Unexpected Night Visitors

I have been thinking about what I wanted share next. I have a few posts lined up, but I’m not ready to put them down yet. So this week, with all the kids and teachers going back to school, and some off to college for the first time, I thought I would share one of the many experiences that we had when we were in college.

First thing you need to know is that when I finally did decide on what I thought God was telling me to do with my life, I was a bit older than the traditional college student. So, I was designated as a non-traditional student.

Chrissy and I had 3 kids when we went back to school full time. That’s right, it wasn’t just me, it was both of us who went back to school. We both had started college a few years earlier, and I did go to school before we were married. I was an advertising art major, and I focused on photography and color and design. Then I came to the conclusion that I really didn’t want to be in school. So, I sought out my photography professor and asked him what I needed to do to start my own studio. He gave me some advice, and I was off.

Now Chrissy, she started in on studying early childhood education a little while after we were married. After some time, she decided that this was not what she wanted to do. Even though she enjoyed it, she felt that it just wasn’t the right time to be in school. So, she put it on hold.

That is until I felt the Lord telling me that He wanted me to be a pastor. When God says go, you need to go. So, we answered the call and went to school. I was about 26, and Chrissy was 22. We started our journey at a college that wasn’t a good fit for us. The next fall we transferred to another school better suited for us.

We were officially students of Lincoln Christian College-East Coast. It was a satellite school located in Bel Air, Maryland. The main campus was located in Lincoln, Illinois, which is now called Lincoln Christian University.

Chrissy and I both enrolled as full-time students. Our campus and student body was very small, but we had great faculty.

Chrissy and I lived in an apartment across the road from the men’s dormitory. The apartment building, we lived in also housed the girl’s dorm and two faculty apartments. The girl’s dorm was basically just another apartment above our apartment. And even though the school was small, it was situated on a really cool campus.

The campus sat on an old southern plantation that had been renovated to house a school. It was called Eastern Christian College back in the day before it became Lincoln-East Coast. It had a gym, 2 classrooms, and offices– it even still had the huge plantation mansion that we called Old Main. The office building was at the opposite end of the campus from our apartment. It had a Christian school meeting in it as well, and a small book store. This building also housed two more apartments at the very end of the building on the upper floor. Those apartments were numbered 1 and 2. Which was ironic, because we lived in apartment 2 also.

Side Note: Our apartment building, way back when it was a plantation, our little living quarters, was once the chicken coop. The  girls’ dorm apartment was #1, and our apartment was #2, then two staff apartments on the other end were numbered 3 and 4.

Back then, we had just started to scratch the surface of something called the Internet. We had a computer in our apartment; this was when we were still using something called dial-up. Our computer would use a modem to dial a number to connect to the Internet through the phone lines in the apartment, then hopefully connect, if there weren’t too many people using that server.

We also had a land line home phone. It was really confusing trying to get the phone and internet installed because the buildings were so old and the wiring was all messed up. One line that they had marked apartment 1 was actually apartment 3. It was crazy! Now, you may be thinking, what does that have to do with anything? You will understand in a bit.

The students on campus love to pull all kinds of fun pranks on each other. We did all kids of funny things. At one time, some of the boys decided to prank one of the girls by splitting apart Oreos and sticking them all over her little white car. It was pretty funny at first, but when they were removed each cookie left a round dot from the oils in the filling on the car. Overnight, the car became speckled.

This is why I was not surprised when Chrissy woke me up in the middle of the night saying, “Someone is outside our window,”

It was a school night when this all happened. Nothing really out of the ordinary. Chrissy and I got the kids to bed; Tori had her own room, Ben and Jonah shared a room. I’m sure we had just worked on some homework, watched some TV, and then went off to bed.

Everything was fine, that is until I abruptly felt a hard smack across my chest that woke me up from a dead sleep. I woke to find my wife grabbing me and frantically whispering in a scared voice. “Butch I think someone is outside our window. The head of our bed was in the middle of two windows against the wall. So, I lay there absolutely still as I intently listened for what she had heard. It was so quiet, I could hear my heart pounding, and Chrissy breathing quickly. Then I heard voices outside too. I sprung out of bed, grabbed some jeans and pulled them on when I heard someone pounding on the door. Then a deep loud voice said “Open up! It’s the police!”

“What the heck?” I asked myself. Could this be some kind of prank?

Chrissy had on a very short and silky nightie that had a lacy V-neck. I moved to the door quickly as Chrissy peeked abound the bedroom door to see what was going on. I flipped the lights on and opened the door. I really expected to see some of the boys from the dorm across the way.

