I have inherited Your testimonies forever,
For they are the joy of my heart.
I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes
Forever, even to the end.
Psalm 119: 111, 112

Blessings through Struggles

Isn’t it amazing how God grows and stretches each of us in such unique ways?  It’s amazing how He works so intentionally and evidently in our lives.  And, it’s amazing that all His children have a distinct purpose in and for His Kingdom.  Our family has lived these life lessons ever since God brought us together, but more intensely throughout the last couple of years.

            We can begin back in June of 2008.  Paul and I watched job loss, home loss, and financial loss all around us, and when his hours at work were “necessarily” cut back, we – or I guess I should say Paul, saw it coming.  Already feeling the crunch of less income, we experienced what so many others were experiencing right along with us.  Job loss.  Paul joined the ranks of the unemployed. 

            We prayed a lot.  We also got busy updating his resume and creating cover letters.  He spent many hours filling in applications online, and I think I come pretty close in saying I must have sent over 500 links to job postings his way.  I became the job searcher!  I’m so glad I know his trade and skill set so well.  I have to admit, though, I found myself saying, “Honey!  I KNOW you can do that, too!”  Poor guy.  As if he didn’t have enough pressure to deal with!

            As time passed, and responses were slow, or non-existent, Paul decided to do some networking.  He called an old employer and dear friend in San Jose, CA.  How blessed we were when they opened their doors to Paul, and welcomed him to work as a contractor for as long as needed.  Paul left for the Bay Area after Thanksgiving, and the kids and I did what we could to keep up with our homeschooling, gymnastics schedule, household responsibilities, etc.  We missed him terribly, but God is so good, and when he came home for Christmas, he received a call from an employer in Texas.  This company liked what Paul had to offer on paper, so they scheduled an interview and flew him to Houston in mid-January. 

            We didn’t even have to wait for Paul to come home to face the reality that we had serious decisions to make.  They offered him the job on the spot, and he called home to let me know.  Talk about bittersweet!  I was a bit nervous, but more excited about this new journey God was sending us on.  We began to pack our home, and make living arrangements for Paul, since our plans were to have him move there on his own first while I prepared the house for renters.  There was no way we could sell and come out on top, since our home was only 2 ½ years old at the time, and the real estate market had already taken a huge dive. 

Our finances were tight.  Most of our savings was gone by then.  His employer wasn’t able to offer him a severance package, so we were very grateful that God had given us the ability to save a little to hold us afloat those few months.  We used the relocation funds from the company in Texas to pay for storage and boxes.

So.  Get this.  The day before Paul is to drive out to Houston; three days before he is to start his new job…He gets offered a job here in Phoenix!!!  Okay.  I know that common sense would say I should have been rejoicing.  I was not.  I was far from it.  I was frustrated, confused, and quite honestly worried.  I had a sinking feeling that this job in Phoenix was not a good thing.  Isn’t that horrible!?  I was ready to move.  We had spent the relocation money.  We had packed part of the house already.  We thought we had already said yes to God’s plans, or at least that’s what I thought.  I thought God wanted us to have a fresh start; a new beginning!  I was even ready to leave amazing friends and family.  I see now how God was teaching me a lesson about relationships and fellowship.  I thought it would make life simpler to not have the “responsibility” of keeping up with our social calendar, meeting the needs of the grandparents, and making sure we didn’t miss something for someone!  How blind I was!  The relationships that God has designed for my life are rich and invaluable.  He has shed His light on my need for those relationships, and the need for me to invest my time and love on the friends and family that surround me.  I don’t feel “burdened” anymore, and I’ve even been blessed with even more friends and relationships through church and homeschooling that I never would have been able to experience had we moved.  He did allow us a fresh start and new beginning, just not in the way I imagined.

I remember being deep in prayer one day.  I was sitting on my couch one morning.  The house was quiet and peaceful, and I was praying for God to open my mind and to give me wisdom to understand why we were meant to stay in Arizona where I felt the stress of a hectic, and what seemed complicated life.  I clearly heard Him tell me, “Beloved, just continue.”  Not many words, but I had this feeling of release and peace that I can’t explain.  I knew He was telling me to continue living the life He planned for me.  He has a purpose in everything, and I felt immediate joy and acceptance in His work in my life.  I knew that I was missing out on enjoying the love of friends and family, and serving each other, and supporting and encouraging each other.  God spoke so clearly to my heart that day, and I never questioned or doubted again. 

Well, Paul handled notifying the company in Texas (who didn’t seem to take the news with warm regards), and sent the money back to them.  That nearly cleared us out by the way, but we weren’t homeless!  We went on with life, but I noticed the unsettled feelings that grew as Paul began working for his new employer.

