We had been married for ten years with three beautiful children but
no home of our own. We finally qualified for a loan in 1978, but the interest rate was high. Our construction loan was 12%—a sign of the times during Jimmy Carter’s presidency. I longed for a home for my children—Deborah, Julia and Aaron. Just like the woman in Proverbs 31 who bought land, I traveled from West Chicago to Algonquin and saw the quaint town with the Fox River flowing nearby. I stopped at a real estate company telling him I was interested in buying a lot for our future home. We bought a lot in unincorporated Fox River Grove from a 90 year woman for a very low price. My brother Bill, a lawyer, wondered if it was under water. It was on a downhill lot filled with trees. We would need to clear it and put in a well and septic.
We rented a house in nearby Crystal Lake and worked in the evenings clearing the lot. I gazed longingly at our land and dreamed of the house we would soon build. It was a long wait before our home materialized. In 1980, the bottom fell out of the economy similar to what happened in 2008. There was very little work for my contracting husband and even though I helped support our family of three with homebound tutoring and subbing jobs, we could no longer afford to rent a house while building our own home.
Summer passed and we were staying in a camper at Buffalo Park in Algonquin. I drove the kids to school and then went to my tutoring jobs. Aaron, our son, was asked to draw a picture of his house. He said to the teacher, “You mean our lot.” He didn’t have a house yet. But even then as a young artist, Aaron could accurately draw his house which was just a frame with a ladder going up to the window. Today he is a noted plein air artists. See www.aaronschuerr.com.
Winter came and we moved into the garage and kept warm with our wood burning stove. Larry read C.S. Lewis stories around the fire. We identified with “Little House on the Prairie”. We were regulars at the YMCA where we had membership. In fact on Christmas Eve the staff told us the pool was closed. We said, “That’s OK. We just need showers,”
From the garage, we continued to complete the house. Larry struggled while putting the heating ducts in by himself. In frustration, his language became rather colorful. “I never heard Daddy talk like that,” said Debbie. I quickly shuffled the children off to bed saying we need to pray for daddy. Each day after school, the kids huddled around the radio and listened to children’s programs on Moody radio. I often remarked, “We have a loving home but no physical house to put it in yet.”
A woman from church invited us to stay at her home for a couple weeks while they were vacationing. “That would be wonderful,” I said. I try to remember how important hospitality can be. We had no choice living like this while we were building. There just wasn’t income—contracting had dried up and our interest rate was almost like the interest on our credit card.
From the garage we moved to the basement and established a kitchen similar to my Italian high school friend, Adelina Gina Maria Sangineto. The Italians I knew growing up cooked in the basement during the hot summer. Then after dry walling the bedrooms, we set up the bunk beds Larry made for Deb and Julie. The telephones were installed before the dry wall was completed. Unfortunately, someone stole our telephones and we had to replace them.
Our showers at the YMCA came to an end when we installed the bathtub. That was a momentous occasion. We took our first baths by candle light before the drywall was completed. It was pure luxury. I appreciated every step forward to the completion of our house.
Finally, the day came for our final inspection. We were very nervous because we still had major things to complete. The sink and one of the toilets was not functional yet. But we passed and shouted “Hallelujah.” I’ll never forget those difficult days and I’ll always have compassion in my heart for those in need. I was able to get a job teaching full time and I helped finance Larry’s education so he could complete his degree and become an Industrial Arts teacher. We knew we had to look for a more secure financial situation for us and our family. We were hard workers willing to take the opportunities to advance—- life then got much easier for us.
We have been in our home now for over 30 years and the walls reverberate with the voices of our three wonderful children and now our five grandchildren. Pictures of our odyssey from our lot to our home fill our walls. We love opening our home to friends for potluck dinners. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t thank God for our wonderful now paid off home. It has high ceilings and windows on the roof. It is decorated with tropical plants and large windows. Our wooded lot is surrounded with plants and trees. I love looking out the window watching the birds sing, the trees swaying in the wind or the snow glistening. Occasionally, a deer or a fox will make a quick appearance. I will always remember our times of struggle and our times of plenty. It is part of the tapestry of our lives