Thursday, July 18, 2013

Memory Lane

This is an oldie but a goodie--something I wrote long before I started blogging, but a piece that may end up in the book. Hope you enjoy it.

In 2001, when my husband and I were in our early thirties and had two young sons, we took a major risk, fully believing that we were following God’s lead. When I say “a major risk,” I don’t mean we changed laundry detergents or got a dog.  No, we quit our stable jobs, sold our house, and cashed in all of our savings, including our retirement account, so that my husband could follow his dream and go to flight school to become a pilot.

At the completion of his flight training, David took a job as a flight instructor in Spokane. He did not want to be a flight instructor forever—this was just a way to build the 1,500 hours of flight time that were required in order to be hired by an airline. Flight instructors don’t make enough to feed and house a family, so I took on some part-time grant-writing work. As we gritted our teeth to endure the financial stress, we told ourselves it was just a season. We figured we would be in Spokane for a-year-and-a-half and then back to Portland with a job with Alaska Airlines, living on easy street. That’s what we figured. 

But September 11, 2001 changed the path of our lives. Following that day of terror, airline companies suffered major organizational setbacks, massive pilot lay-offs, and even bankruptcy. Still today, few have recovered. David realized that his prospects for a career as an airline pilot diminished significantly in the wake of 9-11. We felt like the Israelites who thought that God had forgotten them after they followed Him into the desert on their way to the Promised Land. We had been willing to take a big risk to go where we felt like God was leading, but when we saw where He had taken us, we wondered if He even cared at all. 

David heroically hid his frustration and confusion as he watched his big dream turn into a nightmare. He never spoke a discouraging word, but sometimes, when he thought I wasn’t looking, I saw the shadow of discouragement darken his brave demeanor. Though he was praised as a great flight instructor and worked every chance he got, his income went from bad to worse as winter weather set in and limited his ability to fly with students. By December we were drowning in bills. 

“David” I said, knowing we had to have the conversation we were both avoiding, “between rent, the car payment, and the electric bill, we need about $1,200 to get through this month. And that doesn’t count groceries. Did you get paid today?”

Slowly he took his paycheck from his pocket, unfolded it, and slid it across the table to me: $187. There were no more words, only silent prayers. I was disheartened. David was defeated. God was silent. 

Finances were strained through the rest of the winter and into the spring.  I took more grant-writing work, and David moonlighted on the nightshift for UPS. Each month we barely made it. I, who had been raised to shop at Nordstrom, learned to shop at Goodwill. David learned to cut the kids’ hair himself. We ate whatever was on sale that week at the grocery store and discovered that a fun family outing could be had for free: a trip to the library followed by an afternoon at the park. And still, God was silent. 

Spring turned to summer, the weather cleared, and David was able to fly more hours as a flight instructor. We were finally getting close to breaking even financially, but our hearts were so weary that we hardly felt like celebrating. I longed for a day when money was plentiful and fantasized often about what it would be like to have a million dollars. Then, I told myself, I would finally be happy.  Then I could take life easy and do whatever I wanted. Then my husband would not be stressed. Then I could give my children their heart’s delight.  Then I could believe once again in the goodness of God.

There was no way we could afford a real vacation that summer, but we did find a few days to visit David’s parents, who live on a lake nestled in the Swan Range of the Rocky Mountains in northwestern Montana. One sunny afternoon, after I had been water-skiing (which is one of my favorite things to do in the whole wide world), I lay on the beach reading a book. David was out on his windsurfer, letting the physical activity wash away the tension that had been soiling his soul. My children were playing happily in the sparkling lake water. For an instant, I forgot the distress of the past few months, and I let myself take pleasure in the perfection of the day.

I realized, in that instant, that I had everything I could ever want.  I knew then that even if I had a million dollars sitting in a bank account, this moment could not be any more precious. I was keenly aware on that summer afternoon, with hardly a dime to my name, that there was nowhere in the world I would rather be and nothing I would rather be doing. My husband was relaxed. My children were delighted. And my God, though still silent, was as He had always been—good. It was then that I stopped focusing on what we didn’t have and started appreciating all that God had given us free of charge.

From a financial perspective, the next year wasn't much different—but I had changed.  I started to see “million dollar moments” in each day. You see, I don’t think teaching your son to ride a bike without training wheels is more rewarding if you have a million dollars. I bet reading The Chronicles of Narnia as a family is not more thrilling if you have a million dollars. Snuggling with your husband is not more satisfying if you have a million dollars. God’s voice is not louder, His love is not surer, and His grace is not bigger if you have a million dollars. The funny thing is, if God had given me a million dollars, I might never have known how unnecessary it really was.


  1. Coming from a single mom struggling to raise two girls on her own, this was a great reminder! Thanks so much for sharing this today!
    Gloria Hornback

    1. Love and blessings to you, Gloria! Praying a pile of "million dollar moments" on your day.