Through Pain Comes the Promise
A couple weeks ago, I had the incredible opportunity to travel back to Pennsylvania, my home state. No big plans, no busy agenda, just traveling by myself to stay with my dad and see my old pastor. I knew it was something in my heart I had to do, but I had no idea what God really had in store for me.
As I began my trip, I had planned to take my normal northern route all the way to Pennsylvania. As I entered Illinois, Google Maps warned me of a three-hour delay around Chicago and suggested I take a more southern route. Typically, this route adds an extra hour or so, but in this case it would save me time.
I’ve never actually driven this route before, and I had no real definitive plans anyways, so I said to myself, “Let’s do it!” Little did I know, I was about to take a historical trip down transformation lane in my life.
As I entered PA, memories of the roads I was on began flooding my mind. Thankfulness began welling up inside me for all the seasons of transformation God had brought me through all throughout my life!
As I drove, I passed the monuments to these pivotal moments and the Lord began speaking to me about what He did in each of these stations. This is not an exhaustive list, but I took picture of each place I passed. The following are the pictures of these pitstops (not in chronological order) of my life. The descriptions share the deposits of wisdom and life altering lessons they represent.
California University; California, PA- One of three “Madres Mexican” restaurants I ran was located here. I learned how to lead and motivate teams and how to be a good steward of what belonged to others. Two of the “Madres Mexican” restaurants I ran were not my own, but I treated them as if they were.
Sunoco Gas Station; Youngwood, PA- After a lost night of searching and feeling restless, I ended up here to buy a map (before Google Maps existed). I navigated a poorly-planned impromptu trip to Nashville, TN in the middle of the night to pursue something more for my life. I learned that this kind of impulsiveness never works very well. Dreams take careful planning, effort, and should include others that you trust to help you get there.
Westmoreland County Community College; Youngwood, PA – Here I learned I hate school. Or at least I hate sitting in a classroom. I love learning, but on my own terms. I’m a doer and I can’t sit still and be patient for years in a classroom. However, this is where I discovered through my business classes that I have a passion for business.
My first Apartment; Greensburg PA – I lived with four other guys for a couple of years in a dingy little basement. At 19 years old, I moved out of my parents; house and began to learn how to take care of myself and own the responsibility of freedom. Freedom had many hard lessons that came with it. Namely, it didn’t mean I could do whatever I want.
College Ministry house (one just like this- I was close to the street but couldn’t find the original); Greensburg PA- This was a home where a college ministry group was held. Shortly after turning 19, I moved back from Texas and I was invited by a group of friends to attend. Here, I learned to live passionately for Jesus and I met my future wife Kelly at a Passover Seder meal. (I’ll let her tell the story sometime of just how much she didn’t like me. To be fair, I was pretty annoying!) Also, my first business plan and pitch was given here to a group of potential investors. It was for the “Potter’s House” coffee shop.
Our First Townhouse rental; Greensburg, PA- This is where Kelly and I lived when we first got married in 2002. I moved out of the guys’ apartment and we learned how to be a married couple, specifically how to navigate the rocky road of sacrificing our own selfish independence for the greater blessings of forming a new life together with new dreams.
Chick‑fil‑A Eastgate Plaza; Greensburg, PA- This is Operator Todd M.’s restaurant. In my candidacy process to become a Chick‑fil‑A franchise owner, Todd graciously brought me on his team at this location and allowed me to make mistakes and understand the inner workings of Chick‑fil‑A.
SonRise Church; Greensburg, PA- At 17 years old, I learned to serve in ministry under my youth pastor and his wife, Carl and Norma. I also got a lot of free lunches for helping, which is the best kind of payment an 18 year old young man could get!
The Grimm household (my childhood home); Latrobe, PA- I lived in this basement until I was 10 years old. In fact, it was only a basement for quite a while. My dad saved and paid cash and built the home himself over the course of the years of me and my sister growing up. Many years later at 25 years old and only 2 1/2 years into marriage, Kelly and I moved into the basement again to save money and pay off debt in order to build our own home. I thank God for my parents’ generosity. Sometimes you have to sacrifice comforts (and privacy) to get where you desire to be.
Todaro household; Latrobe, PA- This is an old blockade house from the Revolutionary War called Lochry’s blockade house. It was also the house where my grandparents, Anthony & Anna Rose Todaro, lived until I turned 6. It looked much different back then because it has since been restored. I grew up on their farm and loved every minute of it. I learned hospitality from my grandparents at an early age. They welcomed everyone into their home for meals and visits, including stray animals and the homeless men walking the railroad tracks in the woods behind the house. My grandparents loved people and knew how to make people feel welcome. They didn’t reject anyone, even the most destitute.
Harvest Church; Derry, PA- I could write a book (probably volumes
of books) about all that God did here. I don’t have the time or space to tell of all the miracles, life-transforming experiences, and lessons that happened here in this community. There’s just too many to name. The bottom line is I’m not the same person I was because of this season of my life. I was in occupational ministry here for 12 years with this man, my mentor, Pastor Shawn. I happened to come back when a work project was happening and I got to jump in just like old times!
Latrobe Police Station; Latrobe, PA- At 17, my dad turned me in to the police at this station for possession and use of drugs. My life was saved from a life of crime and has never been the same due to tough love. Shortly after, I dedicated my life to Jesus Christ and promised to serve Him the rest of my life. Ironically, my dad was in the car with me as we drove by and took the picture! Oh the memories! By the way, my dad is one tough dude.
Chick‑fil‑A Westmoreland Mall; Greensburg, PA- After three months working with franchise owner Todd M., he asked me if I would manage his mall location. I ran my own Mexican restaurant, I was taking online classes trying to finish my degree, we just recently had our fourth child under four years old, and I was still leading at the church part-time as a volunteer. Still, I said, “sure why not?” Chick‑fil‑A wanted me to have the experience, so I took the opportunity. This was by far the most difficult season of my life. Amongst other things, the shooting pains in my chest told me so. However, it was all worth it. After two and a half years of interviewing with Chick‑fil‑A and one year of managing this schedule at a break-neck speed, I was selected to own my own Chick‑fil‑A franchise in West Des Moines, Iowa! You can do anything for a short period of time, and sometimes we HAVE to do it in order to realize God’s plans for us. He NEVER promised it would be easy, but He did say that He would be with us every step of the way.
On this trip, I took many more pics of various places with even more life lessons and life-altering trajectories. Each was a reminder of God’s faithfulness, no matter how hard each season was.