The weight and the wait {guest post}


Leigh Kramer is one of those rare kindred spirits that you find on the internet who makes me glad for worldwide connections and computer scientists. She thinks and cares deeply, and she’s generous-hearted to the core. I love her words and I’m glad she’s here today. Here’s her story:

 

The weight settled so gradually, I no longer know when it first arrived. My period of unemployment after graduate school is a blur of Before and After. At first, I confidently proclaimed, “God has a plan, it’s all going to work out.” As the months passed by without change, my confidence grew quiet and unsure. Did God have such a plan for me? Did He even care?

 

A month after graduating with my Masters in Social Work, I headed to Thailand to volunteer with Cross-Cultural Solutions for three weeks. A mini-Peace Corps experience, one of the best experiences of my life. I went because I’d never been out of the country and didn’t know when I’d have that much free time again. One last hurrah. Little did I know it would be 16 months before my first job offer.

 

August 2004 I dove head first into resumes and applications. I cast the net far and wide. I was ready to move beyond my Chicago suburb hometown.

 

A promising prospect emerged right away, only to disappear as we started making plans for a second interview.

 

Back to the drawing board. In between creating resumes and applying for jobs, I reluctantly went back to work at The Christian Bookstore, which had helped me pay for college and grad school. I supplemented those hours with babysitting, house sitting, whatever I could find.

 

This was building my character, I decided. God had a plan. Didn’t He?

 

Whatever His plan was, He didn’t see fit to clue me in. In fact, He was rather silent. Bold prayer requests turned to frustrated pleas.

 

Discouragement crept in. I’d done everything “right.” I’d balanced school and work for so long, I’d never considered a job wouldn’t appear in the end.

 

While I wrestled with my life’s purpose and the unkind social work job market, I navigated platitudes and reassurance from people who meant well. I resented the implications I wasn’t doing enough or looking for work in the right places. The tips from people who knew nothing about non-profits or social work. Anger and despair welled up in equal proportions. Although interviews went well, they never translated to a job offer. There was seemingly no reason I couldn’t find a job. Except I couldn’t.

 

No longer a student or a social work intern, I questioned my identity. Who was I if I wasn’t a social worker? I was good at my job at The Christian Bookstore but it wasn’t my calling.

 

My calling. If you’re not working in your calling, are you still called to do it? These questions made me toss and turn at night.

 

I combed memories to figure out where I’d erred. Had Thailand been a lark? Should I have applied for jobs right after graduating on the off-chance an employer would hold the position for the month? Was there some contact I’d overlooked? Had my Thank You notes contained a grievous typo? Had I picked the wrong career? Would God ever speak into my life?

 

This wasn’t my first trial, nor would it be the worst, but I’ve never questioned my identity, my calling, or the presence of God the way I did during those aching months. I longed for clarity, direction, encouragement, some indication God was paying attention. To no avail.

 

I latched on to the idea of moving to Nashville, where my best friend and her husband lived. The job search stretched to 6 months. I grasped at straws, even as it became clear I should stay put in Illinois. (Funny enough, I did move to Nashville…5 years later.)

 

Books often help me understand whatever I’m facing. I read books on God’s plan, waiting, and dealing with dark nights of the soul. A friend lent me a sermon series on God’s will. I realized I hadn’t veered from the center of God’s perfect life plan. I was doing the best I could, given the circumstances. True, my life didn’t look the way I’d imagined it but I had a great circle of family and friends and I could pay my bills.

 

I couldn’t interpret God’s silence, nor did I understand why I hadn’t yet found a job in my field. I kept plugging away. I took it one step at a time. Instead of moving to Nashville, I moved into an apartment with two good friends. Instead of starting a social work job, I nannied for a family while their nanny went on maternity leave. I dated, I hosted parties, I served at church.

 

I tried to believe He would provide for all my needs. I tried to believe He was enough.

 

And though this was most difficult of all, I tried to see myself apart from the labels. I was simply me. My identity could not be found in a job or status or friends or activities. My identity came from Christ alone.

 

Sixteen months of ups and downs. Countless resumes and interviews. Hopes lifted up and then dashed. Hard lessons learned. Bills paid, even when the nanny job ended.

 

When I least expected it, the local hospital called to interview me for a hospice social work position. Relief poured out of me when HR offered me the position. When I accepted the job, I cried grateful tears the season had finally ended.

 

There is no rhyme or reason for that season of unemployment. I have the gift of hindsight, knowing it worked out perfectly. But I don’t think I’ll ever understand why it took that long or why I couldn’t learn those lessons another way.

