Sunday, January 24, 2010

How the West was Won: Our Story Chapter 2

Now then…here’s the rest of the story…sorry it has taken me so long to get this out!

Our trek out West was flawless. Praise God! When you’re driving over 1,200 miles with a caravan that includes a car, a 26 foot U-haul pulling a car trailer with a Jeep, and a very active 3 ½ year old toddler, there is enormous potential for something to go wrong. Once we arrived in Colorado Springs, the “God things” started to roll out. Aside from our safe journey, our first praise was the fact that we didn’t have to rent an expensive storage unit for all of our stuff like we had anticipated! Crazy as it sounds, every single thing that we own actually fit in my parent’s basement! We couldn’t believe it! My parents couldn’t believe it either! Actually, I think that their disbelief stemmed more from the reality that they now no longer had a basement! Thanks to God…and my parents…we were able to save a lot of dough…especially helpful considering that we no longer had jobs!
God certainly has the ability to work in the seemingly little things like this. But what really makes God amazing is His ability to work in the big things…and now that we were finally out West, the biggest thing facing us was the reality of having to find new jobs. This is where the really amazing “God stuff” begins!
From the beginning, Joy and I both had a hunch that she would have a better chance of finding a job first! And we were right! Joy was getting calls and interviews left and right! As it turns out, Joy received a very decent offer to work at International Bible Society and accepted it. In all honesty, though, she wasn’t crazy about the job. She was glad that she’d be working for a Christian ministry and that we’d be able to have decent health insurance, but the pay wasn’t the greatest, the hours weren’t ideal and the job itself was something she just she wasn’t elated about.
So then, here’s the cool thing about Joy’s job story. The Thursday prior to her starting week, she received a call out of the blue on her cell phone from a guy she didn’t know who worked for a organization she had never heard of! I remember watching her during that phone call and seeing how confused she looked. Well, to make a long story short, this guy wanted to know if Joy would come in and interview for a job that would soon be vacant because the current person in the position would be leaving to go overseas for missions work. Remember now, Joy had just accepted the job with International Bible Society and was supposed to start in just a few days. She explained all of this to the gentleman, but he was still quite persistent that she should come in to interview and at least give it a chance. Somewhat reluctantly, Joy agreed and the rest is history. As it turns out, Joy was offered a job with this ministry called the Alliance Development Fund. ADF is a branch of the Christian and Missionary Alliance denominational headquarters. My mom and sister work at the C&MA headquarters, but the ADF is an entirely separate entity. Joy ended up accepting this job, and here’s the cool “God stuff” about this story…
The guy who called her had somehow gotten a hold of her resume through the “grapevine”, but it wasn’t through my mom or my sister like you might have expected. To top that off, he wasn’t even aware of the fact that we had just moved to Colorado! And as if that wasn’t enough…everything about the job was all around better than the IBS job! The pay was better, the hours were better and the benefits were killer! By killer benefits, I’m talking full medical, dental and vision…and all for less than $13 bucks a pay check!!! That’s right…$13 bucks a pay check! Wow! We would have had insurance with the IBS job, but the pay there was less and the benefits were much more expensive. Well, all of this was “double wow”, especially given the fact that our insurance carried over from Joy’s previous job at Dekalb was soon to be up the end of September. Though it was a very tough thing for her to do, Joy ended up calling off the job with International Bible Society, taking the job with ADF; which meant that we were fully insured right before the end of the month…just when our old insurance ran out! Prior to this, we had been fully prepared to either go without benefits altogether or possibly try shopping around for a cheap-o high deductible plan. God is so good! His timing is so perfect! Funny thing about all this...we’ve actually never had dental and vision insurance before! It was always so expensive back in Indiana! And the even cooler thing about it all is the fact that exactly one week after Joy started this job with the ADF, I had a very unexpected visit to the ER! It’s a super long and crazy story, but Joy and I just thought it was so amazing given the fact that had we not been well insured during this time, we would have been out a whole lot of dough!

So then, that’s Joy’s cool God story…now on to mine!

Ever since the day we officially sold our house, I had frantically been looking for jobs! After a while, it seemed that looking for a job actually became my new full-time job! Needless to say, I started to get a little frustrated. There were plenty of jobs out there, but it was tough because of several different reasons…Number one – I really didn’t want to take any old job, but I was certainly prepared to do so. I knew that it might take some time, but in my heart I wanted everything to fall into place right away. Number two – of the jobs that I was actually interested in, I was getting very little or no response at all. I’m telling you, I think just about every business and organization in Colorado Springs had my resume and application on file!

