Thursday, November 27, 2014

How We Ended Up in Ohio

Many people have asked me how Justin and I ended up moving to Ohio and I love telling the story!  I thought I'd record it on my blog so everyone can read and experience the amazing journey God set the two of us out on that ultimately led us to Maumee, OH.  The whole story starts at the end of July 2014.

I graduated with my masters degree in 2013 and always wanted to go back to school for my PhD, but I wanted to take some time off since I started my masters two weeks after graduating with my bachelors and needed a break.  Back in Indiana, I (for at least another two weeks) teach English to college students at the Indiana University campus in South Bend and the Indiana Tech campus in Mishawaka.  When the fall semester started this past August, I started getting the feeling like I was ready to start looking into doctorate programs and go back to school.  The only school in our area that offered a PhD program in my area of study was the University of Notre Dame, and their program wasn't exactly what I was looking for, so I talked to Justin about looking at schools in other areas.  I started looking at universities all over Indiana and Michigan without finding any programs I was particularly interested in.  I was starting to feel like I was never going to find a program that was a good fit for me, but I started looking at schools in Wisconsin and Ohio (I knew I wanted to stay in the Midwest).  I did a Google search for "universities in Ohio" and came up with many search options, but one particular program stood out to me - a PhD in English program at Bowling Green State University.  I loved everything about the program and, after talking with Justin about it, applied to the program in late July (I later found out that his cousin is a freshman there!).  I knew it would be around March or April of 2015 before I would hear of the department's decision about my application, so the plan was to move in the summer of 2015 to Bowling Green if I was accepted.

In the meantime (unbeknownst to me at the time), Justin started looking for jobs in the area.  (I had originally told him that I didn't want him to start looking for jobs yet because I didn't want him to be disappointed if I didn't get accepted and we had to stay in South Bend).  At the time, Justin was working as a purchasing agent for Dometic Corporation, a company that makes air conditioners, toilets, awnings, etc. for RVs.  This was definitely a "temporary" job for him - as long as I've known Justin, he's wanted to be a youth pastor.  Justin has a bachelors degree in psychology with a minor in religion from Indiana University and is working toward a masters degree in ministry and counseling from Bethel College.  He definitely wasn't working a job that he was passionate about (not to mention he had a very difficult boss), but he was willing to do whatever he needed to support us.  He had applied to countless church/youth positions in the past without any luck and similarly thought that the jobs he was applying to in the Bowling Green area would also be dead ends.  He told me he had applied to a few jobs around Bowling Green, but I didn't think much about it since nothing had ever worked out in the past. 

Some time at the end of August, Justin received an email from St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Maumee, OH (about 20 minutes away from Bowling Green) saying that they wanted to do a Skype interview with him in late September (three weeks away).  He told me about it and we were both surprised to hear back from any of the applications he put in, but I told him to go for it and we would see where it went.  Three weeks later on a Sunday, Justin and I were visiting a new church in Mishawaka (we were transitioning out of our old church) and rushed home after the service so he could set up for his Skype interview.  He rearranged our living room and set up his computer for the interview (after having several problems with the audio).  I sat in the other room and listened to his whole interview and we were both very excited about how well it went (even though the church's audio kept malfunctioning and Justin lost visual on his end).  A couple days later, Justin got another email that he had made it to the next round of interviews and the next Skype interview was scheduled for two weeks later!  We were both very surprised and excited about how everything was moving and couldn't wait to see what happened with this opportunity. 

Two weeks later, we rushed home again after church to set up for the second interview.  This time, two kids from the youth group at St. Paul's joined the interview and asked Justin lots of hard questions and he also gave a short sermon so they could get a sense of his speaking skills and teaching style.  I listened in from the other room and thought he did great.  Justin actually got an email later that night saying that he was moving on to the next round along with two other candidates!  The next step was to do a background check and call all of Justin's references, so they told us it would be about two weeks before we would hear from them again.  The reality of the situation started to hit me that we might be moving much sooner than we thought. 

My job was pressuring me to sign my contract for the following semester (I'm an adjunct professor on a semester-to-semester basis), but our future was up in the air and I was starting to feel anxious about the whole situation despite constant prayer (and having several other people praying for us, although we didn't tell many people about the interview process since we didn't know if it would fall through or not).  I was laying in bed one night praying about the situation and I heard God very clearly say to me, "Justin is going to get this job."  I doubted what I had heard and thought it was my own wishful thinking and rolled over and went to bed.  The next morning at church, I was looking over the program and was about to sign Justin and I up for a growth group that another couple at the church had invited us to join for young married couples.  A woman got up in front of the congregation and announced that the growth group I wanted to join was closed due to too many people signing up for it!  I was upset that we weren't going to get to be in the group when I very clearly heard God speak to me again, and this time there was no doubt that it was his voice:  "I already talked to you about this.  You aren't going to sign up for this group because you and Justin won't be here."  I felt an immediate sense of peace about the whole situation.  Then I heard God say, "Are you going to tell Justin what I've told you, or are you going to keep it to yourself?"  I knew I had to tell him, so I shared with Justin on the way home from church what God had told me.  We both had a great sense of peace about the situation and knew that God would follow through. 

