(For parts 1-3, click here and scroll down.)
After Kevin's graduation from Physical Therapy school in December of 1996, he took another short term mission trip to the Ukraine. He went with his dad this time, and had a great experience. We thought that the desire to do mission work would be in the form of short trips like this that he, or all of us, would take every now and then.
We moved to Grenada, Mississippi in the spring of 97 where Kevin had a job that would pay enough for me to stay home with the kids and not have to work. We bought a house, and I began figuring out life as a stay home mom. We worked on our house, fixing it up, and got involved with our local church, Southside Church of Christ. Kevin changed jobs and was working for a nursing home in Grenada, still making a lot of money (to us.) We still had a lot of debt left over from when he was in school, and with that and the house payment, we were making it OK financially, but with little left over.
After having lived there for a year and a half, we began to be aware that the government was going to make some changes in the medicare system. These changes would greatly affect Kevin's job, and the salary that he was earning was going to go down by 30-35%. We began to get worried about how we were going to pay all of our bills if he didn't earn as much money. He began to check into finding another job that would pay enough so that I could continue to stay home.
This next experience that I am going to tell doesn't seem like it has much to do with us moving to Brazil. But it made such an impact on me and was a transforming moment in my life - a way that God began to grow me and mature me to the point that I could accept a bigger challenge in the future.
Like I said, Kevin began to look for other jobs. I was pregnant with Carys. He heard about 2 jobs available in Gadsden, Alabama. Gadsden is about 2 hours away from my hometown. While I liked living in Grenada, I wasn't so attached to it that I wouldn't be excited about moving closer to my parents. So we went to Gadsden to check out these jobs. Let's just say our visit was OK. The jobs seemed fine - he would be working at two different nursing homes that would allow him to keep his current salary level. The town looked nice. They even had a mall - which Grenada didn't. But when we went there to visit, I met no one who encouraged me about moving our family there. The people there were nice enough, but it just wasn't the kind of visit where you come back excited that you are moving there. We went to church in Grenada the day after our visit, and I just cried thinking about moving.
We didn't know what to do. We made charts listing the positives and the negatives about moving or staying. We asked God to give us an answer, but we didn't feel that we got one. We finally made the decision to move to Gadsden, based solely on financial reasons.
It was Christmas time. The kids only had a day or two left of school. I hadn't even told the school that they would be leaving. I took them to school one morning, was going to talk to the teachers about it, but couldn't because I was near tears. I then took Garrett, who was 2, to my Community Bible Study. It was our last meeting before Christmas break, and while Garrett was in the nursery, we listened to one of the talented ladies sing some Christmas music. It was beautiful. As I sat listening and looking at her sweet face, I just heard a voice in my head saying "NO, NO, NO..". Not necessarily an audible voice, but as close as I've ever come to directly hearing God speak. I started to cry - again.
The room where we were sitting was pretty crowded. I decided that I would take my blubbering self to the bathroom. So I tried to inconspicuously grab my purse and maneuver my 7 months pregnant body past all the ladies to get out of the room. Of course I attracted attention, but I tried not to. I got to the bathroom and just lost it. I had no idea why I was so upset. It wasn't that I was going to miss Grenada so much, or that I hated Gadsden so much. I knew that I could be happy wherever my family was.
After a few minutes, the door opened and the wife of the First Baptist Church's pastor came in. I don't even remember her name now, but what she did for me that day, I will never forget. She asked if I was OK. I began to tell her that yes, I was fine. I didn't even know why I was crying. It was because we were moving away. We just wanted to be able to make enough money for me to stay home with the kids. She asked me if I had prayed about it. I said yes.
Then she said, "But you don't have peace about your decision."
"No," I said. She had finally put words to my feelings - just a total lack of peace.
"Then", she said, "the decision is not from God. If you pray about something, and you make the right decision, God will give you peace. If you don't have peace, then it is the wrong decision. If what you are trying to do - your goal - is to stay home and raise your kids, then God will honor that. So just do what He is leading you to do and let Him take care of the rest."
She told me about how she had lived for a while in a trailer while her kids were little, but God had always provided what they needed.
I can't tell you the relief and peace that flooded my heart at those words. That made so much sense. I left the bathroom, went directly to the nursery to get Garrett, and drove straight over to Kevin's work. I found him working with a patient in the hall. He got someone to take over and I told him what happened, and that I did not want to move. He, too, felt immediate relief because he hadn't felt peace either. He went to his boss and asked if he could keep his old job. She said yes, and he turned down the other jobs in Gadsden.
This experience may not seem like much to you. But to me, it was a learning experience that taught me that God is very much involved in my day to day life. He cares about my decisions. He's not just some corporate CEO way up high that looks down every now and then to see if I'm measuring up. He is real. He gives peace - or not. He has a plan for my life.
So what happened? We had had our house for sale, but never imagined that it would sell at Christmas time - not generally a time when people buy houses. But it did. And we made so much money off of it that we paid off all of our credit card debt. One of Kevin's patients had a house that they allowed us to rent for a low price. Then Kevin found a job in Grenada working for a very godly Christian man, making enough money to allow me to stay home. God honored our desire. Three months later, we found out that both of the positions that he would have filled in Gadsden didn't even exist anymore because of the government cutbacks.
As we were pulling out of our driveway after selling our house, I remember Kevin looking at me and saying, "I feel like God is just opening up the door for us to do something big, don't you?"
I had no idea what he was talking about at the time, but I didn't forget him saying that.
PS. I really wish that I remembered the name of the lady who spoke to me in the bathroom. I checked the church website, but the pastor is no longer there. I would love to be able to thank her again and let her know how much her words helped me and still help me, and others, today. I have told that story to our church members several times. So wherever you are - THANK YOU!