Paul left about 5 a.m. yesterday morning to get to the interview in Madras by 9 a.m. Since he got caught in traffic on the way to the Bend interview, he thought he’d better give himself plenty of time.

At 8 a.m., Paul called Bend to get closure on the job. He spoke with the secretary; the administration was out in a meeting.

At 9 a.m., he interviewed for Jefferson County in Madras. It went well. It’s a position for an alternative middle school — for kids who don’t fit well in a typical school. But it’s a start-up school which may or may not succeed. The position is temporary — which may mean that in nine months, we’d be starting this process all over.

Sometime after lunch, he was offered the job … with a huge contingency — Paul’s license must be renewed with a middle school endorsement.

Paul’s license is up for renewal. Paul sent in all the required papers but has been waiting on a middle school endorsement that would enable him to teach in a middle school. Before, he taught under a special license that was given due to a special request from the Crook County district.

Paul and the Oregon licensing agency have had a seventeen-year-long epic war that left us feeling doomed if our lives rested upon this agency’s cooperation.

But Paul decided to drive to Salem and see what he could do.

Somewhere around 4:30 p.m., he called me to announce that he was holding his license … stamped with a middle school endorsement.

Paul has such a sense for timing.

After my initial congratulations subsided, he drew out the next dramatic turn of events.

“I was just about to call Madras to accept the job, when Gary called.”

He offered me the Bend job.

A symphony burst from my heart. A welling up of joy, of thanksgiving, of relief, of the happiness that brings tears flowed through me.

I have a path to run on. The big rock of our identity is in place. We’re going to belong somewhere. We have a place to go. We are leaving behind us that wretched path of unemployment! Paul has always wanted to live in Bend. He will be so happy there. Bend in the snow has been his picture of happiness for many years.

I hugged my sister and was sad for a moment because it meant moving away from her. And she cried but she reached to hug me and rejoice with me, even though I think she was a little sad it meant moving away from her, too.

When I shared the news with the girls, we all spontaneously joined hands and started jumping and squealing with happiness. So much of their lives have seemed to be on hold, waiting for some stability. But, with a little distance, I’ll soon recognize their lives weren’t on hold at all, but learning how to deal with crises and gathering valuable information about how to live — experience they can draw upon when they come up against their own challenges. Kids are never static.

This morning, Paul read Oswald Chambers:

“…Every time you venture out in your life of faith you will find something in your circumstances that, from a common sense stand point, will flatly contradict your faith. But common sense is not faith. Faith is not common sense.”

I remember the North Carolina job that Paul turned down. Then, there was the teaching job at the Mexican border. People said that, in this economy, you should take whatever job is offered. It is common sense.

Jobs came my way. After working full time, I knew that I was sacrificing something very important in not being able to homeschool. I wanted to stay home. And Paul supported me in that. But it was going against the good, solid advice of so many good, solid people. To go against that advice was like leaving a place of protection and walking straight into a storm. And not just any storm, but a notorious one that had destroyed many other people, homes, and families. The economy was just such an evil disaster.

We took long walks and prayed and tried to make it feel right for me to accept a job. So many people recommended I do it. But it wasn’t right. And, against a lot of well-meaning advice, Paul and I agreed that I should turn down two half-time jobs and two full-time jobs over the course of two years. And now, I can confess that we recently turned down a full time and a half time job in K-falls that didn’t seem right either. I decided not to publish such news because I didn’t want to add to our lousy record of turning down work. 

I would like to commend my husband who supported me in my decision to stay home. In the end, if our family went hungry, the blame would fall on him. Feminism has not done much to effectively remove the responsibility of breadwinning from the man. Truly, Paul shouldered much of the judgment for our unemployment issues, when the finger should have rightly been pointed at me. It took immense faith and inner strength to bear the responsibility of joblessness while refusing a rescue I could have provided. I am very, very thankful to Paul.  I also want to thank family and friends, especially Robin (Heather and Kara too), who strongly supported my decision to stay home and our decisions to refuse work where the benefits were not enough to tempt us from where we were. Robin, thank you for listening to me when I was lucid, and reminding me of what I said when I was not.

The pattern would go like this. Paul and I would gather the advice of all loved and respected family and friends. Paul and I would go for a long walk. We’d pray and talk, and decide against it. Everything would seem clear on that walk. But as we neared the house and “real” life, the less confident we felt. We’d stick to our decision, but always there was the nagging doubt that we’d done something supremely stupid. That we had missed the boat.

Oswald Chambers explains it so much better:

But common sense is not faith. Faith is not common sense. In fact, they are as different as the natural life from the spiritual. Can you trust Jesus Christ where your common sense cannot trust him? Can you venture out with courage on the words of Jesus Christ while the realities of your common sense life continue to shout it’s all a lie. When you are on the mountain top it’s easy to say, oh yes, I believe that God can do it. But you have to come down from the mountain to the demon-possessed valley and face the realities that scoff at your Mount of Transfiguration, Luke 9:28-42. Every time my theology becomes clear to my own mind, I encounter something that contradicts it.

Our walks were our Mount of Transfiguration. Problems were vanquished. We were assured that God would provide. We felt brave and dashing.

But the rest of our lives was the demon-possessed valley that seemed to scoff at our mountain experience.

It’s true that these two and half years of unemployment has stripped away most of the cliches I had happily attributed to my life before things were so hard. They are simple to recognize now. Easy words. Empty gestures. Cotton-candy most-of-the-time truths. I have questioned so much about my husband, myself, our family’s role and purpose, and God, himself.

I feel like Jacob did after wrestling with God — blessed … with a limp. Such a quavering handicap is a constant reminder that God is I AM THAT I AM.

Oswald Chambers continues, “As soon as I say, ‘I believe God shall supply all my needs, the testing of my faith begins.'” Phillipians 4:19. When my strength runs dry and my vision is blinded, will I endure this trial of my faith victoriously or will I turn back in defeat?

Faith must be tested because it can only become your intimate possession through conflict.

And here is the awakening. I have not understood these trials before. But there is the gift: a faith that has been battle-tested. Through the conflict of this time, my faith has become my own — not that of my parents, or my church, or pastors, or mentors, not that of my friends, or family, or authors that have inspired me, not that of my favorite scriptures, or anything else. My faith is my own, an intimate possession, a personal gift.

So, I come out of this long trial with a stronger faith, a clear purpose, a venerable respect for Paul, a deeper love for him, a renewed joy in my family, and a path to run on. Yesterday, I felt I had so little.

I’ll finish with the rest of Oswald’s words:

What is challenging your faith right now? The test will either prove your faith right or it will kill it. Jesus said, Blessed is he who is not offended because of me. The ultimate thing is confidence in Jesus. “We have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast til the end …” Hebrews 3:14. Believe steadfastly on him and everything that challenges you will strengthen your faith. There is continual testing in the life of faith, up to the point of our physical death, which is the last great test. Faith is absolute trust in God– trust that could never imagine that He could forsake us.

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