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The Joy of Good News

September 2013
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Good NewsWho doesn’t like good news? I know I sure do, and I’ve been waiting a long time to hear some good news after almost four and a half years of unemployment. Today is the fourth anniversary of my arrival in this town where I live not far from a major city on the west coast of Central Florida. I ended up coming here four years ago as the one-year lease on my apartment in Houston ended at the end of September 2009, and I wasn’t able to find another job in Houston between the time I was fired in April 2009 and the end of my lease, and I couldn’t afford to live in Houston on what Florida paid for unemployment benefits ($275/max per week before taxes). I had not worked in Texas long enough to be able to collect unemployment benefits from Texas (which at the time if I remember right was $392/max per week before taxes), so I had to collect from Florida (since I had been working in Florida since 1992 before those seven months I worked in Houston). I really had my heart set on staying in Houston but it was not meant to be.

As I was talking one evening by phone in early September 2009 with a friend in Florida about my dilemma (e.g., that I really wanted to stay in Houston but couldn’t due to financial constraints and also because I was not sure how soon I could find another job in Houston after looking for five months already at that point with no luck), she offered me her spare bedroom in her home if I wanted to come back to Florida while I continued looking for work. She lived alone and her two children were grown and married and living in other states. She had been living in this town since 2003 after living in Miami all of her life, and I visited her a few times when I lived and worked in Lakeland, Florida, which was only about 65 miles away but did not really know the town all that well.

Reluctantly, and also due to her very kind offer, I decided to accept her offer and leave Houston as it turned out that the only way I could receive extended unemployment benefits from Florida was to move back to Florida as Houston’s unemployment rate wasn’t high enough for me to be able to keep on receiving extended benefits from Florida after the initial six months was up (which is the normal length of time to collect unemployment benefits). However, I lost my job at the height of the recession when unemployment benefits had been extended up to 99 weeks. Of course, at that time I never dreamed I’d be unemployed for even a year, let alone still be unemployed almost four and a half years later (and the 99 weeks of unemployment benefits ended for me in May 2011).

I stayed at my friend’s home for three months; however, her unemployed niece, a woman ten years younger than us (my friend and I are the same age) moved in right before Thanksgiving and the living quarters were tight with three adult women living in a small two-bedroom house. In mid-December 2009 I found a cute little “furnished seasonal rental” (a large one-room apartment) in the upstairs of an old house a few miles away and moved in at the end of December (2009), and I’ve been there living ever since. The owners, a real estate company, who owned the house for many years and used the main floor of the house as office space at the time I moved in sold it in March 2012 to an investment company who currently owns it. However, they have since put it up for sale since April 2013 and while there is no buyer yet as of this writing who knows when that might happen. I had heard at one point a month or so ago that someone was interested in buying it and turning it into a restaurant. I thought that was a great idea considering the location of the house and the fact that it is zoned “mixed” (both commercial and residential). However, I guess it fell through as I never heard anything more about it.

So I’m living in “limbo land” in more ways than one (e.g., with both my housing situation and the long term unemployment situation clearly “up in the air”). And, here’s an ironic twist for you . . . my friend who lived here since 2003 moved last summer (2012) to . . . Texas! But not Houston . . . . (her daughter and family lives in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area). I was thrilled for her and she’s become a grandmother twice over since my whole unemployment saga first started. I, on the other hand, have nothing new to report over these past four years other then I stopped counting the number of jobs I have applied for when it reached 500 in 2011 (and I’m still applying), and I’ve grown my hair out long again after eleven years of short hair (it’s been long again since 2011, too). And I like it long much better. Well, I suppose I could throw in my road trips– my two trips in 2012 to Atlanta and Houston (job seeking ventures that went nowhere) and, of course, my venture to the New Orleans area in early April this year and then to Washington DC in July that netted “zero,” too.

Of course, I did start this blog site on July 20, 2010, as a very inexperienced blogger (but I’ve always loved writing) and ended up deleting all of the posts I had written up through April 2011 and just let it “sit” empty until July 8, 2011, when I fired it back up again and it just—well–took off . . . and this post is my 244rd blog post since July 2011. So it’s not like I haven’t been busy (I do keep myself busy but can’t find any way to make an income no matter how hard I try).

I consider myself to be a “big city” girl, born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa, and I lived there (primarily, but not all the time) until I moved to Fort Lauderdale in June 1992 at the age of 40 to start work on a doctoral fellowship I had received at Nova Southeastern University. And I’ve also lived in Orlando and Miami and Houston which are not exactly small, either. When I moved to Lakeland in 2004 for a job at a university located there (I was living in Orlando at the time), I kept having second thoughts about it as I never thought I could adjust to “small town” living. Now, mind you, the whole Lakeland/Winter Haven area has a population of about 90,000 in the winter months when the “snow birds” (Northerners) come down from up north, so it’s not “tiny” by any means, but it was still small compared to what I was used to. However, I did adjust to it and after four years there I really liked it, but the division where I worked was dismantled in early 2008 and I lost my whole reason (e.g., working with adult students) for being there. Of course, I found the director position in Houston which I accepted and moved to Houston, and the rest is, well, history (and not the kind of history any of us like to have). But I loved Houston. It was BIG and it had some great architecture and culture and there was a lot to see and do, but not for an unemployed person living on Florida unemployment benefits for the last five months I lived there. I could barely afford gas and food and I could not afford my apartment once I lost my $52,000/yr. job and was living on $275/wk. unemployment benefits. I knew I had to move at the end of my apartment lease or go broke shortly thereafter.

