Word of the Week

Could sudden loss of a job birth anything good?

Today, I'm glad to introduce you to my friend, Amy. Amy and I met as freshmen in college and hung together for the next four years as part of a small group, choir and all other sorts of shenanigans. Now we both have daughters named Amelia. She's got a beautiful story of redemption to share, so I know you'll want to keep reading!

When I stood on the steps of my freshman dorm building at Samford University in the fall of 1998, my mom handed me a card, gave me one last hug, cried and drove away. I went up to my room on the fourth floor and opened the envelope. It was a store-bought postcard with a beautiful rainbow photo. The verse Jeremiah 29:11 was printed on the front.

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.

It’s a common verse to give to young college students, and my mother was kindly reminding me that the next four years would bring a lot of change, but that God’s plans were always for my good.

Fast forward fourteen years to 2012. I’m married and have two young children, a home and a thriving career. I work a nursing management job, a position that is meant for someone much older and more experienced than I.

I never imagined that I’d be a working mom, but never less, I grew to love my work and enjoyed the fast-pace of our facility.

If you had asked me in early 2012 about Jeremiah 29:11 and the prosperous plans God had for me, I would have said with certainty that this was it.

I was the primary breadwinner for our home, and my husband had started a new graduate school program to earn a degree he’d desired for years.

I had committed to working the next three years for him to finish school and then we’d transition breadwinner status. That was the plan, so we thought.

And then, it all came to a screeching halt and changed within a matter moments.

Through the work-related traumatic loss of two people — one a patient, one a co-worker — I was no longer able to work as a nurse. Suddenly, all of my college education, career experience, professional license and income source was no longer valuable. The grief was too much to bear and I was incapable of donning my scrubs and hanging a stethoscope around my neck. I questioned how God’s plans to prosper me could still be true after such tragedy.

I had promised to support our family, and my husband was required to work an unpaid internship in addition to classes, which left him little time for a part-time job. I was desperate to find a way to support my family, but knew it couldn’t be nursing.

Deep inside me was a rich history of seamstresses. As a little girl, I sat with my Grandma, Granny and Mom and learned to sew.

I have fond memories of sewing for hours on end during summers and Christmas breaks. I always imagined the day when I would create things people wanted to buy. This dream was long buried under emotion, day-to-day life, marriage and kids. However, somehow in the thickness of mourning, I began to hope in this dream once again.

As a way to take my mind off of the sadness and loss, I began sewing again.

A dear friend saw potential and suggested I start selling online. I asked my husband to “borrow” $50 from our checking account so I could start with the smallest amount of inventory.

I created the LippyClipTM, a clip-on lip balm holder designed to hold products like Chapstick, Burt’s Bees, etc. I remember thinking to myself, “This will never sell. This is such a first-world product. I mean, who would buy this?!?!”

I also remember praying, “God, you can do all things. I know You always have my good in mind. Please, let this work.”

In the summer of 2013, I started small and slow, but was quickly met with a high demand for products and nothing but growth for the business. In the months and years that followed, the business grew and exceeded all of my expectations and goals.

I couldn’t keep up with production, so I made the very intentional decision to grow the business as large as God allows, with the purpose of providing work for as many women as possible. These are women who, for the most part, are otherwise unable to work outside their home. Today, we provide supplemental income to seven women.

My husband graduated with a master’s in counseling and is now a licensed mental health counselor. He works full time in private practice and loves his job.

I’m so grateful for the knowledge of sewing that my grandmothers gave me, and the management skills I learned from years of nursing — both of which I use every day in my business. I’m grateful for the LippyClipTM, which is a first-world product, but symbolizes to me God’s sweet mercy to our family during my dark hour.

I’m grateful for the journey that birthed in me a new direction and prosperous future.

Amy Gabriel is the founder and creative director of Gabriel’s Good TidingsTM, which creates beautiful handmade products to help women find essentials easier and brighten their space. She’s committed to keeping all products made in the USA by women working from home. When Amy is not working, she enjoys beach days, watching college football, swimming and reading. She resides in Orlando, Florida.

In December 2012, I quit my job.

I didn't have another one to go to.

And though there were lots of extenuating circumstances that led me to believe that I knew what would be next-- at heart I really didn't have a plan. It was very UNLIKE me.

All I knew was that Kevin could not do his work at Feed the Children all over the world around the world while I remained in a full-time pastorate in Virginia. Something had to give. And it was my job.

I told friends and family that I quit because I wanted to finish my book manuscript (which I did, but have shelved for the proper time to bring it out again).

But at a deeper level I quit for other reasons.

Traditional, scheduled and go to into the office every day kind of ministry wasn't fulfilling my soul.

And even if this meant I didn't buy new clothes for a long time or buy a new car for a couple of years, I could not go another day in the same old routine.

I know I made the right choice, looking back now.

But, the next steps weren't easy. The voices around me (or least the ones I heard the loudest) didn't help either.

People said: "Oh, you must be a good housewife" (As if suddenly I became Martha Stewart or something. Wrong!)

Or, "Aren't you so lucky you don't have to work?" (As if I didn't want to work. I did!)

Or, "You used to be a pastor?" (As if not having a specific location to pastor suddenly took my resume away. Not true!)

And looking back now, I have to say that leaving my acceptable job was one of the bravest things that I've ever done. 

Why? Because I care what people think. I want to be normal.

Quitting my job, however, showed me who I was like no other experience could.  John Lennon made famous the saying, "Life happens when you are busy making other plans." I was busy making other plans. And by quitting my job, life showed me another way to live.

Slowly I began to find my place at Feed the Children within the PR/ Communications department. I helped to start the first ever blog for the organization. I began doing freelance writing and social media projects for colleagues. More and more friends asked me to preach in their congregations.

What I was doing felt more aligned with my being than it ever had before.

My life began to speak in a Parker Palmer sort of way saying:

Now, that I'm pastoring in a more structured (and more recognized) setting again, I've noticed how colleagues' responses to me have changed. One even said, "Welcome back to pastoral ministry." But the thing is I never left!

But in these months, I'm doing it differently.

I'm remembering more who I am and who I am not.

I'm saying yes more often to short-term projects that I know I have energy to complete.

I'm believing that I am a pastor-- no matter if a church puts my name on the sign or not.

I'm thinking that interim work is more my speed as far as church life goes.

Ready to make a big life transition and afraid? Take courage from my story. You can do it too!