Joy in the Journey

Joy in the Journey

Joy in the Journey
 
Have you been at a place in your life where you wanted to throw your hands in the air and shout, “Lord help! I’m not sure how much more I can handle!” Ed and Jennie Watson know that feeling, and certainly had reason to shout these words from the rooftops. In 2011, the couple relocated to Blacksburg, VA where Ed had accepted a position with Virginia Tech. With a well-developed career in construction and design of academic facilities across the state of Virginia, Ed was ready for the challenges that a major university would offer, and Jennie, ready to support Ed and his career goals, resigned from her teaching job, sold their home in Midlothian, and joined Ed for this new adventure. For most of 2011, this couple drove from Blacksburg to Richmond (to visit their son), to Raleigh (to visit their daughter), or to Greensboro (to visit Jennie’s aging parents) every weekend. Then, in April 2012, the unthinkable occurred. Jennie’s parents passed away within the span of only six days, with a funeral for her father on Good Friday, followed by a funeral for her mother on the following Friday. Can you imagine the loss of both parents in the course of one week? It gets worse. Two weeks later, Ed found himself without a job. So in three-week’s time, Jennie lost both parents, Ed is without a job, and there is a lot of uncertainty about where they might live or work. That’s a lot of stress to deal with! How did they cope? To answer that question you’ve got to know a little bit about this couple.
 
Ed and Jennie Watson found joy in the journeyJennie is from Alabama, and her parents moved around quite a bit due to multiple job relocations from Dothan, to Montgomery, to Birmingham, and finally to Huntington, WV. While Ed also grew up in Huntington, one did not know the other, going to different churches, high schools and such. After high school, Jennie attended Marshall University and Ed went to West Virginia Tech. One Friday afternoon, Ed decided to visit a friend at Marshall, and unknowingly, stopped a young lady on campus to ask for directions. That young lady was Jennie; Ed jokes that he continues to ask her for directions! They met in October 1978, and started dating Thanksgiving weekend. After four or five months, they stopped dating, Ed’s mother passed away, Jennie went on to graduate school and moved out-of-state, Ed graduated from WV Tech in civil engineering and started a career in the Huntington-Charleston area as a sales engineer. Some four years later, Ed visited the church that Jennie had attended when she was growing up in Huntington. On that Sunday, Jennie was in town visiting her family, and she and her mother walked together across the church parking lot, following the service. Ed caught a glimpse of Jennie and walked over to her car. They talked a few minutes about where each now lived, how long it had been since they last saw one another, and Jennie went home. Before she and her mother arrived home from church, Jennie’s mother asked, “Would you ever again go out with Ed?” to which Jennie replied, “Heavens no! Never again!” That afternoon, Ed called her parents’ house, and asked Jennie if she would go out with him – and she said, “Yes!” They started dating (again) at Thanksgiving, a few months later, Ed asked Jennie to marry him, and they married on July 30, 1983 in Huntington.
 
The Watson’s have two children. Julie, is married; she and her husband, Curtis, live in Wake Forest, NC and have two children, Ellie (4 years old) and Cooper (17 months). David, Ed and Jennie’s son, lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. Jennie is a Speech Language Pathologist and works in the Chesterfield County Public Schools and Ed works as a Director of Public Works for the city of Hopewell. Amid all of the moves in their married life, from Huntington, to Petersburg, VA, to Durham, NC, to Richmond, to Blacksburg, and back to Midlothian, the one constant in the Watson’s life has been their faith. They have a strong faith as both of them grew up in church. That leads us to the answer of how they were able to cope with that terrible season of their lives when Jennie lost her parents and Ed lost his job. They were able to get through it because they looked to the Lord. They pulled together and prayed together. On his desk as he looked for work each day, there was a magnet with a paraphrase of Jeremiah 29:11, “Look forward to each day, for God has such great plans to prosper you and give you an incredible future.” The Watson’s trusted in this scripture, but time passed, and while there were interviews, there were no job offers for 12 months. Then one day, Jennie said something that changed their prayer life. She told Ed, “We need to ask God to send you to a place where they really need you.” That place was Hopewell. I asked Ed if he felt the Lord led him there
 
Ed replied, “No. Not at first. I thought the job in Hopewell would be a ‘place holder’ job, and a better job would come along. I really didn’t see a ray of light in my job, but as time passed, I found I was beginning to make a difference. Interestingly, I did get other job offers. And, for the last six years, I have chosen not to accept new employment offers because Hopewell is where I need to be. This job is not the one I would have picked for myself, but it’s where the Lord wanted me. I’ve come to realize that I’m not doing this job to ‘pad my resume,’ but I am there to serve, and when I leave, hopefully that city will be a better place.” Amen. That’s servant leadership!
 
There are a couple of things to take from Ed and Jennie’s story. First and foremost, their faith sustained them through a very difficult period in their life’s journey. Interestingly, they believe the uncertainty of this time was made even harder because they didn’t have a Church family to rely on for support. Job relocation, job loss, and countless trips out-of-town to take care of Jennie’s parents, were ahead. But, they looked to the Lord in their time of need, and trusted in God’s provision and guidance.
The other takeaway is that so often in life, the hand of the Lord is only visible by looking back. Ed and Jennie prayed for a place where Ed would be needed, and Ed took a step of faith taking the job in Hopewell. He didn’t know if it was the right thing at first, but over time, God has shown him that he did make the right choice. It’s also important to note that the job the Lord had for Ed was not one that Ed would have chosen for himself. Ed says that he continues to learn that life is about getting on board with “God’s script” and that means “we have to let go of our own script.”
 
The Watson’s are a lovely couple, gifted with a lot of faith, wisdom, and a heart for others. One of their passions is actively participating in and facilitating small groups. Ed and Jennie will start a small group in their home on Sunday evening, beginning May 19th. This small group will start-up on a 6-week study titled, If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg. It’s a study on how to deepen your faith with the Lord and consider the incredible potential that awaits you outside your comfort zone. How to take steps, even risky steps, on the waters of faith to find Jesus waiting to meet you for the adventure of your life. This is a walk this couple has lived! We hope you’ll want to join in on their hospitality, and become a part of this small group. The group will meet from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday evenings, and there will be plenty of good food too! The Watson’s have a small sign in their home that reads, “Find Joy in the Journey.” I suspect if you sign up for their small group, you’ll find a good deal of joy as you journey together. To sign up, please call the church office or sign up using the sign up sheet in the People of Hope Center. May God bless Ed and Jennie Watson and May God bless Bethel Church.
 
Todd
 

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