Back in July 1975, when Sandy & I were first married, there was a popular music duo named The Carpenters. Their hit song, We’ve Only Just Begun, probably best represents our new life together as we settled down into our little 2-bedroom apartment in Buffalo Grove, Illinois.
As I mentioned on the previous page, Sandy and I fully expected to remain as music teachers for the rest of our careers. In 1975, after returning from our honeymoon, we both had good teaching jobs in School District #21 in Wheeling, Illinois, and by 1976, had moved from our rented apartment in Buffalo Grove to a comfy little townhouse in nearby Palatine – 2175 Dogwood Lane – where we expected life to be fairly even-keeled.
In the fall of 1976, just after we moved into our new townhouse, I was promoted from assistant band director at London Jr. High to becoming the lead band director at Holmes Jr. High. At first, I enjoyed the new job, but quickly found out that Holmes was nothing like London when it came to building successful band programs. To add to the frustration, many school systems around the USA, in the mid-late 70’s, decided that the arts were not a necessary part of a good education, so budget cuts were putting our entire District #21 music department under great pressure. Knowing that his job was soon to be eliminated, our district music administrator began a secret undercutting of me at Holmes, hoping he could find grounds to force me to resign so he could take over my job the next year. Which is exactly what happened!
So, in the spring of 1978, the ax fell at School District #21!
On the last page, I mentioned our growing commitment to the good people of Christ Church of the North Shore, a new church plant in Evanston that was birthed out of North Shore Assembly of God in Skokie, where Sandy & I were married.
Our small group, which met weekly throughout this tough season, proved to be a God-send in helping us sort through and pray through this first big crisis in our new marriage. As the 1978 school year came to an end, we were considering all kinds of options, such as looking for other music jobs in the area, moving to Iowa or Indiana, and/or other creative ideas in order to survive. But then, one day in prayer, we distinctly sensed God instructing us to one thing He wanted us to do – “Align yourself with your church family in Evanston. Become members and begin tithing to the church. Trust Me in all this!”
This step of faith had very practical limitations. You see, in the fall of 1977, prior to our Holmes Jr. High fiasco, Sandy and I had decided to plant our roots in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, building a small house in nearby Streamwood (see below).
So when the ax fell on my job in the spring of 1978, we were in the midst of moving from our townhouse in Palatine to our new home in Streamwood! What timing, huh?
So, when God says, “align yourself” with your Christ-centered friends in Evanston, this now meant driving an hour each way to church on Sundays and then another trip into Skokie on Wednesday nights for our small group meeting in our friend’s home. Yet, because of the unbelievable love and support we found from our small group while we were going through this trial and because we wanted to be obedient to what God was clearly asking of us, we went ahead and became members of the church and began tithing on a paycheck that we knew would end very soon!
These early years of church life proved to be so instrumental for us in building our faith and growing up in Jesus as we built deeper relationships with God and with young people like ourselves. Most of us were in our mid-twenties and just settling down to married life. In 1978, just as Sandy & I were sorting through the ashes of a lost job, a more-expensive home, etc., God blessed us with our first child. So, just as we were transitioning into this newly-built home in the far west suburbs of Streamwood, here comes a blessing beyond description.
Just so you know, our affectionate name for this unborn baby was Berferd, taken from one of our favorite Dick Van Dyke television comedies. But, on April 11, 1978, we changed that name to David Andrew Boller, and suddenly Sandy and I became parents with a newborn, living in the midst of great transition. Since we lived in Streamwood, David was born at the nearest hospital – Northwest Community in Arlington Heights.
George & Dixie Boller celebrated their first two grandchildren in their 1978 Christmas letter.
Yes, through it all, God was blessing us with our new baby and our church family surrounding us with love and prayers. One night at small group, our good friend Bill Hanawalt said, “Hey, wait a minute. The manager of Logos (a Christian bookstore) in Evanston was stepping down in June and one of the guys who helped start the church was on the bookstore board.” Knowing I was desperately needing a solid job, Bill said he would talk to him and see if they would consider me for the manager’s position.
