Friday, July 7, 2023

The Holy Trinity of Updates- Part Three: Blessings Through Hardship

Blessings are only sometimes seen once you've been through the rough stuff. It's like a geode; You don't see the good until you crack them open to see what wonders are in store.

God was readying my wings for flight, but I wasn't ready to fly yet. Just a month before my raise and benefits would come, maybe wait until the end of the year, after the holidays, or even Spring, when the farmers markets would open. I could then quit and help with the bakery as I established myself as a fabric artist...

God had other ideas.

I was let go last week. I was shell-shocked. Within fifteen minutes, my life plans changed, and I was driving home in tears.

When bad things happen, I tend to spiral down into a depressive misery that takes weeks to recover from. I was finding it hard to breathe as I drove home, but the Spirit in me started to speak, and I decided to listen this time.

You were already thinking of quitting. You wanted to establish the bakery and work from home as a sewist. Isn't this an opportunity in disguise?

I realized with surprise that it was. So why was I crying to the point of not breathing?

Because someone else decided when I would stop working. I was not given time to adjust. I was my family's primary source of income and had yet to establish my business.

I was still trying to control my environment instead of letting God handle things.

So I pulled over, calmed myself, and started talking to God. Not a prayer per see, but telling Him I would let go and trust Him in all things, including being newly unemployed.

He provided before. He could provide again. Duh. Why do I keep forgetting that? And I thought the Israelites were forgetful...sheesh!

I still had bouts of tears on the way home, but there was also relief. I could spend time with my family again. I could start sewing what I wanted and write what I wanted. When I returned to blogging, I realized I was a week shy of a year since my last post. Yikes!

But what about the money? Yes, we would need it, and I still don't know where it will come from. I got my last paycheck today, but beyond that, I have no idea. Usually, I start obsessing immediately about money when hardship happens. This time it took almost a week before I began to spiral, but instead of remaining in silent misery as usual, I decided to call a family meeting and share what was happening in my head. 

I needed prayer and reassurance to keep me from shutting down into a depressive state.

As I confessed my worries, they assured me this was a blessing in disguise and things would be okay. I was encouraged to continue sewing, and we'd pray and let God tell us what to do concerning the bakery.

Then my husband started playing on his phone, or so I thought.

At first, I was annoyed (no phones during discussions, please!), but he showed me a listing for a home-based double oven. And after asking about it, they offered a flat-top stovetop as well. We rushed all over the house, gathering all the loose change, raiding our wallets and the donation jar for baked goods he's been testing on the locals for the past few weeks. 

After counting up everything, we not only had enough, we had three dollars left over without touching the bank account. (I traded the coins at the local store for bills- I wasn't paying them with all that change and singles!)

They were ninety minutes away, and we zipped off in the truck to bring home our bakery booty. We told them about our bakery, and they were happy to hear their renovation benefited us.

Something weird happened next.

I did something I never did. I moved my husbands' hand truck out of the way. He did something he never does. He forgot to put it in the truck. In fact, he felt God prompting him to get out of there as fast as possible. So we did.

We were almost all the way home before he realized he left the hand truck behind. I confessed to moving it, and when we had a signal (there's no internet in the mountains), we found the family had tried to contact us in every way possible to tell us about the forgotten hand truck.

But something else was weird. The time stamp on the messages was only minutes after we left their house. We had an internet connection for forty-five minutes before we lost signal. So why didn't anything get through?

We arranged a time for me to go get it on the fifth since the next day was the fourth of July (my daughter and husband were working the fifth), so I made the solo drive, mad at myself for moving the darn thing in the first place, but glad to be able to bring them a sample of our baking as a thank-you.

As I pulled up, I was greeted by the kids, that squealed with delight as I brought out the cake box. Before I could hand it off to the mom, she stuffed something in my hand before I could let go of the box, telling me it was for the cake.

The cake she didn't know I was bringing.

It was money. She said she was refunding me for the stovetop because they wanted to support us in our bakery adventure. Before I could reply, she also asked if I was interested in a venting hood for the stovetop.

Gobsmacked, I blurted out that yes, I'd be interested. She told me they ordered a new one, but it arrived dented, and the company told her to keep it- they'll send a replacement. So she offered it to me. I accepted and offered to give her back the refunded money for it. She refused.

I was expecting their old one (since they were renovating), but when she mentioned the new one with a dent, I said the thing could look like Quasimodo for all I cared, as long as it worked! We both laughed, and she brought it out so I could put it in my trunk.

It's a good thing that one of the kids remembered to bring out the hand truck- I'd almost forgotten it again!

After loading up and waving to Mom and the kiddos, I drove home, resisting the urge to call my husband at work to tell him the great news. I started singing hymns all the way back home. Let him open the trunk when I arrive and be surprised!

Now we know why God told my husband to leave right away! It also explains why we could only communicate with them once we got home. Isn't God amazing?

I'm still not sure how long it will be until we can work as a cottage bakery, but we're definitely on our blessed way!

How has God worked in your life that seemed terrible initially but became a blessing? Tell me about it in the comments!

The Holy Trinity of Updates- Part Two: Open, Closed, and Hidden Doors

It's hard to know which doors are opportunities and which doors should be shut, locked, and have a HAZMAT label. That's why we need to trust God in all things.

In my last post, it seemed like life was kicking me to the curb. But there were blessings between all the bad stuff; this post will reveal them.

We were sixteen weeks without internet. If we were any younger, this would've been a disaster, but it was more of an inconvenience- like losing our favorite tool. We could deal without it if we had to, and sometimes we had a lot of fun!

