The Portugal Adventure – The Long Year – Part 8 – The Book Burning

By spring, my attendants had their patterns and fabric for their gowns. We had decided  to keep the wedding reception as simple as possible. I even had a wedding gown, which I found on a clearance rack. All it needed was a trip to the dry cleaner.

As was my custom during the second semester each school year, I read C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia aloud to the class.  Lewis’ allegory holds many  spiritual truths in a captivating story about Aslan, the Lion who created Narnia. My students always enjoyed those stories, and coaxed their parents to get them their own copies. We were nearly finished  the final book, The Last Battle.

John_ToddEnter John Todd, Occultist

There was a lot of excitement at church when a man named John Todd  arrived in the area. He claimed to be a former witch who had come to warn God’s people about an Illuminati plot to take over the United States. Todd said that he had been born into witchcraft and had attained the position of Grand Druid High Priest of the Illuminati. Additionally, he claimed to be a member of the “Council of Thirteen,” “one of the chosen few who rank just below the world-ruling Rothschild family, Jewish bankers with roots in eighteenth-century Europe who Todd claims are really demons.”Christianity Today magazine. Todd made many other bizarre claims. If you are interested here is Todd talking about the witches in the music industry.

(For those who may be interested in knowing more, here  here are some links. Or do a Google search. Oddly enough, there are still camp followers of  the now deceased Todd.)

Todd’s Message

My church (where I taught) invited Todd to come speak to the congregation. His message was to warn us about the imminent mayhem coming to the United States and the world. John Todd told how he escaped from the Illuminati, and averred that his life was constantly in danger if they should catch  him. He  encouraged a survivalist lifestyle  What did Todd want? Money. He claimed to be building safe houses for former witches and warlocks, and asked for financial support. However, within a couple of years, he was arrested in South Carolina for statutory rape and transporting a minor over a state line.

The Aftermath

My dad and I had not gone to the official church meeting, but we did listen to the messages via cassette tapes. We discussed it at length. Neither of us had a confirmation of truth from the Holy book-burningSpirit about this man.

Then, one day after I had been out sick, the principal had a short conference with me.  C.S. Lewis was officially banned from my classroom. In fact, any and all books in the school library that referred to magic of any sort were to be burned based on Todd’s teaching. He referenced the situation in Acts 19:11-20 where the Ephesians who had been practicing the dark arts chose to destroy their magic books as a public testimony of their sorrow for their sin. It was the Ephesians choice, though, not a directive from Paul, and not based on a false testimony.  The apostle Paul simply preached the Gospel, the Holy Spirit convicted them and they chose to get rid of the books.

What is your response to things like this?

The Portugal Adventure – Part 7 – The Long Year – Baby

Christmas was over. The decorations, as always, had come down on January first. My sister’s baby was overdue. She felt clumsy, and desolate. For over nine months, she had nurtured this beloved little life in her own body. But she had agreed to give this child up for adoption to a family. She was told the family could give her baby a good life. Her heart felt first ripped in two and then shredded. She wanted the baby. Someone who would be hers. I don’t know how she got through those days.  Some days we  waited with her at the edge of her pool of despair as she waited to birth a baby that she would never cuddle. Something just did not feel right.

Two weeks past her “due date” in the middle of the night of Tuesday January 16 into Wednesday January 17, my sister got my mom and dad up to take her to the hospital. Those were the days that I could go back to sleep easily, and being superfluous in this part of the adventure, I went back to bed. Wednesday was a school day.

I was up and dressed for school when my parents returned from the hospital. They told me the baby was a boy who weighed about nine pounds. My sister would be coming home in a couple of days. Alone. When she did come home, there was no way to comfort her. She had handed her son over to the couple who wanted to adopt him. She was dejection on an island of abandoned hope.

