Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Meant to Be

Life has been clipping along here.  I spend my mornings homeschooling the kids.  Some days I feel like I'm getting better at it, some days I don't.  But over time, we are moving forward and getting better!  The kids are definitely learning and advancing.  I just don't want to be cranky while they do so!  We've gotten into some routines too with Steve's work.  Basically, he leaves early in the morning and walks to work and comes home at dinnertime.  Sometimes I drive him when the weather is bad but, most days he walks.  Now he's gotten onto the 9/80 schedule so he works 9 hour days and then gets every other Friday off.  We're really enjoying that!

I feel like we'll get used to life here and then we'll be heading to Colorado.  Surprisingly, I feel okay about it.  I think that God has just given me an abundance of grace through this process.  For the last year that we were at Monte Vista, we knew we were headed somewhere else.  We just didn't know when, how, or where!  But over time, God opened up this way and we've been in awe of everything He's done to provide for our needs.

Something that's been on my mind a lot is the idea of a husband's mission.  The reason for this is that I have been asked more times than I can count, how I could just pick up and move my five kids to New Mexico, homeschool them, and still be smiling.  To be honest, I don't really know.  But I've thought about it a lot because, truly, I am doing well here.  No regrets.  No angst against Steve.  This was a decision we made together and one that God had clearly paved the way for.  But what I think it comes down to is, do I believe in the mission that God has given my husband.  Am I sold out for it?  Not to say that will give me a perfect attitude all the time but, it will surely shape it.

God has created all men with a mission to go out and conquer the world with their own God-given talents.  And there are many different ways to do that.  As a woman in submission to her husband, that means that I am totally sold out for his mission in life, for what God has called him to do.  It may be inconvenient to me sometimes (like moving around a lot for a PhD-ha!) or it may not make sense, but as his wife, I'm called to being cheerfully sold out.  Whatever it takes.

This journey of ours actually has roots back to before we were even married.  When Steve was doing his undergrad at Cal Poly, he entered as an electrical engineer and didn't do super well.  Not because he wasn't smart enough but because he was lacked vision for his life and didn't know how to work hard.  When I met him, he was switching out determined to do something else.  Yet hidden in his heart, he knew he had settled.  And really, that was much worse than just not being able to hang. Anyhow though, through a variety of events, he ended up in Math when we got married, and he graduated with his BS in Mathematics.  Math had always been his passion so this was a better fit for him in the end.

We got pregnant with our oldest, Isaac, we moved up to Watsonville and Steve started his career as a teacher.  We came to Monte Vista with no money, a newborn and a car that had been given to us a few weeks prior due to the fact that our other two cars had been totaled the month before, one in a hit and run and the other on the way to get our rental car the next day-no joke!  So we had nothing.  But Steve started teaching and doing well.  During his first few years he learned how to be a Dad and how to have a successful career.  And we added more children to our family.  They were growing years and prepared us well for the years to come.  When Joshua was a baby and we had been married 7 years, Steve shared his desire to go back to school.  I was pretty hesitant at first but, he took some exams, did really well, and so he applied.  He was accepted.  Thus began our journey with A & M.

When Steve started his Masters at Texas A & M, I had no idea what it was going to entail- or what would happen.  But I knew this-I knew that he needed me to believe in him if he was going to succeed.  I knew that his success would hang on my attitude, my utter belief and my respect.  He had regrets of not living up to his God-given potential from his younger years.  He felt like he had wasted his chance.  As time wore on, this feeling only got stronger, and this lit a fire in him that fueled his amazing success in his Masters.    

So Texas A & M was a glorious second chance.  And one that he took very seriously.  As he steadily worked away at his studies, he did well.  Extremely well.  For three and a half years.  Every Saturday.  And many nights during the week.  Always studying and always looking forward.  And always at his back was the idea that he was going to do this right no matter what it took.  He never wavered.  He just drove on, steadily, with courage and with unending fight.  As I watched him working, I was inspired to do everything possible to help him succeed.  He was studying hard and I was supporting hard.  That was my job.  I didn't start out totally sold out for him being in school.  I truly didn't know how it would go and there were a lot of things going on in my life.  I was a busy mom at the time.  We had three kids when he started.  I got pregnant with our fourth soon after.  The fifth came in his last year.  Both were born during finals.  And he worked full-time too!  Not only that but the program was expensive.  We had to sacrifice big time in order to pay for it.  And I started a business to help with expenses (which ended up being one of my greatest accomplishments so far and blessed me far more than it blessed us financially).  But I knew he needed this.  And because he needed it, I needed to do it.  Because I loved him more than anyone or anything.  Because I loved him!

