Because of my working schedule I am not able to listen to radio broadcasts of Focus on the Family. But I do often download episodes on my iPod and listen to them at my leisure, often while I am sewing. Just today I listened to the episodes that honored this fine and Godly man who is leaving Focus. He has been such a major part of my life. As I listened to people who called in to share their sentiments, I wished I had been able to do that. Instead I am going to share my sentiments here on my blog and share a story I have never shared before.
I began listening to Dr. Dobson when we were in seminary and living in Kansas City in the early 1980's. We had two young daughters at that time, one quite strong-willed and the other very compliant. I remember listening to those broadcasts feeling like I had found a life-line. Somebody understood the situation I found myself in as a young mother and helped me understand my daughters. I listened faithfully every day and subscribed to the free issues of Focus on the Family magazine that came every month. I devoured those magazines from start to end and often read them over and over again.
I needed to hear that my job as a mom was full of value and honor and that the strong feelings I had to stay home and raise my children were natural and right. Even though I always had to work some outside the home, I felt encouraged as I found jobs that worked around my husband's schedule so that our children were always with one of us.
I learned and applied the disciplining techniques taught in The Strong Willed Child, Dare to Discipline and Hide or Seek. Our children were raised in love and discipline and while certainly not perfect, we knew we could take them out in public and be proud of their behavior. Dr. Dobson taught me how to tell the difference between childish irresponsibility and willful defiance. I loved how he taught me how to "shape the will without breaking the spirit" of my kids. I learned so much from listening and reading the words of this very wise and Godly man. More than anything I took from him the challenge to "Be There" , meaning that there is nothing more important that being There all together, a family unbroken, when we go to Heaven. It is the deepest desire of my heart to this day.
This brings me to the story I have never shared. It was 1989 and I learned that I was pregnant with my fourth child. We were pastoring a very small church that included a very small salary, my husband was bi-vocational, we had three daughters who were growing and demanding things we found hard to financially supply and I was exhausted and discouraged. The thought of a fourth child was simply overwhelming to me and to be quite honest, I did not want this baby. I felt much guilt over feeling this way because I knew that life was a gift from God, but I could not imagine how we were going to make this all work. After going to the doctor on my initial maternity visit we were handed a bill, the amount the insurance would not cover, and told it had to be paid before the baby was born. It was a few hundred dollars, but it may as well have been a million. There was no way we could come up with that much money.
During this time I received in the mail one of the monthly letters from Dr. Dobson. It often told news of what was happening at Focus and in our country along with much appreciated parenting advice. But this letter was a bit different. It was a letter from the heart of Dr. Dobson as he and Shirley were facing the empty nest. Their children were moving away from home and they were struggling with the feelings and emotions that were occurring because of it. Something in that letter pierced my heart like an arrow and God used those words to help me stop looking at our situation in terms of dollars, to have faith that He would provide and to look forward with joy and anticipation the birth of our fourth daughter. An amazing transformation took place inside of me and I sat down and wrote a letter of thanks to Dr. Dobson. I told him my story and I thanked him for helping me to accept what God was doing in my life.
It was just 3 or 4 weeks later, about 4:30 in the afternoon when the phone rang. I picked it up and it was a man's voice that I did not recognize. He asked for me and then proceeded to tell me that it was Focus on the Family calling. I did not believe it and thought that my husband was playing a trick on me. After the man finally made it clear that he was not my husband and indeed worked for Dr. Dobson he told me a most remarkable thing. He told me that Dr. Dobson had read my letter and been very touched by it. He was sending me something in the mail and I was to be sure to look for it.
I was so excited! What would it be? One of his books perhaps, and I even dared to hope that it would be autographed. Maybe it would be a set of his cassette tapes. I went to the post office every day eagerly looking for my package. Finally, just a few days later a letter appeared in my mail box from Focus on the Family. I must admit my excitement was just a bit deflated as obviously I was not receiving a book or even a tape. I took the letter to my car and opened it and a check fell out of the letter. A check for the exact amount of money we needed to pay the doctor before our baby was born. Tears filled my eyes and I could hardly read the letter from Dr. Dobson that asked me to accept this gift from Focus as though it were a gift from the Lord. And it had to have been because in my letter to Dr. Dobson I had never mentioned any amount of money at all.
God used that incident in my life to grow my faith. I am so grateful to Dr. Dobson for what he did for us. Years later, after we were more financially secure, I began giving a monthly donation to this great ministry and I still do to this day. We have given way above and beyond the dollar amount we received that day, in faith believing that this money has gone on to bless other people as it had blessed us.
I will never be able to repay the debt of gratitude I owe to Dr. Dobson and Focus on the Family. I can't imagine how my kids will raise their kids without hearing his kind and comforting voice on the radio every day. But this I know, God will make a way.
Thank you Dr. Dobson for being a man of honor, integrity, faith and wisdom. You have blessed my life.