Monday, January 20, 2014

The rest of the story...

I can't tell you how many times we've been asked since arriving here, "Why on earth would you move from California to New Mexico?"  Well, my friends, this is the reason why.  Here is our Christmas Card letter from this year detailing the ins and outs of why we picked up and moved to an unknown place at Christmastime.  The rest of the story...
Merry Christmas!  Instead of giving individual details about each of us, we're going to give a general update due to the fact that our general update is quite a big one!  No, we are not expecting another baby!  The main news round these parts is that we are moving and Steve is changing careers.  After eight and a half years of Steve teaching Calculus and Physics at Monte Vista Christian School, we are packing up mid-year (right at Christmastime to be exact) to go on a new adventure.  So as you can imagine, we have boxes everywhere, our kitchen cupboards are bare and all the toys aren't under the tree but rather packed in boxes.  

Nevertheless, amidst the chaos we are living in right now, we have our Christmas tree up and bright, and the Advent Calendar on the wall.  Both are timeless reminders to us to focus on Christ as much as we can during this season, trusting Him to provide for all our needs.

So why are we moving and where are we moving to?  Here is the story.  As you all know, Steve has been pursuing his MS in Computational Mathematics via Texas A & M's distance program.  It took 3 1/2 years of him working full-time and going to school on the side.  It was a long trek for us but good in so many ways!  We both worked very hard; Steve at his studies and me in my support of him.  God blessed our efforts and granted Steve success in his work.  He graduated in May, Magna Cum Laude.

During the last year and a half of his Masters, Steve began to feel pretty heavily pulled to switch out of teaching and into the industry.  We began preparing him to do so which consisted of him taking an extra engineering exam, lots of networking and researching various industry jobs.  Last December he even interviewed with the Navy and we thought that might be our answer!  One Friday he got the email, and the next week they were flying him out to Virginia.  But then the Sequester hit and he ended up not being hired.  Now we are thankful that God intervened.  But at the time, we were devastated.  Trying to switch careers with five little people to feed is not easy.  Everything had to make sense and work.

So we prayed.  We prayed that God would lead us and guide us.  And then we started sending out applications.  Meanwhile, Steve began his last class for his MS and commenced working on his Final Oral Examination (Oral Thesis Project) to be defended in May.  He chose to research James Maxwell's Equations of Electromagnetism because he had always been fascinated by the material.  Throughout the semester we were waiting for some sort of break.  He had excellent skills, a great new degree coming and awesome transcripts.  However, he had no practical experience.  Many of his applications were rejected.  We were networking and narrowing down what we were looking for but just needed someone to take a chance on him. 

In April we got in contact with a friend of my Dad's who is a Physicist.  Steve had a brief conversation with him and he told Steve to email his colleague who headed up a research group right in our backyard in Monterey.  When we looked up the group, we were shocked to see that their whole area of research is in electromagnetic waves which was directly related to Steve's research for his Final Oral Exam.  We quickly emailed this contact and he responded that he might have room for Steve to intern if they ended up with some funding.  But due to the Sequester, he did not think it would happen.  He promised to be in touch.

Steve graduated in May.  We threw him a huge party and he started teaching summer school.  We got in touch with the group in Monterey again but there was no change.  That's when we began thinking.  Steve needed experience for his resume.  He was already teaching summer school and then would have six weeks off.  He could go work for free.  We didn't need the money, Steve just needed experience.  So we put it out there to them and they accepted!  In fact, they had the perfect short project for him to work on that had been in need of a mathematician.

After summer school ended, Steve started going down to Monterey to work on the problem.  Every day he came back pumped.  Little by little he was learning the ins and outs of this problem and by the end of his time there, he had solved it for them.  It had not previously been solved.  But that's not the end! While he was working there, they landed a huge contract and ended up paying Steve for the whole internship!  Working with this group had also confirmed his desire to do research.  But research meant a PhD and we had just finished 3.5 arduous years of him doing his Masters.  Steve wasn't burnt on the material just on working full-time and doing school (all of us were).  At the end of his internship though, his boss encouraged him to finish his degree and told him he would help him.
And he did not disappoint!  Right as Steve was starting the new school year at Monte Vista, his summer boss started advocating for him with his colleagues.  He got in touch with a Math Professor at Colorado State University telling her about Steve and his work over the summer, and how she should be interested in him as a student.  She immediately started working on getting Steve admitted to the PhD program for Spring 2014 (it was past the deadline already).  Then she sent off his resume/transcripts to Sandia National Labs in Albuquerque.  Her contact there said they were just starting to look for some Year Round PhD interns and thought Steve would be a perfect fit.  They wanted him to start in January. 

Meanwhile, the runaway train had taken on a life of its own.  It was not a path that we had foreseen nor thought possible.  In fact, we had talked about a PhD numerous times since the Masters had gone so well, but simply thought it impossible to support our family financially during it!  But God paved the way for every single step, mounting every obstacle and leveling the road.  Steve and I stood back and watched this marvelous story unfold before our eyes and we were in awe.  Everyone was fighting for him, connecting him, helping him and advocating for him.  In early October, we found out Steve was formally admitted to Colorado State for the Spring.  A few weeks later, his advisor (the Math Professor) came out to Stanford for a conference and he met her there for the first time.  The rest is history. 

Steve's PhD will take 3.5 years.  The first eight months we will live in Albuquerque on Kirtland Air Force Base.  Steve will work for Sandia Labs and get a grip on the area he will be researching for his dissertation.  Then we will move to Colorado and we will spend a year living in residence with Steve taking classes at Colorado State.  Since his Masters program was so comprehensive, he only needs one year of coursework, as many courses count toward his PhD and Qualifying Exams.  We are thankful!  After that, we will move back to Albuquerque for Steve to continue working for Sandia National Labs and also to finish his dissertation.  Our stay in Albuquerque the second time will be at least two years.
There you have it, in case you missed it!  That's what we're doing and how we got here.  More about our move on base to come.  Base living is quite an adventure!  But we are thankful for our home and know God has put us here for this time.

Much love to you all!  

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