The Lord told us to move back to California where we knew people. So, in May, in time for JJ’s graduation from Bible School, we wrapped up our business in France and returned to California. We wanted to set up base in the gold country, having always wanted to live there, and after a few frustrating days of finding nothing to rent, John pouted, “See? I told you we shouldn’t come back. If the Lord wanted us here, we’d have a place to live.”
The next day, I took a drive, just Jesus and me. He told me where to go, arriving at a community I didn’t know existed, a little town called Cool. There I stopped by a Realtor’s office, and since I always try to check a person’s spiritual pulse, I discovered her to be a born-again woman. She said it would be a joy to find something for me.
Jo came bouncing in and plopped down on the sofa. Jordan, like a tin soldier, marched through the living room and sat rigidly beside her. She took his hand. He had the air about him of “Oh, sure, right, yeah, that’s what we should do, hold hands.”
I said, “Well, Jordan, this is rather surprising news. What do you want to do about this?”
Giving an excellent impression of a puppy dog he looked like he should have his tongue hanging out dripping saliva. “We should get married, don’t you think?”
Jo chimed in, “We want to get married. I don’t want to go to France.”
Wanting my husband to help shoulder these problems, I told him about the measles shot and its ramifications. He reacted by saying, “Let it drop. These things don’t really hurt anybody.”
I thought, “It hurt you enough to drive you into homosexuality. What will it do to my daughter?” But I didn’t say anything for fear of an eruption. His perversion had become forbidden territory to investigate.
As time passed my daughter’s rage and my confusion ruled our relationship. What could I do to clean up this mess? I went to my prayer group for help, asking them to pray for my daughter without divulging the exact nature of the problem; my friends were also learning about spiritual things like I was. One by one they came to me and said we needed to pray for her in her room.
During our second year in Bible School, we enrolled our daughter in a private Christian school. The popular, teased-hair crowd at the public school had shunned her long parted-in-the-middle California hairstyle, and that left the disenfranchised who grabbed her. Jo’s loneliness worried me. I wanted to get her out of that venue before she encountered the drug scene, or entered the sex rat race, so mid-year I tried to move her to the private school. Jo didn’t want to suffer another initiation and appealed to her father for help.
“Marty, Jo doesn’t want to change schools now. Wait till fall.
“Look. We should have put her in the Christian school from the beginning, but we didn’t. I believe when you see you’ve made a mistake, you should alter it immediately.”
“No. We’re leaving her in public school.”
We were late in applying for school, and no housing could be found. Our eight suitcases and nine carry-ons were stuffed in the Citroen we bought on our arrival, and our humor ebbed every time we wedged ourselves into it. Someplace to unpack became imperative. But it wasn’t to be. We ended up moving eight times in three months as we lived in “gites” (summer rentals created out of carriage houses or threshing barns, or other unused buildings) and moved according to availability. One of them dated back to Joan of Arc, or so the mounted plaques said.
The city of Tours contained a fifteenth century town square filled with tables, smoking Frenchmen and foreigners enrolled in language school for which the town bristles with pride, boasting to have the purest accent in France. We spent many pleasant hours studying and drinking coffee while sitting at the obligatory white tables scattered in the square. In those three months, our nervous little family calmed down, united, and learned some French. We returned to Montauban ready to work.
We returned from that summer brimming with purpose and goals. Nancy and I found a map of France small enough for our hands to cover perfectly over the nation. We prayed every day with our hands on France. It seemed a light hovered over the city of Tours, and we figured John and I would one day settle there. In the meantime, we focused on France and all it would take for us to move there. We sold our house, we broadcast our intentions to astonished family and friends, and prepared to move after finishing Bible school.
At the end of our first year attending Rhema, the school required that we choose a major for the second year. Our friends had been telling John he should be a pastor, so I decided to start calling him “Pastor,” as in “Pastor, dinner’s ready.” Or “Pastor, don’t forget to walk the dog.”
One day, he met me after class just beaming, “I guess I really do have a call. The teacher in my last class said that we are whatever we are called at home. You call me “Pastor,” so I must be a pastor.”
At the end of July, following family camp, the kids and I left for Oklahoma to find housing and to buy Jo a horse, a manipulating bribe to get her to move. We traveled in a crew-cab truck pulling a fifth-wheel trailer that we bought to facilitate our journey and for projected weekends exploring cowboy territory. I felt like a cowgirl bounding down the highway, bouncing about in my stallion cab. Upon arriving, the three of us bumped down a dusty dirt trail to meet a tall horse-trading Oklahoman. He hailed us, leaning on his split rail fence, a sprig of wheat stuck in his teeth. As the dust settled from our entrance, we climbed out of the cab, and he drawled, “Howdy!” Our first Oklahoma hello.
He touched his hat in greeting, but when we, according to California custom, offered our hands to shake, he obliged with a leathered paw. He said, “So this little lady wants to get herself a horse.”
The day of the funeral, John did not close the restaurants, saying Bob would roll in his coffin if he did. I think the nieces and nephews were offended, but I had no say in the restaurants. However, only a skeleton crew stayed on the job. Most employees came to the funeral.
The relatives met at Bob’s house before proceeding to the cemetery. The sister-in-law and his children adamantly refused to have a church service in order to honor Bob’s non-belief. Crowded with family there was no room for me in the limousine, but my daughter, gifted with mercy, sat next to Bob’s wife, holding her hand, caressing her arm. John sat in the front with the driver, and I took the family car.
We had a fabulous birthday party for Ida in a restaurant overlooking the San Francisco Bay. Bob put on his “master of ceremonies” façade and became the life of the party. Ida delighted in his performance and fawned over him, letting his spotlight cascade down on her. At a given moment in the party a boat slowly passed by the window trailing a huge banner saying “Happy 80th Birthday Ida,” and I think her entire eighty years were packaged in that moment, with that banner being the peak of her life. Such a high is destined to bring about an equivalent low.
One morning during my prayer time, I heard the Lord say, “Go to Rhema,” so I wrote that in my journal. Knowing the word Rhema meant “the Word of God,” I figured He wanted me to read the Bible more, so I beefed up my reading schedule. About a month later, a friend said, “You guys ought to go to Rhema.”
I asked what “Rhema” was, and she told me it was a Bible School in Oklahoma. It seemed like an enormous step to take, but I did write for information. John hated the restaurant business and would have gone to Alaska to work on the pipeline if it would have gotten him out of administration and serving food. However, selling the restaurants, the house, and moving to Oklahoma made him think twice. Giving up my involvement in my church work made me think twice. We asked the Lord for a confirmation.