Reflecting on the Blessings of 2011

As the year draws to a close, I want to take some time to reflect on the way our lives changes in 2011 and to thank God for the blessings He bestowed on my family during 2011.

1)     In November my husband was rehired by the employer who had laid him off 2 years and 10 months earlier.  We are grateful that Steve is once again employed and that God sustained us financially during the extended period of unemployment.

2)     In May all three of our sons received a college degree—one earned a Master’s degree, one completed his Bachelor’s degree, and the other received an Associate’s degree.  We are very proud of them for their hard work and perseverance in achieving their goals.

3)     My husband and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary with a two-week trip to Alaska.  I am thankful for my wonderful husband and the love we have shared for more than 3 decades.

4)     Our precious grandson turned 1 in July.  It is a joy to watch him grow and learn new skills every day.  He has a wonderful nature and is a delight.

5)     Mother’s Day brought the news that we would have another grandchild.  We were delighted to welcome a baby girl to our family yesterday. It was a special blessing as it has been 118 years since a girl was born into my husband’s family.

6)     All of my sons are employed in jobs.  As an added bonus, they all enjoy their jobs and are doing well at them.

7)     I love my job but I didn’t love the commute.  Althoug only 16 miles, it frequently took me an hour or more to get home.  Two weeks ago our office relocated into town and much closer to home.  The new location is more convenient to shopping and home, plus I have awesome views of our city.

8)     My second novel was published in the fall.  The first novel did not sell many copies, but my publisher believed in the second one enough to redesign the cover of the first novel.  So far, the second one is not selling at all.  However, I have faith that God will bless my writing and that my novels will touch and enrich lives.

9)     We moved my mother-in-law to live in our community.  She is in a nursing home where she gets the round-the-clock care she needs and where she can regularly be visited by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

10) We were able to sell a piece of property that we had been trying to get rid of for the past two years.  We were then able to help our son and daughter-in-law to purchase their first home.

2011 was not all emotional highs and good times; there were some disappointments and sad times as well.  A much beloved aunt passed away with no notice, we endured many months of job searching and wondering if my husband would ever be employed again, and we dealt with my mother-in-law’s declining health.  But through it all, we could see God’s hand of blessing.  He has seen of through many challenging times and we know that He will be with us in whatever situations arise in our lives in 2012.

In what ways did God bless you and your family in 2011?  Please take a moment to reflect and share the ways God blessed you.

May your 2012 be filled with God’s blessings and the love of family and friends.

Rehired: 6 Tips for Getting Your Old Job Back

Millions of laid-off workers are still unemployed and would like nothing better than for their former employers to call and offer them their old jobs back.  This is the situation my husband has been in for most of the last three years. 

After sending out countless resumes and going on a few interviews, he was still unemployed. We’d examined many options for a second career for him.  We kept coming up empty. The bottom line was, he liked his former job and he was good at it. His preferred option was for his former employer to re-hire him, even if it was only part-time or if it involved a pay cut.

Three weeks ago he got the call he had been hoping and praying for.  His former company has some projects right now that they need his help on.  There is no guarantee that they’ll still need him in a few months, but for now, we are grateful that he has work.

Steve took care when he was laid-off to maintain his work relationships and not burn his bridges. I am sharing the following tips from my observations of my husband’s journey back to re-employment in the hopes that they may help someone who is in the midst of the difficult situation Steve was in.

1) Understand your employer is having a difficult time too.  You company is laying off workers in an effort to save their company.  Your employer did not cause the current economic crisis.  The company is a victim just as much as you are.

2) Be grateful for the opportunities your former employer gave you while you worked there.  Speak positively of your former employer at job interviews. Even if you never want to work for your former company again, you may need a reference from your old boss.  Also, companies that are hiring are looking for employees with positive attitudes.

3) Keep in touch.  Drop by or call from time to time. Let your former boss know you are still looking for work.  A door may open for you to go back to work at your old job, or your former boss may know someone who is hiring.  Steve occasionally went out to lunch with his former boss and the few employees who had been retained.  He wasn’t a stranger and they didn’t forget about him.

4) Don’t hold a grudge.  When Steve’s boss called to let him know his help was needed, Steve was glad to go back.  Steve was never angry with the employees who were not laid off.  He was grateful that they kept their jobs.  When there was some work for Steve to do, his former co-workers were happy to have him re-hired.

5) Volunteer to help out without the expectation of pay.  While unemployed, Steve offered to help his former employer put together a few job proposals with the understanding that Steve would be hired to do the work if they got the jobs. Unfortunately the company did not get most of those jobs and Steve did not get paid for his time.  However, working on the proposals kept Steve’s job skills sharp and earned him his employer’s gratitude. When a job did come through, Steve was called back to work.

