When I first started this blog in May 2012, I had a HUGE secret. The good Rev and I were about to leave our home of ten years, move to a new state, find jobs, and start a church. Keeping all that (mostly)to myself—with the prospect of joblessness/homelessness—I just about cracked into pieces.
As a result, sporadic posts of miscellany ensued on this here little blog. I couldn’t write about what was really on my mind, so I sort of talked around it. Then I was too busy to write except once every three months. It’s a little all over the place, I admit.
I haven’t done a very good job as a writer connecting the dots between moving, marriage, ministry, and motherhood. So we’re about overdue for an update, a state of the Beasley Union, as it were. On a micro level, it’s spring break, and I have spent most of the week stuck in the house with my children. When I’m not putting out fires between my darling heirs, I’m attempting to write, watching Frozen again (I’ve lost count), and avoiding like the DEATH OF PLAGUE any lesson plans or school work of any kind. I pay for this daytime procrastination in the form of stress dreams at night. I have precious few hours to study up and PowerPoint all of World War II. The clock is ticking, and, lookee here, I’m doing this not that, so tonight’s dream should be a humdinger. For further reading on teaching, procrastination, and stress dreams, I refer you to the last August’s post Little Big Momma Gets Her Freak Show On.
It hasn’t been a restful week. But a far, far ear drum shredding cry from where we were during spring break last year. Before I give you the macro level update, I should probably review the back-story. Forgive if you’ve read previous snippets about our move. But just to bring everybody up to speed—the good Rev, my husband Todd, wanted to plant a church. He was on staff at First Baptist in Orange, Texas, for ten years. We had a blessed connection with friends—family, really—through that congregation. All that time I kept the plan to move a secret, I was grieving. We lost my dad the year before we moved. Then, the closer we crept to the day when Todd would actually resign, the deeper my heart ached over leaving my Orange family to start over in Little Rock.
Once we put our departure date on the calendar, the business of finding employment and housing became all-consuming. We trusted God to provide. But you know how God does…He provided very, very slowly…in excruciating and miniscule increments. At the same time, Todd had some difficulty on the church planting front. We had hoped for a racially integrated church in which Todd would partner with a black co-pastor. A number of men were referred to Todd with a view to filling that role—but then none of them wanted to. When my prayer requests were the same week after week, one friend said to me, “Are you sure this is God’s will?”
I tried to ignore those words, but they haunted me. What if this isn’t God’s will?
At spring break a year ago, I was teaching part-time at a Christian school. Figure the income accordingly—it covered our rent and that’s about it. We still had our mortgage in Texas to cover. Todd was still unemployed, we had just about run out of money (except for retirement investments, which we hoped desperately not to disturb), and we were paying for our health insurance out of pocket. If you’ve never had the total cost of your health insurance quoted to you, do so. Just for grins. I feel strongly that it’s a shock we should all experience at least once. It’s better than a defibrillator.
You get the idea. Things were pretty bleak. Are you sure this is God’s will?
Well, maybe not, I reasoned. I mean, things were definitely NOT coming together. I found myself making lots of apologies to God and I assured Him that it was a mistake made in good faith.
Then, I did what any wife would do under these circumstances—pick, prod and manipulate. That’s our game, right ladies?
With little or no subtlety, I undercut the foundation of faith that God had laid for my husband. No one seemed interested in interviewing him, ostensibly because his degrees and experience are pretty specific to the ministry. Ergo, I insisted suggested that Todd get his resume together and find a church in the Little Rock area that might need a pastor. Ya know. Just throw the fleece out there and see. In good faith…
No such church existed, or at least not one that would be a good fit. Sigh. Why do you suppose my little plan to fix things—by way of manipulating my husband in “good faith”—just didn’t work?
What He did is better. It is more exciting. It was completely unexpected. It confirmed that He led Todd to plant a church. It met our needs for connecting with other believers in a community. And letting God work out His plan in His way gave us so much unanticipated JOY.
In April of last year, Todd landed a job. Not THE job, but at least it was something. He called me at work to give me the news. The conversation went something like this:
Todd: “I got the job.”
Big sigh. Todd: “I thought I’d be more excited, I guess. This isn’t it. This can’t be it.” It was a little underwhelming.
Our Sunday school teacher, Susie, and her husband own a car dealership. They needed someone to run the front desk and answer the phone. Usually they hire students—usually girls. Naturally Susie had reservations about hiring a man with a master’s degree. She knew that Todd needed a career position. He assured her that he didn’t have any expectations, but he needed something to get through a rough patch. They were very sweet to offer him the job when they knew he would flee at the first real career opportunity. The pay was much lower than what we needed. In fact, my part-time teaching job paid more than his full-time job answering phones. We still weren’t “making it.” Todd, at least, could be insured. We would have to pay for the rest of the family, but we hoped (and prayed and begged) that my teaching assignment for the coming year would bump me up to full-time, providing more income and insurance for all of us.
Not long after he started at the dealership, the manager asked him to consider moving to a sales position. Y’all. I don’t even know what came over me. I guess I saw dollar signs. Honestly, I should know better than to pressure Todd. Inwardly, I knew that he would work so many hours that he wouldn’t have time to plant a church. Whatever vision God had given me for ministry in moving to Arkansas had just evaporated.
When I asked Todd in “good faith” to consider the job, even if it was just for the time being, he said, “Katie, I would NEVER see you.” AARRRGHH. What is marriage if I don’t get to manipulate you from time to time????
