Like many others, ours stretches on and on, and changes and morphs and grows. We grow. I think of where we were 10 years ago, 5 years ago, even a year ago… and I am in awe of how far God has taken us. Wes and I continue to marvel at the fact that we are in our thirties, living in Colorado and that we have this beautiful brood of five little ones. We met in high school and started dating nearly right away. It has now been just about 15 years, 11 of those happily married come this September. But life hasn’t always been easy. We know what it is to sacrifice, to struggle and stress. We also know how to love something fierce. We know hope. We know God’s amazing grace and his faithful timing.
I had one of those mothers growing up that had to be the mother and the father. I don’t resent that though. I am actually incredibly proud of her. She thrived. She brought home the bacon….and cooked it. She wore many hats. She still wears many hats. Even so we struggled. So is life though. We never wanted for anything. I actually wish I would have known more of her struggle because I may have appreciated her that much more. I know she raised me and raised me well. I am a compassionate person. Full of love for others and a spirit of forgiveness. I get that from her.
My mother was the one responsible for my meeting my husband. We lived in the same small town in Connecticut, but we didn’t know one another. My husband was a cashier at a grocery store and I happened through his line quite a few times. Being a teenage girl the minute we left the store I would gush to the closest person to me about the “cute” boy in the check out line. My Mom got sick of my gushing. Walking out of the grocery store after happening through his line yet again she turned around and proclaimed my love for him across the grocery store. That was all she wrote. A week later I was his girlfriend.
We got engaged six months later on my 17th birthday. As a love struck teenager I knew what I wanted. Now being a mother of girls I can imagine how horrified my mother probably was. Our puppy love was something much, much more though and a year later we had our first place, a child on the way and we were well on our way to getting married. That didn’t happen without struggle or sacrifice but it was worth it and I would do it all over again and not change a single thing.
I gave birth to a healthy, beautiful baby girl at 18 years old. We celebrated my 19th birthday a week later and I was reborn all over again. Wes worked second shift in an aerospace factory and I left my retail position to stay home with our new daughter. We lived in low income housing. We had a hand me down 1988 Volkswagen Jetta that barely ran and didn’t open from the inside that we managed to trade up for an older 1993 Honda Accord. We were deliriously happy. We knew we wanted so much more out of life though. We knew we would do anything to give our daughter the world. Motherhood suited me. We saved up and moved out of the projects and into a cute little townhouse on a cul de sac.
I was sure we were going to have about 10 kids. No… really.
Wes continued to work hard. He would take on 50 or 60 hours a week sometimes. I became pregnant with our son Wesley just shy of my 21st birthday. Around that time our daughter Lillian was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. Our world was flipped inside out. Our new normal was a slew of doctors appointments, out patient procedures and worry. Worry, Worry and more Worry. My heart broke into a ton of tiny pieces. We decided it was enough. We couldn’t handle anymore. We were done having children. We discussed and agreed on this but my heart was broken on every level. It didn’t feel right. We were so blessed to have our two children but as a small child I often dreamed of a big family myself. Still I just knew that we couldn’t fit another baby into the picture, into our plan.
Shortly after that we discovered we were pregnant with our son Noah. God had other plans apparently.
We moved into our third apartment in four years. Each apartment seemed to be a small improvement over the last. We refused to settle. Wes continued to break his back working an insane amount of hours. We were doing it though. We were making it on our own. We chose an apartment about 35 minutes away from Wes’s job because it was fairly large and somewhat affordable. We had one vehicle that Wes had at work everyday for hours and hours. We lived on the third floor and since Wes couldn’t be home much it was completely my responsibility to get Lily to and from the bus stop, up and down the three flights of stairs rain or shine (or snow) with a toddler boy and an infant and a sweet four year old girl with swollen joints. It was just me home with three little ones five and under. I loved most of it though. Those little people kept me going. They are my world. We didn’t get out too much. I spent most afternoons at the small apartment complex playground swallowed by parking lot after parking lot. We read stories, we baked, we sang songs and took on art projects. We counted the minutes till daddy was home because he was way more fun than mama most days. We didn’t have a lot, but Wes had a job, we had each other. I was grateful. We lived off of hand me downs and whatever groceries we could afford. We were thankful to have a roof over our heads and feed our children. I remember going to the dollar store and feeling like I hit some kind of jackpot because I could buy enough to put under the Christmas tree that year with the $40.00 budget we had. I even once made Lillian a Halloween costume completely from items in the dollar store. Wes steadily started getting raises. Things were finally looking up. We knew we were going to be okay. We got pregnant with Sophia. Then the economy nose dived.
