By Michelle Ule
Brave Women Series - Michelle's Story
I’ve always been fascinated by the effect of a choice –particularly when a seemingly innocent “yes,” changes the course of your life.
Sometimes a word spoken true can make all the difference. Or even a seemingly-off-the-cuff remark. Or maybe even a rash promise by Jephthah in Judge 12:7 to sacrifice the first thing he saw while hurrying home from battle.
God, however, doesn’t take our words lightly, and neither should we.
"Sometimes a word spoken true can make all the difference. Or even a seemingly-off-the-cuff remark. Or maybe even a rash promise... God, however, doesn't take our words lightly, and neither should we."
Today, 42 years later, I can see how a simple pledge to say “yes,” changed our lives and led me to this very desk.
Return with me to the fall of 1982
Six-months pregnant with our second child, I lay on the couch one rainy Connecticut afternoon, reading The Tapestry: The Life and Times of Francis and Edith Schaeffer. It’s a lengthy book that details God’s work in Edith Schaeffer’s life (begun as a missionary’s child in China), that of her husband Francis, and their life together.
They spent many years in Switzerland running a seeker’s open house called L’Abri where the Schaeffer’s shared the Gospel, often with “hippies” backpacking around Europe. God took the couple through many twists and turns throughout their lives. They prayed about all their decisions and as I read the book, it seemed they always chose the harder option.
“That doesn’t make sense to me, Lord,” I prayed that day. “I’ve always thought if you are okay with letting me choose, I might as well take the easier choice.”
But as I continued reading, my mind circled back to their decision-making process.
“Okay, Lord,” I finally said (still lying on the couch with the book balanced on my pregnant stomach). “The next time I have to make a decision, I’ll take the harder choice. I’ll say yes.”
"But as I continued reading, my mind circled back to their decision-making process... “Okay, Lord,” I finally said. “The next time I have to make a decision, I’ll take the harder choice. I’ll say yes.”
A Shocked YES
The hard decision came through the door not an hour later.
At that time, my Navy lieutenant was up for orders. In the nuclear submarine “career pipeline,” his natural next duty station would be a shore job, meaning we’d live regular hours like normal people. He’d go to work in the morning and come home in time for dinner. It sounded like a blissfully easy life after the swinging 12-hour shift work we’d lived through the last two years, not to mention the submarine overhaul nightmare, and the months-long deployments we’d survived in the past.
Being able to plan our life (as in, “What time will you be home for dinner?”) seemed an extraordinary luxury. I could hardly wait to experience a normal life together. I looked forward to having him around while nursing the second baby (not to mention the two-year-old).
But my husband is an exceptional engineer and that day he came home excited about his prospects. All I had to do was look up from my book and smile.
“The detailer called.”
“The detailer called today. He offered me the engineer’s position on the USS Skipjack. What do you think?”
I thought of the toddler still taking a nap and the baby in my womb kicking at Edith’s book.
An engineer’s tour on a nuclear submarine is one of the hardest jobs in the Navy. As the oldest submarine in the Atlantic Ocean, the USS Skipjack would require even more time away from home and many phone calls in port because of mechanical problems.
I thought about the fast attack submarine deployment schedule and how his focus would be on keeping her at sea, and not staying home to play with the children.
I thought about how far we lived from our relatives–3500 miles–and how much time I would spend alone in an old house in the woods with an aging car and only a wood stove to keep us warm in the winter.
Hadn’t we decided he would take a shore tour so things would be easier on the family? I wanted to narrow my eyes and scream, “No!” But I had made a promise not an hour before.
He was grinning with such excited anticipation. What else could I say?
“You mean it?”
He bounded upstairs and I closed my eyes. I cried at the thought of what the future held. But because of Edith Schaeffer’s brave example, I had promised.
We took the harder choice.
"I cried at the thought of what the future held. But because of Edith Schaeffer’s brave example, I had promised... We took the harder choice."
I look back on that day, now, and see it as the hinge of our life. Because of that engineer’s tour–which was just as long and even more challenging than I anticipated–the rest of my husband’s Navy career changed. Which led us to Monterey, Washington, Hawai’i, and then back to California.
That “yes” inspired by Edith Schaeffer made all the difference.
It wasn’t easy. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
What “yes” is God asking you (and me) to make today?
"What “yes” is God asking you (and me) to make today?"
Brave Woman Manifesto
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Michelle Ule is the bestselling author of historical inspirational novellas, a WWI-coming of age novel, a 13-year blogger, a speaker, and the biographer of both Mrs. Oswald Chambers: The Woman Behind the World’s Bestselling Devotional and the recent Overflowing Faith: Lettie Cowman and Streams in the Desert, a Biography.
A graduate in English Literature from UCLA, she’s taught Bible study ever since and loves to travel the world when she’s not home reading.