Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Five Year Follow-Up

Five years ago this week, we got the news that changed our lives. Terry was laid off after a 22-year career as a mechanical engineer at Eastman Chemical Company. As you can see from this post five years ago, we tried to see this as a gift - a new journey that we were starting. We really had no idea that the journey would be so long or that we would learn so much along the way.

I'm putting these thoughts down to remind myself where we've been and how God has been faithful. I'm also hoping that this post might encourage those who find themselves facing a similar situation. This isn't a subject that I hear people talk about much, though it's certainly not uncommon.

First, we learned that God is our provider. Our checks had always come from Eastman Chemical Company (besides being Terry's employer, they were MY only employer since high school), but God was our provider. We knew this intellectually but not experientially. Even after the job loss, it was still easy to trust our bank account. I think that's why, in our case, He had us go through all our severance and savings AND sell our house before we had direction about what to do next.

We learned that brokenness is the path to true spiritual growth. We knew this intellectually as well, but you can't really "break yourself." It's just something that you submit to.

I learned that hearing from God is sometimes a slow process. And it's even harder when two people are trying to sync what they hear. I don't have all the answers here, but I can definitely say that we're better at hearing from God than we were five years ago.

I learned that I had made an idol of my nice house. I learned that because even when we got offered an incredible amount of money to sell it, I was NOT wanting to let it go. During that time I felt a lot like the story of David in the Bible when he fasted and prayed for God to spare his son. Then when he heard that the son died, he washed his face and worshipped. In my case, I cried and cried over that house until I heard the Lord say "Enough! Let it go!" And when I did, I had incredible peace. When I signed the papers, it was truly an act of worship.

Terry would say that the most important thing I did during that confusing time was to not force him to figure it out. It meant a lot to him that I was just patient with the process (though I wasn't always patient - honestly, sometimes I was very frustrated). It was a full 3 years after the lay-off before we had a true plan of what we were doing next.

I feel like the two practical things that helped me the most were:

(1) COUNTING MY BLESSINGS During this time I read Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts. I started a list that kept me grateful during a very painful time that included not only joblessness, selling our house and moving but also the loss of my precious Mom. Now I am grateful about so many things that wouldn't have happened if Terry wouldn't have been laid off 5 years ago. Though it's no slam on my old home and friends, I love Knoxville! My kids have numerous opportunities that they wouldn't have had in Johson City, I love being near Terry's family, and I love that he works for himself now. He loves his job - the flexibility, having a ministry with the guys that work for him, the gratifying feeling of being able to provide work for others, and the finished product he gets to see (renovated houses are easier to appreciate that a project to put in new fume hoods in the R&D building at Eastman, for instance). Most of all, he loves that this kind of work keeps him dependent on the Lord and not himself. And though this is secondary, we count the blessings of money as well. In 2012, Terry made more than he made working for Eastman.

(2) KEEPING A JOURNAL I had always tried to get this started, but something about this situation finally got me to start a steady habit of writing things down! Honestly, this helped me a lot in learning to hear from God. It's also been such an encouragement to look back and review what God has been teaching me.