“Recalculating,” chirps Mechanical Myrtle from the GPS. I groan, frowning as my destination disappears from sight in the rearview mirror.
“I think you were supposed to turn back there, Mom,” my son announces from the backseat. “That’s the way Dad took us.”
“Yeah. You missed it,” chimes in another voice, and I feel a twitch beginning in my right temple. Taking a deep breath, I peer up at the glass-faced buildings, trying to get my bearings. I’m a country mouse in the big city. This is why I didn’t want to move.
“ ‘Calculating, ‘calculating,” sings my baby girl as I turn on my signal and wait to merge into the left lane.
“Shh, Sweetie. Mommy needs to think. You’ve been to Daddy’s office, but this is my first time. I don’t even know what it looks like.” According to the map, I was supposed to turn left. Maybe I can retrace my path.
“Turn right in 100 feet,” Myrtle announces. “Turn right. Turn right.”
“I can’t turn right,” I mutter, “I’m in the left lane.”
“Recalculating.” I fight the urge to scream while hot tears burn my eyes. Blinking rapidly, I try to read a street sign as I drive past it.
“You went the wrong way,” squeaks another child from the back. “Again.”
“Just give me a minute. I think I can...nope. That’s a one way street going the wrong way. This is so frustrating.”
“There’s Daddy’s building again! Turn here!”
“Arriving at destination...recalculating.”
“You should pull in right there, Mom.”
“Hush, Buddy. Let me drive, please.”
I swing into a parking space down the block and put the van in park. As I turn off the ignition, the floodgates open and all the tears I had been holding back erupt.
“Good job, Mom. That’s Daddy’s office right there.”
Grabbing a tissue, I wipe my eyes and feel a little hand pat me on the shoulder. With a quivering smile, I look back at my kids’ anxious faces. Pull yourself together. Take a deep breath. “Okey-dokey. Let’s let Daddy know we’re here. I’m excited to see his new office.”
“With the purple wall!”
“With the purple wall.”
Back up ten months and you find me braced against the kitchen sink and wiping away similar hot tears. My chest is tight, and my heart is sad. His words echo in the silence between us.
“I don’t want to work there anymore.”
I can see in his eyes that he is just as afraid as I am about what those seven words mean for our family. Nodding, I want to allay his fears, to be strong for him, to assure him that we’ll be okay, but deep inside I feel my world tremble. For ten years we’ve been in this community and for ten years he’s worked for the same company. Ten years worth of memories and friendships. Ten years to grow our family and put down roots. But it’s been five years since the first stirrings of change: the first road signs of discontent and a desire for something more.
Five years ago, he brought up the subject of a new job and I’m ashamed to say I played the “what about the kids?” card. While it’s true that I was anxious for our kids, I was actually more concerned about me. Selfishly, I was happy with the way life was, even if it meant that my husband spent forty-plus hours a week at a job he didn’t like. Couldn’t we be enough for him? Can’t he just tough it out?
And now here we are again, having the same conversation, but I know in my heart that this time it will end differently. For Brett’s sake, it has to end differently. For the good of his family, he has been a faithful provider in a dead-end job for five years longer than he wanted to, and now it is time for a change. It is time for him to have an opportunity to be satisfied and challenged in his job. It is time for him to experience a sense of pride in himself and his work, and it is time for me to be brave for us both.
“I think that you should start scoping out your options.” I gulp, hoping that he doesn’t hear the quaver in my voice. “Of course, I hope that you’ll look for possibilities here in town,” I swallow hard before continuing, “but you need to feel free to pursue any prospect.”
“Cast the net wide.”
“Right. Cast the net wide and we’ll see what God has planned.” I can barely get out those last words; my throat constricts, and I clench my jaw. What could be better than our life here, God? Why would you ask us to give this up? Relief washes over his face as he pulls me into his arms. The sobbing starts, and I can’t stop. Life as we know it is recalculating.
The following months jumble together: résumés sent, interviews scheduled, career changes made, boxes packed, tears shed. In spite of feeling God’s peace about the decision to accept the new job, our future is foggy and we find ourselves second-guessing our choice. Are we doing what’s best? Did we hear You right, God? Focusing on moving our family across the state, we begin chipping away at our lengthy to-do list and do our best to capture moments with friends and family. All the details click together, every facet, that is, except for the big one: the house.
We flip the calendar and find ourselves in the middle of summer with our home still sitting on the market. Months ago we had envisioned ourselves, by this time, settling in to our new community. Instead we twiddle our thumbs in our mostly-packed house and anxiously anticipate Brett’s weekly visit from across the state. While he loves his new job, we don’t love the new family arrangement -- thirty-six hours a week with our Daddy is not nearly enough. And yet, what can we do? Daily we remind ourselves to wait, hope, and trust that God still has a good plan for us, even if it’s not the plan we would have designed. If only we had a road map to follow.
After a month of living apart, I’m ready to accept a new strategy, a plan I had rejected earlier. We recalculate life again and make plans to move into a rental, clean out the house, and hopefully let the dust settle before the kids start school.
“That top box will go up to the bunk bed room, but the other three will stay in the garage.” I stand in the driveway and direct the movers as they deliver our almost-ten-thousand pounds of life into our much smaller rental. “All of those dining room chairs stay in the garage. And the table, too. That box will go to the kitchen.”
With each labeled box carted off the truck, I feel a tumult of emotions: relief at having our family reunited and confusion about this u-turn in our plans. Every carton that has a pink sticky-note is something we need for our temporary stay here, while the remaining boxes are stacked in the garage near our over-sized sofa and wait until our house sells and we buy something here. Every cardboard box I unpack will have to be repacked in twelve months. Wasn’t there an easier way to do this? Did we take a wrong turn somewhere? I’ve no choice but to keep trusting that God is in the midst of this move and He will give me the courage to make this place our home, in spite of my own uncertainty.
Today I sorted the last of the “pink sticky-note” boxes. We have the basic bits of life unpacked, and we’ve even hung some of our favorite art work on the walls. With just a few personal touches, the living room reminds me that this is home. The kids are setting down roots in school, and each day they walk home with new stories and new friends. Our days have fallen into a comfortable routine, and I’ve mapped out new routes for shopping and errands. We even have new cards at the library and fresh books on the shelf, ready to be read.
Most importantly, I see my husband every morning and every evening, and the joy on his face when he recounts his day at work makes this crazy move worth it.
Life is full of recalculations. We can choose to stay on a dead-end road, driving straight to nowhere, or we can follow the road signs that God has placed in our path, even if it seems that at times we’re going the wrong way. While I most likely wouldn’t have chosen this particular road we’re on right now, I am grateful to be on this trip together.
I wrote this for an essay contest with RealSimple, prompted by the theme, "A Time I Was Brave". I would appreciate your feedback as I will be sending it off next week. Thanks!