“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)
That certainly proved true for my wife Mary and me. As we discussed in our book “Spiritual Entrepreneurship – Fulfilling Your God-Ordained Destiny”, we discovered that God’s plans for those who love and obey him go far beyond our mortal lives in this present universe. This realization radically changed our outlook on life. And once we developed a willingness to go wherever God led us and to do whatever he asked us to do, we learned that God had a plan for our lives that was more challenging that our own plans, but also far more exciting and rewarding. In the process we were afforded opportunities to go places (including all 50 of the United States and over 60 foreign countries) and do things that went far beyond what we had expected for ourselves.
In my case, however, God’s blessings began long before I had made a firm commitment to follow Jesus. While in college I began to overcome my natural shyness and aversion to risk-taking and to venture out from my comfort zone. This led to my discovery of strengths which were instrumental in my ability to step out and assume leadership roles, beginning with my election as chapter president of my social fraternity. At that point my self-confidence was based on my newly discovered personal traits and not on a knowledge of who I was in God’s eyes and what I was capable of becoming with his help.
My position as a social fraternity president was then instrumental in overcoming my future wife’s initial (not very positive) impression of me when I invited her to participate in the Texas-OU weekend festivities. Within nine months after that we were engaged and 18 months later we were married. That was when God’s plans for our lives began to become into focus.
My wife was not a Christian when I married her and I was a poor excuse for one. But God began to change that when Mary met a young lady at what is now The University of Texas at Arlington who, after months of probing discussions, led her to make a profession of faith in Christ. He then began to work on me through her. At her insistence we began to attend church (I had not attended regularly since I left home for college and she never had). Then on the weekend of our fifth wedding anniversary we attended a Lay Witness Mission at our church and both made a commitment to follow Jesus Christ wherever he led us to go. And that was when God began to lead us on a path of discovery, challenge, excitement and fulfillment.
Within three years thereafter, we set out from our Texas home on a journey together which continued for more than 44 years. And God’s blessings on us began to multiply. Mary was able to begin a career in academia that would see her become the first female faculty member of the Louisiana State University Marketing Department and culminate in her retirement from Amberton University as Professor Emeritus (sic) 34 years later. In the process she was honored as Outstanding Young Woman for the State of Louisiana for 1979 and in 1982 became the first faculty member hired for the newly instituted College of Business Administration of what is now Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia. She also served as President of the Southern Marketing Association (now the Society for Marketing Advancement) while at LSU.
After our return to the DFW area in 1985 she had the opportunity to serve as Senior Project Manager for Marketing Services for Compucon, Inc., a subsidiary of A.C. Nielsen Company, providing consulting services to firms in the developing wireless telecommunications industry, where she gained “real world” marketing experience and learned a great deal about the then- coming revolution in wireless communications introduced by cell phones and accelerated by smart phones. After Compucon was sold by Nielsen and became Spectrum Planning, Inc. she served as Director of Communications Information Services for that company, while also providing marketing consultation to Syndics Research as an independent contractor. After a few years she decided to return to academia (her first love) and became a Marketing and Management Professor at Amber (now Amberton) University, from which she retired in 2007. All in all she had a long and varied career, breaking gender barriers and achieving firsts in several areas. None of this would have been possible had we not taken the plunge and moved to Baton Rouge in 1973.
Best of all, though she was diagnosed with an incurable autoimmune disease of the liver in 1990, with a prognosis of one to three years to live without a liver transplant, she lived another 27 years without ever receiving that transplant. She not only lived to see our daughter grow to maturity, following in her footsteps by earning two degrees in marketing, but also to see Jennifer married to a wonderful young man with whom she will celebrate 25 years of marriage next February, and to be around for the birth of our two grandsons and have the opportunity to see them grow into their teen years, becoming fine young men themselves. A life full of God’s blessings indeed.
As for me, those blessings began to come early and have continued to this day. In the summer of 1968, only two years after my graduation from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in aerospace engineering, while I was working as a fuselage design engineer on the LTV A-7 Corsair II, a carrier-based light attack aircraft for the U.S. Navy, I was selected to be part of an engineering support team for the retrofit trial installation of a new instrument carrier landing system (ICLS) on early model A-7’s. This work took place at the Jacksonville, Florida Naval Air Station and was a dream come true for me. I had an older friend who was a project manager on the
A-7 program and who had the opportunity to travel to the Naval Air Station Patuxent River (known as NAS Pax River) in Maryland to observe A-7 flight test operations and out to sea on aircraft carriers to observe A-7 carrier operations. My ambition was to eventually become a project manager so I could do the same, and, although I never had that opportunity this was a close second. To top off the experience, since it was in the summer my wife took time off from her university studies and went with me. We drove from Texas to Florida so had a car available for her while I was at work, so she was not stuck at the Howard Johnson’s we were staying. And, although I was working 6-day, 60-hour weeks, we spent every Sunday exploring along the eastern seaboard from south Florida to the Okefenokee Swamp at the Florida-Georgia border. This experience helped fuel our developing passion for travel, which we indulged in for the remainder of our marriage. Our last trip together was to Mobile, Alabama and Pensacola, Florida in June of 2017, just six months prior to her death in December 2017.
