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Arrows in the hand
The story of one God-formed family
by Darrell D. Neet
Connie is the center gem in our family, so I am going to begin with her. She was raised by a single mother in Madras Oregon, was always energetic but with a quiet personality, never desiring to be in the limelight. She went to George Fox College and obtained her BA in childhood education. Connie's first teaching assignment was in a small public school near her home town. Eventually, the desire to serve and the opportunity to teach in an Eskimo village in Labrador, Canada took her for a few years out of the states. Connie remained single and dedicated to a life of virtue and service. Eventually she took a teaching position in a newly established private Christian school started by a post "Mennonite" church. This school is where we first met. I was on the founding committee and was attending the affiliated church at the time, working with youth, singles and young married couples. Now, I guess I should tell how I happened to be living in this small coastal community.
I too was raised by a single mother. Different from Connie, I went through a strong period of rebellion, and gave my dear mother some of her toughest years. My high school years were dramatically changed when I was introduced to my God and savior. Our high school experienced an unprecedented revival with well over 50% of the student body becoming believers. I tried college for part of a term, but was so unsettled that I withdrew before completing my classes. I then worked in a small sawmill for a year until I was to leave on a delayed enlistment program in the Air Force. I threw a big going away party for myself (that should tell you a little about the difference between Connie and I) and moved out of my family home putting all of my things into storage.
I was already in the Air Force Reserve, and upon arrival to the station I would be sworn into active service. Because of errors in my records and my recruiters denial that he had erred in completing some of the paperwork, I was honorably discharged immediately. So I boast of a one day military career. It was a bit of a shock to my mom when I arrived back home and knocked on the door six years early.
I survived, married a junior high school sweetheart, Marla, and went back to work at the sawmill. After a couple of years, with a young daughter, a dog and a single wide mobile home we moved to the Oregon Coast upon request of a Mennonite pastor whom we would come to love and respect above most people we knew. Together Marla and I had two children, Jennifer and Philip, co-pioneered a small community church, and purchased a "real" home. The day after our church dedication when Jennifer was about seven and Philip was five, we were involved in a tragic auto accident. A drunk driver passed out at the wheel and hit us nearly head-on. Marla was killed instantly and Jennifer received severe third degree burns.
Marla died in October, and I grieved hard and wrote poetry to work my way through her loss. In a matter of months though I realized that I was not to remain single. But I also knew God did not need me to get involved in the dating game. Instead I prayed and wrote a letter to Connie.
Just to make the connection here, Jennifer was once a student of Connie, "Miss Tingle," who by this time had applied to teach in South America and was currently teaching in another small private school 150 miles away. I had not had but two conversations with Connie, none of them too pleasant for her since I was questioning the content of some library books she "allowed" to come into our school. In the end we corresponded without any romantic involvement and got to know each other better.
This could go on for some time, but let me hit the high points. After reflection, mourning and counsel It was suggested to me that I should consider Connie as a possible wife. I knew God was leading in this. I also knew that I would need to have someone with the gift of service that I saw in Connie's life. Eventually, I asked her out for coffee while we were both attending a church conference, and it was there that I decided to give her the news. After explaining the "five reasons" we should get married (using notes), I said "This seems kind of like a sermon doesn't it?" and Connie replied, "I've never heard one quite like this before!" She agreed to pray about it. After a period of time and counsel with her parents and pastor, she let me know that she too believed this was God's leading. Eventually persuaded we married and had a wonderful honeymoon in Alaska. After wards we came back and began the hard work of starting a new family unit. It was harder than I had imagined. For different reasons both Connie and I were still grieving some losses in our lives. In keeping with Paul's letter regarding church leaders first having a stable home life, I quit my job as associate pastor to devote additional time to Connie and the kids.
We were not able to really settle down for a couple years. We left our business, and home at the coast and traveled in a fifth wheel doing mostly volunteer work. For those of you who know the pioneers of the home schooling movement, we spent a couple months in the home of Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore. By now we had a son who we named Nathan and another child on the way. With this fourth baby soon to arrive we often had others ask us, "How many more children do you think you will have?" It was evident that our growing family concerned not only our friends but strangers as well. Still living in the fifth wheel our new daughter, Rachel, was born at last.
When Rachel was about a year and a half old, we decided to settle down and moved into my mom's old house. I went to work for the state of Oregon, and Connie gave birth to our fifth baby, another son, Caleb.
