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God Can Use Even The Circle Peg

“Failure is part of every real success because failing our way to success humbles us.”

I wasn’t planning on posting about this until I had my next step figured out. While partly out of a desire to avoid disappointing the people I care about, I have realized, after some tough, honest self-reflection, it was also a matter of pride. I have always considered myself a goal-driven, overachiever. Failure is simply not an option. But the truth is, it is a reality. And I am trying to learn how to accept defeat with humility, asking “What can I learn from this?” and “What can I do better next time?”

Despite finding and securing the “perfect” job, I quit after just two days. Yes, the job used my college degree. Yes, it had great benefits and decent pay. But I wasn’t happy. The environment was sensory-overload. I felt unprepared to do my job effectively. Simply, I was a circle peg trying to jam myself into a square hole.

No plan. No next step. I put my needs first, despite feeling overwhelmed by my desire to please everyone else, and I took a gamble. I quit.

Before quitting, there was an honest conversation with my parents. “Can I live at home a bit longer than planned?” “Am I allowed to live here if I’m without a job for a few weeks?” “You really should just kick me out.” And, despite already knowing my mom and dad to be unconditionally loving, they surprised me and didn’t hesitate. They put my happiness first, trusting that this job wasn’t the one.

(And while living at home is not at all where I want to be residing at this point in my life, it has been a blessing. With my dad’s recent surgery and mom’s focus on him, I have had the opportunity to be more hands-on with the cooking and upkeep of the house.)

There was also some financial figuring. “Can I afford to pay my bills for the rest of the month without a paycheck?” “Do I have enough money in savings if the job search takes longer than planned?”

And this is where the purpose of my post really begins.

God has provided.

With tears running down my face, I talked to Him on my commute that Tuesday morning. “God, I can’t do this job.” “Please open another door.” “Thank you for this opportunity. I know I’m blowing it, but I can’t do this.” Give me the strength to make it through one more day.”

And He provided. While I was feeling like the biggest loser and failure on Earth, not wanting to tell anyone how badly I wanted to quit out of fear of disappointing them, He gave me the courage to call a friend that night. And she talked to me for hours despite me sniffling into her ear. No disappointment or anger. “I just want you to be happy, Rach.” “If this isn’t the one, this isn’t the one.”

And then another unexpected phone call. A voice of rationality and unbiased opinion to help me make a decision.

Conversations with my brother, his words of comfort reminding me of my worth. “I wish I could do something to make this better for you.” “You’re definitely not a failure.”

You see, God knew how broken and rotten I was feeling. And, months ago, before I even knew I would be looking for a job, He brought these friendships into my life and allowed them to grow. He knew these would be the people to hold me up when I stumbled.

Here’s the deal I’ve been trying to make the past few days: “God, I’m sorry. I’ve messed up, and I feel like I’ve blown an opportunity you blessed me with. Help me find a new job, the right job, a job where I can serve others and share Your love. And then I will use this journey as a testimony to Your faithfulness & goodness.”

Who am I to bargain with God? How is it fair for me to say “if You do this, then I’ll do that?”

So, here I am. Unemployed. Unsure of what steps I’m taking next. Uncertain if God will truly provide. Because I’m a broken person who can’t possibly fathom why God would love me always and offer forgiveness despite my repeated mistakes.

You see, in hindsight, I know God has prepared me for this part of my life story. He has been providing for me for months. I have been meeting with my pastor regularly since June. It started out as a desperate, broken-hearted conversation about death, cancer, guilt, and grief, but it evolved into a challenge of my faith.

It gave me a place to take off my “everything is fine” mask and simply be broken. I am allowed to be confused, frustrated, and make things difficult during these conversations. I don’t have to pretend like my life is perfect, and like I know what in the world is going on. God brought this connection into my life- a person who patiently understands my personality and, from day 1, has reminded me, “You’re going to be okay”– because God knew my faith was going to be challenged in the months ahead.

In the past week of being unemployed, I have had more raw, honest conversations with God and spent more serious time in His word than I have in my life. And He has opened my eyes to how He provides.

Remember my financial concerns? I assumed I would be okay if I was without a paycheck for a few weeks. But God made sure I would be more than just okay. My final paycheck from my last job was more than I was planning due to a short check I received months ago. My car payment gave me the option to skip it this month with a $35 fee. But the bank recognized my previous on-time payments and waived the fee. The cost of my prescription medicine refill for this month was also conveniently waived.

These are small things, I know. It wasn’t like a million dollars landed in my lap. Or a lady with a big sweepstakes check knocked on my front door. But these small things ease my worry and remind me that God will continue to provide.

I still have a long ways to go in my relationship with God. I say to Him daily, “Help me believe, God. I don’t know if I’m even doing this right. Do you Hear me?”

So, I am not writing this post to show off my amazing faith or brag about what’s going on in my life. Because let’s be honest, I’m just a broken Christian, plagued with nagging doubts and uncertainties. I’m unemployed with no idea what’s next. My life’s a mess.

But I’m putting my trust in a God that can turn my mess into a message.

I believe God gave me the gift to write with ease, connecting to people through my written words. So, I’m using that gift to create this post. Maybe no one reads it. Maybe the only purpose is for me to put in writing, “Okay, God. I don’t know what’s going on in my life, and I have no idea Your plans for me. But I am going to surrender my life to You, trusting that you will always provide and lead me on a path to glorify You.”

