Life isn’t fair. There is something about life that causes you to reflect and realize that everything that has happened was maybe not in the best interest of you. But also in that reflection you realize that you would never be who you are today without it. This is our story.
When Mike and I got married we began our marriage, 6 weeks after saying “I Do” in the Philippines. We had ZERO ongoing financial support and a $200 a month Student Loan debt payment. We connected with a Filipino couple who were in need of help and support with their church and off we went. An adventure I look back on that would be reserved for stupid people. 😊 All kidding aside we had no idea where it would take us.
For 3 years (2 of which were spent in the Philippines) we connected with a group of young people from poorer families who looked up to us. We taught them music, stood as witnesses at their weddings and took them for pizza. When we left in 2003 the tears flowed for a long time. We knew we were coming back to Canada to have children and we were not sure we would come back.
Fast forward 5 years and you will find us in Canmore, Alberta with 2 babies less than 1 year apart with a small business that we bought on payment plans. This proved to be the launching pad of becoming entrepreneurs and building businesses. Once that business was cooking, Mike went after his love of IT and opened a computer repair shop which grew faster than we thought and had us signing a lease for a larger space in less than a year. As you read this you must be thinking, “wow, what an amazing story and great opportunity.” Sure it sounds great and we lived the life that seemed great but if you look closer you would find some cracks.
We were not good with our money. Cash was flowing and mistakes were being made. We had no idea how to run a business. We enjoyed a lot of date nights at The Keg, family vacations, couple getaways but not a lot of saving or planning.
We were not honest about our marriage. Sure things seemed happy on the outside but with the two businesses, two young boys and an expensive lifestyle connection was slipping.
We were not honest with our friends. We never really shared how things really were. Mike was angry, I was exhausted and feeling depressed and the kiddos were playing more video games than I would ever want to admin.
It didn’t happen quickly or all of a sudden although it felt like that. Our marriage didn’t just hit some speed bumps, it full on got T-boned. Details are not what we will be sharing in this story but you can know that there was hurt on both sides, confusion and a big reality check. For the sake of our marriage and our family, we decided to sell our first business and shut down the second one and move to Calgary. We needed a reset and having a fresh start in a fresh city seemed to be the smartest move. In May 2010 we moved to Calgary, Alberta, about an hour from Canmore.
Unfortunately, the business sale fell through. It was $90,000 that we were planning on paying off the $60,000 worth of debt we had from business and personal credit cards and saving the other $30,000 to maybe buy a house or even just take a couple months off to reconnect and settle in. With the business sale falling through Mike got a job as a paper salesman (yes, he was working at The Office) and I tried to do some after-school care to pay the bills.
This season was HARD. We were trying to rebuild our marriage and keep our family together. Focus on the boys and skimping by with the money we got. A huge change from our cash flow days in Canmore. To add to the stress the creditors began to call and even with our story there was no mercy. Our 5% credit card jacked to 22% and the calls and letters didn’t stop. I remember one day standing over the laundry feeling hopeless and wondering if we will ever make it out. I felt God say to me “If I can restore your marriage, I can restore your credit.” And that was that. I felt peace in my heart that even though we were dealt a bad deck of cards, and even though we made some risky moves – He would have us.
Fast forward to 2015 – back to owning our own businesses and building our future together. Launching an online marketing company a couple years back began to grow and IT client base was being built again. Mike joined a business school and took over the finances. He started to watch every penny we had, he paid off credit cards (because I liked cash in the bank with minimum payments) and began to steward our money in a way that I could never have. He had a gift and a new passion for our business and numbers. They say when you take care of your numbers they take care of you…and that is what happened. We had the biggest 2 years our business has ever had.
We were comfortable. We had teams in place that I would oversee for the online marketing side of things and could spend more time with Mike and our boys. We did a couple of great family vacations, that we saved for and paid for in cash. The boys had gotten into a private school in Calgary that proved to be a good home for them in those late elementary years. We were talking about buying a house and maybe even getting a commercial space. We had started to dream a bit again. If only we knew…
In October of 2016 we went to a movie featuring the Hillsongs Worship Band and their journey. Part of the journey was visiting the Philippines, where they took time to share with families in their homes in the poorer part of Manila. We knew that country well and it was touching to be reminded of it, or so I thought. The truth was Mike was more than touched! I looked over at him and he was crying, no wait he was almost sobbing. I remember thinking, “That’s so sweet, he must miss the Philippines, remembering our time there.” Boy was I in for a surprise.
When we got home he was full of thoughts and I could barley keep up. “Becky, I can see us there again! I can see us returning!” I could not see that happening especially since we were just getting our feet back on the ground and feeling stable. After selling his most prized possession, a 100 gallon salt water aquarium we booked our tickets for a visit back WITH OUR BOYS 1 month later.
The rest of the story is now history. We went back for 3 weeks and we were walking where we used to live 15 years later and it felt like home. We visited and spent time with the youth, who are now married with their own children. It felt like we had been gone for a weekend, not 15 years! It was surreal and overwhelming all at the same time. We spent 10 days in Baguio and knew it would not be the last time. As soon as we returned we started planning our next trip which included pulling the boys from their school and signing them up for online school so we could go for longer stretches. It is what we did January-March of 2018. This time we stayed for 6 weeks and dived into their lives. Many had their own stories, their own business fails and inefficiencies. We counseled, taught and trained. Lives were shifted and changed for the better and businesses were put in a new direction. It was during this trip that Mike showed our friend, Ronnie, who was a farmer, Aquaponics. It was the start of something special and a big reason we are returning again this time. (Visit Highland Aquaponics to Learn More)
Two years ago we could never have thought this up, I don’t even think we could have even dreamed this up. People ask how we go away for such long periods of time and the answer is the businesses are set up with teams, virtual service plans and on the ground managers. Since one aspect of our business is online marketing (websites, SEO, AdWords, Social Marketing etc.) it can be done anywhere. Our IT businesses have team members in place to serve our clients and all other aspects of the IT can be handled virtually as well.
We are amazed at what God has done. We should be divorced and bankrupt. Our teenage boys should be disconnected and angry. Our hearts should be hurt and broken. But none of this is the case. We are happily married for 18 years, full of life and vision. Yes, our finances took a big hit but we are on the other side. We are happy and decided that looking in the review mirror only would cause more crashes. Our boys know our story, see our struggles and are connected and hopefull for their future.
How can it be? Well, I can only give credit to our amazing God. He is a good father. He never said life would be easy or fair, and for us, it has been both. But what we do have is peace, deep love and joy. A future that is so bright we need sunglasses because we can barely even manage to see the goodness that is to come.