Our 20th Anniversary! 1990-2010
Twenty years! “This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes!” We are simply amazed and humbled stewards of a work that God has chosen to bless over the past 20 years. Over and over we have seen the footprints of His grace in the path He has taken us on.
Twenty years ago, while a friend was pestering us to print the “If-Then Chart,” another friend from church offered to give us money to print our first 250 charts. When he insisted that he did not expect us to pay him back if the charts didn’t sell, we decided that God was using His children to direct us. We printed the charts.
Next came the question of how to sell them. More friends offered to let us park at the end of their vendor table at a local homeschool conference. We spent the day explaining the chart over and over, and went home with whopper headaches and enough money to pay back our financial backer and print the first 250 “Blessing Charts”!
When Mary Pride mentioned the “If-Then” and “Blessing” Charts in her Big Book of Home Learning, Doorposts was launched into the mail order world. It was so exciting to get an occasional order in the mail! We would wade through all the mess to the shelf in the corner of our spare attic room, roll up a chart, stuff it in a tube, write out a shipping label, and take it to the local Postal Annex to put in the mail.
How exciting it was when I began to discover how practical and applicable Scripture is for parenting! I spent hours poring through concordances and topical Bibles finding answers to the parenting challenges that faced us almost every day. Soon For Instruction in Righteousness became an idea, and we needed a computer to write it. We offered John’s boss a whopping $50 for an old computer (that’s what we could afford!), he accepted, and my little typing station was set up at the end of the piano in the living room.
Raising five children ages seven and under, while attempting to run a growing home business often felt like much more than I could possibly manage. I had many moments of serious doubt (especially after staying up into the early morning hours, working while the kids were asleep, or after typing 30 pages of For Instruction in Righteousness and watching them vaporize into thin air with no way to recover them). Every time when I thought that perhaps we should quit, God would have a letter waiting in the mailbox, a letter that some dear soul had taken the time to write, a letter that encouraged me and confirmed once again that we were doing what God had called us to do.
Over the years God has surrounded us with many wise counselors. We’ve believed the truth of Scripture, that “the borrower is the slave of the lender “ (Proverbs 22:7, ESV), and we’ve chosen to not spend money we don’t have. That decision has protected us from making many mistakes and has helped us, by God’s grace, to survive the challenging times that have come.
To save money, we printed our first copies of For Instruction in Righteousness in small runs on a high speed copier at Office Max. To successfully copy and collate 250 pages required some oversight on our part, so I spent many hours at the copy center counter in Office Max while the kids entertained themselves with games they invented on the black and white tiles of the store’s floor.
My mother’s generosity, sharing a portion of her inheritance from my dear grandfather, enabled us to do our first larger offset printing of For Instruction in Righteousness and decreased our costs, increasing our profits, and helping the business grow.
It soon became obvious that this business was more than I could handle alone. John discussed the possibility of working part-time for the computer software company that employed him, while also working part-time at home. His boss wisely encouraged him to devote all his energies to our business, and we made the leap of faith into full-time self-employment. John thought he would whip things into shape in a few short weeks and then return to his computer work. But he would be working at home for the next 10 years, until Daniel, our oldest, was old enough to exercise his God-given gifts in the business.
After working for more than a year on Plants Grown Up, we stayed up all night to finish it and put it into the hands of our printer early that morning. Then we threw ourselves into packing for our church family camp, gathered materials for a boys’ craft project we would lead at camp, and took off in two cars loaded with children and supplies. We made it about 15 minutes down the road before my eyes started to cross and we had to come to terms with our finiteness. We turned around, took everyone home, went to bed, and started back out in the morning. What a wonderful week of restoration and fellowship after the grueling week of birthing a new book!
For a season, I taught a ladies’ Bible study in our house each week. When the mothers arrived, we sometimes had as many as 50-60 children swarming through our little house and backyard. We recruited some to work for us while we did our study. While us ladies worked our way through Proverbs 31, our children bagged and taped and folded and stamped! Those were great days of blessing!
