Petersons take risks.
This precedent was set up early in our marriage. When, after being married for just a year, a friend asked us to quit our jobs and move with him from Seattle to southeast Wisconsin to help him start a church, we said yes. Now, it wasn’t as easy to do as that sentence was for me to type. There was a lot to consider and plenty of logistics and timing to work out. But, in the end, we basically said, “What do we have to lose? Even if it flops, we still have each other. Let’s do it!” So, we did. And, it didn’t flop. By all accounts most people would say we succeeded. In fact, that church still exists today, ten years after we said yes.
Then, after three years of hard work, a depleted savings account, and an 18-month-old, we moved back home again to Seattle to start new jobs at a different church.
I’ll spare you the sordid details, but suffice it to say, it wasn’t a good fit. Now we had two babies and we took another risk; we quit! I would have stayed, but my dear Tony put it very simply to me when he said, “I cannot take a paycheck from a church when I am not on board with the vision of the leader. Can’t do it,” and that was that. He began hustling some freelance graphic design work, I carted my newborn and toddler with me to do some book-keeping for a friend’s construction company (these friends were very generous to employ me because I was not at all good at that job) and we kept believing in each other and putting one foot in front of the other.
We take risks. We believe in each other.
So, last year, after six years of living in our favorite place in the Pacific Northwest and finding ourselves in a church community we really loved and felt we could be ourselves in, and Tony working at Microsoft on projects that energized him, and me finding my voice as a writer with #staymarried and fulfilling a dream of publishing my first book, we took a risk again. That old friend from Wisconsin asked us if we would come back to work at the church we helped start all those years ago. This time the stakes were much higher. The first time we moved to the midwest we were newly married with no kids. This time we were celebrating our tenth anniversary, raising three incredible daughters, Tony was in a career he loved, and I was loving being a stay-at-home-mom-writer-dreamer. This time it was not so easy to say yes.
Still, after nearly a year of negotiating and putting all the puzzle pieces together, we said yes again. For a couple of people who never feel like we fit in at church, we sure say yes to the local church a lot. Tony would be the Executive Pastor of Music and Creative and I would be the Executive Pastor of Communication and Leadership Development. We were energized and full of vision and we moved and believed we could help and do good work here. We believed it was worth the risk.
But, sometimes, the risk doesn’t reap a reward.
Just a year later, because of “reprioritizing a tightening budget” I’ve been laid off. I’ve been assured it has nothing to do with my job performance, it’s not personal, but SHEESH! This is a tough one.
Tony and I found out I would lose my job the day before our eleventh anniversary in June. Because ministry life is effing complicated, we couldn’t share the news with anyone but each other. I hadn’t received a formal notice, and wouldn’t for more than a month after I was told. It was just a conversation, it hardly seemed real. Did I really just lose my job? How exactly, was this decision made?
That night, we sat on our blue couch, the couch we’ve interviewed countless couples from for The #staymarried Podcast about their own struggles and triumphs, and we played out the worst case scenarios we could think of.
Will we have to move again? We haven’t saved enough. We weren’t prepared for this. Will we stay in Wisconsin? What choice do we have? What will we tell our nanny? WHEN will we tell our nanny? Man, I wanted to get bikes for the kids this summer. That’s out. I was thinking of a trip home for my birthday. That’s out. We already cut Tony’s salary because church work simply doesn’t pay as much as Microsoft graphic design work, but adding my salary with his brought us almost back up to his salary alone from his last job. We are about to lose nearly half our income. We didn’t see this coming. This is not cool…
And I cried, and Tony had tears in his eyes, and he hugged me and we agreed; we have each other. Even if we have nothing else, we have each other and we will be okay…
Have you ever been there? Have you ever faced the hard thing, turned toward each other, and been able to believe wholeheartedly that even without any external guarantees, having each other would be enough?
It’s in the vows, right? “For richer, for poorer…” we say, as we gaze into each other’s eyes before we’ve ever actually sat across from a kitchen table and paid bills together.
A few years ago Tony and I watched our friends Jim and Annie put their own spin on those classic words when they their exchanged vows.
“In poverty, I promise to make our love rich. In wealth, I promise not to let our love grow poor.”
