A new adventure in faith has turned my life upside down. It all started back in November of 2011. I had been working out early in the mornings (surprised? me too!) Anyway, after working out, I got into this great routine: I’d find this nice, quiet place in the gym and spend some time reading my bible and praying. I was really feeling connected to God. One morning, I had remembered a prayer that my friend Terry likes to use: “God, please tell me what is the Next Right Thing to do”. Now this, my friends… is a dangerous prayer. But that morning, that was my prayer. I said, “God you just tell me what is the Next Right Thing to do for you, and I will do it.”
Now folks, Lily Tomlin has this great line:
“Why is it that when we talk to God, they say call that ‘praying’,
but when God talks to us, they call us schizophrenic?”
Well, at the risk of sounding schizophrenic, I think God talked to me. I think He said, “Washington!” Huh? What did that mean?
“It means ‘go to Washington'”, He said.
Somehow, I knew that He meant Washington State. But this didn’t make sense. I’ve never even been to Washington. I had two brothers that moved to northern Washington in the last 3 years. One ran his Las Vegas home inspection business from there. The other is a ship’s captain and doesn’t actually spend a lot of time there. Other than that, I had no connection to Washington. I didn’t say anything to anybody ( I didn’t want to sound crazy!). For the next few days, I kept praying for more details. “Why? What is it you want me to do?” But each time I prayed, the message was clear and the same: “Go to Washington”.
Finally, after about a week, I decided I’d better talk about it with my wife, Sherry. I said, “This is going to sound crazy, but I’ve been praying a lot lately…and I’ve been getting a really weird message… I think God wants us to go to Washington”
Sherry’s eyes got as big as saucers and she asked, “Washington state, right?”.
“Yes!”, I said, “How did you know I didn’t mean Washington D.C.?”
“Well”, Sherry replied, “I didn’t say anything because it sounds crazy. But for about a week now, I think God has been telling me ‘Go to Seattle’!”
(Did you just get goosebumps, too?)
Now, we decided that this message was coming to us from one of two people: God or Satan. So we’d better figure out just which one it is. And we still wanted more clarification.
After two weeks or so of praying together and praying separately, we decided that it really was God, and we were more convinced than ever that, not only were we supposed to go to Seattle, but He wants us to move there. Sherry added, “And I think this is going to all happen fairly quickly”. Another interesting thing is that my brothers live about 2.5 hours north of Seattle; and we were both pretty sure that they were not the primary reason God wanted us to go to Washington.
I also spent some time researching my bible for the way that God typically calls people — and how did they respond when called. Well, it turns out that it is the way that God calls people. When Jesus said to Peter, “Follow me”, I never could understand how Peter could say “Yea, ok. I’ll just give up my fishing business, leave my wife and kids and walk around with this guy that I’ve never met before”. But that’s exactly what he did! (Matthew 4:19-20)
When God said, “Go” Abram just went! (Genesis 12:1-4) But I’ll tell you this, if you ever get into that situation, you’ll understand. (I’ve talked to a couple of pastors who understand completely). But the two that intrigued me most were Jonah and Gideon. Jonah learned the hard way that God can be extremely persuasive. Gideon had an interesting approach to making sure that it really was God asking this.
So I said, in Gideon-like fashion: OK God. We will go do whatever it is that you want us to do in Washington, but we are trusting that you will a) get me a good job, b) help us sell our house, and c) find a good church family.
Then, taking a lesson from Jonah — not wanting to spend too much time in a big fish — I started immediately looking on-line for jobs in Washington.
The Washington Job Hunt
Naturally, I started looking for jobs in the Seattle area. I had worked for 26 years on computers that were originally called AS/400s. It became apparent pretty quickly that, aside from some short-term contracting positions, the two companies doing most of the hiring in the AS/400 arena were Costco Wholesale and REI. I saw positions for both and applied for both. I knew that if God wanted me to get to Washington, He had the ability and desire to get me a good job in Washington. I didn’t hear from Costco. The first “bite” that I got was from REI, a company that Fortune magazine says is one of the “Top 10 companies to work for in the US.” (That sounds like a job gifted from God)
After a couple of interviews with a really great recruiter from REI (Cindy), I thought, “This must be the great job that God had intended for me”. The only downside is that they wanted me to start a month before my daughter was due to go back to live with her mom (6 months with Dad/6 months with Mom). I made it through three interviews and by then was told there were only 2 other candidates and I was one. The next call should be REI calling to say they’d fly me out for a face-to-face interview.
Here comes my lesson in humility: I did get the call from REI. But not the one I expected. I think Cindy was sincerely disappointed to give me the news that they had decided to go with somebody local. He had been out work a while, and some of the REI programmers had worked with him before. I was so sure that this had been the great job God had planned for me, but it wasn’t.