But unknown to me, she did have one hope. The baby’s father is a kid magnet. He loved my sister and he loved kids; she knew he would fight for his baby. Pennsylvania adoption law requires a signature from both parents before the adoption can be finalized. The baby, who was born on his father’s birthday had an advocate.  A week after my sister walked away from her baby, she was in the lawyer’s office where she picked up her son up to bring him home. baby

On the way home, my brand new nephew  paid a visit to his great grandmother. She held him, loved on him, blessed him and prayed over him. Then, my sister brought him home. And he was beautiful.

cherry Hill mallMy dad and I had a Christmas tradition. One Saturday in December we got into the car and drove to Cherry Hill Mall in New Jersey to Christmas shop for my mom. It began one year when Mom wanted a new pair of Sunday-Go-to-Meetin’ shoes. He always had a difficult time discerning if the shoes he found would be both acceptable and fit Mom’s foot. As fate would have it, after my feet stopped growing, they were the same size as Mom’s feet. As time went on, it became our once-a-year Father-Daughter outing. This year, 1978, we were both filled with raw emotions and apprehension. In many ways, it was the end of an era and the beginning of a new one.

Our first stop was always a coffee shop where we fortified ourselves with caffeine and carbs. This year, we lingered over our coffee. Dad was wearing  his puppy eyes, and I was thinking that no matter how good of a man Harry was, Daddy would always be the first man I had loved; no one could take his place. We perused mom’s Christmas list – which was nearly the same from year to year – and set off to fulfill Mom’s wishes.

The shoe store was first. We found some shoes, and I tried them for fit. The pair we chose made mom smile from ear to ear on Christmas day. We picked out a matching hand bag for her while we were there.  Next we looked for some stocking stuffers for her: a pair of non-pierced slide on earrings, socks and a head scarf. Dad had planned on a bigger Christmas  for Mom, but it didn’t happen that year.  Mid afternoon, an Orange Julius completed our last magical mall Christmas tour. On the way home, Dad started the obligatory negotiations to encourage  me to wrap Mom’s presents, and as I did every year, I pretended I didn’t want to – but of course I did.

christmas tree

Christmas Day was subdued compared with the hilarity we usually enjoyed. In addition to the money mystery, we were grieving that our yet unborn family member, would not be joining us for any other holidays. His destiny had been decided while he waited to see the light of day.  Then there was an undercurrent of the pain of loss for the baby and for my move to Portugal in the next year.

My sister kept trying to find a comfortable way to sit – the baby was due within a week or so. My dad sat in his chair in the corner and sighed heavily when he looked at me. I sat on the bottom step clutching my favorite gift: a boxed set of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. (I still have them; you can tell by looking how much they have been loved down through the years.)

It was a waiting time for all of us.

Have you ever been in an uncertain waiting time? Can you describe how it felt?

The Portugal Adventure – the Long Year Part 5 The Money Mystery

Twenty-Dollar-BillMy teaching salary during the ’78-’79 school year was $6000 before taxes. The average salary nationwide in 1979 was $17,500.00. Yes, I was teaching in a Christian school, and it was considered ministry. Ministry jobs seldom come even close to national averages at the best of times. I chose to live  at home, and paid my parents room and board as well as helping out with odds and ends of things. My mom and I had a deal where I did the cooking and she did the cleaning according to our gifts.

I never really worried much about money in my life. Even on that salary, I had enough for my needs and some to share. I also knew that my wedding would have to happen on a shoestring budget.

Also, I was pretty clueless about wedding planning. Enter, my friend, Karen. She asked me how my wedding plans were coming along. She suggested that now that we had our attendants, we might look for a wedding gown, tuxedos, plan menus, and other mundane details like reserving the church. Karen had known me for at least six years, and so she brought along an appropriate gift: two bridal magazines. My rose colored glasses changed to a more practical color: strictly business blue.

