While all the craziness of our home life was going on with our involvement with Safe Families and the busyness of life, things were happening at Mark’s workplace. He really loved his job, but he had already climbed within the department as high as he could. The business culture today is so wrapped around a different philosophy than my parents’ generation. Now, if you stay in one role for more than a few years, it can be looked upon as stagnation rather than perfecting your craft. So, Mark posted for other positions in the company that would keep us in California, but nothing seemed to work out. He was told that if he gained some further outside experience in management, he could come back in to some different challenges down the road.
When we discussed it with the kids, again, they weren’t exactly delighted with the idea of leaving California, and they had a point: they’d heard us say God would provide friends in California and we had asked that they trust Him; they had, and now they each had some good friends.
But we really saw this move as a temporary one; we were so sure we would be back within 2-3 years – we were already sold on the area, we had had a wonderful life there, so we wouldn’t struggle at all with coming back, would we?
When we had lived in Wisconsin, we’d been part of a wonderful church plant of a Harvest Bible Chapel in the Milwaukee area, the parent church being in Elgin, Illinois. Mark and I used to drive down on Saturday nights to what was affectionately referred to as “Big church” – the main campus. Captivated by all that God was doing there we’d dreamed of the chance to be part of it. But we had never pictured ourselves moving to Illinois –why would we ever do that when all we’d known was in the Badger state?
All the same, here we were, considering that very thing.
Before leaving our home in California to go on a weeklong visit to Wisconsin, I had called the school, Harvest Christian Academy, letting them know we were going to be in the area the next week and would there be a way our kids could see the school even though it was summertime? The superintendent was very friendly and helpful, “Absolutely!”
So we took a day and drove down to the area that we were considering moving to. We wanted our kids to see where they would go to school – and church, since they were the same building.
Little did we know that while we were looking at them, they were looking at us – we had no idea that the school was working hard to grow – it all looked and sounded wonderful to us and the idea that our children would get to be part of this marvelous school was exciting to us, as we already held their ministry in such high esteem. Meanwhile, God was encouraging their hearts that here was a family with 5 kids, eager to join in what they were doing.
We flew back to California, more open to the idea of another move.
Again, we talked extensively with our children; we all agreed that ‘coming back’ would be our top priority – this was just going to be like an extended vacation for a couple years, then we’d be right back to the state we had come to love.
Really, we felt we didn’t have a choice so we put our wonderful home on the market, and started the enormous task of moving across the country again.
Back in the Midwest, we moved to a hotel in a northwest suburb of Chicago; this temporary stay ended up lasting about four months, but this time around, we had two dogs plus a cat and the seven of us crammed into two rooms.
Thankfully, our lodgings were at the very end of the hallway, directly across from each other. Mark and the boys and I took one room with a dog, and the three girls took the other dog and the cat in with them.
We still chuckle at the memory of the sign that greeted us on the refrigerator when we first entered: “Welcome! We hope you find this fully furnished kitchen stocked with all the necessary tools to make your stay with us an enjoyable one!”
Opening the cupboards and drawers revealed the contents of two plates, a bowl and a mishmash of silverware, along with a small pot with a lid, a jar opener, a corkscrew and a sieve. The girls’ room wasn’t much better, although they had an ice cream scoop and a stack of cups. Clearly, we had some gaps to fill; between the two rooms, we cobbled together a reasonably equipped kitchen and, with one or two trips to the Dollar Store, we made it functional.
It didn’t take long for the enormity of our decision to sink in: We had left the home and area we loved, to come back to the Midwest to live in a hotel again, no more ultra bright sunshine, no more sandy beaches… only this time it was August, we were back to freezing cold weather and gray skies – and there was no going back! There were unforeseen challenges that really tried our faith; things had we known, we may have chosen very differently. It wasn’t easy starting all over again, and we started to doubt the soundness of our decision. Everyone was floundering, lonely and struggling.
“Um…Mission Control? We have a problem!”
Nearly horrified with the evidence that obviously we had not been thinking clearly the past several months to cause us to make such a rash and unutterably wrong and irreversible decision, we turned desperately to God – What had we done?? Lord, please fix this!
Then, the soothe, calming voice broke through to my frantic mind:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29.
Has there been a time in your life when you found yourself far from where you ever intended to be? When things just didn’t look anything like your original plans? God wants to assure us that even then, He is in control. It may look different, it may be full of some trials or hard situations, but He wants to help us grow through those very difficulties, to make us more like his Son. Let’s talk…you know – between friends.