“Be still and know that I am God” — Psalm 46:10
It’s sometimes difficult to see the Hand of God in my life. Not because it’s not there, but because my eyes aren’t open. I have been blessed throughout my life to be continually guided by a loving Heavenly Father. I thought it appropriate to share the story of our move from Colorado to Illinois. When the process began, I didn’t expect to have it be a testimony-strengthing event. That is exactly what happened. Here is the story of our move along with my observations regarding faith, prayer, obedience, and active participation.
In September 2009 I decided it was time to focus on the needs of my family rather than the desires of my Air Force career. Accordingly, I told my chain of command, I wanted to remain in Colorado Springs as long as possible. They obliged with 6 years. Somewhere around the summer of 2012, I received notice to deploy. I would be leaving in the spring of 2013 for 6 months. While I didn’t want to leave my family, a deployment meant that I would be able to remain in Colorado Springs until I retired from the Air Force in 2015.
Then one day, I was told that my General was canceling my deployment and was going to force me to PCS. I guess he was tired of people staying in Colorado Springs longer than 4 years. In doing so, he was breaking several Air Force rules, not to mention being almost vindictive. Regardless of my pleas, the deployment was canceled and I was offered the chance to request my new assignment.
Having spent the past 2 years working with a particular unit in San Antonio, Texas, and the fact that the main Air Force hospital is in San Antonio, I put Texas down as my first choice. The next choices were: Scott AFB, IL, Hill AFB, Utah, Wright Patterson AFB, OH, plus two others I no longer remember. I fully expected to go to Texas. That was not to be…I got orders to Scott AFB. The worst part was the report date: 17 Dec 2012.
We convened a family council and put forth a couple of options:
everyone move before Christmas
everyone move right after Christmas
Dad move alone after Christmas (and the family join when school was over)
write a formal complaint with Congress regarding the move
The votes were split. My oldest son wanted to write Congress, my oldest daughter and Mom wanted me to move alone, I wanted everyone to move. So, I talked with my new boss and asked him if he would extend my report date until after Christmas. Actually, in talking with him after the fact, I guess I kind of told him what to do. In his words, I told him I was either going to report in January for good, or I was going to report on 17 December then sign out on leave until January. He told me that he thought was gutsy…telling my new boss what was going to happen (I guess I never really asked).
The new boss agreed to a later report date and everything was set. I was going it alone and the family would join me in the summer. I started formulating great plans in my mind about all of the things I was going to accomplish while I was alone. Funny how we have great intentions that so rarely play out the way we see them in our mind.
Just after the New Year, I started out for Illinois with my truck and U-Haul full stuff and Daisy (the dog). We had a good trip out…discovered some neat places:
Arthur’s Pizza and Mexican Food in Ellis, Kansas
Giant rock balls left over from the glaciers
Richmond, Missouri (where Joseph Smith rebuked the guards)
…and the Independence LDS Visitors Center (again)
I was feely pretty crummy about moving. I didn’t understand why this General felt like he so ruled over the masses that he could just up end my family for no good reason. I was pretty bitter. Then I stopped at the Independence Visitors Center. I like it there and try to stop every chance I get.
The Sister Missionaries took me on a tour and I was humbled. When we got to the replica cabin, they played the audio and I realized that the pioneers were happy. In all of their suffering and trials, they were happy! Here were a people who had given up most of their worldly possessions, left the land of their birth, and were traveling to a mountain desert they had never seen…all on the words of a prophet and the prompting of the Spirit.
And they were happy!
Who was I to be so bitter and miserable? Who was I to complain about some minuscule general in the Air Force? I knew that Heavenly Father had moved us to each assignment for a specific purpose. I knew that my career had always been guided by his hand, not the hand of the Air Force. The Air Force was simply the means to an end for my Father. I had forgotten that. In Independence I resolved to be happy. I resolved to stop complaining about the Air Force and instead, try to discover what the Lord had in store for me and my family in Illinois. I left the visitor center with a new outlook.
I arrived in Illinois around dinner time on a Thursday. After I checked into billeting, I decided I was going to drive to the church just to see where it was and see who I could meet. I got there around 6:45 or so and met someone who told me it was high council meeting night and that if I stuck around, there was a realtor on the high council. I met him and we chatted, but it didn’t feel right. Just as the meeting was starting (and I was leaving) I met a brother. He seemed interested in me and my situation.
The next day I went to work and checked in at work. Sometime around lunch, the section commander tracked me down and passed a message to call Major Smith. It was odd and I didn’t put two together that this was the same person I met the night before. I ended up not being able to chat with him until Saturday.
Daisy and I were out driving looking at neighborhoods when I finally got ahold of Br Smith. He told me that he and his wife felt they needed to offer me a place to stay until the family arrived. They had a room in their basement with a small kitchen. They also had 4 kids, a dog and a cat. We agreed that I would come to dinner on Sunday with the dog and see how things went.
The next day after church, Daisy and I went over to the Smith’s for dinner. The dog and I had a discussion in the car. All I really told Daisy was that under no circumstance was she to pee in their house. We got there and everyone said hi. Daisy walked around a bit, then she went into their front room…and peed. Great, I thought. To Sister Smith’s credit, all she said was “John, go get the carpet cleaner.” Then she handed it to me and said, here you go.
