John 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
In June, 1995, my husband Steven started Medical school after 18 years active duty service in the army, most of it in special operations as a green beret. The prior year, we’d made the decision that I would leave my position with IBM because the travel had finally become too much with little children and Steve being constantly away. The medical school decision was a joint one after much prayer on my part, giving lot of consideration to risking a steady career, income and security to pursue a lifelong dream. There were many conversations with fellow army wives, who were very discouraging. Their perspectives were, he’s two years from full retirement, “Don’t be foolish…Wait!”
Steve and I now call that 12 years of education, training and 4 family moves our “journey of poverty.” With each relocation, I would find and accept a position with a local non profit. This provided minimum income, but more importantly I would negotiate extra vacation days, which were needed to have more time with our young children. After about 4 months into medical school, I realized we were running a monthly deficit that I could not cover, so he renegotiated with the medical school that he had to work. They created a position in the emergency room and he worked every weekend until he graduated. Our big date was me bringing food from Taco Bell for us to eat together during his break on Saturday nights.
There were so many times during those years, that our finances were still so challenging and we did not want to burden our parents since this was our decision to take such a dramatic life change. At one point, I actually, had to turn in one of our cars, because we were behind on the payments and we couldn’t keep them up. Steve continued to do what he had to do and every day, I would pray that I would just be able to keep things together until the medical school graduation!
Today, Steve has retired from UAB after being the Director of the Burn Service and I run a small business that I love. As I reflect back on those days, I am AMAZED at how scary things were for me as the money and house manager of our little family. At the same time, I remember all of the little churches that I joined with every move, singing in the choir, making my small donations, staying on my knees and how the church family relationships helped remind me of the light in my life that would see me through. I have never been a verbose Christian. But, I always hope that how I conduct myself, how I face a challenge, how I treat other people, show that I follow Jesus and have His light in my life.
— Valerie Thomas