Are you sure this is God’s will? I was so confused. It seemed like this opportunity fell into Todd’s lap. Weren’t we wrong to turn it down? One nice thing about working at a Christian school is there’s no shortage of godly advice in the building. One of my favorites is right across the hall. I went to my sweet friend Lisa for advice. Her husband works at the dealership. I wanted to hear, Yep the hours are awful but it’s do-able. What I got was a verbal slap across the face.
“Katie, that is NOT why you came here.” No hesitation. She didn’t pause to give it a little thought. Just shuwapp! and it sent me reeling. Message sent. Message received.
Then, within a few weeks, I found out that the full-time job I had been praying for all year was not to be. My workload would increase from two classes to five, but I needed six to be full-time.
If there was an all-time low, that was it for me. Todd’s job search screeched to a halt. I knew that my work load would feel like it was full time even if I didn’t get the pay and benefits for it. Now I would be teaching not just one subject but two, and more than double the number of students. Todd had written a prospectus on what would be our church plant. He had secured the partnership of a large church in town. But he had no co-pastor, and we talked about it less and less. Every where we turned, huge obstacles loomed. How did we even get here? I teetered clumsily on the edge of a breakdown—kind of like a drunk failing a sobriety test.
One of the salesmen at the dealership, Davy, took an interest in Todd. He routinely would ask, “How long are you going to do this?” As if Todd deliberately avoided finding a real job to answer phones. One day he gave Todd a job lead, but he didn’t have much more information—just a name with no phone number or email–not even the name of the company.
Over the next couple of days, Todd researched the enigmatic inside sales job but was having a hard time figuring out who to contact to send a resume. It felt like another dead end. Then, he was asked to fill in at the dealership phone desk that Saturday. Get this—the weekend girl had to get ready for prom. For prom, y’all. Poor Todd.
It ended up being one of those coincidences that can’t be a coincidence because God’s fingerprints are all over it. On that Saturday—when Todd normally wouldn’t be at the dealership—in strolled a man named Josh. Todd recognized him from church. As Josh disappeared into an office, Davy approached Todd to say, “That’s the guy who owns the company with the job I was telling you about.”
When Josh came out of the office, Davy took him outside and told him all about Todd. Later Todd found out that Josh had stuck around and observed for awhile. Then he gave Dave the contact information, which led to the interview, which led to the job offer, which led to an increase in pay and INSURANCE FOR THE WHOLE FAM. GIDDY. UP.
Now. Are you sure that was God’s will??? But wait, there’s more! Remember that little church plant thingamabob?
Nine months before these blessed events, Susie—yes, Sunday school teacher Susie–had put us in touch with a woman named Katie Clifton. She thought we should meet Katie and her husband Jared. They were making a start in the ministry and had also adopted a black baby. This is funny to me now. People tend to associate adoptive families with each other—but all the more so when adoption makes a family colorful like ours.
Todd called Katie one day in September from the car. I listened to the conversation. He explained who we were, how we got her name, and the gist of what we were hoping to do. Katie said that they were getting pretty involved in youth ministry at their own church and didn’t see that she and her husband could be of much help. It was a very short conversation that didn’t seem to yield much. But she did suggest that we connect on Facebook. So, for nine months, Katie was kind of a dormant friend on both Todd’s friend list and mine. Before Todd quit his job at the dealership the following May, Katie came in with her daughter one day. He recognized her from her Facebook page and introduced himself. They had a good conversation, but this was the extent of our connection with the Cliftons.
Of course, Todd had no idea what God had cooking behind the scenes. A few weeks later, about a week after he started his new job, I got a call from Todd. He had one of those you’re not gonna believe stories for me. Todd was breezing down the hall at his new job when a guy stopped him and asked, “Are you Todd Beasley?” Then he continued, “I’m Jared Clifton.”
As it turns out, Josh owns two companies which are housed in the same building. Todd works for one; Jared works for the other.
A few days before they met in the hallway, the Cliftons had a conversation about ministry. I gathered from Katie that they were stuck in a holding pattern like Todd and I had been for a number of years. It seemed like we would have the same conversation over and over about planting a church. I guess they, too, covered the same ground again and again until Katie finally said, “Why don’t you get in touch with that Todd Beasley guy? He works at Everett.” She started flipping through Facebook to find him on her phone. “Oh, wait. He’s changed jobs. He’s working at some place called Orbit.”
Are you sure this is God’s will? Well, what do you think? Jared said that he had thought about church planting every day since Katie told him about that September phone call months before. And now, all Jared had to do was walk across the hall to meet Todd.
From that meeting in the hallway, one thing led to another, and another, and another. We have a core group that has been meeting every week since last September. Besides a passion for Jesus, there is a common interest in missions, service, adoption, and foster care. But, Katie, I thought Todd was looking for a black co-pastor? Are you sure this is God’s will? No worries, Jared knows a guy. I’ll have to save that story for another post.
Also in another post, I’ll have to address how I knew this must be God’s will because I love it here so much. It’s been a shock to me, really, because for a long time I did not think giving up Texas for Arkansas was an even trade. I confess, I heard a lot of trash talk about rednecks and cousins marrying cousins. Clearly, a lot of people run their mouths but have never been to Little Rock. So I think I should write a piece and defend Arkansas’ honor. I’ve been toying with the title Really, Southeast Texas, Really? You Got No Room to Talk.