by Patty Morwood
Linda Thistleton has a reputation. She’s a mother of six who just four years ago adopted four young brothers out of Ethiopia. She’s a resourceful wife, fashioned by God, petite, but metaphorically broad-shouldered for carrying life’s burdens. I know her as a wise and faithful friend who is transparent and real, an astute Bible study leader, a prayer partner. And in regard to her open-home family-style hospitality … she’s renown!
I met her when she and her husband, Tom, established Cincinnati’s first classical Christian school. Then through the years, I was fortunate to know her in deeper ways; we eventually became good friends who truly enjoy each other’s company. I’m delighted to introduce you to her!
Tom and Linda had been married only three months when the greatest life-changer a human being can ever experience happened. The Holy Spirit did the Father’s work by giving Tom eternal life. Linda was a tad shocked. The only born-again Christians she knew of were on TV and rather bizarre. This wasn’t the man she married!
Though she was concerned and a bit scared, her husband simply lived the truth day after day, growing into a new man before her eyes. In grad school they committed to a PCA church where the Gospel was preached.
“A young lady at the church and I were going through Packer’s Knowing God. There was something on one of the pages of that book that was simple, obvious and speaking to me: We’re sinners. I knew I was a sinner. I am a sinner. How freeing to know who I am! That I need Jesus. That Christ worked for me.” recalled Linda.
Pinpointing the moment of salvation isn’t always easy; “it’s line upon line with the Word of God.”
Tell me about your young adult years and how you and Tom did family life.
Our married life seemed like an amusement ride whirling out of control while I was barely hanging on. But in reality, God was having His way with me.
He just kept giving me children and difficulty. Babies…grad-school…moving. I grew up in a small town with neighbors knowing each other from birth through growing up, and into marriage and beyond. But because of Tom’s occupation as a business consultant, we moved.
I was so insecure as a mother and as a new Christian. I was barely keeping my head above water. There was so much I didn’t know. For example, I didn’t really know that new babies sleep twenty hours a day, that that’s normal.
I don’t think either of us would have made it without the other because we are so opinionated. And I love to have my way; I get desperate sometimes to have my way. He’s strong-minded too.
For a while I took the lead spiritually and in the home. In everything. I had some feminist tendencies coming into the marriage. I could change the screens on the second floor and mow the grass when eight (8) months pregnant … while homeschooling and starting a school. It was a little ridiculous. And I was miserable; I made everybody miserable sometimes. We had a lot of wrong thinking in those days.
After grad school we went to St. Louis, where we attended a church that was built out of L’Abri. Their lifestyle was hospitality. We learned that hospitality is really just putting a few more potatoes, carrots, and celery into the pot; it’s never for show, but always to minister.
Dinner could be on ceramic plates, paper plates, or china. Sometimes a young mother needs to see that other families eat off paper plates, too; and sometimes they need to see lovely things. They really need to sit around the table with other families and participate in conversation involving both younger children and older children.
My husband grabbed on to this immediately. The first family we had over for dinner had eight boys! We were driving home from church one day and Tom said, ‘Honey, we need to have the Crums over. Nobody has them over.’
I said, ‘No! And what if it rains?’
We had a very little apartment. 'We’ll sit on the floor.' , Tom replied.
Just having them over was like jumping in the deep end. After that I thought I could do anything.
My long-term aspiration is to continue to live life with people invited to be a part of it. We’ve have kids from dysfunctional families and from really good families, and everything in between. College kids love to have the ears of adults.
From encouraging a young lady afraid to get married, to teaching young people who are testing theological beliefs. It’s stimulating to have our adult children and college kids and families around the same table…with our youngers right there in the middle of the conversations.
Talk about culture surrounding the youngers, as contrasted to that of the olders.
Things have changed dramatically. The technology now is so prevalent, even in a conservative community. To us, there are lots of dangers. If there is no down time, if a child fills time with entertainment, this means he is never quiet with himself.
When you mow the grass and have nothing in your ears, you think. Most of the things kids fill their down time with are surface-level things in today’s culture.
We’re thankful we had been parents for twenty-five (25) years before we adopted the boys. A lot of fear has been taken out of the equation because of that. Besides problems with today’s culture, we’ve seen plenty of regular kid-issues. For example, kids are pretty good at tricking their parents. And with the six, we sinned in overlooking that.
I’m just very thankful that God continues to reveal Who He is, who we are and what He requires of us. And I’m so thankful for our four little boys, otherwise I would have been past all this.
What is the wisest thing for children to learn in childhood?
Being taught to fear the Lord, because it’s the beginning of wisdom.
We require our children to read the Bible on their own, and we read it together as a family. We use Scripture in conversations because it’s applicable to everything. Teaching your children to think scripturally is the best gift you can give.
Besides that, I try to set as many things to a schedule as I can. But I also try to balance making decisions for my kids with giving them freedom to make their own decisions.
I love to be around your family. There’s stability and real enjoyment. It’s great to see. What is your perspective on your influence in today’s world?
I see myself a little different than the stereotypical older, wiser woman because I’ve gone backwards. I’m not only a mother and grandmother, but I’m a mother of young children again.
I don’t have the freedom to give myself to younger women that a lot of older women have, though I wish I could do it more often. What I can do is participate in a Titus2 group which meets twice a month.
Sometimes I think, ‘What do I have to give?’. I’m in the trenches with a six year old and younger women are struggling with the same things.
But, I do have a perspective they don’t have. Since I also have older children I’m able to encourage mothers to be faithful, and to walk by faith, not by sight.
I have the advantage of remembering that, by God’s grace, I was faithful in the commands of the Lord and the Lord was faithful too. Today, by that same grace, my children have their own children and they are themselves being faithful.
Many times I’ve been in Linda’s home, around the table with families, students, college and young adults, who are in and out their doors almost as often as the family is.
And every time I wish more families would bless their world with such transparency and open hospitality. I pray that as we hold our wifely hands out to others, God’s good things are not only received and relished, but multiplied into the lives of others.
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