What can I say about 2021? It wasn’t what I expected. Covid is still making its rounds, and I’m over it on so many levels. That’s all I’ll say about that.
I ended the last retrospect with “Despite all of this, or maybe in spite of it, I could see the Hand of God working through our lives this year. It was definitely the Year of Provision.
Even when my trust wavered, God met all our needs.”
Put a pin in that, watch as the story of 2021 unfolds.
In December 2019, we announced we were pregnant. Then, in Christmas of 2020, we assured everyone there would be no announcements.
Then we found out Casey was pregnant again. Years of infertility and doctors and the dam broke. We were all surprised at that one.
I immediately began stressing about money again. Pastor Rod prayed with me for a financial miracle. It came in the form of lots of overtime.
But work left me feeling unappreciated by the crew because I was trying to balance making everything easy on them and maintain production.
With Baby #2, we would need to find a bigger place in the future. We had a few years, and they could share a room. But I needed a new car. My 19-year old Ranger wasn’t going to cut it.
February brought the most snow I had ever seen. It almost collapsed the grid. We also announced the pregnancy.
I fell into a pit in March. Not a literal one, but I couldn’t keep up. I was rethinking my routines, my habits collapsing under the weight of exhaustion.
We called people back to work and began training new employees. I was trying to do my job and other people’s jobs on top of running as much as possible. All to make everyone happy, especially with our high turnover.
Pastor Rod’s prayer was answered again when my work bonus and an unexpectedly large tax return paid off my wife’s car, and I was able to get a Toyota Camry. I put a Batman logo on it, and it’s now the BatCamry.
It doesn’t come in black, though.
It’s April, and The Great Resignation started to let itself be known in Arkansas. We were losing guys to other companies. We were losing business, and I didn’t mind being as busy as we were.
I did an unofficial exit interview for feedback on my ability as a supervisor. I’m approachable, strict where I need to be but maybe not enough.
The Second Surprise
We also found out about our baby’s gender. Sam wasn’t a surprise to us, just those at the reveal. This time, we wanted to be surprised too.
Our best friends, who are the kids’ godparents, did it at their home. My wife is very excitable, and I warned her to be careful since she held our son. Don’t drop him.
I pulled the string on the powder cannon, and she started screaming. I felt Sam’s head hit my shoulder and the poor guy almost got whiplash from all the jumping down.
I got him from her and looked over my shoulder to see why she was excited.
It was pink.
Her dreams were starting to come true.
May arrived, and I felt like I was being taken for granted at work. I have guys that are screw-ups, undependable, and I’m carrying their weight. I tried to fire one, but we were so desperate for help, I wasn’t allowed to.
I was reaching my limits.
We restarted Sunday School in February, and our attendance was depressing months later. I was teaching the volunteers for that class primarily.
A Light At The End Of The Tunnel?
May did have some good. My brother from another mother got out of rehab, and I got to see him at his daughter’s graduation.
Also, a shift supervisor position opened up at work. I needed the money and thought I was ready to run a shift.
In June, we put the class on hold, and in place of it, a Bible Study was started on Wednesdays by a new Deaf couple in the church. That was some weight off my shoulders.
I was already planning like I had gotten the job. My wife was going to be a stay-at-home mom and everything. The shift supervisor on my shift was moved to take the place of the one who left, so I was “acting” shift supervisor until the position was filled.
I was going to show them I had what it takes, despite having four people quit since the start of the year. So my answer to “Why should we hire you?” was me saying I stand on my record.
The Third Surprise
Then I got a phone call in the middle of June. The owner of the house we were renting was selling it. He offered it to us first, but it’s too small for a family of four.
I admit I panicked. Could we even afford to move? Were we going to be homeless? I ran to my prayer group.
We learned we did have breathing room. The realtor selling that house would help us find another and we could stay in the one we’d been living in until we did.
It looks like our timeline to buy a house was moved up and not at a good time. It was a seller’s market, and homes were going under contract fast.
In July, we found a cute house with a big shaded backyard we liked that was five minutes away from our friends and daycare.
We made an offer but were rejected. However, our realtor, Felicia, had an ace up her sleeve. A rental was about to hit the market in a nice neighborhood.
We loved it, but I couldn’t make the numbers work. Not if Casey was going to be a stay-at-home mom. The stress was making me physically ill.
Our home was sold to another investor, and they said we could stay. I was leery of rent going up but glad we had a safety net. So Casey and I decided to keep looking throughout the month, and if nothing by August, we’d stay.
Casey got a sense to look in Lonoke on Zillow and found a house she loved. We made an offer, and it was accepted. It was a flip house with four bedrooms and two baths. An agricultural town, it was eligible for the Rural Development Loan. That means no down payment is needed.
My 401K was safe. However, the loan/home-buying process was stressful, let me tell you.
Especially since I didn’t get the promotion, I didn’t know how we would afford daycare with two kids. My crew wondered if I didn’t get it because I was too nice.
God had a reason, and even though I didn’t like it, He would show me in hindsight.
I began to look for part-time job ideas. I began negotiating with the bill companies to lower certain bills, cutting some services, downgrading others.
Literally On Fire
Not getting the promotion took the legs out from under me. It killed my motivation for a while. Finally, I decided I’ll still strive to be the best, but I’m not running myself into the ground or sacrificing for them. Because we were behind, I sacrificed three weeks of leave I could have spent with my son.
It all caught up to me, and I called into work. No energy. I never call in.
The verse about Jesus’ yoke being light went through my mind. I needed to get out of God’s way and let Him work.
I was getting excited, though. We closed on the house on August 13th, and on the 19th was C-Section Day.
