Life has been something of a roller coaster lately. The slow, ticking car moving up the track started about 6 years ago and finally tipped over the edge at at full speed in March. So let’s start 6 years ago.
6 years ago, I was working at a bank and running an event coordination company. Which was fine. I had more energy and time than I knew what to do with and my work was fulfilling. My husband also worked in a bank. He found his work less fulfilling. He loved his team and he loved analyzing data but he came home deflated each day and that prompted a conversation of “what do you ACTUALLY want to do?”. Do you want to go back to school and get your MBA to compliment your finance and management degrees? Do you want your CPA? Neither of those sparked the right interest so we considered another route: firefighting. He enjoyed being physically active, he loved helping people and he had friends that did it that gave him insight into the job that just made him love it more. It was a good option but he wanted to steep on the idea for a time.
And then we found out we were pregnant and suddenly life brought on deadlines. Big deadlines, important deadlines. Deadlines that involved a tiny person that had no choices and needed us to take charge. My husband applied to an EMT school and then began applying to become a volunteer firefighter.
The application process to becoming a career firefighter is rigorous: there’s the written tests, then the physical tests, followed by a psychologically evaluation and background checks, medical evaluations then the chief’s interview(s) and if you’re lucky a conditional offer of employment comes along. There are stories out there of people that test their first time, interview their first time and receive a job their first time. We call these people unicorns; mythical creatures we’ve all heard of but you can never seem to find enough evidence of their existence. My husband was not a unicorn. He’s constant and dependable, but quiet. He’s not someone you get to know in 5 minutes. He’s someone you get to know over time and then never let go of. Consequently that’s the exact opposite personality type that gets hired immediately in the fire service.
And then I had our first baby. Childcare costs were more than I made and I had to leave my work at the bank. To help keep up with costs, my husband continued to work full time at his bank in addition to starting a new job as a volunteer firefighter. He would find time, somewhere, to test and apply to career stations in between. He was working an average of 96 hours a week. After a year home managing my business and staying with my son, I went back to work full time. I worked Monday through Friday, handling events on the weekend. My husband worked Monday through Friday and did overnight shifts several times a week as well as working 36-48 hours shifts over the weekend. We did this for 4 years. We were exhausted.
In between all of this insanity were good moments too. We bought a small house so we could move out of our condo. We had another baby (hello Clementine!), we considered having one more. But meanwhile the schedule, the constant interviewing (that time had to be taken off from work to attend), the rejection was taking its toll. We fought a lot. We prayed a lot. I prayed over my husband constantly. I yelled at God constantly. I watched girlfriends get to be stay at home moms with no apparent financial struggles and they got to see their husbands on occasion. I watched as friends slowly gave up being supportive because it was just taking too long. I listened as a friend over dinner was telling my husband that getting a job is really just about good fit and maybe…this isn’t the right fit.
Why did we keep going? Because our prayers were getting answered – not obviously to others and not in the way we would have preferred, but they were getting answered. We were preserved financially despite money being tight. Our home was somehow sold to us well under market value and our mortgage was hundreds of dollars cheaper than rent. My husband was improving in testing and each time I prayed for guidance on if we should keep walking this path …each. time. my husband would receive an invitation to interview within a few days. It was weird. But it gave me the confidence to keep walking this path with my husband and to try and patiently accept where we were at.
In mid-2015, we decided to tighten the bootstraps a little more and my husband quit the bank leaving me as our main source of income. It gave him the ability to focus more on firefighting and attend interviews while also handling childcare for our kids during the day. But he was doing better at interviewing and one interview in particular had him coming home excited. “It was my best interview! And the department is awesome!”.
At the end of 2015 we found out we were expecting our third baby. My husband promised I could quit my jobs if I wished and stay home with my kids once our last baby arrived. His promise wasn’t without merit. 2016 became the year of the shortlists. He was suddenly in the top 30 of final candidates. Other departments it was the top 15. Still another he was #2…but then they only hired 1. Or they would let him know in a year or two if he would advance further. And then our third baby arrived. I snuggled that baby like crazy on my maternity leave hoping and praying I would get to stay with her. And then my leave was over and I found myself walking back to my desk in my office again and wanting to scream at my husband “YOU PROMISED”.
I stumbled upon an artist on Instagram who posted artwork of scripture. Her work is beautiful and often had me lingering on the words in reflection. It was around this time I came across her painting of Galatians 6:9. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
And I cried. I cried because we were now going on year 5 of this schedule. I cried because I had no choices in my career and I was the financial lynchpin keeping us together. I cried because I hadn’t had a full night’s sleep in almost a year. I cried because I missed my husband and seeing him work this hard to not make his goal was heartbreaking. I cried because this life felt like it was breaking us. But I read those words over and over and continued to pray for my husband, get up each morning and go to work.
Our oldest, now 5 years old, attended a homeschool co-op near my work once a week. All of the families ate lunch together and because my office was only a mile away, I could meet them, socialize with the other families, and nurse the baby (because pumping is the worst). One week in early March, my husband got a call during co-op and left me to watch our kids towards the end of lunch. He came back with a wide grin. A department he interviewed for 6 months ago had decided to hire 3 more people. He was number 4 on the list but they wanted to see if he was still interested in the job should one of those people not work out. It ended up being the same department he had come home the most excited about.
A week later he was told one of the candidates was no longer in the running and that they would be proceeding with a background check.
A week later on Monday, he was asked to come in for a uniform fitting and medical evaluation. The next day he had an interview with the department Chief. The Chief invited us to a department orientation two days later on Thursday. We attended and were welcomed by the other recruits already in their training but we still didn’t know what to think. My husband had not received an official job offer yet and we still felt like everything was too good to be true. The next day, at 4:40 in the afternoon on Friday, he received an official offer of employment with a start date the following Monday. This is right about when the roller coaster car tipped over the edge.