In writing there is a moment called the "inciting incident" which thrusts the protagonist(s) into the main action of the story. Sometimes this is a father dying suddenly, or war being declared. For us, one year ago our inciting incident came in the form of a sudden job loss while on vacation.
We've talked about what happened a year ago before in a previous post. As we have come to the anniversary of that day, I wanted to reflect on what has happened over the past year and what we've learned and experienced.
Not a lot has gone the way we thought it would
Before finding out my job was ending, we had talked about moving to France and what would have to happen for that to work out. At that point we had assumed that I would continue working while we raised support then I would resign from my job when we hit our support goal. After the layoff, I focused on support raising full-time during the fall and into the winter with the goal of raising enough support to move by late Spring 2018. Obviously that didn't happen.
After the new year began, the support raising completely dried up. I tried, but nobody was available, nobody was returning my calls. It was like an invisible wall was suddenly between me and everyone I was trying to contact. We made it to 12% of our support goal and haven't really moved past that.
In late February, Kristy's contracting dried up and I needed to get on unemployment and start looking for a job. We hoped to find a job that would let me work remotely so that we could still move to Europe. After a while I stopped looking only for remote jobs and have been looking for any job that I'm qualified for. Over 4 months in and more than 40 jobs applied for and I'm still looking.
Out of those jobs, the two that I've gotten closest to so far were ones that would have allowed or required us to move to France. One was a fully remote job that would have given us the flexibility and option to move on our own timetable. I was down to the top seven candidates out of over 140 applications. The other would have required us to move because it was not a remote position but a regular position in Basel, Switzerland, right across the border from Mulhouse, France. After three video interviews with them, I found out Monday that I didn't get the job.
Last fall we hoped we'd be packing up to move by now. Instead, we're right where we were then. Even though pretty much nothing has gone the way we expected to this year, we've seen God moving in our lives throughout.
God has continually been guiding our path
When we were sitting in that restaurant in Paris, listening to the piano playing, trying to make sense of what had just happened (that meal is the photo at the top of this post), there was a real sense of God's presence with us. As we prayed about everything, we felt like God was giving us the choice: take the safe route and immediately look for a new job, or trust Him and see where the adventure would lead. We chose the latter and it's been a wild ride.
When I first was laid off, we felt like God was saying to just focus on trying to raise support. Many people thought I should have immediately gone on unemployment. We decided that it would be better if I focused on raising support and wasn't distracted by trying to apply for jobs as well. This was good because in February, when Kristy's contracting slowed down, we would have been just about to the point that my unemployment was ending. If we had been relying on it as extra income but I wasn't really seriously looking for a job during that time, we would have just begun looking for a real job when the unemployment money would have ended. It has only been in the last few weeks that Kristy's contracting has picked up at all, and only really because people are on vacation at the company. So we would have been in a lot of trouble.
During the support raising process I was asked to build a website for a friend's business. At the time I thought it would be a good way to make a little extra money. It turned out that building that site has been a significant help for my resume as I've been looking for a job.
When Kristy's contracting started to slow down, it hadn't been slow for very long when she felt like I should get on unemployment. When she told me, I immediately felt the same way and applied that day. Thanks to this, we came close, but never had an issue with paying our bills each month.
There have been other examples of God's guidance, but these are some of the bigger ones.
The future path is still uncertain
We're not sure what God is up to. The way I like to describe it is that we're treading water, in the fog, in a river. We're moving, we don't know where, we can't see what's going on around us, we're just trying to stay afloat and we're praying that at some point, hopefully soon, the fog will lift and God will show us what this all has been leading up to.
A year ago we hoped we'd be off to France by now. Four months ago we thought I'd have a job by now. We continue to ask God each day to show us His will and guide our steps. Where will we be in six months? A year? Five years? We don't know. We do know that God's doing something, though, and hopefully we'll find out what that is soon.
God has given us a wonderful gift through this time
The biggest benefit to this past year has been one for our family. Despite all of the uncertainty, all of the fears and anxiety about jobs and our future, we've had the wonderful opportunity to grow closer as a family.
When I was working in my old job, taking off even just a couple hours was generally frowned upon unless it was for an appointment. As a result, I missed almost everything happening at school for our kids. I was able to go to a few things, but I remember on the first day of school feeling like we needed to rush after dropping the kids off so I could get back to work and not get in trouble. I wasn't able to enjoy things and be there for things. When we did have time to do stuff together as a family, like on the weekends, I was usually too exhausted to do anything. I just wanted to sit around and relax.
Not having a job this past year meant that I've been able to spend time with the kids in ways I never would have been able to otherwise. I've gone to parties during school with them, I've gotten to volunteer in their classrooms, I've been able to meet the other parents and meet the kids I had always heard about. Instead of waking up and leaving before they were even awake, I was waking them up and driving them to school all the time, or picking them up after school was out. My favorite was when we would ride bikes to school together.
Despite the pain, frustration, and anxiety we've had to deal with this past year as all of our ideas and plans have continually been upended, we've seen God bring us closer together as a family. We've seen God provide for us time and time again. We've seen God open doors and change paths for us.
We're still on a great adventure, the destination is a lot less certain, but we are still sure of God's provision and guidance in everything we're doing.