Testimony

So as I sit here at Starbucks this morning so many thoughts and emotions are rolling around in my head, so I have to put them on paper. It’s the only way I can function. To get my thoughts out, it’s the best therapy for me really.

First off, I have to say I LOVE my counselor, love her. She’s challenging, encouraging and loves Jesus, I really don’t think there is a better combo for me personally. Thankfully I saw her yesterday and when she asked how my week had been, I said, “HORRIBLE” because honestly life feels really sad and horrible right now.

I know in my head that God is in control. I know in my head He somehow has a plan, but WOW

does it feel really crappy at the moment. Our married life has been interesting to sway the least!

6 months into our marriage, I was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor….SIX MONTHS!!!!

Then on the heels of that news, we were told I couldn’t conceive naturally, then six months after that I had a grand mal seizure, because I was, in fact, pregnant and the pregnancy hormones and the baby were at war. Since I had the grand mal, my neurosurgeon wanted to remove the tumor asap, but had to wait until I delivered our daughter. My pregnancy with her was riddled with high blood pressure, so I was confined to a bed for most of the pregnancy, I ended up delivering her 6 weeks early and only by the grace of God was she ok. She only had to stay in the ICU for 4 days, which is a huge miracle alone.

So my daughter was born in June 2002 and I had brain surgery in Oct 2002, 2 years and 1 month from our anniversary.

So here we are newlyweds and dealing with not only a preemie, but now a wife who had her brain cut open and afterward was walking into walls because everything was “off”.

I look back and say, “why God?” Sure the flip side of that coin is that A) it was a BENIGN tumor B) I married a man who does NOT believe in divorce C) WOW it could have been so much worse.

Was it easy? Heavens NO, the years following that tumor included routine monthly appointments, MRIs, bloodwork. In fact, I had so many blood draws following that the “good” vein in my right arm no longer works….yep hard, but we survived! Oh yeah and I didn’t mention that our first real trip as a married couple occurred the week BEFORE 9/11, we flew out to Washington and drove into Canada to see some of Jeff’s friends for his birthday. Our return flight home was ON 9/11, but thankfully we were scheduled to fly out an hour after the attacks, so it left us stranded in Washington State, driving across the country in a Geo Metro (no joke) as newlyweds!!! I’m convinced if we survived that unplanned road trip, we’ll survive anything!! Trust me there were moments I was sure we would kill each other

Shortly after finding out we were pregnant with our son in 2005, we decided to move to Florida so that Jeff could expand his resume by working as a residential construction manager. The housing market was red hot during this time. People were buying homes for 100,000 and flipping them for over 200,000, it was a CRAZY time. If people were flipping houses, they were building houses, brand new construction and that’s what Jeff managed. He was really good at it. Quickly gaining favor with his supervisors and making crazy bonuses. So in 2007, when he sat down and literally planned out exactly what we needed to do and how to budget to wipe out our debt completely in four years, we were so excited at the possibility of being debt free we wanted to do whatever was necessary to get there. After all, having lost the house Jeff built for us in Michigan was a devastating blow in 2005, but FINALLY it appeared as though it was all for a purpose, we would be debt free. So it was heartbreaking when literally the NEXT day Jeff went into work and was told that the company was closing its doors. The housing bubble was about to burst, little did we know or understand, we were just hoping to ride on the coattails long enough to get out of debt.

Jeff took another management job with a bigger builder in South Carolina only to be let go 6 months later for the same reason. The housing bubble had burst and hundreds of residential construction superintendents were out of work. It was a devastating time for us.

Jeff had always wanted to be a youth pastor so we took this time and situation as a doorway for him to go to Bible College. That’s what led us to Missouri. A free Bible college in Moberly. So we moved our family from South Carolina to Missouri for the purpose of Jeff attending this Bible College.

He managed to get a year in, but since we couldn’t take as much financial aid due to its private school standing AND all of the classes were only offered during the day, Jeff couldn’t work and go to school. So he stopped going and started to work, but since the trade he was knowledgeable in wasn’t producing much opportunity, I decided to go to work.

