I took a deep breath, swallowed the lump in my throat and had to look away from the gleeful group. Gratitude welled up within me, overwhelming me. How did I end up here, I wondered? In that moment I remembered that I had prayed and cried and fought to end up here. Here just wasn’t what I had thought it would look like.
Up until a few years ago, my career was in the steel industry (think car manufacturing and the metal your fridge and stove are made of). Being from Hamilton (otherwise known as Steeltown) with many family members in the same industry, it made sense. I liked my job and was making good money along with having full time use of a company car.
As I emerged from a cloud of mental health issues and an eating disorder, I found myself back in church and eager to learn, grow and serve. My heart was being called to serve people in need and my full time job slowly became unsatisfactory. It almost felt disobedient. I struggled through the push and pull of calling, vocation, ministry and what all of that could look like for a family with four kids. I was saying yes to God. Except he hadn’t quite asked yet.
I searched career websites, ministry websites, non-profit websites – anywhere that might hold the hope of our future. A good friend of ours leads Live Different, a non-profit that gives youth empowerment presentations in high schools and hosts humanitarian trips. A position in Mexico opened up and seemed like a dream job. My husband and I went to Mexico to check things out and I was sold. I desperately wanted to help North American people become aware of their own privilege and to be a bridge as they came to Mexico to build homes and relationships with the local people on the margins. My husband was not on board and didn’t feel God calling us there. I thought he was wrong and I was mad as hell.
I prayed. I showed him scripture that absolutely *proved* to me that we should be packing up and heading south. I cried into my scrambled eggs at a breakfast restaurant, begging him to see how I was right and he was wrong. We still turned down the job.
A year later we packed our family of six into our minivan on a cold and bleak January day to drive across the country and explore the possibilities at a camp. There were two positions available in a beautiful setting at the base of the Rocky Mountains and it seemed like a good fit for both my husband and I. During our interview the Camp Director asked us – why here? Why not…. this camp, here – and he pointed to a spot on a map, closer to home, in central Ontario, Canada. Neither of us had a good answer. Still, I was excited about the potential, but this time had my wits (somewhat) about me. When I called the Camp Director after arriving home we both agreed that everything seemed like a great fit except neither of us felt it was what God wanted. I was disappointed by felt I was being obedient to God’s leading.
By this time, my husband was growing weary. Every week I was coming home suggestions on where we should be going. Costa Rica? Mozambique? Thailand? He finally told me no more. He was also having some health issues that were affecting his ability to work. He has a disability that, in years past, he always pushed through but it had begun to take a toll on his body and his mind. He was re-evaluating priorities and life goals. A few months later he told me he wanted to move north to cottage country.
I have a bit of spoiled brat in my make-up (it’s a work in progress). I told him it wasn’t fair that he turned down all my ideas and convinced me to stop the pursuit of far away places only to then turn around and suggest we may be called somewhere that just happened to be his favorite place on earth. In the end, I reluctantly said yes.
I was still apprehensive. It was not a clear and confident “yes” for me. I had to stay behind in the city to work while the rest of my family moved north. I was still searching for purpose in my work and finding it where I was now settled – the middle of nowhere – seemed impossible.
A position came open at a camp nearby. It was a bit of a hike to get there from our house but I was desperate to be back with my family full-time. As I write this, looking back it seems so obvious, but at the time I was frustrated, scared and still a little mad that I didn’t get what I want.
As you might imagine, I did get the job. And it is at, of course, the exact camp pointed out by the Camp Director in Alberta only the previous year. Coincidentally (or not so much), my husband landed a job at the same camp. Almost three years later, he is thriving. He loves his job, the camp and most of all, has found a calling in pouring into the lives of the younger staff that work alongside him. He has started a Bible study, he is playing sports and he is happy.
This past summer I was sitting at the back of a worship session with 300 summer staff singing out with hands raised and could almost hear God whisper:
See? See what I did? You didn’t want to be here and look how I have given you what you asked for.
Last night we had dinner with the staff at camp. There was the usual joking and bantering happening. My kids were not throwing food or fighting (for once). My two young boys were solving math problems on the whiteboard in the dining hall afterwards and some of the staff joined in. My kids were laughing and having fun. As I watched it unfold, this is when I started to tear up.
This IS what I wanted. It isn’t where or how or what I thought it would be which is why I can only say that it was God’s plan all along. He patiently waited for me to drop my agendas and suggestions and pleading long enough so that I would take His hand and gently let him lead.