October 17 marked the three-year anniversary of our arrival in Arizona, and I realized that I'd never blogged about what led us here.
In the fall of 2008, my husband and I faced a difficult decision. The recession had detrimentally affected both of our jobs. At the time, I was part of a dedicated team at my work serving a specific client - Lehman Brothers. Collin was working part-time in the evenings for a local ISP and going to college full-time as well.
Lehman Brothers imploded, and I ended up taking a cut in pay and slightly reduced hours. Around the same time, Collin's employers informed him that they were eliminating all part-time positions in a few months and going to full-time positions only. As he was attending college full-time, there was no way he could accept without dropping out of school (nor did he want to accept; it was a decent job to work while in school, but not a job he wanted to do full-time).
However, school was not going well for him (calculus was proving extremely difficult) and we were struggling to make ends meet the way it was with two little kids in full-time daycare. Neither of us had prospects for better employment in our area. Collin and I had a long talk one evening, and he asked me how I'd feel about moving to Arizona (specifically, Surprise, in the Phoenix metro area). His brother lived there, and he and his wife were willing to provide us with a place to stay as long as we needed one. His mother lived there full-time and his grandparents wintered there. Despite the impending recession, he felt our job prospects would be better in AZ, given that it was a large metropolitan area, and he would be willing to postpone school indefinitely until we got on our feet.
I was conflicted, given that most of my family lived in the Fargo area, but there was one thing I did know: we were stagnating where we were. It seemed like no matter how hard we worked, we couldn't get ahead. Also, the winters were very hard on us -- driving to work through glare ice and snow, bundling up the kids like Eskimos every time we left the house, and Collin's bipolar disorder being exacerbated by Seasonal Affective Disorder. The climate in Arizona, in contrast, seemed like a dream.
We prayed, and talked some more, and considered all the pros and cons. Collin felt that God was leading us to AZ; I was more hesitant but I trusted him completely. I thought that if we were meant to go to AZ, then any obstacles in our path would be easily resolved -- and as it turned out, that was exactly what happened. Collin was able to withdraw from his current semester of school with no penalties (he just barely made the deadline); I found a co-worker of mine willing to take over the lease to our apartment right away so we didn't have to worry about getting out of our lease (our landlord had told us that if we could find a new renter, he'd let them take over the lease instead of charging us the standard fee for breaking the lease early). Our families, while sad that we were leaving, generously offered help with packing and moving expenses. This all came about within two weeks of our decision to move.
We gave away many of our possessions (including one of our cars with a dying transmission, donated to charity), packed a small moving van with what was left, and traveled 1,800 miles to the south. It ended up being a long, four-day road trip. When we arrived, we had barely $100 to our name, two small children (a three-year-old and a six-month-old) to support, and were dependent on the kindness of relatives for housing. We'd prayed hard about our move and felt that God was guiding us in our decision, but it was still very scary.
Once we arrived, we both began sending out resumes and applying for jobs. Collin, a computer technician by trade, decided one day to go to the local Catholic Church and introduce himself to the priest. In front of the Church was a small garden with a statue of Mary in the center. He paused in front of the statue to pray, and just as he finished his prayer, his cell phone rang. The call was from a recruiter at a large and successful computer company. They were calling to schedule an interview. The interesting part was that he had never sent them him his resume; he hadn't been aware they had any jobs available in the area. However, somehow his resume had gotten to them.
He immediately scheduled the interview, and eventually he was offered a full-time position with a salary higher than he'd ever made before. Exactly one week later I also found a very good job, and within days we'd also found a four-bedroom house to rent (a far cry from the tiny two-bedroom basement apartment we'd had in Fargo)! Neither of us think it was a coincidence that our good luck began after asking Mary for her intercession.
With our two good jobs, our financial situation continued to improve. We were able to invite my grandmother to spend an extended stay with us so she could escape the ND winter for a few weeks, and we loved having her as a guest in our home. (She's been back every winter since.)
In December 2009, we realized a long-cherished dream: home ownership, something we never thought would be possible for us. Our new home was located right behind our church, the parish where Collin had asked Mary for her prayers. When we were originally looking at the house, we brought the kids up to the master bedroom to look around, and our daughter pointed out the window at the beautiful view of the church and said, "Look, there's Jesus!" Collin said he knew right then and there that God meant for the house to be ours, and he was right again. Despite nine other offers on the house, ours was accepted.
In March 2010 we realized another dream -- a new sibling for our children. Soon we'll realize that dream once again. Collin was able to return to school and has been a full-time student at the University of Phoenix for a little over a year; his GPA is currently over 3.5 and he's set to graduate in 2012.
When I look back over the road we've traveled, I can't believe how our lives have changed in three short years. Moving to a new state with no jobs lined up and very little money was a huge leap of faith on our part, but it ultimately turned out to be the best decision we could have made for our family (and yes, we LOVE the weather!).