Unexpected Words: Our Family’s Story~Chapter 1

The architect spread the plans on our wobbly, garage sale kitchen table that chilly evening in 1998.  My husband, Tom, and the architect discussed some of the particulars, but I was daydreaming…arranging furniture, considering paint colors and planning dinner parties in my soon-to-be-built home. We were learning words like elevation” and easement” and perspective” as they related to this dream-on-paper.

Although we were content in our little 1920’s yellow farmhouse on Main Street, it was beginning to feel a bit small for our growing family. Bill, our toddler, was making his way more rapidly around the house as he tried to keep pace with his big sister, Annie. We constantly organized and re-organized bedrooms, closets and the tiny back hall that we used as a play area for the kids. We used every inch of space to accommodate their needs and ours in that cozy home. The idea of owning something larger (and with fewer “old house issues”) became quite appealing. After much discussion, and many field trips to spec houses, we selected a builder, chose a lot, and made a down payment.

I was delighted at the prospect of creating something that was ours from the ground up. I pored over decorating magazines, tearing out my favorite pages. I visited furniture stores for ideas, and kept a notebook with measurements of our new rooms. We put our house on the market, and I kept constant vigil to be sure it was in “show” condition each and every day; the sooner we sold it, the sooner we could build! Revising our blueprints and deciding how large our living room should be seemed to be the most stressful decisions in our young marriage. Still, from my perspective (and the perspectives rendered by the architect), our life looked quite well-planned.

Annie and Bill having fun in our Maryland house.

At the same time, I began to notice a change in Tom. He was working longer hours and coming home looking tremendously tired. He had enjoyed several interesting assignments at work during the previous years, and his superiors were quite supportive of his development in the company. But suddenly, something just wasn’t right. He was distracted and edgy. After a few months,  he had became alarmingly stressed.

One evening, we sat on our front porch, and he told me about some major changes in the company which potentially limited his goals. However, his broader concern was some of the politics in the organization related to a new colleague who had been taking Tom’s ideas and passing them off as his own. Talented, long-standing employees of the company were being let go, often with no warning. In our naivete, we were aghast that such behavior could occur in a business.

As hard as I tried to remain enthusiastic about our building project, Tom’s increasing discomfort created restlessness in my soul. I ached for him as he left for work each day, and made the mistake of asking him too often what would happen with his job and the company. My questions only compounded his stress, and while he remained patient with my worries, I knew he was deeply concerned about his future, and his self-confidence had virtually disappeared.

Spring warmed into a hot and sticky Maryland June. I volunteered at Vacation Bible School just a few blocks from our home. Each morning the kids and I would walk to the church for the morning and then return for lunch. On Wednesday of the VBS week, we arrived home. The kids burst into the kitchen ahead of me. Annie was eager to display their crafts so that Daddy could see when he got home, while Bill settled down with a favorite toy. I heard the phone ring and went into the family room to answer it.

“Katie…” Tom said. The hush of his voice could not disguise his distress.

My perspective was about to change.

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