Adam and Ashley Houkom were checking all the boxes when life fell apart.
From the outside, life looked good: a veteran married to a veteran, two healthy children under 3, good jobs. Ashley worked as an ICU nurse while Adam moved up the corporate ladder one job at a time.
They walked through busy days on autopilot and attended Southeast Christian Church on Sundays, but life began to derail.
In 2019, they had to say goodbye to Ashley’s beloved dog. The aunt Ashley had been caring for the last two years passed away, and she had to settle the estate. In the middle of it all, they’d outgrown their house and were building another, moved into a small apartment and invited Ashley’s mother to live with them. Then came shutdowns with COVID-19, postpartum depression, a baby that didn’t sleep and a 3-year-old tired of being inside.
No one thing toppled sanity—just one piled on another until the things they counted on seemed to fall like dominoes.
“We were fighting all the time—even in the church parking lot,” Ashley said. “We were ‘Sunday Christians’ in a marriage that wasn’t working like we hoped. We even talked divorce.”
At their lowest point, Adam admitted infidelity. That added betrayal and hurt to their struggling marriage.
“At that point, I knew I’d have to turn everything over to God or lose everything,” he said.
When Adam and Ashley pushed pause to figure out why they were fighting, why divorce was in the conversation, they listed 15 stressors that pushed life over the edge. But it wasn’t the list as much as what was missing in their lives that mattered most.
“Holy cow, not one time did we stop and pray about anything in our lives,” Adam said. “Let’s try praying. What we’re doing isn’t working. Let’s give it all to God and see what happens.”
Adam describes what happened next as “mind-boggling.”
“Within two weeks, we were smiling and had the peace we looked for in all the wrong places,” he said. “Since then, we make an effort to get up before the boys, study our Bibles while the house is quiet to get our minds straight. That puts everything in perspective. I have no idea why we ever tried to do it on our own.”
Now the Houkoms 2021 resolution is keeping God’s perspective.
They continue to live in a small apartment while their house is being built. Adam is grateful for a new job in banking security. He works through the week while Ashley works weekends so they can care for the children.
And they began focusing on others. When Ashley got some extra money for settling her aunt’s estate, they began tithing at church, donated to various organizations, offered to help pay rent for couples struggling with job loss due to COVID-19 and sponsored orphans.
“We realize God is not looking for perfect people who have everything figured out,” Ashley said. “He’s looking for unqualified, ordinary people who are willing to choose habits of faithfulness. We think constantly about what God has done in our lives. We stopped focusing on our situation and care more about how God will use our struggles to help others.”
Adam said that changes everything.
“It’s not complicated. Put God at the center of your life and take baby steps. It’s making a commitment to God—doing it one day, then another and another,” he said. “I have renewed hope. God’s grace is incredible. Now I wonder why I ever tried to control life myself. I should have done this so long ago. I see Ashley and our boys with new eyes as we build a life together.”