Goodbye Michigan

moving

The story of our journey begins with an erroneous phone call to Jenny. Like many to follow, it was one meant for someone named Wendy.

“Hi this is Elwood staffing calling for Wendy. We wanted to know if you were still looking for work.”

I had just began my search for a job just before our trip to visit some friends in northern Michigan, though I had only filled out two applications before our trip. I had forgotten about Elwood. They had helped me find some temporary work a few years earlier. With unemployment over 9% in our area, I wasn’t looking forward to the arduous search. Jenny responded,

“Wendy no longer has this number, but my husband is looking for work.” With that, I would soon be employed.

The last school year, I had been the teacher for the 4th – 6th grade classes for Freedom Christian School. The school no longer needed the all the staff with the slight reduction in enrollment. I was the newest addition and consequently was the first to go. It was the only job (other than my lawn business) in which I felt I had to grow into. It took me half the year to even feel like I had a handle on it. By the end of the year, I was ready to start the next year a dramatically better educator. The principle let me know that unless more students enrolled, I would not be teaching the following year.

My first response was to recognize a pattern. I haven’t had any job for more than a year at a time. It just seemed like God wanted me to have experience in many different things in life. Considering my calling, I’m sure it will come in handily as I will be able to relate to more people.

TI Automotives was my employment. I put these long thin tubes in one end of the “bender” and they would come out the shape needed on the other. I would add a few things to the tubes as needed and pack them in a box for shipment. I enjoyed the work. My favorite thing about working there was that I could listen to an audiobook or music while working.

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Four years earlier, I had decided I wanted to move to Texas. I had lost my ability to continue my lawn business and despite some temporary work, I was unable to pay my rent on time and was served eviction papers. After the initial despair, which was not insignificant, I plotted my course. I’m not completely sure what triggered Texas in my mind, but perhaps it was my desire to evade cold winters and move south. Out of all the southern states, Texas was the most unique. Complete with it’s unique state pride, huge territory, and economic growth, it lead the country in jobs. It was about this time when Texas could claim half of all the jobs added to the US economy. I zeroed in on the Dallas/Fort Worth area. One drawback with the area was it’s ranking as 3rd hottest climate in the US. Knowing a move down there in my situation would leave a lot out of my control, I began calling pastors to see if I could obtain help in my transition. Out of all the calls and messages left, one pastor called me back. He wanted to hear more about my story and why I wanted to move down. He wished me luck and told me he’d let me know if he found a place for me to stay as I searched for work. That call never came. I faced the inevitable and admitted to myself that I was not able to make the move. I still made known my desire to one day move to the Lone Star State.

From the time Jenny and I became serious in our relationship, I shared with her my desire to someday move to Texas. Unlike me, she actually had been in Texas, and one thing she knew about it, is that it was hot and she was not interested in moving there. I looked for an alternative. I searched for best climates in the US. I found a list of states with the best climates. To my delight, Corpus Christi, TX was #3 underneath Hawaii (#2) and south and central California (#1). Jenny was not convinced.

Our last winter, I made peace with living at Freedom Farm indefinitely; even for the rest of my life. As I drove home from work and stopped by the college building to restock it’s woodburning furnace, I thought, “This isn’t such a bad life.” Ironically, I made that peace in perhaps the most severe winter I’ve ever experienced. Snow was measured in feet, temperatures ran in “deficits” and I accepted what I could not change. For the first time in my life I had come to a point in which I had fully and completely resigned my will to accept whatever God allowed to cross the path before me. Pastor Coleman can affirm this as I shared it with him.

winter

The harsh winter rendered my truck useless a few times in getting to work and I ultimately lost my job because of it. “No one else had a problem getting to work” the manager told me.

“No one else had to navigate a half mile of unpaved, unplowed private road to get to the paved and plowed road either,” I thought. Up to about that point the school had fourteen snow days; if that gives any perspective to the situation. I kept the job loss mostly quiet while Elwood Staffing lined up another one. I was grateful that they understood my situation and gave me another opportunity.

