Pictured above: A panarama I took of the Denali skyline two weeks before my first date with Janice. Denali National Park, Alaska.
Janice and have been married five years. We’ve been in an official Facebook relationship status for six.
Six years ago I was in Alaska finishing out the interior of my brother Matt’s cabin. I use the term “cabin” loosely. It was a large shed with a sink and a bathroom. Ira, a professional handyman from Pennsylvania who was hired on the promise of free airfare and a healthy dose of adventure, was there helping as well. The majestic mountains and marauding grizzly bears did little to distract me from the text conversation I was having with a woman in Michigan. Her name was Janice and I had just asked her out via Facebook before I left for Alaska. I can’t tell you why, really. I just felt like God was telling me to do it, even though my bank account and my maturity level weren’t really up to it. To the surprise of us both, she said yes to my request for a coffee date. No big deal but immediately upon flying back to Pennsylvania I was going to drive 488 miles to Michigan to go on a casual coffee date.
I knew that I was in over my head. I was in a bad financial state. I was impulsive, bitten with the travel bug, and was never planning on being married. I was going to be a single missionary. Missionary’s don’t need much money, after all. Now suddenly I was faced with the prospect of taking care of someone else’s needs. I was in no shape to be starting a serious relationship that had a high chance of producing a wedding, children, and a mortgage. But still I had a very strong sense that this is what I was supposed to do. So I frantically began to try and get my life together. I didn’t know it then but I had started the process knowing as “maturing.” It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me, although some would argue that the process isn’t done quite yet.
Looking back I can see God’s hand at work but at the time I was very unsure about the situation. Being financially destitute and living under a bridge is one thing when you’re by yourself, but dragging another person into that mess is quite another thing. I was very nervous about my ability to captain the ship that God was trying to give me. It wound me up so much that on one rainy day during my trip to Alaska I took the four wheeler out into the Alaskan bush, found an overlook (overlooks are the best place for any spiritual conversations), shut the machine off, and started telling God how unqualified I was. Soon I was filled with a quiet reassurance that I was where God wanted me to be and this is what God wanted me to do, which boggled my mind. God was making a mistake betting so much on my abilities. I sat back on the wheeler and sighed. “OK God, but you better know what you’re doing. You BETTER know what you’re doing because I’m not convinced this is going to work.” Thirty seconds later, a spot in the clouds opened up and the biggest, most complete rainbow I’ve ever seen spread itself out over half of the Alaskan sky. I was staggered. It was as if God was saying to me, “I keep my promises.”
“OK, fine.” I muttered. “Here goes nothing.”
We got hitched on September 19, 2015, almost exactly a year later. Five years after that and it’s not just Janice and I anymore, we have two adorable children. I’m halfway through our MMS Aviation apprenticeship and we’re looking to serve on the foreign field. I’m researching life on the island of Papua New Guinea because there’s some incredible needs and opportunities there. I feel those same doubts I had six years ago start to creep in. Violence and sexual assault against women is prevalent. There are spiders as big as a man’s face. AS BIG AS A MAN’S FACE! There’s poisonous snakes and malaria. There’s a jungle full of entrenched demonic forces and yet I have the nerve to say I can go there and make a difference?
It’s one thing to give up my own life as a missionary but what about my family? How do we raise children in that setting and expect them to have a future in the States? I feel unqualified as an airplane mechanic. There’s so much I don’t know yet. All these things caused me to sit out by the fire the other night complain to God about my lack of qualifications. This is too big for me to accomplish! He keeps reminding me of that time in Alaska where I said the same thing. A realization washes over me that we’re never qualified to do what God calls us to do. That’s the point, right? Faith. Surrender. Trust. Obedience in spite of apparent obstacles. “OK God, we’ll go. But you’d better know what you’re doing!”
Six years ago I said the same thing and in retrospect He certainly did know what He was doing. He always dreams bigger than I’m able to hope.
I’m reminded of that preacher I heard at a wedding a decade ago. “Sometimes God’s plan for your life is too big for you to accomplish alone. That’s why he gives you a helper.” Why exactly God led me to Janice is becoming more and more clear as life goes on. Nothing changes you like the love of a good woman. Janice is the best woman around and she loves me like crazy – or else she wouldn’t have stuck around this long. She’s the best partner I could ever have which shouldn’t surprise me because she’s been handpicked by the Creator of the Universe to be part of the team.
When I take time to think back through the events that led us up to this point, I get very excited. The next five years will hold tragedy, triumph, homesickness, new friends, and who knows what. But through it all God keeps his promises. I never thought in a million years I’d be here doing this and I’m sure in five more years I’ll be saying the same thing. Thank you Janice for living out your promise to me five years ago, “Until death do us part.”