I promised myself that I would document the story of this year, of God’s faithfulness and how He has worked in our family, our hearts, and our circumstances. I was trying to decide where to start and of course the first thing that popped into my head was, “Let’s start at the very beginning…” (If you claim to be any sort of Sound of Music fan, you just added, “a very good place to start,” and will now be singing that song for the rest of the day. You’re welcome.) 😉
Over the past year we began to experience something that was not unfamiliar. Each time John has changed jobs during our marriage we have had the same stirring in our spirits as it grew close. It began with an unsettled sense of the demands, goals, or direction of the job not lining up with the calling God has on our lives, marriage, and family. It has been a little different each time. In one situation there was concern that as he moved up the job required more and more travel and that it simply would not allow John to make God and his family a priority. As he kept in touch with a coworker/team mate after leaving that job, we saw it demand of him exactly what we had been expecting. One time we had some concerns with what was being promised to clients and then not delivered, some stretching and avoiding of truth, and some inconsistencies that made John uncomfortable for the future being able to support us with that company. Mere months after he left, all of his concerns came to pass. You get the picture. Conflicts with priorities, morals, or realizing that his direction and the direction of the company were simply not compatible. God has been faithful in each situation to make things clear to both of us at the same time, mostly because John makes it a priority to make me a part of his work life through communication, and to allow us to be on the same page in realizing that things were going to need to change.
As we have prepared our hearts and our families during these times, God has sent someone into John’s life to offer him a job that again met our needs for a period of time, helped him to grow, and taught him immeasurable amounts of different skills and knowledge. We are deeply grateful for each of his jobs, however it ended, because God has used it to accomplish so much in John and in our family.
Back to this year. Same familiar feeling. A realization that we were seeing a parting of the ways up ahead for one reason or another. Not knowing what it was going to look like and knowing that the different possibilities probably all meant drastic change. God began giving John creative ideas that he wanted to pursue, and we wondered how he was going to have the ability to do that when his jobs have always been far, far more than full time. Throughout this year we have prayed and thought through potential moves to New York City and San Francisco, possibilities of working for huge companies or John working on his own. There have been surprises, disappointments, answers to prayer, adjustments, excitement, and many emotions. More than anything we prayed and tried to stay our focus away from money and expectations and instead put it on God, the needs of others, and on doing what was right for our family, not what was easiest. We talked for hours and hours to stay unified, and I poured out my heart to God asking Him to help me to follow my husband’s leading with joy even if it took me to a more difficult place to care for my family. In the midst of this we found out we were expecting Baby #5. That is another God story that will have to be told on its own, but obviously a first trimester took its own place in emotions, decisions, and physical stamina as we came to the end of the year.
John’s company was acquired by another company. Originally as we considered all these moves, the thought was that he and most of the others would be part of that acquisition. Instead they ended up taking a very few. He had an interview and waited for the results. That morning I was doing our Bible reading at breakfast and we read the verses about a house divided. We hadn’t discussed much of anything with the kids because it was all speculation and constantly changing. That morning I told them that our family was about to experience change. That it might be easy, small change or more difficult, big change. It might mean moving or staying, new places or old places. But that what was important was that we followed God and that we would be a house together. We practiced folding our fingers together and noticing how strong that made our hands. We said that would be our signal if we needed help remembering to not be a house divided. We prayed and asked God to help us support our daddy and follow him cheerfully wherever God showed him to go. He texted me as we began school to say his meeting was beginning. As he was meeting we were at that exact minute reading in our Bible lesson. We were on a study of birds in the Bible and, of course, our verses that morning were in Matthew 6. I sat there and choked back tears at the goodness of God to remind us,
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”
I talked to the kids about this being a precious reminder from God that He would meet our needs, closed my mouth, and the phone rang. John said, “Well, Babe, I don’t have a job.” Is there even a way to feel anxiety in that situation? The God of the Universe has just reminded my little family that He would care for us. A job seemed slightly trivial at that point. I have to say that the first emotion that flooded me was relief. We had asked God to close that door if it wasn’t the right thing for us. We had difficulty picturing our lives in California but wanted to remain open if it was right. We didn’t want to move our family across the country for money or security, but only if it was exactly what He wanted and where He wanted our ministry to be. Now the door was closed and the unknown stood before us. And, this is no exaggeration, even though all of this came as quite a shock, I think we had decided what to do five minutes later. And never for a minute have we questioned that five-minute decision that was the result of months of spiritual preparation. We prepared to tighten the belt and go to our knees asking that God would sell our house quickly before the paychecks ended. We prayed for wisdom to make the money stretch and that He would bring income before what we had ran out.
Thanks to his experience and the reputation of his company, the offers quickly began coming out of the woodwork, but we were certain God wanted us to sell our house, return to the ranch, and for John to have the opportunity to work on the many ideas God had been giving him. He didn’t even respond or interview with the companies making offers which were all in Austin, California, or other states. One particular guy he had met before seemed to particularly want John to at least give him a chance at an interview. It wasn’t a developer generality, but more a specific of wanting John to be a part of what they were doing. John thought their offices were in Kansas City and prepared to ignore them with the rest. He finally felt that he needed to talk to this one guy and did give him an interview. This offer was not to work in Kansas City but in Dallas, and included the opportunity to work on his ideas while collaborating with the other guys involved in this company. It also meant a paycheck that would begin when our others ended. We had a bit of a “too good to be true” conflict as we prayed, discussed, and John asked the company more questions. We did not want to give up the opportunity to work on the ideas we felt God had been giving John but began to see that this was just a way for him to do that and for us to be provided for. This would also allow him to not put in the crazy hours that were going to be required to get something going on his own and get us income quickly if our house did not sell. The thought of seeing our daddy consistently at dinner time was just a delight we had a hard time conceiving. We prayed, John said yes, and the rest is now history. We are thrilled with the people, environment, and opportunities provided by this company in the very place we knew God wanted us to be.
You can imagine that there was a tie for happiness between our kids, the grandparents, and other family members and friends on the announcement that we were coming home. Our two years in Austin provided us with priceless learning opportunities, wonderful relationships, happy memories, and growth as our own family unit. Our marriage is stronger, our family is more unified, and we have more faith than we did when we left. But, as my mom always told me when things were difficult, things come in seasons. Our season has come back to different challenges and different comforts. New growth and new ministry. But the same God. That Immanuel God who walks with us on this journey. I don’t care if I’m in the outback or a rice paddy, I just want to be there with Him. Already our return home has been full of the unexpected. We’re still working our way into a routine and hoping to see the many loved ones and friends we haven’t even seen yet. It has been physically tiring to move and still seems surreal that we made that kind of life change so quickly. But, oh how precious is the Father’s care of us through all of this change! And how much I love my sweet husband for the way I have seen him seek the heart of God over his own success, reputation, money, or the accolade of others. Following his leadership is an honor. Being blessed by his hard work and the skills he has developed is something I pray I never, ever take for granted.
So, that is a part of the story. Nowhere near all of it. There is far more that He has done and is doing. I can’t wait to share our sweet Natalie’s story and how God has worked in our family through her tiny, unborn life. All my sweet babies were “kissing her” tonight and telling her how much they love her. She is our gift of grace as we seek to walk by faith, not by sight!
Do you see Him working in your life? Loved one, look for Him there and He will be found! He is around every corner, in every byway, under every overpass, lying with you in every ditch. He is IMMANUEL, God WITH us, and He is writing your story!