Eventually, I started to get some attention and all of the sudden I found myself in contact with several different places at once. There were several possibilities. MCYM (Military Community Youth Ministry) had an opening for a ministry director position with the Air Force Academy. This sounded pretty cool. I even took some time to have breakfast with a guy from MCYM to talk things out. MCYM is actually an affiliate of Youth for Christ and Young Life, so the work would have been pretty similar to what I had done with YFC. Another possibility was a job with Mission of Mercy. Mission of Mercy is a local non-profit which is basically like a small scale version of Compassion International. My initial interview for this position went extremely well and so it seemed like this was also a good possibility. Along with MCYM and Mission of Mercy, I was also in the interview process with a local church regarding a youth ministry position. And as if I didn’t have enough irons in the fire already, I was also in contact with two different Christian camps!

Needless to say, my head really started to spin a little with all of these “potential” jobs that I was juggling! All of these options seemed like decent ones, but to be honest, I was having a very difficult time trying to discern which direction God was taking me. It was all sort of humorous, because up until this time, I was stressed out and frustrated because I wasn’t getting any interviews at all. Now all of the sudden I had five different opportunities all at once! It was actually a very difficult time for me! I was very torn! My heart was extremely heavy as I prayed, earnestly seeking God’s direction for His will.

Well, during this time, like Joy…it so happened that I got a very random call of my own! While going through my usual daily routine of surfing the net for jobs one morning I got a call from Compassion International. The lady on the other end asked if I’d be interested in coming in for an interview for a temp job. She explained that they were looking to fill the position very soon. Her call kind of caught me off guard! Reason being…I can’t for the life of me ever remember applying for this particular job! I had applied for other jobs at Compassion…and received the usual rejection letters…but I just can’t recall having applied for this particular one. The main reason especially being that it was only a temp job…which means not so great pay and no benefits…not even paid days off!

Like I said, I had applied for several jobs at Compassion before. My interest in Compassion actually sparked when I had the privilege of hearing Wes Stafford (Compassion’s President) speak at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit back in August while I was still working with YFC. His story tore my heart and had me in tears! On the way out of the conference that day, they handed us a copy of his book, “Too Small to Ignore”. After hearing his testimony and after reading through the book, I started to think in the back of my mind how awesome it would be to work for such an incredible ministry like Compassion and for such an incredible guy like Wes Stafford!

Well, as I soon discovered, Compassion was an impossible place to get into! I received a whole slew of rejection letters which made it a point to constantly remind me of this fact! On those rejection emails that they give you they tell you how they receive over 10,000 applicants each and every year! 10,000!!!! Wow! So when I got the call about this temp job, although I wasn’t crazy that it was a temp job, I was elated! I was excited because…number one-at least I could jump into this job and it would tide us over while I was still looking for something else full-time. And number two- I would get a chance to check Compassion out and at least get my foot in the door!

So long story short…I interviewed, got the offer and ended up taking the job! I started with Compassion mid-October. During this time I was still in process with the other opportunities that I mentioned earlier. Compassion knew this up front and they were very supportive this way…knowing that I really had to find something full-time.

I was very grateful for the job! The work was very different from what I was used to with YFC, but God was so good! He placed me on the best team in the entire office! Although it was a temp job and the work took some getting used to, I grew to love the job and the team that I was a part of! I looked forward to going to work every day! I was so grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of such an incredible ministry! God was good! I could have landed a job somewhere totally different, like Starbucks or who knows where else until I found something else full-time, but God placed me at Compassion. I was so grateful!

Like I said earlier, while at Compassion I was still in “process” with five other places. My level of stress about the situation continued to escalate and it remained a very difficult time. The church I had been interviewing with was very interested in bringing me on board. Joy and I even took one Sunday night to meet with the youth group and more or less candidate. The opportunity seemed very promising. But after much prayer and consideration I made the decision to call the whole thing off. There were just some things about that position and the church that I couldn’t quite come to terms with in my heart and spirit. This in itself is whole other story which I won’t dive into on this post.

The Mission of Mercy job was still on the radar and seemed promising. I was called in for the second and final interview. Well, I thought the interview went well, but I ended up not getting that job. I was a little disappointed about this one, but looking back; I can totally see God’s provision and will with this. I was still in conversation with the guy from MCYM, but eventually called that one off as well. MCYM is a great ministry, and the position was very similar to what I was doing with YFC, but like the church position, there were just some things in my heart and spirit that I didn’t feel a peace about. Thankfully I still had the possibility of the two camp positions. I was very interested in both opportunities, but eventually those two fell through as well. This was actually a good thing seeing how both camps were located in California! Needless to say, my family here was not very excited about that! I think they were very relieved to finally here that both of those positions had not panned out.