August still staggered me with its To-Do list. There was work, packing to move, gathering papers for the mortgage process, kids, finances, and getting everything together for the essential worker voucher I recently learned existed.
The Baby Is Coming
August 12th arrived, and we went in for our last check-up before our baby girl, Faith, came. Casey wasn’t even dilated. It was my last day of work until October.
We could move completely in before she arrived on the 19th. We closed on the 13th, and I made two trips to the house with keys in hand. It was ours now.
The next day, August 14th, Casey went into labor at work. At 1:52 pm, Faith was here, and our former pastor and a dear friend was our interpreter. Faith was 8lbs even and 21.5 inches long.
Unlike when Sam was born, Casey was allowed one visitor a day. First, her mom came to see her. Then she went to our house to watch Sam and pack what we had left.
I had a long talk with Bobby, the brother from another mother, on the phone that night about me needing to stop stressing and enjoy this time with my new daughter.
Russ and Chris helped me start moving that evening when we got home from the hospital. We stayed one more night, and the following day, Bobby rolled in with his kids. Russ showed up, and later Kee. Casey’s stepdad had a big trailer.
We busted our butts, and by that night, were moved into our new house. Just a few things left me and Daniel, my father-in-law, could get.
All that was left was unpacking and making the house move-in ready.
While I wasn’t teaching anymore, I was still volunteering with GriefShare. We shut down in-person meetings in March of 2020. Sam wasn’t even born yet.
When we restarted them, I had two kids at home. It blew my mind.
The Fourth Surprise
I began fixing up the house and noticing some things that took the shine off the house. But unfortunately, the honeymoon ended pretty quickly. Drywall cracks had me reaching out to a structural engineer and foundation repair places at the end of the month.
September brought my bandwidth back. I wasn’t as overwhelmed. The house was taking up most of it, though. The soil is causing the piers to settle, but it’s structurally sound. Various foundation repair places quoted me between 12,000-36,000 to fix it.
I had 3-4 years until it had to be done, though. With that in mind, I could plan and save. Until then, I wasn’t giving up; I was making it a home, dusting off my dormant handyman skills.
Sam started to walk, assisted, pushing stuff around. As I work around the house, he’s been my sidekick, my electric screwdriver his favorite toy. He’ll point it at whatever I’m working on.
I joined a men’s group at church and was enjoying it. Iron Men, a band of believing brothers. I thought about finding a way to tie my former life and current life together, a Wicked Jester “Wolf” attitude with Christianity.
To feed myself spiritually, I listened to more sermons than apologetic or current event podcasts. I studied Revelation and the depravity of man. Was my niceness from forgetting that no one is good, all of us have darkness inside?
The first day of October had me back at work and reflecting on leaving Reach Deaf Ministry’s leadership team.
I’ve been on an unplanned writing sabbatical that I’ve used to work on myself. Studying Wild At Heart in tandem with Iron Men and Russ was part of that.
I learned that the crew at work adapted and didn’t need me to be as hands-on as I was—a relief.
As I went through Wild At Heart, it was digging some stuff up. After reading the chapter on posers, I verbally said, “Ronin was a poser.” That’s my old nom de guerre/nom de plumbe.
My wound is feeling like I was incompetent and incapable, so I overcompensated, resulting in the Ronin mask. Where I think I’m weak, I’m strong. Dunning-Krueger is at work in a positive direction.
The Lion of Judah needs more focus while not neglecting the Lamb. I had to remember Jesus was the Commander of the LORD’s Army in Joshua and Revelation.
I began to realize the Fruit of the Spirit was back in my life. So I decided to stay with Reach and started doing the 90-Day Challenge from Pastor Rod’s book Immediate Obedience again.
In October, I painted the front porch a mix of vibrant colors to bring a happy vibe. Sitting on it is one of my favorite things to do. Casey even found a tiny Adirondack chair for Sam to sit in, and Kee made us matching throw pillows.
We Interrupt Your Regular Programming…Pastor Rod named the feeling I had all year in a prophetic message. A Spirit of Heaviness. That post is the previous one to this. So the remedy is to reach up and reach out.
Still working through and reflecting on the book study, I often think about this quote: “Many men are afraid to let their strength show up because the world doesn’t have a place for it.
How would things change if you let people feel the weight of who you are and deal with it?”
“If you want to know how the world really feels about you, just start living out of your true strength. Say what you think, stand up for the underdog, challenge foolish policies. They’ll turn on you like sharks. The world of posers is shaken by a real man. They’ll do whatever it takes to get you back in line—threaten you, bribe you, seduce you, undermine you. They crucified Jesus. But it didn’t work, did it? You must let your strength show up. Remember Christ in the Garden, the sheer force of his presence? Many of us have actually been afraid to let our strength show up because the world doesn’t have a place for it. Fine. The world’s screwed up. Let people feel the weight of who you are and let them deal with it.”
It’s really easy to use that as a blank check to be an asshole. “I’m just being me.” I don’t want to regress to that.
Since being a Christian is following Christ, I’m looking at Jesus in the Gospels to see how he acted.
I’ve been reflecting on that a lot, and I’m sure some blog posts will come of it. They’ll probably be as measured as usual but a bit more in-your-face. I have some thoughts that kids’ willing, will be posted at least once a week.
God took us to an even deeper level of trust this year. An unexpected pregnancy, an old car, and a house that wasn’t enough. It looked like we were heading to the poor house for sure.
And I grew up in poverty, and I didn’t want to return.
We ended the year with two healthy kids, a new-to-me car, a house that is ours, and we’re making it work. And we got the voucher so we can afford daycare.
It’s like the song “Waymaker” by Sinach. “Even when I don’t see it You’re working/You never stop/You never stop working.”
This year, I’m calling it the Year of Surprises.