Karen knew then, (as my daughters know now), that I only get into the mood for clothes shopping about every other blue moon. Karen had talked me into buying some clothes before my trip to Portugal the summer of ’78, so she knew she would have to put some muscle into getting me to go wedding shopping. She wouldn’t leave me alone until I set a date with her to go look at and try on wedding gowns. She left me a list of things to do. (sigh)

The next day I grabbed my purse and got ready to go purchase some food to cook a treat for dinner. I made a list of ingredients and put it into my wallet. When I opened my wallet, the $20 that I had put in there after depositing my paycheck was gone. That twenty was approximately a quarter of my income for a week. I made a loud and noisy fuss, but no one owned up.

A few days later, I found a twenty-dollar bill in a shoe under my bed. About that time, my parents found the personal safe in their bedroom closet had been robbed, and the money they had saved up to buy Christmas presents was gone. Dad called the police, and they picked up fingerprints on the penny-loaferssafe. They belonged to  a family member who was living in the house at the time.

Charges were not pressed, and the money was not recovered. My parents were devastated. I was shaken to the core. Before the day was out, I had bought and installed a padlock on my bedroom door. I knew it wouldn’t keep out anyone who was determined to get in, but it might slow them down.

Harry was such a faithful correspondent during this time we were apart. This man who spoke only about ten words on our first date in 1970 now filled pages of words in weekly letters. He took all of my family’s quirks and spasms in his stride, and reassured me that they made no difference to him in our relationship nor in our future marriage together. I knew then that he was a keeper for sure.

The Portugal Adventure – The Long Year Part 4: Drama

aeroporto-LisboaLong Distance Wedding Plans

If you’ve ever planned a wedding, for yourself or for someone else, you know that it nearly qualifies as  full-time employment. Add in the facts that “wedding coordinator” was a relatively rare bird in the 1970’s – unless you were royalty. And your mother is clueless.

Your fiance lives nearly 3400 miles away from you during a time that transatlantic phone calls were rare and expensive. And he has more relatives than Ping “who lived with his mother and father and two sisters and three brothers and eleven aunts and seven uncles and forty-two cousins.” ping

Do  you wonder that my first choice was to go to the pastor’s house for the wedding ceremony and throw  a reception party after the honeymoon?  If it had been up to me…but it wasn’t. Not entirely. At least I had my attendants picked out before I left Portugal; My flower girl (pastor’s daughter) (Harry’s little cousin to be) the ring bearer, my sisters-in-law to be, my high school friend, and my younger sister who was to be my maid of honor.

A Dark and Stormy Night

I was still dazed with the wonder of being engaged to Harry when one Sunday night in September my sister’s boyfriend came to pay a visit to my parents. I was up in my bedroom reading, but I soon felt the thick tension spread through the house. It would have required a machete to cut through it. After some time had passed, I heard the front door close, and then someone climbed the stairs evidently looking for a gun in my parents’ bedroom. Clearly,  something out of the ordinary was going on.

I went down the stairs  with apprehension. At the bottom step I noted that the boyfriend was gone. My dad was on the sofa clutching his chest and popping nitroglycerin pills like they were little sugar pills. My younger brother looked angry enough to commit murder. My mother turned around, looked at me and wailed, “Your sister is pregnant. What will the neighbors think?”

And, in this Corner…

 I would like to say that I was all compassion and understanding that night. The best I could muster up at the moment and for a good number of minutes to come, was to keep my mouth shut. At least until I had a chance to process it all. Then I was confused and apprehensive.

At that time in history, unwed mothers either got married or were sent off to a home. Often, they were forced to give up their babies for adoption. Happily, that did not happen in this case. Unfortunately, though, I had still no experience to draw upon in the situation, and I put my foot in my mouth more than once.

My pastor was aware of the turmoil in our family, and was concerned for all of us. He called me in to talk to him one day while I was still at school. When he asked me how I was doing, I started to cry. I told him about how I felt and that I didn’t know what to do. At the end, he said that he couldn’t tell me what to do, but that I should listen for the Lord to tell me, and do what God wanted. I took his advice. And that was when the compassion grew by leaps and bounds in my heart for my sister. I realized that she carried the heaviest burden.