At first, things seemed good.  Not great, but good, and comfortable.  It really started to go downhill fast, though.  They started him doing what they hired him for, but quickly placed him in positions that really looked like they wanted to set him up for failure! 

I know for sure that our faith was tested throughout those short months that Paul worked at that company.  We prayed as a family for peace and favor at work.  We paid that we could keep up with our bills and build some savings again, and we prayed for wisdom and discernment.  I prayed often for Paul.  I saw him fading away from his time with God, as he tried to keep up with a demanding boss, and dwindling self-confidence.  We were not sure what was happening, but God was moving.  I remember Paul questioning his acceptance of the job, and wondering out loud if he had made a mistake by not going to Texas.  I, on the other hand, had found peace and knew that God would show us great and wonderful things.

By July of 2009, we were on a job hunt again.  Paul was slowly being beaten into the ground at work, and he also saw the possibility of more lay-offs on the horizon.  Sure enough, at the end of September of 2009, we joined the unemployed again.  This time, there was concern over not just the utilities, but how could we keep up with the mortgage without an income, no savings, and no severance package again?  Well, we knew God would keep our kids fed, and we tried to keep them unaware of the severity of our circumstances.  We even kept up with the mortgage for a couple months.  After that, we just didn’t have the funds to pay our house payment, and HOA, SRP, city utilities, etc.  We only had one very small car payment, and gymnastics costs for Rhyan.  Oh yes, and health insurance to pay for.  We didn’t (and still don’t) even have credit card debt, but our house was big and new.  Ugh.  Oh, the burden of earthly treasure!

We spent countless hours dealing with applications and job postings.  This time I sent at least 1,000 links to Paul for various jobs, including things like truck driving and property management.  He applied for everything. He even spent $100 to become certified as a forklift driver, and applied for all kinds of warehouse jobs.  No dice there.  Finally, Paul was “hired” by Home Depot!  However, what seemed to bring relief, just ended up being another time of growth of our faith, which is even better!  Over and over again, Paul was pushed aside and forgotten.  The company dropped the ball and never scheduled him for his training.  Paul even went to a couple of the store managers and told them that he had been hired, and sent through drug testing, and everyone just pushed him off to someone else until we finally realized that this was not what God had in store for him after all. 

Of course, we can see how everything has worked out for His good, and I truly believed that in my heart back then, too.  I won’t say those were easy times, though.  We prayed that our kids wouldn’t be discouraged, and that they knew that God had something wonderful planned for us.  All the while, we were trying to figure out how to handle our house situation, and all the while God was showing us how good and merciful He is.  He never once let us fall!  He always sustained us and provided more than we needed and deserved.  My heart still leaps for joy when I think back on the shelter and comfort of God’s mighty arms.  When we bought it, we thought that house we were living in was going to be our long-term home, but we couldn’t afford it anymore…and it really was okay.  We were ready to let it go, because we felt God working and comforting us.  We heard Him tell us, “Trust in me, and look not on your own understanding.  I will give you rest.  I will give you peace.”

As the year wore on, God continued to show us how faithful He is.  Paul contracted for a couple small jobs here and there.  Then he got hired for the Census in April of 2010.  He actually made some neat friends there!  We were able to qualify for unemployment, and eventually AHCCCS, but we continued to pay almost $500 each month to keep the kids and I on our independent plans.  Ty was on breathing treatments and asthma meds, and had been so since he was 2 years old.  Rhyan was diagnosed with migraines right through the thick of all of this, so we wanted to keep us on our independent plans.  We didn’t know how pre-existing conditions would affect our coverage and costs if we took us off insurance, put us on AHCCCS, and then risked the reality of being dropped by AHCCCS when a company would pick Paul up full-time.  We always had faith and hope that he would get a job when and where God chose.  (I must tell you that this summer, Ty was taken off his last asthma meds, and Rhyan has not had a migraine in over a year!  See how our King works!)  We also decided to hold off on the dental appointments until we could get insurance.  We’re still waiting on that!  J  Needless to say, Rhyan also had to “retire” from gymnastics.  She seemed pretty ready for that anyway!

After the Census work came to an end at the end of May, God saw favor on us again and Paul was hired as a contractor for an Architectural firm in Scottsdale.  So here we were, knowing that any job was better than none, but we were so tired by then.  Our mortgage company was happy that we were in constant communication with them, but at the meager wages that Paul was again receiving at this new job, they still couldn’t approve us for a new loan that would allow us to stay in our home.  We were after all, just barely above the legal poverty level!  Paul drove 43 miles one way, had no benefits, and was “required” to be in the office up to 11 hours a day…often I might add.  Yet, there was hope.