To my surprise, there stood 3 of Harford county’s finest in uniform.

They said, “Sir, we received a 911 call from apartment 2. Is this apartment 2? I said yes. They then continued by saying, “May we come in? The call received was a non-responsive call. We would like to check and make sure everything is okay.” I said, “Ok?” Then the one officer saw Chrissy in the bedroom door way. He said to Chrissy “Ma’am, can you please step out here?” She was totally embarrassed. She stepped out, and they started to question her. Then they asked, “Is there anyone else here?” We told them our kids were sleeping in their rooms, and they insisted on looking in on them. They checked the boys room first. This room looked like a cyclone had torn through it. As they shined their mag light on to the beds they could clearly see the boys fast asleep.

Then they moved to Tori’s room that was just off the kitchen.

Side Note: Tori liked to sneak into the kitchen at night and get leftovers out or other food and take it back into her room. We never knew what we would find in her bed or room. We would smell something funky or weird and instead of checking Jonah’s diaper, we checked Tori’s room for food.  Honestly, most times it was just Jonah’s pants though. LOL!

Also when Tori was little, she loved to wear dresses. She absolutely highly disliked pants or anything that covered her legs tightly. In fact, dresses were all she would wear; it was dresses or nothing literally. If she couldn’t have a dress on she had nothing on.

So, as the officers in their investigation of our apartment moved to her room, Chrissy looked at me and I at her, knowing that we may find a crazy situation in her room. I can only imagine what the expressions on our faces were like. Chrissy told me later that it was at this moment that she had visions of the child protective services coming to our door the next day to take our kids.

The officer opened the door and shined the light around  her room that looked like Punky Brewster’s wardrobe room gone bad. I peered I with the officer, just praying that Tori would have something on. When his light rested on the little body of my daughter she was in her sleeping position that I still kid her about.

Side Note: Tori would sleep on her belly all scrunched up with her knees tucked under her with her butt up in the air. It was the cutest thing.

So the light stopped on her sleeping in her normal position butt up in the air. The only thing she had on was a head band that she had made in Sunday school that looked like a lion’s mane. That was it, nothing else. She was naked as a jaybird. The cop chuckled and turned about and said to the others “We’re all good here.” I was at a point of embarrassment that there are no words to describe. I looked at Chrissy and slowly shook my head, at that she knew tori had done something.

I was just glad he didn’t say to the others, “Dudes, come over here, you have got to see this!” The officers seemed to be satisfied with their investigation. As they walked to the front door, they told us that they were sorry to disturb us and again mentioned that there was a 911 call from apartment 2. Then they asked if there were other apartments on campus? We told them that there were 3 other apartments in this building, but there is another building with more apartments down the hill. So, they thanked us for letting them in, and they left.

After they left, I showed Chrissy what the cop was laughing at in Tori’s room. She was still in the same position with the lion’s mane. We stood there laughing at the situation. After covering our girl and removing her lion headdress, we then turned to each other, and agreed this would be one of those nights that we would not forget.

The next day we found out that in the office building down the hill there was another apartment number 2; the person who lived in that apartment had a phone that malfunctioned and somehow called 911 in the middle of the night. I still don’t understand how it happened. The police got the two apartments mixed up and ended up at our home. So, we were the lucky ones who received a visit in the middle of the night.

My take-away is that sometimes you may be the victim of someone else’s emergency, so the best thing to do is try to be cooperative. Chrissy’s take-away was, make sure you have a housecoat close by for those times when you have visitors in the middle of the night.

 

