Turns out, I haven’t posted on my Instagram since May. Whoops. But given the year it’s been, I think you probably understand my absence from social networking. 🙈 So today, I’m sharing a 2020 life update from all of us over here at JVP. (Okay, me & my husband Clay, my dogs, and my virtual assistant.) 😂
I wouldn’t be the first, (or even the millionth,) to say this year has been quiiite the year, and most of us are beyond over it. But to be honest with you? I have a SUPER unpopular opinion about 2020.
2020 has actually been one of the most rewarding years of my life. 🙈
Now, I wouldn’t say it was the “easiest,” by any means. Clay and I had some cards dealt to us this year that most won’t deal with in their lifetime. But we’ll get to that in a bit!
To start this 2020 life update, you should know that for the past three years I’ve been living on a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean called Okinawa, Japan. My husband is in the military, and we got orders to this small archipelago in October of 2016. Funny… because we were both sooo sure we’d get orders to North Carolina. Turns out we couldn’t have been any further off. 😂
SO, we stepped off the plane with bags in our hands, (and equal parts fear and excitement in our hearts) on May 28th, 2017.
Living in Japan, alone, (well, with just Clay, but no friends or family for thousands of miles,) has been the wildest, hardest, and most challenging… (yet simultaneously the most beautiful and most fulfilling) adventure of my entire LIFE.
We actually spent the first years of our married lives together there. We got married on December 16th of 2016, and had about six months together in Florida, then took off for the journey of our lives.
I wouldn’t trade it for anything, and in case you wondered… I miss it terribly. Which brings me to my first 2020 life update.
Intro: The Tropics & Tractor Buckets… (wait, what!?)
The year was off to a great start. Phenomenal, really. My mom and aunt flew all the way from Texarkana to Japan to visit me! I couldn’t believe it, considering my mom hasn’t ever even been out of the U.S. (Well, except for Mexico, but that doesn’t really count.) 🤣
After three years of no family or friends visiting me or knowing the world I lived in, I was SO ecstatic to get to share the island I’d been calling home with those I love most.
I spent every day taking them to our favorite restaurants, and taking them to all the hidden gems only locals knew about. It was a BLAST. We drove every ounce of that island, laughing and eating our way all the way through it. One day we got to drive up Mount Yaedake and see the Japanese Cherry Blossoms in their prime bloom, head to a waterfall, and finish the day off standing on the cliffs of the edge of the island. It was remarkable.
Unfortunately, the time came for them to make the two-day journey back home. I went back to working, and tracked them through “find my friends,” the whole way home. I’d noticed I never received word from my mom when she landed and arrived at the house, which I thought was strange.
I texted her and she responded pretty short-winded. I knew something was up. Before too long, she was calling, and the first words out of her mouth were, “Your dad is okay, but a tractor bucket fell on him and he had to be rushed to the ER for emergency surgery.”
Long story short, he was helping a friend use his tractor for something and the bucket fell and pinned him to the ground, cutting through his leg deeply. My dad and his friend are both in their mid-60’s, so his friend couldn’t pick him up.
My Dad told him, “You better get this bucket off of me. You have to, or I won’t make it”.
His friend finally mustered up the strength and got it off of him, and when my Dad saw how deep the cut was, he called one of my aunt’s to come get him and take him to the hospital. They agreed not to tell my mom, because they knew there was nothing she could do, so, they took care of it and he was home and recovering when my mom walked in the door.
As my Dad reflected over the situation, he realized there were two propane bottles that were holding some of the weight up and off of him; which kept the bucket from slicing his leg off completely and him bleeding out. (Totally a God thing.) My mom said had he not been wearing the type of jeans he was wearing (the tough, Duluth fireman-proof jeans,) the rust from the tractor bucket would have likely infected him, and it would’ve been even worse. (Also God.)
So, 2020 started off interesting, to say the least. I figured that situation, and God’s faithfulness through it, would be my “story of the year.”
Little did I know — I was in for much, much more.
Chapter 1: An Intercontinental Move, Amidst A Pandemic
As if an intercontinental move isn’t stressful enough in and of itself, we also happened to do it at the height of a worldwide pandemic. *Thanks Covid.* – in the voice of Alexis Rose. Fun fact: Covid actually hit us in Japan before it ever affected anyone in the U.S., thanks to a cruise ship.
I vividly remember calling my mom, and being like “So this is going to sound really weird. But for whatever reason people are buying up toilet paper and hand sanitizer like crazy. 😂 So if you need any, I’d go grab some now to make sure you aren’t out. And maybe a bit extra to be safe.” I kid you not, two weeks later you couldn’t get it anywhere. It was ridiculous. 🤣
But the problem was, because we were trying to travel across the world… in the middle of Covid… we hit some major roadblocks. We had originally planned for me to fly back to Arkansas a month before Clayton, so I could be there to pick the dogs up from the airport when he sent them.
