HeartStories 6

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart) …
e. e. cummings

Thanks to Sarah Thebarge, author of The Invisible Girls, for encouraging me to ask this question: “What stories do I carry with me in my heart today?”

Here’s one I’ve thought about a lot but rarely talk about and have avoided writing about. Maybe this will be the end of my embarrassment and humiliation.

Serial Failure Redeemed

With Mary Ann (Williams) Dare at high school graduation, Frankfort Community High School, West Frankfort, Illinois

With Mary Ann (Williams) Dare at high school graduation, Frankfort Community High School, West Frankfort, Illinois

No, that isn’t my college graduation photo. That’s my high school graduation photo. There’s something you may not know about me. I wasn't at my college graduation ceremony. For a lot of reasons that seemed valid at the time.

After completing my degree requirements in December, I landed a job in my chosen career field in January. I was ecstatic! Then just two months after that, I was fired. From my first professional job. For less than obvious reasons. In a most unusual way. I showed up for work one morning (at 6:00 AM, by the way) and was greeted by my replacement. As naïve as I was, I still felt humiliated. And the reality was: I still had bills to pay.

How could I be smiling? I had just lost my job and went to work at the job I said I'd never do.

How could I be smiling? I had just lost my job and went to work at the job I said I'd never do.

A few days later, I donned the then blue uniform, with a matching triangular headscarf, and took my place behind the counter. College graduate. Serving breakfast at McDonald’s. That was the day I experienced my depths of humiliation. I feel my face turning red right now as I write this. 

How could I go from completing my college education and knowing exactly what I wanted to be to being embarrassed about my job? I realized I had spent way too much time in college focusing on what I wanted to BE instead of on what I would DO. My spiral into career confusion, embarrassment, shredded self-confidence, and skewed priorities began. And would last for decades.

For the next 15 years, I hopped from job to job, thinking the next one was sure to be the right one. Teacher’s aide. Promotions assistant. Legal secretary. Secretary. Legal assistant. Temporary secretary. Word processing instructor. Inventory specialist. Tutor. Word processing specialist. Some fit for a while, until the new wore off, and then became a dull imitation of what I thought my life should be.

I felt sad for my parents who had invested so much of their hard-earned money in my anticipated success. Instead of finding my place in the world, I began finding ways to hide or avoid talking about what I did for a living. And my diploma languished in my dresser drawer.

I worked for a law firm in this downtown Phoenix building for two years. Until God decided to relocate me!

I worked for a law firm in this downtown Phoenix building for two years. Until God decided to relocate me!

You’ve probably already picked up on the root problem here. I. Going after what I wanted. Trying to find what I needed. Cutting out God and thinking I knew better than he did what was right for me. 

I was an unhappy wanderer. Did you ever wonder about the Israelites, like I did? Why did they wander around in the desert for so long when the Promised Land wasn’t that far away? I know that definitely mystified me. 

Until I had the opportunity to do my own desert wandering — in Phoenix, Arizona, of all places. For 10 years. Lost. Worshipping my own idols. Doubting God. Scared. Confused.

Then one evening, God got my attention with a thunderstorm. You don’t see many of those in the desert, by the way. He showed me clearly where he wanted me to go and what he wanted me to do. And I obeyed! Without question.

I relocated across the country. I found a job as a professional writer. I ended a serious dating relationship.

Sometimes we have to let go of people and things we were sure we couldn't live without. We have to make room for what God is going to do next.

Sometimes we have to let go of people and things we were sure we couldn't live without. We have to make room for what God is going to do next.

That’s when I really graduated.

When he relocated me, God even gave me my own office for the first time in my entire career.

When he relocated me, God even gave me my own office for the first time in my entire career.

And most exciting of all: I met Jesus, my Savior and Lord, and gave my entire life to him.

When you're doing what God wants you to do, you find a joy and peace you never imagined.

When you're doing what God wants you to do, you find a joy and peace you never imagined.

This past Saturday, I attended a college graduation. I celebrated with and prayed for the graduates I knew among that Class of 2017. In the process, I released my leftover guilt, humiliation, disappointment, and embarrassment from my own experiences. 

I wish my parents were still here so I could apologize to them for my selfish actions.

Today, 25 years after my desert wanderings, I’m using the gifts and talents God gave me and working where he sent me. There is a peace that comes when you’re in the right job and in the right place. I’ve found it. 

I'm doing my best to serve God, honor my parents, and become the person God created me to be. And to help others do the same. (Photo by Jenny Schoenwetter)

I'm doing my best to serve God, honor my parents, and become the person God created me to be. And to help others do the same. (Photo by Jenny Schoenwetter)

Maybe that’s the best way I can honor the sacrifices my parents made for me so many years ago.

Lord, may I not flee to the former things that give only fleeting comfort. May I order my remaining days by your priorities. Amen.

Laura Warfel is a widow, writer, and follower of Jesus Christ. Her greatest joy is to bring others along with her on her faith journey. In 2015, because of the encouragement of the Launch Out Conference and Jon Acuff, she launched More Than A Widow on Facebook and Twitter. Today she blogs, tweets, and posts to help widows (and those who know them) find encouragement, hope, and resources for the journey. Her goal is to help all widows live beyond the label and live as more than a widow.
Copyright © 2017 by Laura Warfel