Happy Meal Christmas

It’s the hard times when I’m feeling alone and discouraged that I find myself going back to the past, when you have no doubt that God brought you through a hard time. This helps me feel safe, secure and it even helps me refocus, it even boosts my faith that God is bigger than anything I will ever face.
One of those memories I cherish is when Chrissy and I started out on this journey of serving God full-time.
Side Note: I know now that we had no clue as to the price we would pay for this calling that we had chosen to answer. This isn’t a bad thing, we just didn’t have any idea what our life was going to be like.
To start this new adventure, we asked God to help us pay off all our bills. With one tax rebate check, He made this happen to the dollar. We proceeded to pack up all of our belongings from our mobile home into a small moving truck.  We loaded our two young children and one Dalmatian puppy into the car. With one last look at our small, safe world, we left our family, friends, and any support systems we had grown up with.
We traveled 9 hours away to the most southern part of West Virginia to one of what they call the Twin Cities, Bluefield, WV. It was nestled in a valley of the Appalachian Mountains. Just across the state line in Virginia was another city called Bluefield, VA. Thus the twin cities nickname.
We moved here to go to Bible collage because, if you wanted to be successful in ministry, this is just what you do. As I had mentioned, we really had no clue what we were doing. I just believed that God was telling me to come follow Him and lead his people. So, since this college was the only one we knew about at the time, we signed up there.
Side Note: At this time, we didn’t have access to the Internet or even a computers, which would have helped us research this better. As it was, we went off of the word of a school recruiter, and trusted that God would provide the rest.
And that is how I became a student enrolled in Bible college. Unbeknownst to us, this college was one of the most conservative, legalistic schools on the east coast for the Church of Christ/Christian Churches. The very contemporary church that we were coming from was a Christian church. So, we figured this should be good. We didn’t know how wrong we could be. We didn’t even understand the difference between contemporary and traditional church styles. We assumed they were all like our great church.
Back in the 90’s, I only wore a button-up shirt and tie with dress pants at three places. One was when I worked as a professional photographer for a large corporation, and it was required. Two was a wedding and thirdly a funeral, where it was expected.  I tell you this because this is what I called “dressing up”. When I had gone to Penn State, I could wear whatever I rolled out of bed in. Not that I did, but I could have. Believe me, no one in the photo dark room cared what I looked like.
Not so with this place. Every day, in every class, I was expected to be wearing dress clothes. That is how conservative this college is. It didn’t take us long to figure out that we didn’t fit well, and many of the promises made to us to help us decide to come by the recruiter were unfulfilled. But that would not stop me I had a call from God, and I was sure of it.
One thing I failed to mention is that Chrissy was pregnant with our Jonah. So, on moving here we needed some support to help us get acclimated and get settled. Unfortunately, none of that happened. I was told that I could work at the school and that there were plenty of youth ministry positions at local churches that embraced the students of the school. Well, I did work for the school but they applied all of that money to my tuition for school. There were no loans or grants not even scholarships, because as we discovered, this school was not accredited. You paid as you went, and they made sure they received their payments.
We did have a few people and our home church who believed in what we were doing and us. The gifts that came in helped us put gas in the car and some food on the table.
After a few months of classes and trying to fit in, with still no real steady income, Christmas was coming and along with it, the time for Chrissy to give birth. Things were pretty discouraging, but I had faith that God would see us through.
Side note: Remember the puppy we took with us? Well, on arriving we were told no dogs. You need to find it a home. This puppy was a birthday gift for Ben, he loved the movie 101 Dalmatians. So we found a temporary home for her with one of the off campus students. We though it was a good home. To make a long story short, within weeks of her going to her new home she was hit by a car and broke her leg. The vet helped us fix her up. He told her that she was fine. A few weeks later, in spite of her vet’s bill of good health, we got a voicemail message from the other student saying, “Your dog is dead and I buried her in the yard.” Click. Wow! Not a good day.
So, at this point, I almost had it but I decide that I would do whatever I could to bring a few bucks in, and hopefully this would help us and make things better.
I also thought that whatever I made a little would go to taking the kids out for some fun. So we went to McDonalds  a few times and bought the kids Happy meals. It was late November, and 101 Dalmatians was the surprise toys in the Happy Meals. So, I had the brilliant idea that we would secretly remove the toys and keep them for Christmas gift for the kids.  
The closer we got to Christmas, our Happy Meal toy stash was growing. We hoped that somehow we would be able to buy a few real gifts for the kids, but it didn’t look good.
The grandparents were going to send some things; we knew that, but it’s just not the same as providing for your family. So, we prayed that God would provide. This is when we received a card in our mail on the same day we also received a discouraging anonymous piece of hate mail in the box too. (That is another story.)
In that card was a note saying, “I wish I could do what you are doing.  Merry Christmas!” with a cash gift enclosed. It wasn’t much but enough for Chrissy and I to get the kids a few gifts. And we still wrapped the happy meal toys and gave them to the kids.
After 20 years our grandkids play with these little toys and the Christmas ones are on display every Christmas as a reminder to us of God’s faithfulness. His Will, will always be done. Even if those around you are coming against you, and things look hopeless, if you place your trust in Jesus and stay faithful to what His Word says and what He has called you to, He will see you through.
It was a skinny Christmas, but it bound our family together and made us stronger. It actually taught our kids and us how to love and put others before ourselves. Look for opportunities to encourage anyone you can and let people know authentically that you appreciate them without expecting anything in return, even if you don’t understand why God has laid them on your heart. If you watch, God will show up and beautiful things will happen.

As I said this was a hard time, but looking back brings joy and hope to me as I hope it stirs up in your soul the same.