Parking the moving van next to my grandparent’s house at the beginning of August 2009 was nothing short of triumphal. We had spent four months in Carlinville nearly jobless and entirely lonely, stuck in a house that started to feel like a prison. Aside from the few freelance hours a week I spent working and my trips to visit the counselor, Mike and I spent a lot of time staring at Elijah and watching really mindless reality TV.
But like a bad dream that begins to fade the moment you wake, those months of waiting, longing, hoping to start again were finally over. We made it to Chicago, and all our family and friends from a lifetime spent in the suburbs came to help us unload the truck and get settled for our first night back home.
It was so good to be home.
For almost two years Mike drove a school bus part-time, filing in the cracks with a number of temporary odd jobs and my own unpredictable freelancing while he went back to school working on his associates. Finances were tight, especially since we were shelling out money for a house we no longer lived in, and paying the bills every month made my stomach knot up in all kinds of horrible ways. But God was faithful to us. By His grace, we had the savings to make up the difference at the end of every month, and I learned to be thankful that even though the bills were big, we were always able to pay them.
The months wore on and just when we started getting really, really desperate, preparing ourselves to take a hard loss on the house in Carlinville, it sold. On a crisp February day in 2010, we left Elijah with my mom before the sun rose and drove eight hours round trip to sign those blessed papers in person. I never thought I’d be so happy to be rid of that big beautiful house, but we nearly danced out of the title office in front of the old Carlinville courthouse because it finally felt like we were free.
Summer came. Mike had knee surgery and I got pregnant and life started to feel a little off balance again. That ugly claustrophobia from the summer before started threatening our sanity, but I reminded myself that we were in Chicago, close to friends and family, and that in moments that nothing else seemed different, we were no longer chained to a house four hours away. In my heart I knew we were making progress, but what I wanted most, was for life to feel normal again.
Then came September and fall and the beginning of a new school year, which has long felt for me like one of life’s natural opportunities to begin again. Little-by-little God started cracking open our hearts to the idea of re-entering vocational ministry. The week Mike started volunteering with the youth at our new church, one of the pastors resigned. We came home wondering if maybe, just maybe, God might be opening a door for us.
Over the coming months, God began to whisper dreams into our hearts. He began to give us passion for our church and the confidence that He was working things out for us behind the scenes. That we did have a place in the ministry of our church. Like a secret, we hid those promises in our hearts and determined that the final confirmation of these whispers would be that someone would approach Mike, without any indication of interest from us, about a job.
And they did.
With the turn of the New Year, Mike began a lengthy interview process for what we believed was the opportunity of a lifetime. We laid awake at night for the first time in years dreaming for the future and what we were certain could be a long-term career. We welcomed our second son Noah in March, and by July Mike had the job. Not full-time, but part-time enough that we could live on, and would allow Mike to continue focusing on school – two of the most important criteria we needed met to accept a position.
For the first time, in a long time, I felt like life was getting normal.