The board met on a Tuesday night in early May, and I remember Sandy & I – with David sound asleep in his crib in our new little home out in Streamwood – praying all evening, crying out to God for a breakthrough with the bookstore board meeting in Evanston. The next day, I got a call from Bill saying, “Well, it’s all decided. The board wants to hire you to manage the store. When can you start?”
We were thrilled. So, when the school year ended in Wheeling, I immediately transitioned into managing Logos Christian Bookstore – 601 Davis Street in Evanston – never missing a paycheck. Over the next few months, we sold our new house in Streamwood, finding a small little home that was in our price range in Evanston. And throughout the process, Sandy and I were on our way toward learning how to trust God in new and exciting ways.
By October 1978, we’d finally made our transition to Evanston complete. As I mentioned above, I started my work at Logos in June, but we weren’t able to move from Streamwood until October. So, for nearly four months, Sandy and I, with little David in tow, did a lot of driving! Fortunately, some good church friends, the Lechners, who were making a big transition as well (from Evanston to Waco, Texas) gave us use of their vacant home in Evanston for much of that time. No furniture to speak of, but at least it saved us from a lot of windshield time!
With our life now settled in with my new job in Evanston, on September 25, 1980, Deborah Lee Boller joined the Boller family. But by 1982, we were all starting to feel a bit cramped in our small 750 sq. ft. home.
Life was certainly full! Not only were we adjusting to two children in our comfy home, but I was also adding more responsibilities to my job by serving on the Logos national board of directors, overseeing 100+ Logos Bookstores around the USA.
David and Debbie – two amazing gifts from God.
As you can see from the pictures above, Sandy & I had a great tradition in the early days of our marriage of keeping track of our wedding anniversaries by taking a picture on July 12th with our fingers indicating the number of years we’d been married. This plan worked well, as you can see from these shots in 1982, until year eleven in 1986!
In the fall of 1982, we moved our growing family from our little house on Madison Place to a large four-flat – four apartments under one roof built in the 1920’s – located at 1110 Seward in Evanston. Joining with three other families from our church, this was our attempt at “community-style” living.
Here’s a fun pic of the Boller family visiting the Evanston Farmers Market in September of 1983. Note that Sandy has a little baby bump. Baby #3 is on the way!
That baby bump turned out to be Jennifer Marie Boller, our third little blessing from God, born on December 28, 1983. It was a super cold, below-zero week in Chicagoland prior to New Years Day, 1984. Brrr! But Jenny warmed our hearts immediately!
Our fourth blessing, John Martin Boller, was born on September 2, 1986.
Yes, the story is true. I wanted John’s middle name to be Hawkeye, but his mom prevailed! It was also during this time, when God stepped up His strong intervention in our lives, clarifying His sovereign call to full-time pastoral ministry.
By 1986, Sandy & I were on-staff part-time at our church, working both with small groups and children’s ministry while also trying to manage Logos Bookstore. By June 1986, it had become apparent to both us and the bookstore owners that I had to give up one job or the other. We needed to either give our full attention to the bookstore or we needed to follow the Lord’s promptings to move on toward full-time ministry.
The decision was very difficult because while the church wanted to hire us as full-time children’s pastors, it was unable to guarantee full-time employment at that time. In faith, we choose ministry over security and in the process, God began a very difficult season for us that brought us to an ever-increasing reliance on His faithfulness for all things.
It was in this very difficult season, God began to open up creative ideas that we’d never seriously considered before. I remember one day, Sandy and I were praying for a breakthrough when we suddenly realized that it would be OK with God if we pursued jobs outside of Evanston. With the solid commitment we had made with God and with the church community, we’d never really imagined we would live anywhere but in Evanston for the rest of our lives. Then suddenly, God seemed to be saying, “Expand your sights…look to new places…like returning to Iowa.”
In our desperation for any good paying job, we did begin exploring jobs in Iowa and with my mom and dad still living in Iowa City, we decided it would be a safer risk to look for positions there. By December 1986, a sales job with a school-based fund-raising company developed and we decided to take it. In January 1987, we loaded up a moving van and pressed westward, returning to my beloved Iowa after living in the Chicago area for 14 years.