Life here on our mountain has been so busy, and yet we haven’t accomplished nearly what we planned to accomplish this summer. In the three weeks since my last post, we have participated in numerous 4-H events, done several days of schooling, and toured several colleges. We have not found a job for the Handy Man (oh, he’s applied to dozens, but more on that later), finished painting either bathroom, or organized (and pared) my bookshelves.
I did get to go visit my cousin Nini and her lovely family last week. A friend of ours needed to move some furniture to Raleigh, NC to her daughter’s house. They were going to rent a moving truck, but I convinced her that she didn’t need to do that as I drive
a cargo van 15-passenger vehicle. She paid for my gas and I got to spend two nights and one day with my cousin because she lives just 6 miles from my friend’s daughter. It was a sweet, sweet respite in the middle of a very hectic and depressing summer. I am thankful to the Lord for that opportunity.
The garden has been an interesting mess this year. The first round of green beans yielded 100 quarts. The deer have been enjoying the pole beans I planted. Next year my bean options will be limited to bush beans–the pole beans take too much effort, especially if Bambi is the only one who gets to enjoy them. The deer have also decimated our corn. We have had enough to eat, but none to freeze. The corn this year has been disappointing, too, because the flavor has not been as sweet. Last year we had an amazing corn crop and the corn was so sweet it was like candy. We do have a second planting of corn we are waiting to harvest, so maybe there is hope. None of our chard came up, but we do have an impressive patch of thistles growing in that area. I almost think we were given the wrong seeds. We do have an enormous pumpkin, and the girls are hopeful that the deer will spare it. Our tomatoes are loaded with fruit, but none of them are turning red. They will probably all come in at one time. We do have watermelon and squash still, and we are hopeful that we will get a good harvest. The patty-pan squash has been amazing, but really, how much patty-pan squash can one family eat? So our garden has been a disappointment this year.
This month Dee and I have been visiting colleges. We visited North Georgia College at the end of June. We have since then been to a local Christian college and to a Christian college in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, which is basically in Chattanooga, TN. She also toured the college where she is dual-enrolling this fall. We have one more college to explore, and she is applying to them all. She is keeping her options open, and of course, a lot will depend on which colleges accept her and which ones can offer her the best financial aid package. We are committed to making sure our children do not graduate college with debt. It is harder to do, but it is possible. It would be easier if her parents could help contribute to her expenses, but right now that is not possible. Perhaps it will be different in a year. Dee has a lot of decisions to make in the next few months–and a lot of scholarships for which she must apply!
The Handy Man is still looking for work. This year has been an interesting one. We still believe that God will meet all our needs–and He has so far–but we are growing weary in the waiting. The unemployment has run out. The Handy Man has put in dozens and dozens of applications. He has received only a few acknowledgments from employers; most of the time he never hears anything, and he has yet to go on a single interview. It is demoralizing for a man to not be able to provide for his family. It hurts to see him go through this. So he is now exploring his options. The VA has a program for retraining veterans for high-demand jobs. The Handy Man is in discussions with the VA and a technical college about an hour away to see if he qualifies for help to pay for retraining.
It is such a different world now compared to when The Handy Man got employed so many years ago. It used to be that he could walk in somewhere, fill out an application, look someone in the eye, talk about his qualifications, and get hired with a handshake. Now, it is all computerized, and applications are only examined if the key words are triggered. A college degree is mandatory for most of the open positions that The Handy Man has been doing for the last 16 years. He knows his field. He just doesn’t have the degree. It doesn’t help that he is 55 years old. It seems that his longevity with both his former employers doesn’t matter.
The Handy Man is now looking at part time work and going to school. It won’t be enough to fully support our family, but we know that God isn’t bound by what we put on paper. He has always managed to supply our needs, and it is on His faithfulness we now cling. I suppose that is the essence of faith–clinging to the promises you have been given (for which there is ample evidence in the past) knowing that even if you cannot see it right now, God IS fulfilling those promises.
It all sounds so easy, doesn’t it? Just TRUST! And we do trust. I am strangely not afraid of not having our needs met, but I am desperate to know the “how”. I would love to know the plan. And right now the Lord seems strangely silent about that. He doesn’t promise lavish lifestyles, or even extras like piano lessons or fine-arts co-ops. It is hard to have to sit down and figure out what things you have to do without in order to make ends meet. I thought I was pretty frugal, but I am learning how to pinch even more pennies. And that is also exhausting.
So right now our lives are all about options: what school Dee will go to next year, what crops to spend our time on in the garden, what direction The Handy Man should choose (school and part time work or continue a seemingly fruitless search for something full time?) It is exhausting to have all this openness before us. It is unsettling. It is stretching us: financially, spiritually, emotionally.
I wish I could just end this with an up-beat tone. The truth is that we are where we are. Obviously the Lord has something for us to learn here. We are trying to joyfully submit to his will. It is hard not to fall into thinking that somehow God owes us a good job because we have been his followers for so long. He owes us nothing. But He is good, and because of His goodness, he promises to take care of His children. It is to that which we cling.