The Shipwreck

I clearly remember sitting at my desk, in my St. Paul, MN office, contemplating quitting my job and moving my family to Tennessee. I knew, in my heart, it was what I was supposed to do; however, I was afraid. I liked my job and the people I worked with. Additionally, I was concerned about what the move would do to my family, long term (college educations, orthodontists, etc.). After I worked up the courage to do what I knew was right, my first order of business was to find a job in Tennessee.

I spent some time updating and polishing my resume (it had been 12 years since I had need of one). I completed my resume and opened the web browser to begin researching employment sites and immediately I had a very strong feeling that I was not supposed to pursue employment. I was dumbfounded! Quitting my job and moving to Tennessee did not make sense in the first place and now I should not look for employment! I closed my eyes and began to pray and as clearly as I have ever “heard” from God, I felt like he said that I did not need to look for a job.

I would like to say that I closed the browser and walked away, but that is not what happened. Here is what I said to God: “I understand that you are directing me not to look for employment; however, I am still going to look because it makes me feel better.” I then did my research and posted my resume.

Weeks and months passed. We sold our home, I quit my job and we packed our life into a moving truck and set out for our adventure. I have mentioned how crazy I believed this to be in previous blog posts. I want to clarify that I have always known, in my heart, that all of this was right. My brain, on the other hand, always struggled with it.

Back to looking for employment. The employment sites turned out to be more of a pain in the neck than they were worth (surprise, surprise…). I received 8-10 interview requests daily. Most of these were insurance and financial sales positions, which I was not interested in. I applied for over 70 positions and only got one interview. That was the one where the person conducting the interview told me that I would be bored with the job if he hired me. I covered that story in a previous post. It was at this point that I gave up looking for employment (see post titled “Did You Get A Job Yet?”).

My heart was at peace with this decision; however, my mind was still struggling. After all, none of this made sense. You don’t quit your job, move across the country, rent a house, settle your family in and NOT get a job.

More time passed, and I met a man that introduced me to investing as a way to support my family. I was already familiar with the market, due to previous employment experience, so I was up and running in no time. It took a couple of months to learn the ropes and things were going quite well.

We had been planning a particular trade and the day before the trade I felt very strongly that I would lose everything in the trade the next day. I was not sure if that feeling was God warning me not to trade or if He was simply stating a fact. Jenny and I prayed together and told God that our lives were in His hands and that if we needed to lose everything, we would. God must have heard that prayer, because we lost everything in the following day’s trade.

If you are a rational human being, you are now confident that Aaron and Jenny have lost their minds. They quit a great job, sold their beautiful home, left their friends and family, moved across the country and are now destitute. You would not be alone in those feelings. One thing; however, buoyed us at this point. It was that still, small voice in our hearts that said, “I called you on this adventure, and I know what you need”. Strangely, Jenny and I felt peace about our situation. Furthermore, we felt like it was part of God’s plan. The following passage from the book of Joel spoke to our hearts:

The Lord says, “I will give you back what you lost to the swarming locusts, the hopping locusts, the stripping locusts, and the cutting locusts. It was I who sent this great destroying army against you. Once again you will have all the food you want, and you will praise the Lord your God, who does these miracles for you. Never again will my people be disgraced. Then you will know that I am among my people Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and there is no other. Never again will my people be disgraced. (Joel 2:25-27 NLT)

The key part of the verse, to us, was “It was I who sent this great destroying army against you.” Our prayer has always been to truly know God and we were willing to accept whatever needed to happen in order for that to become a reality. We believe that God has a purpose for each of His followers and we desperately wanted to know what that purpose was for us. If it meant losing everything to find it, so be it.

We also felt like we were not to tell others about our situation. We knew that our amazing friends and family would organize a “miracle” for us, if they knew, and we did not want that (see “No More PR” post). We were not opposed to people helping us, we just felt like God could handle the arrangements.

The weeks that followed were not easy. As a husband and father, I desperately wanted to get a job, any job, to save my family; however, Jenny and I felt that we simply needed to stand still and we would see the glory of God. This was the hardest thing I have ever done and I would not have been able to stand still without Jenny’s support. The god of money/greed came at me with a vengeance, telling me that he was the only savior and I must sell my life to him again in order to survive. See the post titled “Who Do You Think You Are?”, if you are interested in how that conversation went.

We felt like Peter walking on the water. If we allowed our minds to drift from the safety and peace of the still, small voice that told us everything was under control we began sinking fast. Every day we would receive encouragement from our Bible reading or timely words from a friend. Jenny faithfully recorded these in her journal.

We also explained the situation to the kids. They had initially agreed to this adventure (see blog titled, “The Adventure Begins”) and we wanted them to be fully aware of the learning experiences along the way. They handled it amazingly! Their faith was a constant source of strength for me. Much could be said about this span of time. We were deeply convicted about how we had idolized money, how we treated the needy and many other aspects of our life.

It was during this time that we felt the most growth in our relationship with God. We learned about not fretting for tomorrow, because today has enough trouble and about the need for these type of experiences in the human life (see “Skydiving” post). We learned that the Bible has all of the answers; however, sometimes we need to put our faith into action before we can see the answers (see “value” post). Additionally, we learned that this part of the adventure felt like an eternity!

