Life

Hello Family and Friends,

I feel compelled to write this letter to you all of you to update you on our lives.  Much of this very long letter will be about me, Bobby, but as a family unit it really is an update about all of us.  Also, due to the fact my wonderful wife Shirlene is pretty much consistently perfect (and I really do mean that, although I am usually sarcastic, I’m straight up serious this time), there is less change to write about in her life, and since I am such a huge work in process, there is much more to write about me.  First off let me just say, I will not be offended if you don’t want to read the book I’m about to write, not many people have four or five free hours to sit and read.  ;)

Over the past week I have felt that I should really reflect on my life and what God has done and what I think God is doing.  As I think about my life I praise God for His faithfulness to keep me close even when I didn’t really know Him.  To protect and bless me even when I claimed to know Him but simply lived in religion not in relationship with Him.  God truly is faithful.

This is an extreme summary of my life.  I don’t wish to present it in an overly negative light, I just want to be real, no facades.

1976

My childhood was good, living in sunny California with my brother Daniel, who I repeatedly shot with our bb gun (sorry Daniel), our family dogs, birds, chickens, and horses.  We moved a few times, I changed schools around a baker’s dozen (yes mom, for real), and grew up calling myself a Christian.  I loved electronics, constantly building things and taking things apart (sometimes being able to put them back together).  When I became a teen I fell in love with computers, I loved “optimizing” our family computer, which usually meant another trip back to where we got it so they could restore what I deleted, which is why I received the nickname “file-dumper.”  Even with a nickname like that people still had me build computers for them, so I started to build computers for friends and family.

1991

At 15 we all moved to Washington to follow my mom’s huge family (she’s one of 8 kids) who had moved there a year or so before.  This was a very hard time in my life, moving to my 13th school (yes mom, for real again), starting in the middle of Sophomore year at Prairie High School, not knowing a single person while just my brother and I lived with my grandparents (my mom and dad were wrapping things up at the LA County Fair).  It was just a few months but it was so hard, I can remember crying silently at night and in the morning, feeling so alone but surrounded by people.  Soon after that, my mom, dad, brother and I were all together again and working at US Digital.  I would get out of school early and build computers, encoders and other cool stuff and sometimes get paid for it!

1995

When I hit 17 I hated school and I loved work, so I took my GED and didn’t return to my senior year, I also bought a new house and moved out.  I was working a ton and I loved it.  I wanted to learn everything I could so I started to make that my goal, I also wanted to make as much money as I could so that became my number one goal.  I had a job, money, skills, house and a new girlfriend – life was good, or was it?  I learned more and more about all sorts of things, trying everything under the sun, I wanted to be good at everything.  Then one day at my day job, US Digital, there was drama.  US Digital was a family business owned by my uncle, almost the whole place was family, tons of em’.  There was a disagreement one day between David Madore and the rest of the family, and that started one of the most impactful, and now that I look back, one of the most hurtful and damaging things in my life.  There was a huge family split, everyone, except for my parents, my brother and I, either quit or were fired.  I didn’t know what to think, I just loved to work, little did I know, by staying at US Digital I chose a side.  Soon after that the entire family shunned us, cussed us out and spread rumors around the area that I was a child molester.  I continued to work US Digital and my computer consulting business.  I felt fine, which means I was, right?

1996

At about 20, my girlfriend of four years, the one I thought I was going to marry, broke up with me.  We were doing well but she said God told her that we were not supposed to be together.  Honestly I thought she was crazy.  I didn’t believe God would say that, why would He break up what appeared to be a good thing?  I continued to work, save, invest money and go to church each Sunday.  I felt fine, fairly unaffected, which means I was, right?

1997

When I was 21, I received a call from a friend of mine, Ramona.  She asked me if I would be interested in taking one of her friends out on a blind date.  I said sure, got her number and called her.  I ended up talking with her mom, who I really liked.  She said she would have Shirlene call me.  Shirlene called me the next day and we talked for hours.  In fact, the whole week we talked everyday, for hours.  By day three I knew I was going to marry her and I told my dad and my best friend the news.  A week after we first talked, I met her at her house, she answered the door, she was beautiful and sweet but she said her name was Camille.  Oops, wrong girl, Camille then introduced me to Shirlene who was also beautiful and super sweet.  I was so intimidated, her house was full of people, I met her friends, parents, grandparents and pets.  I couldn’t wait to just be with her and talk.  We talked, ate, talked and walked.  I loved her.  We dated for about 6 months, engaged for 3 and then married for life.  This was and will be the most precious and wonderful blessing the Lord has ever given me and I truly believe my previous girlfriend heard from the Lord – praise God.  I truly love my wife, she does complete me, and I can only hope that I can grow to be the man that completes her.