It seemed like nothing was working out! I still had my temp job at Compassion, but we weren’t going to be able to make it on that! About a month or so into my time at Compassion, I actually had a very positive interview for a position within. I had found the position posted internally, talked to my supervisor about it and got the green light to apply. I thought that this position was a good fit and it really seemed like God was opening some doors for me this way. Then I landed a second interview. The interview went well, but a few days later I was notified that I did not get the job. Wow! I was absolutely crushed! After this blow, I felt completely and utterly hopeless! Joy and I didn’t know what to think. Although we’d only been out here for a little over two months, we started to wonder if I’d ever find something good full-time.

After this last defeat, I basically resigned all my hopes and told God that I was done trying. I didn’t know what to do. If God was going to do something, He was going to have to work a miracle! Funny thing is, prior to our selling our house and moving out here, I remember journaling one day and basically telling God that if we were to move out here and find new jobs, I wanted Him to do a work in our lives in such a way that it was undeniably all Him. I was basically asking God for a miracle! I had been reading through the Old Testament at the time and was working through the all the miracles that God had performed for the Israelites during their exodus journey from Egypt. I found a new appreciation and fascination for these stories and was taken aback by the miraculous ways God had shown himself to His people time and time again. Although they later doubted and lost sight of God, the Israelites witnessed many incredible “God things”. These things set God apart from all other gods and set the Israelite people apart from all other nations. I wanted God to work in our lives the same exact way! So, setting myself, my pride and all my doubts aside, I started to pray this way again.

Although it certainly wasn’t easy, I committed daily to place all my fears and uncertainties in God’s hands. A month and a half soon passed since my last big defeat, but I began to find myself more and more at peace about the situation. From time to time, people at work or church would ask me how I was doing. I was able to share with all sincerity of my heart and spirit the peace I now had and how I knew that God was ultimately in control.
Then…out of nowhere…without anything of my own doing or trying….something really awesome began to unfold! I had just returned to work from a Christmas lunch with Joy’s company when my boss, Shelly, asked if she could meet with me. I wasn’t sure what to think! I didn’t remember doing anything particularly stupid that week, so I hoped I wasn’t in trouble! Well, long story short (I know…I keep saying that) Shelly told me about this job that she really wanted to encourage me to apply for! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! I remember the chills of excitement as she began telling more about the opportunity and the whole story behind it.

Before I tell you more, however, you have to know a little history. As it turned out, on my very first day at Compassion I sat through long meeting where they announced a major, just-released, divisional restructuring. At the time, I obviously had no clue what they were talking about. Actually, I remember Doug (who was in charge of the meeting) looking over at me every now and then with this sympathetic grin as if to say to me, “Jason, I’m so sorry…I know you have absolutely no clue what’s going on here…welcome to your first day at Compassion!”

Well, I hadn’t given much thought about the restructuring until Shelly asked to meet with me and began to tell me how it actually tied into this opportunity she was telling me about. Shelly explained that with the restructuring, a brand new position had been suggested and was in the works. The position was with the LDP program arm of Compassion and was a supervisor position! LDP stands for Leadership Development Program. LDP works with post child-sponsorship kids around the world who exhibit leadership potential and who wish to pursue a university degree in their home country. The hope of LDP is to one day have a student who will be the leader of his or her own country!

Well, up until now, the position had only been an idea and was still in process. But Shelly had just received the word an hour earlier that it was official and had just been posted! Then Shelly proceeded to tell me the story about the moment she had first got wind of this position possibility. Completely unknown to me, only a week into my employment with Compassion, Shelly had heard about the position and actually recommended me for the job! I was cracking up, because she told me how she had called Brenda (who was going to be the new LDP Director) about me while she was at the airport leaving for her vacation! When she returned, she later passed my resume and information to Brenda. Like I said, all this had been going on ever since my very first week of work…and I had absolutely no idea! The reason Shelly hadn’t told me anything before this was because the position hadn’t yet been declared official.

The other cool part of this story is this…during my orientation at Compassion, when I first heard about LDP ministry, it was something that really caught my attention and heart. Funny enough, I even remember thinking after my last job defeat that I would maybe talk to Shelly and just tell her that if anything were ever to come open with LDP that I would be extremely interested! Up until this point, I had absolutely no idea that this job even existed…and let alone that Shelly had already put my name in the hat!

