The radio station’s parent company flew him to Chicago for eight interviews in a day. And he nailed every single one. Ric was certain: This was in the bag. The McClarys started dreaming of living in a warmer place. Originally from Minnesota, they looked forward to milder winters for a change.
Then the call came in. He didn’t get the job.
And so the Chattanooga position went to someone else. Though Ric had spent much of his life learning to trust the will of the Lord, this was still disappointing. The McClarys accepted that the door was closed. And then the company called Ric back. It turned out a position opened at a station in central Minnesota—the last place he was looking.
It quickly became clear that God was working through the bad news. For years Ric and Darilynn had been praying for their youngest child, Tara. Since her teen years, Tara defied everything her parents tried to teach her within a loving, Christian household. She consumed alcohol whenever she could, ran into trouble with law enforcement, and eventually left home for good in the middle of the night. By the time Ric was offered a job back in Minnesota, she was an adult who had gotten her life back in order—to a certain degree. She had met and fallen in love with Mark, a fellow divorcee who also had kids from a previous relationship. They decided to move in together, forming a blended family.
The chance to relocate close to their estranged daughter was something Ric and Darilynn had lifted up in prayer for years. So they gave up their dream of warmer climes to move closer to Tara and their grandkids, and to live in the expectation that Jesus would break through—just as they’d prayed for nearly two decades. The job in Pequot Lakes started to make sense. It was a homecoming.
As Ric and Darilynn settled in, they put forth the effort to see Tara’s family as often as possible despite living over two hours away. Ric learned that the couple’s children had asked to start going to church, and so he connected Tara and Mark with one that was nearby to the south, closer to Minneapolis. The kids were spiritually curious, and it had started to rub off on their parents. At NorthRidge Fellowship, Tara and Mark met Doug Whittlef, the church’s care pastor. Doug suggested counseling them, and the three met regularly to work through issues from the past.
A month later at Christmas, with the whole family gathered, Mark reached under the tree and pulled out a package with his name on it. Tearing away the paper, he saw the title of a book: Every Day in His Presence by Charles F. Stanley. The from tag said “Ric.” Mark’s eyes welled with tears.
“I have a copy of the same book,” Ric said. “Tell you what: Let’s read it together each day, and you can text me with any questions or thoughts you have about the reading.” Mark didn’t know what to say.
As he drew closer to Jesus, Mark began to treasure his future father-in-law’s wisdom. This gift meant more than any other thing—it was a reminder that Ric loved him and would be there to encourage him on the road ahead.
It wasn’t long before Tara became a little jealous of the book reading plan, so she joined Mark in the daily devotions. They developed a hunger for God, and in becoming more involved with their local church, the couple began to find freedom in living for Christ. They stopped drinking altogether. And where the home was once filled with bickering and arguing, soft worship music now played in the background. Darilynn recalls a noticeable difference on her visits. Things just seemed more peaceful.
Where the home was once filled with bickering and arguing, soft worship music now played in the background.
As time went on, God continued to bless the family through the devotional. Mark joked that he kept checking the cover for his name, as if it had been written with him in mind. Ric stops short of saying the book is inspired—acknowledging even Dr. Stanley would reserve that word for the Bible alone—but he insists it was the right thing, at the right time, to help his family enter into a new season with God.
A few months into attending NorthRidge, Tara’s youngest three children came home with a request: “Mom, we want to be baptized.” Though surprised, she consented. Doug, the care pastor, had spent a lot of time mentoring the children. Because he felt they understood the gospel and the meaning of baptism, he said he would be honored to do it. Then, at their next counseling session, Tara asked if she and Mark could be baptized too. Doug said no—they weren’t married.
Ric knew it wasn’t best for Tara to have moved in with Mark without getting married. But he also acknowledged that his adult daughter would make her own choices, and if anything was going to change, it would take the work of the Holy Spirit. Ric already saw a softening of their hearts, which is one of the reasons he reached out to Mark when he did—the timing was right to deepen a discipleship relationship.
“Mom, we want to be baptized.”
Meanwhile, one of the children became bothered that his father and Tara were sleeping in the same room; even at his young age, he believed that was something reserved for married couples. When Doug brought it up in the counseling session, Mark accepted responsibility to do the right thing. There, on the spot, he got on one knee and asked Tara to marry him. (She said yes.) Tara asked Doug if he could marry them right then, but Doug insisted it would take several more sessions of counseling before they would be ready. So on the way home from the meeting, Mark stopped at the store, bought an air mattress, and moved into the basement. He texted a picture of his new setup to Doug that night.
Weeks later, Tara became frustrated that they were still in counseling with no end date in sight. She looked up wedding chapels in the phone book—anywhere they could get married right away. But she remembered her father’s advice: Stay the course. The couple had already submitted themselves to the spiritual authority of the church, and to take matters into their own hands would erase the progress they had made.
Soon the children were baptized, and Mark and Tara continued counseling with Doug. At the end of one session months later, he told them, “OK. I’ll marry you.” They were ecstatic. Doug took a photo of them to commemorate the decision. Tara says it’s the best they’ve ever taken together.
Though Tara and Mark continue to face challenges, Ric looks back at the decision to return to Minnesota and wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s been a long road—one with no guarantees for the future except the enduring love of God—but Ric remains ever grateful, because his daughter returned home.
Photography by Ben Rollins