Despite my best intentions, I’ve been more absent from posting than I’d hoped. I did spend about a week in the gorgeous mountains of North Carolina, photographing my little sister’s wedding. And of course, things are always busy around the house with the kids.
But more than anything, I’ve been looking for work.
Yes, that’s right: yours truly, the adventurous stay-at-home dad who so proudly splashed his new credentials across these very pages just a couple weeks ago, found out the very day that article was published that my wife had been let go – without cause – from her new and promising position, after only a few weeks of employment. And to top it off, the day the article was written and submitted (but before it was published) we discovered that we are expecting our fifth child. (See? Irony.)
It’s been a hard month, and we’ve had to rely on friends and family to get through. Like many families, we live paycheck to paycheck, and when one is withheld, life descends into chaos very quickly. What amazes me is the way people chip in to help out. To be honest, I’m more than blessed to have the kind of people in my life that I do – people who will fire up a prayer chain that quickly spreads across the country, people who will write a check and drop it in the mail to help cover my rent without my even asking them to, people who just love us and care about us in ways that humble me more than I can express.
In the wake of an already tumultuous summer in which I missed the baptism of my first godchild and the ordination of a good friend, I was actually set to miss my sister’s wedding too. There just wasn’t any way. And then, at the last minute, she found a way to get me a cheap ticket, and before I knew it, my baby sister – the one I often watched over and cared for when I was a teenager and she was as young as my little ones are now – was paying for me, the oldest of six kids, her big brother, to come to her wedding of all things.
And to be honest, even though I wanted to be there, it was hard for me to go. I knew I’d be gone from early Thursday morning until late Tuesday night, taking me out of commission and away from my frantic job search. I’d have to focus on the wedding, and the photos I’d be taking (my sister is a photographer too, and we have a similar style, making me a logical second shooter for the event) and not on the things going on at home. The stress was crushing as I boarded my flight at 5:05 AM that Thursday, and by the time I’d arrived that evening I was getting a service cutoff notice for one of my utilities.
So I did the only thing I could do. I begged God to take it. To help me carry this cross that I was shouldering. I asked Him if I could please put the situation in His hands so I could just be with my family, whom I hadn’t seen in over a year. I am not an abandoner by nature. I want to be, but I never seem to be able to let go. I struggle with trust, always fearing that if I do, I will be disappointed. But in this instance, there was no other choice. I had to follow the old adage: “Let go, and let God.”
And so I did. I watched my beautiful baby sister get married. I took a couple thousand photos. I spent time with my parents and my siblings. I stayed up late, I drank, I smoked, I talked with the men and women who used to be the kids I picked on and bullied, and I reveled in who they have become. Their love for me – our love for each other – helped make me stronger. And while I was there, I was receiving e-mails with job leads, texts with offers of financial assistance, assurances of prayers from people I hadn’t seen in ages who were aware of our plight. The cross I came with didn’t go away, but it did get lighter.
On the flight home, I read a remarkable little book called Interior Freedom by a French priest named Fr. Jacques Philippe. I don’t know anything about the author, but the book was lent to me by a friend, years ago – a friend whom I know only through the Internet, and who also helped me out once, when I was struggling with another challenge. I’d never read it in all that time, but something possessed me to pick it up and take it with me on the plane when I left for my trip. It’s not a long book, and I read it cover to cover. It’s message was simple, but it rang true: We cannot be happy without love, and to love truly, we must be free. The freedom that engenders love comes from one source only – total abandonment to the Divine Will. We must not only resign ourselves to the circumstances of our lives, but consent to them. By choosing our sufferings rather than just enduring them, we choose God’s will for our lives, and He will be faithful to us.
I still don’t know what will happen. I had a job interview on the Feast of the Assumption, which I take as providential, and it seemed to go very well. I haven’t heard back yet, but it’s only been a couple of days. It’s possible that things won’t come together. It’s possible that we won’t make rent, and will have to sell off our things and move back to Virginia with whatever we can bring in our van, to stay with my family until we can get back on our feet again. It would be hard, but it would also be a happy occasion. We’d be close to loved ones again.
I can’t say I’ve been a pillar of strength through this all. There are times I’ve been angry, times I’ve broken down, times that the stress has nearly made me sick. But as I learn to give it to Him, to really trust that He is with us, and will look out for us as long as (and sometimes even when we’re not) faithful to Him, like any loving Father would, I know things will be alright.