“If we moved back home and made substantially less money, would you go?”
Well, technically, I suppose it all started years ago, but for the sake of this part of our journey, it started at Bojangles’ in Walterboro, South Carolina on April 8th, 2013 – where all religious experiences happen.
So, there’s that. With one loaded question, our future changed. Our finances, our status, our savings, our reliance on a job to sustain us, all changed forever.
By asking Elizabeth that question, it was more of an admission that we needed to change the focus of our lives than it was an actual question. With as much certainty that I knew the answer to the question when I asked her to marry me, I already knew her response to my latest life-altering, stress-inducing, excitement-wielding, freak-out-making question.
Luckily, she said yes.
And with that loaded question and simple answer, our lives would forever change.
Now, a little more of the back story.
In 2008, I found out about a cool mission trip that was going to East Asia to share to Gospel with people on basketball courts around a mega-city. I was hesitant because I had never been on a mission trip before, and frankly, didn’t think that I was qualified to actually go. But, I started feeling like God wanted me to go anyway. Then, Elizabeth said that she thought I should go and that she wanted to go, too.
Here’s the first sticky part. We needed to make a decision in a about 24 hours.
I was traveling out of town for work the same day we found out about the trip. I found an office to tuck away in and Elizabeth and I prayed about it over the phone and decided to go on the trip.
Here’s the next sticky part. We needed $4000. In fact, we needed a $2000 deposit that week.
I’m guessing God really did want us to go on that trip because just a few days later on February 14th, I showed up to our Valentine’s Day dinner in tears. A wonderful couple from church had sacrificially donated the exact amount we needed for the deposit.
Fast forward a few years and nine international mission trips and I still get the same feelings I got on that first trip. I vividly recall standing on the side of a busy road in this mega-city talking to Elizabeth and our trip leader and saying how I could do this all the time.
In early 2012, I was restless with the path of my career. I had a great job and was very good at it. I never intended my career to be in digital advertising sales, but I quickly learned that I liked it quite a bit. Every single year in my working career I had made more money than the year before, either by selling more or getting a promotion. But, I continued to feel like that would not be my “forever job.” So, I started praying that God would do something so amazing in my life that it would be unmistakable that he was behind it.
Well, God answered that prayer pretty quickly. I prayed that prayer for the first time on a Friday and the following Monday my publisher called me into his office. “The CEO wants to talk to you,” he said.
Our company had been purchased at the beginning of the year and the corporate director of digital advertising was not planning on relocating to the new headquarters. The CEO asked him if he knew anyone in the company that could do the job. The former director gave him one name. Guess who.
“Can you be here on Thursday?” the CEO asked me.
“Ummm…yes,” I replied.
On the afternoon of March 9, 2012, I was offered the promotion that required a move to Florida. On the evening of March 9, 2012, I witnessed the birth of my daughter. I suppose you could say that was a big day.
The 18 months working as a corporate sales director was a great experience. I traveled, I worked with fantastic people, I learned and I grew. Being away from South Carolina, our friends, family and our church was extremely challenging. Emotionally, the two hardest things I have done in my life so far are leaving home for college and leaving my church for the new promotion.
At the time, I thought this job was the answer to what I had been praying about. This type of promotion does not happen everyday. After consulting with friends and coworkers, time in prayer and much discernment, we felt it was the right step for our future. The income would allow us to continue to let Elizabeth stay at home with the children and take care of our future planning. The on-the-job training would allow me to continue to grow personally and professionally, and it did.
But, a funny thing happened. During the time at this new job in Florida, I went on two more mission trips with my South Carolina church. I had the same feelings upon returning that I had following every single other trip. I wanted more. I wanted to give more, invest more and be more obedient. In time, we learned that the promotion was not the end of God’s big plan for us.
That takes us right up to Bojangles in Walterboro, SC. Our new plan was to start looking for a job that would bring us back to South Carolina, get enrolled in seminary and one day, upon earning a master’s degree in a few years, find a job in ministry full-time.
Here’s a text message between me and Elizabeth a few days after our life-altering chicken supremes lunch:
J: I called a friend who is a strong believer and owns a business, he didn’t have any jobs right now. We need to figure out how much it will take for us to live.E: You’re really serious about this, huh?J: It’s time.E: I’m scared, but I trust you.J: Me, too. It’s not me we need to trust though. 🙂