2000

Soon after being married, cracks in my Christian facade were starting to show, my selfishness, my pursuit of money and my improper priorities.  Work was most important, then came my wife.  As a Christian man I was supposed to be a good provider, prepare a home for my wife and a future for my family… that’s what I was doing, wasn’t it?  As the years passed, my pursuit of learning everything under the sun continued, houses purchased, fixed up and sold, Land Cruiser conversion, cars bought and sold, barns, security, programming, electronics, water power generation, etc.  Why didn’t Shirlene understand?  I was providing but it just never seemed good enough to her, although she still treated me with great love and grace…  What more could she want?

2003

Then came my second greatest blessing ever, beautiful little Ellie.  What a sweetheart!  I never knew it was possible to love something that much, that quickly.  And as she came into the world, our world was changing.

2004

We split our current property, sold the property and sold our current house.  We just bought our dream 20 Acre property and we were building our dream home.  For nine months I worked US Digital and every waking moment I spent building our dream house.  By the time it was done, we moved in and Ellie didn’t even know me anymore.  I was determined to change my ways and spend more time with my wonderful daughter but work responsibilities just increased and I was in charge of a huge commercial remodel, and I was loving it.  Then we purchased another partially built house, finished it and sold it.  Then I took on another commercial remodel.

This was also the time when more family disowned me, my parents.  This was a very hurtful thing, but I felt fine, was I?  Things at this point with my parents have been redeemed and we have a good relationship now.

2006

Along came another wonderful blessing, our sweet little Bella.  What a cute little fun-loving baby girl.  And she sure was happy girl!

2007

By this time, I was feeling tired and in need of a break.  In fact, I started to wonder if there was more to this life.  I started to desire the things of God and started to see some things of man as meaningless.  So I did what all tired business men did, I went to Costa Rica.  I decided I wanted to get away from everything, seek God and learn Spanish.  I ended up at a Spanish school in the middle of the jungle, living with a host family, walking to school, where I was the only student and my professor was a pastor in transition.  I spent three weeks in Costa Rica, I learned some Spanish but most importantly I heard from God – probably for the first time in my life.  I was ashamed of what I spent my life pursuing, wealth, status and knowledge.  I was ashamed of our huge house full of material things – I felt like I wanted to run away with my family and be missionaries and live a life of simplicity.  I repented for the those things, repented for the way I treated my wife and my kiddos  I was determined for things to be different.  While there in Costa Rica I had a dream that I believe is from God.  In summation, the dream was a community of people on a tropical plantation, some believers, some not, living off of the land and sharing the love of Christ.  We lived in the community and preached the Gospel to all who would listen, we employed people and provided for their needs, truly loving people around us.  (There is a ton more detail but that’s another book)  ;)

When I returned home I was so happy to see my wife and my girls.  But I sure did not want to return to our house, which to me was a huge example of greed and misspent time.  Over the next few weeks my gracious wife allowed me to express my thoughts and feelings and make quite a few changes in our life.  I returned back to work but I didn’t have the drive I had before, I felt my work lacked meaning.  As time went on, Shirlene and I prayed that God would bring us people who would be blessed by our home and God sent Shirlene’s sister Bonnie, her daughter Jessica and our now adopted daughter Lucy.  This was a good example of God using our past mistakes to spread His love.  Life is more challenging in community but I wouldn’t want to live any other way, its not just a very sophisticated quote, sharing is caring.  Praise you God again for your faithfulness.

2008

At US Digital I was seeking eternal meaning in my job and I was having a hard time finding it.  I wanted what I did to mean something to the Kingdom.  I thought about what I saw in Costa Rica, the way the Spanish school supported a house next door that cared for handicapped indigenous people, supported poor families where students lived, brought in people from the community to cook, clean and teach.  It was hard to see where the line was between business and ministry.  This is where the concept for the US Digital Outreach Center was born.  Shirlene and I chose a couple other couples to discern through over 30 ministries in our area and invite them to move into the Outreach Center to serve the community.  From adoption to missions, evangelism to counseling – the community had one place to go to have their needs served by others who were committed to Christ.  Shirlene and I loved what God was doing and we loved being a part of it.