Greater blessings began to come after we took our first bold step and moved to Baton Rouge. Although my career in my initially chosen profession of aerospace engineering was cut short when we moved to Louisiana, I discovered that my skills, ability, experience and God-given gifts could be utilized to great advantage in other industries. I did not have a job when we made the move and wasn’t sure what I could do. But within a few months God led me to an engineering consulting firm that needed a Civil/Structural Engineer. I convinced them I could do the job and they hired me, although at a significantly lower salary than what I had been making in the aerospace industry. But with Mary’s salary we were actually better off financially.
The manufacturing industry did not require professional registration for its engineers, but the consulting industry did. Fortunately God had prepared me by having me obtain a Texas Professional Engineering license shortly before I left the state. The State of Louisiana granted me a Mechanical Engineering license by reciprocity, but I was doing Civil/Structural work now. So I studied and took the Civil Engineering exam to obtain that license also.
I had also received a Master of Business Administration degree from what is now North Texas University a few months before our move to Louisiana. (God’s preparation for what was to come) Within a year I was given the opportunity to become a project manager for my new firm, fulfilling my long-held desire. Over the next few years many unique opportunities came my way, broadening my experience and honing my skills. Although the company did not offer any training, I was able to learn enough on my own (OJT) about the engineering and architectural disciplines other than civil/structural to allow me to successfully manage multi-discipline teams. And the knowledge obtained from my MBA studies helped me to become proficient in the management skills needed to be effective in that role.
Many additional blessings followed, at least one of them quite unique. As a non-student at Louisiana State University the only option open for me to be able to use the university library was for me to join the faculty wives club. There were not yet any other provisions for spouses of female faculty members. So I became a card-carrying member of that organization. Quite a distinction.
More exciting blessings for me as an aviation aficionado came as a result of my having project management responsibility for a series of projects my firm was designing for the Louisiana Department of Public Safety. They included a totally new headquarters campus for the DPS on the former Downtown Airport site in Baton Rouge and a number of troop and regional headquarters for the Louisiana State Police throughout the state. Interfacing with top officials of the DPS on a regular basis I came to know the Commandant of the Louisiana State Police on a first-name basis and had the opportunity to fly with him in State Police helicopters all over the state looking at potential new headquarters sites. And once, when bad weather grounded the helicopter while we were in north Louisiana, I was relayed in State Police patrol cars from region to region all the way back to Baton Rouge. Other blessing accrued which are too numerous to mention.
And when we moved to Virginia Beach, although my career with the Christian Broadcasting Network was cut short, God blessed me by preparing me for a third career yet some 15 years in the future. After leaving CBN I was unable to find another project management opportunity in the Tidewater area, having no contacts there to call upon. So I studied for and obtained a Realtor’s license and tried working with a young broker I met to market potential residential and commercial developments. I was working on straight commission and ending up going a full year without closing on any sales, although we came close several times. It was after a year of living on only my wife’s income that we decided to move back to the DFW area where I was able to quickly resume my project management career. That flourished for 14 years before I lost my job due to a severe downturn in my firm’s business which lasted for over a year. That was when my real estate experience came in handy as I went to work for a company doing commercial real estate due diligence. I had the opportunity to travel the country inspecting the type of properties I had helped design for the last 25 years and writing property condition assessment reports for our clients who were looking at purchasing them or were providing the financing for the purchase. I did this for the next 11 years until my retirement in 2010 at 68 years of age.
Mary and I would not have been able to receive all of the blessings we did had we not made the commitment to follow Christ wherever he led us and to do whatever he asked us to do. We had never imagined going all the places we were able to go, both as part of our jobs and because we could afford all the travel we enjoyed so much, or do all the things we got to do. Truly God’s plans for us were much greater than what we had planned. He knew our desires and our abilities much better than we did. All we had to do was trust him and respond to his call to follow him.