Friday, August 28, 2009

The 11th Celebration Of Our 2nd Anniversary

For those without a calculator handy, today is our 22nd wedding anniversary. Pretty low key day - we ate at home but went out for pie at Perkins for dessert. It was a rainy day but it was the end of another work week so I was happy.

Yes, work is still going great. I am fitting right in and being accepted. Making a difference already and feeling like I am contributing. Still not used to it!

Our automatic garbage can (yes, we do have one - it has a sensor that detects motion which opens the lid hands-free) has been acting up recently. It sounded like the gears were stripped and it was making a horrible grinding noise. I got brave and took it apart and stripped it down to the gears and sure enough, there was a broken support piece. So I showed it to Lucie and Elliott and said it was not fixable but put it back together anyway. And now it works great! It is incomprehensible. It shouldn't be working, but it is (hmmm, some might say that about me too!). Believe it or not, it's true and I am not questioning it.

Ashleigh has another all day field hockey tournament tomorrow. No plans for Lucie and I but I am sure we will conjure up something. Elliott starts school Monday. He and Lucie went to freshman orientation last night.

The picture to the left by the way is copper - which, according to some guide, is the gift for the 22nd anniversary.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Orange Is My Favorite Color

For those of you who know where I work, you will recognize this picture as the icon of the company. I don't want to name it here because I don't want to get sniffed out (some companies "sniff" blogs for their company names). Not that I have anything bad to say, I just don't want the attention. And I really don't have anything bad to say! What a great first week! I feel so comfortable and welcomed there. There are routine security issues to be handled and meetings to attend and events to plan for, but I feel I have been prepping for this job for a long, long time. I think my boss has a lot of confidence in me and we get along great. Everything is paperless (computerized) so I am loving it. No briefcase to lug around, no files, not even a flash drive. The future is here! I split my time between the high rise office building downtown and the campus on the edge of the city. So I get a change of scenery daily. The benefits for the employees are too many to list - there is even a doctor on site every day with a full working medical office!

I purposely didn't post a blog for over a week because I wanted plenty of exposure to my previous blog. God really took care of me as I knew He would. I hope I can encourage someone with my story or at least be more compassionate to someone else going through what I did.

It was super hot and humid here all week. Set a water temperature record in the pool for this summer of 87ยบ the other day. Barely acceptable limit for Lucie to get in! Speaking of, she has made me supper every night this week and we all sat down together for dinner most nights. I give that about 2 more days... ha ha
Ashleigh has to leave her school at 4:45 AM tomorrow for a day long field hockey tournament down state. Elliott will probably go to bed around that time after staying up playing xBox all night...

I haven't been on the elliptical this week due to long work hours and trying to establish a routine. I am up 4 pounds this month but it is early in my measuring cycle (I go the 15th to the 15th). I have had an average weight decrease the past two months. I played hoops last night and felt OK physically, but didn't shoot very well.

I will post more often but I can't say enough how blessed and happy I am with this job!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Road To Employment

On October 29, 2007, I felt God strongly urging me to resign from my job of 14 years. There was no particular single incident that motivated me and I was under no more stress than ever before. In fact, I had been under more stress at other times. It wasn’t something I had been planning or thinking about. But there was a long term feeling of discontent and unhappiness and it was taking a toll on me and my family. I had been re-assigned from a position that I enjoyed to one of frustration and zero job satisfaction. There was also an ethical situation that was coming to a head where I and senior management were not in agreement on commitments and promises that I was expected to embrace and promote. Lucie was very supportive and had been urging me to find other employment for some time – but I was under no pressure to leave. I was making great money, had a lot of freedom in terms of my day to day movements, and had a fairly high ranking position. But there was a culture of oppression and intimidation at that job that was constantly eating at ME. “Me” being the operative word – not everyone did or would feel the same way I did but it was there and real to me.