Soon after that, through Divine connection, we were introduced to Brett Johnson.  Brett came in as a business consultant to help us with our whole business.  In our first session I watched the Bible come to life, in business!  Yes, you read that right, the Bible is applicable in business.  Over the next few weeks our passion for God’s word and a true relationship with God was reignited and it was awesome!  There is no doubt God was moving in US Digital and in the lives of many of us who worked there.  But I still wondered, is there something more?  The answer was, yes.  During one of our management meetings we were sharing about our lives.  I was listening to everyone’s stories and trying to come up with what I was going to say, of course it was going to be witty, funny and preserve the facade I so very well kept.  After hearing everyone share it was my turn, and I started to share.  But something was wrong, I started to share how God had moved in me while I was in Costa Rica, something very real to me and I didn’t really feel ready to be that transparent but too late, I already started sharing… what have I done.  It was as if my mind was split into two, one sharing and the other listening, trying to come up with a way to stop.  And all of a sudden it happened, I was so deeply moved by what God had done for me I started to cry, and I mean really cry.  I couldn’t even speak and I tried to speak.  It even reached ugly-cry levels and I was mortified.  I eventually shared most of the story, I think, and we broke for coffee.  What happened?  I knew what I wanted to share and it was not something that dear and real to me.  Everything from this day has been different in my life.  This is the day that the Holy Spirit was finally able to break through.  I call this my spiritual awakening.

After this the Holy Spirit was alive in me, I could hear Him and I could feel Him.  I was deeply moved to tears often when praying and was able to feel the pain of others.  I can remember praying for a homeless man with a sign on the side of a busy road weeping as he wept, amazed and the change within me.  Shirlene and I traveled to South Africa with a ministry called rep to work with other companies to bring Biblical principles into their businesses – it was incredible and it continued to spur us on spiritually.  Upon returning home, God continued to speak.  God performed miracles from fixing machines, removing curses from land, gold dust and other incredible experiences.  Life, simply put, was amazing.  To be close to God is all we need, period.

At US Digital things were changing, David Madore had retired, I was made CEO, and Dave announced he was passing the company to us.  Wow, what an amazing blessing, our life was all laid out and taken care of, so why did it feel claustrophobic, a little scary?  What about the Costa Rica dream?

2009

Life was incredibly busy, but it felt ok since it was for God.  I felt that I needed to spend my time where it effected the greatest number of people for Christ.  I was spending more time at work again but it was for the Kingdom, its what God wanted, wasn’t it?

At the end of January I received a call from Dave the retired owner of US Digital, he wanted a meeting to discuss some serious matters.  I will never forget that Friday meeting, for five hours I listened to my uncle Dave accuse me of all sorts of evil things and it appeared there was no convincing him otherwise.  Two days later He and his wife Donna came to our house and accused us of being in a cult, brainwashed and needing professional help.  He then fired us, just like that, after 17 years.  A week later he fired everyone related to me.  A week after that, everyone who was friends with me.  A couple months later he had fired over 30 of the 100 employees.  I felt hurt, but only for a little while, which means I was ok, right?  The most hurtful part were all of the others that were fired because of their association with me, I grieved for them.  How could God allow this to happen?  I was convinced this was Satan winning, how could God let that happen?  What about everything He was doing there?

I couldn’t believe it and I wanted justice, surly we can take care of this Biblically, right?  Matthew 18:15-17  This was perfect, find three men of God to issue justice.   After some persuasion Dave agreed, the pastors reviewed the situation and after about a month or so simply stated that Dave, as the owner can do as he pleases, and maybe yes, he should have done some things differently.  I again was grieved.  How could this be?  The details are not important, all I can say is out of the three, there was only one righteous judge (I love you Arden).  In the end, the recommendations were watered down and the cold hard truth was not revealed.  Ouch.