 
Leigh KramerLeigh Kramer is on a quest; she’s living life on purpose. Her to-do list might look something like this: leave life in the Midwest for Nashville, Tennessee with only fried pickles for comfort, quit steady job as a social worker to chase that dream of writing at last, suck the marrow out of life’s in-between places and revel in the now at every turn. She is a contributor at A Deeper Family and Prodigal Magazine. Leigh shares this journey through words of transparency, heart, and just a dash of pluck at LeighKramer.com and on Twitter at @hopefulleigh.


 

 

Over to you:

  • How much of your identity is wrapped up in your work?
  • Have you ever experienced a period of unemployment? How did it affect your relationship with God?
  •  

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    15 Responses to The weight and the wait {guest post}

    1. Margaret @ Felice Mi Fa 27th February, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

      Fabulous. I am slowly easing out of one of those periods of silence and weight in my life. Mine has nothing to do with work, it would seem. But as I write that I realize that it has to do with for the first time in my life NOT having my work success (which is ample) be enough for me.
      Margaret @ Felice Mi Fa recently posted…Yes, of course, always I love you: Moments from a retreatMy Profile

    2. fiona lynne 27th February, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

      I’ve not experienced unemployment as you have, but I can identify with many of the issues you write about. When we moved a little over a year ago, we did so knowing I would likely not find a job in my field here (there’s three national languages, none of which I speak fluently). So I’ve set up as self employed doing a wide range of small freelance jobs. But with that comes it’s own barrage of identity issues – what if no one hires me? Is this really what I want to be doing with my time? Will this look good on a CV in the future? How do I answer the all-important question “what do you do?”? What about all those other dreams I had, which I thought were God-given?
      It’s taking me time to figure it all out and I’m still struggling with it, but I’m also trying to be kind to myself. And remembering, as you said, that my identity is not in my work. It’s in just being ME.
      fiona lynne recently posted…Chasing the light and finding joyMy Profile

    3. Mia 26th February, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

      Dear Leigh
      Thank you so much for sharing your winter experience with us with so much honesty. We don’t always understand, actually, most of the times, but we do learn to trust in His provision, instead of providing for ourselves.
      Blessings to you
      Mia
      Mia recently posted…God’s Instrument of SufferingMy Profile

    4. Joy Lenton 26th February, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

      Hi Leigh, I sympathise with your plight and the difficulty of those well-intentioned platitude-bearing folk who rally to cheer yet frequently fail to do more than annoy or frustrate. Though my own loss of ‘calling’ (as a nurse) came through developing M.E and other health problems, it was no less puzzling and devastating to experience. My husband has had bouts of unemployment too and been in that unenviable position for the last 8 years due to work-place bullying and harassment causing a MH breakdown from which he is still struggling to recover.
      For both of us to lose gainful employment due to circumstances beyond our control has been a steep learning curve. We have family members who wrestle with needing to maintain paid employment at the cost of unrelenting high stress levels and loss of personal fulfilment. There are no easy answers either side of the coin.
      All I can say is that God is faithful. We may not be where we want to be or have what we would like to have, but life has meaning and purpose nevertheless. Sometimes a new calling will reveal itself that is ‘work’ He desires us to do. I am so pleased your story had a happy ending and hope that you can look back on the past as a building time in shaping you for today. Blessings 🙂
      Joy Lenton recently posted…A woman of valourMy Profile

      • HopefulLeigh 26th February, 2013 at 10:13 pm #

        Joy, thank you for sharing some of your story. I can only imagine what you and your husband have experienced and continue to experience. To be able to recognize God’s faithfulness even still is a sign of strength and grace. I look back on this time of my life and wish I’d been able to handle it better. I just didn’t realize how much I needed to learn about myself and about God’s character and timing. It shaped me in important ways and definitely factored into my current leap of faith.
        HopefulLeigh recently posted…The Weight and the WaitMy Profile

    5. Amber Zaccagni@TheUnconventionalDoctor'sWife 26th February, 2013 at 8:26 pm #

      “And though this was most difficult of all, I tried to see myself apart from the labels. I was simply me. My identity could not be found in a job or status or friends or activities. My identity came from Christ alone.”

      I have heard this all my life and probably even said it multiple times to other people, you know, so I could sound like a really mature Christian. But I never truly knew what that meant until last year. (I’m a slow learner, ha!).

      This was great, Leigh.
      Amber Zaccagni@TheUnconventionalDoctor’sWife recently posted…shutting up the crickets {alternative title: how easily I cry}My Profile

      • HopefulLeigh 26th February, 2013 at 10:10 pm #

        Until I learned the lesson, I didn’t realize I identified myself primarily through the labels of relationship and work. Everything had to be stripped away for this fellow slow learner.