So I resigned and continued to read the Bible – one chapter at a time - and immediately I noticed Scriptures and messages from the pulpit and other sources confirming my decision. Of course “conventional” wisdom says you never leave a job without having another one lined up and at my salary, I was told I should suck it up and get through it. And believe me, that “wisdom” was told to me by many people. I am nowhere at the level of some of these Biblical people, but I am sure Noah was told building an ark in the desert was not practical. Abraham being directed to take his son to the mountain top for sacrifice made no sense either. But I had to follow my spirit. I am not a quitter and never walked away from any job or situation like this. But somehow I knew it was the right thing to do.

Immediately after I left until even very recently, I had considered going back to my old job. I was offered to return to the position I liked but there were “catches” and requirements that I could not justify or comply with. I was reminded of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and how they stood firm and refused to bow down to the king and acknowledge him as their ‘lord’. They didn’t need to believe it – they could have just gone through the motions and got on with their lives. Jesus too - when He was taken to the mountain by Satan and told all He could see would be His if he just bowed down. But they stood firm in what they knew to be right and didn’t take the easy path. It is those examples that I followed.

I could have taken any job as “filler” work to get me through the days of unemployment and bring in some income until the ‘right’ job came along but somehow I felt that was not a path I should go down. (I also had a non-compete clause in my contract prohibiting me from certain work within a 50-mile radius.) When I left my job, the economy was fine and I was confident in a few months I would be re-employed and happier. Then the unexpected happened and the economy took the downturn. Now my decision looked more foolish to others. But I knew that I knew that I had done the right thing. Each time I was seriously thinking of returning to my old company, something would come along to “distract” me – a job opportunity, a message, something at the house… Whatever it was, I KNEW that going back to my old job was not the right thing to do. But then as time went by the doubt would come back – am I really doing God’s will by waiting and trusting or am I subconsciously sabotaging going back because I didn’t want to? And that was the dilemma. I wrestled with that constantly – knowing I could go back to a steady income (or having a good assumption they would take me back) or waiting and believing. Over and over I was told by well-meaning friends to just go back, take the money, and take care of the family. The old job wasn’t working pounding rocks in a coal mine or an illegal operation and I wasn’t committing to going back forever. I should just do it for a little while until the right thing came along. But for ME, going back was more than just going back to an old job. It was caving in and giving up my faith. Lucie and the family were great the whole time. She did her part and encouraged me to consider all options; but the bottom line, at the end of it all, she would always say to follow God’s plan and she would be by my side. I am blessed.

I remember talking to Elliott one day and saying, “Whatever happened to the good ol’ days when God talked to people through burning bushes and talking donkeys?” Elliott very astutely said that God didn’t talk to everyone that way – the Bible only records a few people that He spoke to like that. So I began to look for other ways in which God could speak to me. And sure enough, there were plenty; timely messages and worship songs at church, Bible verses and devotions that were clearly for me, words from friends and family. I just had to tune in. Through it all though, God provided. As the Psalms say, we never had to beg for food.

One day, before I resigned from my job, the bank made a mistake and we bounced a church tithe check (of all checks to bounce!). So while I was at the bank working with them on that, I struck up a conversation with the customer service rep about our church and Lucie’s job. She was a Christian lady and out of the blue she asked if I had ever considered taking out a home equity line of credit. I had no need for that at the time but she encouraged me to apply for one then and have it ready should I ever need it. Better to have it approved while I was employed and not needing it. I thought it was an unnecessary thing to do but there were no fees and no downside so we did it. And it was that equity line that helped us get through the tougher times. It’s all about God’s plan and timing….