After being in business all of my life, I did what God was calling me to do again, I started another business.  VERTO, a Kingdom business incubator, invited people in and we had seven companies sharing a historical house in downtown Vancouver.  The only problem was, God didn’t call me to do this.  I thought it was good, its what I knew, but in no way did God speak this.  Ok, lets pause here for a moment.  I want to talk about when I say God spoke or God gave.  There were times when what I was doing appeared to be so “good” that it I thought to myself, “this has to be from God.”  So, I would say God spoke it.  This was not the truth, God did not say to start VERTO, I bought the lie and sold the lie.  For this I am very sorry.  Even thought this was not God’s calling, He again was gracious and poured His love on all of us at VERTO.  We experienced wonderful community, bonding, healing and love – this was a very important piece of the healing process.

At this point we decided to sell our house, which we knew would be a miracle in this economy.  Shirlene and I were both at peace about this and in six months God sold our house.  We then proceeded to sell and get rid of about 80% of everything we owned.  We moved out and in with Camille and Garridan (amazingly generous people) temporarily.

The same day we moved out and in I headed off to California for a consulting job.  I worked hard and all of the stresses of life had taken a toll, when I returned home I was unable to breath well.  I could hardly make it up the stairs, couldn’t sing, coughed constantly, could only walk, and it was getting worse.  I went to a lung specialist and after three weeks of tests, lung biopsies, lymph node around my heart biopsied, CT scans, etc.  I was diagnosed with an incurable autoimmune disease, Sarcoidosis.  I was put on high steroids, and not the kind that make you buff (too bad).  The steroids had some serious side effects, compromised / no immune system, insomnia and diabetic problems.  Because I had no immune system I had to move into Shirlene’s parents house (whom I love dearly) because my family started to get colds.  I was sick, depressed, couldn’t sleep, unemployed, separated from my family, house-less and had to shut down VERTO.  But there was hope, I was reconnecting with my Lord, praying, reading His word and I realized what fatal mistake I had made, I ran without His direction.  He was making me lie down in green pastures and He was restoring my soul.  As I read Psalm 23 from Shirlene’s old bedroom in her parents house, all alone, I looked out the window and noticed I really was surrounded by green pastures.  I was exactly where God wanted me to be and that’s the key word here, be.  My whole life I have “done” but God wants me to just “be.”

As I recovered and started feeling better my family moved in and life was starting to feel better.  I was feeling so much better I started to think about other business ideas, I had a spreadsheet and one item really stuck out, a private investigator specializing in missing persons and human trafficking.  I mean, it sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it?  I researched, studied, I was gonna do this.  Then one day I was praying, feeling really good.  I said, “God, I am feeling so good, I feel like this is the end of my season of trials… is it?”  And I clearly heard God say, “no.”  And immediately following the answer I had a picture of me laying in a hospital bed looking sick.  I said, “no, this is not of God!”  And I ignored what I heard and saw until two days later.  I was at the church cleaning up the nursery after a pipe broke.  As I bent down to pick up a toy I tore the cartilage in my knee it is locked my leg.  I couldn’t believe it.  Within a week I was having surgery and for two months I couldn’t walk.  Totally depressed, broken, dependent on my wife, grumpy and helpless I laid in bed.  Ok God, I get it, just be.

Even though this was a very hard year, God brought two men into my life that spoke life and direction to me.  Thank you Bruce Crawford and Dave Sonntag, I love you both very much.

2010

I was recovering, learning to walk and life was becoming more normal.  I started cleaning up and fixing things around Shirlene’s parents farm, and I really loved it.  I loved helping them out and I was really trying to focus on Christ.  I felt impacted one day by what I read in Jeremiah 29:5, Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them.  I loved the simplicity and the dependance upon God.  I started to wonder about farming and wonder turned to starting to farm.  We fenced the place, bought a herd of yak, made a chicken trailer, bought a flock of chickens, and we were farming baby!  The girls loved it, I loved it.  We raised baby chicks, kittens, baby yak, it was incredible.  I learned to slaughter, package meat, and started to learn how to live self-sustainably.  I really feel that this is how God wants us to live.  Generate your own food, depending on God entirely for rain, sun, protection and provision.  Extract yourself from slavery, the thing we call “our culture.”

2011

We added rabbits, a greenhouse and a big garden.  I was in heaven and so were my girls.

