“I will NEVER have children,” I quipped to my husband and our friends standing nearby. Blinking away the tears, I scanned the vacant campsite once more. It was morning and there was still no sign of them anywhere. Where had they gone last night and why hadn’t they come back? The unanswered questions had plagued my mind as I tossed and turned all night and this morning.
Every year on Labor Day weekend our church has a camp out at Fort Stevens State Park, just south of the city of Astoria, off the Oregon Coast. My husband David and I had decided to share a campsite with my mom and younger siblings. A familiar bunch of the church’s teenage girls arrived and set up camp directly across from us. There were five girls altogether, three of whom I was particularly fond of since I had watched them grow up. In the years that David and I had served as youth leaders in our church’s youth group, we saw them transform from grinning, giggly sixth graders into beautiful, sophisticated young women. Two of the girls, Julie and Mindy, were practically like younger sisters to me after we spent several days and nights together earlier in the summer, ministering in Rosarito, Mexico. I hadn’t seen much of them since the trip, but now here they were to enjoy the great outdoors and coincidentally, freedom from their parents.
We greeted them warmly when they arrived, but before we knew it, they were off again. The girls pitched a medium-sized nylon tent, tossed their belongings inside, and hopped in a couple of cars destined for who-knows-where. This proved to be their pattern for the duration of the weekend, but much to our relief, they always returned by nightfall. Always, that is, until that fateful Sunday evening.
With smoke-blurred eyes and stomachs full of gooey s’mores and other “nutritious” camping food, David and I decided to turn in for the night. There was still no sign of the girls. They had left immediately after dinner, accompanied by some boys we didn’t recognize. Surely, they would pull up at any moment, I thought, but something deep inside told me differently. To bide some more time, David and I bundled up and headed through the trails for a night hike, but when we got back we were disappointed to see they had still not returned.
When morning came, I willed away the exhaustion from a sleepless night, fumbled to get my shoes on and peered outside. Not a single car was parked in their site. “Darn,” I sighed and began to pray and worry even more for their safe return. The day trudged on as we packed our gear and tidied up the place. By now other church members were aware of the situation and they checked in with us periodically. Eventually, our pastor drove up, concern clouding his graying eyes. He stretched his arms around David and me, embracing us firmly and encouraging us to go on home. “I’ll contact the girls’ parents and stay until they’re found,” he reassured us. David nodded and, placing his arm delicately around my trembling shoulders, he coaxed me in to the car. Everyone else had already left; we were exhausted and knew that we would have to go in to work the next morning.
“Kids are NOT an option,” I stated again on the ride home. “These aren’t even my children, yet my stomach is knotted with distress!” Later that evening the phone rang. A familiar and guilt-ridden voice was on the other end, apologizing for the girls’ tardiness and irresponsible behavior. It was Julie.
“We were too drunk to drive back,” she explained. “We certainly didn’t mean to worry you.”
“Are the others all right?” I questioned abruptly.
“Yes, fine, except that we’re all grounded for life!” she exclaimed.
“Well, serves you right,” I retorted, half-chuckling, but so relieved to finally hear her voice. I thanked her and God for the good news and climbed in to bed. I did not feel well with a headache and a bit of nausea; both of which I attributed to the past days’ stressful events.
But the next day, even after a good night’s sleep, I felt just as awful. After requesting a sick day from work, I asked David to get me some things from the store. Jotting a few items down, I folded the note and deposited it in his pocket. When he returned from the store, the expression on his face told me that he had bought all the things I requested. A few minutes later, I emerged from the bathroom, my face glowing but streamed with tears. I placed the positive pregnancy test in his palm and crumpled to the ground. He followed my lead. Our eyes were glued on those two little lines, certain that one would fade away. But it didn’t.
Once the numbness and shock wore off, we dialed up everyone we could think of with the incredible, wonderful news. And just a few short months later, we called the same roster of family and friends, again, to alert them that we were expecting twin girls!
Our twins, Breanna Rose and Rebecca Renee, are teenagers now with a younger brother and sister. Raising these children has become my greatest joy and my greatest challenge. The four of them fill my days with endless wonder, and whether I’m snickering at their childish antics or sobbing with exhaustion at the day’s end, I don’t regret a minute I spend with them. All I can say now is that God must have been softly chuckling to Himself when He heard my ironic proclamations of remaining childless. “Oh, just wait,” He must have said to the angels with a twinkle in His eye, “just wait.”