I continued my daily march through the Bible, chapter by chapter, and it was amazing how God lined up the chapters for just what I needed to hear, when I needed to hear them. I was reading in Esther and Job and I could relate to exactly what was going on with them in terms of seemingly unnecessary difficult times. At that point I had moved from confirmation that I had made the right decision to waiting on God for His plan and to just endure the hard time. And how hard was it really? Not very in the big picture – we used a lot of the home equity line but we are not behind in our bills, we still have equity in the house, and we never once went without. Lucie and I were not covered by insurance and never got sick or injured. We had the kids covered under state insurance which was better than my old insurance and that state coverage paid for eye exams and glasses and dentistry and the whole situation with Elliott’s finger. What I did miss doing was helping out others. We still tithed but Lucie and I had really enjoyed helping to pay for kids’ camps or other ‘behind the scenes’ things which we couldn’t do with the little money we now had (or didn’t have).

Meanwhile, I would apply for jobs and interview and my profile and resume were posted on every major employer’s web site and job search site around. I went to job fairs and networked as much as possible. Job opportunities would come and go and it was a roller coaster of ups and downs. I eventually got to the point where I wouldn’t even tell anyone about opportunities because I felt I was crying wolf over and over. At one particularly low time, God provided a short term job that I loved. I was so encouraged and felt that I had finally gotten the break I needed and was going to be all set. I signed a short-term contract and when that ended, they asked me to sign a longer, open-ended contract. I was thrilled! But 2 hours after signing the contract extension, the project that the contract was based on lost its funding and I was going home with no job again. But I had a glimpse of what my future was going to be: working in a professional environment with respect and integrity. Sure there were stresses but they were work related and not personal. I was encouraged by the promise of the future.

And through this whole time it seemed only a very few people could understand the personal struggle I was going through. What is difficult for one person may not be hard for another. To most everyone else who didn’t really know me or what my old position was like, it was foolish of me to not just go back to my old job – let alone to have walked away from it in the first place. “You just don’t do that!” After all, to them it was just a job. And who doesn’t have rough times at their job? There were people that thought I was lazy and selfish to walk away from the money I was making with nothing to replace it with. I am sure some thought God would never ‘advise’ someone to do such a short-sighted thing and it was clearly an un-wise thing to do. Surely God would not encourage someone to jeopardize their family’s possessions and home. But they didn’t realize that that job was not right for ME. And again, there are numerous stories in the Bible where God commanded someone to do something out of the ordinary that made no apparent sense at the time. But in the end it came down to a matter of trust and obedience. I wish with all the good intentioned advice I got, the last line people would have said was, “… but you do what God tells you to do and if you are sure that is God’s plan, you stick with it.” And some people DID say that. I know the others meant well and the Bible does direct us to listen to good counsel. Yet I had to work it out with God to be sure I was doing the right thing. And it was confirmed to me over and over. Some would argue that God took a foolish move on my part and turned it into something good because that is what He does – and maybe He did. But I know in my heart that what I did was right. And in the end, God still got me through and will still get the glory.

As time went by and our resources got lower, I honestly became more and more nervous. At one point I was flooded with anxiety and wondered how we would make it. There was no natural way we were going to survive on Lucie’s part time salary. I prayed every which way and fasted and did all the things I thought I should do and pleaded for God to show me His plan. I had faith it would turn out OK – I just wanted to know when. And then once again, I got a word from God - a phrase in a message about when Jesus told the disciples that they didn’t need to know His timing – they just had to hang on. So I did. And a week later when I started to get anxious again, I pushed that anxiety out of my mind and asked God to get me through. I remember walking through the house right at that time and Lucie was working in the basement and had the song, “How Great Is Our God” playing on the stereo. I had to smile because a theme of that song is not only recognizing how great God is, but also that “all the world will see” how great He is. And that is what I have been looking forward to – telling my story of how I went from a solid, six-figure salary to nothing, and how God got me through and restored me.

