This Year, I Am Most Thankful for the Fire

Occasionally, you’ll be walking along your lovely, happy little life, whistling a tune, rocking your skinny jeans and out of the clear blue, a wall of fire will suddenly light up in front of you. (Of course, I’m speaking figuratively here… I don’t literally mean a fire. So it’s sort of the same as when my daughter says literally {as in… I am literally going to freaking die right now… she is still alive} but she means figuratively.) Okay— so this fire is just raging in front of your face. You spend a lot of time looking all the way to your left and all the way to your right to see how you can easily navigate around this inferno. You will look for a rope to climb… and then you remember that you cannot climb a rope and so you will look for a ladder or a climbing wall with a lot of really good hand and foot places. You will look for a shovel so that you can tunnel yourself underground. And eventually, you will realize that there is no other way except to walk through it.

Really painful, difficult, challenging life situations (literally!) feel like giant fires in front of me. And you know that song we all sang in preschool: Can’t go over it, can’t go under it, gotta go through it!

This was us earlier this year. We had moved from Cincinnati to Atlanta over the summer of 2017 and we had navigated and endured all of the really hard parts of moving. The sobbing in the shower, the many stages of grief in our younger daughter (she hung out in “rage” for a really long time) and we did the actual packing all the boxes and the moving. Twice. Because first we rented. (Super fun!)

But that wasn’t the fire. We knew the move would be tough. We were moving with two girls, for God’s sake, one starting middle school and one starting high school— so of course we anticipated a rough road ahead. But these big, huge walls of fire that open up in front of you, at least the ones that I’m talking about here, are always complete surprises. They come when you least expect it… say, when you think you’ve navigated the very worst and hardest parts of your move already, seen both of your daughters make friends, acclimate to their new schools and you even start finding your own groove. When you think the worst is behind you and you’re out there walking around and feeling damn good about your life.

That’s usually when it happens. Fireball. Right in the middle of your day. 

We had moved to Atlanta for Ryan’s Dream Job. Which is to say, not just an ordinary job. It was The One. The career equivalent of the faceless person we all fell in love with and married in our imaginations when we were in the fifth grade. You weren’t sure exactly what or who or how or when, but you’d know it when you saw it… your soul mate. And this was it, he was head over heels. And so we did the big, courageous thing— we took the leap and made the move.

And by late fall, we were sort of chugging along. Like when we mentioned that we were traveling back to Cincinnati for a whole week over Christmas, and both of our girls actually whined and said ohmygod!! they didn’t even want to go back because, what about their friends here and they would literally miss out on everything! And we took that as a victory and we silently high-fived under the table.

So imagine my surprise when it became very, undeniably clear that Ryan hated his job. The Job. The One. His Soul Mate. Seriously… what in the actual heck??

But here’s the thing— Ryan is a really easy guy to please. He is equally thrilled with grilled cheese and tomato soup from a can as he is homemade mac and cheese (well, almost— he really does love homemade mac and cheese), he will talk about a surprise “I love you” text I randomly sent for days and I can make his entire week by organizing my desk.

So when he started to talk about how unhappy he was, when he (finally) started to open up about how soul-crushing and depressing and horrible the Dream Job was turning out to be, I started to panic. Because I knew it was bad. The more we talked, the more fully I understood just how difficult it was for him. I kept imagining him in this position for the two, full years that it would take to fulfill the contract and not have to pay back the (extremely large) relocation package. Imagining him at this job for even a full year started to make me nauseous… how could I possibly be supportive, positive and cheerleadery enough to combat all of that despair? And by that, of course, I mean how could he possibly go into a job he hates day after day after day.

So here were the facts:

One. We had just uprooted ourselves and moved from Cincinnati to Atlanta. It really did feel like someone had dug us out of the ground with a considerable amount of heaving and wrenching and sweating and tossed us 400 miles south to figure out how to do life all over again. We were like limp carrots just laying in the Georgia sun, trying to figure out how to plant ourselves again. It was the most painful, heartbreaking, empowering and exciting thing I’ve ever done. And we were doing it! We were digging into fresh soil, finding our people, moving (again!) into our new home.

Two. The reason that had been tossed like limp carrots all the way down 75 south was because of Ryan’s job. His Dream Job. The one he now hated. And so to tell you that I didn’t feel a little murdery would be a total lie. I was throw-up-my-arms, screaming-inside-my-head, what-in-the-hell-God? for the better part of a month. Or maybe it was from December to March. Whatever. The point is— the entire reason that we had moved away from our home with the roots was for the freaking Dream Job that wasn’t actually the Dream Job. And so there was a lot of cheerleading on the outside of my face and a lot of angry yelling on the inside of my face. Except for the times that the yelling accidentally came out of my mouth.