Now keep in mind, yes I had a degree in Social Work BUT I had NEVER used it because I had always been either a stay-at-home mom or a church secretary. Thankfully, I was able to get a full time job working for the State of Missouri at the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline. Basically it’s a 800 number that people who are concerned a child is being hurt or neglected, call and report it, and then as the worker you assess the severity of the call, and dispatch people accordingly. It was the hardest, most rewarding job I had ever worked, but wow HARD. Also, I worked from 4pm until midnight and drove, 45 minutes away from where we lived. So I NEVER saw Jeff who worked opposite hours or my children, who at this point were being raised by a babysitter. I HATED our situation, so I got the brainchild to go back to school to get my Master’s degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia, aka: Mizzou. The program would only take 18 months and I figured it would be hell for those months, but that higher degree would open doors, so that I could work something different, make more money so that Jeff could finish his Bible degree, so that was the plan….

.In the meantime, however, during a follow up MRI, it was discovered, still benign, but in a location that couldn’t be operated on. So I enrolled in Graduate School and started in May 2009 BUT I began radiation therapy for this new “brain tumor” in Jan. 2009. So here I was, from January until April, working from 4pm-12am, driving home, going to bed around 2am, getting up and doing radiation for 1 hour from 9-10am, then in May throw college classes in there that started by 10am. I NEVER saw my family, but I kept telling myself the sacrifice would pay off, be worth it! So I trudged on, planning for my upcoming practicum (just a fancy word for internship) I had been accepted to do my internship with the VA Hospital, I saw this as a great opportunity to make decent money as a social worker. After all, a social worker at the Bachelor level only makes roughly 28-37,000 and at the Master level about 10,000 more than that, unless you are a hospital social worker, so this was my plan, IF I was going to sacrifice, I was going to try to make the most money I could!

So when I had a subarachnoid hemorrhage In October 2009, just 3 months from the start of my internship and only 7 months from Graduation, it kinda just seemed like par for the course of our lives. You see, of course I am beyond thankful that God saved my life. There were moments that were touch and go. In fact, I later learned that only about 1-3% of people who have that type of brain bleed actually survive. Even now as I type this, I realize that God has made me a fighter! I do give Him all the glory for that time in my life. Of course, it’s been hard to not be able to complete my Master’s that I was only months from finishing, OR be able to return to my State job because cognitively I can no longer function on that level.

Of course devastating doesn’t even begin to describe it.

But for the first time, when Jeff decided to go back to college to start working on a degree in engineering,  for the first time in over  a year I was thrilled. Thrilled to think that I didn’t have to worry about trying to figure out how to put him through Bible College, thrilled that I could resume being a stay at home mom and be able to see my kids again. Thrilled that Jeff is intelligent enough that he could become an engineer, let alone a petroleum engineer. He picked that type of engineering because if he was going to swerve off the course of becoming a youth pastor and invest the time, energy and sacrifice into schooling, he was going to aim for the type of engineering that paid the most. On average PE earn, out of college between 80-100,000 and this all depends on your grades and internships. (I might add, he graduated magna cum laude in May) So Jeff’s mission became studying every waking moment and being a very diligent student. We moved to the town in Missouri where petroleum engineering was offered, mind you there are only FOURTEEN colleges in the United States that offers PE degrees, Missouri being one of them. So it seemed that perhaps this was the direction that God had opened up for us. I mean, come on, we weren’t from Missouri, we just ended up there, who just ends up there on purpose? So our path became seemingly clear. Jeff became invested in his education. He studied ALL the time, but at least we lived close to campus so he walked to and from school and he was home in his office studying, so for me it wasn’t bad at all because  we were under the same roof. It was a difficult time, money was VERY tight as Jeff wasn’t working, just going to school full-time, so we lived on very little and made sacrifices. But those sacrifices, years of jarred spaghetti sauce and noodles for meals seemed like they would pay off because eventually he’d be making the big bucks! So it was worth it in our minds! College life, in your late 30s, married with kids is NO walk in the park and to assume otherwise is just asinine!!

The stress was no joke, the overwhelming fear of “I spent too much money at the grocery store, oh crap Jeff and I are going to fight” was a daily worry for me.

You just have no clue.