I had several promising opportunities come up, and then just as quickly fizzle out and dry up. I got so discouraged and kept considering the option of going back to my old job. Though nothing was guaranteed, it felt like a pot of gold just sitting there waiting to be taken. I had former co-workers check the “climate” at my old company for my return to see if I should pursue that and they told me that the door to return was open. Then, again, along came the distraction and again, it seemed so clear that I should not go down that path. Which is fine – but what path do I go down? The waiting is the hardest part. But thank God for Christian friends and thank God for using people and situations to encourage me. Time and time again I would get words of hope or emails with verses that I needed to hear. And the timing situation was put into perfect perspective by my friend who reminded me of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham remained faithful to God to the last minute and God intervened when Abraham’s arm was ready to plunge the knife into Isaac. I am sure Abraham had learned his lesson long before that point and God knew his heart, but He waited until the perfect time. So I had to wait for my perfect time.

Then out of the blue, this job opportunity came along. It was posted online on my birthday! And right about the time that this opportunity came along, the book of Psalms was next in my Bible reading. And what is the book of Psalms about? Giving praise to God for all He has done. What a perfect transition and parallel to what I have gone through. Many people asked me how we made it for 21 months on Lucie’s part-time salary. Again the relevance of the Bible is so clear. People probably asked the widow how in the world with a tiny amount of oil and flour could she feed herself and her son for days and days? Only God knows but He blessed us for such a time as this.

While waiting for an offer letter from the job opportunity, the “little” things continued to happen. “Coincidentally” there was a CPR/AED class scheduled at church for free with one slot open. One of the job requirements was that I have AED/CPR certification and First Aid. The class got done early so the instructor decided to add the First Aid module. Tires I needed for the Pathfinder were not only available at Costco (original factory issued type like the original ones) but they were the cheapest and there was $70 off coupon, etc. etc. There was a sermon about how Jacob wrestled with God (much as I have wrestled with this issue), another sermon about how God told Isaac to wait before he went into the Promised Land, and yet another sermon about learning lessons from rough times.

So what have I learned? I don’t know that I learned so much as this confirmed so much. We never lived extravagantly or blew our money foolishly. But we will be more budget minded and spend and save more wisely. I learned that God is my supplier and I am in total reliance on Him. I learned that God has blessed me with friends and family that care about me. This whole process didn’t teach me that God is my source and will provide – I knew that. But it did confirm it. I was reading my Bible and praying daily before this. We are no more active in church now than before (and we are plenty active). But I am closer to God and have a renewed encouragement that His ways are the best ways. I did learn to look at those around me a bit differently too – someone who didn’t know me wouldn’t know what I was wrestling with every hour. We all have things we wrestle with. I have learned to be a bit more sensitive and encouraging to others because you never know what the other person is going through or what they need to hear. I am thankful that people were obedient and spoke or sent the encouraging words that God directed them to (whether they knew it or not). And I have learned that what I may consider to be the right path for someone, may not be God’s path – which truly is the right path.

So why go through this whole thing? I thought I learned whatever God’s lesson for me was early on in this situation. I don’t know why and I may never know. But what I do know is that God is faithful and He will stand by those who stand firm in their faith and belief - even against “common wisdom.” Up to this point, Lucie and I have never really had to wait on God for any real decisions; we would ‘go with the flow’ when it came to major purchases or moving or anything. We just knew in our spirits the right thing to do and did it. But for the first time, we had to just wait and trust and believe. And that was hard. But the kids got to witness this whole process and really appreciate it. We talked openly with them the whole time and hopefully they learned from my hard time. I do have to throw a warning in here – at least one person said he wished he had the courage to do what I did and step out of the boat on faith. But courage had nothing to do with it and I am not advocating that anyone do what I did in terms of leaving a job with no other job lined up. I told that person that a job is not your means of supply – God is. Typically He will use a job to meet our needs, but I am living proof He doesn’t have to. The point is to listen to God and find out what His plan is for YOUR life. Each person’s situation is unique as is God’s plan for them. But the lesson to be learned from my experience is to stay tuned into God and do what He says. Follow His leading but be sure it is His leading –not your own ambitions or plans or initiatives. And believe me – that is the hard part. But He will tell you what to do if you listen to how He tells you. How will He tell you? The same way He told me – by His word and His word through others.