**I was asked to share the story of our journey through unemployment in the Thanksgiving service at my church this morning. As I stood in front of the church I was overwhelmed with gratitude that God provided me with the opportunity to share our story; His story, really. For HE was the one who provided us with the opportunity to grow, to clear our vision and in the end, find a greater depth to our JOY in the most unexpected of ways. Thank you, as my readers, for allowing me to share it with you. Have a blessed day of thanksgiving and may YOUR hearts be filled with gratitude for all of the unexpected blessings in your own lives.
In my kitchen I have a plaque that says, “The will of God will not take you to what the grace of God will not take you through.”
I hung that plaque shortly after a really long series of storms that hit hard in my life where God showed me just what that saying really means.
In March 2011 I was a good year into some pretty rocky storms. My parents were both battling major health issues and my little nephew was left with massive brain damage after contracting a virus as a newborn. I was emotionally exhausted from riding the roller coaster of these trials with my family. So when my husband Dante got notice from work that his position was being eliminated, I wondered how (and why) God could put such a massive trial on us just when I felt I was already spent.
I had no idea I was about to learn just what trusting the Lord was all about.
As many of you who have experienced similar financial struggles and employment uncertainties already know, unemployment is downright scary. All that you know to be stable and predictable in your everyday life is stripped away.
My husband was the sole provider for our family of five and his pride and self worth were suffering. We had no idea just how long this would last, where it would lead us, nor how would we even financially make it if his severance ran out. We were in the pool of the thousands of others who were victim to the declining economy and there was nothing we could really do to control that other than pray.
Back in those early days our prayers were so self-seeking. We would pray that Dante would get the interview, then that he would get an offer. It was always about what we saw as best and what we wanted. So many times he would come close to getting an offer and something would fall through, deflating our confidence, igniting the anger and doubt. As months continued, the panic started to set in. I was unable to find a teaching position and was working any and every odd job I could find to bring in extra cash while Dante made it his full time work to search for a job, all the while sinking further into a pit of depression. We both felt helpless.
Yet there were signs of reassurance that the Lord was caring and providing for us, and our real needs, the ones that HE knew were most important, were being met. Our hearts were humbled as we accepted generosity from our friends, our family and our church. Bills would come that we were terrified of not being able to pay and someone would anonymously gift us a food store card, or I would get a job that would give the exact money needed to pay a bill; little signs of reassurance that we did not need to WORRY. God had our backs.
Yet worrying is a really tough emotional act to just give up.
A year into Dante’s unemployment, we decided to take time every day to pray as a couple and we committed ourselves to it as our Lenten commitment, a giving up of our will in a sense.
Not once did we miss our time to pray with one another during those forty days, not even when I abruptly went to CA for my nephew’s death.
Our prayers took a real shift during Lent. They started to become less and less about US telling God what we wanted, what we needed, and more and more of us SEEKING God’s guidance and LISTENING to Him tell us what we needed and where He wanted us. It was a real breaking of our hearts, hearts that were so stubbornly bound by our own desires and our own self-promotion that they never really had ASKED God where He wanted us. And we certainly had not stopped to LISTEN.
After our nephew unexpectedly passed away that March, we just really knew that this life was not one that we define. God creates us, He provides for us, He takes away and He gives. He defines the parameters of our life here on Earth, not us. The listening had begun…
For the first time we prayed for God to allow us to submit to His will, and we told Him, together, that where He led us we would follow.
In May of that year Dante received his first and only job offer since being laid off. It was less than ideal, for it would mean moving our family to Toledo, OH for a job that was a cut in pay from his previous position. But it was a good company and an interesting role… and we had, after all submitted to God’s lead.
Therefore after a lot of prayer, we decided to take the leap and accept the position in OH. God was sending us in a new direction, and we trusted HIM. We began to prepare for life in a new state.
Two days before Dante was to leave for OH he got a phone call from a company that he had interviewed with months earlier in NYC. They were impressed with him at the time, and now they had a new position opening up for which they felt he was a good candidate.
What?! He was JUST about to start this new job, our house was on the market and he was LEAVING! We had submitted to God’s lead!! My husband explained this all to them, but they were very interested, and asked if it was possible for him to come in for an in-person interview.
Dumbfounded and confused, Dante went in, that same day. He was half way to NYC to visit friends anyway, so he took a detour. After countless interviews where he meticulously planned his outfit, prepared and researched, here he was, at a leading fashion company in NYC unshaven, in shorts and a t-shirt. He had the unemployed bum look DOWN!
Six weeks later, after countless nighttime interviews with this other company, all the while working his new position in Toledo, Coach offered Dante a job that he could only dream of creating for himself.
To say we were confused and conflicted is an understatement. We were unsure of what we should be doing since we felt we were following God's lead and He was leading us to Toledo. Would resigning so shortly after beginning employment be displaying integrity? Was that what God wanted us to do?!
Together we went on our knees and prayed for guidance, submitting once again to our Father who had brought us thus far.
Dante accepted that position with Coach, the same day we had our first offer on our house. We rejected the offer, he resigned from the job in OH and we re-embraced our lives here in PA. All that we thought we were leaving was ours again.
God gifted us with the vision to actually SEE it this time.
The greatest gift that came out of those 17 months was the making of our hearts for Him. Our faith grew from the shattering of our own false-notion that this life is ours to control. In submitting to His will and praying for HIS lead, we experienced joy like we never would have known. It took stripping away all of the false securities that we placed our faith in and replacing it with HIM.
Today I stand in front of you filled with a heart of gratitude. Gratitude that my Heavenly Father loves me so much that He takes me TO and takes me THROUGH.