Well, it's not. Life really kicks ya in the balls sometimes. But I know another truth about life: God provides and sustains, even when His guidance leads us on crazy journeys.
There's no amount of spin that can hide it. God has guided us. And His Providence has sustained us. That's the barebones bottom line of our story.
For years, we lived in Washington DC, where we were active in TWO local churches. We shared custody of our sons with their respective parents, and, while Ashley's boss was a real jerk who yelled all the time, we were satisfied. We were living into our reconciliatiatory calling to hold space for two warring branches of Anglicanism, calling one side to orthodoxy and renewal, and the other side to reject schism and ignorance of their theological history.
But then God told us to go to Florida. Our middle son's mother wanted to stay with her mother in Daytona for a while, to get back on her feet financially, and we realised our custody schedule could stay intact with us in Orlando.
Ashley and I have clergy friends there, and I have family all over South Florida. It appeared to be a great move.
And it was! For a time, we lived happily and carefree, if dripping with sweat from the incredible heat. Ashley had found a job even before we moved, and started right away. I found a job a few months later, and we secured our Florida resident Disney passes, in short time becoming regular Disney experts. Our custody rotation of our oldest son stayed intact, even though he was still in North Carolina. We got the middle kid every weekend. While both boys complained that they missed their altar bky service, we kept promising they'd get back into acolyte rotations soon.
Then a hurricane hit. It wasn't very devastating to Florida, but it spun up the US coast and flooded Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina to the point where some towns are still trying to recover. The roads and highways were closed for days and weeks, and we were unable to get our oldest for two rotations in a row. That was rough for this mama, but we survived and got together at Thanksgiving, and all was well.
Then Ashley's boss began stiffing him his paychecks. Turned out, the boss is an alcoholic who has major follow-through problems, and due to his refusal to cough up the full paychecks each week, we got behind on a lot of bills. Our car got repossessed one night, a few days before Christmas. Our apartment complex manager began eviction proceedings against us, slapping us with loads of legal fees, when we were late with rent by a few days.
Again, God provided. The generosity of our family and friends surprised and overwhelmed us. That's the grace of God--overwhelming and undeserved. Friends even sent Christmas presents for us and for the kids, and others sent groceries and ordered pizza! We got our car back, managed to stay in our apartment, AND still got to go to the family gathering in NC for Christmas.
Ashley found a new job almost right away, with a firm that assured him they were hiring him for a permanent position, and we rested in the Providence of God, grateful for provision and protection. We caught up on all our bills and thanked God for it all.
My paternal grandfather joined my grandmother in heaven in the Spring, and, since we lived nearby, I was able to quickly zip down to Naples for the family gathering and memorial service. I was blessed to see the middle sister who hasn't spoken to me in years, and she gave me a hug. All the Scheafer sisters were there, and we laughed and talked and reminisced about our grandparents long into the night with our cousins, aunt, and uncles.
My mother underwent serious surgery a week later to remove a large tumour from her neck. Again, I was only a few hours away and could drive down to Miami to spend a couple days with her and with my closest sister, who had flown in from Togo with her family for Grandpa's memorial and Mom's surgery. It was lovely, finally together again. My mom's surgery was successful and revealed the tumour to be benign.
Then, immediately after tax season, Ashley's firm laid him off. We were shocked. Speechless. Confused. Wasn't this what was provided for us? Why did this keep happening??
Finally, we decided to consider leaving Florida. Ashley dedicated himself to the job search, AGAIN, and expanded the search to include North Carolina. He accepted a position yesterday at a firm in Winston-Salem. We will move in with his parents in Rocky Mount, and he will commute three days a week, eventually transitioning to remote work.
Again, God has provided. Of course, at this point, it's difficult to rest easy. The what ifs pile up and make me wonder if we'll just get yanked around more.
BUT, I look back and remember, no matter the difficult circumstances, we have survived. Providence has allowed me to be present for some important moments in my extended family life this year, we've gotten to tromp around all the Disney parks pretty much whenever we desired, and God hasn't let us starve or be tossed on the street without transportation. It's been close a few times, but every time God provided.
What if our time in Florida wasn't primarily to take us farther down the path of Ashley's call to the priesthood, but rather to teach us to more fully rely on God's provision, to strip us of our ideas of self-sufficiency, to remind us in tangible ways that we can and must put family first, to stretch us in ways we could never manufacture in a place of comfort?
If so, I admit, I shake my fist at God a bit. Couldn't He have taught us all that without making us gain more grey hairs and worry lines around our eyes? Could he not have provided for us without long nights of weeping and mourning? Could, "Be not afraid," have been impressed upon us via ways that involved a lot less fear? Were our hearts not teachable enough before, when we never worried about paying bills, having enough to eat, having a roof over our heads?
And yet. God has been present throughout. We have been laid low again and again, but we've never been destroyed. Maybe following His guidance isn't so much about us moving to higher planes or even advancing in ways we imagined, but rather about illuminating Him, making clear His provision and love. Maybe our lives, at this stage anyway, are supposed to be a huge arrow pointing to Him.
All I can do is say thank you, and also, please God, can my life point to you in less tangibly painful ways going forward??
We moved to Florida on faith, and we leave on faith. We could never view our time there as a waste, because of all the Providential moments we were able to be with family at critical times. Plus, lots of Disney adventures could never be considered a waste! But looking forward, we eagerly, if tentatively, wonder what's in store next. God has already provided a job and a home for us. Both sons will be close by. Penelope will bring youth and laughter to her grandparents. Our future holds a lot of commuting for both of us, but we've always been down with that. We'll be free to dedicate time to his parents and siblings' families.
Maybe we've come full circle so we can help revive the dying church where he was confirmed and where he began the discernment process so many years ago. There's a thriving Catholic Parish in the area, too, with both Novus Ordo masses and Latin Mass services. Think of what we can learn and the ways we can grow from making friends with parishioners there!
Looking back, I don't regret anything. Our time in Orlando was fruitful, just in ways we hadn't anticipated. Our time in North Carolina will continue to grow and strengthen us. What the next step after that is, we don't know. We have tentative ideas and half-imagined plans, but are confident that God will continue to provide for and lead us.