CHAPTER 3 (Ben’s words in BOLD.)
I was deeply saddened and heartbroken, and my arms ached to hold my precious baby. By God’s grace, Ben and I clung to each other and our loss only brought us closer, rather than dividing us further.
We still continued to argue about smoking and finances and lifestyle choices as together we grieved the loss of our son and navigated the waters of healing. We found out we were pregnant again in late 2005 and much of our pregnancy was governed by fear and worry. However, we welcomed a healthy, screaming baby in June of 2006. What a joy and relief to hold and care for our lively baby boy! The nursery was finally full and our hearts were happy.
What a joy it was to have a healthy boy to bring home from the hospital. This was yet another measure of grace that God was giving me, but I was just not grasping it fully.
We welcomed another son in July of 2008. With a baby and a toddler and both of us working and going to school, things were very busy! We loved each other deeply but were still on different pages on so many life issues. I wasn’t leading our family spiritually or otherwise and Stephanie’s relationship with the Lord wasn’t growing and, while we did attend church, we weren’t in close community with other believers. We did agree that we loved our hometown, we loved spending time with nearby family and we hoped to never move. We had both received an Associates Degree. I had landed a job in the engineering department at a boat company and Stephanie was happy to work part time and stay at home and take care of our boys.
One day, in November of 2008, the boys and I were at home and Ben showed up mid-morning, unannounced. He held a box of things he had cleaned out of his desk and rushed to my arms, crying. He had been permanently laid off. The economy had gone south and, without warning, nearly everyone was let go from the company. He was left with only a very part time job stocking shelves at a local grocery store. Though we can now clearly see it as a necessary step in the journey God had us on, we were reeling at the time. We ended up moving in with Ben’s dad to cut costs and both of us worked part time, opposite shifts so one of us could be home to take care of the boys. It was a rough year. However, God provided, and Ben found out about a new warehouse that was opening up for the grocery company he had been working part time for. He had always thought he’d like to get into truck driving for the company, but didn’t have the training and there weren’t any positions available. However, with the new warehouse, there would be full time driving positions and they would be willing to train. The downside: we’d have to move out of state, hundreds of miles from home.
So, God provided the opportunity for me to work full time, doing something I thought I’d love, for this amazing, Christian-family-owned company. What an awesome provision it was. Stephanie was 8 months pregnant when we loaded up our things, said goodbye to our home with my dad and our loved ones and traversed the country to settle in for a one year commitment in a new state where we didn’t know a soul. As a gift from God, the job was a mere 3 hours from Stephanie’s sister, who is her dearest friend, and her family. That brought our families many good times and memories made.
We welcomed a baby girl in November of 2009, shortly after settling in to our tiny, new apartment. For the first time, I was able to stay home full time with our children. Ben loved his work but it was taxing on our family as he was on the road for overnights and when he was home he was exhausted. I had my hands full and had only one friend nearby. We found it difficult to find a church we wanted to call home and struggled to meet people and form friendships. A year into his new job, it didn’t look like we would be going home anytime soon, so we moved closer to the warehouse but farther from my sister. Ben’s commute was so much shorter, our home was much nicer with room for the kids to roam and I was blessed to meet a handful of wonderful, Christian friends. The second year was better than the first but we still longed to return home and for Ben to have a job with better hours. A job transfer was possible, but we had to patiently wait for the right opening.
We welcomed another sweet baby to our family on our son’s birthday in July of 2011. Baby number five was welcomed with delight. It was especially sweet for me, because this baby pushed Ben to finally quit smoking. After years and years of smoking and then quitting and smoking and then quitting again, this time it was for real. He quit smoking when I was pregnant and hasn’t gone back since. What a gift! Praise God, that point of tension was finally resolved!
With our first son in heaven and three boys and a girl here on earth, we decided that we were done having children. Our arms were full and I was a tired momma. With no family nearby and a husband who was consumed with his job, I felt I had reached my max. We had been married for 8 years and it had been such a challenging road. We had been through so much together and had grown closer because of it. Ben was a loyal, loving husband, always a gentleman and a great dad but sin had its hold on him something fierce and he refused to submit to God in many areas of his life. That was very difficult for me as I longed to be equally yoked with my husband and share the most important thing in my life. I longed for him to love God and lead our family well. I longed to be involved together in a church and I desperately wished our sons had a godly man to model their own lives after. I knew my relationship with the Lord was being compromised by my marriage. Spiritually, we were a mess.
Still at this point in my life, spiritually speaking, I was just riding on Stephanie’s faith and not my own.
I was very successful in my job and well liked and respected. My company took great care of me and our family. I made good money and we had begun to establish our life away from our home and loved ones. Our family was growing and we were making great memories. Suddenly, the opportunity we had been waiting for arrived. I was able to transfer to a new job that took us within a hundred miles of the city we had called home, the city we grew up in, the area most of our family still lived. We were so excited! Though a pay cut was involved, the job was still driving truck and delivering groceries but was a day job with local routes for the same awesome company. I would be home every night! We were so thankful!
Again, we loaded up our family of 6 and all of our things and headed back to our homeland in November of 2011. The kids and I moved back in with Ben’s dad while Ben started his new job, lived in his aunt’s basement and searched for a house for us. House hunting proved to be a long, laborious process. The days turned into months and we spent hours upon hours driving from house to house and touring home possibilities. We lugged all four children through the snow and cold. We searched high and low to find the perfect house for our rather large family but on a rather small budget. There were tons of houses but most of them needed way more work than we were willing to bargain for. We ended up walking through 74 houses before we settled on a cute home that was already redone and it was only 2 miles from Ben’s new job. It was perfect. We truly felt like the waiting had paid off. We closed on the house on March 1st, 2012 and were anxious to be a family again, all in once place. Ben had been driving to his dad’s on his days off to spend time with us and we had been driving down to hang out with him and look at houses but we hadn’t lived together for over four months.