        Thanks, Amber!
        HopefulLeigh recently posted…The Weight and the WaitMy Profile

    6. Danielle | from two to one 26th February, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

      Leigh, you know that I’m in this boat right now as my husband and I are chugging along through month seven of his unemployment. I just don’t understand the reasons and the timing and the waiting. It’s both encouraging and frightening to hear from you on the other “side” to look back and still not know what the season of waiting and uncertainty was for. But the hope that you eventually got where you wanted to be will help me get through one more day of this seemingly hopeless situation.
      Danielle | from two to one recently posted…Feminisms Fest: My Feminist Coming of Age StoryMy Profile

      • HopefulLeigh 26th February, 2013 at 10:09 pm #

        I’m so glad you found this post, Danielle! When you wrote your post the other week, I hadn’t yet started writing this piece but knew I’d be addressing this time in my life. It was hard shuffling through the details and still feel confused about why it happened this way. A lot of good came out of that season, I have no doubt of that. I even see how it helped me make the current leap of faith. But there’s no doubt about it: unemployment is tough. Even so, I don’t believe it was in vain. It did all work out in the end, in ways only God could have ordained. Some day I’ll have to fill you in. I’m keeping you and your husband in my prayers.
        HopefulLeigh recently posted…The Weight and the WaitMy Profile

    7. Katia 26th February, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

      Oh, wow I really needed this today. I’m approaching the three year mark since graduating with my bachelor’s degree and still no job relevant to my degree due to lack of experience in the fields I want to enter. It’s at the point I don’t even want to THINK about anything career related. But at least I have a good part time job, and see all the time how God’s timing is perfect and how he has a reason for everything. And through this season of life, I’ve been able to be there for family members in ways I would not be able to if I had a full time job.

      • HopefulLeigh 26th February, 2013 at 10:06 pm #

        I’m glad this was encouraging to you, Katia. I’m glad you’re able to recognize some of the good things that have emerged during this unexpected season. I definitely had a period of time where I contemplated all sorts of other careers, just to keep my sanity. Hope things work out for you soon!
        HopefulLeigh recently posted…The Weight and the WaitMy Profile

    8. Jo (@Piano_Jo) 26th February, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

      Thanks for writing this Leigh and Tanya for facilitating it. I identify with pretty much everything you have written here Leigh, but at a different season in life.

      OK I am now coming out.. sorry it might turn out a bit long..

      I have been unemployed for two years (six months was out of choice). We relocated two years ago when my husband came out of church-based ministry and moved into healthcare chaplaincy. He is flourishing and I am very grateful for this as the last few years in the church were difficult and messy.

      I had a well-paid job in a university where we lived and I think in part I enjoyed showing some of the fusty old-school church members that I was not a meek, subservient appendage to my husband. I also assumed that moving to an area where there are three universities and numerous colleges within a fairly small radius, I would soon walk into something similar. But despite interviews, some good, some not so good, no job has materialised yet.

      I started off in conversations with new people with the breezy ‘God has a plan, it’s all going to work out’, which has gradually diminished in volume. I am grateful that people in my church don’t ask about progress too often, but there are still times when I can’t bear going to church or home group for the thought of facing or batting aside questions. Funnily enough the last barrage of questions came from someone else who is also unemployed – have you tried this, thought of this – that truly felt like platitude payback in full, duh!

      Over Christmas I started reading Ed & Derek’s book Hazardous: Committing to the Cost of Following Jesus and carry the quote with me “Do you want Me, or do you just want Me to solve your problems?” I was so very not surprised to see where you two ladies officially met and that it was at the time of Ed’s Hazardous synchroblog.

      Yes there have been rants To God and I have often looked back and asked if we were right to leave the previous area. Was I being punished for something unresolved in the past? And it also seems that God speaks in just about every other area but not this one.

      I am also working through unravelling from the years in church ministry which seems to have come to a head of late. And our children have all just reached adulthood. Transitions all over the shop. Had I gone straight into another job I suspect all of these things would have been just shoved deep within and not dealt with.

      But I see twitter friends who have walked/are walking the path already and I have garnered hope.. for all these things.

      Thanks hopefulleigh
      Jo (@Piano_Jo) recently posted…#lentphotos – 12My Profile

      • HopefulLeigh 26th February, 2013 at 10:04 pm #

        Jo, thank you for sharing some of your story and letting me know this resonated with you. It’s a sign of strength to be able to recognize the silver linings of your situation, such as they are. I clung to those details in my worst moments, that even though I didn’t have a social work position, I still had x, y, and z and I was learning this and that. It doesn’t lessen the frustration necessarily but it helped me remember good can come from bad and no season is in vain.
        HopefulLeigh recently posted…The Weight and the WaitMy Profile

      • Tanya 27th February, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

        Thanks so much for sharing so much off our journey. I felt like I was saying ‘ah!’ and joining the dots a little in where you’re coming from. The going through is always tougher than the looking back – muckier, somehow.

        Thanks for commenting.

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