Dinner went well and we agreed that I would move in. What a blessing to have a place to stay so quickly. Over the next six months, I joined them in family scriptures and dinner nearly every night. They really accepted me as part of their family.
The real work though, was just beginning…finding a house. My realtor, Nikki, and I went out and looked at homes. I found one pretty quick that I liked. 5 bedrooms, walk out basement, good size yard. It was a foreclosure and it needed work: a new kitchen, new flooring, painting, etc. The price was right, ~$150k and it had been on the market nearly a year with no movement. I made an offer. I was really surprised when my realtor called me and told me that someone else had made an offer the same day and the seller went went with their offer.
I shrugged and moved on. Later, I found another house we liked: 5 bedrooms, walk out basement, 1 acre, a little more country, foreclosure on the market for a year with no movement, ~250k. I made an offer. I was a little more surprised this time when Nikki called me and told me someone else had made an offer the same day and the seller took their offer.
We kept looking. I found another house we liked: 5 bedrooms, foreclosure, no work needed, ~$200k. I made an offer. I was really surprised when Nikki told me someone made an offer to lease it the same day and the seller took the lease offer.
And we kept looking. Found another house…same thing only this time, it was rented before I made an offer.
At this point, months had gone by, nearly 5 months and I had nothing to show for it except lots and lots of visits with my realtor. She was surprised because it was a buyers market right now. The market was flooded with homes, especially in the price range I was looking.
Around this time I decided I needed more guidance. I emailed the stake president, explained the situation to him, and asked him where he needed my family to live. I got no response from him (his clerk said his house was for sale). I took this as the answer “it doesn’t matter to me where you live.”
Then I found the perfect dream home. Built in 1865, 3 acres, beautiful. It didn’t really have enough bedrooms—one of the kids would have to live in an exterior office, but we loved it. It had just come on the market. ~$200. Nikki told me there were other bidders so I needed to make my bid appealing. Evonne and I agreed we wanted to offer $17,000 over asking price (we were willing to pay out of pocket the difference between the appraised value and the purchase price). I told Nikki we wanted that house…period. Well, you can guess what happened, the seller took another offer.
Now I was sitting about 1 month from when the family was going to show up. We had sold our house in Colorado…it was on the market for 24 hours, 9 showings, 3 offers, all over asking price. I went home for Easter and came back with a new prayer in my heart.
I essentially told the Lord that I had done everything I could to find a house. I was diligent in my search. I made offers. I prayed and fasted. I asked the Stake President. I told the Lord “you obviously have a plan for me. You moved me here, you got my house in Colorado sold in a day. Please show me the house I need to purchase for my family.”
Nikki and I went out one last time to look at houses—today was the day I had to have a house or my family would have no where to go when they arrived. We looked at the first house. It was a lot more than I wanted to pay, but I told Nikki I would make an offer. She said, let me show you one more house, just down the road. It wasn’t on the market, but the owner had indicated an interest in selling. We looked and I loved it. Plenty of bedrooms, no updates needed. Fenced yard, flat driveway, pond, an acre, quiet neighborhood. It was perfect. Nikki told me they what they wanted. I told her that was too much. She said make an offer-because it wasn’t listed, I couldn’t offend them with a low offer. So I offered $50,000 less than what I knew they wanted. We dickered back and forth and the seller finally said “a house in the neighborhood just sold for $xx, surely our house is as nice as that one.” I agreed and offered that amount. They took it. Then I told the mortgage broker I had to close in 3 weeks. He told me it was going to be next to impossible, but he’d try. Turns out we closed a day earlier than we planned.
I went out to Colorado just before Memorial Day to pack out the house and get the family here. The packers packed on Monday and Tuesday, loaded the truck on Thursday. We closed on our Colorado house Thursday and drove out of town to Utah on Friday. Spent the weekend in Utah, then the youngest son, the (3) dogs, (2) birds and I drove to Illinois. Got here on Wednesday, closed on Thursday, and they delivered our house hold goods on Friday. They finished unloading the truck at 1230 and my wife and the other kids showed up at 1300 hrs. It was perfect.
The house is wonderful. The neighborhood is great. We love it here. I don’t fully understand why the Lord was so specific in where we live. He has always guided our moves, but never to my knowledge has he been so direct in the specific house in which we live. I’m grateful for this house and I’m grateful to a Father in Heaven who guides my life.
Fast forward 2 months to July 2013…the Air Force announced an early retirement option for selected personnel. I was one given the choice. Had I been deployed, that choice would not have been available. It was only because I had moved that I was permitted to submit my package to retire early.
And so it was that on 1 Nov 2013, I officially retired from the Air Force. By the 11th of that same month, I had a job as a defense contractor in St Louis.
This experience showed me that Heavenly Father has a plan for me. He knows me and my family. He knows our needs and desires. He will do amazing things (by the world’s standard) to get us where he needs us to be.
We must show faith. We must trust in him. We must pray and fast and be doing. It isn’t enough to ask him for things, we must ask, then do everything we can to make things happen. He’ll let us know if we’re going down the wrong path if we are listening to the spirit.