The above was written 5 weeks after we lost everything. It is now the week of 12/16/2013. At the time I wrote the account above, we had never went hungry; however, we were behind on all of our bills and our water had been turned off once. We are now approaching 6 weeks from the loss and all of our bills have miraculously been paid (without government assistance or charities… We did not feel we could turn to that for salvation either), with exception of our rent. Today is Tuesday, 12/17/2013. If the rent is not paid on Friday, of this week, we will need to move out of our rented home. We believe that God has a plan and we will be fine with whatever he decides to do. Our job is to stand still and see the glory of God (see “Extreme Faith” post).

Today our prayer is that we will not be so consumed by our needs, that we miss the needs of those around us. After all, God calls believers to be salt and light, not to selfishly hide and pray for ourselves.

Wednesday 12/18/2013: I had an awesome thing happen late yesterday. I felt impressed to search the Internet for a specific quote (turned out to be from Francis Chan). Within 30 seconds of searching, I was on a guys blog (he had quoted chan back in 2012) and his story is very similar to ours. He felt like God told him to quit his job and then watched as God stripped everything away for 6 months. Additionally, God would not let him get a job. He was encouraged by many of the same scriptures that we were and the still small voice of God was all he had to keep him going. He is now in China, with his family, ministering to orphans. We have been emailing back and forth since yesterday and are committed to encouraging others who are following God with everything. This encounter is worth more to me than millions of dollars; it once again confirms that we are right where we are supposed to be.

Tonight I feel like God asked me what I thought would be best; to have him come through with the rent or to need to move in with our friends. I told him that it would be an interesting twist to the adventure to move in with our friends (very “first century church”, all things in common, etc), but I did not feel that our family could hold up for it (moving over Christmas, etc.). So, I said that I choose for him to pay the rent. I am not sure if that was my own mind or a real conversation with God, but it felt the same as the conversation that he had with me the day before the trade where we lost everything. I am still learning what his voice sounds like… I guess we will see. Never the less, not my will but yours…

Thursday 12/19/2013: Our bills are all current and we have groceries and some extra money (that is no small thing!!); however, we have no way to pay the rent. We have been meditating on Psalm 27 today. I am very thankful for the Bible. Not as a text book to pick to pieces or debate minor nuances, but as a lifeline. I am encouraged by the biblical accounts of others pursuing God, with everything, and feeling desperate for God to come through (I can relate!). I also see why the old church songs always talk about God never being early or late, but always on time. One day last week, we opened the phone bill and it was a late notice stating that our phones would be turned off if we did not pay. The very next letter we opened contained a check, that completely covered the phone bill, along with a note that said, “use this to pay your phone bill”. God is good!

Friday 12/20/2013 7:00am: We were greeted, this morning, by an email from a representative of the property management company. It was very compassionately worded and sensitively stated that we had agreed to make payment today or move out. He asked what our plans were. Jenny and I held hands and prayed. After praying, we both felt that we should respond and ask if we had the whole day to get back to him; because, if we are to pay, it will take a miracle. Additionally, we both felt that we needed to go get a few groceries (I know, strange, but none of this adventure makes sense). We replied to the email and went to the grocery store.

We still feel peace about all of this, but it is easy to see why the Israelites would long to return to Egypt when things got tough and the Egyptian army was swooping in to destroy them. God opened the Red Sea for them and we are confident he will provide a way of escape for us.

Friday 12/20/2013 7:00pm: we received an email from the property management company advising us that we would need to move out of our rented house by Sunday night. Amazingly, we are at peace with this also. We are still confident that all of this has come from God, for our good.

Monday 12/23/2013: The last two days was a frenzy of activity. The friend that I had gotten into investing with, invited my family to come and live with him and his family. They share the same desire to see a real, powerful God in our modern age. We are both interested in stepping out of the scripted liturgy and into the wild unknown with God. I am truly thankful for this man, his family and most importantly their heart for God.

We rented a moving truck and two storage units and moved out in two days. I am so very thankful for how my family and friends pulled together to make this all happen. We have spent our first night in our new lodgings and are thankful beyond measure.

When our family first set out on this adventure, we told God that we wanted to live a life that made a lasting impression. Specifically, we said we wanted our life’s story to be as timeless as a classic book, such as The Swiss Family Robinson. We were fully aware that would mean having a shipwreck at some point; however, we also felt that our “shipwreck” would result in our family discovering our true purpose and being happier than ever.

I could never have imagined that our shipwreck would look quite like this, but I will embrace it because I know that all of God’s classic tales have one (see “Skydiving” post). I have been reflecting on the life and influence of Corrie ten Boom and I am sure she could never have imagined that her “shipwreck” would look like time spent in the horrors of a Nazi prison camp; however, she has a classic tale that will encourage others for generations to come. I want my family to have a legacy of encouraging future generations to pursue God with their whole heart, no matter what the circumstances look like. We have counted the cost, picked up our cross and will follow, no matter what.

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