As our American holiday of “Thanksgiving” is quickly approaching, it gives me yet another reason to pause and take stock of where God has me in life right now. So much has happened over the past two years – it’s like one gigantic whirlwind has been blowing through my household, and is now showing signs of (maybe? perhaps?) letting up a bit. (Lord, please??)
I was on unemployment from May 2010 to October 2010, and that tiny little check didn’t even come close to paying our mortgage – let alone any other bills. This had the side-effect of us piling up thousands in unintended credit card debt just so we could feed the family. After having the dream home we had built in West Virginia on the market for way too many months, we finally sold it near the end of 2010 at a SIGNIFICANT loss. To add insult to our financial injury, we even had to pay the buyer money at the closing table. Ouch!! The sale made us essentially homeless, so we moved in with Tiffani’s parents while we searched for a home (and I continued to search for a job.)
We’d been looking to get our family moved back to Virginia where we both grew up, so my job searches were targeted there. In October 2010 I finally hit a homerun in the job market and got myself back to work – gainfully – at a job that I absolutely love. But it came at a price. We still had no home to call our own. For the next six months I lived in a Virginia friend’s spare bedroom all week while I worked at my new job, and commuted back to West Virginia on the weekends. This was a separation of my family that we never wanted, but Tiffani and I both realized that this sacrifice was necessary to get our lives back into some semblance of order.
We had decided that each evening that we were apart, we were going to STAY CONNECTED by phone, by Facebook & instant messages, and even Skype. This was probably the best decision we made about the whole separation thing. Many nights we connected via Skype and just hung out together. It gave me the opportunity to talk with the little ones, read the Bible with them and pray with them before bed. Then, once the kids were in bed, Tiffani and I would just spend time together mostly talking and connecting… but I do recall a time or three when we simply connected Skype and she knitted or read while I did some other work, and we didn’t talk much – but we were able to look into each others’ rooms and see one another, and just BE TOGETHER. I will never forget the closeness and intimacy I felt with my wife during those times of just being connected with her, though physically there were many, many miles between us.
Since we were going to be forcefully separated anyway, I decided to make good use of my evening time and seriously hunt for a house. Tiffani and I had been asking God to pick our new home for us, and to make it abundantly clear that “THIS” was the place – wherever that happened to be. We had looked together at several homes in Virginia, and put offers on a couple of them… but each time we put an offer down on a place inside the city limits, within 24 hours (or less) we were outbid right out of our price range. We were growing rather disheartened at the whole thing. Getting Tiffani from West VA to Virginia each time we wanted to look at a place meant fuel expense, many hours of driving the round trip, and either finding childcare or bringing the four littles along too. Not an easy task.
God was using this time to refine both of us, each in different ways. As I went about the house hunt, our realtor (a good friend from our church) took me to look at a few homes – many of which were not really a good match for our family. Tiffani had seen one farmhouse online a few months before but axed it from our “check it out list” because it only had two bathrooms. As our possible choices had dwindled down to almost nothing, I decided to give a fresh look at a few of the places that we had previously taken off the table. I asked our realtor to take me to this particular farmhouse so I could walk the property and see it with my own eyes. After spending a good 90 minutes in the place, I started to feel a strange attraction to it – and I wondered if we could make it work with our large family – and only two bathrooms. This homestead had been abandoned for over a year when I first saw it, and our realtor said no other buyers even had it on their radar. Those two bits of information gave me a lot to think about. She gave me the code to open the door lock and told me to come back as often as I wanted, to either convince myself to put down an offer or walk away. I began to come back almost nightly throughout the week, just to walk the property and pray… asking God if this was where he wanted me to lay down the family’s roots. I spent time examining the interior, knowing that there were things that needed fixing – wondering if we were up to the tasks. (“Jimmy FixItAll” I am NOT!) Over the next couple of weeks, I began to lean into the decision that THIS was the place.
Here’s where I get to tell you about how God was working in Tiffani’s heart. (I LOVE this part!) I called her and tried to arrange a time to get her to come see it. If we were going to take on this fixer-upper together, I really wanted her to be in agreement with me – to have her heart solidly on board with the decision. Instead, she said this to me (paraphrased…) “In Biblical times, when a man and woman were betrothed, he went away to either build a home for them or to add an extra wing onto his parents’ house. She really had no say in where they lived as a couple, but she trusted that her husband-to-be would take care of her. Jason, you know what I like, and what I don’t like. I TRUST YOU as my husband to make the decision on our home. You know our family’s needs, and if you feel that this is the place that God has directed you to, then I don’t want you to hesitate. I don’t want you to sin by not doing what you believe is right. (James 4:17) We can make two bathrooms work even though it will be tight, and perhaps in the future we can find a way to add a third one to the house.”
Wow, that knocked my socks right off! So with that phone call, my beloved wife had (sight-unseen) confirmed what God was telling me I should do with this home. We put down our offer, the bank countered, and we came back with a final offer that they accepted. Getting all the particulars nailed down with the bank ended up taking the next few months, but eventually we were able to take ownership of our little 2.5 acre farmlet in May 2011. We still haven’t planted anything so far, but we do have animals in the barn and field. We have 60-something chickens between two barn stalls (yep, the house came with a barn – BONUS!) and five pigs in an electric-fence enclosure. In the next few weeks, 32 of those chickens will be processed and put into our freezer for food. The other half of that flock is our egg-laying bunch. We haven’t bought an egg in over a year. Thank You Lord for Your provision! Two of our pigs will be processed for meat before the end of the year, and the other 3 will be with us probably until early spring.
So what’s the point of this post? Well, I’m not sure there is “just one”… but my main thought is THANKFULNESS. The Lord has provided for my family in so many ways over this past two years. I have a job that I LOVE doing! I administer a small company’s SharePoint intranet, where all employees login at least once a day, and the project managers run their projects from it day in & day out. I get to be creative and think up ways to make employees’ work experiences nicer and more efficient. The Lord provided my family with a home that is only 11 miles from the church we’ve been locked into since 1998. He provided us with LAND that we can use to plant food for the family, and provide for our animals as well. He’s given us more eggs than we could ever hope to eat (friends, family & coworkers most definitely benefit from that too!) He’s given us pigs that will eventually provide an abundance of good, SAFE meat to eat. We have room to host church picnics and play games outside. He’s given my family a place to call HOME (while we still walk the earth). Through this experience He gave me a wife who has learned to trust God to lead her husband. But most of all, God has given me a place where I can have my family all together, where we can be a FAMILY, where we have roots and traditions together.
There is SO much more wrapped up in these experiences to be thankful for, but I didn’t plan to write a book – just an overview! If I could encourage you today in your own situations to just look around with a discerning eye. It shouldn’t take you long to find a good many things to be thankful for. As for me and my family…
WE ARE THANKFUL!