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In the Wilderness

Updated: Jun 12

Ralph writing

Courtney writing (only at end)

In the wilderness. I have no better words to describe how I have been feeling for the last few months. I believe we’re on the path that God wants us to be, but we’re not sure of where it’s going. Everything seems to be unclear. It makes me feel uncomfortable.

My life doesn’t look anything like what I thought it would look like. At least not up until this point. I left my pension, health insurance, good income for something completely unknown and all over the place. The Lord is teaching me a whole heck of a lot.

“A grateful heart is a happy heart. An entitled heart is never happy,” is what my friend Ben said to me recently while visiting with he and his family in Tennessee. I’m being groomed into being more grateful.

I entertain the idea of getting a job frequently. I can go out and get one in ten different places, but it’s not where I believe I’m being led. There are different confirmations for this, but here’s one:

During my oldest son’s birthday party, one of our friend’s sons came up to me and asked, “are you always home?” When I told him yes, he responded with, “I wish my dad made enough money to be home all the time, too.”

I’m guessing more kids like this boy would appreciate their parents being home, too.

I’m not really making “enough money to be home all the time,” but it’s working so far. I’m grateful for the time I have at home. 

I have inner turmoil. When things don’t go my way, I get annoyed. God is teaching me about contentment. How to let go of the control that I want most of the time.

The one thing I really can’t control is the stock market. I will probably fail at the stock market if I don’t learn to let go of controlling everything. I can only be ok with the probability of things working out. Stock trading will not work out for me if I don’t let go of control.

At the end of January, I took Liam for an overnight trip to go through the Passport2Purity program. I had purchased a survival knife for him as a gift to remember the time we had spent together. This was a tangible gift that twenty years down the road or when I am dead and gone, he can remember that time by.

(We slept in the Xterra and Liam tried airsoft for his first time at Raptor Airsoft Field in Deland)

One day in February, I was helping Liam fashion paracord so that he could wear his new knife. I was measuring the paracord while it was around his neck in order to tie it at a proper length. Liam pulled the knife out of the sheath in an odd way that caused him to cut his thumb open.

While Courtney and I were trying to tend to Liam’s thumb, an alert I had set for a live trade I had running started to go off. I checked my phone while still holding Liam’s thumb closed. It was nearing the point where I should be closing the trade in order to minimize my loss.

At that point in time I felt too stressed to deal with his thumb and the trade so I closed it for a loss of $200. This way I could focus on Liam. About an hour later, the stock had turned back up. By the end of that trading day, I would’ve been up $600.

It was a bad day. I was mad for not sticking to my trading plan that I had been taught by Tradeway to do. At the same time, I was extremely frustrated with myself for having given Liam the knife. I felt like I was failing my family.

1 Timothy 5:8 says, “but if someone does not provide for his own relatives, and especially the members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” I hear that verse and it makes me think that I’m not doing right by my family. 

Something happened that night Liam cut open his thumb and I lost my family money that hadn’t ever happened before. I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t fall back asleep. God pressed it upon me to pray for Courtney and our boys health. I then prayed for direction for our family.

After I prayed, I was able to fall back asleep. I had already planned to be up at 6:00AM to attend men’s breakfast at my church. Before I fell back asleep, I was no longer feeling up to going. However, the option not to go wasn’t there anymore when I woke up before my alarm went off.

When we moved to Florida and after I quit working at my other job, Courtney suggested that it would be good for me to go to the men’s breakfast at our church. My friend, Jeremy, who is also the campus pastor placed me at a table that he thought I would like.

Sometimes when I go to men’s breakfast, I get little pieces that seem relevant to where I’m at, but a good amount of the time I don’t see the relevance. I don’t know if that's the point or not. You don’t always get something every single time you read the Bible either.

If I’m being honest, I struggle with going. There is not a lot of time for men to connect. You get a thirty minute blurb from a speaker and then you’re lucky if you get fifteen minutes at the end of it to talk through anything that’s going on.

I can’t help but go back to an evening bible study that I went to with my friend Ben while we were looking to move to Tennessee. This group met in the evening so people weren’t pressed for time. It seemed like there was a better connection with the men in the group.

My table leader is a man named Scotty who has also had a career change that he believes the Lord has set before him. Like me, that career change isn’t seeming to work out the way he had hoped so now he’s seeking the Lord in what he is supposed to be doing. It’s been reassuring that I’m not the only person that’s not sure where they are going ultimately.

As I already mentioned, mens breakfast was the day after Liam cut open his finger, I failed to earn my family $600, and I was up in the night praying. I woke up before my alarm went off. I knew I needed to go even though I didn’t want to.

The man speaking that morning was talking about business principles. It wasn’t new information for me. I have read them in multiple entrepreneurs books, but his was with more of a Christian twist. He was tying those principles back to scripture and giving a biblical view of it versus a world view.

While this business man was speaking, my friend, Jeremy, pulled me from the table. He told me that he felt like the Lord was telling him to arrange a talk with the speaker. Prior to that, I had no intentions of going up to talk to him nor was I feeling like I was really getting anything out of his talk.

