I am including this picture with this post...the same picture as I have chosen for the background on my blog introduction page. I call this "Road to the Future", and that is how I see it in view of transitions in my life right now. This path leads into the unknown, but I am enticed to see where it will take me. It's the next chapter in My Story, God's Story.
Just to satisfy your curiosity right up front, Paul and I are snow birds for the first time in our married life. That means we leave Michigan for the winter months and head to a warmer climate. However, as we still enjoy the change of seasons, we did not choose to head to Arizona or Florida. We have chosen our beloved "home" state...Tennessee. We raised our boys down in Cleveland, TN, and we know we will still get a taste of winter here, but we also know it doesn't last for months. Snow and ice usually melt the next day or so. We don't care about laying out in the sun, we just don't want to be stuck inside all winter looking at piled up snow that doesn't seem to go away.
Now to the background of this chapter of transitioning to Tennessee, coming off the last Story post of "Back to Michigan". Back in the summer of 2013 Paul began to sense the need of some changes to occur in the camp he was serving and felt we should bathe our future in prayer. We wanted God's perspective on what was ahead for us. We took a weekend and traveled down to Mont Eagle Mountain, I-24 south of Nashville on the way to Chattanooga...a place we had passed through several times. We took a lodge room in a retreat center and spent a couple of days asking God for directions.
By the time we left there to head back home, we had a sense of release from the camp, that our time there was complete. A new board had been appointed and they needed the freedom to move the camp in the direction they chose. We resigned our positions (Paul, Executive Director and me, Bookkeeper), effective August 1, 2013. We had served ILNC for nine years, and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunities we had to work in the camping ministry. It didn't make sense that God would take a chemical engineer out of the corporate world and place him in the camping world, but the expertise Paul brought to the table was able to save the camp in engineering fees and some legal feels.
We had thought it would be simple to transition to another camping position in another state. When those doors didn't open, Paul began looking back in the corporate world. He had been gone for ten years and at 60 years of age, it seemed the corporate world wasn't too interested. Since we had no income (other than my social security...500 a month), we closed up our Michigan house and moved to St. Louis to live with our son for the winter months while Paul researched jobs. We took enough items with us to be able to set up house wherever the next job would be.
It was our journey to the desert, not really understanding we were on that journey. We still had a mortgage to pay and other monthly bills, and we had to deplete any savings just to keep afloat. Even that ran slim. When we didn't know where the funds would come from, we were totally dependent on God. We could not collect unemployment as we had been employed by a non-profit organization. This situation lasted a year before Paul became employed as a consultant for safety and chemical engineering, working through a consultant who had his own company and serviced corporations world wide. This person happened to be a co-employee of Paul back in his early days with Olin Chemical, so they already knew each other. It was also a job where Paul could work from anywhere...a home office...except for the times he had to be on location. During that year of no employment/income, God was so faithful to meet all of our needs. His timing was perfect, not early, not late. He saw us through in many ways only He could orchestrate, and our faith grew deeper. We have truly learned He is all we need.
We moved back to Michigan for the summer, hoping to be able to sell our house and cottage so we could move south...back to TN or North Carolina. Two summers later (2015) we still have not sold, so we figure God must have a reason for us to stay on the campgrounds for now. Certainly our granddaughters love visiting there in the summer, and we don't want to take that privilege away from them. Also, Paul's parents, who live in Michigan, are both elderly and have health concerns. It is understandable why we need to still be present in Michigan, and you cannot beat the summer weather there!
Because snow fall had been severe the previous two winters, we hoped we could at least escape Michigan during the winter months. Last April we took a spring trip and stopped in Hendersonville, North Carolina to check out rental possibilities there. Nothing really impressed us as being the right situation. We then spent a few days back in Cleveland, TN where we raised our boys. The town has grown so much, so many new subdivisions, and so much traffic. Again, we didn't feel it calling us "home".
Our last night in Cleveland we went out to eat with friends who happened to mention a place in middle TN where they might consider retiring. So on our way back to Michigan, we decided to check out the area. We became interested! I spent the summer researching rentals in the area, and found a few that would rent for six months...most want a year's lease. Also found some that could be rented fully furnished, including linens and kitchenware.
In September we made a trip to TN for Paul to attend a class, and scheduled a trip to check out the possible rentals for the winter months. I prayed that God would close the doors on us coming to TN for the winter, if that was not in His plan for us. But if He was willing for us to do so, would He please show us exactly where He wanted us. He knows our future job income, our future expenses, our future period...and we can only live from day to day in faith. We don't even want to flirt with something that would be out of His will for us.
As it turned out we had seven places to look at, four of which were not furnished. Of the three furnished places one had very heavy pet odor. Now we are down to two, looking at one on Friday which could have worked well for us. But we had one more to look at on Saturday morning before we made up our mind. When we walked through the front door of the Saturday house, we knew we had found home. The owners were up from Florida for the summer, and they wanted someone to rent it for the winter months. It was pristine clean, and so very spacious compared to our house in Michigan. Huge garage and it had a full basement...which none of the other houses had. We sat down to chat with the owners, and ended up going out to lunch together. We spent over three hours with them and felt like we had gained new friends. They felt the same about us. Turns out the house we had seen on Friday that would have worked was rented by people wanting a year lease, so that one was taken off the list. We were down to one...just like I had asked God for.
We told them we needed to go back home and pray over the situation before making a commitment. We looked at our budget, we looked at the jobs Paul had lined up ahead of us. And we asked God for confirmation if renting in TN for six months had His approval. I will not give the details, but God answered that confirmation with two specific incidents, and we were given the confidence it was part of His plan for us.
When I think back on how God brought us through the desert during the winter of 2013, and provided for us during winter of 2014, and now look at where He has placed us for this winter, I am simply humbled and amazed. There is no way I want to go back to being self-sufficient. We have learned to live on little, and stick to the basics. God has given the surplus in His time and in His way. We are so blessed!! I am going to close this blog with a picture of what we see out our back window...a dream come true for the golfer in us.
I am fully aware that I still need to do a blog on my trip west this past summer. It was a very special event in my life and I want to make it part of this blog. No doubt these winter months will give me time to blog my heart out.