Three. Eventually we were faced with a decision. Stay and work it out. Or leave the company and find something new. Both were painful… staying would be nearly unbearable and leaving meant— um, it meant no job… in a city we barely knew, with very few contacts and a way smaller network.

So we looked at all of the facts and we made a decision. At the end of March, just before spring break, Ryan left his job.

I firmly believe that when God is trying to teach you something, he’ll keep trying to get your attention and tell you the thing until you get it. He will tap you gently, then he’ll elbow you in the side, then he might slap you upside the head, then he’ll whack you with a two-by-four. And if none of those things work, he’ll light a fire in your path… probably while you are whistling your tune and rocking your skinny jeans. The he’ll take you by the hand and yank your ass right into it.

If you had asked Ryan, at almost any point in his adult life, what his biggest fear was, it would be: Losing His Job. It was always the worst possible thing he could conceive, no matter how many times I promised him that there were a lot of Way Worse Things that could happen. And we have been down this road before— about five years ago, he lost his job during a company restructure. This was probably God’s two-by-four… although I don’t think Ryan really got the thing God was trying to say (hence, the fire). He came out of that experience just as shaky and scared that he would lose his next job.  

So into the fire we went. Five months of no job. And maybe you’ve read my About Me section, but while my contributions to our family have been important, they haven’t come consistently in the form of a paycheck. So it was a scary time of unknowns, nothing to count on and only What Ifs to guide the way. And to really know Ryan, it is to know that this is his actual living hell (God was not playing).

But here’s the thing about walking through the fire, it’s going to hurt like a mother, but on the other side is freedom from the things that get singed off along way, peace in the knowledge that it burned you but didn’t kill you and strength from all the not-dying. And then, probably because God is in the fire with you, whispering wisdom into your ears, you come up with some good words to say.

Somewhere in the white hot middle of the flames, when we were living Ryan’s worst nightmare, I grabbed him by the shoulders and said (and I’m paraphrasing… it’s been a while): “You think that losing your job is the worst thing that can ever happen to you and I promise you that is not the truth. You are more than a provider, you are more than a paycheck. You are the biggest fan-girl husband in the living world, an incredible (albeit sometimes awkward) dad and an amazing, loyal friend. That is your lesson. That is what God is screaming to you, has been trying to tell you for a while now, that you are more than your job and more than your title. You are just this fantastic, sometimes funny but mostly serious, completely adored guy, with or without a job. And I’m also telling you, you better damn well listen this time because I don’t want to find out what God does next.”

And somewhere, in the early part of the summer, when he came in second for a job he thought he really wanted but didn’t get (so, at the suckiest, burniest part of this fire-walk), it just clicked. We were doing this super hard thing and he wasn’t dying. In fact, he was kind of killing it. He was creating his network (with a crap ton of help from our brother-in-law and new friends), he was getting up every damn day and making looking for his job his job and he was, like, happy. He was enthusiastic about yard work and didn’t really even say the word “budget” that often. We were coming out of the fire and he didn’t even have a job yet. I could feel the newness of us, the focusing on the most beautiful parts of life, the strength that had forged between us in the hottest part of the fire. I could feel the wisdom of the truth that you can’t rise from the ashes until you’ve walked through the fire setting into my soul… words I didn’t invent, but picked up along the way.

So… this Thanksgiving, the thing that I am most grateful for is when my husband left his job, went without one for five months and came out of it a total bad ass. This Thanksgiving, I am the most thankful for the fire.

And P.S. He does have a new job now. And while it’s not his Dream Job, only because we don’t use that term anymore, it is really dreamy. And P.P.S. The only fires are literally in our fireplace. For now. 

“You can’t rise from the ashes unless you walk through the fire.” 

7 thoughts on “This Year, I Am Most Thankful for the Fire

  1. God is so good. And bravo for heading His call! I’m reading The Magnolia Story now of Chip and Jo Gaines and I wrote down a quote this weekend “If you trust me with your dreams, I’ll take them farther than you could have ever imagined.” Jo’s quote of how God was calling her to close her shop to stay home with their young kids. Your story is so encouraging! Glad you all are doing well!

    Liked by 1 person

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