Chapter 7 Copyright 2023 – Carla J. Wood
Building our Family
But the love I have for
my children is the only
love that split my soul
with each birth, and still
with each year I am
I finally decided to go to a school a lot of my friends attended, Northwest Nazarene College. Leaving my family was very difficult, but I was convinced that nothing I could do would heal my mom and their marriage. So, in September 1980, with most of my belongings packed into the car, I tearfully kissed everyone goodbye, and Dad drove me to Nampa, Idaho. The ten-hour trip was the longest time I had been alone with my dad in many years. Much of the time was spent listening to the radio or in a companionable if slightly awkward silence. I could tell he wanted the time alone with me to reconnect, but neither of us knew how.
We arrived late in the day and after moving my things into a dorm room I’d be sharing with a high school friend, Julie, Dad retreated to a hotel for the night before returning the next morning to have breakfast with me at the college cafeteria. Despite my desire to break out on my own, I had a renewed sense of a loving connection with my dad and felt sadness at a lost opportunity to deepen the bond. I was gently reminded of the moment he had rescued me from drowning as a little girl. Dad hugged me, then handed me a present to be opened when he left. Kissing him on the cheek, I watched him get into the car and drive away, then carried the gift to my room to open it. Carefully wrapped was a book, Letters to Karen: A Father’s Advice on Keeping Love in Marriage, by Charlie W. Shedd. Inside was a sweet message sharing Dad’s heart and how the things he had not had time to teach me were in this book. He added how much he loved me and would pray for me daily, which he has continued to this day. I treasured his heart reaching out to me in this wise book with his loving words so carefully penned. One more source of help towards a godly family, coming from my dad meant the world to me.
Spring of 1981 came upon me so quickly and my parents separated, spiraling me into a depression. There were many things going on in my mind. Loneliness hit, some broken relationships had occurred and now having an unknown unstable home waiting for me was a huge hit to my spirit. I cried out to God and at the same time told my roommate I was not going to date one more guy until graduation. Julie’s response to my declaration was humorously blunt.
“I thought you were going skiing with five guys and four other girls tomorrow. You might marry one of the guys.”
“Well, lets see who you are going with?”
Knowing all the guys in the group, Julie analyzed that the only guy I could possibly marry was the “Gary guy” who neither of us knew.
That night I had a dream that I married the “Gary guy” and he looked like Robin Williams as “Mork” with soft wavy medium length brown hair. Intrigued, I looked forward to seeing the “Gary guy”.
Upon waking, I got a call from one of the girls saying none of them would be joining us on the ski slopes. Hesitating to go alone with five guys I still decided to go since I had new skis that had never been used and it was the last ski day of the season. Plus, I was curious about this Gary.
The guys arrived outside my dorm. I only knew three of them so was unsure who Gary might be but the driver stepped out of the car looking like “Mork” dressed in ski pants and rainbow suspenders with buttons on them just like Robin Williams! It took a half an hour to confirm he was indeed Gary Wood. He stole my heart that day with his patient ski instruction as I was a fairly beginning skier. A perfect gentleman who treated me like a princess.
It took him two weeks to get the guts to ask me out and the rest is history. The next two years were trying for me in so many ways, but I was stretched and challenged to really put God first in my life. I would end up running for Miss Boise, winning and being in the biggest tug-of-war with God pulling me upward and the “nameless enemy” pulling me down.
God won! Gary was faithfully forgiving, and we both drew a line in the sand for our love for each other and our commitment to Jesus when we married in 1983.
My greatest desire in my life work was to be a stay-at-home wife and mother, but our finances would not allow for this. Gary’s dream job with the power company would require he work in power plants for a few years. When a job finally came open to work in Hell’s Canyon on the Snake River, Gary got it. This job was the answer to my lifelong prayer to be able to stay home with our children.
For eighteen months our life was living an extended honeymoon in the wilderness. We learned to experience the Idaho and Oregon outdoors with camping and reservoir swimming adventures. Living out in the middle of nowhere, Gary and I grew closer in our marriage as we were away from our parents and families.
After sixteen months of adventures, another job came up. I was eagerly expecting our first child in six months, so the move to a town that had a hospital closer than 75 miles sounded very appealing. Friends of ours attended a church that needed a choir director which sparked my passion and sounded like a nice diversion to my lonely days at home. So, we moved to Kimberly, Idaho. The village power plant families were amazing, and the church welcomed us warmly. It was my 25th move in my 24 years and I soon realized this time I really felt I had moved to the next best thing to Heaven.
In 1987, God brought Shawn into our hearts and home. In a new community of friends and with Gary’s family now only two hours away, we couldn’t be happier. My experience in helping with my little brother, Matthew, made the transition to motherhood so smooth and fulfilling. Shawn was such an easy baby. I learned having a child was a bond deeper than I had ever imagined. Someone at church told me to take moments each day and look into my baby’s eyes and just enjoy his presence. I took her seriously and, starting with Shawn, spent many moments just absorbing my children into my heart, something I am now so thankful I did. Shawn was so happy and a fast learner. He seemed extremely smart and satisfied. His laid-back way of life made me want to continue to have children. I thought if they could all be like him, I’d for sure have six babies.
Our roots continued to grow in Kimberly. I did work part time work, substituting, piano teaching, and in the music and youth ministry at church. Two years into my parenting role, God blessed us with another pregnancy.
This second child let us know from five months into the pregnancy he would be the opposite of his brother. From the very beginning I knew he had the personality of Tigger from Winnie the Pooh combined with the drummer “Animal” from the Muppets. Where Shawn’s womb movements were strong, slow and assured, like his personality, this second child’s were bouncy, rocking and punchy. I announced early on that, girl, or boy, this one would be a drummer.
Many of our friends were allowing God to plan their families and not use birth control. Gary and I had only talked about having two kids until we experienced parenthood further. While I still liked the idea of having six children, I had also learned that I wanted God to clearly tell me what to do and not just follow the local status quo. I knew that not everyone was called to have a whole passel of children.
Seven months into this pregnancy, I received a call, that a little boy from one of the other power plants had been killed in a car accident. Kurt and Jonie and their three blond boys, Derek, Caleb, and Bryce had been introduced to me once while living in Brownlee while they visited a neighbor of ours. Their middle and second son, Caleb, three years old, was killed on their way to a family wedding. A hopeful day of joy suddenly turned tragically sorrowful. As I contemplated this sadness, Taylor, not knowing he would be a boy yet, strongly quickened in my womb. It was like Elizabeth experienced as her soon to be born son, John the Baptist, quickened as she greeted Mary who was carrying Jesus. Remembering the observations, I’d made throughout my life of families who lost children, I immediately thought, “We must have more children than this. If I lost this child, I wouldn’t want Shawn to be alone.” It was a done deal; I knew that no matter what we would have more than two children. My thoughts left to God’s will, I went on praying daily for Kurt and Jonie’s loss, some days imagining walking through that journey myself. We ended up moving back to Hell’s Canyon where Jonie became one of my good friends that would later prove to be a faithful empathizing prayer warrior for me.