First of all, a word on God:
I cannot tell this story and leave out the spiritual side of it, because they are inextricably linked. Without the guidance of our Creator, we never would have been brave enough to take this leap on our own. However, I want to be clear when I say that we are not naïve (or arrogant) enough to believe that our story is the “right” way to live, have a mid-life crisis/spiritual conversion, or anything else. If we have learned anything over the past few years, it is that each one of us is on their own path, and if we pay attention to God, He will inevitably lead us on very different ones. This is the beauty of how He works. He doesn’t want us to have a cookie-cutter existence, one that resembles our next-door neighbor’s, our parents’, or anyone else’s. Honestly, it would be easier if it worked that way, because there would be a lot less we’d have to figure out and could just imitate someone else’s, which is kind of what we were doing the first half of our lives…living to fulfill the expectations of us, whether perceived or real. Familial, societal, and personal expectations dictated our lives. We were living to please ourselves, others…all but the One who created us.
And honestly, we were tired of our American Dream. Nick worked all. the. time. He would leave the house at 6am, return at 6pm, and miss out on a large part of the children’s days. Sometimes, he’d work weekends. His job got the best parts of him and he came home spent, craving peace and quiet (not something he received in our house with two kids, two dogs, and two cats. Oh, and me.) We had plenty of money but it wasn’t making us happy by any stretch of the imagination. We kept talking about these fabulous trips we would take someday, but we never did because he was working. I felt like I was raising the kids alone and he felt like he was missing out on their childhoods. We were all headed in different directions each day and we didn’t feel like a cohesive family. And for what, exactly? Money? A comfortable retirement? We craved more.
We had lots of conversations about our expectations of life, parenthood, and family. I recall one in particular in which Nick said he felt the role of fatherhood was being diminished in our modern culture. Somehow, and I don't think he's alone in this, he had gotten the message that fathers were expected to provide financially but any other contribution to the family wasn't that valuable. So for a long time, he felt like he was fulfilling his role by making enough money to support our family. But as time passed, he began to see our need for him, not to provide financially, but emotionally. He saw my loneliness as I parented our children largely on my own, and he saw how much he was missing by giving the greatest of himself to his desk job. He wanted to be present in our family’s daily life, to eat meals together, play together, and work together. He wanted to more fully live out his vocation of fatherhood, and I loved him for it.
So there we were, with everything we’d thought we had ever wanted, miserable because we were not living the lives for which we were created. We didn’t know this; we only knew we weren’t happy. So we did the only thing we knew to do: we prayed. And as promised, God answered our prayers...in the most unexpected ways. Little did we know that this would begin a painful, glorious conversion experience that involved letting go of our old way of life, dying to our desires for comfort and control, and ultimately placing our lives and destinies in the hands of God.