The Decision

The next day, Jenny and I decided to go out and get our mind off of the loss. By then, we could navigate the roads. She was ready to move on. The school year had been particularly challenging for her and it was only with the support of those closest to her that brought her through it. Though the worst was over and things were much better, my job termination sparked the idea of moving. I listened passively to Jenny as I filled up the truck at the gas station. With the window down, I heard her talk. She became more excited as she shared her thoughts with me. “Do you still want to move to Texas?” She ask, now in full command of my attention as I suddenly realized she was serious. I had already been working on our projected budget and knew how much we should accumulate by the time school let out, but we needed to find out what the expenses of moving would amount to. I would be more comfortable waiting a year first. We would be in a much better position financially, assuming I acquired another job. “Then again, a year from now,” I thought “…she could change her mind.” We looked at all the expenses of moving and living there and it did appear that we would have just about enough to make the move.

We immediately met with pastor and shared our plans. He was very supportive and told us, if we were planning to move, sooner is better. “The longer you live somewhere, the more you just amass things and it becomes more difficult and expensive to move,” He advised. We all agreed it would be wise to keep our plans on a need to know basis until about a month before the move.

When I shared my job loss with an older man and dear friend of ours in the church, he told me God was working. I thought, “you have no idea”. I wanted to share with him our conspiracy, but decided to wait and let him find out at the next deacons meeting when they would discuss the searching for Jenny’s replacement at the school. I did feel God was working, but it was not yet completely settled in my mind that we were doing the right thing. I met with pastor again and shared my reservations. He showed me the humor in my nagging Jenny about moving to Texas to the point that it had become merely a point of humor, and now that she wanted to go, I wasn’t so sure. We both laughed at the irony. He suggest that Jenny’s change of heart toward the idea of moving to Texas was quite the sign that God was in it.  It wasn’t quite settled in my heart yet, but at least I had the full spiritual support of the pastor.

My new job assignment was at Nylon Craft. The only thing I disliked about it was the rule that no head phones were allowed. The place was much larger. Robotic arms moved around; pulling plastic parts out of press molds and placing them on conveyor belts. I was impressed (no pun intended). Some of the parts needed to be modified before packing. Each day you were likely placed at a different station. Depending on which of the 20+ different molds, you may be either worked vigorously, or bored.  

The Announcement

The day came where we announced our plans to the church. It happened to land on Easter Sunday. Jenny and I prepared what we were going to say in a letter which we read aloud before the church. There were several humorous parts written in which were well received with laughter. We found out later that many thought we were going to announce an addition to our family.

“Why Texas?” or “What’s in Texas?” many asked. There are so many reasons that I could come up with, and I struggled to answer the question in a short, passing conversation. I usually stumbled through a few cherry picked facts, but I ultimately responded on facebook with a post, “I’ll tell you what’s NOT in Texas; WINTER!” That seemed to satisfy most from inquiring further.

The foreman at work heard I was moving much sooner than I had planned to tell him. I didn’t want to chance having my employment terminated prematurely. I needed every dollar. “I hear you’re moving to… was it Arizona… or something.”

I told him “Texas.”

He responded with the typical question; “What brings you down there?” I told him of the opportunities and boasted of Corpus Christi having the third best climate in the US. “Well I hate to see you go, but I wish you good luck” he said.

As the moving date came within two weeks he asked me, “you still moving to Texas?”

“…ya… we are” I responded with obvious unfocused hesitation.

“you don’t sound so sure” he commented.

“The closer we get to the moving date the more I think ‘What the  heck are we doing?!’” I explained humorously. He laughed.

Preparation

Not long after our decision we began research. We had to find answers to some questions. How much would it cost to move? How much would we need to get into an apartment? How much would I have to make to sustain an existence? The cost of moving would include gas, U-haul, and hotel costs. There was the estimated cost of deposit and first month rent. I would need to make about 12 dollars per hour to sustain the estimated cost of living. I concluded that we would need about a thousand dollars to make the trip down and another thousand to get into an apartment. Saving a total of four thousand would be the best achievable goal. Three thousand would still be a good, comfortable amount to move with. Two thousand would be the minimal possible amount in my estimation.

If we were to move everything, we would need a larger U Haul trailer. It was over $300 more than the five by eight. If we could sell some of our furniture and downsize to the five by eight foot trailer, we’d save a very significant amount of money. We spread the word that our furniture was up for sale. We didn’t think it was likely that all of it would sell, but knew any sale would help. There was a young person in need of furniture and was willing to pay $250 for all of it. Just like that, it was all sold. It was a fair price to them, and fair to us as well. We saw it as a $550 net gain; saving us the extra expense in the Uhaul size, not including the extra fuel that would be required.

desk

Overtime was offered at work. Sometimes it was mandatory, but I volunteered for every opportunity. In the months of April to May, I worked 40 days with one day off. Since I worked the 2nd shift and Jenny was teaching during the day, we hardly saw each other during the week.  I called Jenny every night after work and we talked about our day in my 25 minute drive home. As we got closer to the moving date, the lack of time spent together was mitigated as we became more clearly focused on accumulating the resources we needed to move and the excitement began to build.