There was no TV, so we watched DVDs and played card and board games instead. We talked with neighbors and got to know them. We had a landline, so if people needed to speak to us, they could. Once a day, we'd drive a few miles to find a connection and text our correspondence, and once a week, we'd go into town with our laptops to access things not on our phones.

I wound up closing my Etsy store almost immediately after opening it, simply because I couldn't fill orders daily. I didn't want my customers to wait a week or more for me to respond to their requests.

So I found a job.

During the job search, we started having engine issues with the van. We discovered a recall on our van engine, but they refused to replace it, stating we were the second owners, not the original buyers. We only had the 2016 Kia Sedona for a year and a half, but they wouldn't budge.

Then my husband hit a deer, and though there was a lot of body damage, we could still drive it. We put in an insurance claim and asked about the recall issue. They would get back to us.

A week before my new job started, the van engine died. Little did I know this was a blessing in disguise!

Local friends helped me to get back on the road via borrowed vehicles, and I was able to get to and from work for the first few weeks. 

We could not afford another vehicle and ran out of cars to borrow. We made a request to our internet friends, and one of my writing buddies had a 2000 Toyota Camry she was willing to give us if we wanted it.

Woohoo! We went on a two-day trip and came home with a great car. We returned the borrowed vehicle with many thanks and some home-baked goodies. We gave everyone who helped us home-baked goodies. That's how we roll!

In the meantime, the insurance company sent an inspector for the dead van, and they decided to total the vehicle. When we came home, there was a surprise check in the mailbox! 

We got my husband a 2000 Chevy Silverado truck with the money. We not only had two vehicles now, but because they are older models, he can do all the basic repairs and care for them!

And because we have two vehicles, he found a local job that desperately needed his skills. God provided! 

Why am I always surprised about that?

With both jobs, we could stay current with the bills and get what we needed to do some much-needed test baking. Unfortunately, I had to put my sewing business aside, but I was steadfast in my prayers for a way to work from home via the bakery and my side hustles of sewing and writing.

Honestly, I was still going back and forth between writing or sewing as my primary business, and I believe He used the job to help me figure things out.

I hoped for a regular forty-hour week, but the hours were so irregular I had no idea when I'd be home. I could leave anywhere from two hours early to two hours late, making it hard on the family since I was still trying to intermittent fast and eat dinner with them. But when the hours started going into the fifties and sixties, I gave up fasting because I was getting dizzy and would often wake up on the other side of the road on the way home from work.

I stopped losing weight but managed to maintain most of my loss. But that's for a different post on my weight loss blog.

The job was also a time of tempering. I hadn't worked a full-time job since starting my family over twenty years ago, and though I did work, it mainly was self-employment as a contractor (Uber, Lyft, Medical delivery, etc.). This was a new ball of wax, and I had trouble adjusting initially.

I had a fantastic boss. She was patient and willing to answer any questions and talk to me about work etiquette. She was bilingual and would teach me Spanish, while I would teach her a bit more English than she already knew. The workers would let me practice talking with them and correct me if I got something wrong. 

It also tempered my muscles. Sewing twelve hours a day on a fifty-five-year-old body takes its toll, and I went through several packs of Bio-Freeze pads before I stopped aching. My sewing skills also improved, as well as my speed. Though I admit, those industrial machines did spoil me. I especially loved the auto thread-cutting feature!

Eventually, I got into the swing of things and adjusted to the feast-or-famine hours, though I started feeling like God was trying to strengthen my flight muscles for my fledgling leap into the world of self-employment. 

I was faster and better than I used to be, and I was confident I could sew for twelve hours at a time if I had to. I also learned to be flexible with my time and adjust to interruptions- two things I've always struggled with.

But where did God want me? What was He setting me up to do?

That and more in the next post!

I hope this encourages you that He has a plan no matter your struggles, even if we don't know His end game. Keep praying without ceasing- He hears you!

The Holy Trinity of Updates- Part One: When the Devil Wears Cleats

You know you're going in the right direction when Satan jumps on you with both feet- in cleats.

In our case, it started with an involuntary sixteen weeks off-grid. Yes, you read that correctly. Sixteen weeks without internet. There's only one provider here (so far), and they decided they didn't need to fix or provide services until we called the FCC.

I was starting an online business. Was. With no internet, I couldn't maintain a store on Etsy, so I had to look for work. I found a job as a sewing machine operator. Little did I know this job would become my life for nearly a year.

A week before the job started, our only vehicle died.

Local friends helped me to get back on the road via borrowed vehicles, and I was able to get to and from work for the first few weeks.

The job itself had its shortcomings, including irregular hours. I was either asked to sacrifice hours and have very short weeks, and other times I was working so much overtime all I could do was wake up, go to work, come home, eat, and sleep. Some days my family only saw me for fifteen minutes before I had to fall into bed, sore and exhausted.

The drive was an hour and ten minutes one way, so at the end of the week, I spent nearly twelve hours on the road. When you add fifty to sixty-hour work weeks, that time adds up! I often had to call friends for as long as the signal lasted to stay awake on the road home.

We finally entered the slow season two weeks ago, where we were asked to sacrifice hours again. I was glad because the busy season lasted a whopping five months, and I was ready for a break. Next month would be a year at the job, and I would qualify for a raise and benefits, including vacation pay.

Last week, they called me into the office and let me go.

If I left it at that, you'd think I'd be depressed. I'm not. I just told you all the bad stuff because these things happen for a reason, and though we don't always know what that reason is (in fact, God can be pretty tight-lipped most of the time), we need to remain faithful because His plans aren't ours. In my case, I need tempering before I can be the sword He wants me to be.

He is preparing me for greatness. He's preparing you too. 

I divided this blog post into three parts, so you didn't have to read a novel-worth of text (a blog-vel?...Nah). Keep reading- it gets better!