6) Give a little.  Steve offered to work for 5% less than his previous rate and without benefits.  That made it easier for his employer to afford to hire him back. Taking a pay cut might not be easy, but it is a whole lot better than receiving no paycheck.

Have you been rehired after being laid off?  Please share any additional tips you have that might help others to regain their former jobs.

Long-term Unemployment: Lessons Learned from King David

As Steve and I continue on this nearly three-year journey of unemployment, I lean on lessons learned from the trials and tribulations of David as he awaited the fulfillment of God’s promise that he would reign over Judah.

As a boy, David was anointed by Samuel to succeed Saul as the king of Judah.  David was a full grown man with wives and children when he ascended to the throne.  Quite a few years passed between the promise of kingship and the fulfilment of that promise.  

The years of waiting were comprised of great victories and great hardships.  David faced and killed the giant Goliath and was appointed a commander in Saul’s army. He led the army in many battles with tremendous success.  Yet, Saul became increasingly jealous of David and sought to kill him.  David was forced to hide in caves and live the life of a fugitive for many years.  Still, he continued to believe God.  He could look forward to the day when this difficult phase of his life would end and he would return from exile to rule over his nation.

It is easy for me to get discouraged about the state of our economy and the lack of job prospects for Steve.  Two years and nine months is a long time to be unemployed and there is no end in sight.  In these moments, I reflect on the trials that David went through and the place he arrived at when the trials were over.

1) David’s troubles were not of his own making.  David did not seek to become the king of Judah.  He served King Saul and honored him.  Yet, he found himself running from Saul.  Likewise, Steve’s unemployment is not the result of any action or decision on his part.  He is a victim of a poor economy and bad decisions made by others.

2) David had victories in the midst of his hardships. While a fugitive, David continued to lead an army and had great success.    Despite the loss of the majority of our income, we have learned to be wiser with our money and have been victorious over credit card debt.

3) God’s hand of blessing was on David during this time.  God supplied David with food and shelter, and David married two of his wives and fathered several children during this time.  God continues to bless our family, as well. Our family has grown in the last three years, with the addition of a daughter-in-law and our first grandchild; a second grandchild is on the way.

4) David became discouraged at times.  In spite of David’s close walk with the Lord, he was human.  He grew weary of the struggle and faced discouragement.  David poured out his frustrations in psalms.  In Psalm 55, David wrote, “My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught at the voice of the enemy for they bring down suffering upon me and revile me in their anger.  My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me.  Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.” (verses 2 – 4)  We know that we will have moments of discouragement.  In those moments, we need to take our eyes off our problems and focus our attention on God and the blessings He has bestowed on us.

5)  David trusted God.  The same man who cried out in despair also wrote, “I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.  I will praise you forever for what you have done; in your name will I hope, for your name is good.” (Psalm 52: 8, 9)  Our hope is in God.  Our lives are in His hands, and our trust is in Him, for He is good.

6) David’s troubles did not last forever.  Although David was a fugitive from Saul for years, there came a day when Saul died and David was crowned King of Judah.  David knew that God had promised him the kingdom and he looked forward to the day that God would fulfill that promise.  God has a plan for our lives.  Jeremiah 29:11 tells us, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Steve and I are at peace knowing that God has a wonderful plan for our lives.  Even in the midst of this trial, we can see His hand of blessing and His plans being fulfilled.

If you are in the midst of a trial that seems like it will never end, please know that God has a wonderful plan for you.  He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Suffering and trials are part of God’s plan to help us focus on the important issues in life and to learn to depend on Him fully.  I pray that you will turn to God in your moments of despair and allow Him to fulfill his purposes for you.

Unemployment, Cancer, Grandchildren, and Trusting God Through It All

Cancer and unemployment are the difficult things in my life right now, and grandchildren are the phenomenal blessings.  Through these ups and downs, I am learning to trust God and am reminded that he is with me through all the circumstances of life.

A year and a half ago, Steve and I were blessed with the news that our first grandchild was expected.  That joyful announcement came at a time when we really needed some good news.  We were approaching the first anniversary of Steve being laid off, and his parents’ health was of great concern.  The expected baby was a reminder of God’s great love for us. 

The intervening months were stressful as Steve’s unemployment stretched into a second year and his father passed away.  Whenever I felt like life was just too difficult, my spirits would be lifted be the mere thought that a baby was on the way.  Daniel’s arrival ten months ago brought great joy to our lives.  We love that little boy with all of our hearts.  We thank God daily that he is a healthy, happy child.