Well, once again…to make a long story short…I interviewed for the position and ended up getting the job! I couldn’t believe it! But here’s where the “God things” get really, really cool!!! When Brenda called me in to tell me that I had been selected, we talked about some of the job details for a little bit and then she said, “now…can I tell you some really cool God stuff about this whole thing?” My eyes got really big and I started to get goose bumps! It was then that Brenda proceeded to tell me some more “behind the scenes” about this whole thing. As it turns out, prior to the job being official, and prior to ever knowing about me, Brenda had been in conversation with three different people internally about the possibility of this job. Then Brenda told me how, one by one, each person had decided to decline her offer. By the third person, Brenda said she was ready to give up! It was then that she literally told God, “Lord, I give up…you’re just going to have to bring me someone for this position!”

Well, the last person Brenda had talked to about the position was Carol. Carol actually happened to be on my team. It was after Carol’s decline that Brenda said she gave it up to God. Carol later told me that she prayed and prayed about it, but just did not feel God’s peace…so she turned it down. Well, here’s the cool thing. The very next day after Carol had turned down the position, she heard me tell my story and background at our team meeting. It was after this that Carol rushed to Brenda and told her about me and basically said, “I think I have someone that would be a great fit for this job!” Then Brenda told me how she had gotten a hold of my resume from Shelly and even how there were several times she had wanted to talk to me about the job, but couldn’t. Brenda shared that, in looking back, she really felt that God had brought me to her at the perfect time.

I remember sitting there in Brenda’s office. I couldn’t believe my ears! My goose bumps disappeared and soon tears began to roll down my cheeks instead. I was a little embarrassed that I was crying in front of Brenda, but I couldn’t help it! I was so completely in awe of the way God had been working all this time…and all this time…totally unknown to me! I’m actually getting teary eyed just thinking about it again right now!

Wow! Isn’t God absolutely amazing??? He answered our prayers! He worked in such a way that all credit and glory can only be given to Him and Him alone…just like I prayed!

As part of my prayers… way back before all of this unfolded, I remember also asking God to do things in such a way that He would give us an incredible story to tell! Well…He has certainly done just that! I wanted God to give us a story, not just for our benefit, but for His benefit and for yours!

The Israelites served a God like no other gods! I’m so humbled to know that I serve and have a relationship with this very same God!

…Lord, I love you! You are absolutely amazing! I’m sorry for the times I doubted you. I’m sorry for the times I tried to do things with my own hands. You were working the entire time…when I had no idea and even in the midst of my total lack of faith. Thank you! Thank you for who you are! Thank you for giving us this story…Your story…to tell.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Our Story: Chapter 1 (unabridged)


The following story that you are about to read is evidence of God’s amazing presence in our lives. The story is true. However, unlike most stories like this that you read, the names in this story HAVE NOT been changed. They have not been changed because the people involved actually want to share their story and hope it has some sort of impact on your life and your relationship with God.

Well, most of you reading this blog are well aware that back in September of this past year, Joy and Dawson and I did something pretty crazy! Having just sold our house, we left our jobs, friends and Joy’s family back in Indiana all in hopes of beginning a new life in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

For those of you who don’t know, this whole process actually started back in early spring of this past year, when, by faith, we put our house up for sale because we felt that God was telling us to sell our house and potentially head out West. Needless to say, we were very hesitant about putting the house up for sale. Our reasons were very legit - a bad economy and an even worse housing market. To make matters worse, several of our neighbors, and others around town were desperately trying to sell their houses as well. While several of our neighbors were selling to avoid foreclosure due to job loss and loss of income, our reason for selling our house almost seemed ridiculous. We felt like God was telling us to put the house up for sale and that He was preparing the way for us to finally make the move out West.

Just to give a little more background, our idea about relocating to Colorado actually started a couple of years ago. For those of you who don’t know…my family (Jason’s) all live in Colorado. Joy and I probably vacationed there at least once a year. Not surprisingly, we fell in love with Colorado and always dreamed of one day making the move a reality. But given the bleak state of the economy and pitiful housing market, it seemed quite ridiculous to even attempt to sell our house. Along with that, in lieu of a highly unstable and obscure job market, it seemed even more outlandish to leave our secure and comfortable jobs if and when the house ever sold! So you can see…we were very hesitant about doing so, but eventually, in total faith, we put a “For Sale” sign up in the front yard.

We put the house on the market in late March and then the waiting game began. For those of you who have ever been through this process, you know how “fun” it is every time you have a showing…thinking that this is the one…only to never hear anything back from the people who just tromped through your home for a half an hour! Man…all that time spent cleaning and organizing…all for nothing, right? Wouldn’t it have at least been nice to have heard that they at least thought your house was nice? Even to hear back that they thought your house was a dump! Actually, here’s a true story about one showing that we had fairly early on in the process. It was a very positive one and it even seemed like there was some “God stuff” involved. But all hopes were dashed when we came back to the house after the showing to find a note from the showing realtor that read, “Great showing…the couple loved the house, but were concerned about all the stuff in the neighbor’s back yard”! After that, I can’t tell you how many times Joy and I wanted to go over to our neighbor’s house after dark and “take care” of that “stuff”!