But because of Covid, they placed restrictions on all military personnel traveling, and they shut down all travel two days before my flight was supposed to depart. I was flying on what’s called the Patriot Express, a plane that flies between military bases and commercial airports to transport military members and their families. There weren’t any travel restrictions for flying commercial at that point, but we wanted to save the $2,500 on a plane ticket since we were shelling out so much for the dogs already. (We’ll get to that later.) 🙈
Thankfully, because Clayton was permanently separating from the military, and not just transferring to another duty station, we were among the VERY few that were allowed to still leave. So I was able to board the flight and made it through, but it was tight. All of my friends I’d made in Okinawa had to stay a whole ‘nother six months.
Then, a few days after I’d left, Clayton had the dogs ready to fly from Naha, Okinawa all the way to Houston Intercontinental. You see, in order to ship your pets across the world, there is SO much you have to do; paperwork, rabies tests, favn tests, more paperwork, fees, etc. Then, you have to use a third-party pet shipping company if you want to not completely lose your mind, (or worse, risk doing it wrong and your dogs being stuck in customs and denied.) 😅 We decided to use a pet shipping company both to get them there, and get them home.
We were familiar with the process from importing our dogs to Japan, (which cost us a hefty $7,000 to do.) But then, we had to do it again in order to get them back to the U.S. This time it was around $6,500. And that’s just for the plane tickets, so in total, including all the vet bills and tests, we probably spent around $16,000. 😅 (Yes, we call them the million-dollar pups. LOL.)
I’m always an emotional basket case when my dogs are traveling, (or when they’re in the care of anyone else but me or Clayton to be honest.) Koda and Keira are both Siberian Huskies; (re: escape artists that don’t come when they’re called and if they get out you’ll likely never see them again. #gonewiththewind) Kiera escaped our house the first day we got her, and Koda has escaped numerous times.
When we lived in Florida, Koda dug a hole under our fence and then proceeded to dig a hole under two of our neighbors fences, and created a path to play with both of their dogs. (Thankfully our neighbors were okay with it and left the fence posts down, and it was a blast!) 🤣
Koda also managed to break out of the dog board-training school in Okinawa while we were home in the U.S. for the Holidays, and an Okinawan policeman rescued him. I was freaking out, of course — but God was watching over him. 😅 I’m thinking it’s about time I start a blog called “The Koda Chronicles.”
Anyways, back to the dog transport situation. They flew from Okinawa to Tokyo, stayed the night in a boarding facility, and then flew from Tokyo to Houston.
Wildly enough, not TWO days after the dogs landed in Houston, ALL pet transport from Japan to the U.S. was cancelled. Banned. Stopped. Halted. Done for. And there wasn’t any way around it.
Hopefully you can tell from this first chapter of my 2020 update that God truly was ordering our steps, you guys. I give all the glory to Him.
Chapter 2: Leaving Active-Duty Military Life, For Good
Military life is all Clayton and I have ever known. (Well, he’s been the one in it, I’ve just been supporting behind the scenes on the home front.) We were in a long-distance relationship for 7 years, because of his military involvement and training schools all over the world. We were able to end the distance once we got married, because I was finally able to go with him.
I vividly remember one morning when Clayton was home on leave during the Holidays. We were at church and were talking to our pastor after the service. He said something that neither of us have ever forgotten. He said, “Don’t be afraid to come home.” At the time we didn’t fully understand what he meant, but we never forgot that statement.
After being in Okinawa for about two years, we started to think about what our plans were going to be once our time there was up. Clayton was on a three-year tour, but not only that, his enlistment contract was up. So he either had to re-enlist, and we’d be sent wherever the military wanted us to go for the next four years (which could’ve been overseas again,) — or we’d jump ship; out of the comforts of a guaranteed job and steady paycheck.
About a year before we left Okinawa, Clayton’s leadership started asking what our plans were. They needed to know in order to start processing it, whichever decision we made. We weren’t sure yet, because of the severity of what each choice would mean. If we chose the military route again, we’d be sent who knows where and for who knows how long. If we chose to get out completely, he’d be ending a 10 year career that he’s shed blood, sweat, and a whole lot more sweat over. (The job he had in the military only 5-10% of the guys who trained for it ever actually made it through!) He’d also be jumping into the unknown, and in a major “what now” situation.
We thought long and hard, and ultimately decided we’d see what his orders said, when we got them. We knew he’d be due for them soon, so we waited and simultaneously started exploring other options outside the military. We landed upon one that interested us quite a bit, it would be a 4x pay raise, and would be a job that was contracted out by the military, but not officially “in” the military. He would work two months overseas, and then be home for two months. It would also mean we could live wherever we wanted, which was a HUGE deal for me. You don’t get to choose where you go in the military, and are often thousands of miles away from family. So this was huge. The thought of him being home for two months at a time was also super intriguing, because with his current job at the time he would be gone for months on end, back to back.