Nearly every day for two weeks the foreman would ask me if I was still going to move or if I had changed my mind yet. There was no longer hesitation in my answer. I was sure.

Two weeks prior to the move, I talked to Elwood staffing to let them know our plans and begin the process of finding a job in Corpus Christi. They told me I had to wait until my last day before I could start the process. Naturally, I was eager to begin the search. Their website showed job postings of which the least paying job was $15 an hour with a healthy list of benefits.

I stopped in at the mechanic who rented U Hauls in our town. I paid for the trailer and had my plug checked to make sure it worked. It didn’t work fully at first, but with a little adjustment to the wires it did. The mechanic recommended that I re-tape some of the wires to make sure it continued to work for the whole trip.

Saying Goodbye

The last day, before going to work, I stopped by Elwood Staffing to talk again about transferring my files and they told me I would need to wait until the last payroll was processed on the following Tuesday before they would be able to transfer my files. My waiting continued.

The last day was very difficult for me. Several minutes before the shift ended, I filled out the usual paperwork, turned in my tools, and cleared my stuff out of the locker. I was so sad. In just under three months these people had become so familiar to me, and I would miss them. I was ahead of the hurried Friday exodus from the factory and a few people made an effort to wish me well. I hurried to my truck, started it up, and called Jenny. She answered, but I couldn’t speak. “are you there?” she asked.

“Yes” I whispered struggling to speak.

“Are you crying?” she asked with care in her voice.

“Ya” I replied.

“Awe, Scotty, It’s ok” she assured me. I thought to myself, “If it is this hard for me to say goodbye to people I only know at work, how am I going to say goodbye to people I really care about.” I began to realize this was going to be a difficult “farewell.” I also realized, though we moved several times growing up, I never had a difficult time saying goodbye like this before. Then again, moving to a neighboring state is not the same as moving from the northern to the southern end of a continent.

We thought about visiting all of our relatives one more time before we left, but all that driving would cut into our budget. Jenny had an idea. We would designate a day for all to visit us. We picked the Saturday before our move. We bought the food, decorated, and hoped for a decent turnout. It was a big success. From noon to nine there was a steady flow of visitors. The day did not go by without tears, but it was mostly a convivial and happy event.

Sunday evening service was our last. After the service, Pastor Coleman called for the church to gather around us and pray for our journey. I wept the whole time. That morning, I had shared a testimony with the church that our going away party was a success and thanked God for it. I ended my testimony with, “Only a fool would leave this place if he didn’t believe God was in it.” We were in a safe, comfortable place and it was not likely that things would be easier anywhere else, but it is said that there is no safer place to be than God’s will.

Monday was the day to pick up the Uhaul and start filling it and the back of the truck. I picked up the trailer with the truck and returned home. To my delight, I was able to back it up to the back door on the first try. I had plenty of practice in the years I ran my lawn business, but that was four years ago. We had some help loading them both up from some friends (Susan and Randy Eilders). We filled every space. Now the truck was ready for the morning. My parents and youngest sister; Sara came one last time to say goodbye. Before their last departure, my father spoke through some tears and constricted voice, “God didn’t give you children to us so that we could keep you around.” He continued, “Go serve God in Texas.” By then, I had few tears to spare, though I was just as sad. Jenny and I watched as they drove away. Sara and my mom looked back and waved until they were out of sight. The most difficult thing is not knowing when I’ll see them again.

About a week prior, I had gone to the U haul to test the trailer connection. It passed the test. When we picked it up, however, it did not work. Our neighbor, Bob, expressed his concern and helped me try to fix it. The night before, we had him over for a campfire one last time. He brought his guitar and we sang hymns. Normally every Monday evening, he would go to the prison service. As it happened, this was one of few exceptions as the service was canceled. The truck wouldn’t have been fixed if he hadn’t been there and we wouldn’t have been able to leave for another day. This was one of many divine provisions in our journey to come.

Part two: Moving to Texas

12

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