About six weeks ago, we learned that my sister has breast cancer. Although they caught it early and the tumor was rather small, the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes and has been diagnosed as an aggressive form. Fortunately, the cancer has not spread to her organs. She is facing months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  It will be a difficult time. I will do all that I can to support her, and I pray that she will experience God’s presence in a new and powerful way as she deals with her illness.

My sister’s cancer diagnosis, along with Steve’s continued unemployment—now well into its third year—can be a heavy burden to bear.  The past few weeks, these burdens have felt overwhelming at times. I know I have to trust God for my sister’s health and my husband’s job situation.  He is faithful to send bits of encouragement to remind me of his faithfulness.  For example, one day last week the number of page views of my blog was unexpected much higher than normal.  I was delighted.  The next day was even better, setting a record for my highest number of views in one day.  It wasn’t a big thing, and it didn’t change any of the circumstances of my life.  However, God used this small thing to remind me of his love for me and to help me feel relevant.

I called my sister today to share with her some unexpected good news Steve and I received yesterday.  She shared with me that the original diagnosis of Stage 1 cancer had been overly optimistic; after her lumpectomy, the cancer was reclassified as Stage 3.  God knew that I would receive this discouraging news today, so yesterday he sent us the good news another grandchild is on the way. 

Little Daniel will be getting a cousin in December.  The new little one is due on December 27th.  A Christmas baby to look forward to!  It doesn’t improve my sister’s health or increase my husband’s opportunities for gaining employment.  It does, however, remind us that we are blessed and have a great future ahead of us.  We will continue to trust God for the strength to face each day with grace, knowing that his love for us is immeasurable.

Rebuttal to “10 Things HR Won’t Tell You About Your Resume”

A few days ago AOL posted an article entitled “10 Things HR Won’t Tell You about Your Resume.”  The article was condensed from a Reader’s Digest article (April 2011).  In it the following quote was attributed to former HR executive Cynthia Shapiro, “Once you’re unemployed more than six months, you’re considered pretty much unemployable. We assume that other people have already passed you over, so we don’t want anything to do with you.”  http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2011/04/05/10-things-hr-wont-tell-you-about-your-resume/

As the spouse of one of the 6.5 million long-term unemployed persons in America today, I was appalled.  Our nation is in the midst of one of the worst recessions we have ever faced.  Employment figures for March showed that 13.5 million Americans, or 8.8% of the work force, are currently unemployed.   They comprise individuals from all age groups, races, and socioeconomic classes. 

I would wager that most of these 13.5 million individuals are jobless through no fault of their own.  Many, like my husband, are highly educated.  Others got their training on the job.  Most of them worked hard and did their jobs well until the economy collapsed.  Some of them may have been passed over by potential employers, but many haven’t gotten jobs because there simply aren’t jobs in their fields at the moment.

 Haven’t Reader’s Digest and AOL heard that you don’t hit a man when he’s down?  13.5 million Americans are down on their luck now.  They don’t need HR experts to make them feel worse than they already do.  How about giving them a bit of encouragement?  Tips on how to stay busy and feel relevant while unemployed would have been much more helpful.

 I’m not an HR expert, but I have some tips that I’d like to share.

  1. Volunteer.  Volunteering will get you out of the house and interacting with people. You’ll be helping others and, in return, your self-esteem will get a boost. 
  2. Take a class.  Keep up with the latest advances in your field.
  3. Indulge your passion.  Most of us have leisure time activities we haven’t indulged in years because we’ve been too busy with work and life.  Unemployment has given you free time—take advantage of it to have some fun.
  4. Keep up with the news.  You need to stay in touch with what’s happening in our nation and the world.
  5. Get active in politics. Research political candidates whose ideas align with your own and support them, particularly those who might have good ideas for improving the economy and ending the recession.  If you can’t give financially, you can help out in many other ways.
  6. Catch up with family and old friends.  Write letters, email, or call.  You can’t use the excuse that you don’t have the time. 
  7. Cross some projects off your honey-do list.  We all have tasks we’ve been meaning to do sometime.  You’ve got the time; you might as well get busy.
  8. Experiment with new recipes.  One of the true blessings of having my husband out-of-work is that dinner is ready when I come home.

I’m praying that the economy improves soon and that Americans who want to work will find jobs.  In the meantime, I hope these tips help those of you who are out of work tostay busy and feel appreciated.

Do you have tips would you like to share?

Hopes for the New Year and Blessings of the Old One

Last night I watched on television the New Year’s celebration in Times Square.  It struck me as odd that we get so excited about what is essentially just another day.  When you think about it, it’s a bit crazy for grownups to gather in the streets on a cold winter’s night to watch a ball drop.  Of course, for many people, it’s simply an excuse to party.  For others of us, the New Year signals a new start.  It is fresh and unblemished; we are filled with hope that the coming year will be better than the one just ended. 

