I recently had to make some difficult decisions, some pretty big, life-changing decisions. But first a little background.
Ten years ago, I was unhappy at my current job. I was a software developer working for a smallish company. There was nothing really wrong with the company itself and the work I was doing was satisfying and challenging. I think my biggest problem was I got bored. Along came a friend who was doing computer consulting and he offered me a job in July 2001. It was more money, more flexibility (I could do a lot of work from my home office) and since I wasn’t working on a "product", I was doing something different almost every day. It was anything but monotonous. Then came along 9/11. That fateful day that changed so much in our country and indeed it touched each and everyone of us in some manner. The economy started to fail and work was getting scarce. Shortly after Christmas, I was layed off because he just couldn’t afford me anymore.
It was at that point that I though I had hit my lowest point. Here I was, I had just given up a good paying job six months prior to join a small and exciting company doing what I loved to do and now I was out of a job. What a way to start 2002. I had a choice to make then, do I go looking for a job? Or do I try to make it on my own? Well there were no jobs out there at that time. I had no choice to try it on my own. I jumped into the consulting world. My former employer, the one that just laid me off, passed me some work as he could (not too much at first as he was struggling to survive as well), I picked up a few small clients on my own and I began to grow the business. It was very slow at first. I went from making 70k+ in 2001 and before, to barely scrapping together 20k in 2002. I supplemented my income by selling books on eBay. That kept food on the table and a roof over my head, but just barely. My wife and I and our three children, just keep plugging away.
A little over two years of this and I began to realize what God was telling us. When I graduated from college and got my first job, I moved up the income ladder very quickly. In just seven short years I had increased my income over 50k. What I realized I hadn’t done, was increased my giving and generosity. When we were making the good money, we spent more than what we had and as I got raises, I just kept spending more. By the time I had lost my job in 2002 and lost almost 50k in income in just one year, it shocked us into making life decisions that made us stronger as a family, stronger in our faith and stronger in our financial health. During this time period when we seemed to be at our lowest, a good friend said something to me that has stuck with me ever since.
He said to me,
Jason, the good Lord tears a man down, just to lift him up.
What did this do to me? It made me realize that God had a plan for me and that through the trials by fire, I was becoming a stronger person for God.
Well, fast forward a bit and my business has picked up. I gained a few clients, including one that kept me billable 32 hours a week guaranteed. To any of you that are self-employed you realize how important this was. Good billable hours and steady pay check. In only two years, I had increased my income again 60k+. At about this time, my wife became pregnant with our youngest and we determined that the time was right to buy a house. Our old place would be much too small for four children and now we had steady income so we jumped into the housing market and found our dream house only a mile from where we lived at the time. It was perfect. Plenty of room, a few acres of land, kids didn’t have to change schools….it couldn’t have been more perfect.
During the next four years life was great, the business kept growing as the economy grew stronger and stronger from 2005 to 2008. I was soon making more money than I had ever before and life was good. But we had forgotten some of our lessons from before. While we didn’t spend frivolously like we did before, with the new house, we had more expenses than ever before. Our children were getting older and thus more expensive as they became involved in different activities. We had plenty of money, but we just never seemed to have any left over at the end of the day.
Let’s move forward once more to 2009 and 2010. Finally the failing economy which started in 2008 caught up with me. We had purchased our home when real estate was booming, now our house was worth less than what we owed on it. Business started to decline. Some of the steady work became less steady. Paychecks became less frequent and farther between. Come 2010, we were in trouble. Once again God was putting us through the fire. While it was tough at times, I tried to remember the quote from my friend that I stated before. I truly believed that God had a plan, that God would give us no more than what we could handle, that when we came through this fire, we would come out stronger and more able to do God’s work.
Well now here we sit at the beginning of 2011. Just a few months ago, I truly felt we were on our way to the poor house. I just couldn’t see a way out. There weren’t many jobs, my business was doing anything BUT booming. I was struggling just to put food on the table and gas in the car let alone anything else. I kept asking God in my daily prayers to open that door to where he wanted us to go. And if he opened that door and I didn’t see it, then I wanted Him to smack me on the head, pick me up and throw me through.
Well the door has opened. A few weeks ago, sort of out of the blue, a job offer was made to me. Another small consulting firm, but more established than the one I started off with ten years ago and with financial backing. The job is pretty much doing what I’m doing now, so my day to day doesn’t change much. I do have a team though now. Instead of working mostly for and with myself, I now have the resources to expand the business even further. Yes I give up ownership and some control, but what I’ve gained is so much more. I’ll have to go into details in a future post, but God really did open the door and seem to shove me through. My wife and I have made a promise to God and to ourselves, that we will not fall into the trap again of living beyond our means. We’ve already made moves over the last six months to change our lifestyle to be smarter and more efficient with our money. We’ve gotten into the habit of it in fact. God used that time period of struggle to make us stronger. God has lifted us up after bringing us down and we are ready for the next season in our lives.