At about the same time I discovered a lump on the neck of three year old Nathan and after an examination our doctor informed us that it was malignant. Thus, we began a 3 year treatment program for two types of cancer, leukemia and lymphoma. Friends shook their heads and said, "I don't know how you can do it?" We don't know how we can do anything, but God has promised in His word, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13). We are no different than most people. In fact, most people we know are currently doing what it is that they really want to do. Most people make the sacrifices necessary to reach their goals. And Connie rose to the task. She administered most of his care at home and soon found that she had another patient.
Even though I often told Connie that the chances of me being in another serious wreck were almost nil, it happened. While riding a motorcycle, I was run over by a small truck. The driver said he was preoccupied and simply ran a red light. With over 400 fractures, both legs, one arm, my hip, hand, several fingers and one big toe broken, I joined the family infirmary. One memorable moment was when Nathan was on the couch in the living room getting an IV from his home care nurse, I was still in casts laying in a hospital bed with a home therapist pulling on my legs, and in the bed next to me was Connie delivering Lizzie, our sixth child, with the aid of our midwife. What a life! Eventually God blessed us all with recovery and healing.
The question we most often heard during those days from those who consider themselves to be followers of Christ is, "Don't you think your quiver is full yet?" Of course they're referring to David's Psalm where he wrote "As arrows in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of they youth" (127:4). Our goal is simply to say, "If the Lord is willing, we shall be a family, a family of His design." Many people are able to achieve incredible results in many different life ventures mostly due to being willing to try, and being willing to perform the work it takes.
Psalm 127 goes on to say, "Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate" (v.5). The assumption made mistakenly about this verse is that the purpose of arrows is to take up space in the quiver. In actuality, children are likened to "arrows in the hand of a mighty man." This denotes a warrior, one who conquers and protects. An arrow only temporarily stays in the hand of a mighty man. He pulls it out of his quiver and he places it upon the string and sends it forth to accomplish it's intended purpose. So are children, beautiful creatures which we nourish for such a short time before we send them off.
The Scripture says, "Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them. In a warfare situation the worst thing that could happen to a mighty archer is to run out of arrows. During heavy battles there would be those who assisted the ones engaged in battle. They would scurry about bringing up supplies and see that the archer's quiver was always full. We have heard it repeated often that "a quiver full is five arrows." I would ask you what king would ever send out mighty men into battle only giving them five arrows? What soldier would agree to go into battle with one quiver of five arrows. When the mighty man is in battle and he is sending off his arrows as accurately and lethally and as quickly as he can, he is happy whenever he looks and finds his quiver full of arrows.
As the children got older Connie began home schooling. In the end I left working for the state of Oregon when political ideas became more important than how you did your job. We started another family business, and have included our children in the small scale writing and publishing of character building books for children. Most of the books we are working on are based in our life experience, and are stories that I created through times of story telling to our children. Since leaving my job with the state, we have also had more wonderful children born to us; Laura, Abigail, Oliver and Lincoln. We are now still home schooling, though our oldest two did not stay at home the entire time. They both attended a rural public high school.
We are really quite ordinary people. We have seen the wonderful benefits of large families and also the criticism that such families endure. Among all of our other activities, we want to assist other families with information and encouragement, so we started a newsletter. You see, ten children have not exhausted our ability to minister, they have opened up new doors for us.
We are often perplexed by some of the questions which people put to us concerning having a large family and sometimes irritated by contemptuous comments. But, because there is so much misinformation and deception concerning families who receive children beyond the "politically correct" one or two, I'd like to address these issues and hopefully put some of the confusion to rest. The questions range from the Neanderthal, "Don't you know what causes this? to some very intriguing and challenging questions both intellectually and morally. Some of our answers may be scientific, but most often they are religious in nature, seeing life from a spiritual, creation-oriented perspective. It is our view that we serve a very wise and powerful God.
Paul wrote to the Colossians about Christ saying, "For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist" (1:16-17).
We know that just this assumption may be offensive to some of you, but nonetheless it is our deeply held world view, and it has provided us with more in tellectual peace than any other we may have temporarily held in the past, including evolutionary humanism.
Do you plan on having more?
Is this the last one?
Don't you think your quiver is full yet?
Isn't it about time to stop?
I don't know how you can do it?
You must have a lot of patience?
How can you afford it; we can't afford the one (or two) we have?
He's a beautiful baby, but I'm glad he is yours and not mine!
I think times are too hard for me to want to bring a child into the world.
Don't you think this is hard on your body?
As I ponder the list of questions we've been asked, and the comments that have come our way, it is apparent that Connie and I could fill the pages of a book. We don't have that kind of space, but here are some answers that we give to some of those questions:
How many more children do you think you will have?
Do you plan on having more"?
Is this the last one?
Isn't it about time to stop?