May 15, 2011
On this day last year, I found myself unemployed. The church that had funded my full-time ministry determined that it could no longer carry the financial burden of the number of employees it had. The leaders decided to downsize by 25%. Although I felt that God had been preparing my heart for the change for nearly a year prior to the layoff, I was stunned. I had not imagined the change would come in that form. Surely what God had planned was tremendous blessing without any pain, right?
The swirl of emotions that followed was not unusual, but it was difficult. I have wrestled with feeling like a failure, rejection and fear. God sustained me during the worst of the down times. I had a sense of peace in the middle of the storm that I could only attribute to His presence. My emotions were reeling, but as long as I kept my eyes on Jesus, the storms soon passed and I was able to keep my peace. Instead of being swallowed up by the negative emotions, I allowed myself to feel them, gave them to the Lord, and moved on. That is one of the best testimonies I could ever give to the faithfulness of my Father. With the wind and rain pounding around me, I was sheltered, safe and secure in His arms.
There is another very tangible blessing that I see as I look back over this year. As a single woman, no one else is here to help me carry my financial responsibilities. No, I don’t have a family to support, but I also have no one supporting me. I had barely scraped by while I worked full-time at the church. I had no idea how I was going to make it without my salary. With no choice but to trust God as my provider, He proved to me that I was not alone after all.
I was given six weeks’ severance pay. I felt in my heart that God would provide a new job and I didn’t need to hit the pavement, searching high and low. But I didn’t want to completely freak my family and friends out by not applying for jobs, so out of respect for them I applied and applied and applied. I sent out hundreds of resumes and I didn’t get one interview. Not one.
During that time, I needed to buy new ink for my printer. That stuff is expensive! I sat in my desk chair, looking online at prices, looking at my bank account balance and the bills coming in, and not knowing what to do. I had the money to buy the ink, but with no more money coming in I was afraid to spend it. I needed the ink. As I wrestled with what to do, I felt like God said, “Get what you need. Whatever you spend will be covered.” I knew with certainty that this wasn’t a license for irresponsibility, but that God would take care of what I needed. I spent the money for the ink and the next day a man at church handed me the amount I had spent. He had no idea of my need, just said God told him to give it to me.
My family had scheduled a vacation to the beach around the time my severance was ending. I hadn’t committed to it because I thought I’d be starting a new job and wouldn’t have the vacation time. But as the days neared and I still had no job and money was running out, my prayers grew louder. I continued to hear God’s voice assuring me that it would be okay. I felt like He told me to go on the vacation, enjoy myself, not worry about work, and He would take care of everything. He wanted to bless me with the vacation. I went. As I drove to the beach that hot, summer day, I played a song over and over in my car – What’d you say to taking chances? What’d you say to jumping off the ledge? Never knowing if there’s solid ground below, or a Hand to hold…
I took a chance on trusting God, gave up the job search, and thoroughly enjoyed my family. On about the fourth day of the trip, my fear took over and I allowed myself a pity party. Of course, I missed out on a really fun day with my family while I sat alone and sulked! I picked myself up that afternoon and placed my fears back into God’s capable hands. On the final day of vacation, I prayed all the way back to Nashville, begging God to intervene.
A few days after I got home, I went to a friend’s house to hang out. As we talked, she mentioned that her nanny/housekeeper was unavailable. She shrugged her shoulders and asked me if I’d want to help her out. I’d helped with her kids before and loved them, but had never considered making a job out of it. I didn’t need to pray about it. I quickly answered, Yes, please. She told me what she paid and the hours she needed. I agreed. It was extremely part-time – 13 hours a week – but it was something.
That was my job interview. That job soon turned into about 20 hours a week – a low-stress, physical job where I get to care for 5 beautiful children who I adore. Besides that, I get to help out a good friend with her home. Ministry just took on a new meaning.
God also provided a new living situation for me. I moved in with an elderly woman who needs someone to be present overnight to help her out a little. Free of typical housing expenses, I had enough money to pay my bills if I lived very frugally.
It seemed that every time an expenditure came up that wasn’t within my budget, someone would hand me the money I needed or I’d get an extra babysitting job. I have not had one bill go unpaid. I worked approximately 20 hours a week for six months and in that time I continued to repay debt as scheduled, and I had everything I needed.
As I was only working part-time, I had a lot of time to nurture the new relationship that sprung up unexpectedly. I spent hours every night on the phone with my new love interest, received visits from him, visited him, and didn’t have to miss work to do so.
My family was concerned about how I would continue to survive financially and urged me to apply for anything I could find so I could have at least another part-time job. I prayed about it and spoke to my boyfriend about it, asking what he thought. Together we decided that I needed to be free to travel throughout the holidays (he and all of my family are located in different areas of the country), so I would hold off on finding a second job until after Christmas. In January, I could start looking.
I worried about how I’d afford Christmas presents for my loved ones. (I love giving gifts!) Because of all the holiday parties and events, I was needed to care for the children on nights and weekends. The extra hours provided all the money I needed to buy gifts. I felt so blessed.
Right before I left for Christmas vacation, I got an email from the church, asking if I would consider a part-time job at the receptionist desk. Although I was over-qualified, they knew I needed additional income. I was able to work out the schedule and left for Christmas knowing my financial needs had again been met. While on Christmas break, my friend asked if I wanted more hours at her house. She is pregnant again and needed some extra help. Between the two jobs, I suddenly had 40-hours a week, plus free living expenses. When I added up the income of the jobs and added in what I was saving in living expenses, I’d gotten a raise!
Over the last several months, I’ve been able to pay extra on my debt and I even put a little money in an emergency fund. I still have 3 days off each week, so travel arrangements are fairly easy to accommodate. And the home I’m living in now has separate guest quarters that make it possible for Rick to stay here when he visits and still have his own space.
I am thankful. My God has supplied my needs. He has given me peace. He has brought romantic love into my life and the joy that comes with feeling loved and accepted by someone I love and treasure. God has allowed me the dignity of seeing my debt go down, down, down, and my savings go up. And God is putting me through a new school these days – that of learning how to run a large household and care for many children. I now know things I could have never learned in books – like how to put a gleam in the eye of a child who feels a little left out. I’d like to think I know why He is putting me through this training, but I have discovered that what God does is never quite what I thought He was doing. He is sneaky. And while there are times that I feel rubbed raw by the hands that are shaping my life, I am delighted by the outcome.
I asked God to put me through a sort-of boot camp, quickly teaching me the things I need to know to get where I’m going faster. Quit dragging it out a little at a time, Lord, and just give it all to me at once. As long as it’s by Your hand, I’ll be okay. I can handle it. I knew it was a dangerous prayer. I knew I might have times where I really regretted it. And there have been times where I’ve cried out, Enough! I didn’t know what I was asking. Please stay Your hand for a minute so I can catch my breath. But He is beyond faithful. He gives grace.
I see this last year of my life as that boot camp. God has humbled me, then humbled me again, and then humbled me again. He has shown me clearly that I can do nothing without Him, and that my pride (I didn’t know it was such a problem) is an offense to Him. He has proven to me that He will not give His blessing until I put Him first. And yet He has given me such joy and hope as I explore the beauty of romance.
…He gives beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified. (Isaiah 61:3)
One year later, I stand in awe of the blessing of the Lord. Thank You, Jesus.
Psalm 63: 5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
6 when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
7 for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
8 My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.