Thursday, August 17, 2023

A Loss Can Equal New Beginnings

This quote from Katherine Wolf was the first thing I read this morning as I opened my laptop in the dark and still cool morning hours today.

It is still dark outside, although my time for leaving for work is drawing closer, and the air is a cool 67 degrees.  Perfect time for reading - and more importantly - listening.

"I can choose to define my LOSS as a NEW BEGINNING, rather than an ending."

When I read that, my mind transported me back to my divorce.  I had been married 19 years, almost to 20.  I felt alone most of my marriage and distanced from the man I lived with.  

He was a good man in a sense.  He didn't cheat, he didn't drink, he didn't smoke, and he was a faithful and strong Christian man from a Godly family.

But I was young in maturity, and he was used to being in an overly lovingly home with a Mom (a wonderful and beautiful, strong Christian woman) that catered to most of his needs.  I, on the other hand, was raised in an Italian family full of women that spoke their minds, did what they wanted, and did not do much serving - everyone pulled their part and contributed fairly (for the most part).

As our marriage and family grew, I began to seek close companionship with friends and other men.  I never crossed the line of having a physical affair, but my loneliness opened the door to emotional affairs.

I began to put others before my husband (and honestly my family) trying to fill that void.

I began counseling with our Church's family minister (well we both did for a brief moment in time), and I also sought Christian counseling locally outside the church.  It was a time of loneliness and turmoil.

I finally pushed for and got what I wanted - a divorce and freedom from a situation I found so hard to live in.  My husband didn't fight for me or try to stop the divorce.  In fact, he told our boys, "You know why our divorce took so long?  I didn't answer any of your Mom's lawyer's questions because I never thought she'd go through with it."

That broke my heart years later.  Hearing that he just sat back and waited for ME to take care of him again.  Only that time on a very large scale and with devastating effects. 

Would things have been different if he had fought for me or if he had used words to reach me?  I don't know.  I was a completely different person then.  There is no way to know now.

Fast forward a little bit.

I was sitting outside a Forsyth County Middle School kitchen.  It was 5:30 in the morning and dark outside.

I was starting a new life...and a new career.  In order to stay on my boys' school schedule and maintain insurance, a friend helped me get a job with the school system.  Only office jobs were scarce, so I received a job as a Cafe worker.  

I sat in my car and thought, "What is happening to me?  What have I become?" When I got married, I thought I'd never work again.  I'd stay home and take care of my family and be an active part of my church for the rest of my life.

But I was wrong.  My SELF had got in the way.  I had lost track of who I was supposed to be.

But in that same moment, in the pre-dawn hours, I also saw a vision.  God reminded me of Joseph, and how he had been sold into slavery by his brothers.  His life seemed off track as well and he may have wondered how he got where he was as well.  But God reminded me of what all he did with and through Joseph, so I put on my hair net, my nonslip shoes, and began what is now an 11-year career with Forsyth County Schools.

God moved mountains those first years with the school system.  I had to file sexual harassment and hostile work environment charges against my first kitchen manager.  I was moved to a second kitchen with women I adored and loved and one of the best Cafe managers out there.  I admired her drive and work ethic.  She was amazing.

Then God opened another door I never expected to open.  A job opened at our County's nontraditional school.  I went to the interview in my Cafe polo shirt and hair in a bun.  I thought, "They will never be able to see past me working in a Cafe.  They will never understand what I can do."

A church friend of mine working at the school hand-delivered my resume to one of the three Principals at the school, and I was granted that interview.  To this day, we still work side by side.  I am forever in his debt.

As you can surmise by now, I was offered that job.  It was a small school then.  Four teachers and 44 students.  I was the only office person beside the Counselor and Administration.  I was the Receptionist, the Registrar, the Bookkeeper, and anything else you can image.  I was in my element.  I loved my coworkers, my Administration, and my students.

Fast forward with me one more time.

Today, our school has a brand new, multimillion dollar building, a staff of over 100, and students numbering in the thousands.  I am still the Registrar and Bookkeeper, but last year, our County allowed us to hire two more office personnel both of whom I admire and love working beside.

My job has grown to my own office, Event Staff responsibilities, and so much more.  It's become a position I would never have dreamed of being in.  My position is so much bigger than it was 11 years ago, and I could never have imagined God moving in my life like He has.

Today, there is a small table with three chairs beside my desk.  All day long, people come in to my office and sit.  It might be the SRO walking a student around that needed a break or it might be a teacher from one of our other floors that needs a moment to regroup or it might be a student that wants to share something going on in their life or that just wants a cup of coffee and a kind face to recognize them for a minute.

All this "testimony" to say that Katherine Wolf is right.  We must look at our losses as doors to what God might be doing next - a new beginning.

I never dreamed the loss of my family and marriage would be a new beginning at Forsyth County Schools.  I never thought my loss would be a new beginning to helping so many others across our community.

I am still not rich (that part of Joseph's story didn't transpire over to mine...) and I still struggle with not getting paid on an equal par with others in the County doing the same job, but every day I thank God for what He has done with my life.  How he took what was broken and mended it to make something beautiful.

I love my job.  I love my life.  I love the people I work with.  I love the students I serve.

Always remember that what you have loss - physically or emotionally - can be an open door for God to make a new beginning for you!  That is what is most important.  You are being used, so be open to it.  See it.  Be blessed by it.

Psalm 84:11, "For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless."

Sir Richard Baker:  “The good things of God are chiefly peace of conscience, and joy in the Holy Ghost, in this life; fruition of God’s presence, and vision of his blessed face, in the next.”

"We’ve lived through what should have been an unsurvivable loss. You may have lived through the same, or worse. What we find on this side of the journey is that loss, in its purest form, is a fear of death. We were not designed to die and the aversion to death is built into our bodily and spiritual DNA. The good news is that when we are connected to Jesus—resurrection personified—we need not die at all. Christ in us vanquishes the fear of death and loss. Jesus gives us permission to live with open hands and whole hearts, laughing without fear of the future because, in the end, our future is with Him." - Katherine Wolf

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