Eventually the business overtook our entire finished attic, including our bedroom! When we wearied of taking books and shipping materials off our bed every night, the living room became our bedroom! John and I slept each night on the ever-bumpy hide-a-bed, with Susannah’s crib tucked into a corner of the room. It didn’t take more than a year or two for us to realize that we needed a bigger place to raise our family and run our business. I still have the 4 x 6 card with the list of things we were asking God to provide for us in our house.
While we looked on the east side of the Portland area, church friends kept telling us about places on the west side of town. We kept telling them we didn’t want to live that far from church, but when they told us of a house with an unfinished building attached to it, we decided we should at least look at it. Our Christmas letter from 1996 tells the story:
This place looked like God had taken everything He knew we loved, and everything He knew we needed, and put it all together into one beautiful package! From the Sunset Highway on, I could not contain my delight over the beauty of the fields and fields of rolling farm land, and the layers of blue hills that framed it on both sides. It was so much like the countryside I had grown to love in Monmouth. That was before I fell in love and decided that living with John in the city was better than living in the country without him.
We drove through the little town of Forest Grove, and I recalled my words of several years before when we had driven through the town en route to the beach, “This looks like it would be a nice place to live.”
As we drove down the lane to the house (we had prayed for a lane off the main road!), there were clumps of daffodils (that the kids were dying to pick for Mommy!) sprinkled throughout the 7 acres around the house. There was a stream all along the north side of the property, begging young boys to make its life more interesting. The house was white with green trim (my second favorite, after light yellow with white trim – and this house would not look good in light yellow!)
We had prayed for a kitchen that six kids could be busy in all at once without Mommy going nuts. This was it! And it had a full wall of pantry cupboards from floor to ceiling. (Anyone that helped us pack will know why I got excited about those!) There was a real BEDROOM with room for a BED just for Daddy and Mommy! And TWO BATHROOMS!
Well, a God who can so perfectly design a house to meet our needs can also make it possible for us to live there, and He did! It is still hard to believe how perfect this place is for us.
And we still look back and can hardly believe the graciousness of the many friends and family member that helped us pack (and pack and pack), and clean out that little “dirty house” (as two year-old Susannah grew to call it during the move), and dig up plants and trees and berry bushes, and stuff U-Haul vans. They suffered asthma attacks packing dusty books I hadn’t been able to reach for years, brought us meals, sheetrocked the new office, painted the walls, and patiently wandered through building supply stores with us.
Beyond all this blessing, God provided two wonderful ladies to work part-time, and I can focus on just being a mom again (except for writing new materials). Now I can give more time to enjoying the great kids God has given us.
Once the boxes were all stuffed into our new house and its garage, we had to keep business running! While more church friends helped us finish floors and hang and tape sheetrock in our new office (a 1250 sq. ft. building that the former home owners had started building, with no clear purpose, about the same time we were printing our first “If-Then Charts”), we set up our “office” in a tiny room, and somehow managed to ship out orders.
Eventually, following the advice of our business consultant (another church friend), we hired a man from our church to act as general manager. After commuting an hour and a half each way for over a year, Roger and his family moved to our side of town, and eventually built a house just up the road from us. One of the highlights of every year became our annual planning retreat which took both ours and Roger’s family to the beach for two or three days.
Now Roger’s precious oldest daughter is about to become our daughter-in-law, marrying Joseph, our second son, who knew ten years ago that Hannah was the lady he wanted to marry! (But that’s another story!)
The years are filled with many other memories – babies in slings and playpens while we worked at homeschool fairs, later years when I worked side-by-side with the children in the Doorposts booth at curriculum fairs, writing trips at the beach, special dinners and exotic snacks that Bethany made us while we wrote, travel to homeschool conferences and train trips across the country as one of the children and I traveled back home together, my precious Daddy sitting in a chair in the middle of the office cheering the kids on as they packed orders and taped boxes, the privilege of becoming acquainted with so many folks who are dedicated to serving homeschool families…
As we review the years, we thank God for the wonderful community of believers we fellowship with, and the profound influence they have had in our lives. They have loved and encouraged and tolerated us as only the grace of God could enable anyone to do!
And how can we ever thank God for all that He has done for us? All glory belongs to Him! Our prayer is that He will see fit to allow us to serve Him and you (and perhaps your grandchildren) for yet another twenty years! May you, too, see His hand in all that life holds for you!