Forged in the fire: My Journey to Thankful

Forged in the fire: My Journey to Thankful

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The only thing missing was a pool, which to me, was a plus. The pool was far more for my wife than me, so according to her, it was the one thing the home didn’t have. Either way, I believe we were both in awe.

Six hundred and fifty miles away from our hometown and our three bedroom, 1.5 bath, 1,450 square foot home, we were in the midst of our decision on the new house for us. Our old home was not a bad house at all, but a bit cramped for all five of us in our blended family. I hate that term, but it’s a recognizable description. I suppose you’re deduced to “smoothie status” when you marry someone who has kids of their own to toss in with you and yours. The point being, after five of us shared one full bathroom, buying a new home was exciting.

I’d been really blessed with a job opportunity, and to be honest, I think we still felt we were in a dream. Not that I wasn’t worth every penny, but that I’d finally had the courage to step out there. Here we were, contemplating the purchase of a home, nearly 2.5 times the size of our old home, with so many amenities we couldn’t keep up with them. Being a higher end, brand new home, it was truly immaculate.

Of course, the kids were pumped too. This meant they each had their own bedroom and bathroom, as well as a shared media room upstairs. Factor this in with the HOA community swimming pool, walking trails, lake and a couple parks, and they were quite satisfied with our decision.

I’ll never forget when we were moving in, amidst my wife’s excitement, I looked at her and said, “Don’t get too attached to it. It’s just a house. We never know what God has in store.” It was a jackass thing to say at the time. Not because it wasn’t true, but because in true “me” fashion, I tossed her elation on the rocky shore of reality and broke it into pieces. I could’ve let her have that moment, yet I didn’t. I could’ve said what I said a little softer, at a later time.

I think perhaps a part of me still heard that dark voice deep down saying, “You’re not good enough. You’re a poor country boy. Get back where you belong. Know your place. You didn’t even finish college. You knocked someone up right out of high school. Failure! God can’t love you this much, because you’ve failed him your whole life!” Yeah, I know. Those voices say a lot. I bet most of us have them, somewhere.

“Voices be damned, I’d made it! Take that, forces of the world that fueled the chip on my shoulder! How do you like me, now? Big house, money in the bank, and for the first time in my life, financial comfort. “My family and I can go where we want, do what we want, and afford it.” I said, taunting the voices in my head.

Professionally, I felt that someone had finally realized my worth. They believed in what I could do. They respected my accomplishments and body of work. They were ready to partner with me and allow me to earn an equity stake in future endeavors. I’d made it. I’d done this the hard way and that made it feel even better. The days of eating two cheap TV dinners per day in order to splurge on a Happy Meal for my son during the weekend were a thing of the past.

It’s funny how quickly success can go to your head. I felt blessed. I thanked God. I was grateful, but it still didn’t stop pride from creeping in. Now, I was invincible. Despite the effort it took me to get here, I suppose I now thought it would be easy to surpass my current level of success.

I’d be wasting your time and mine if I didn’t admit that it went to my head, despite my constant warning to myself. Between the increase in pay, what I thought was future opportunity that dwarfed the paycheck, and the isolation of being in a new town with no friends and family, while being away often for work, the pride mounted. And I had no one to hash it out with. It wasn’t good for my marriage and it was tough to deal with the kids, who, although grateful for the elevated lifestyle and provision, were also starting over in a new place and facing isolation of their own.

I felt like I was on an island and I’m sure my wife felt that way too. In fact, I left her there. Most of us are wise enough to know ignoring a problem isn’t the answer, nor the recipe for improvement. But, I labored on, pouring myself into work, kids, and even church to a certain degree.

I knew we were supposed to be there. We’d prayed about it over an extended period of time and had others join us in those same prayers. It was a great opportunity and we were in a great place. Yet, I wasn’t happy.

I wasn’t happy with the job, because as is often the case, it wasn’t what I signed up for. Although the money was good, it quickly became evident that it wasn’t the place where I’d reach my goals, rather only a step along the way. I wasn’t after another paycheck, but rather the opportunity to have a stake in something where I was able to use my vision to structure an organization for success. I wanted business success but, more importantly, I wanted it to be built around people; helping people, growing people and empowering people to do something great.

So, when another door opened, I was eager to explore the potential. With my newfound abundance of pride and confidence, I had no doubt I could do this. What’s more, it provided the basis for a caution-to-the-wind risk that proved disastrous.

People are people, and those in the business world are no exception. Integrity can be hard to find and honesty itself is not as highly valued as one would assume. For whatever reason, people often misrepresent, mislead, and have no hesitation in blowing vast amounts of smoke from various orifices if they think they can gain from it.

I was quickly sucked in by what I thought was an opportunity that provided everything I wanted. I thought I did due diligence. I thought I asked the right questions and I thought I received the right answers. The problem was, my judgment was clouded by my desire to get what I wanted. It was also clouded by my pride, by my overconfidence and by underestimating what a venture of the agreed-upon nature would require.

It’s not easy for a successful sales executive to admit he was duped. It’s been my career to read people quickly. I always thought I was pretty good at it, after all, it had paid off handsomely in my sales career. Looking back, I missed many clear signs. The book was there and I never even read it.

