Without Further Ado: My Family

It happened often, that Rachel, when she was alone at home, moved up and down in her room, tidying up after some repairs to her clothes. She hummed a Psalm and digested remarks and pieces of conversation she had picked up in the office; there were always people who complained or chattered loudly, regardless of where they were.

Rachel went through life with a smile and was always happy and thankful. She had a cozy room under the leads, half of which would soon become the living room of her and her future husband, Gerrit van Rijn, after they would be married. It would be their temporary residence, because they had together signed an agreement to undertake to do the management of a hostel for parents of seriously ill children, who would be in the hospital next door in the city of Vreeburg. Rachel already worked there half days as a receptionist. She had delivered the proof that she was able to handle people who were excited or were out of heart.

Every now and again she stood still, because of truant thoughts. She knew everything was going to change in her life, but she did not worry about that. The Lord would provide—like He had done in the lives of her parents, who were still teachers in a Christian school. She did not have brothers or sisters. She went through a long list of things she had yet to do. She laughed. The hostel was finished on the outside. The painters were now at work at the ceilings and the doors. The first trees for the garden had been planted. Gerrit and she would get their own flat at the back of the building, next to a playing-garden. They would have to be available day and night for the guests in the hostel. It would be a tall order, working and praying. It would ask much of their staying-power. But they were young and happy. It was not very warm in the room, and she barely noticed it.

Rachel remembered the talks Gerrit and she had with the local Minister of the church, who was a man with a lot of experience. He had explained that they would have to face very difficult cases and emotions. They would probably often become involved in all sorts of tensions, disappointments, despair, worries and problems. Especially, of course, when a young patient did not survive. You could not make use of a collection of sugarcoated messages for real-life dramas, whenever you faced people who did not believe in God and Jesus Christ. But there would be the possibility of referring to the Gospel.

A friend of Gerrit was a surgeon in the hospital and had told them about his talks with parents and young patients. He said to Rachel: “Often you must have the patience of an angel. If there is a dangerous operation to be done, it makes most people nervous and unreasonable.”

She looked at pictures of refrigerators, spread out over her bed. She liked the one with imitation wood on the door best for the small kitchen they would get in the hostel. Of course, the guests would have twice as much room. It was financed out of gifts of Churches, social organizations, factories, etc.

During the wedding dinner, the father of Gerrit invited Rachel also to say something. She did it with some hesitation, but with a clear voice. “As far as I can remember, it has always been my wish, once to become a married woman and the mother of a family. Perhaps it will be helpful to prepare myself by being busy in the hostel, looking after several people. I am not afraid of that, because we know that God will always carry us through.” Gerrit nodded assent. Rachel blushed.

They were only together with a small group: relatives, the minister with his wife, two elders, good friends, and members of the youth-club of the Church. It was very pleasant.

There had been many people in the church to see the wedding, even people they seldom met. Gerrit was yet head of a business in building-materials. She had been teacher of a kindergarten for a while. He would not miss his job, because he was asthmatic and he was not happy with all the dust at his workplace. She had had a lot of fun with the little ones.

The members of the church were a unity and always interested in the lives of each other. There was a real solidarity, like in a good Christian family, caring for each other, while there were ups and downs. There was joy, gentleness, meekness, temperance; the facets of the fruit of the Holy Spirit and His powerful grace.

Gerrit and Rachel had been part of this congregation already for several years. Well, they got a family like Rachel said, without further ado. They became very happy in a time when there were a lot less happy families around, and young people who became confused by the attractions of the world. Sometimes late at night they got a visit from parents with problems, who asked their opinion about conflicts in the family, with their children, or with the church to which they were going. It was often shocking to hear about the worries and nasty experiences some people had, apart from the illnesses of their children. They were able to bring the Glad Tidings, so that a new light could shine in a dark place, as Gerrit once said. The inhabitants of Vreeburg heard about it and a couple of times they were invited to speak for a meeting, where all sorts of situations in the community were discussed.

In six years time the Lord gave them four healthy children. The work in the hostel was not difficult and often parents who stayed there for a couple of days or longer, kept their rooms clean themselves. The talks they had with Gerrit and Rachel were as a rule more important to them than anything else. They needed a listening ear and comforting words. However, there were days that they were overburdened and they got help from someone from the hospital. Also in matters of administration they had needed a helping hand once. The Board decided to give the hostel six more units, and the Van Rijns three more rooms, because their flat was not suitable for a family of six “living souls,” like the official document stated. They noticed that there were more young victims of traffic accidents than ever before, and babies with severe problems. They sometimes spoke with nurses who were exhausted or they saw a doctor who was taking a nap in his car.

In the flat they had some minor accidents, like when the washing machine exploded, and when a thunderstorm blew a piece off the roof so that the rain made a kind of pond of their floor, and when they all got the flu, and when their meal burnt, and when Rachel broke a leg. Then Gerrit said, “The Lord will provide,” and He did.

It became springtime once again and in the birch in front of their living room a nest appeared. They had not expected that. The children stood in rapt admiration, gazing every day through a pair of binoculars, which Gerrit gave them. His eldest son, John, was now seven years old, and was keen to give the rest of the family detailed information about all that he saw. He warned everybody not to disturb the industrious, small, gray-brown birds with silvery eyes. They were not shy, and did not expect any harm from human beings. In three days the nest was ready, and the female took possession. The couple had worked on it without interruption, covering the inside with pieces of wool and cotton they had found in the area. The children laid bread in front of the birch.

A couple of days later they discovered that the birds had three tiny eggs: light blue with black specks. Gerrit and Rachel were just as excited as the children to watch this real life story. He was unable to find out what kind of birds they were. They saw that when the female left the nest to eat and drink a bit, the male took over.

The day came that the eggs burst open and three very small, naked chicks wrestled a bit with each other to get a nice place under mother’s wings. It became a busy time for the parents, feeding their hungry offspring, coming and going all day. It seemed the chicks were never satisfied, from morning till evening, they screamed louder every day.

The eldest son of Gerrit and Rachel, John, was now seven years old and he took it upon himself to inform the rest of the family about all the developments he saw through the binoculars. John warned his brothers not to come near the birch, so as not to disturb their little neighbors.

Soon John saw the widely opened beaks coming out above the edge of the nest and he became worried about a cat he had seen walking past. The children decided to stand near the window like guards, but all remained quiet. The young ones got some feathers and the children were in a rapture of delight.

Rachel used the opportunity to tell them about all babies. They all have something in common, because you have to care for them, and that is a big responsibility for the parents. Parents protect life, because God wants them to do that.

It happened one day that the children were confronted with the dangers for the young. There are drama’s also in the world of the birds. What happened?

Rachel was up early that sunny morning and opened the windows to get fresh air in the house. At once she noticed that there were no sounds coming from the direction of the birch. With bare feet she went outside, taking a kitchen stool with her. She climbed on the stool and looked in the nest…or what was left of it. It was destroyed and the young birds were dead. Obviously a big bird had suddenly attacked the family and perhaps had taken the parents. It could have been a sparrow-hawk.

The dead silence in the nest stretched that day over the whole house. One by one the children went to have a look and they spoke in a half-whisper. The delicate birds had not had a ghost of a chance to defend their family against a big, aggressive sparrow-hawk. They were like some poor people in a hostile land.

Rachel told the children, “We are also like these small birds. If God did not protect and guide us, we would soon be lost, beggarly, desperate, and defeated. The enemies of God hate us, but He does not leave us, ever. Let us not forget to thank Him for every new day He gives us.”