Confirmation Follows Obedience
They were both Texas natives who met at Texas A&M. Mike majored in industrial distribution and became a sales engineer at Johnson Controls, and Elizabeth majored in marketing and started in sales at Kodak. They began their careers in Houston in the early ’80s and eventually married in 1984.
Elizabeth’s success in sales led to leadership positions both at Kodak and a legal printing company over an eight-year period. Mike had also been successful in progressive positions with his company and was offered a promotion in 1990 that meant relocating to Raleigh, N.C. Though Elizabeth was reluctant to start over in a new city, the Murphy’s decided to go. In retrospect, Elizabeth found that starting over—and relinquishing many of the things she cherished in her career—was instrumental in strengthening their marriage and provided the foundation to start their family with their first child the next year. She spent the next decade as a full-time mother as Mike’s career continued to advance.
The Murphy’s were later transferred to Cleveland, then Milwaukee; in fact, they moved three times in one year with two kids in tow, and eventually added two more children to the mix. Like many, Mike became overwhelmed with work. “I was traveling as much as 80 percent of the time, and it was tough on me and our family.” To scale back his workload, he joined a small start-up company that promised equity—and wealth, which never came. So in 1999, when he was offered a position with a general contractor in Houston, Mike and Elizabeth said “yes” and were excited to be going home to their Texas roots.
Two years into this career stop, Mike found that the company and the position were not a good fit for him and, for the first time in his career, quit his job without another one on the horizon. “It was a scary time and my confidence was shaken because I didn’t know what God had in store for me,” he says. “But I knew I needed to take a fresh look at how I’d been wired in order to find the right opportunity.”
Mike ended up identifying several opportunities, one of which was as an associate pastor at the church they had previously attended in Milwaukee. Interestingly, the job he really wanted during this transition, but didn’t get, was with Enron (which declared bankruptcy not too long afterwards)—God often works in mysterious ways. Both Mike and Elizabeth were convinced that there was no way they could consider the church position; Mike had no seminary training, the pay was not sufficient, Elizabeth would have to go back to work, and they loved being close to their families in Texas.
You can probably guess the outcome: “God changed both of our hearts and found small and often obvious ways to overcome every objection we raised. In fact, we both felt as though not accepting this calling would be an act of disobedience. We had to take a leap of faith that the confirmation of this decision would only come after we took the obedient steps.”
Elizabeth’s insight on their decision to move back to Wisconsin is enlightening. “The children’s view of Mike’s work and of work in general had become negative because they witnessed their father not enjoying the last few years of his corporate career. Since he took this position six years ago, they’ve witnessed a whole new perspective on Mike’s joy in his work—and of work overall.” And Mike has been pleasantly surprised by how well his corporate experience had prepared him for the role.
The Murphy’s have clearly made sacrifices to take this route. Elizabeth has worked part time for most of the years since they returned to Wisconsin, and they’ve had to be modest in their spending. “I still get a pit in my stomach at times related to our finances,” she says, “but every time that happens, I look backwards at how God has provided in tough and challenging times, and I rest in the comfort of knowing He’s in control.”
What does the future hold for the Murphy’s? As Elizabeth says, “I pray that Mike and I will ultimately be in ministry together.” His experience, coupled with her gift for writing and public speaking aimed at encouraging Christian women in their faith walk, should make for a great team.
Mike: “When we made tough career and family decisions, it had to be a ‘we’ decision. The heart change Elizabeth and I experienced in our last transition can only come from God and was enabled by our ability to communicate well together and being open to His calling.”
Elizabeth: “Be passionate about whatever you do; be practical about your options; be prayerful; and don’t be afraid to ask God the really hard questions and share your fears. It may be His way of drawing you closer to Him.
The Murphy’s are a testament to the power and the peace that’s available in our life journey, even during difficult challenges.