This picture of intentionality has always stuck with me. And here we are, facing the reality of losing half our income for an unknown amount of time. Can we still make our love rich? We determined we would.
We determined that we wouldn’t let ourselves fall into panic or despair. We grieved, we still grieve, and we did our best to ask questions and make sense of how this could happen, but then we’d pivot and try to spend more energy on what could possibly be next instead of what was no longer.
We decided to focus on 3 questions:
- What is good?
- What is true?
- What can I do?
It was easy to come up with answers to the first question, and once we began naming good things to each other, we were reminded of even more goodness in our lives. We have great kids, we love the school they go to, we are thankful for our home, we have good good friends. We can name what is good.
What was true was that I did my best in my job. Nothing about it was easy, but I worked hard and with transparency and integrity. It was also true that I didn’t cause the loss of my own job, so spending my time tracing back every possible turn I might have accidentally taken in the wrong direction over this last year was a futile exercise in finding the lie. What is good? What is true? Now, what can I do?
For a couple of clumsy months I began sending out my newly refreshed resume to local companies and non-profit organizations. I wasn’t totally clear on what I wanted to do, just aware that I needed to get back to work. I also began dreaming again about #staymarried and all of the new ideas I want to explore to help support couples.
Another thing I could actively do was choose to navigate my own grief and confusion. I’m great at stuffing things down and marching on, but that wasn’t going to work this time.
Most nights Tony and I head outside for a minimum of 15 minutes, we call it our “Nightly Debrief.” So, nightly, we processed how we were feeling, what I was working on to try to find work, what I was thinking of for #staymarried, and absolutely everything else. We focused our conversations always around those three questions…
- What is good?
- What is true?
- What can I do?
Our Nightly Debriefs helped me focus on what was ahead. I knew I didn’t need to be too worried because, well, at least Tony still had his job. And, despite watching me lose my role on staff, he was still determined to do his best to course correct and build up the creative and music team at church into something really wonderful. I’m here to cheer him on. I don’t know anybody who works harder than my husband.
Then, on a Monday morning just eight weeks after finding out I would lose my job, Tony sent me a text from a meeting telling me, “I just lost my job. [Our friend] believes I’m taking the music team in a direction he doesn’t want it to go and he said my time here is done.” Just like that we went from Sleepless in Seattle to Jobless in Wisconsin. Now what?
In her article Job Loss Tests Marriages: 5 Tips to Detour a Marital Meltdown, Laurie Puhn writes, “Even happy couples admit that the sudden economic downturn is testing their ‘I do’ commitment.” Even happy couples, guys. This stuff is seriously stressful. So, before we turn on each other and panic, Tony and I are back to asking those same three questions…
- What is good?
- What is true?
- What can we do?
Petersons take risks. We believe in each other. We are in this thing together. We take risks and sometimes those risks don’t reap a reward, and that’s okay. We’re excited to see how this path will unfold and since our calendar is suddenly pretty clear, we’re choosing to head full throttle into the work we love to do together and that’s right here on #staymarried!
The #staymarried Podcast is back!
We’re excited to announce that on Wednesday, September 19th, we will launch Season 4 of The #staymarried Podcast. A LOT has happened this past year and we can’t wait to share what we’ve been up to, what we’ve learned, how working together in tense environments challenged our marriage, and we’d love to bring you along on our journey as we try to figure out what’s next.
We realize that unemployment can certainly test the strength of a marriage. We are living in that struggle and stress even as you read these words. But, we are determined to draw closer to each other, to build into our relationship, to work through this as a team, and to #staymarried.
The #staymarried blog was created to offer hope, stories, and resources for couples who want to stay married.
Wait! What’s the plan?
It’s true, we don’t really know what we’re going to do next, but we have a 3-pronged strategy…
Submit our fancy new resumes to all of the interesting jobs.
Tony is now accepting new projects. Check out his portfolio here. I am also accepting projects on his behalf, because teamwork.
We are now looking for supporters for The #staymarried Podcast. Interested in how you can help? Find out more here.
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If you’re NEW HERE, check out our About Page and read a little more about my own background on our first post. You can also find us on the socials: Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I’d love to connect on any of your favorite platforms.
Thank you ever so much for reading, sharing, and being a part of this #staymarried community!