved much of Lori's fear and anxiety in this regard. Of course by this time people were wondering what was wrong with us, having this many kids and so close together! And with no money or insurance either! And other women couldn't imagine being willing to suffer through three Cesarean sections! Well, we were overjoyed at the three children we had, each a year apart! They would be very close to each other with their ages so close. Our concern was the many more children we had hoped to have, that it now appeared might be impossible.

It was certainly true that our circumstances were more difficult financially than for most folks. But this was because we had married before I was really prepared to support a family. I think this was foolishness on my part, as was the idea of having Lori work to support me through school and the idea to delay children until years after we were married. But you don't have to be well off to be good parents! Even many of the poor in this country would often be considered rich in other cultures and times. More financial means are helpful, but little is truly, truly required.

As I was finishing college, I was applying to a certain seminary for admission to study theology. I had changed my course of study right after marriage to better prepare for seminary and full time Christian ministry. I was acquainted with other students from this seminary who were graduating and who would recommend me. I truly thought the Lord would clear away all obstacles. After all, hadn't He led me this far?

But then a door was closed in my face - I was rejected. No particular problem was cited with my references or preparations, merely that when comparing me to all the other candidates for the limited number of positions and considering the possible financial challenges I would face, I was not selected. I could have applied to other seminaries, but had really felt this was the precise place the Lord was leading. How could I have been so mistaken? Now I really felt lost - having majored in history to better prepare for seminary, my education seemed of little use now for supporting my growing family. What would I do now? Why did God close this door?

COMMENTARY: Financial Preparation for Marriage As the prophet Jeremiah wrote in Lamentations 3:22-23:

Marrying before you are financially ready is generally foolish and I would strongly advise against it. It is better for a young man to avoid relationships that may lead toward marriage until he is very nearly prepared to support a family. Yet, there may be some circumstances where it is the best alternative when all else is considered.

"It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness." (KJV)
Truly God's mercy and compassion was upon us during these years, though we were sometimes disappointed and did not fully understand His purposes.

Volume 1 Issue 1: May / June 2000, Unless The Lord ... Magazine