So imagine my utter excitement when my grocery budget went from 125 a week for a family of FOUR to 220 a week for said family. Suddenly I could purchase items, we had needed/wanted but had to go without for 6 years, like: a double pack of contact cleaner solution or a dish towel for $4.88, luxuries that we couldn’t afford before. But I’ll be honest, I think in the back of my mind I was always waiting for the bottom to fall out, so it was NO surprise to me when on June 19, only TEN days after Jeff’s start date with ConocoPhillips, was it announced, in a corporate wide meeting, that significant layoffs were coming in Sept/October time frame, I guess I figure, “yeah sounds about right!” Yep our house search ended abruptly. I went from dreaming of my house for over 6 years, that we would be able to buy once Jeff started working as a PE, to having to grasp the concept of being an ongoing renter. I think Jeff even said at one point, “maybe we are just destined to be eternal renters?”

Crashing down doesn’t even do how we felt justice. We held on from June-October, praying, begging God to protect Jeff’s job, to give him favor in the company, to shield him from the layoffs.

So when he walked in the door at 8:30am on Monday, October 5, 2015, I knew instantly by the look on his face that he had been let go and not only let go, but indefinitely let go,y faith was shaken, verge of crazy, was where I was at. I was angry, frustrated and plain pissed off at God. Yes I know, gasp, but it’s where I was at that day.

Tears were constantly on the tip of my eyelids all day as I rebelliously and angrily talked to God in a huffy attitude saying things like: “why spare my life in 09, if you aren’t going to use me?” “Why allow us to go through 6 years of hell, with what appeared to be an open door into a PE program, only to completely devastate us at the end of those 6 years?” “Why WHY WHY WHY?????”   Of course, no answers from Him directly, just a bunch of chrisianese lingo from well-meaning people on Facebook, but sometimes you just need someone to empathize and not say ANYTHING. I KNOW that God is for our good. I KNOW that God will provide another path, I KNOW that God will provide everything we need to live. I KNOW all of this, but right now as I sit in the middle of this situation I am sad. I am hurting. I hurt for my husband, whom I’ve never seen this devastated in the 15 years we’ve been married. I hurt for my kids who we ripped out of the only real adolescent hometown they’ve known onl,y to come to Houston to possibly move again. I hurt for all of the life dreams that we’ve had to let go of because we can no longer afford them. I hurt at the idea of going from 100,0000 a year to my 11,000 a year I make on disability and the possible 40,000 Jeff can make in construction. I hurt. But I will say there are some small silver linings in all of this crap situation.

I was just talking to my mother-in-law the other day and I was telling her, I had this major revelation. Because we’ve lived with so little, in poverty really. Even when Jeff started making really good money. I found that once I could afford things, dishtowels, daily trips to Starbucks, new iPad etc. I wasn’t as appreciative for them. You see because we had so little before Texas, things like new tennis shoes, or weekly trips to a coffee house were “extras” that we had to not only sacrifice for, but plan very diligently. So those things were precious to me and I was eternally grateful for them. I remember getting cordless earphones, this was a BIG deal because they weren’t a necessity for life, but for me being someone who works out daily they seemed like a necessity. So when my husband said we could afford a pair when his college loans disbursed I was ecstatic and thrilled, but mostly thankful. You see, I was struck the week before Jeff lost his job, how unthankful I had become. Since we were suddenly able to spend more money, things like my trips to Starbucks had lost their sense of awe.  Now let me tell you, the money I loaded on my Starbucks card on the Sunday BEFORE Jeff lost his job on Monday is beyond precious to me because I know once it’s gone, it’s gone, no more Starbucks trips for me. So when you see me “check-in” to Starbucks on Facebook, now that I am going to sit my butt there for at least 2 hours so that I can get my free refills and stretch my Starbucks money J

So in summary, YES this has been a really trying time! Not only having our hopes and dreams completely crushed but going from poverty to middle class and now back to poverty. But in the midst of all this craziness, I’m reminded of what my grandma Lewis would always tell me when we spoke, “Angie it can ALWAYS be worse and take one day at a time!!”  Our situation doesn’t change who God is, it doesn’t make Him less of who He is. It doesn’t define His love or care for me or my family. Sure life feels hard right now and God doesn’t feel as close, but that doesn’t mean He isn’t! Jeff kindly reminded me that our life is much better than someone from a third world country, longing to live in the United States. My life is better than it was in 2000 when I was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. No God doesn’t promise us an easily path in this life, but He does promise that He will walk there with us!

Hebrews 13:5 

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave younever will I forsake you.”

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