Because those small things He has provided me with in the last week are truly monumental. The friend that took me out to lunch because she knew I was hurting and stewing. The friend that texts me almost daily to check-in and remind me she cares about me. My basketball girls that, while making me pull my hair out, can fill my heart with joy at the sound of their giggles.

God has blessed me with a support system to take care of me during my lows. And I know they will celebrate with me when I reach my highs. He has also allowed others to express their disappointment, speak their “I told you so” words, and break my heart with their disapproval. Because He is teaching me that the only acceptance, the only approval I need is His. I can’t keep finding my worth and value in people. They will fail me because we are all broken. But if I find my worth in Him, He will bless me beyond belief.

He already has.

-rs

“How Lucky I Am To Have Something That Makes Saying Goodbye So Hard”

“It’s Rachel!”

While working at Cottage Rehab (CR), a local physical therapy place, over the past four years, I have heard similar greetings from many of the wellness members as they walk through the front doors.

After graduating from Monmouth College this spring, I knew my time at CR was winding down. I decided to continue working throughout most of the summer before tackling my next adventure. A few weeks ago my boss asked me if I had picked a final day for my time at CR; he jokingly asked if I was just going to stay forever. It really is the perfect job. I could hang out (sometimes literally!), do a little work, and maybe watch some ESPN from a treadmill.

This is what I get paid for??
This is what I get paid for??

As I’ve thought more about what my boss said, I wish I could keep this job forever. Most of the members have 30+ years of life experiences on me, but I still consider them my good friends. In fact, many of these people stopped by my recent graduation open house. My mom noticed that the majority of my friends at the party were 65+. I just smiled at this comment, because I am blessed to have friends with so much wisdom. From them, I have learned what it means to truly be a “friend.”

  • Friends are constant. My friends at CR constantly checked in about my school plans, my job(s), and they always remembered my weekend plans. While I was still in school, they asked what books I was reading and what papers I was working on. They would remember these assignments throughout the week, and they never failed to check in the following week: Did you finish your reading? What grade did you earn on your paper? I have worked many random “side-jobs” throughout my time at CR. I have been a babysitter, dogsitter, housesitter, and even plantsitter. (Some of these jobs have actually been for the members of CR!) My friends here always ask me how these jobs are going. They never forget. Every Saturday, many of my CR friends ask what my weekend plans are. They are genuinely interested, and they always ask how things went the following week. They also hold me accountable by reminding me to “Be safe” and “Don’t do anything that I wouldn’t do.”
  • Friends notice the small things. Like when I get my hair cut or what my t-shirt says. (I have had entire conversations evolve from the few simple words on my t-shirt.) My friends here noticed when I straighten my hair versus wearing it up in a ponytail. Sometimes, my friends came inside and immediately asked if I recently washed my car, claiming it looked shinier than usual. They went beyond simply noticing these small things, however. They complimented me. They made me feel happy. Whether it was the headband in my hair or the color of my phone case, my CR friends made me feel good inside through these kind-hearted compliments.
  • Friends share in major life moments, but they also congratulate each other for the small victories. While I received cards from my CR friends for my birthday and graduation, I found far greater joy when they shared in my small, day-to-day victories. When I went through the teacher education program at Monmouth College, they shared in each small step of the process. Whenever I finished a long paper for a college class, they praised me for my work ethic. When I survived a long week of being a full-time student and working multiple part-time jobs, they cheered me on and motivated me to keep pushing forward.
  • Friends share endless encouragement through every step of life’s journey. I will share more in future posts, but 2015 has been a year of self-growth. In January, I made the decision to flip my entire world upside down. I took everything I had been working toward for many years, professionally, and packed it away. Instead of pursuing teacher certification, I made the decision to explore alternative methods of learning and with different age groups. It was crazy.. to leap without seeing the safety net. Most people expressed their immediate disappointment or frustration or confusion with my choice. However, my friends at CR never once criticized my decision.image3 (2) They asked questions until they understood from my perspective. They offered constant advice and shared their own personal experiences. I felt comforted, encouraged, and determined to continue forward with my new journey.

Through these moments and many others, I have learned one more critical piece of friendship: it has to be two-sided. These friendships would not have developed if I wouldn’t have offered a friendly hello as the CR members walked through the doors. And I wouldn’t have continued saying hello if these people brushed away my greetings.

Friendships are not easy. They require hard work from both people invested in the relationship. Throughout my time at CR, I found common interests with my eventual friends. I also discovered what topics were unique to each of my friends, and they learned what topics made my eyes light up with passion.

Throughout my time at CR, I kept working on these friendships and the members here worked towards knowing me better. In the beginning, our evolving friendships were often like a match of tug of war. I would pull too hard and knock down my friends by asking about a topic that made them sad or upset. My friends would then pull me to the ground by asking too many questions or being overly enthusiastic on those early Saturday mornings (did I mention I’m not a morning person??). We eventually found the balance, and the topics and hobbies, that made our friendships grow.

image1 (1) image2

After spending four years at a physical therapy place, it might seem odd that my biggest take-away is an understanding of authentic friendship. It has nothing to do with the exercise equipment or my daily work tasks. It has everything to do with the people on those exercise machines. People are what matter.

If friendship were a flower, I have learned that it must be rooted in unconditional encouragement. It must be watered with consistency. The gardener and the flower are in a relationship together; the flower relies on the gardener as much as the gardener relies on the flower. The gardener must not overlook the little complexities of the flower, and the flower must appreciate the extra moments of pruning and care given by the gardener. While blooming is the ultimate goal for the flower and the gardener, the bloom will not happen without the aforementioned pieces.

-rs

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