At least we were getting showings, right? But after so many showings you start to get a little apathetic and you’re ready to give up. So then, fast forward four months and in early August…just about the time we were ready to throw in the towel, we got calls for two showings in the same weekend. Though we always prayed before each showing, I can’t say that our hopes were riding too high at this point. Having had nearly eight showings prior to no avail, we our expectations were basically none. Well, long story short…the showings came and went, but the cool part of our whole story begins when we got a call the next morning from the realtor of one of those showings whose client wanted to come later that morning for a second showing! A second showing…we had no idea what to do!!!! We’d never had a second showing before! Our hopes were rekindled as we nervously prayed for God’s direction and His will to be done.

Well much to our disbelief, this second showing soon turned into an offer, which of course turned into a counter offer. The amazing part of this part of the story is the fact that our counter offer actually included very specific aspects that we prayed over and that we basically told God, “if this is your will for the house to sell and for us to pick up and move out West, then please let the buyer accept these exact conditions with no other conditions or counter offers.” Being such a “buyer’s” market, we had our doubts that the buyer would accept such exact terms…mainly because the terms included a higher asking price and fewer concessions. Needless to say, though, our doubts were transformed to belief the next day when we got the call that the buyer accepted our terms one hundred percent! And to top that off, our realtor informed us that the process would go very smoothly given the fact that our buyer was doing a conventional mortgage and was putting down 50%! That’s right…FIFTY PERCENT!!!!

Wow! With the realization of the house now sold, the reality of God’s will and direction finally hit us and really started to sink in! This was it! We had prayed before that if God wanted us to make this move that He would sell our house before September when our sales contract was up and before we both headed into a busy new school year with our jobs. With the offer having been accepted in early August, the timing of the sale was absolutely perfect! A God thing….you bet!
So then, like I said, the reality of God’s direction finally started to sink in. Joy and I both had a very difficult time with the entire decision. Moving out West meant that we both had to leave our jobs, friends and Joy’s family…all very difficult decisions! Joy can tell you that I probably had a tougher time with everything more so than she did. I had many nights where I just lay in bed unable to sleep…my mind racing back and forth…worrying about whether or not we were doing the right thing and worrying about what the future held. My toughest day was the day when I finally told my boss and co-workers of ten years at Youth for Christ that I was resigning. I came home from work later that day and just laid in bed sobbing. I’m sure Joy didn’t know what to think. She doesn’t ever see me emotional like that. I think she just knew how tough of a time I was having with the whole decision.

I tell you all this just to assure you that our decision was not a “grass is greener on the other side” kind of thing. We had prayed very sincerely that God’s will, not ours, would be done. We only wanted to move out West if that’s what God wanted and if that’s what He was calling us to do! We really wrestled with the whole thing…like I said, probably more so me than Joy. By nature, I worry a lot…and I worry even more when I feel like things are totally out of my control. There were several times that I wanted to “play it safe” and just forget the whole idea about moving. Staying put meant jobs and a secure income. Staying put meant being close to friends and family and being comfortable and in control. Although we’d have my family out West, moving meant no jobs, no income, no security and total lack of certainty and control. Time and time again, though, through experiences and through His Word, God continued to show us that this was the direction that we were supposed to head. So, with nothing but faith in front of us and our gaze fixed solely on God, we packed up a U-Haul, said our goodbyes to family, friends, co-workers, our jobs and our house and heeded to the friendly voice of our trusty GPS as it guided us out West to Colorado Springs, Colorado!

Though we had the security of living with my parents until we found jobs and got settled, I have to say that my heart and mind hardly felt settled! I say “my heart and mind” referring to me (Jason) because unless she hides it or simply puts on a good game face, Joy possess the innate ability to remain a lot more patient and positive in times of complete and utter uncertainty than I could ever dream of! But despite my doubts and times of weak faith, God proved that He was in total control the entire time…even when we didn’t know it!



Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

My New Year's Resolution:
Update this blog!
Actually, I have several things I have been meaning to blog about it. It's just finding the time to do it. And then doing it. Or hiring someone to do it for me?
Jason will be doing his very first post here soon. He has some awesome things to tell about his job and what God has done for him. If he gets more comments than I ever have, I won't complain. But I'll pout.
Until then, happy 2010.
(that rhymed)