I never thought being unemployed would happen to me at this stage of my life. Well, it happened! Was I ready? Nope. Did I survive? Yes. Have I learnt anything from my experience? Really! Don't get me started. The thought of sharing my experience is cringey but for God, I will testify.....GLORY TO GOD.
The younger generation
Let me tell you, I love the #entrepreneurial spirit of this generation. Maybe I just missed it, while it was happening in my generation. We were more about getting qualifications, careers and pension plans. 7 streams of income, you what? Or maybe I was just distracted and busy doing other stuff? Stuff I would rather leave for another day (wink, wink).
These #millennials, as they are often called, (which I was specifically instructed not to consider myself as one) seem to have a natural ability to pursue what they want. Taking risks and being fearless in achieving goals and aspirations. They hold nothing back, I think they should hold a little back, but at least they are willing to take risks. It would be great if they utilised these 'risks' in relationship with God, but I digress.
I was not like that in my youth. I loved to have fun, laugh and just be with my sisters and friends. I didn't have a plan. Lackadaisical, I agree but I just didn't know any better. I remember someone saying to me during the 'unemployed' season that I was ambitious. Ambition ke! (Nigerian lingo, that's how much it threw me off). I was so confused, it stayed with me for days. Me, ambitious! If only it were true.
But to be unemployed over forty was never the plan. Crazy! Yes. Frustrating! Yes. Demoralising! Again I say yes!
Don't get me wrong, I had projects and things I was always working on. But a regular income seemed far from my reach no matter what I tried. And I tried everything network marketing, event planning, virtual services, secret shopper, completing online surveys and the search simply carried on without any remunerative or positive outcome.
I smiled to the outside world, while inside I was fading away.
Pressure in season
I had been through some things during that season which made asking for help limited to a minuscule group of friends (if you could call it that) and it felt painstakingly difficult to venture in that direction of asking. Or maybe it was just my pride....hmmm, moving on (don't worry we will get to that).
I would spend time crying alone in my room, wondering where was God in all of this. I didn't question His love, because I knew He loved me. Where was His Hand and why wasn't it extended toward my children and me? I remember repeating His Own Words to Him,
"A father of the fatherless and a judge and protector of the widows is God in His holy habitation. God places the solitary in families and gives the desolate a home in which to dwell; He leads the prisoners out to prosperity; but the rebellious dwell in a parched land." (Psalms 68:5 - 6 AMPC)
This period of unemployment was very long, with dribs and drabs of short term contracts here and there. I continued to try everything I could think of. I registered with agencies, completed hundreds of application forms, went through various interviews, only to be rejected for being too experienced, not meeting the requirements or not hearing back from them at all.
I remember a particular situation where I had applied for a role online and received a call from the recruitment agency. They were impressed with my application and keen to offer me the job. It was a temporary role but I wanted it, needed it.
The recruitment agent called around 4.45pm, as the workday was ending. She wanted to let me know I had made it through because they were eager for someone to start ASAP. I had my phone on speaker because I was driving. The lady was really lovely and I was excited. We had finally caught a break, at least that's what I thought, thank you, Jesus.
She said she will give me a call the following day to go through the paperwork she was going to email me and I could start as soon as that was completed.
Well, let me tell you, I never heard from her again.
I tried to contact her on the number I received the call from on my phone. Initially, no one answered the call then the number disappeared from my phone. I never received or found the email she said she would send me. Nothing! I checked my spam box and all my folders, not a thing! If my children hadn't been in the car at the time and heard the call, I would have thought I imagined the whole thing.
I began to lose hope. Sometimes giving up.
Everyone had their opinions - why don't you become a teacher? or go to study project management? why don't you work here or apply there? Michelle, you are just being lazy. Stop playing the victim. You are not the first one. You are not getting any younger.
With each opinion, I lost more of my self-respect, self-esteem and confidence.
Still, I smiled to the outside world, while my light continued growing dimmer and dimmer.
But God in His faithfulness would send me a word or moment of encouragement through my mentor, buddies, friend and children. My children would say something random in the middle of a conversation which gave me the strength to try again. Or I would receive an email for an interview and my faith will rise up again.
It was hard going up and down in this storm, especially when my children would ask me for things. "Mum, I need some shoes." "Can I get some shirts for school?" "I don't have any clothes". "I need a new pencil case". For us, every penny made a difference.