Over the next two weeks, we waited very impatiently to hear from the church about the next round of interviews.  Exactly two weeks after the second Skype interview, Justin and I were sitting at our apartment in South Bend eating lunch when he received a phone call from Bobbie Ramsey, the search committee member that had been in contact with him up until then.  She said that Justin, along with one other candidate, had made it to the final round of interviews and that we were invited to come out to Maumee to visit the church for the final interview.  This is where the story gets good - a communication error led Justin to think that he needed to go out to Maumee for three consecutive weeks, which would put his job at Dometic in jeopardy.  After talking it over, we decided to have Justin talk to his job about taking the time off to visit the church.  We knew God was completely present in the situation and felt at peace about it.

Justin talked to his boss about the situation the next day at work (without divulging the reason for the leave of absence).  Justin had already used all of his vacation days for his graduate school classes, so his boss refused to give him the time off.  Justin called me and we talked about the situation and decided to pull the trigger - he walked into his boss's office and put in his three weeks notice so he would be able to go visit the church for the "three weeks required for the final interview process."  We had a lot of resistance during this time - several people told us we were crazy for having Justin quit his job without a guarantee of another job, but we knew God had big plans for us and we were taking a step in faith.  Later that week, Justin received an email from Bobbie saying that his interview dates were October 28th, 29th, and 30th.  He was confused since he thought he would be going for three weeks, so he called Bobbie to confirm.  Unfortunately, there was a huge error in communication and we found out that we only needed to go to Maumee for three days, but Justin had already quit his job by that time.  We laid in bed staring at the ceiling for awhile, thinking about the fact that Justin had quit his job for no reason, but I knew that this didn't change anything.  God was still in control and this didn't change his plans for us.  I heard God say to me, "I will make all things work together for your good."  We knew God would provide.

Justin's last day of work at Dometic was October 27th, and we left that night to head to Ohio.  Justin's mom's side of the family lives in the Toledo area, so we stayed with his grandmother that night before heading over to the hotel the next day to check in and prepare for the three days of "interviewing."  The three days were long and exhausting, but wonderful.  We had meals with many great couples/families, Justin taught the junior high and high school youth groups, and we met with all the staff members.  We felt great leaving that Thursday and heading back to Indiana.  Jason, the senior pastor, told us the other candidate and his wife would be visiting the church the following week for their interview and that we would hear about the church's final decision in two weeks.  Justin went back to Indiana unemployed and I went back to teaching. 

I should also point out that during this time, my boss at work informed me that enrollment was down and that my class load for the next semester would be cut in half (I am paid per class).  I was devastated at first since Justin didn't have a job and I didn't know how we would get by, but I remembered what God had told me.  He wasn't going to let us fall.  He was closing doors in Indiana. 

On Monday, November 3rd (four days after we returned home from our interview), Justin and I were eating lunch together at our apartment when he received a call from Maumee, OH.  We were surprised since Jason had told us it would be two weeks before we would hear from the church, but it was that afternoon that Jason offered Justin the job of Director of Youth Ministries at St. Paul's Lutheran Church (we found out later that the other candidate had backed out at the last minute, saying he didn't feel like he was being called away from his current church).  Justin would start the job on November 17th - we would never go without a paycheck.  We cried, we laughed, we rejoiced; we were completely in awe of God's grace and majesty.  He had orchestrated this whole situation from the beginning and wrote the most beautiful story of faith for us.  All glory to Jesus. 

We called everyone in our families and our cherished friends who had been praying fervently for us through the whole process.  At that point, we had two weeks to pack, find a place to live, and move, but we were up for the challenge and we knew it would be an easy road since God was so clearly present in the whole situation.  In two weeks, we managed to find a great place to live in South Toledo and make the transition to Ohio.  Justin has been working at St. Paul's for two weeks now and it is where he is meant to be.  I'm so proud of Justin and his willingness to step out in faith to start looking for jobs in the area to begin with.  I can't believe that this whole journey started with my application to Bowling Green State University.  God has set us out on an amazing journey, and even though there were some unexpected bumps along the way, he made all of them work together for our good.  God is so good.  So.  Good.

And I'm still waiting patiently to hear of the status of my application at BGSU.  And next week is my last week of work in South Bend and I can OFFICIALLY be here with my husband in Ohio (I've only been here on the weekends the past few weeks since the semester doesn't end until the second week of December at my job back in South Bend).

Thanks to my family for supporting Justin and I through this whole situation, for praying for us, for encouraging us, and for helping us make this move.  Thanks to my amazing St. Mary's College Impact family (Jill, Dawn, Lizzy, Chloe, Alexis, and Kaylee) for praying me through this whole situation from the very beginning - I love you all so much!  Thanks to St. Paul's Lutheran Church for welcoming Justin and I into your family. 

And thanks to my God for giving Justin and I the faith to follow through with your perfect plan.