Alas, my bad judgement led to a venture that quickly fell flat on its face. Paychecks quit coming on time, to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. Expense checks stopped coming. A check bounced for the deposit to cover our new leased office space. To top it off, our insurance policy was cancelled one week prior to a procedure my wife had been waiting nearly a year for. Not one word of warning until I attempted to fill a prescription. Only then did we learn that the insurance company was owed over twenty thousand dollars and had therefore suspended the policy.

You don’t know faith until you’re faced with losing everything. Working in the oil and gas industry proved to be tough when trying to find another position in the Austin, TX area. In hindsight, I probably could have been more effective at finding another position, but that’s all in the past now.

My family and I had each other and we had our faith that God would bring us through this. Without getting lost in detail, I can tell you that we never missed one payment during this ordeal. Through a series of consulting jobs and other circumstances, there was always a check, right on time. Usually not one day early, and not one penny more than we needed, but enough. It was painful.

Through all that pain of feeling, I’d failed my family and squandered what God had blessed us with, I had nothing left to do but pray. Man, did I pray! I prayed, and my praying friends prayed for us. I talked to God more regularly in that valley than at any time in my life. Sometimes He seemed distant and other times He was near. I had nowhere else to turn.

I have to give credit here to my morning church small group at Rudy’s, some faithful friends, and also some of the staff at Celebration Church in Georgetown, TX. These men prayed for and encouraged me through some dark, dark times. I had words of affirmation and even prophesy spoken over me during that time. That gave me hope and determination to push forward each and every day until we came out on the other side.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t credit my wife. Her strength during this adverse time and her complete support and belief in me were crucial to our marriage, family and my career. Never one time did she second guess me or even question my decisions or wisdom. She was much better and stronger than I was, and I needed it.

We endured that hardship and I was able to find another job. Not what I had, but a way to get back on my feet. It took us to another region of Texas, this time the deep east Texas pine woods in the area of Longview.

It’s nearing two years now. Our family has acclimated and is doing well. We’ve seen our oldest graduate and spread her wings at The Dream Center in Los Angeles as part of their leadership program for young adults. Our middle child is continuing his love for music, and more specifically guitar, and is also considering the leadership program offered at The Dream Center as he seeks God’s purpose in his life. Our youngest has developed a passion and love for golf and made new friends. He continues his academic success and has adjusted well.

Recently, on a business trip to San Antonio, I made a stop in our previous home of Round Rock for an In-N-Out burger. My feelings crashed around inside in cyclonic fashion. Memories. Nostalgia. Wounds. Hurt. Happiness. Comfort. It led to a melancholy feeling, a bitter tinge of defeat, and a sense of failure. I finished my burger and hopped back in my truck to continue driving in the dark, rainy night. Fitting, as it matched how I felt inside.

After my business trip was complete, I faced a dilemma. Should I drive back through Round Rock and face the nagging call to ride by the old house and revisit the neighborhood and surrounding area, or choose another route? Surely it wouldn’t hurt to revisit the failed office space that I’d still like to have now. No harm in passing through to check out the changes of a city we all loved so much.

For whatever reason, I took another route. Maybe the pain was still too fresh. At any rate, I like to travel roads I’ve not traveled, so I detoured and bypassed Round Rock. As my thoughts wandered and my tires hummed onto Highway 79, I was having a pity party thinking about how much I missed the comfort and amenities of the old house and the old paycheck.

In this moment, God spoke clearly to my heart: “Let it go. I have bigger things for you.” He reminded me not to focus on what we’d given up, but to focus on what He brought us through. He reminded me that when it looked like we had no way out and would lose everything, He was there. He reminded me of who I had become in that time, and how He wanted more for me and my family. He reminded me that He’d brought us to a church family that we never imagined; a church that is truly home. He reminded me that no matter my failures, the failed promises made to me by others, or what we felt we’d given up, He is in control and His plans for us far exceed our plans for ourselves. He reminded me of the friendships and opportunities He’s led us to here in Longview. Most importantly, He reminded me how blessed we are right now, even in the midst of a collapse in the oil and gas industry and the effect it’s had on my paycheck. We have a roof over our head, clothes on our back and food on our table. If you’d asked our family five years ago how they’d feel about where we are now, we’d all have taken it.

It’s true, that we grow through struggle. We learn through experience. We are forged in fire and character is built by being put to the test. These struggles have helped me to escape who I was becoming and to better prepare me for what He has in store. I thank God that He’s in control. I thank God that He knows exactly when to save me from myself.

As you’re reading this I’m in the final stages of launching my new business with a valued partner and friend. I’m preparing to step out once again and take on the big bad business world and the challenges that it presents. No one tells you about this part, and I believe the majority who overcome it push it out of their memory, much as I’ve done. What I’d ask from you is your prayers. I want to build a business based on the unfair advantage that is the favor of God. I want to build a business that does things God’s way and equips others to do the same.

I want to assist others in understanding that although the journey may be brutal, the reward is eternal. I want to assist others in unlocking their potential. I refuse to believe that business done with integrity, purpose, and God at its core will not flourish. This is my passion. This is my purpose.

I’m once again drowning out the voices that predict failure and clinging to God’s promise of more for those who seek Him. It’s tough out here, but by God, it’s worth every moment.