This realization came early.  And I'm thankful to God for that.  It was all His strength and courage that got me through those years.  But as I put my head down and believed in him, he was free to fly and rose to the challenge.  I watched him transform before my very eyes.  He grew much more confident.  And in turn, he worked even harder, earning the best grades of his life, in much harder classes than he ever took at Cal Poly, while still excelling at his day job as a Math/Physics teacher, not to mention being an excellent husband and father.  What amazed me was watching him start to believe he could do it.  And over time, what started as a second chance, grew into a bridge to a career he only dreamed he could have.

I can't tell you how many times he's told me he wishes he could go back and tell himself that he would care one day.  Yet we've also talked over and over about how the path he took wasn't a mistake.  Because God writes our stories.  And He is all about redemption.  Without it, how can we have any hope?  God is about redeeming our missteps and making them beautiful.  So this path, this round-about way to being in a field that is home to him, none of it is a mistake.  And really, he enjoyed his years as a teacher.  We raised our kids at an amazing school, made lifelong friends and grew so much as Christians and in our marriage.  Monte Vista allowed us the freedom to have this second chance by providing the stability we needed to do his Masters.  Without the eight and a half years at Monte Vista, we wouldn't be here.  It's still hard to think about regrets and not wish you'd made better choices.  But even in our regrets, God redeems...and He not only redeems, He makes it beautiful.  Utterly beautiful....providing blessings that are totally undeserved.

There's a song that has meant so much to me during Steve's Masters and since then, when this whole plan for him to get his PhD started to unfold.  It's called Meant to Be, by Steven Curtis Chapman.  It was actually written for a Veggie Tales that was a kids' take on It's a Wonderful Life-a story written about a man who had wished his life had taken a different turn.  I listened to it over and over again during those weeks as all the correspondence about Colorado State University was flying around, when he was accepted to the PhD program, and the offers from Sandia National Labs were coming through.  And every time I heard it, I would cry.  Because being here is better than anything we EVER could have dreamed up.  EVER!  We miss our family, our church and our community but we are so thankful to be here, we keep pinching ourselves.

Steve has the amazing opportunity to work at a prestigious national lab learning from the smartest minds in the country.  The mentor he has is so kind, encouraging and brilliant.  Steve really respects him and is so happy working for him.  And there are constant opportunities for him to be exposed to all sorts of amazing mathematical/scientific fascinating things. For example, recently, the director of NASA's Curiosity project (current mission to Mars) came and presented at the lab.  It was mind-blowing and so incredibly interesting.  Steve came home saying, "How am I here?  Really, how am I here?"   And that's just the lab.  The whole reason he's even here is for his PhD.  And his PhD is being funded through various facets from the lab to his advisor and we're able to live, even though he's in back in school, and this time, full-time.  And lastly this opportunity that God has blessed us with carries its own sense of beautiful irony because the work Steve's doing now for Sandia Labs is ALL electrical engineering research and its mathematical applications.  Beauty from ashes.  Home.  

 The other night we were in the office.  Steve  had just finished listening to a lecture.  There's a certain kind of math that is used a lot in the work he's doing and he hasn't had a class in this area in a little while so he is putting in some extra time at home to brush up.  He looked up some lectures online and found a professor from Stanford who is amazing!  What's even more amazing is that it's free!!  So anyway, most nights after dinner he's been heading upstairs and listening to a lecture before the kids go to bed.  Afterward, we were chatting and I happened to glance up and see his Texas A & M diploma that sits above our computer.  I looked at him and told him quite emphatically, "You know, it says your name on that diploma and I'm fine with that.  But I know that it's as much mine as it is yours."  And then Steve smiled and said, "It's ours.  We did that together."  It's our legacy.  Our story.

And that way wasn't a mistake.  This is the path God put us on.  And I have faith that as God continues to write our story, that we'll look back on these PhD years like we look back on A & M, with awe, utmost respect for God's plan and a trust in His provision.    

It's been a round-about way, but God has accomplished His purpose, in our marriage, in our family and in our individual lives.  This is how it was meant to be.