So, he sent his resume in, assuming to hear back — but never did.
We then found out that some guys didn’t hear back about their resumes for 2-3 years. So naturally, fear started to creep in on my end about what was going to happen. 😅 We started exploring what it could look like for him to transition into the National Guard, but in a full time position. (I really wanted him to have a job where he didn’t deploy.) Turns out, he’d have to deploy with a Guard position, and we’d have to live in Kentucky. After living away from family for four years, I was way past living in a completely different state. So still, no peace about anything yet.
I remember looking at Clay and saying, “Remember those words our Pastor spoke to us years ago?” He knew exactly what I meant, and was just thinking it, too. (That’s when you know you’ve received divine revelation.) #praiseGod
A few days later, I vividly remember Clayton walking through the door, and the first words out of his mouth were, “Well… I got orders. It’s Cannon.” Cannon is the ONE place everyone prays not to get orders to. We both looked at each other and laughed in a “you’ve got to be kidding me,” way. We sure as heck weren’t going there. So I guess God made the choice pretty easy for us in the moment, out of the military it was.
A 2020 Update to our Vision
We both knew in our hearts, we wanted nothing more than to finally plant roots. And we knew we wanted it to be near my parents. For the last year, we’d been dreaming of building a house on the back part of their property. They have 21.5 acres in the country, and the back portion has a field that a house would sit perfectly on. And my Dad said he’d be more than happy to deed us that land, so we could start our lives together near them and finally have some solid ground.
So in my free time, I began drafting up house plans, researching meticulously on all things “building a farmhouse.”
I knew I wanted a modern farmhouse, with tons of windows for natural light. I wanted a U-shaped floor plan, and a breezeway that connected the house to the garage. I wanted both a front, and back porch made out of concrete. I wanted the house to be white vinyl, with a black roof and black industrial accents. I also knew I wanted the porch ceilings would be painted a light, haint blue. (It’s a southern tradition.) I wanted the master bedroom to be on the first floor, and wanted it to have a clawfoot tub and a large rainfall shower. I wanted a kitchen with marble countertops, a large rectangular island, tons of storage, a gas range and a big farmhouse sink. I wanted an open floor plan between the kitchen and living room, with a double-sided fireplace, that connected to a dining room on the other side. I wanted two, or three, additional bedrooms and a three car garage. And I wanted it on some land in the country, so I could see deer out my window while I cooked and cleaned.
Since our minds were set on getting out, one of Clayton’s teammates mentioned a job to him that he may be interested in. It was for a company called T3i; and was yet another job that was contracted out by the military. But the problem was, there were only locations in either San Antonio, TX or Arizona. So again, we wouldn’t be able to be near family, which was quickly becoming one of my top priorities. But for fear of not hearing back from any of the other jobs, Clayton went ahead and submitted an application. At this point, it couldn’t hurt.
As our departure date off island grew closer, my anxiety wasn’t taking the transition as easily as I’d hoped. I’d like to act like I had it all together and trusted the Lord, but I was scared. Fear took over more times than I care to admit, and my emotions tried (and succeeded,) to control me time and time again. The enemy tried again and again to make me doubt the goodness of God, because I couldn’t see or feel it yet (in the way I planned to.) 🙈
As a type 6 on the enneagram, I’m a type-A planner. And I simply couldn’t plan for what was ahead.
Chapter 3: Uncharted Waters
A few weeks after arriving in Texarkana, and getting off the “my little family is finally back and safe and re-united during this pandemic” high, fear started to creep in harder about what Clayton’s future would hold; on the career-front in particular. We still didn’t have any answers, and we hadn’t heard back from any of the places he had submitted resumes to; (Clayton is INCREDIBLE on paper, like… next level,) it literally made no sense.
I realize now it was just God’s way of saying, “Not yet. I have something better for you. Trust me.”
We were staying with my parents during this transition, which was such a blessing; both physically and financially. I was making enough to sustain both of us financially, but I didn’t want to have to. We’d been comfortable being a dual-income household for so long, and we have so much more to give when we are.
One afternoon, Clayton finally received a response from the company his friend had mentioned to him. After months and months of hearing nothing, we were SO excited. It was a glimmer of hope.
Originally the company only had available positions in San Antonio or Arizona, but they were in the process of trying to get a contract approved for a city that was much closer to Texarkana. The only problem, he couldn’t work for them living in Texarkana. We’d have to relocate to Little Rock. (Granted, Little Rock was only 2.5 hours away, but I think I’d had my mind so set on getting to live in Texarkana, and that’s what I thought God had planned for us.) Emphasis on, “I” thought. 🙈
We thought long and hard about it. It didn’t seem like a terrible option. But our pastor said “home,” and home was Texarkana. So could this still be God’s plan? Even if it’s not the home we thought?