Wes’s job let everyone know they were cutting all overtime hours. We had been thriving on those paychecks for years. Even with that we were often living paycheck to paycheck. I was terrified. Here we were pregnant with our fourth child and we now had to get by with close to half of our normal income. Then we got a letter from the landlord two days before Thanksgiving. We had been late on our rent three times that year. They weren’t renewing our lease. We had to find a new place in a couple of months. Lily’s arthritis was flaring again. I was pregnant. My parents were going through a messy divorce. We had no money. Our electric was on the brink of being shut off and I was desperate. We did manage to line up a place to move to but it was over 200.00 more in rent a month than we were paying. I didn’t know how this was going to work. A week before my due date I went into labor.
We brought a beautiful baby girl into this world. Wes met up with the new landlords to try to secure the apartment while I was still in the hospital with her.
We moved a week after giving birth to Sophia. Wes couldn’t afford any kind of unpaid leave so I packed up our entire home while he worked, just days after giving birth. I also helped lug boxes down the three flights of stairs and move them in and out of our apartment into our new home. Despite our bleak outlook I was looking forward to a fresh start. We explained our situation to the new landlords and scraped together the entire amount we needed to move in, including first months rent. We knew we were living on fumes. I cried myself to sleep for a month.
We hit rock bottom. Wes’s job furloughed Wes. It was welfare or figure something out. Wes took a second job landscaping for my aunt’s husband’s company. It still wasn’t enough. I broke down. I prayed. I got on my knees. I cried and begged and pleaded. We had $100.00 to our name. I knew I had to do something.
I invested that $100.00 into my business. I did this and prayed. I gave it to God right then.
I bought a modest website and commissioned some wonderful friends to help me get up and running. I had a modest following on Facebook and online for my photography and was happy being a hobbyist but I knew we had to do something. I started to create my Photoshop actions. I figured if I could just make enough money to supplement groceries of fill up our car I would be doing something.
God answered. He showed up.
I opened my shop and people started to purchase my Photoshop actions. First it was five people, then ten… then thirty and then one hundred. My PayPal balance continued to climb. At the end of the week we had made a fairly decent amount of money and our money woes were subsided. We were able to pay off many bills and put some money away to live on. I threw myself into my business. It just grew and it grew. I knew then God was working in me. He was working a miracle. A miracle we needed.
That was almost five years ago.
My business is still thriving. I work incredibly hard and am always growing but God gets all the glory. He called and I listened but more importantly I called and HE listened.
When we felt that we were supposed to be in Colorado… we picked up everything and went. I still believe there is a purpose we are here of all places. Many don’t realize that we moved here sight unseen, solely on faith and hope and God’s mercy. We put it all in his hands. We saved and saved. We packed up our car, kissed our loved ones good bye and journeyed to Colorado for a brand new beginning. We knew this was a way to spend more time with our children. I had been paying a good bulk of the bills for a couple of years. I knew it was time to trust the Lord and test my wings. It was time to jump out of the nest and fly.
So I flew.
So she flew.
Here we are now. My husband is a stay at home dad. I am an established professional photographer. We aren’t rolling in the money, but we live a happy modest and comfortable lifestyle. Wes will be returning to work for the first time in over two years but we are so grateful for all God has given us. He gets ALL the credit. I still stress. Many times I have to give it all to God. I have learned there is so much more than money. I have also made it my life’s work to pay it forward at every turn I can in any way I can. I know what it is like to have close to nothing. I know the struggle and the sacrifice. I use that to make me stronger. To work harder. To stay driven. When people ask me how I do it all the answer is… I don’t. But everything that I commit to I give a million percent.
We went from being on the brink of welfare… to being financially independent and mostly debt free when we moved to Colorado. God is Amazing.
I have also learned my children are my inheritance. They are my investment. They are our treasure. We don’t need a lot in life. We are perfectly happy with all we have. When I learned to hand it over. When I learned to stop trying to do it all by myself. When I learned that things are well.. things but people matter, our life changed in a BIG way.
And here we are, so grateful. So fortunate. So happy. We just had our fifth child, a beautiful son.
We hope for just one more child someday if that is God’s will for our family.
And our story marches on.
When God Calls, ANSWER.