Time to moveAnd now I’ve been here in this small town which is really a suburb that is part of a much larger area that goes from St. Pete to the south (45 miles) and right up past the Hudson, Spring Hill, and Brooksville areas (30 or so miles north of here) for the past four years. I’ve applied for numerous jobs in my field of work at the local community college (the main campus is only seven miles from where I live) that also has an extension campus farther north, but never even received one phone call to interview. I’ve also applied for just about every student services position (my field of work) at every private and public, for-profit and nonprofit educational institution (colleges/universities) that I could find within a 50-mile radius (that includes Tampa) and no bites from anyone. Of course, I’ve been applying all over and not just in this area (and not just in my field of work), but it is discouraging to say the very least that I can’t even get Walmart to consider interviewing me (and I love Walmart and shop there all the time). So what gives after four and a half years of unemployment? It’s not like I have green skin and purple hair or that I’m not personable. And I definitely have skills. Doesn’t that matter anymore? Is there anyone out there who cares about the long-term unemployed in this country of ours?

So, I am in serious need of some good news for a change as my fourth anniversary (as of today) of living here is passing by and I don’t want to venture very far into the fifth year here. I’m going nowhere here and there are now ruts in the roads that I’ve driven on more times than I care to count. I want a life, and a job, and an income again. And nobody here wants to give me that opportunity. I’ve been here four years—four years of going nowhere. And I’d like to live in a big city again, too (although that is not an absolute requirement if someone will give me a job somewhere—anywhere). And now that this house is up for sale, I just want out. I want to move on. I’ve got no reason to stay. But I need an open door and I need some good news for a change. Anybody want to give me some good news? Anybody?

Speaking of good news, I read a devotion this morning in Open Windows,” published by LifeWay titled, “The Joy of Good News,” by Darla Brantley, adult Sunday School teacher, First Baptist Church, Winfield, Alabama, and she writes the following (Note: devotional passage reference is Isaiah 52:7-8 and she starts by quoting Isaiah 52:7):

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peach, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” ~Isaiah 52:7 (NIV)

Everyone likes to receive good news. Hearing exciting things brings smiles to our faces and brightness to our dreary days. Job promotions, positive medical reports, and good report cards help create happiness.

The people of Jerusalem were going home. After decades of bondage, they were being released from their captivity. What a sight it must have been to see the messengers making their way across the mountain to deliver the news. Jerusalem’s salvation had finally come!

Many commentators believe that Isaiah was also talking about the coming of the Messiah. People are in spiritual captivity in our world today. We need to put feet to our message and carry the good news of freedom to those held in bondage. We need to show them the way home. We need to traverse proverbial and literal mountains to deliver the gospel message to those who are longing to hear the good news of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ. Will you allow God to use you to share His good news with the captives in your neighborhood or where you work?

“Father, help me to be a faithful messenger who shares the joyous good news of Your gift of salvation.”

While I have received no good news on the job front or even the housing front, the good news that I can smile about is the fact the Jesus Christ is still my Lord and my Savior and He knows exactly why there hasn’t been much good news for me (on the employment front or housing front) while I’ve been living here. Maybe He has something else totally different in mind. And I sure hope He opens that door very, very, very, very soon (yesterday would have been good if that gives you any indication of just how much I want to move on with my life). It’s not like I haven’t been asking. And what I have learned over these past four plus years has been, well, remarkable and irreplaceable, compared to the previous years when I was employed and a part of that “daily grind.”

In the story in the devotion, the Jewish people had been in bondage for many years (decades) and they were finally being released from their captivity. I can’t even imagine what they must have been feeling at the news that their captivity was finally over. Of course, Jesus Christ is the ultimate “Deliverer” of anyone in captivity (spiritual bondage) in this world of ours. The author is right when she states (to those of us who know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord) that “we need to put our feet to our message and carry the good news of freedom to those held in bondage. We need to show them the way home. We need to traverse proverbial and literal mountains to deliver the gospel message to those who are longing to hear the good news of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ.” Well, I’ve been doing that through the writing of 244 blog posts so far that go out on the internet and around the world; but I’m still locked in a prison of unemployment and financial constraints (that I know He can fix in an instant when the time is right) and I can’t physically move on because of them. And while I love writing these blog posts, I am so ready to “traverse ‘literal’ mountains to deliver the gospel message to those who are longing to hear the good news” and not just write about them on blog posts (as important as that is in getting the message out). I want to physically be a part of spreading the good news with people I can see and talk to and listen to and help and hug and care about.

My friend who lived here spent a long time (years) waiting for the right time to move to Texas to be with her daughter and her family and it finally happened for her last summer. That had to be the very best news for her to receive and I can’t even imagine her joy in living there with them now. I’m still waiting for my good news to show up, but mine will be different in that I don’t have physical children I can go and live near but I’m ready to adopt some “spiritual children” by “traversing literal mountains” like the author of the devotion above talks about. And the time is now . . . .

And I am so very, very, very, very ready to move on . . . .

Lord, please open that door soon. . . .

YouTube Video: “While You See a Chance” by Steve Winwood:

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