… I now realize he specifically said, “Don’t be afraid to COME home.” Not, “Don’t be afraid to come home and STAY home.”
We talked to family and friends, and they all came to the same consensus: we’d be crazy not to take it. I was fighting it, because after living thousands of miles, (it took two days and three planes just to get home,) I just wanted to be in the same town as my family.
I knew we’d be looking at having children in a few years, and I just wanted to be close to family during that season of my life. It’s all I really wanted, and I didn’t feel like it was too much to ask for. (For Clayton to have a normal job where he wasn’t gone all the time, and for us to be in the same city as my parents.) But I was starting to realize it may not be a possibility with Clayton’s job experience. There just weren’t any jobs available that he could use his skill set for in the tiny ole’ town of Texarkana.
So we decided to pray over it, and ask God to shut the door if it wasn’t of Him. The more we prayed, the more peace we had surrounding the idea of him taking a job in Little Rock; even if it meant he had to travel back and forth to Texarkana.
Keeping in Line with 2020
But the catch? The contract wasn’t approved for the job yet. So it wasn’t a “sure” thing. It was just a possibility. An option. At this point in my emotional journey, I wanted stability. I wanted concrete. I wanted “for sure.” My heart couldn’t handle much more “unknown” after the last three years. My spirit was tired.
The communication between Clayton’s contact for the job became sparse, and we’d go weeks not hearing from him when he said he’d be in touch soon. I started to spiral. I asked myself, “God, if this is of you why isn’t there more movement? Why isn’t it happening yet? We’re SO tired.”
I’m a control-person, (if you can’t tell 😂) and I was wondering why Clayton wasn’t moving. Why wasn’t he submitting more resumes? Making more calls? That’s what I’d be doing, exploring ALL my options and making. something. happen. Right!?
Well, Clayton felt differently. Regardless of the lack of communication, his spirit told him this job was going to work out, and we didn’t need to stress.
If you know Clayton, you know him to be:
- Hard-working. I’ve never seen him do anything halfway. He is the person who is so thorough and works so diligently, it’s inspiring. He’s the first person you’d want to call if you needed something done.
- Calm. He works remarkably well under pressure. He’s the person you’d want to be with if the world was ending. Even just his presence is calming.
- God-fearing. He is a man after God’s own heart, just like King David. He has chased the Lord and followed Him since his childhood, and He’s followed the call all over the world; through the barren, war-ridden wasteland of the middle east to the quiet countryside town we now reside in.
There’s a reason God designed the hierarchy he did, for husbands to be head of household; and by God, I am THANKFUL for it. Clayton is the greatest leader I could’ve ever asked for.
God used Clayton to carry me through this hard season, and it isn’t the first he’s had to get me through.
Praise be to the Father for His blood covenant, and the beautiful, transforming gift of marriage.
Chapter 4: Jehovah-Jireh; God will provide.
Clayton finally received the call, after a month of hearing nothing. The job was a go. The position was to be posted online soon for him to be able to apply, and they intended for it to be a direct hire. He was who they wanted. The contract was officially approved.
God created a job for Clayton out of thin air. It didn’t even exist until he inquired about it.
For the first time in a year, I felt like I could breathe. Pretty soon after praising God, I was moved to worship. And the first words out of my mouth were, “Jesus, forgive me.”
I felt so deeply sorrowful for not trusting God all that time. For saying I did, but living as if I didn’t. For being a woman of little faith. That’s not who I am, and I saw how hard the devil fought for my mind and heart that season.
God didn’t punish me for my lack of faith. He didn’t get upset with me. He just showed me grace upon grace. He’s truly a good, good Dad; and He’s never not been faithful to me.
There’s still so much more to come, this was just “Part One” of my 2020 life update. In Part Two, I’ll be sharing about how God’s plans are better than our own — and can’t wait for you to read all about that!
IF YOU’RE REALLY STRUGGLING IN YOUR BUSINESS, BOOK A FREE CLARITY CALL WITH ME, (NO STRINGS ATTACHED,) FOR ME TO HELP YOU PINPOINT YOUR BIGGEST ROADBLOCKS.
Then, if you decide it’s a fit and you NEED us to work together stat, we can totally proceed with mentorship and get this education party started!
I wholeheartedly believe that if you’re here and reading this page, it’s not by accident, girl. I’ve been praying for this years mentoring clients, and for God to truly equip me with the knowledge and resources, tailored just for you, to project you into your next season and help you to be more confident – because THIS is your year.
It’s time. No more excuses. Let’s do this, and rise up to who God has called us to be in both our lives and businesses.
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