I had been reading quite a bit and I started to become concerned with the state of our country and economy.  Farming turned to survivalism and my mindset started to shift.  I went from working the land in dependance upon God to storing for a cataclysmic event.  I bought guns, ammo, fuel, water storage, food, freezers, veggie oil vehicles, communications, tools, tires and anything needed to live in a Book of Eli world.  I was afraid to fly due because of the possibility that an “event” may occur and I would be unable to get home to my well prepared nest.  I kept up on the latest non-mainstream news and followed the forecasts of others talking about the end being near.

Then a job opportunity came up in Lancaster, PA partnering with a friend of mine.  It was only for four months, so I thought we could probably squeeze it in before the end of the world hit.  This was not a job I was super passionate about but surrounded by Amish farming country, partnering with a friend of mine, it paid well and Shirlene and I felt God was calling us to go.  So we went.  Amish farm country is awesome, being with a good friend of mine was great and I was able to visit my favorite farm in US too, Polyface.  I heard Joel Salatin of Polyface talk about the Lord and the land that confirmed within me that this is what I love, this is of God.  As for the business partnership, well, it didn’t work out and it was quite rough there for a while.  We decided on our way back home we would stop and visit some friends in Newport News, VA, Janelle and Seth.  We showed up, they welcomed us with open arms and we ended up finishing their garage into an awesome tiny house where we now reside for well, we don’t know for how long.  We have fallen in love with a group we call the fellowship group, essentially a house church modeled after the early Acts church.  We have bonded with our brothers and sisters in Christ here.  We have found commonality around faith, farming and living.  We are growing in Christ, reflecting on our lives, and seeking God’s will on where to go and what to do next.

Now

That brings us to today.  What is God doing?  Where are we at?

He is loving us, teaching us, refining us and showing us what He wants.  I have learned so much about myself, many things that are hard to admit, many things I wish I could go back in time and change.  However, I am so thankful that our God is a God that uses our past for His purposes, drawing on our past to help others in similar situations, allowing us to see how far we’ve come and to display His awesome goodness.

My whole life I have spent in the pursuit of something, from one thing to the next.  I have sought out knowledge, power, money, and the next best thing.  I have been discontent in almost everything I’ve done, seeking satisfaction and never finding it.  That was until I focused in one place, one place alone, Jesus Christ.  I no longer wish to be that person that seeks one thing after another.  I want my focus to be Jesus, my family, and people.

It’s not about quantity, it truly is about quality.  My incorrect view that I should focus my time where the greatest numbers of people would be affected for Christ over my family is a lie.  God has laid out pretty clearly we are to love and serve Him first, our family, then our neighbors.  Our responsibility as parents is a huge one, in many ways the foundation we lay for our children determines there eternal destination.  This is not something to be taken lightly, but with a huge amount of prayer, and should be one of our greatest focuses in life.  I want to reflect the character and fullness of Christ to my children and my wife.

Many times in my life you can see I felt fine, but I truly wasn’t fine.  I have been in denial about the hurt and pain I experienced, I have covered over it with a fake facade of a Christian looking smile.  I have harbored unforgiveness against others and told them everything is ok all the while speaking negatively about them to others.  I choose now to forgive the wrongs people have committed against me.  God has forgiven me for an incredible multitude of sins and I understand that God is faithful to continually bring us to wholeness, that is why He has dug this up within me.

I have been living in fear.  I was living as a orphan, hoarding and storing, not as a son of the living God, depending on Him for my provision and daily bread.  Farming is an amazing gift God has allowed us to participate in with our hands for thousands of years – hoarding and survivalist mentalities are self-preservation and do not depend on the Lord, but on our abilities to build bigger barns – Luke 12:15-21.

I no longer have a desire to build my kingdom, only His Kingdom.  I will fall short, I will fail, but this is my heart, this is where I want to be.  The only thing that matters in our short life on this earth are the things that hold eternal value.  I love Jesus Christ with all of my flawed heart, soul, mind and strength.  I desire to be whole, to be a servant of Christ.

Where does that leave us?

We are seeking the Lord, we are feeling that we may be called overseas to serve the poor and forgotten.  There have been many doors that have opened for us from India to Central and South America, but we need discernment to know where He is leading.  We would really appreciate your prayers for us as we seek the Lord’s will and not our own.

By the way, we are currently in Newport News, VA and will be in Battle Ground, WA for the holidays starting December 13th – we would love to see you all!

Your friend, family member, and/or housekeeper,
Bobby

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