We began attending a new church in August of 2010.  We had been unsettled for a while, even after being connected at a great, bible-based church for over a decade.  Our new church home is amazing, and again, seeing God’s timing over the past two years has been incredible.  This is exactly where we need to be.  It was our new church family who was there for us not even two months later in mid-September when we needed to move out of our home and in with my parents.  They didn’t even question.  They were just there, trucks, moving clothes, gloves, and all!  It was our new church family (and apparently all of you! J ) who was there praying for us every week, as Paul left for California again to work and provide for his family. 

We moved out of our home in whirlwind fashion!  Paul had to be in CA by September 15th.  We found out we had to clear out on September 1st.  We were already booked to attend a wedding over Labor Day weekend, so when we got back in town, the plan was to move our things out and into our in-law’s home.  They lived two blocks behind us, and planned to move back to San Jose where Paul’s siblings live.  They were to make the drive with Paul, and rent the home here in AZ to us at an affordable rate.  Great, right!?!?  One problem.  When we arrived back in town, Paul’s parents informed us that they had figured out their budget, and learned that they couldn’t afford to move.  What?!?! 

Quick change of plans.  Can we get storage units by tomorrow?  Done.  Do we have a place to go?  Done.  (In WITH my parents.)  Can we sort through rooms and not pack what we don’t need, pack what needs to go to storage, pack what needs to go with me and the kids to my parents house, pack what needs to go with Paul to Cali, and maybe try to get last minute help for the heavy stuff?  Oh, and how much money do we have to spend on boxes, tape, and can we get a moving truck?  DONE!  God is sooooooo good! 

Our church family was and is still there for us.  Our parents were and are still there for us.  Our friends have been there for us.  It was so soothing for me to know that the kids and I weren’t alone, even though Paul had to be gone.  He left on September 13th.  We didn’t see him again until October 30th for two days.  Then we didn’t see him again until November 22nd, and planned to see him head back out to CA until Christmas.  But, here is another example of God’s faithfulness.  One of Ty’s baseball coaches passed on Paul’s resume at his company.  He hardly knew us, but he was true to his word and plugged Paul’s name, and made sure the right people knew about Paul.  That led to an interview, and the interview led to a job!  Paul began his new full-time position for a large, international company on December 13th!!!  Did I say yet that God is sooooooo good!?!?   

I know this is a really long story, but I feel it’s pretty important that you know all there is to know.  I would love to know all of you someday! J  I also need to share with you my infinite joy in Jesus and all He has done in and for our family.  I wouldn’t change a single thing that we’ve experienced these last two years.  I have heard God talk to me.  I have seen visions come true.  I have felt His presence, and found opportunities to witness and minister for His kingdom more than any other time in my life.  My heart overflows with love for God and His children!  I don’t question the struggles and changes that have come to us, because I know they are all for good.  He has held us up through everything, and if He called us to the same struggles again, I would gladly accept.  

I feel that as He has stretched us and given our roots food to become firm and fruitful, He has clarified callings for us, individually and as a family.  I am watching God move in the lives of our children, as they learn and accept that we can be a family and have a home anywhere God calls us to be.  I have seen Paul grow in self-discipline, closeness to Jesus, acceptance of His will, and spiritual leadership for our family.  I feel the joy of the Lord like never before in my life!  I see no condemnation in anyone or anything, just the eyes and ears of God’s children who are loved unconditionally by their Creator.

The biggest journey I have seen unfold for us is our desire to grow God’s family by growing the family He has designed for us here on earth.  For a few years now, I have had adoption on my heart and in my mind.  The thought would come and go, but it was always there, as were reminders about it everywhere.  I love children, and it hurts my heart to know that so many of them around the world are orphans.  God calls us to care for the widows and the orphans.  He calls all of us to this, but in different ways.  Maybe some of us are blessed to have the funds to donate monetarily to orphanages.  Maybe some will serve as missionaries or caregivers in orphanages.  I believe with all my heart that God has been preparing our family for a child or children that are already in His eyes meant to be part of our family.  I can go on and on about the signs and ways God has communicated to us (Paul and the kids, too) about adoption for our family.  Some, I guess most people will think we are crazy.  Here we are, halfway to an “empty nest” in our early 40’s, but when God calls you to do something for Him, how can you tell Him no?

God has provided over-abundantly for us, and we know that He will make this happen.  We see His miraculous provision all the time now!  Do we know where the money will come from to bring our children home?  God, of course, but He only knows who or what will be His instruments.  We will go with the flow and know that He will provide. 

I found myself praising God tonight for the sunrises and sunsets.  The mere fact that I am here to witness them, and live each day for Him makes me want to leap and dance and shout for joy!  

                                                For Jesus and His Kingdom with Love Always,

                                                Patty and Paul Gregersen
(and Rhyan and Tyler)