I was disappointed. It makes sense that they went with somebody they knew. I know that, in the past, I have been able to get good jobs in Michigan because I knew somebody who worked there. But I didn’t know anybody in Washington that could help get me a job there. I finally threw my hands up and said, “God, I don’t know anybody in Washington. You are going to have to make this happen.” I knew that if His plan was to get me to Washington, He’d make it happen – somehow. ( I call this “delegating up”).
About a week later, I saw an online posting from Costco for a Turnover Administrator. “Turnover” is software that runs on an AS/400 that basically makes sure that two programmers are not working on the the same program at the same time. Now, seven years ago, we had started using Turnover at DENSO (where I was working in Michigan). I really like the software and and I had become DENSO’s primary Turnover Administrator. When we first got Turnover, the people that make Turnover said that it is pretty complex software and recommended that we hire a Turnover consultant named Greg King from Oregon to come in to teach us Turnover. He was only there for about 2 days (and that was seven years ago). Fast-forward to 2012, Greg is now a Turnover Administrator for Costco Wholesale. He is moving to a different position within Costco and they were looking for somebody to take his place. They showed him the resumes of the applicants and he looked at mine and said, “Hmm…that name seems familiar…” and “we should talk to him”. Greg went back home and looked in his old consulting records and confirmed that I was, indeed, the guy he remembered from Battle Creek, Michigan seven years ago. In the meantime, Costco sent me an email to let me know that I had a telephone interview with people from Costco and one of the names was Greg King. I saw his name and said, “Hmm…that name seems familiar…” so I called the people that make Turnover and confirmed that Greg was the guy that they had sent out to teach me everything about using Turnover. So God had provided somebody in Washington who knew me!! The telephone interview went great. Greg and I both acknowledged that we remembered each other. I must have done well, in the phone interview because they said they wanted me to fly out there to meet them.
Costco set up an all expenses paid trip for both me and my wife, Sherry to come to Washington for a weekend and have a face-to-face interview. Costco covered the airfare, the hotel, the rental car, the gas for the rental car, and all of our meals. The weekend was fantastic. We arrived late Thursday; we met with a Realtor on Friday we had dinner in the Space Needle; Saturday, we put about 500 miles on that rental car checking out neighborhoods. We went to Mars Hill on Sunday. Monday, I had the interview. It went well, and a few days later they called and offered me the job. They wanted me to start in just two weeks!
After we picked our jaws up off the ground, we put our Michigan house on the market. Sherry was right: it is going quickly.
Arriving in Washington
I gave notice at DENSO. They threw me a little pot-luck and invited Sherry. Two days later I packed up the car with the essentials (guitar, harmonicas, some clothes, and an air mattress) and we headed out for the 2,350 mile car ride. The first day, I did the driving. Sherry was very sick. It turns out that 13 others from DENSO were also sick (and I mean sick!) with some type of food poisoning – from something at the pot-luck. We only had three days to get there, and by the grace of God (and my lead foot), we made it to Washington in 2.5 days. I’m pretty sure that God’s grace was in play when we didn’t get a ticket in Nebraska where I pretty much set the cruise-control to 90 mph and flew threw the state!
We had seen a lot of neighborhoods when we were out for the interview. But we still had no idea where we were going to live. We decided that we should rent for a year until we got to know the area a little better. For the first few days we stayed in a Holiday Inn. We had found this little town called North Bend that was 20 minutes from work and a real easy commute (which is a big deal in Seattle!) North Bend is nestled in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. We had hoped that we could live closer to my work (in Issaquah, Washington), but by going to North Bend, you save a LOT on rent. So I started my first day of work and Sherry looked at the rental houses. I didn’t realize it, but Sherry had so much faith that God would lead us to a home quickly, that she called the moving company before we even left! She told them to come to pick up our stuff in 5 days and take it to Washington. She said she’d tell them the exact address when they got close! We found a nice place in North Bend the first day we were there and signed a lease by the 2nd day. Then Sherry flew back to meet the moving van. Amazing, huh?
New Job, New State, New Family? Why Not?
Around this time, Sherry’s mom (Cathy) was getting ready to sell her house and move into a retirement community in Portage. Cathy had been living with Sherry’s daughter, René, for several years. But our move meant that René (who has Down Syndrome) would be coming to Washington with us. Sherry is an only child. With our moving, that meant that pretty much all of Cathy’s family would be gone. So, we must have been crazy, but we asked my mother-in-law to come to live with us in Washington. We knew that God would make it all work out (somehow). At first she declined, not wanting to impose (what a good mother-in-law!) Then I went over and said to her, “Cathy, we want you to come. There is so much adventure there and we want you to be a part of it.” The next day, she told Sherry she’d come — but only if Sherry and I agree to have a date night every week. (I always thought she was a better negotiator than that!). Seriously, she is a great mother-in-law. She’s not like many who start so many sentences with “I think you oughta…” She likes to be part of our life, but stays out of our relationship. At any rate, the addition of my mother-in-law is an unexpected, added twist to our Washington adventure.
… more to come… stay tuned!