When everyone was leaving, Jeremy brought him over to me. He talked with me about more business principles and more information about a seminar he was going to be doing that he thought I could use. I knew immediately that I would not go because we had already spent money on business things that we were still working through.

There was just one thing that the speaker said to me that stood out. He said, “I don’t trust any man that doesn’t walk with a limp. He was referring to Genesis 32:22-32 when Jacob wrestled with God and walked with a limp afterwards.

Verses 24-31 says “And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day has broken.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ And he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ Then he said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.’ Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name?’ And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.’ The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.”

Up until that man had said, "I don't trust a any man that doesn't walk with a limp" to me, I was not really understanding that people still will have to wrestle with God. They wrestle with him about things that they don’t understand. I think that’s what I was supposed to take away from that interaction. It was a reminder that people still have to wrestle with these thoughts and ideas.

That stood out to me because of the fact that I wasn’t knowing where I was going. I like to plan and have direction. I’m wrestling with the different ideas.

Things aren’t always easy. A lot of times things aren’t easy. It’s going to take turmoil to get through stuff.

It’s thought provoking for me sometimes to think about the path we are on right now. Is it to teach the kids to be grateful for what they have and not be spoiled rotten Americans? I’m finding myself saying things like, “We can’t buy what you want" or "I’m sorry you don’t like bone-in chicken, but this is what God has provided.”

I’m also seeing the error in my thinking for many years. I didn’t always realize it, but I would think, 'If I could buy this thing or had a little bit more money then I will be happy.' It’s proving to not be the case. I’ve only been driving myself more nuts.

That’s why we are selling stuff on Ebay. It’s the releasing of the stuff we’ve accumulated. I now look through the lens of 'what value does this have to my life? Is it useful?' If it doesn’t meet those, then it goes out of the house.

Right now I don’t know how this will pan out and it’s frustrating for me. I get easily annoyed when things don’t go my way. I know to a certain degree, but I don’t know where that end is. 

The Israelites were in the wilderness for forty years. What should’ve only taken months, took forty years. There was a lot of complaining of the Israelites while they were in the wilderness. They weren’t learning the lessons that they were being taught. 

It takes a lot of time to get words like this out of my man. He recently told me, “There’s not much more in my brain than you think.” Unlike myself, he doesn’t write to process, though I continue to encourage him to do so. It’s much more of a challenge for him to pause and reflect these days. Having three young boys constantly around can be mentally straining at times.

God has been doing a mighty work in my man. It broke my heart the day he came home from that men’s breakfast and shared with me through tear filled eyes about his sleepless night and what God had revealed to him through the speaker. Unlike Ralph, I couldn’t keep my tears from spilling over as I quietly listened.

It was hard seeing Ralph like that, but I knew it was a good thing. He was being refined in the fire. Once again his faith was being tested and stretched in ways he never imagined possible.

Recently we were on a trip in Tennessee visiting our friends. We were in town on Sunday so we went to their church. This was the one we had fallen in love with before we had moved out of Buffalo and during the time we were hoping to make Tennessee our home state. Not so coincidentally, the person speaking that day was starting a new series about refinement. Six weeks prior to this, I had actually been the one who had written about what Ralph had been going through. Though I wanted him to write about it, he was not ready. While we were driving to Tennessee, I seized the moment and asked him to share his perspective. I asked him thought provoking questions, documented his responses, and was able to put together this writing. More than once, he said, “in the wilderness” so I knew that would make a great title for this writing. 

I had most of this written before we went to the church service in Tennessee about refinement. In God’s sovereignty, Ralph and I were encouraged about our current season of life. The speaker quoted Deuteronomy 8:2. “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.”

I am in awe every time God gives us a timely verse. I can’t get over how he can take words, like what Moses spoke to the Israelites thousands of years ago in regards to their literal time spent in the wilderness, and make it relevant to what Ralph is going through now. Reading God’s word will never grow old.

As Deuteronomy 8:2 states, the Israelites were in the wilderness for forty years before they reached the land that God had promised them. This was not because it was so far away that it took that many years to get there. Like Ralph said, it should’ve only taken a handful of months. God kept them in the wilderness for good reason.

The Israelites were major complainers who had very little gratitude for what they had been given. God dealt very severely with them over this (read Exodus). Though we currently live in the age of grace, we should not forget that God hasn’t changed. He cannot use an ungrateful person who is in a constant state of grumbling.

When you ask God to use you in any way He sees fit and when you pray for Him to lead, refinement will come. There will be seasons where you will feel as though you are wandering through the wilderness just barely scraping by. If you can recognize it, embrace it, rely on Him through it, He WILL bring you out of it.

Only God knows how long you need to be in the wilderness for and Ralph doesn’t feel like he’s out of his yet. I am proud of this man for his honesty and willingness to share this. It takes a lot of courage. May God use it in ways that only He can.

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