My Next Level
In January of 2017 I was laid off. After searching for four months, I still hadn’t found another job. So in April, after 7 years in Philadelphia, I moved back to my hometown in Florida . . . back in with my parents. Not something anyone wants—but sometimes God’s plans aren’t about what WE want. I definitely didn’t want to be 43, jobless, living with my parents, not knowing what my future would hold.
Thanks to my severance pay, unemployment benefits, and unexpected cash God sent my way when I needed it, I was able to keep current on all my bills, buy a computer, pay for my moves and car rentals, and help a friend out monetarily. I had enough money to go out, do some retail therapy to keep myself sane, and to not have to go into debt when I finally did find a job and needed deposits to set up my new life. I never thought I would be able to last 17 months without an income. The way money came into my life when I had no salary amazed me and could only have been the grace of God.
While I embraced and enjoyed my “careercation” (who wouldn’t like paid time off?!?), it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. I would love to say that I stayed strong in my faith, but there were a lot of ups and downs, a lot of wondering where God was, a lot of internal questions, tears, prayers, discovery. By the end of 2017 I felt like Natalie Wood from Miracle on 34th Street when she doesn’t get the house she wants, but keeps repeating “I believe, I believe.” That was the only prayer I could get out at times. In the back of my mind I knew (thought? wished? hoped?) God would pull through, but in reality, I was scared to death that He wouldn’t. After a year with seemingly nothing on the horizon, I wondered if his plan was for me to not have a job and to live with my parents for the rest of my life.
What I learned during this experience is that sometimes while you’re waiting for an answer to your prayers, God uses you as an answer to someone else’s. Looking back, I saw that He took full advantage of my availability—to strategically place me in other people’s lives. The things that happened taught me that even when I felt like God had taken a holiday from my life, He was actually still there and still working.
Here are a few examples:
I had time to reconnect with friends and family for extended periods. This enabled me to pour out love in the form of time: something I now had in abundance and something that seemed to be much needed in the lives of those friends and family members.
I was there to help my parents during Hurricane Irma. The last time they went through a significant hurricane season they were much younger and more able. My father now has a pacemaker which prohibits him from going near the generator, and my mother isn’t strong enough to haul the generator out of the garage and start it up. (But I am!) I was also able to help with the post-storm cleanup and to guide my parents (aka bug them like only the youngest child can) into researching and getting a propane generator that will power the whole house if/when this happens again.
My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years ago. When I arrived, he wasn’t active and my mother was doing everything for him, which was wearing her out. Over the next year I got Dad outside to walk. We got up to 2 miles WITHOUT his cane. Mom was able to see that Dad is fully capable if you tell him what to do—like fold and put away the laundry, take the garbage out, etc. She no longer runs herself ragged.
I was informed in January of 2018 that I was a match for a patient who needed a bone marrow transplant. I had been in the DKMS database since 2011 and with less than 1% of registered donors being a match this had to be divine intervention. The timing couldn’t have been better. Had I still been working it would have been much harder for me to take time off for all the donor prep. To say that this was the most rewarding “job” of my careercation would be an understatement. The realization that my donation potentially added years to someone else’s life is something I will never forget.
God also used my down time to help me reevaluate my wants vs. my needs . . .
I had a list of what I wanted: job title, company type, location, salary. Over the 17 months I was unemployed, those specifics became “I need a job. Can I have a job?” To combat my frustration, I went running and listened to the City Life sermons I was missing. When I was caught up on those, I listened to sermons from Next Level Church in Fort Myers. I knew of Next Level because I attended one of their leadership seminars with City Life before I left Philly. I connected with the way the pastors taught and with their messages. I prayed, “God wherever I end up, let there be a church like City Life and Next Level.” I don’t remember when my prayer changed from wanting to find a church LIKE Next Level to, “I want to GO to Next Level.” Where did THAT come from?!?
I only knew of one company in my field in Fort Myers and I didn't want to work there. If God wanted me in Fort Myers, and at Next Level, He was going to have to open some doors that I didn't know about.
My parents planned to visit my sister in North Carolina in June. I decided to visit my brother in Fort Myers while they were away. About a week before we were all supposed to leave, I saw a job posting for Wholesale Account Manager for Naples Soap Company in Fort Myers. Interesting. I applied and then contacted them for an interview since I was already going to be there. They liked my tenacity. We met, and they offered me the job a few days later! Within three weeks I had secured an apartment, bought a car, moved, and started a new chapter in my life—one that includes being less than 2 miles from my brother, his kids, and Next Level Church. The job specifics aren’t what I prayed for 17 months ago, but the main things I really cared about are.
I know God has a plan for my life and I’m excited to see what He has in store next. I know there will be ups and downs, but after going through this unexpected journey, I see how God used these experiences to take my faith and trust in Him to the next level. God’s plan might not be what I expect or in the timeframe I want, but as long as I lean on Him, I will make it to my next level with His help.
Jeremiah 29:11 (MSG) . . . I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for . . .
Kerry enjoys living in sunny Southwest Florida, running with her brother, and spending time with her niece and nephew. She is a lover of DIY, but is excited to not have to make her own lotions and potions anymore—because the company she recently began working for “makes THE BEST natural skin care products.” She’s having a great time getting to know her new home and watching her cat, Noodle, “stalk” the wildlife from the comfort of their screened-in porch.