 In 2011, I hope and pray that the economy improves significantly, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan end, our troops come home and are reunited with their families, and the President and new Congress work together to find answers to the problems facing our nation. On a more personal note, I pray that my husband will find a job, preferably one that matches his skills and in which he finds fulfillment.

2010 was a rough year for our family as my husband’s period of joblessness extended to two years and his unemployment benefits were exhausted.  Despite those challenges, we were blessed in many ways.  I think it’s appropriate to begin the New Year by acknowledging some of the ways God blessed our family during the past year.

Our top ten blessings of 2010:  

  1. The birth of our grandson Daniel was the highlight of our year.  He is a delight and brings joy to our life.
  2. My first novel, Restorations, was finally published in October, three years after I finished it.  It took me 8 months to find a publisher, followed by 28 months of waiting for the book to be published.
  3. Our oldest child completed a Master’s Degree program in History at Villanova University. 
  4. In June, my husband and I took a Caribbean cruise.  The cruise was wonderfully relaxing. 
  5. A new, lasting friendship was formed on the cruise. A woman seated with us at dinner turned out to be the sister of one of our high school classmates.  We spent much of the week with her husband and her and found that we shared not only a common hometown but also a common faith. 
  6. I completed my second novel, Reconciliations, and started the third novel in my Restored Hearts series.
  7. All three of our sons are employed in jobs they enjoy.
  8. A new administrative assistant was hired for my office.  We had been without one for nearly two years due to a hiring freeze.  Our new co-worker has been a wonderful addition to the staff.
  9. Although there were no raises for state employees for the third year in a row, we did receive small Christmas bonuses. Mine went to pay for a root canal and crown.  I’m thankful God provided the money to pay for the necessary dental procedures.
  10. Despite my husband being unemployed, we ended the year with more savings and less debt than we started it with. 

We are truly thankful for the blessings God bestowed on our family in 2010. We look forward expectantly to 2011 knowing that God has great things planned for our family.

As you will look back on 2010, how has God blessed your family?

Two Years of Unemployment and Counting

January 5, 2009.  My first day back at work after the Christmas holidays. Steve’s  first day of unemployment.

My husband, Steve, an engineer, worked for a small, family-owned firm. Work had been slow throughout the fall, and the boss had toyed with the idea of cutting hours, but had put off that decision until after the holidays.  Steve went back to work fully prepared to have his hours cut.  Upon arrival, however, he and most of the staff learned that their jobs had been cut.

Steve called me shortly after 10 to give me the news.  He had packed up his belongings already and was back at home.  Fortunately, my job was still secure.  Unfortunately, my job accounted for only 30% of our family’s income.  At that moment, as shaken as I was by the news, I felt a strong sense of peace. My foundation was firm.  God is my fortress; in Him I trust. 

I took off the next day and provided moral support as Steve applied for unemployment and began a job search that held little hope of success.  We took immediate steps to cuts our expenses.  In God’s providence, we were about to become empty nesters.  During the previous four years, we had helped to put our three sons through college, but we had just made the final college tuition payment for our one son still in college.  With careful spending, we could survive on my salary and Steve’s unemployment.  Money has been tight at times, but we have never lacked for anything we needed. 

Steve’s unemployment benefits ended a few months ago.   But by the grace of God, we have been able to not only pay all our bills, but have also managed to save some money. We know that we have it much easier than many other families who have been affected by long-term unemployment, and we are truly thankful.  But, some days I despair that Steve may never have a job again.  That’s not to say that I don’t benefit from his being home. Steve has taken over an ever-increasing share of the household chores.  I look forward to coming home from work and being able to relax knowing that dinner is cooked, the shopping has been done, and clean clothes are hanging in the closet.  After years of taking care of my family, it’s nice to be taken care of.  I will miss these things when he finally does go back to work.

I read yesterday that unemployment benefits are running out before Christmas for 2 million Americans.  My heart goes out to them, and I will remember them in my prayers.

We’re approaching the end of two years of Steve being unemployed, with no end in sight.  Yet, every day we are reminded of God’s faithfulness.   In many ways, this period of long-term unemployment of our family’s major breadwinner has been a blessing.  It has reaffirmed that our faith is not in our government, the economy, or earthly systems.  Our faith is firmly rooted in God.  It has opened our eyes to how much we have and how little we truly need.  When Steve goes back to work, we will have a better balance in the management of our household and our money.  After all, everything we have is a gift from God.  We want to do our best to honor Him by being the best stewards we can of all that He has given us.