Fear Not

Jun 1, 2020 | Faith, Life

[title subtitle=”WORDS Stoney Stamper
IMAGES courtesy April Stamper”][/title]

One morning a few months back, I was at a sales planning meeting in Texas. We had rented a beautiful resort on Possum Kingdom Lake. I sat with several friends and employees around a fire pit for most of the night with a big bottle of bourbon and a whole lot of stories, most of them probably untrue. The next morning, I woke up with a crick in my neck. As the day went on, pain began to radiate down my arm. I returned from my trip and for the next several days, it continued to worsen. After a few trips to the spine hospital in Tulsa, it was determined they needed to do surgery, and quickly. They had to go in through my throat to fix my neck and arm. It’s not as intrusive as it sounds, but it’s still a little unnerving to have an inch-and-a-half cut in your throat, right beside your Adam’s apple. I was sore for a week or so, and my voice sounded like Carl from Sling Blade, but other than that, it was a total success and took all my pain away almost immediately.

If you know much about me, you know I am no stranger to surgery, but I was required to take three weeks off from work following the surgery. What you may not know is that I make my primary income from the oil and gas industry. I have worked for a major oil and gas well servicing company for a long time. During my accident, and the aftermath of hospital stays and surgeries, they were great to me and my family. But if you’ve been paying attention, the oil business has been a pretty scary place for a while. We’d been putting more and more cost cutting measures into place and were running as skinny as we could run. Even though things were tough, I really thought my tenure with the company would keep my position safe. Not to brag, but there wasn’t anything in our business that I didn’t know about or couldn’t manage.

But we had a new CEO, and as new bosses often do, they like to bring in their own teams. On February 24th, I was excited to get back to work following my surgery. I’d been at the office for about fifteen minutes when my boss from Fort Worth walked in my office in Oklahoma City, unexpectedly. That’s generally never a great sign. Then he took the human resource person into the conference room, without asking me to join them. My mind began to swirl. I know these protocols very well. Then it happened. “Stoney, you want to join us in the conference room for a moment?” You know what happened next.

My world was rocked. Since my car wreck in 2017, I’ve had many things taken from me. I was an athletic, outdoorsy type that liked to build fence and run 5K’s and break colts. In an instant, I lost the physical ability to do all of those things. But even through all of that, I still had a great, important career. I know that you’re not supposed to be defined by your job, but that’s exactly what I’d become. It felt like it was all I had left, and now it was gone too. I began to box my things up, my mind reeling. On that long drive home, I began to think how I was going to explain this to the kids. How was I going to try and pretend that everything was ok? That just seemed impossible, but I didn’t want to scare them. Remember, they’ve all been through everything I have been through the last few years. April knew how hard this was hitting me, so she told the girls the news, so I didn’t have to.

I went home, April hugged me when I came in the house, but I couldn’t speak. I knew if I tried to say something, the dam would break. I was barely hanging on. I went to the bathroom and shut the door. I looked at myself in the mirror, and saw a man that was beat down, defeated. I lost it. A grown man, crying like a four-year-old that dropped his Pop-Tart on the playground. I changed clothes, climbed into bed at noon, and went to sleep. I hardly got out of that bed for about four days. We were in the process of buying the house we had been living in. We had actually just submitted our banking approval on the previous Friday, just three days ago. Now that was still probably salvageable, but it’s awful stressful to sign a big mortgage when you currently don’t have a significant source of income. Not to mention, daughters are expensive.

After a few weeks of pouting, I decided it was time to get my strays gathered up and point my herd back in the right direction. I’ve got four girls that need me, and for the last few weeks, April has been carrying the whole load, yet again. However, since I got let go, a little thing called COVID-19 happened. The oilfield had gone into complete shutdown mode. Oil was selling at unprecedented low prices. No matter my expertise or experience, it doesn’t matter much when the country has to shut down. No one was hiring for obvious reasons. April, even though she was struggling with her own doubts and negative thoughts on our situation, continued to hold me up and push me to trust my faith in God, because she knew that’s what I needed. Just a little reminder of what He can do, because I can be bullheaded and want to fix everything myself. And, so we prayed. We prayed for God’s will and guidance.

Then one day, my dad called me. Honestly, I was surprised it had taken him this long. For years, he has wanted me to take over for him when he retires, but the timing has just never been right, and honestly, if my previous company hadn’t fired me, I never would have left on my own. Now this was a great company and opportunity, and much less stress than what I’ve been dealing with for the last several years. They wanted me to start immediately, which was certainly a blessing, because I know people that lost their jobs around the same time that I did that are still looking for a new job. The only hitch to this whole deal was, we had to move again. Now when I had to move to Florida, Virginia, or to Oklahoma, it wasn’t a big deal to me, because I adapt easily and didn’t really care where I lived. But when you have kids, everything changes. At first, it seemed this new position just wasn’t going to work. The girls didn’t respond very positively when we discussed moving. I told my dad I just didn’t think it was going to happen.

A few days went by, and the discussion was brought up again. They seemed to be warming up to it. A few days later, April told me to take the job. In a matter of days, I took the job, found a house not too far away, and found some movers that were available when I needed them. Everything, and I do mean everything, fell right into place. The girls love the new house, I love the new job, we didn’t go broke, and my stress levels are probably lower than they’ve been in a decade or more.

All my life, but especially in the last two-and-a-half years, I’ve been in trouble over and over again. But not a single time has God not pulled me from the ditch, brushed me off, patted me on the back and sent me on to the next chapter of my life. That’s a hundred percent of the time, which is pretty darn high. Hopefully someday I’ll learn to take it to Him first, rather than worrying over it. But then again, I’ve never been a very fast learner. Maybe someday.

Stoney Stamper is the best-selling author of My First Rodeo: How Three Daughters, One Wife, and a Herd of Others Are Making Me a Better Dad(WaterBrook) and author of the popular parenting blog The Daddy Diaries. He and his wife, April, have three daughters and live in Oklahoma, where they are heavily involved in agriculture and raise and show a variety of animals.

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