The list never seemed to reduce, instead, it grew longer and more expensive with something new being included each day. With each request, came a new bill to topple the pressure I was already feeling. And all I could think to myself was, "Father, what is going on? You said You take care of the fatherless and the widow. My children and I are fatherless, and I am a widow. Where is my help going to come from? When will this pass?".
I found it easy to remind God what He was not doing after all the storm was brewing. And yet He would turn my heart to gratitude and with tears, I would express thanks for being alive. I hated being unemployed but I was also afraid to live life. Nothing was the same anymore.
Help is available
God always showed up. He showed up in ways I could never have conceived in my mind. Believe me, I tried! But those ideas were backed up by my own strength and/or reliance on 'other' people.
I remember being invited by a minister to speak at her event. I was completely blown away by the love of God that day. She asked me to share my 'storymony' to encourage those present.
After I finished speaking, she came up to the front of the room and held me. She told everyone how she felt blessed to see how God was moving in our lives.
Once she finished, she asked if there was anyone in the room who felt inclined to bless my children and me.
I can only say, YOU HAD TO BE THERE. I was not expecting it. I was overwhelmed with tears rolling down, as person after person walked to the front and placed cash into my hands. Each saying a prayer as they gave and releasing prophetic words concerning my children and I. God is too much for us to comprehend. (I have multiple testimonies of God providing for us in supernatural ways.)
I left the event with an overwhelming sense of joy and hope in God's provision.
But the label "unemployed" still loomed over me, although heavy and depressing, God provided the relief we needed. I found out in those moments that the way we think about how God shows up is different from how He is.
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55: 8 - 9 (AMPC)
What I did not realise was God was teaching me in those moments how to rely on Him. I discovered my trust in Him was not what I thought it was or how it should be. I am His saved daughter and He is a Faithful Father.
I had become accustomed to dictating to Him what His answer to my prayers should be. I would pray to Him and then determine how He should answer me. I was playing 'god' and calling it faith and relationship. Lie! Lie! Lie!
Faith requires hope, trust and direction in God, not preconceived plans while doing life without God.
I was taught from my early years in the church, if I want something, all I had to do was ask and God would give it to me. I want a husband. Sure, there you go. I want a house. Take it. I want children. I want, I want, I want...Wow...!
Over time and through different situations, my experiences in Him began to transform my heart and mindset. My trust muscles were forming. Faith became a key to provision in Him, but sort in the place of relationship. Being ready and willing to do what He says, to see His will fulfilled and His Name glorified.
There is more to the ways, will and timings of God and in the midst of that, we must see His Heart as a Father. He blessings because He loves us, He withholds because He loves us. His love is immeasurable and indescribable. We must sit surrendered to Him, He knows what is best and when is best. Trust Him.
Do not think you know. In the moments when you feel like you have nowhere to turn to, no one to cry to and you see no way out, THERE IS GOD. Call on the name of Jesus and He will answer you. Give your eyes and ears freedom to SEE and HEAR what it is He says to do, how He wants it done, and you will be blessed.
Only God is omniscience, omnipresent, omnipotent, infinite.
The way of life by this world is not the way of life for God. Unless you allow Him to be who He is, you can never be who He created you to be. The only way to do that is to take your hands off the steering wheel of your life and allow Him to drive. The beautiful thing about this is, He wants to drive with you - sometimes sitting at the back or at the front, or closer still, on His lap so we can hear His heartbeat and rest on His chest.
I accepted I was not ambitious and decided to stop being lackadaisical but I am on a mission to live every day as My Book has been written by The Author and Finisher of my faith, to tell His 'storymony'.
For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship),[d]recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live]. (Ephesians 2:10)
I can share with you that God has blessed me with a full-time job as I continue to build my business among other things. It is often said, "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade", but what if I wasn't meant to have lemons because life itself stole my strawberries?
You saw who you created me to be before I became me! Before I’d ever seen the light of day, the number of days you planned for me were already recorded in your book.
(Psalms 139: 16)
Make the decision today to trust in God, knowing nothing surprises God and you are in His faithful hands. He has a plan and He will reveal it to you. Go into the private place of prayer and A.S.K - Ask, Seek, Knock.