For the past 15 years, I’ve enjoyed my life as a Public Relations professional – consulting companies ranging from agricultural fairs to semiconductor companies. I’ve built a good professional reputation, especially among technology companies, for driving campaigns that build customer awareness, loyalty and improve the overall corporate image. A few months ago, I took a position at a growing firm that gave me not only the title that gained more respect from potential clients and staff, but financial compensation to allow my wife not to have to worry about not having a job.
Recently though, I’d been spending 50-60 hours working long hours. I know I’m in a 24/hr job, where news cycles and stories could break at any moment, but rarely have I ever had to put in so much time at the office. I’d often get up before my family did, and get home after they already went to bed – missing any chance of seeing my beautiful daughter or spending any quality time with my bride. I started to become bitter, stressed, and began snapping at little things that were really just petty annoyances. Two weekends ago, while actually enjoying a rare work-free afternoon with my family, I realized that I was going to miss Maddy’s first words, her first steps and so many other firsts that are to be cherished by parents. I started to think to myself, “I hope she does this [insert baby’s first] when I’m home or on a weekend so I don’t have to miss it.”
Though, I think God took it as a prayer request.
Last Monday, while in the midst of planning for a major client event, I was called into the board room and was laid off. My managing director told me that I “wasn’t a fit and today would be my last day.” Almost in the same breath, my direct boss/VP told me that the team loved me, the clients loved my ideas and that I had dramatically improved the overall performance of my direct reports. From a pure financial perspective, I can understand the reason to let me go – “But I wasn’t a good fit???” I asked myself.
Heartbroken, I left the office with a few things, and fists clenched at God, saying “This was MY Job! This was my PASSION! How could you take this from me?”
I called my wife about the layoff,, who was actually about to jump into an interview and tears just welled in panic as I didn’t know how we would be able to provide for the family when neither of us were working. She told me that we’d be OK and she’d see me later that night.
Tuesday I awoke with a start. I sat eating my breakfast as my family still slept, and wanted to shout at God again, “Why did you take this from me? What am I going to do?” But just as quickly as I woke up that morning, panicking about providing for my family, I felt God saying, “Don’t worry. I’ve got this.” It’s not often that I’ve truly felt the presence of God in my life, but that morning, it felt like I was in someone’s arms – in a permanent embrace. Throughout the day, I think I started to notice that he’d freed me from what was darkening my spirit and clouding any time that I had with the family. We went to the Junior Gym and watch our daughter climb and try to take a few steps. We had a relaxing dinner as a family that was earlier than 8 or 9 pm. My wife and I went to bed in each others’ arms for the first time in months.
Wednesday morning, it was my wife who got to feel the embrace of peace – because she got the job!!!! Not only was she employed, but now she was making even more than I was! Our prayers of provision were answered, with abundant grace!
So now, besides playing Mr. Mom, I have a lot of time on my hands and I think I know what He wants me to fill it with.
Several months ago, when our Church was surveying the small groups for ideas on new ministries and ways the church could serve the community, I had an idea that really echoed this week’s sermon on John chapter 15 – the allegory of the vine and the branches. I’ve noticed that there are so many homes in our neighborhood who have abundant fruit trees, many of which just have so much fruit that it just rots on the tree or falls to the ground in decay. I feel that God doesn’t want to see this fruit go to waste and that we as a church, can not only serve our community, but use it to sow/bear more godly fruit.
I called the idea “Picked for His Purpose” (logo at right). I believe He is calling me to create a program where we can offer to pick excess fruit for residents, and donate it to food shelters or use by the church at large. This could include giving small bags to the neighborhood homes, inviting them to services, or giving it to families in the church or beyond who are really in need. Additionally, since the residents are donating this to charity, we could provide them with a receipt for the fair-market value of the fruit (e.g., 50lbs of navel oranges at $0.99/lbs).
I firmly believe that God has cleaved off a dead branch in my life, so that more fruit can bloom. He’s removed what became toxic to my health and soul, and replaced it with the time to be a loving father/husband that I’ve wanted to be for some time. Most importantly, this is what God has done to let me grow and better serve Him.
I’m certain that there’s a literal response to, and confirmation in, the pastor’s word of how we are to “bear fruit as a Church.” I’m hoping to begin this ministry in the next few weeks, by identifying shelters and places that could receive fresh fruit in our region, creating flyers and spreading the word on the new ministry. Oh, and of course, spending more time with my beautiful bride and munchkin who took her first few real steps and started to say actual words in the past few days. 🙂